Greatest Doesn’t Necessarily Mean What You Think It Means

Sports fans like to argue about who the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) is, regardless of the sport. Is it Michael or LeBron? Nicklaus or Tiger? Ali or Tyson? Who is the Greatest Of All Time? In sports, it’s kinda fun to argue about who the Greatest is… But consider this, when it comes to true greatness: Our society has many standards, and most of them are wrong.
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20, NIV)

It had to be a weird conversation for the disciples, hearing Christ talk about his body and his blood over dinner as they reclined at table. They were still somewhat giddy over the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Hosannas were still ringing in their ears, and yet Jesus was now telling them that one of them would betray him. He went on to say he was going to die, and that God was going to make a new covenant with Israel. This was an amazing statement, and yet it only registered on them for about a minute. The disciples first speculated about which of them would betray their master, and then Luke 22:24-26 says, “A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them… But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like… the one who serves.”

greatest

Centuries later, it’s easy to think that the disciples must have been incredibly dense not to get it, but like all of us they were focused on “what’s in it for me?”, and “what happens next?” (Before you judge them too harshly, have you ever missed a couple of points in a sermon because you were thinking about lunch after church, or going to the lake?)
There are a couple of things that jump out of this passage: One, when it comes to your relationship with God what are you focused on? Are you thinking about what He can do for you, or do you ever simply focus on Him? The disciples had Jesus RIGHT THERE, in the flesh, but they weren’t thinking about him. Instead, they were wondering about which of them was the greatest, and what positions they would hold when they overthrew the Romans. Is your prayer life directed more at “do”, or “be”? (Yeah, I know, there’s a bad Sinatra joke in there somewhere…) Appreciate God in the moment instead of just asking Him for stuff.

Second, how many leaders do you know who actually serve to lead? Our society places value on being rich and important. In our culture, being the greatest usually means that you are the one who gets served… But, seriously, how many Dads, bosses, husbands, or politicians are servant leaders? How about you? What type of attributes characterize YOUR leadership? Jesus said it this way: if you are not serving, then you are not leading. If you are not the least, you are not the greatest. The next time you celebrate the Lord’s Supper, remember what he said. Remember what he did. If you are looking for greatness, that’s where you’ll find it.

The Greatest of All Time...

Hollywood has parties that are only for the "A List";
Culture celebrates the best, the richest, or the latest.
Jesus showed humility in something of a plot twist,
While disciples sat and argued who would be the greatest.
Jesus gathered up his robe, and took the lowest seat
To give the men an object lesson as he washed their feet.
"Among the Gentiles, leaders strut and rule for all to see;
They act like sovereign lords as if they have the right to be.
If you want to be the greatest, this is how you start:
Begin by serving others with a humble servant's heart."
Their argument hung in empty air as each one realized
That leadership was at their feet, and looked into their 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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Birthday Celebrations Don’t Have to Be a One-Time Thing! Have TWO!

There was once a man who got to celebrate his Birthday! Twice!

“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:1-3, NIV)

Nicodemus was a member of the ruling council known as the Sanhedrin. This group of up to 71 men, comprised of Scribes, Pharisees and Elders, became increasingly antagonistic towards Jesus as he conducted his public ministry, which is probably why Nicodemus had to visit “at night”. He couldn’t risk censure or afford to make enemies in that group. But he was impressed enough with Jesus’ work to acknowledge that God’s hand was upon Him, and honest enough to seek the truth.

When Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again, it was puzzling to the Jewish leader, and he asked how such a thing could be. Jesus explained that it was a spiritual thing; you cannot see the Kingdom of God unless you have had a spiritual birthday to go with your physical one. He told him, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit”, and he encouraged Nicodemus to pursue the type of new life that was only available through God’s spirit.

This past month I got to celebrate my birthday on May 9. (Although at our house, we kinda like to celebrate all week long, and there’s even a card you can buy on Amazon that actually encourages that!)
https://www.amazon.com/Happy-Birthday-Week-Book-thats/dp/1539326918

birthday

My actual birth day was apparently pretty difficult. My momma always told me I was lucky to make it. I was very premature, an RH baby, and apparently had a couple of medical issues that were touch and go. She used to tell me that the doctors told her I wasn’t going to live, but the Lord saved me for a reason, and I’ve always been reminded of her belief about this time each year. I have to admit there are times when I’ve wondered if it was true…

My 3 kids would tell you there are at least THREE great reasons that God saved me as an infant, and to be honest, I’d have a hard time thinking of anything better or more important than having helped to bring them into the world. I got to be in the delivery room with Nancy and hold each one of them moments after they arrived on THEIR birthday!

But as meaningful as my birth story has been for me, and as meaningful as their birth events were, I am even more grateful for the fact that all of them have all experienced another birthday, the kind Jesus discussed with Nicodemus. I was “born again” the summer of 1968 at YMCA camp Flaming Arrow near Kerrville, Texas, when I came to realize that Jesus was not just an amazing Rabbi. I read what he said to Nicodemus and decided to follow him, thereby gaining another birthday. That’s the birthday that happens as a result of seeing who Jesus is, and trusting in what He did for us on the cross. That’s the birth that granted spiritual life, participation in God’s word, and adoption into God’s family. And as fun as it is to have a party on our original birthday, I think the celebration that awaits us because of our second birthday will be beyond our wildest expectations! So during my birthday WEEK, my wish is that YOU would consider this conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. And pick yourself up a second set of cake and candles!

THE BIRTHDAY WEEK CARD

I was getting you a birthday card,
Which really wasn’t very hard,
But I saw this, and so I said,
“It’s good for the heart and good for the head!
So this is what I got, instead…
Read it every day. You’ll find
It will bless your heart and help your mind.
Once again, the time is near to celebrate another year!
This year the baker had to make more room for candles on your cake,
And friends and family couldn’t wait to wish you well, and celebrate!
But getting wiser can be hard, so this is more than just a card:
There is wisdom, if you look, within the pages of this book.
Spend some time with God each day, and you will grow a different way:
Intellectually stimulated, personally motivated, spiritually activated,
Ego properly deflated, you will wonder why you waited!
Read a page each day this week, and if you listen, God will Speak!

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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Say, If the Messiah returned Today, What Would He Say to Us Now, America?

He wasn’t who they expected him to be. He said things they didn’t expect him to say. In yesterday’s passage from the Book of Revelation, John described Jesus as the Alpha and Omega and the King of Kings; but let’s not forget that he had a very different role when he first came to earth. Isaiah 53 portrays a man who was rejected and spurned by the very people he came to save. While he was here on earth, the Messiah was so humble and spiritual that he made no political statements and had no political aspirations. If he returned today, would people notice? Would they care? What do you think he would say to us?

say unexpected

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:2-5, NIV)

The Messiah appeared, not as a King in glory, and not as a celebrity on TMZ… If he appeared today, I wonder what he would say to our nation? What would he say to the dispossessed, the poor, the marginalized, the segregated, the beaten-down, the sufferers of injustice? He would say, “I have been where you are. I have shared your suffering and felt your pain. I am in the midst of your grief, and I offer you peace if you will turn to me. I offer you grace and dignity, forgiveness and respect.” “In the world you shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
And what would he say to the prejudiced, the haters, the purveyors of bigotry and division (both white and black)? “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34).

This past Monday, a helpless George Floyd was needlessly choked to death while in police custody in Minneapolis. His death is the latest in a string of tragic killings of African Americans during encounters with police going back several years. Frankly, I am shocked and dismayed by this blatant abuse of power and lack of justice, and I know that my own feelings about it are nothing compared to the rising tide of dissatisfaction and anguish among my brothers and sisters of color. The Jesus I know would never condone hatred based on skin color or minor differences; he would extend compassion to the wounded and God’s righteous standard to those who perpetrate bigotry and racism.

And what would he say to those in power, those who do nothing about injustice, who respond with insensitivity and indifference? “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” (Leviticus 19:15)

And what would be his message to those who use their power to commit violence or abuse? “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by injustice.” (Jeremiah 22:13) “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:2)

And what would he say to all of us, as believers, about how we should act? “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35, KJV). “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Let’s change the paradigm, people. Our nation can only achieve justice one heart at a time. The one who bore our pain and suffering, who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, has offered us peace and healing. Let’s offer it to our neighbors, one heart at a time.

A humble man of sorrows, he who came
Without regard for power, wealth or fame;
The King of kings and Lord of lords was he,
And yet he had no need for TMZ.
According to Isaiah 53,
He had no selfish lust for royalty,
And did not get involved politically;
He came to bear our sorrow, and to be
The sacrifice for our iniquity.
Perhaps we would do well to emulate,
To love the way he loved, and not to hate.
I hope, America, it’s not too late:
When he comes back, in power undisguised,
I think a lot of folks will be surprised.

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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King of Kings: We Shouldn’t Bow Down to Anyone Else

(This is Day 75 or so of Reading through the Bible) In case you haven’t noticed, back in February we started in Genesis and have proceeded almost daily through every book in the Bible, the book about the King of kings. (We covered some stuff between the Testaments and took a Passion Week detour through the four Gospels during the Easter season, so we took more than 66 days to cover all 66 books). Today the passage is from John’s Revelation, so if you’ve been reading along for the last 2 1/2 months, you have now read your way through the entire Bible! (If you haven’t, you can always go back and “binge read” on a rainy day…)

In the opening statement of his book of Revelations, John says, “Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 1:4-6, NIV)

Many people think the book of Revelation is mainly about the end times, and what’s going to happen in the future. While John did see visions about what is to come, what sometimes gets lost among speculation about the future is that John’s visions were really not about us, our curiosity, or our fate relative to the tribulation… They were about who Jesus is. They are about the Word made flesh, the promised Messiah, the King of Kings.

king of kings

The apocalypse is not just about the end of history, it’s about His Story. Read through the book and you’ll know a whole lot more about Jesus, his mission, and his nature. Do you see him as he really is? If he really is King of kings and lord of lords, are you giving him the respect he deserves?

You can ignore him if you like; in fact you have both the will and the right to make that decision. But what if Jesus of Nazareth is who John envisioned him to be? John saw him not just as a suffering servant who came to be the sacrifice for the sins of all mankind (as his Gospel clearly portrayed), but as a victorious king returning in triumph to rule over everything. The life of Jesus has already impacted history and changed the world, so there’s at least a chance that John’s (some would say) crazy vision was right. If even PART of it was accurate, then Jesus is worth investigating. Read the list below, taken from the Book of Revelation. Then, YOU decide…

1:5 Jesus is the faithful witness, firstborn from the dead, ruler of the kings; he paid for our freedom.

1:13 He is “One like a Son of Man” (compare Dan 7:13–14)

1:13–15 Jesus is the King, priest, warrior, God

1:16 He will wield universal, cosmic power

1:17 Jesus is the first and the last, (compare 22:13)

1:18 Jesus has the keys to death and Hades (cf. ‘key of David’, 3:7), He is the living one

Chapters 2 and 3 He knows the church intimately, and holds their reward or judgment in his hand

5:5 Jesus alone has all authority for judgment,

5:5-6 He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah; He is the Lamb who is worthy

5:6 He is God (in the center of the throne). With all power (7 horns) and all spiritual insight (7 eyes).

5:8 He receives the prayers of the saints

5:11-14 He is worshiped as God

6:16-17 He is frightening in his retribution!

7:17 He is the Shepherd who leads us to living water

12:5 He will rule with an iron scepter

19:11-16 Jesus returns as a victorious and powerful warrior. His name is ‘word of God’

19:16 He is the ‘king of kings and lord of lords’

21:22-23 Jesus and God are the temple and the light of the New Jerusalem.

22:13 He is the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the Beginning and the End.

He’s worth your time, He’s worth your attention, and He’s worth your worship.

King or Not?

John's Revelation spells it out:
About this King there is no doubt!
The Lamb who was slain, the chosen one,
The Son of Man, and God's own Son;
The King of Kings, the Lord of all
Who rules all kingdoms, large and small;
He's the Good Shepherd, warrior priest--
The Bridegroom at the wedding feast,
At once the Greatest and the Least...
The Holy One, the closest friend,
He is the beginning and the end
The one by Whom all things consist,
The ruler no one will resist.
The Alpha and Omega who
Was there when everything was new:
If the Revelation's true,
Then it will impact me, and you.
Jesus will someday come again
To rule His Kingdom without end.
For now, there is a choice for men:
To be his foe, or be his friend.
I think I'd rather choose him now,
For someday, every knee will bow
And all will kneel with one accord
To honor Him as Sovereign Lord.

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

Contend! Don’t be that Guy Who Says: “I Coulda Been a Contender.”

In the movie “On the Waterfront”, Marlon Brando’s character laments that he didn’t contend as well as he should have. “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender.”

contend

In Jude’s letter, he urges us not to make the same mistake: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” (Jude 1:3, NIV)

Jude identifies himself as “the brother of James”, which is unusual for a Hebrew writer, who normally would have referred to a father or patriarch instead. He also separates himself from the Apostles (v 17), so in all likelihood this is Jude (a form of Judah, who was sometimes called Judas), the brother of Jesus. (Jesus had 4 younger brothers born to Mary and Joseph according to Matthew 13:55—James, Joseph, Simon and Jude). Interestingly, neither James nor Jude identified themselves as Jesus’ brothers directly, probably out of humility or a desire to avoid being given special consideration as members of Joseph and Mary’s household.

Jude encourages us to “contend for the faith”. Contend comes from the Greek word, ἐπαγωνίζομαι,(epagonizomai) which means to struggle with; to argue earnestly, debate. The agon (agon) was an assembly location where people watched athletic contests. Paul uses a form of it to refer to “fighting the good fight.” In either case, it can refer to several things, and it would seem fitting that if you are called upon to contend:
1) you should prepare. You wouldn’t go into an athletic contest without training, or a debate without mastering your subject. And yet many people who call themselves Christians do little or no training in order to understand and defend their faith. How’s YOUR training going?

2) It implies belief and passion, since competition requires commitment and effort. Athletes who compete at the highest levels all started as a kid from somewhere, but gained a belief in themselves that encouraged them to pursue their talents with passion.

3) It assumes competition. We live in a world that doesn’t automatically accept the claims of Jesus Christ, and is in fact increasingly hostile to it. While we are told to do so with gentleness and respect, we are encouraged to be able to give answers to those who oppose us. How ready are you to answer questions about your faith? If you want to know more about how to do that, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel and Tim Keller’s books are great resources. In the meantime, get out there and contend today! Fight for your faith! You don’t want to reach the end of your life, and look back with regret to say “I coulda been a contender!”

Don’t Quit

Jude had friends and family who died a martyr’s death,
Who proudly shared their faith until they drew their final breath.
No one knows exactly what may lie around the bend,
But each of us can make a choice of how we reach our end.
Faith is not some made-up thing we play with to pretend;
Take hold of yours and join the fight: Believe! Engage! Contend!

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

Famous People May Not Always Be Famous for the Right Reasons

Here in America, we think being famous is cool. We watch TMZ or read People Magazine to keep up with all the “stars”. We get all gaga if we meet Lady Gaga or somebody else that’s famous, and if we were honest, a lot of us would love to BE famous. Andy Warhol said over FORTY years ago, “In the future, everyone is going to be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” In Third John, we get some good advice about how being famous is going to count in the grand scheme of things: What if Your 15 Minutes of Fame Fizzled?

famous

“It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth… I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us.” (3 John 1:3-4; 9)

Being Well-Known Depends on What You Are Known FOR

John wrote this letter to Gaius, a friend who had shown hospitality to John’s messengers on a previous trip. In it, he makes a couple of guys famous for completely different reasons. It is a contrast in two ways of doing business in the church. There is the warm, hospitable way that Gaius had demonstrated. His way apparently involved being faithful to the truth and loving others, even strangers (v 6). Gaius’ faithfulness and love earned him good reports and the appreciation of the church, and since we are reading about him today, I guess you could say it made him famous.

Diotrephes (Die-ah-truh-fees), on the other hand, was a local church leader who for some reason refused John’s messengers and refused John’s message. He did not allow John’s message to be read, and even kicked some church members out for welcoming other, different believers to church. Diotrephes (“who loves to be first”) may have been driven by jealousy; he may have wanted to maintain control; he may have even thought that, as a man called by God to lead, his own opinion was paramount and should not be contaminated by John’s message or his people.

Whatever his reasons, Diotrephes had ONE shot at being mentioned in Scripture, and instead of being called out as a hero of the faith, or even as a faithful man, he is mentioned for being evil. He became famous for all the wrong reasons.

So, What Are the Right Reasons for Being Famous?

Here are two things about that: first, I hope your church is inclusive, friendly, loving, and truthful, and run by servant leaders who follow the truth. The most common complaint I hear about Christians is that we are too judgmental, too snooty, or too righteous. Here’s some friendly advice: STOP IT! Let’s be known for being too generous or too loving

And second: If you had one shot to be mentioned in the Lord’s book, what would Scripture say about you? When successive generations read your snippet in the Second book of Acts, how will the writer characterize YOU? Will they describe someone “who loves to be first”, or someone who lives in love and walks in truth? Well, that book is being written. It’s not too late for you to influence your paragraph. Write one that matters. Write one that loves. Be famous for all the right reasons.

Two Famous Guys

Diotrephes just loved to be first;
But John called him out for being the worst.
The Bible recorded Diotrephes name,
But linked him with selfishness, power, and shame.
It’s lame that he wasted his one shot at fame
By playing his own little personal game…
He didn’t like John or deliver his letter;
He only did worse when he could have done better!
He wasn’t too godly, and those are the facts;
But tell me, when they write the NEW Book of Acts,
That records all the works that we Christians will do,
What will your paragraph say about YOU?
I hope we aren’t mentioned for things that will shame us:
There’s more than one way to approach being famous.

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

Provoke Somebody Every Day, But at Least Do it the Right Way!

When we say, “Don’t provoke me”, it is usually another way of saying, “Don’t make me mad!” The dictionary says provoke means “stimulate or give rise to (a reaction or emotion, typically a strong or unwelcome one) in someone.” In this verse from Hebrews, the author offers us a different take on how to provoke one another. Instead of the word meaning antagonizing or harassing someone, he says we should think about this:

“And let us consider one another to provoke [each other] unto love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.“ (Hebrews 10:24-25, NKJV)

provoke for good

Why don’t we break this verse down and see if it provokes a reaction: “Let US consider one another…” The Christian walk is not supposed to be done in a vacuum. Almost everything about following Christ is designed to happen in community: when we start following Jesus we become children of God with new brothers and sisters; we are part of God’s family, and are the Body of Christ.

When Jesus described us as the light of the world, he didn’t say we are a candle set upon the hill; he said we are a CITY (a group of lights) set upon the hill—and he said we were set there for a purpose. “Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your GOOD WORKS, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Are we Christians known as a group for doing good works? Or for other, lesser things? What good are YOU doing out there in the world? Paul’s letters resound with the significance of being prepared for “every good work”. He mentions it at least 10 times, and sees it as the natural result of praying, of fellowship, and of being in the Word. And here the writer of Hebrews says that believers are supposed to provoke one another to love and to good works. (He evidently uses “provoke” in a different way than it has been applied in many of our churches, unfortunately…)

So it probably means that we should ask ourselves two questions: 1) Who in my life motivates me to do good works? Do my friends and associates inspire me to do good? Are you surrounded with people who encourage you to be intentional about demonstrating the love of God?

And 2) Who am I provoking to do good works? Are you encouraging and exhorting your friends and family to do good? If you’re not, then the writer of Hebrews says that you are missing out. I exhort you, therefore, brothers and sisters, to go out there and do good today! You really have no excuse and you ought to sit down and think of something good you can go do. There! Consider yourself provoked.

Inverse Provocation

People can provoke you by the things they do and say;
In fact I bet someone provokes you every single day!
Well, here’s a thing you never thought for provocation:
It’s also very useful to provoke our inspiration!
Do some good; encourage others to do some good as well,
And if we do, good works will spread. How far? Why, who can tell?
So, go and push someone: If we provoke them like we should,
Instead of spreading evil, we may end up spreading good.

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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Philemon Had a Problem Which All of Us Share, and an Opportunity All of Us Have

As we make our way through the last of Paul’s epistles, we encounter the curious case of Paul’s letter on behalf of Onesimus, a slave who ran away from his master, Philemon. Now, Philemon could have sat in judgment over Onesimus. The law and society was on his side. He had the right to be offended, and to extract the ultimate penalty. Instead, Paul encouraged him not to.

“Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow-man and as a brother in the Lord. So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. (Philemon, Verses 8-17, NIV)

This interesting and touching story reminds us that Paul lived in the real world. Apparently while he was in Rome, he encountered a runaway slave from Colossae named Onesimus (whose name translates as “profitable” or “helpful”) and led him to belief in Christ. After his conversion, Onesimus realized he was wrong for deserting and was willing to return to Colossae to go back to his master, Philemon. Apparently Paul counseled him to do so even though Philemon could demand judgment–possibly even capital punishment–for his runaway slave. (Paul was asking Onesimus to take a risk but he probably encouraged Onesimus to return because he had become a changed man in Christ, and because Paul knew Philemon as a fellow believer.)

Even though he could face the death penalty for running away when he carried Paul’s letter back to Colossae, Onesimus was willing to risk Philemon’s wrath because Paul interceded for him. Martin Luther believed that this letter mirrored the one Christ wrote to the Father on OUR behalf: that we were all slaves facing the death penalty, and if we stood before our Master without any help, we would face his wrath.

Philemon

However, Christ made us sons and adopted us into the Father’s family, so we could have the boldness to throw ourselves on his mercy and serve him again.
Ok, so this is more than a story. This is your life. What have you been enslaved to? How far away have you run? Are you willing to allow yourself to be adopted into the family? As an adopted family member, do you sometimes sit in judgment over those who are outside? And more than that, as an adopted child, does your gratitude for His mercy make you willing to serve the Father freely, not out of obligation but out of love?

 
Philemon's Choice

Every one of us had run away 
And faced the ultimate penalty, all alone;
The Judge had raised his gavel as if to say
"This trial is over, and the judgment's done."

But Jesus said that he would vouch for me, 
And stepped into the dock, and took my place:
The law required I pay my penalty;
But Jesus paid my price. And offered grace.

No matter where you've been, or why you've run,
Your pardon has been given from above!
The Master now accepts you as a son:
Come home to Him in gratitude and love.

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

Dive into the Raging River of Grace, and Start Swimming!

The dictionary says grace is “simple elegance or refinement of movement: She moved through the water with grace.” But I think there’s more to it. We all know that grace is unmerited favor, a free gift extended out of generosity. Perhaps that creates a sense of elegance and well-being… But Paul says something very surprising about grace in the Book of Titus. If you think Grace is a passive state of peaceful tranquility, think again! Just read this, recalibrate, and dive into the raging river of Grace.

A Different Defnition

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people who are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14, NIV)

Grace offers salvation to all people, and Paul says that a person touched by grace should live a different kind of life. He says that graces “teaches” us to live a godly life. The Greek word he uses for “teach” here is stronger than the usual academic term. It (paideuo) is usually used to describe training a child, which indicates a long-term daily commitment to teaching, to admonishment, and to chastisement when necessary. Here’s where it gets interesting: that form of grace is also used sometimes to describe the punishment of criminals. (It was the word Pilate used in Luke 23:16, recommending that Jesus be scourged).

The Whip of Grace?

What?! Grace as a beating? I never think of Grace that way! Grace is a gift! It’s free! However, try to see Paul’s thinking here. The grace of God is more than an easy free gift we get to open: it is a motivator, a life-changing agent that influences our passions, our behavior, and everything in our daily lives. We don’t dip into the pool of grace and then lounge by the side, getting a tan; we dive into the river of Grace and are swept along, always moving forward, learning to swim, navigating difficult currents, and calling others to dive in with us.

river swim

We are cleansed from wickedness and immersed in gratitude. We are not saved to bask in our own self-righteousness, but to live a life fully amazed and motivated by God’s gift. Grace teaches us rejoice in thanksgiving and become “eager to do good.” The current in the river of grace sweeps us into new territory and helps us experience new life! It may not always be comfortable, but it might be exhilarating! It might chastise us; it might change us; and it just might challenge us.

I would bet that if all Christians accepted not only the gift of grace, but also the chastisement of grace, there would be more good being done in this world. And we’d have more swimmers.

The River of Grace

Sin is known to all of us, and pays its deadly wages;
The Bible speaks of saving grace for us within its pages…
But here’s a thought that’s not been offered often through the ages:
Grace is not a gift, but it’s a river as it rages!
Grace can cut through hearts of stone,
It changes lives with grace alone–
Its power through the years has shown
It redirects and teaches every pilgrim that it reaches,
And it carries us through rapids to the sandy, peaceful beaches.
Grace provides a current of chastisement to direct us;
It can offer discipline to teach us and protect us.
If you doubt eternal life, and where you want to go,
The depths of grace provide a landing-place that you should know:
Dive in to the raging river of grace, and let His mercy flow!

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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Reproduction: There May be More to It Than We Learned in Biology Class

Biological reproduction has to do with the propagation of the species, among other things. You remember cellular reproduction, and then of course there is all that stuff about “the birds and the bees”… But there may be more to it than they taught us in Biology Class; in his second letter to Timothy, Paul talks to Timothy about spiritual reproduction, which is a whole ‘nother thing…

reproduction

A Different Kind of Multiplication

“Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me in among many witnesses, the same thou commit to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2, KJV)

This verse is well-known for being the template for spiritual reproduction. One believer teaches another who teaches another, and so on. It is Paul’s one sentence plan for reaching the whole world with the message of Jesus Christ. Quick, how many generations of disciples are connected to your reading of these verses?

The classic answer is four generations: Paul, who teaches Timothy (in the presence of other witnesses), who is told to teach faithful men, who will teach others also. That’s how spiritual reproduction works, one generation passing the gospel down to the next.

So, What is Paul Saying?

1) Paul calls Timothy his son. These men had a close bond, forged from a friendship that transcended tribulations and generations. Passing the torch of discipleship is no casual relationship. It is one of commitment and expectation.

2) Committing something to faithful men is different from “let’s all go to church once a week and maybe that’ll get it done spiritually”. It uses the word “commit”, so maybe that’s self evident. It involves training, consistency, discipline, and daily devotion. How fair would it be to men sent into battle after training them an hour or two a week for a few months? (Think spiritual Marines. And yet most of us are FAR from being the equivalent of spiritual Marines!) We approach the very real spiritual warfare in which we are engaged with a very cavalier attitude…Perhaps that’s why churches are waning all around us, and perhaps that is why the enemy seems to be taking ground from us every day in our generation.

3) Every generation has the opportunity to be the final (last) Christian generation. While I know that God has other plans, if we all quit teaching others, and all stopped committing it to faithful believers, the Christian movement would simply die from neglect. Are you ending or extending the marvelous story of Grace?

4) Count the generations again. I think there are actually SIX generations represented. The first unspoken one is the one who taught Paul. Since he spent time in the desert being taught by Christ, it’s logical to say that Jesus was the first generation (and come to think of it, that is logical not only for Paul but for all of us!).

The sixth generation, as you read this verse, is YOU. You are the one who was ultimately reached by “others also”. You are the next one up, the generation upon whom future generations depend. Who are you reaching? Who are your “faithful men”? Not all of us are gifted as prophets or evangelists or preachers. But all of us are gifted with relationships, and each of us has the opportunity to pass the torch. It is up to us to extend not just the gospel but a culture of discipleship to those coming after us. Don’t break the chain.

The Next Generation

Paul explained to Timothy, “What you have seen and heard from me
Review and study well, and then commit those things to faithful men
Who, when they listen well and learn, will carry on and take their turn
To pass the torch as Christ directs from this generation to the next.
Make sure your generation’s torch is passed.
The seeds are sown, the die is cast:
If you are not the next one, then you may just be the last…

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