Gratitude: Is It Something you Expect? Is It Something You HAVE?

Why do some people show gratitude, while others don’t?

“As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood in the distance and cried out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them he said, “Go, and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:12-16, NIV) Ten lepers, who were outcast and marginalized men who could not mix with healthy people, were out on the outskirts of a village.

gratitude

They asked Jesus for mercy, and he gave them instructions that would both heal them and prepare them for reentry into everyday life. Once the priests saw they were free from leprosy, they could once again mingle with friends and family, hug their kids, and have a chance to live normal lives.

Doctor Luke points out that only the unclean and socially unacceptable Samaritan gave credit to God for his healing, while nine other men went on their way, probably too excited about going back to society to stop and say thank you. It may be that they felt entitled somehow, finally getting what they deserved after years of presumable injustice. It’s surprising that there wasn’t more gratitude expressed, but people can be a little self-absorbed…

Two things here: Not everyone who meets Jesus is grateful, even when they experience healing because of Him. Sometimes we get so busy living our lives or even going to church that we forget how much we have to be grateful for. (How about this: DON’T FORGET! Have an attitude of gratitude!)

Secondly, some of the people you help along the way will not thank you for it. Jesus healed all ten, even though he was aware of their heart attitudes before he acted. Gratitude doesn’t always manifest itself the way we think it should, but remember: we shouldn’t do good so that someone says, “Thank you”.

Our motivation for helping others is often wrong. We do good things in order to receive recognition, or to feel good about ourselves. Paul said, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

Like Paul, we should perform acts of kindness for the Lord’s sake, not for men’s approval. As Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” In the Sermon on the Mount, he taught that our devotion to God should not be a matter of public pride, but something best kept between Him and us. Matthew 6:4, 6 and 18 all point to the same outcome: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Acts of kindness should be done for our Father with an expectation of gratitude, or regard for human response. Go out and commit some today.

Be Grateful

People are amazing. Sometimes, helping them exposes
That some will offer thanks, while others just turn up their noses…
Some will smile with thankfulness that bubbles up inside,
While others turn aside from their entitlement, or pride.
I pray that I may never be the one with such an attitude–
For health, for all I see, Lord, help me worship you with gratitude!

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Resurrection: is It Quantity or Quality of Life That’s More Important?

Lazarus died, and his sister Martha was upset that Jesus had not arrived in time to heal him. She made a bold request: Then said Martha unto Jesus, “Lord, if thou had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” Jesus saith unto her, “Thy brother shall rise again.” Martha saith unto him, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said unto her, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever lives and believeth in me shall never die. Believe thou this?” She saith unto him, “Yes, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” (John 11:21-27 KJV)

(Sometimes I just have to keep some King James Version in here because I like rocking it old school. It’s what I grew up on as a Christian, and I still love its lyrical anachronisms…but I digress.)

When Mary and Martha sent word that their brother Lazarus was sick, Jesus waited two days before coming to them in Bethany. In the meantime, Lazarus died. It’s not hard to imagine the scene at their home as the sisters waited anxiously for Jesus to come heal their brother, only to watch him slip away. They thought they had things under control, but their plans didn’t work out. It had to be emotionally devastating.

Ever been there? Things didn’t work out like you planned, and God didn’t do what you expected Him to? Lazarus had just died, and his sister Martha was distraught. (Her tone is even a little accusative, like “why did you take so long?” Have YOU ever asked God, “WHY?” Have you ever accused God of failure?) Martha let Jesus know he could have done better.

Even so, she expresses her confidence that Jesus has such a connection to God that he can do something miraculous, perhaps even a resurrection from the dead. Jesus comforts her with the statement that her brother will someday rise again. She believes in a traditional Jewish way, that Lazarus will experience resurrection at the last day. (Resurrection was a hot topic of debate between Sadducees and Pharisees—the Pharisees believed in it, but the Sadducees did not, which I’ve always heard is why they were Sad, you see…)

Jesus challenges her traditional faith and asks her if she believes in HIM. Now, her brother is dead, and she has no way of knowing, like we all do, that Lazarus will come back to life. But she looks Jesus in the eye and gives testimony to who He is. “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”

resurrection

You know the rest of the story. Lazarus came back to life after three days in the grave. He experienced new birth, new life, and a new beginning. It’s important to note that Lazarus’ resurrection was not eternal. He still lived a normal life and then died. But do you think perhaps that he appreciated life a little more the second time around? That he hugged a little harder and enjoyed his friends and family a little more? Experiencing resurrection–being brought from death into life–should do that, shouldn’t it? In that sense, EVERY believer is Lazarus, able to find joy in the resurrection that changes the quality of their lives…

In this case, Jesus changed the quality of Lazarus’ life and provided a solution outside of Martha’s control. Her lack of faith was keeping her from seeing the things that are possible with God. What is your traditional faith holding you back from? What have you lost that you wish you could have back? Why wait for pie in the sky when you die by-and-by? Eternal life is not a quantity of life, it is a QUALITY of life, and it has already been given to you. Look Jesus in the eye and let him know what you want. Something dear to you that you thought was lost might just come forth and live again. It might be time for a new beginning.

Eternal Musing

Will we be spending endless time just sitting on a cloud?
Will we employ eternity to sing our hymns out loud?
Or will we find that life is life with nothing now to bind it,
Just filled with God’s eternal growth around it and behind it?
For us to learn God’s heart and mind, the riches of His love,
I think eternity itself will not be long enough…

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Proof: Some People Need to See It Before They’ll Believe in God

In today’s marketing consumer-driven world, people who sell products run focus groups and test markets to make sure they have all the proof before they go to market. Then they invest resources on the outcome. When they believe they have a winner, then they put their faith into their ad or product. So does faith come from proof? Or does true faith come BEFORE the proof is evident? Apparently faith back in Bible times was not as sophisticated. Here are three examples of how that is so:

“And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean…” (Matthew 8:2, KJV)

“(And) The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed…” (Matthew 8:8, KJV)

“And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:28-29 KJV)

proof

Matthew 8 records three very different testimonies about Jesus. There is a leper asking to be cleansed; a Roman centurion who asks that a servant of his be healed; and two men possessed with demons who recognized Jesus and who identify him as the Son of God. These testimonies revolve around life-changing healing events, which certainly deserve our attention.

Even though they are eyewitness accounts from people who come from very different elements of class and culture, all of them are notable for the same reason. Do you see what it is? Read the three verses again and see if you catch it. In each case, they affirm their utter belief that Jesus can do something miraculous BEFORE he has acted on their behalf. He had not yet healed the leper; the centurion’s servant was still at home sick; and the possessed men cry out about who Jesus was from the midst of their affliction.

It’s not, “Wow, Lord, thanks for what you did. NOW I believe.” It’s, “Lord, I believe, (Or, in the case of the possessed men, “I acknowledge who you are”) so I know you are going to do something amazing.” Over and over, curiosity seekers and Pharisees asked Jesus to “show me a sign”, and skeptics would hold back their faith, waiting for Jesus to prove who he was. People still do it today. But these people came to Jesus believing in him and confident that he could solve their problems. Then he did it.

Maybe we’ve got this faith thing backwards, and we are supposed to believe in Jesus not because of what he’s already done, but because of what he is about to do. Would your life change if you approached him the same way? “Lord, I believe. If you would just take me as I am, I know you can do something amazing.” Why not try it? It’s worked before.

Proof

“Show me proof of God”, they said, “Just show a little sign.
If there is a Creator, where oh where is the design?
You say that in the Bible I can find the Gospel truth:
I’ll believe in Jesus when you show a little proof!”
Faith dependent on results is just not faith at all;
Faith believes when evidence is really very small.
A miracle may help you see that Jesus is the one,
But faith believes in miracles before they’re ever done.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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The Eyewitness without Eyes: we didn’t see THAT Coming

There is a great website called “I Am Second” that offers hundreds of personal eyewitness testimonies from people about what it’s like to encounter Jesus and to put him first in your life. It’s filled with people from every walk of life, including both celebrities and everyday people. They tell their stories simply and in the first person narrative, saying “this is what happened to me”. Some of the first-hand reactions to Jesus are surprising, but they are compelling in both their content and presentation.

In the Gospels there are also some great snapshots of eyewitness reactions to Jesus of Nazareth, including this one, which provides testimony from a place you’d least expect it: “Then he [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority. In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:31-34, NIV)

eyewitness

The eyewitness in this passage is not one of the people in the synagogue, even though they were amazed at his teaching, and it’s not Luke, who recorded it later for posterity. It’s not even the poor man who was possessed… For a clue as to its identity, read verse 34 again.

This eyewitness appears on the scene from almost out of nowhere with a startling affirmation about who Jesus was. It’s not surprising that people were amazed at his teaching—He spoke with authority, and what He said contained so much truth that even the small portions of it we possess are still amazing to us today, twenty-one centuries later. (Small portions, you ask? Don’t forget that John ends his Gospel with this: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25)

What’s significant about this passage is the fact that He was recognized by the spirit who possessed a man in the Capernaum synagogue, who called him by name and identified him as “the Holy One of God!” Jesus told Pilate in John 18:36 that He came to usher in a spiritual kingdom, not an earthly one, so I guess it makes sense that a spirit would recognize a spiritual king and know about who he was. You may not acknowledge a spirit world, but I’ll tell you this: the spirit world acknowledges you.

How often have you seen evil in our world that seems beyond human comprehension? (Think: Holocaust, mass murderers, senseless shootings…) Why are there those who worship Satan or practice dark rituals? I don’t think most of us even begin to know about places that Satan and his minions touch our world, but I bet you’ve seen evidence of it. We see inhumanity because that’s exactly what it is–humans motivated to be “inhuman” by forces beyond themselves.

I’m sure that onlookers in the synagogue at Capernaum had to be asking themselves, “Who was this man who taught with authority and was known by name to even the spirit world?” Do you ever wonder about that yourself? It’s a great question—read a few snapshots about Jesus this week and answer it for yourself.

Moving Time

I made my home here years ago, so cozy and secure;
I found myself a helpless host whose motives were impure,
Who followed my suggestions, stepping deeper into sin
So smoothly that he didn’t hesitate to let me in!
Capernaum has really been a great place to reside.
The coastal vibe is nice, and there are places we can hide.
The synagogue gives handouts, and they think my host is crazy–
Though truth be told, he’s really just inhabited, and lazy…
Wait! Who is THAT?! He hurts my eyes! My heart is seized with fear!
The Holy One of God?! What is HE doing way out here??
I’ve never felt a spiritual force so powerful and big;
I guess I’m gonna have to go and find another gig…

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Sight Doesn’t Necessarily Guarantee that You Can See

Jesus restored the sight of a man who had been born blind. The man didn’t really know much about his benefactor, but he rejoiced in his healing! The Pharisees were not so happy. They saw Jesus as an outsider, and were outraged that a marginal blind man would give him credit. Why do you suppose they saw things so differently?

“A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:24-25 NIV) In this event in John 9, Jesus heals a man who had been blind since birth. The common supposition around the temple would have been that he was born in sin, or that his parents committed some heinous sin that made them deserving of such a tragedy.

sight

In the Hebrew culture, these poor parents would have lived not only with the burden of their son’s blindness but with also with condescension and judgment from the religious community. That’s what prompted the disciples’ question in verse two: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” This unfortunate couple had been hearing those behind-the-back questions for years, and they lived in debilitating shame.

Jesus says the man’s loss of sight didn’t happen because he or his parents sinned, which was actually a very refreshing intellectual possibility: the parents were not being punished; bad things could happen to good people. He says much the same thing in Luke 13 when he is asked about some recent tragic events. God does not arbitrarily punish sinners with tragedy, and it is not only sinners who experience affliction.

In Luke’s story, Jesus does not attribute the man’s condition to sin or judgment. Instead he points out that our proper response to tragedy is not titillation or even relief but rather repentance, and here he says that God can be glorified even out of bad circumstances.
This is a fascinating story because so many people see a miracle take place right before their eyes, and no one expresses any JOY. The neighbors argue about whether it’s really the same man or not. Shouldn’t they have rejoiced with him?

The legalistic leaders in the Temple, the Pharisees, are more concerned with whether or not Jesus broke the Sabbath than the amazing fact that he healed a man who had been blind from birth. The man’s own parents were so intimidated by the Pharisees (and so used to being ashamed) that they were afraid to get involved, and sent the Pharisees back to question their son. Shouldn’t they have been excited for their son’s new vision and new opportunities? Instead, they stepped back and remained in the shadows, unwilling to proclaim God’s goodness.

The man born blind was then interrogated by the Pharisees, who were hoping to use his testimony not to glorify God but only to prove that Jesus had broken the law. In verse 29, the haughty Pharisees are spiteful: “We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” 30 The blind man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.”

The Pharisees, who claimed a monopoly on knowing God, could not account for this miracle. The blind man, who used simple logic based on experience, could not account for the Pharisees’ inability to see the truth. In this case, we have a blind man who gains both sight and insight; and we have religious leaders who can see the man but not the truth. They were so concerned about being right that they ignored a miracle right before their eyes… When they challenged the man, his simple statement of truth dismantled their agenda. He accepted Jesus as he was, at face value, and gained his sight. The Pharisees denied who Jesus was, and saw him through a distorted lens of religion and culture. They remained blind. Guess what? That still happens today…

I once Was Blind, But Now I See

For years I went to synagogue and listened to them preach.
They spoke of being righteous. From the Scripture they would teach
About eternal judgment, and the consequence of sin:
They made me feel unworthy from the state that I was in.
If being blind weren’t bad enough, I still could clearly see
The condescending looks they gave my parents, and to me.
I still attended synagogue, and worshipped with them there,
And still petitioned Yahweh with my one, persistent prayer!
Today my prayer was answered! Yes!! A man restored my sight!
The Pharisees seem more concerned with whether he was right
For healing on the Sabbath. Well, I’m not a Pharisee,
But I know this: The Lord is good, and somehow, I can SEE!
Maybe Jesus broke a Sabbath rule, or maybe five–
But I don’t care– I’ll follow him as long as I’m alive…

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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The Woman Whose Day Didn’t Turn Out Like She Planned

There was once a somewhat bold and saucy Samaritan woman who lived on the outer edges of social convention. As a result, perhaps, she went to the well at midday to draw water and ran into a strange man, resulting in one of the most surprising conversations in history… John puts it like this:

“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:27-29 NIV)

Why does John point out that the disciples were so surprised? Jesus’ conversation with the woman by the well in Samaria is one of his most interesting and intriguing encounters in history. It is a passage full of surprises.

woman claim

By even having this conversation, Jesus breaks all kinds of social barriers and engages in a conversation that ends up changing the lives of an entire village. Because Samaria was considered apostate, devout Jews would often journey far out of their way to avoid going through there. Jesus walked through Samaria and even stopped to rest. Stepping outside of accepted social convention, He talked to a lowly woman, which was forbidden for a Rabbi. Not only that, but she was a SAMARITAN woman.

To top it all off, the woman had a morally questionable background (which apparently Jesus already knew), because she had had several husbands and was living with a man who was not her husband. She went out to the well at midday rather than in the morning (ostensibly to avoid the other women who would be getting water); so she was probably not very popular with other women in the village.

The disciples were surprised to find Jesus talking to this woman for all of these reasons. And in the aftermath of the conversation, there is an additional surprising and interesting detail in these verses that I had never noticed before; did you catch it? The woman left her water jar! She was so excited about her conversation with Jesus that she totally forgot why she had gone to the well in the first place. Water is incredibly important in the trans-Jordan area, and water jars aren’t cheap; but she was so motivated by what had just happened that she just took off for the village and left it all behind.

When Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman, He crossed cultural boundaries and broke down social barriers. He surprised her by knowing details about her life, things for which she had been judged and scorned; yet he showed her no condescension or scorn. She responded to this remarkable man not only because of what he told her, but HOW he told her as well.

On that fateful afternoon, she couldn’t help it– she left everything, went back to her village and told everyone what she had discovered about this man! Yeah, the disciples were surprised to find him talking to a woman; but the woman was surprised even more. She snuck out to the well at midday to avoid judgment and awkward conversations, and was instead surprised by wisdom, acceptance, and love. If you have been avoiding God because of guilt or judgment, have your own conversation with Jesus. He might just surprise you, too.

The Woman at the Well

The scarlet woman snuck out to the well,
Because the other women put her down;
They’d all decided she was going to hell,
And no one even wanted her around;
Until a stranger asked her for a drink,
And told her every thing she’d ever done;
Surprised, she didn’t know just what to think,
But wondered, somehow, if he was the One…
He wasn’t prejudiced like all the rest,
And she could only look at him and nod;
He seemed to call her out to be her best,
And introduced her to the Living God.
You and I have both been there,
Struck by hatred, hopelessness and lies;
Until we looked and found an answered prayer–
Until we looked in Jesus’ eyes.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Come and See: But Don’t just take MY word for it! See For Yourself

Come and See: Observing something yourself can be the most powerful testimony there is. After all, when you are an eyewitness, you can draw your own conclusions. As we discussed yesterday, it was the advice Jesus gave to John’s disciples, who were checking Jesus out based on John’s recommendation. It’s easy to be skeptical of sales pitches and belief systems, but we are more readily swayed by evidence. (Except for magic shows, seeing is believing, right?)

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida (located on the NE shore of the Sea of Galilee). Undoubtedly Philip was familiar with the two brothers; perhaps he fished with them or knew them because they grew up together in a small town. After Philip was introduced to Jesus, he went to tell one of his good friends about it: “Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. (John 1:44-46 NIV)

Nazareth was the backwoods part of Galilee, not really noteworthy of anything and certainly not part of the prophetic story that heralded the Messiah. (Part of why not only Nathanael but the Pharisees disregarded Jesus in John 7:52, since their “superior” grasp of scripture enabled them to know that Galilee was not mentioned as the Messiah’s place of origin…)  By assuming they already knew all the answers, the Pharisees looked condescendingly on others and on current events. They were locked into a religious bigotry that excluded others.

Most of the Pharisees never got over their prejudice, and continued to see Jesus as a rube from the country whose credentials were suspect; Nathanael at least went and met Jesus himself to find out what Philip was talking about. Philip’s eyewitness testimony was simple, and very similar to what Jesus said to John’s disciples: “Come and see”. It’s also what Thomas did when he had doubts…

come and see

Two things stand out about this. One, don’t be so sure you know something that you miss the truth. Go to the source, oh readers of questionable social media and network news! You’ll be surprised how often something is misrepresented in second-hand accounts, or distorted by your presuppositions and assumptions. If you think you know Jesus of Nazareth based on what others (like me) have said about him, then you probably don’t. Quick: What were his three best parables? What three conversations did he have that broke all barriers down and revolutionized religion? What would you say are the top three commandments he laid down? If you don’t know what HE said about these things, you probably don’t. Know. Him.  Come; see for yourself.

Second, Philip described Jesus as “the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote”. Philip knew the Scriptures, and he connected the dots. He had looked into the Scriptures to see EVIDENCE of prophecy and the references about who the Messiah would be. Even when Nathanael objected, Philip encouraged him to come and see for himself. He saw something in Jesus that prompted him to tell his friends about him, and to persist over their objections. Whom do you know that would benefit from an introduction to the man from Galilee? Help them connect the dots this year. Invite them to come and see. And by the way, I’m inviting you.

Come For Yourself; See For Yourself

Everyone is skeptical when salesmen try to sell,
Pushing just a little as they try to weave a spell;
They will overcome objections, use a trial close,
Until we finally tell them, “NO. I don’t want one of those.”
It can be the same with Jesus: people try to tell us,
But we already “know” the things we think they’re trying to sell us;
So here’s the deal: Go take your Bible down from off that shelf,
And Read the book of John. Go spend some time with him yourself.
Walk down a dusty Galilean road with him awhile;
Read a parable or two, and try to see his smile.
See him bless the children as they played around his knees,
Listen to his words as he confronts the Pharisees:
If you don’t like the stuff he taught, then you can disregard him;
Just please don’t let a bad sales pitch allow you to discard him!
Instead of preachers, books, or movies, or even guys like me:
I challenge you to read it for yourself, to Come and See.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Come, and See: the Obvious Choice that was not so Obvious

When Jesus arrived on the scene, his cousin John was preaching to large crowds who gathered to hear him outside of Jerusalem. “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come”, he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.” (John 1:35-39 NIV)

come

John the Baptist became well-known during his ministry, so much so that Scribes and Pharisees would come out to the country from Jerusalem to question him, and a group of disciples gathered around him. In spite of his humble circumstances, and through no desire of his own, he became a celebrity. He was a dynamic preacher calling the children of Israel to repent and embrace the Kingdom of heaven.

John testified eloquently about the arrival of God’s son, and his followers had come to him from all over as he preached to large crowds. His disciples were dedicated men who were seeking the Kingdom of God, and they followed John for months if not years, watching and waiting for the Messiah to come. It may seem logical that John’s disciples would leave him when Jesus arrived, but that had to be far more difficult than it might seem on the surface of things.

John was famous, an established prophet, a rising star in the eyes of the Hebrew world. He preached with power and conviction, and his conduct was impeccable. He drew big crowds, and he had the attention of everyone who worshipped the Lord.

When Jesus showed up on the scene, he was unknown, a young carpenter from Galilee without much street cred. There had been no miracles. No one had heard of him, and there were no crowds following him around. All of that came later. To most folks, He was just a guy from Nazareth until John pointed him out.

Knowing “the rest of the story”, it only makes sense to us that John’s followers would gravitate to the Messiah, but in the first days after Jesus’ arrival, who knew? It couldn’t have been obvious or intuitive to anyone. Religious leaders came from Jerusalem, not Galilee, and Rabbis had formal training in the Temple Courts, being apprenticed for years until they were ready to step out and lead a group of men…

Even later on, many of the disciples weren’t exactly sure who Jesus was, and they didn’t know in advance what would come from this Rabbi, so this early in the game I’m sure they were hoping for an obvious sign that they were making the right play. When Jesus showed up, John’s disciples had to make a choice, and they had to leave a successful ministry for an unknown start-up.

After John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus, two of John’s followers approached Jesus. In this well-known response, Jesus didn’t give them a list of his accomplishments, he didn’t pontificate or try to impress, he merely said, “Come, and you will see”. That is his invitation not only to them but to all mankind, and to every one of us: Come check me out. Watch what I DO. See if I’m legit or not.

Have you ever really, REALLY taken a look at who Jesus was and what he did? If you haven’t yet spent a day at his place hanging out, then perhaps you haven’t seen him the way he intended you to. Over the next few days in this blog we will spend a little time looking at Jesus and hanging out with him. Come, and see.

Hold That Thought and Watch This

We Christians think we have to sell
the Bible’s thoughts on heaven and hell
So sinners one and all can learn
That surely they must “turn or burn”.
We share the gospel when we can–
The Four Spiritual laws, the fall of man,
The Roman Road, salvation’s plan
Spelled out in an effective tract
Which we can share with grace and tact.
And yet there is no better way
Than what the Savior had to say
When John’s disciples asked if He
Was who they thought. His words can be
A template: He said, “Come and see,
And if you want to know: “Watch me.”
They did. The rest is history.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Eyewitness Accounts Exist; But is there Enough Evidence to Convict YOU?

The Christmas season always has so much meaning to me that I hate to see it end. As we start digging into 2020, let’s pause to reflect one last time about Christmas. I love it because it’s a story filled with humility and surprise, full of unexpected details that validate the arrival of a long-awaited king. And it’s also amazing because every year it presents evidence through eyewitness accounts: it’s a yearly reminder that Jesus was a REAL person who was born and walked among us.

His arrival was witnessed by shepherds and magi, by townspeople and angels. At the time, men recalled Scriptures from long ago and quoted them while celebrating the birth of Jesus; they still do today. Why do so many people commemorate his life every year? We’re a long way from first century Judea, and there is so much legend and commercialism today around the Christmas baby Jesus it might be easy to forget who he was and what he did.

Lest the story seem ancient and quaint, I thought it would be good to play “Eyewitness News” through the gospels and get some first-hand accounts from people who were there, who saw Jesus, talked with him, and witnessed what he did. After all, eyewitness accounts can get someone convicted in a court of law; maybe they are worth listening to about this man Jesus.

eyewitness

Do those accounts provide any real evidence about him? The story of the baby Jesus reminds us how he came to earth; the things he did as a man reveal WHY he came to earth. One of the early reporters was his cousin, John the Baptist, who said this: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire…” (Matthew 3:11 KJV) and this: “Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35-36 KJV)

Before Jesus ever drove money-changers from the temple or performed a miracle, and before his wisdom changed the way everyone looked at religion, John identified him as a game-changer. Long before the cross, and long before Jesus said, “This is my body”, John pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, the sacrifice who would take away the sins of the world.

This past Christmas season, we’ve celebrated the birth of the baby Jesus, the newborn king. Let’s not forget who he grew up to be. Christmas may begin in a manger, but it ends on a cross. Reliable witnesses provided proof of Jesus’ birth; they also remind us throughout the Gospels that we should celebrate his life as well! If a reliable eyewitness account can get someone convicted of murder, perhaps we should allow a few good eyewitness accounts to get us convicted about how to live…

The Shepherd’s Account

I saw him there, your Honor, in the manger where he lay;
I saw him in the village, with the other kids at play.
He taught there in the temple court when he was just a lad;
The elders were astonished at the questions that he had!
I saw him heal the sick and lame, and heard him preach and teach,
While hundreds fed on fish and bread extended from his reach.
You asked me here and swore me in to give my testimony.
I raised my hand and told this court that not a word is phony!
The angels told us we would find a new-born baby boy,
Whose birth would change the world, and bring us tidings of great joy!
I swear, Your Honor, on my oath that every word is true;
That many people heard his words and saw what he could do–
I’m sure you would believe in Him if you had seen him too!

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Party like a Bridegroom, and be the Happiest guy at the Wedding

This new Rabbi who presented himself to be baptized by John at the Jordan River apparently had a different way of doing business than his ascetic cousin, or the religious elite from Jerusalem. When some of John’s followers were concerned that Jesus and his disciples partied a little too much, he described himself not as a Rabbi, but as a bridegroom:

“Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:14-17 NIV)

When John’s disciples questioned Jesus why his disciples did not fast, Jesus used a couple of very different references to describe growth and change. The wineskin verse has always puzzled me a bit, but it occurred to me that it really fits with New Year’s resolutions. It refers to growth and expanding to new horizons, and Jesus describes those things in ways that everyone listening would understand.

First of all, Jesus talks about celebrating the groom at a wedding feast. He points out that 1) he is the bridegroom at the feast in the Kingdom of heaven—which makes us the bride—and 2) we should live in the present, unburdened by fear of what might happen in the future. We should party with the bridegroom at the feast while we have the chance. The eternal Son of God always encourages to be present to be in the moment.
In a subtler context he is also reminding his audience about commitment and change. When we get married, it is a new commitment, and it involves a new way of behaving. It represents leaving an old life behind as a single person and starting a new one as a couple. When you get married, it doesn’t improve your lot as a single person; you actually exchange your old single life for MARRIED life!

wedding bridegroom

When you get married, you can’t keep living the way you did when you were alone. You have to share, to adapt, and to live differently than you did before. Jesus compares himself to a bridegroom and calls us to participate in a new reality, to celebrate our relationship with him while there is still time. He then enlarges upon his teaching about growth by reminding his listeners that new wine (which expands as it ages) must be put into new wineskins, which have the elasticity to expand with it.

His immediate context points out that the old, legalistic way of relating to God has changed to a new dynamic, and he calls his followers to relationship rather than religion. He points out that it is not by doing new things with our old selves that we change; but it is by embracing new selves that we can act and feel differently. That’s why he tells his disciples in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

We can’t improve the flesh but we can REPLACE it. In his book, “If I Perish, I Perish”. Major Ian Thomas says that we can’t attain spirituality by dressing up our old nature and hoping that he reforms. You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig. Our flesh will ALWAYS be sinful and will ALWAYS long to return to its selfish ways. He cites Israel as an example for us, and points out that God didn’t leave the Israelites in Egypt, hoping that they would evolve into more devout followers. He says “God never intended to improve their lot under Pharaoh but to exchange their land.”

Like He did with Israel, God calls us to a new way of life. They couldn’t patch the old wineskins, but had to get brand new ones. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV) Resolutions to change the outer man won’t help us if we don’t exchange the inner one. If you want to change, make one resolution this year: In 2020, I am going to celebrate with the bridegroom every day!

Exchanging Vows

The bridegroom’s face is beaming with pride,
As all heads turn to see the lovely bride;
They will be exchanging vows and rings,
And changing the future, whatever it brings…
Gone is the independent single life;
From this day forth they are man and wife.
This life will put them through stormy weather,
But come what may, they will deal with it together.
This is what they will strive to do,
As together, they make something new–
And one stronger life is forged from two.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread