Certainty Seems to Be the Scientific High Ground, Until You Look a Little Deeper

Some types of Wisdom seem to provide certainty, but do they?
“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”. (I Corinthians 3:18-19, NIV)

Paul is saying that having conventional wisdom may be an obstacle to having true wisdom. One of the great paradoxes of intellectual life is that Christianity can seem like intellectual suicide, accepting by faith things that fall outside of normal, observable criteria. But here are a couple of things for you to think about:

One, ALL intellectual positions about certain things require leaps of faith, whether scientific or faith-based. As soon as you move from certainty to assumption, you enter the realm of faith. It’s fascinating to me how many people seem willing to die on a scientific hill, when they have no more actual certainty of the wisdom of their position than I do of mine. Let me challenge you a bit and ask about the most obvious examples:

1. “Big Bang” proponents, can you give me any real proof about the way the universe originated, since you couldn’t observe or record it? Science has developed a set of assumptions to guide their thinking, but there’s no absolute proof of origin. Have you considered that your scientific position requires some major leaps of faith? Doesn’t “Big Bang” require every bit as much faith in the unknown that creation does?

2. I’m also interested in having folks who are sure about evolution give me proof without making any assumptions about their certainty that the current complexity of life developed from random events that all came together over millions of years, rather than from creation. The laws of probability suggest it would take more time than is possible, and yet they believe in it as if it were scientific fact.

And, 3: I would like to hear those who feel ok about abortion explain how they “know” when the fetus becomes a life… I’m pro-choice but against ending a human life. However, I have yet to hear the definitive explanation from the Pro-Choice side about exactly when a fetus is a living soul. If it’s just part of a woman’s body, then it’s truly her right to get rid of it.

certainty

But if it’s a life, then ending it is morally wrong, and it’s only assumption–not science– that “justifies” the decision to terminate it. I believe that when a fetus becomes a living soul, then it is protected by moral law. “Pro-choice” proponents cannot empirically demonstrate exactly when that happens, so they act on assumption rather than certainty.

The law has in some cases arbitrarily assumed that a fetus is not considered viable until 20 weeks, but how do they know for sure? What if it becomes a soul at TEN weeks? At heartbeat? At conception? Who knows? But any abortions after that point would be murder… I’m not saying I’m right–they’re wrong, but I am saying that, in the end, each of those people HAS to have as much faith about their position as I do about mine. The wisdom of the world is saying, “go ahead and terminate full-term babies”, which is the logical extension of their assumptions. But if that’s wrong, then terminating a fetus also becomes wrong at some point. The question is, when do we have certainty?

And according to this verse, holding fast to this world’s wisdom may keep someone from finding God’s… In Hebrews it says that it is impossible to please God without faith. In the biblical view of things, faith begets wisdom, not the other way around. God rewards those who come to Him in faith with true wisdom. Earthly wisdom is its own reward. Heavenly wisdom is directed towards, well, HEAVEN. Don’t deceive yourself: become foolish.

Some of us demand to see the proof with our own eyes,
And point to scientific evidence to make us wise.
We use empirical proof to see some things that give us certainty,
And trust that we will grow to be superior intellectually…
God provides his wisdom, but it is another kind;
He asks us to depend on faith; to see where we are blind,
To evidence that is not seen, or based on something “school-ish”:
He asks us to believe in Him when others call us foolish.
Academics scoff at faith. They even have the gumption
To ridicule belief as something based on mere assumption!
But even science makes assumptions everywhere you turn,
And there are leaps of faith required no matter what you learn.
So in that place where evidence ends–perhaps I’m kinda dense–
Having faith in “nothing” doesn’t make intellectual sense.
So I agree with Paul, and I will read his words again:
The “foolishness” of God is wiser than the wisest men…

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
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Weakness: The Kind That Actually Makes You Stronger

Perhaps the strongest moments you ever have will only come through your weakness…
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

We live in a world where strength is made perfect in strength. We are impressed by athletes and actors, media stars and moguls. We don’t tend to see a lot of value in the ordinary or the marginal. It’s even the same way in Christian stuff: If you can teach, God uses your teaching. If you can sing, He uses your talent. If you can turn a phrase, create a nifty slogan, and “unpack” the Bible, God will show himself through your competent efforts. And please don’t misunderstand this, all of those things are good. I certainly like it when I can do my best work for God instead of for myself.

But God is way bigger than that. I think he is perhaps glorified most when we are experiencing things in HIS power rather than in our competency. It’s a lot easier to talk about our victories in Jesus, or the mighty things God has done through, and for, and around us. We appreciate God’s strength in healings, but maybe not so much in the cases where somebody DOESN’T get healed…yet His grace is there in either case.

We share and rejoice together in victories when we win by human standards, not so much when things don’t go our way. Is it possible that it’s actually MORE miraculous when we “lose”, but experience God’s grace, and encounter His comfort in the midst of sorrow? I think the same is true about spiritual health—it’s harder to share our failures, or talk about the ways God’s secret grace has brought us out of the depths of our own depravity, but if we encountered God’s power in our weakness, then it’s truly miraculous. I can honestly say that whatever worth I have in this world is based solely on God’s grace and forgiveness, not upon my wit or charm. Had I been the only architect of my fate, the structure of my life would have collapsed and burned long ago, compromised by inherent weaknesses and mistakes.

weakness

I have found over the years that if I’m left to my own devices, I will fall into personal selfishness and fail. I will turn away from sanctification and embrace sin. I will exercise greed instead of grace, lust instead of love, and hate instead of holiness…

I’ll tell you this: God has been present when I’ve done those things. He has forgiven me and restored me. The details aren’t important, but His presence in my weakness was far greater than any of my gifts in their finest hour. We are comfortable letting God use our strengths. But how do we let him use our weaknesses? For instance, I’m not worthy in any way to write about God, but here I am, offering a testimony to His grace and to the fact that He saved me from myself. You probably aren’t worthy either, but what’s YOUR testimony about God? Paul says he would brag about his own weakness, for when he was weak, God was strong. Let God’s strength shine through your life, not in your accomplishments, but in your failures.

I’ve been married thirty-seven years,
I have three awesome children who are grown;
I’ve had the most enjoyable of careers,
A lovely wife, a house to call my own.

Perhaps you’d look at me and say, “Success”,
According to the things that you can see,
But I can tell you, life would be a mess
If everything depended upon me.

I’ve done some things of which I cannot speak,
Made choices that I never should have made;
I have been stupidly, unutterably weak,
Like Esau offering birthright in a trade…

I’ve turned my back on God without remorse,
Allowed myself to squander and to roam–
Yet He reached out to me, and changed my course,
And killed the fatted calf, and brought me home.

No matter what you’ve done, or where you’ve been,
The Father’s love will go to any length–
Yes, to the Cross! To save you from your sin-
Your weakness will reveal the Father’s strength.

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
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Danger Held No Fear For Him: But Should We Really Follow Paul’s Example?

The apostle Paul went to great lengths to spread Christ’s message, and he willingly faced all kinds of danger. Maybe he was so zealous because he had tried to wipe out this new movement about following Jesus; maybe he was just a passionate guy. But he served Christ with all of his heart, regardless of personal discomfort or danger.

In spite of that, he was criticized by others, picked at by wanna-be church leaders, and stabbed in the back by jealous contemporaries. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he addressed some of the folks who boasted about all they had done, casting aspersions that Paul was not as committed as people said he was. Since they had called him a fool, he said in 2 Corinthians 11:16: “Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting…”

He went on to remind them of his qualifications:
“Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.

danger

I have been in danger from rivers, from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked…” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, NIV)

This was Paul’s response to critics who tried to disparage his ministry. As you look at it, just make a note of each of the dangers, risks, hardships, and life-threatening situations he endured to share the Gospel. It’s quite a resume. Five beatings of thirty-nine lashes. Three beatings with rods. One very personal encounter with angry stones. Three shipwrecks. And those are just the highlights! He doesn’t even get to his imprisonments and martyrdom…

To Paul, following Christ was an “all in” proposition. (After all, he was the one who said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!”) You really should read that list again to let it sink in. In today’s world, we get bent out of shape if the sermon goes 20 minutes over, and people (on average) spend about NINE minutes a day being involved in church. Yep, about an hour a week. When I look at Paul’s list, I am struck by both the hardship he was willing to endure and the passion he brought to sharing the message of the gospel. To Paul, things like hunger and thirst were just minor inconveniences compared to the glory of telling the good news. Kinda makes you feel a little bad about saying you don’t have time to be a greeter, doesn’t it?

I, Paul

I have lived a joyful life! I’ve learned to be content.
Just think of all I saw, and all the places that I went!
I went to Macedonia, and traveled far from home;
I sailed upon the open sea! I got to go to Rome!
Yes there have been some hardships that occurred along the way,
Like when our ship went down, and I went swimming for a day.
And yes I was arrested, and got whipped a time or five–
And that time I was stoned, I’m still amazed I stayed alive!
But even though I’ve had some inconvenience and some pain:
I know for me to Live is Christ, for me to die is gain!
But looking back now, I can say I’ve served Him from the start:
And I would challenge you, my friend, to serve with all your heart.
When you are looking back on life, with all the good and bad,
I hope that you can say with me, “I gave it all I had!”

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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Ambassadors or Judges: What Are Christians Supposed to Be?

It seems that our government has lost the fine art of statesmanship. Every elected official is supposed to represent constituents, but most of them spend so much time being contentious that they forget how to be ambassadors.

Come to think of it, I guess all of us are ambassadors in one way or another. According to Miriam-Webster, Ambassadors are authorized envoys or representatives of a government, or unofficial representatives, such as ambassadors of goodwill. You may not have been appointed by the government, but you are probably a representative of your family, for instance, or perhaps your work. As representatives of something larger than ourselves, what we do reflects on whatever or whoever that is. If you are a Christian, according to Paul, you have received an appointment, and you are reflecting on Christ himself. I guess, to me, that’s where things get interesting.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.” (I Corinthians 6:20, NIV). Wow, it’s kinda scary to think that God is using US as his ambassadors to make his appeal to the world.

Remember that when God sent the Angel to Cornelius in Acts 10, the Angel told him to get in touch with Peter, who would tell him what to do. Peter told him about “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ” in 9:26. Cornelius and his whole household believed and were baptized. So why didn’t the Angel just deliver the Gospel to Cornelius? BECAUSE ANGELS CAN’T do evangelism! Only we humans are empowered to share the gospel.

We are Christ’s only ambassadors on the earth. He told the disciples that he was going away, but that he would come again for us. In the meantime, since he is not physically here, we have been appointed to represent him. It is our role to reflect Christ in a fallen world, to be “Jesus with skin on” wherever we are, providing salt to the corruptible and light in the darkness.

If you’ll recall, in the early days of the Church there were disciples who followed Jesus, and they acted so much like him that folks began calling people who followed Jesus “little Christs”, or Christians. Acts 11:26 says the word Christian did not come into vogue for at least couple of years after Jesus had departed: “And when he (Barnabus) had found him (Saul), he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

People were called Christians because they seemed to be a literal representation of Jesus himself. Every Christian is therefore a representative of Christ. I have always wondered how Jesus would act if he was among us. Would he be Church-Lady judgmental? Would he keep a sharp eye out for other people’s sins, and would he be shocked at our culture’s selfishness and licentiousness? Would he be quick to judge and nit-pick?

ambassadors

Or would Jesus be a cool guy to hang out with, dispensing wisdom with perhaps a touch of good-natured humor? Would he be loving but intense, with flashes of transfigured glory, and would we see his healing and miracles? Would he be having engaging conversations with friends, intriguing them with the gospel? There’s no doubt in my mind that if Jesus were among us, people would be amazed and surprised by Him… They would be curious about him, stimulated to deepen their love for God as well as others around them. Well, according to this verse, he IS among us, and his presence is evident, making its appeal through ambassadors. Those ambassadors are us. We are now the representatives of Christ on this earth, the lens through which all unbelievers see him. Our actions and statements determine whether the world sees Christians as a bunch of petty, judgmental tight-wads, or as generous, fun-loving friends… No pressure, ya’ll, but how do you think we’re doing?

Ambassadors can negotiate a treaty or a deal;
They represent their sponsor with authority that’s real.
Folks watch them because they are the ones who have been sent,
And people make conclusions about Who they represent.
Do people see your God as petty, mean, or temperamental?
Do they conclude that He is disappointed and judgmental?
If there are false impressions about what your God would do,
Remember: God’s ambassador on earth to them is YOU.

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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Critics Don’t Count, but It’s the One Who Dares to Strive Who Matters

Paul gives critics the same answer that God does…read this and see if you agree:
“For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing. Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. ” (2 Corinthians 10:10-11, NIV).

critics

Paul apparently had critics when he was alive; he still has them today. Women’s rights advocates and even Christian egalitarians criticize his view of women. Our culture sees him as outdated and out of touch. In a world where we are supposed to tolerate everything, his strong stance about many issues seems harsh and unyielding. Critics abound in every culture and every forum.

But as Teddy Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Roosevelt himself faced many critics, and he knew from personal experience that endeavor and perseverance were always more substantial than armchair criticism. Today’s academics and armchair theologians are critical of Paul’s writings, which perhaps can be expected from a world that reacts against strong doctrinal stances. But it’s not just current culture that is critical of Paul– even when he was alive, he heard murmurs about his style and ability.

His critics said he wasn’t a good preacher, that he was not as impressive in person as he was in his letters. People said, “Yeah he sounds pretty tough in the things he wrote, but he’s not around, so don’t let him intimidate you.” Funny, people say the same thing about God today. His book seems pretty impressive, but where is He when I want to see him? Make him appear, show me some evidence! Surely a loving God won’t judge sinful, independent men as harshly as the Bible says He will. Surely we can do whatever we want, and God won’t mind “that” much. Surely He is like the nice parts of the Bible and not the parts that talk about eternal separation and the lake of fire… I wonder if God would give them the same answer that Paul did: “What I am in my Book when you do not see me, I will be in my actions when you see me.” Something to think about.

It’s easy just to criticize, to throw some shade, to offer lies,
To try to throw someone off track, to sneak around and take the tack
Of offering innuendos and some snide remarks behind their back…
Paul’s critics said, “He seems to be an authority, but he’s absentee,
And you should really not believe in someone that you cannot see.”
Paul said he would soon return, and all his critics then would learn
That if they thought him less than strong,
Their judgment could not be more wrong,
And when he finally appeared, he would be stronger than they feared!
Hmmm… much like all of those who said,
“God is not here, He must be dead.”
I’d recommend they take a look at what is written in His Book,
And feel its depth, and read its length-
Just hear it talk about His strength!
Have faith in Who you cannot see,
For God is not an absentee,
And all within His Book will be fulfilled for all eternity.
If He were writing this today, I think, like Paul, that He might say,
“What I’ve written, although absent, I will be when I am present.”
There are those who criticize, but someday, you’ll look in His eyes,
And see the Truth, and realize that faith in Him is pretty wise…

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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Separated From the Love of Christ? Here’s the Most Obvious Reason Why

At one time, Saul of Tarsus hated Christians, so he must have hated Christ as well. But something changed for Saul, and he grew to believe that he could never be separated from the love he found in Jesus Christ; in fact, he made an astounding statement for a man who had pursued and persecuted followers of Jesus:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV). Paul was confident that no power or opponent could separate him from Christ’s love.

separated

Think back to elementary school, where we were taught the proper way to spell by remembering that there is “a rat” in separate. Being separated from someone you love is painful; being separated from the source of all love would be impossible.

Paul’s bold statement is a powerful thought in a world where it often seems like love can let you down. It comforts me to know that God’s love will never be taken away from me. There are things in life that call us away from love, whether they are on social medial, in politics, or from haters or the media or bigots, or just bad drivers. If you watch the news, the world and its values call us to divisiveness and even hatred. When we have shallow reactions to a shallow culture, it is easy to allow oneself to be separated from the love that Christ taught.

I have found, though, that over the course of my life it has not been external influences or agents of evil that have pulled me away from the love of Christ. But there has been one thing that consistently does it, that separates me from the love and the teachings of Jesus. That something is far more insidious and closer to home than any of the evils in the world: that something is ME. I have been separated from the love of Christ by my pet sins, my selfishness, and the pull of temporary gratification.

Oliver Hazard Perry once proclaimed victory by saying, “We have met the enemy and they are ours” .His words were later humorously misquoted by the comic strip “Pogo”: “We have met the enemy and he is us”. Are you ever like that? Like Paul doing the evil he did not want to do, or Esau trading his birthright for a pot of savory stew, I have often been the one who chose to step away from the secure and endless love I find in Jesus to pursue something tawdry or temporary. How foolish we are, to step away from the joy and security of the warm, passionate, eternal love of Christ to experiment with something selfish, limited, and fake.

Tell me: what is it that causes YOU to step away from Christ’s love for the cheap thrill of a temporary fix? Chemicals? Credit? Comfort food? Golf? Bragging about your kids? Beer? Fifty Shades? That big promotion? Living in the bigger home? Paul would tell you it’s not worth it. Step back into the welcoming arms of Jesus, and make him a priority. Enjoy the comforting “love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You won’t be separated. And you won’t be sorry!

The Apostle Paul had seen it all, had traveled far and near;
He spoke with Kings and Pharisees without a lick of fear.
He had been beaten, whipped and stoned, and knew all kinds of pain,
But said, “For me to live is Christ; For me to die is gain!”
He stood before the judge, and was condemned to prison twice,
But claimed no power could separate him from the love of Christ.
If Paul could make that statement after all that he’d been through,
Then it’s a powerful testimony. I believe it 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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Reputation Follows You: When The Bravest Man in Jerusalem met the man with the Worst Reputation

Saul of Tarsus was a Jewish zealot who aimed to stamp out the Christian movement using violence and intimidation. After he encountered Jesus in a vision on the road to Damascus, he had been dramatically converted to The Way, but his reputation still intimidated everybody. That’s not too surprising, since he had recently been active killing Christians and persecuting the church… Followers of Jesus avoided him with good reason; was he just pretending to be a Christian so he could go undercover and infiltrate the inner circle? Was he actually a believer? Was he still dangerous? No one really knew…

reputation

“And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.” (Acts 10:26-7, KJV)  The man with the worst reputation among believers was shunned by the church, conversion or no.

Let’s make just a couple of observations: if we have been doing wrong, then even if we repent and change, our past actions have consequences. Saul, the self-described “Pharisee of the Pharisees”, had been out there persecuting and killing Christians. He had gained a reputation before his conversion, and the reputation did not go away just because he said things were different now. It took some time, and he had to demonstrate that his life had really changed.

People in church are often hesitant to associate with people who are not. There is a subtle brand of righteous insulation that takes place, and this was certainly the case with Saul! (And it might be instructive to remember that the church would be empty if only perfect people got to join…)

As Saul discovered, having a change of heart doesn’t change the past. If you’ve ever wronged a loved one, and then asked for forgiveness, don’t be surprised if they are skeptical about your new attitude. It may be that you’ll have to show them that things really have changed. Saul was an outright enemy to believers, so when he told people about how he encountered Jesus on the Road to Damascus, his conversion didn’t seem possible to most folks. It’s not really surprising that when he tried to join the church, he was ostracized and rejected.

Can you imagine how different the world would be if Saul had never been accepted by the church? If he had walked away, bitter and resentful? Imagine the consequences! Yet as Saul stood on the outside looking in, even when everyone was afraid of him and avoiding him, there was one man who looked beyond his fearsome reputation.

Luke says this: “But Barnabus…” In the midst of paralyzing fear, it only takes one courageous person to get things moving the right direction. Saul had been guilty of horrendous things BUT Barnabus looked beyond them. Saul was not the kind of guy you’d want to sit next to at the covered dish supper, BUT Barnabus invited him… Saul had a terrible reputation and a checkered past, BUT Barnabus took him and brought him. Saul was not accepted into the church, BUT Barnabus brought him. Barnabus somehow saw beyond Saul’s past, and shepherded him into God’s fearful family.

Without Barnabus, who knows? Perhaps Saul would never have become Paul. Perhaps an embittered and frustrated Saul might have slunk off, rejected and hurt, and gone back to persecuting Christians. What person outside of your church family is being excluded or marginalized? Who are you loving and bringing into the kingdom?

Greeting someone new to church may seem a little small,
Unless the guest has had a wanted poster on the wall,
For persecuting Christians– yeah, a guy by the name of Saul,
Who watched as they stoned Stephen, and was feared by one and all.
But Barnabus reached out to him, and not in trepidation,
Undaunted by Saul’s former life or current reputation.
He didn’t cater to the enemy’s intimidation,
And brought Saul right into the Apostolic delegation.
The rest is history. Saul changed his life and changed his name,
And due to Barnabus, the world has never been the same.
Paul became a missionary, saved from sin and shame,
And said, “For me to live is Christ; for me to die is gain!”
The next time someone comes to church who doesn’t quite fit in,
No matter what they look like, and no matter where they’ve been,
Remember Barnabus and Paul, and all that happened after all,
And realize that greeting someone is not small at all.

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
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Casting Lots May Not Be Enough: Things to consider next Time you have to choose an Apostle

Need to choose a Thirteenth Apostle? You can’t just go to Central Casting and ask for one. There is lots to consider..
After Judas committed suicide, it was deemed necessary to replace him. The disciples followed a time-honored method, selecting likely candidates and casting lots. (Traditional Jewish wisdom held that God would reveal his will via this method, even if it seems cultural, or even a bit like flipping a coin…Even though decision makers would pray and seek God’s will, they still tended to rely upon a process that much of their society also used—kinda like modern search committees…) “So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”

casting

Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:23-26, NIV).

Churches everywhere follow a pretty secular template to selecting people to be on staff. They review resumes, conduct interviews, and they select the candidate who seems most worthy based on the process. They differ from mere business interviews because they pray over their selection, and they certainly ask the Lord to provide them with the one whom He has called. The current model that churches follow today is actually still very similar to the one used by the Apostles. (With the exception of casting lots, which was actually considered a good indicator of God’s will in first century Jewish circles.) I have no doubt Matthias was a godly man and a worthy choice to replace Judas.

I have no doubt that the disciples had good intentions and followed the best process they knew… but here’s the thing: This is the LAST time Matthias is mentioned in the New Testament. I am sure he was an honorable man who had a meaningful ministry, but his name never comes up again in the records of the growth and development of the early church. Meanwhile, through another process, God acted to provide his own replacement for Judas—a guy named Saul of Tarsus, whose name was changed to Paul. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.

We often turn to our own ingenuity and wisdom to try to carry out God’s mission, forgetting that the one irreplaceable factor is the power of His Spirit working within us. Let’s not forget that all the processes in the world can’t hold a candle to being selected, motivated and empowered by the Living God!

Disciples did the interview, and got the candidates down to two,
Proceeded in they way they knew by casting lots from which they drew.
Matthias’ name became selected, so he was the one elected.
Though he was named Apostle then, we never heard from him again!
Meanwhile, God sent out a call to a Pharisee whose name was Saul:
A persecutor full of hate, a most unlikely candidate,
Who had to have a brand new start–
God changed Saul’s name, and changed his heart.
Just remember, understand that processes designed by man
Are doing things as best they can but they cannot replace God’s plan.
If you question this at all, just think of the Apostle Paul,
On whom God’s grace was once bestowed
right there on the Damascus road!
God’s choice in this was simply plain;
Instead of trying to explain,
Just read what Paul once wrote again:
“To live is Christ, to die is gain!”

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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Importance May not be what You think: The Important Man Who Discovered Something More Important

A funny thing regarding importance happened to a man of importance on the Way to Damascus…

importance

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. The he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me, as to one abnormally born.” (I Corinthians 15:3-8, NIV)

Saul of Tarsus was a Hebrew scholar, educated at the feet of Gamaliel, who was a famous rabbi of that era. Saul was a career Pharisee who spent his formative years studying the Hebrew Scriptures, teaching and spreading the message of Judaism. He persecuted the early church in his zeal as a Pharisee, and his Jewish credentials were impeccable. (He referred to himself as “faultless” in the eyes of the law in Philippians 3:6). He was mentioned as the official consenting to Stephen’s death in Acts 6, a man feared by followers of the Way because of his aggressive self-righteousness. Shortly after he endorsed Stephen’s execution, however, he encountered Jesus in a vision while traveling to Damascus.

It was certainly a dramatic conversion that sent shockwaves through the early church. He embraced the reality of the resurrection and began to follow Christ with the same zeal he previously applied to persecuting believers of the Way. He became perhaps the greatest Hebrew apologist the world has ever known, and his missionary efforts spread the good news all over the world.

At the time he wrote this passage to the Corinthians, most of the witnesses he referred to were still alive, and could still verify that what he said about Christ was true. Had his statements been false, he would have been branded as a lunatic, and the Christian movement would have died along with the generation who invented it. Instead, believers with changed lives held resolutely to the Gospel in spite of suffering persecution and even martyrdom.

That’s what Paul did, along with thousands of other believers. If you haven’t read his letters, they can be life-changing, and they are amazing in their ability to connect the work of Christ with God’s revelation through the Old Testament. Read some of his Epistles, and you will be impressed with his logic, his knowledge, and the inspiration behind his work. He gave an impressive testimony about who Jesus was and what his teaching meant.

His testimony still counts as eyewitness because in the real world he was an enemy of those who followed Jesus until he encountered Jesus himself, and then he began to connect the dots. It’s really the same for all of us—a lot of things aren’t clear until we encounter Jesus. But once we put him in the proper place, there are so many things that suddenly make sense. Once you have received the things of first importance, give them first importance.

Tell me, do you think it strange that everything in life can change?
On roads where countless men have trod, can one lone man encounter God?
Can a Scholar change his mind? Can the sighted see, though blind?
Will a zealot cease to kill and change his heart, and change his will?
Somehow in the darkest night a blinded man can find his sight,
Can see that love–not law–is right, and move from darkness into light.

 

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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Law Versus Grace: and The Reluctant Apologist Accepted

An apologist is “one who defends or supports something, such as a religion.” Saul of Tarsus zealously pursued righteousness through keeping the law until he discovered God’s reason for law and purpose for grace… “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20-21, NKJV)

Saul, a Pharisee from Tarsus, was a man striving to do the right thing. He obeyed the statutes to the letter, and he prosecuted blasphemers to its fullest extent. He was a brilliant, passionate man who feared God and wanted to do what pleased Him. He was confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), and had perhaps one of the most significant conversions to Christianity in history.

His sight was taken from him for three days, and I am sure he came to grips with his own spiritual blindness as he waited for God to tell him what to do next. As a powerful Pharisee, he originally saw the law as a means to earn God’s favor. As a sightless pilgrim, he grasped the concept of grace, and he came to understand that the law’s purpose was not to save, but only to condemn.

In Romans 3:20 he said “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” In Romans 4:15 he said “the law brings wrath.” Religion that is built upon law will always fail for two reasons: 1) The law exists only to demonstrate that men will fall short of its standards and face the wrath of a righteous God; and 2) all men will fall short of its standards.

The Apostle Paul (as Saul is known to us) knew that the law hates sinners, and he called himself the “chief of sinners”. Paul and all of us sinners were doomed under the law’s rigid standards. When Saul encountered Jesus, he stood before Christ not as a righteous Pharisee or even as a good man, but as a sinner. So it is with all of us. Often one of the biggest obstacles we have in discovering God is our own sense of righteousness. Don’t ever let doing good take the place of discovering Grace. Paul says that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. If, like me, you are a sinner who has done wicked and dishonest things, who has failed the legal requirements in so many respects, that is amazingly good news! Whatever your sins, whatever you have done to break the law, Grace is greater.

Saul of Tarsus, on that night,
When you were blinded by the light,
What did you see? What did you find
That changed your heart and changed your mind?
What caused your ruthless heart to thaw,
To see the hopelessness of law?
Was it the look on Jesus’ face
That turned you towards amazing grace?
Was it in blindness that you found
That Grace could more than sin abound?
Where legalism failed to heal,
Your righteousness from Grace was real!
When you were blinded, you could see
God’s love in perfect clarity,
And wrote so that the mystery
Of Grace–that fell on you—could fall on me.

To buy my latest book, 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
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread