The Shocking Conversation that was Just Full of Surprises

The disciples thought they knew Jesus pretty well, but they sure didn’t see this conversation coming…
[Jesus said] “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24 KJV)

In this chapter (a great one to read, BTW) John records one of the most fascinating conversations in history. According to all religious and social standards of the day, it never should have happened. On the way from Judea back to Galilee, John says that Jesus went through Samaria. It looks like the logical path on a map, since Samaria lies right between Jerusalem and Galilee, and it may have been that Jesus was in a hurry and just took the most direct route. But most religious Jews would travel far out of their way before going through Samaria. Rather than walking straight north, they would go east through Jericho, then over across the Jordan River, north around Samaria, then back over to Galilee, a route that added hours of walking to their journey. They avoided Samaria altogether since it was considered to be a hotbed of heresy, and the Samaritans were considered to be beneath them culturally, socially and spiritually.

When the rulers and upper class Israelites were taken captive by the Assyrians in 721 BC, those Jews who were left behind a) were left from the tribes who revolted and pulled away from Judah; and b) intermarried with locals, participating in pagan worship and setting up their own temple on Mt Gerizim. Orthodox Hebrews knew that the ONLY place to worship was Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, and they despised the Samaritans as half-breeds and idolaters. An upright Hebrew would normally shun a Samaritan; he certainly wouldn’t have a conversation with one. So while it seems like an everyday occurrence, Jesus taking his disciples through Samaria was a big deal. He was going into territory no righteous rabbi would have traversed.

Then, while his disciples go to find food, Jesus shatters social and religious convention by talking to 1) a woman (against  all existing culture and convention for a Rabbi) who 2) is a lowly Samaritan, and who also happens to be considered 3) immoral and socially outcast (She came to the well at midday, rather than in the morning with all the other women; she probably did this because, as a fallen woman, even the OTHER Samaritan women looked down on her). Any one of these considerations would have made this conversation socially unacceptable or scandalous, and it explains why John said in verse 9 that “the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” and why the disciples “were surprised to find him talking with a woman” in verse 27 when they returned. So Christ’s participation in this conversation broke all kinds of social and religious barriers. The conversation itself is also ground-breaking. He pulls no punches about her life and issues, and yet she never seems to feel judged or abused… And then he tells her that we should worship God in Spirit and in truth. She tries to stir up the argument about where to worship, but Jesus points out that the Father (much like the prodigal’s father, who saw him coming home from a long way off), is SEEKING us to worship him! Do you think the Father would appreciate your worship? Do you worship with your spirit? Enthusiastically, whole-heartedly, deeply? And is there any deception influencing you that could cloud the truth? Any prejudice or assumption or half-truth that keeps you from yielding to the Father? Have your own conversation with Jesus. Maybe it’s time to break whatever conventions are keeping you from being honest with him. Your spirit will be glad you did!

The disciples never saw it coming. Jesus talked to a scarlet woman
Who happened to be a Samaritan, alone there at the well.
Although she wasn't Abraham's daughter, 
He boldly asked her for some water! The disciples thought 
He shouldn't ought to talk to her a spell...
But Jesus knew the how's and why's, he didn't believe society's lies
And Jesus didn't marginalize the woman, just because...
He knew about her wasted youth; He sat with her and spoke the truth
But never once was he uncouth as they spoke about who she was.
She heard the things He had to say about his being the only way,
and the woman left redeemed that day! Her neighbors started to buzz!
And you and I are at that well: 
we've done more things than we like to tell 
(We might be headed straight to hell!) 
But when we look at Jesus: we see a friend who doesn't judge, 
but sees through all our sin and sludge, 
And he gives our hearts a gentle nudge
Towards the faith in Him that frees us.
If you'll just talk to Jesus, you might find
That He can change your heart, and change your mind...

 

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

 

Condemnation: Who is Going to Judge the Judges?

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17 KJV) Institutionalized Christianity has a long history of condemnation, from the Crusades to the Inquisition, and from the Church Lady to Westboro Baptist.

When unchurched people are asked why they don’t go to church the #1 answer is “I feel judged when I go there.” In the name of Jesus, folks who call themselves Christians have condemned Muslims and Mormons, Denominations and Democrats, homosexuals and heretics. Now, I’m not saying those folks are all immune to judgment by a righteous God, because ALL OF US are going to give account before Him. So none of us is immune to condemnation. We’re just not supposed to heap it on each other. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

The only sin you should ever get concerned about is your OWN. If you are sitting there reading this thinking, “Yeah, but, what about that group?” or, “What about those other guys?”, then you have the wrong perspective about sin.

The Bible teaches clearly that a Holy God cannot/will not tolerate sin, and that sin will be judged. Since sin and death cannot abide in the presence of the Living God, unresolved sin will be left to its own devices. In essence, it will judge itself, and those who reject God’s provision for payment will bring death and separation from God upon themselves. Sin by its very nature requires condemnation because it brings death.

As Paul says in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” I definitely believe that the Bible teaches about sin’s penalty and the righteous judgment of a Holy God. But in John 3, when Jesus told Nicodemus why he came into the world, he ruled condemnation out of his mission statement. (And yes, I know he condemned the hateful self-righteousness of the Pharisees, but whenever sinners were brought before him, he offered grace. You can look it up!)

Apparently Christ does not condemn, he only saves. Repeat that. Remember that. In a world full of blame, finger-pointing, criticism, and condemnation, Christ does not condemn. I bet most of us still focus on the theology of right and wrong, and we focus on God as the Righteous judge. Curious, then, that His only son didn’t come as a judge but as a Savior. Read John 8 sometime. When the Pharisees accused Jesus of being a demon possessed Samaritan (racial slur) he said, “I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” (John 8:50-51) God didn’t send his Son to condemn, but to give life. As John said, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” If you were ever a sinner, if you have ever wronged someone else, or if you have ever been less than godly: remember that, and be grateful; remember that, and be gracious.

In a world of polar hate, where almost no one budges,
Who is going to heal the scars, and who will judge the judges?
You can look at other folks and judge them for their sin,
But in the end, your condemnation will not help you win.
Point out someone else's sins, but know that when you do,
Three fingers there upon your hand are pointed back at you!
Christ told Nicodemus, though the world might be depraved
He came, not to condemn the world, but that it might be saved.
Take a hint from Jesus when the shallow world condemns,
And offer love instead, because you know love always wins.

 

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

 

The Mighty Works that Don’t Work; the Foolishness that Does

Do you attain righteousness by what you do? Is a person justified by their works? The Bible says this: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’.” (Romans 1:17, NIV)

One of the biggest conundrums about being a Christian is the idea of justification by faith. It seems counter-intuitive to most that salvation is gifted by faith, and cannot be gained by doing good works. For legalistic and self-righteous man it is an astounding thing, one of the hardest concepts to grasp, and one of the most difficult things to accept. We just can’t believe that righteousness can be given apart from the good works we do.
Religion depends upon people earning their way into God’s favor, or achieving enlightenment, but those things are not consistent with the Biblical view of God. The Bible teaches that God requires righteousness (since He can’t abide sin), and since man is unable to earn it with works, God gives it to man for free. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” The people who work for God’s favor will always resent those who accept it as a gift. Religion based on works instead of grace becomes a full-time job…

That’s why the Pharisees could not see who Jesus was (they didn’t believe in Him). It’s why Satan fell (He had faith in himself rather than God). It’s why the Roman Catholic Church condemned Martin Luther to death for nailing this statement to the door as one of his 95 Theses in Wittenberg. They couldn’t imagine that sin’s penalty had been paid apart from their system of penances and indulgences. Self-centered man cannot accept the fact that God would give him that which costs everything for nothing. It defies human logic.

That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The message of the Gospel is not works, or righteousness out of duty or obligation; it is not about striving or attaining perfection. It is about God giving the perfect gift to us imperfect men; and it is about our pursuing righteousness out of gratitude rather than obligation. Faith begets righteousness, not the other way around. You can’t work your way to grace. Accept God’s free gift. Be astounded by the overflowing measure of grace. Think about the cost of it all, and shed a grateful tear. Then remember the foolishness of it all, and smile, and embrace the power of God…

The Righteous Lord cannot abide our fallen, sinful state;
Our works don’t make us righteous, even if we’re good, or great!
Because we want to work our way to holiness–or near it–
The message of the cross is foolishness to most who hear it;
It proclaims that works don’t work, no matter how hard we chase:
The just shall live by faith, and sinners must be saved by grace.
Stop hoping, then, in mere good works to give your soul a lift,
And open the Father’s foolish, graceful, unbelievable gift.

 

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

 

Contemplation Seems Quaint; In a World Where We don’t have Much Time for Contemplation, Contemplate THIS

How important is contemplation these days? Do you ever spend much time just thinking about stuff? Well, Jesus told Philip something that deserves some contemplation: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.” (John 14:10-11 NASB)

Philip asked Jesus for proof: “show us the Father, and it will be enough.” It was a moment like in the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy wanted to go home and the Wizard told her that, really, all she had to do was click the heels of the ruby slippers on her feet and say “There’s no place like home!”, and she’d be back in Kansas! It turned out that she really had everything she needed right there, but she didn’t realize it. By asking Jesus for proof, it seems that Philip was in the same situation; he already had everything he needed right in front of him… But he wanted more.

As you contemplate that, it brings up an interesting question: Do WE ever keep asking for an answer when God has already given us one? Do we ever seek more proof when God has already provided more than enough? Two things here:

1) Jesus performed the works he did (miracles) not because he had magical super powers, but because he was in the Father, abiding in him. He was so intimately connected to God that He did what God would do. It’s another way of describing “walking in the Spirit”. He was uniquely yielded and empowered, and his life reflected the results of having the Father in him. Ours could reflect that as well.

Andrew Murray’s devotional Book, “Abide in Christ” (http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/murray/5f00.0562/5f00.0562.c.htm) offers a 31 day exercise in abiding that teaches how to do just that. Since contemplation and time alone with God are part of the means to abide in Him, here’s a thought: if I was Satan, I would make contemplation and quiet time a thing of the past. I would fill the hours that were once available for reflection and connection with music, media and busy-ness. I would provide so much mental distraction that there would be no time for contemplation…Busy minds will never be intimately connected with the Father.

2) What is keeping you from living by faith, and from doing the kind of works Jesus did? I’m sure Philip thought Jesus was an amazing guy, but he wasn’t completely convinced– and his lack of belief was holding him back from being amazing himself. Jesus said in John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” I think we often limit ourselves because we aren’t sold out, and we don’t really believe that Jesus was who he said he was. Put your faith to work, and invest a little quiet contemplation in who Jesus was. Either believe Jesus’ words, or believe his works. Perhaps if you contemplate HIS, it will impact YOURS…

Perhaps you could allow me just a small interrogation:
How often does your day include some quiet contemplation?
Spend some time with Jesus, have some two-way conversation;
Allow yourself to feel the Holy Spirit’s inspiration!
Get to know him well enough to do some imitation:
You’ll find that Christ in You is a creative combination!

 

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

 

Grow the Church. It’s Something We Have to Do in Order to Grow the Church

Is the Church supposed to grow? Today’s church seems to be different from the one mentioned here: “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they [the church] were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47 NASB)
The first days of the Book of Acts must have been exciting. There was a new Spirit at work on planet earth. The small group of believers had started to grow. A movement had begun that literally changed the world. Social barriers were being broken down, habits were being changed, and transformation was taking place. Believers enjoyed a sense of unity and fellowship that no repression or persecution could break, that no apathy or boredom could diminish.

Tell me, has there been a movement in your life that changed your world? Among the first-century believers, people put their money where their mouth is, practicing what was preached and committing the two most personal items they had: time and resources. The new church had started to grow. Relationships provided a basis for loving evangelism, and spending time together daily provided a platform for organic growth. They went deeper in order to get wider.

As a result, Luke says that “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Is the Lord adding folks to your church day by day? Are you and your church being transformed by love? In our modern world, there are marketing plans and efforts made to get folks to come on Sunday by promoting celebrities or hooking up to what’s hot in culture—but surprisingly, with all of our marketing sophistication, church attendance is actually down.

It’s a little awkward talking about growing numbers, 1) because most churches today aren’t growing numerically, and 2) because numerical growth is truly not the end game. Maybe we need to grow the church internally before we worry about growing the church externally. The focus of the early church was not on larger numbers but on being together, breaking bread, sharing gladness and sincerity, and praising God together. Growth was a by-product of unity and gladness.

There’s an old joke about a man who was marooned on a desert island. When he was found, rescuers discovered three huts on the island. Curious, they asked the man about them. “Oh, the first one is where I live”, he said. “The middle one is where I go to church. And the one of the right is where I USED to go to church.” Sadly, that joke has legs because believers have forgotten what church is for. Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship.

What Luke describes is still the blueprint for the church: be of one mind. Enjoy mealtimes and fellowship together. Be glad! Keep God in His proper place, and get along with others. It’s a simple recipe, and when believers come together to share sincerely, praising God in love and gladness, the church will grow. And since we ARE the church, it’s up to us to go deeper in order to get wider. Have dinner with somebody from church this week. Invite somebody who’s not. If you’re too busy to love somebody this week, then you’re too busy.

Acts 2
Breaking bread with one accord,
believers served before the Lord.
Christians gave the church its start
from house to house, and heart to heart.
It wasn’t how much stuff they had,
but how the Lord had made them glad!
Focus on love, and not on growth;
I think you’ll find you have them both!
Have fellowship with those who search;
unite in love, and BE the church.

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

 

Of All the Commands, This is Perhaps the Hardest One to Follow

Commands from leaders have come and gone throughout history, but this one really stands out: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13 NASB) Think about Leaders and commands.

The word of a reigning monarch is a life and death matter. Artaxerxes could sentence someone to death just for asking for an audience with him. There were the Caesars who passed themselves off as deities and in their power sentenced hundreds of thousands of prisoners and Christians to death; there was Adolph Hitler, who orchestrated the Holocaust, and Stalin, who commanded that dissidents be “purged” from society. There have been despotic leaders throughout history whose commands led their followers to commit acts of war, atrocities, and mayhem. There have been countless commands from Kings and tyrants which only spread fear and dread among their followers.

If you were given absolute power over the entire nation, and could do whatever you wanted to without fear of penalty or reprisal, what sort of commands would you issue? (And before you answer that, remember that Winston Churchill said, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”) You might start out as a benevolent dictator, but be careful: Leaders tend to gravitate to orders that are self-interested, or that benefit themselves. (Just look at Congressional perks and programs!)

Even in the name of religion, there are those who misuse power for evil purposes. There have been cult leaders like Bob Jones and David Koresh who gave commands which led followers to their doom. There have been religious leaders who asked for money, or other men’s wives, or who commanded their followers to commit suicide; there are religious leaders today who command their followers to strap on a bomb and commit both murder AND suicide…

Of course, leaders also pass laws AGAINST all manner of crime. Our legal system penalizes people for doing wrong So, when you read what Jesus commands, it kinda sets you back on your heels for a minute. This commandment from Jesus is remarkable not only in his time and culture, but in all times and in all cultures. As King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I guess he could command us to do anything, and we’d ultimately have to submit. But get this: He commands us to love one another. “Love one another, just as I have loved you.” You heard him. Love one another today. And I guess pretty much every day! And by the way — if you are reading this, I love you, and I just prayed for you this morning. Boom!

The King of Kings came down to earth and walked across His land
Without the Secret Service or a military band…
He dressed in humble garb. There was no scepter in His hand.
His sermon was his life. He wasn’t digital. He had no Brand,
But we still hear His great commandment, just the way He planned.
It’s short and to the point, not very hard to understand:
“As I have loved you, Love each other. This is my command.”
The world will fall. Will Fall. But Jesus and His words will stand.

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

 

What’s in Your Mind Really Matters; So does WHO

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5 KJV). “…but we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16) The Bible actually gives a new twist to the common saying, “mind over matter.” Paul tells us that our minds matter… He advises that we should allow Christ’s very mind to be in us, that we should adopt the same attitudes, thoughts and responses to things that Jesus had.

It is a possibility explored in Charles Sheldon’s well-known book “In His Steps”, where people from various walks of life decided to try to live their lives, make practical decisions, and conduct business as Jesus would. They decided to walk “in his steps” by making his teaching the guiding principle for everything they did. (Wow, that sounds a lot like “being a Christian”!) This was the seminal story and could have been the verse behind the Christian WWJD bracelet fad of a few years ago that advocated asking, “What Would Jesus Do?” before making decisions or taking action. Stop and think for a moment how you’d be different if you ACTUALLY had the mind of Christ… (There’s probably a bad Frankenstein reference available here about Igor bringing me the wrong brain, but never mind…) If I could do a “Vulcan Mind Meld” with Jesus, I could see His thoughts and understand exactly how He thinks.

But what would Christ think about? Would he play video games? Waste time? Worry about his golf game? Look at Pinterest or Houzz? Think about shopping? Be concerned about ESPN? If I had Jesus’ thoughts and attitudes, how would I be different? Hmm…wow, that’s a list I’d really rather not have to make. I’d be loving, all the time. I’d be connected to my Father, who is good and holy. I’d be passionate about the things of God. I’d be compassionate about others. I’d have the wisdom of the ages, and the very character of God to guide me! I’d be humble. I’d never act based on what the broken world thinks I should do. I wouldn’t find my worth in the approval of others. I would confer value on other people no matter what their social status or political leanings. I would be understanding and non-judgmental. If only I could have the mind of Christ, I would act and think differently than if I operated by the more pedestrian brain of Bo. Reflect on the things Jesus taught and did. Think about your favorite Jesus moment, and put that moment into your mind; keep it there… Perhaps you’ll have an opportunity to put that into practice today. Perhaps you could have a WWJD moment and walk “In His Steps”. Don’t let the wrong brain do all your thinking for you. Paul assures us in Corinthians that we already HAVE the mind of Christ; his challenge in Philippians is to “Let this mind be in you”…Do you want the thoughts, attitudes, and responses of Jesus in your life? The Scripture says it’s not a matter of you HAVING them in place, it’s a matter of you LETTING them take precedence. What are you going to do about that? Maybe it’s time to make up your mind…

“As a man thinketh, so is he” is something that’s been said
To indicate how much we can be influenced by our head.
Paul agreed that what we think will dictate what we do,
And so he said, about our head: “Let this mind be in you.”
Not the brain of Bo for words, or Dillinger making a heist,
Not even Einstein’s brain, but this: we have the mind of Christ.
Would His mind change how you think, or change your point of view?
Would you make different choices, and would you see things anew?
If you had the mind of Christ, would you run with a different crew?
You have the mind of Christ. So tell me, friend, what should you do?

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

 

Perseverance and Hope: Maybe the Best of Things

It’s one of those “chicken or the egg” questions: does perseverance result in hope or does hope result in perseverance? Here’s what Paul said: “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:24-25 NASB).
“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
“I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope…” (First Andy, and then Red, from “The Shawshank Redemption”. Andy had escaped from prison; Red had been released after years of incarceration.

Both men had left behind a life in prison for a new life fueled by hope—not a bad analogy for a picture of the Christian life, eh? Were you ever in bondage? Were you freed from the shackles of self-loathing and discouragement? In a life of freedom, hope is the new horizon, and as Christians we should be walking towards it with confidence.) What do you hope for?

Hope, Paul says, comes with salvation. It is the logical result of believing the Scriptures and learning from them. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) It is no accident that hope and endurance or perseverance are mentioned together in these verses, because they are irrevocably intertwined. Tell me, in a marriage is it love that sustains the commitment, or is it the commitment that sustains the love?

By the same token, does perseverance sustain hope, or does hope sustain perseverance? Hope is a present commitment based on a future result. It is a powerful thing, perhaps the single most important result of discovering who Jesus is and what he did….

What do you, deep inside, truly hope for? What do you wait for with perseverance? If you long for self-improvement, grab on to that hope. If you worry about the future, then hold on to hope. If you are in a low place, or if you have your doubts, then visualize that hope, and claim Paul’s prayer in Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” No matter your circumstances, you can be assured that someday you will see whatever it is that the God of hope has promised. I hope you will claim it with confidence. And I hope you will wait for it with perseverance. I hope…

Prison does things to a man; his heart and soul are battered,
Until his hopes are dashed, and all his earthly dreams are shattered.
In Shawshank, Andy made it out; then Red secured parole.
They persevered in Hope, and hoped that it would make them whole.
And we are all in prison; every one of us walks the yard,
Longing for release, a chance to slip beyond the guard,
Free from sin and failure, free from penalty and fear,
Motivated by the Hope that we will persevere.
Approach the prison gates and ask the Warden to set you free;
Remember the perseverance that was shown on Calvary:
Jesus will look at you and smile, and offer you the key…

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

 

Love and The Deepest Theology: Four Dimensions of God’s Love

We talk about our perception of three dimensions around as we look at height, width, and length, but we all know there is more to it than that… How tall is beauty? How wide are feelings? Have you ever thought about the dimensions of God’s love? Way back in the day, Job was confronted with them in one of the earliest written parts of the Bible: “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven— what can you do? Deeper than Sheol— what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.” (Job 11:7-9)

During Job’s discourse with the Almighty, God reminds him of the nature of the universe. We have boundaries and limits; God doesn’t. We think in terms of dimensions; God transcends them. It is that way in the physical universe we touch, see, and inhabit, and it is that way in the spiritual dimension that inhabits us. We are made in God’s image, and whatever passions, values, and emotions we experience are reflections of Him–although as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 13, we see them incompletely in this world, as though “through a glass, darkly.” In that chapter Paul acknowledges the importance of knowledge and giftedness, and discusses the importance of hope and faith, all of which could be considered as the deep things of God, and reflections of his character. He ends by saying this (v 13): “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The end of theology is not proofs or precepts, and it is not about knowledge or discourse: it is about the way GOD LOVES YOU.

Have you really considered the depth of God’s love for you? Take a moment and reflect. Do you feel loved today? You should. God loves you for who you are, and who you were meant to be. He loves you consistently, relentlessly, passionately, completely—enough to send his own Son to experience death on your behalf. Bask in God’s love today, and remember that it’s higher, deeper, broader, and longer than you can imagine!

Four Dimensions of Love

How big is love? How strong, how tall?
Do we see love as far too small?
Our broken view of broken love
Can’t take the concept far enough—

Considering all that Christ has bought,
Could love be bigger than we thought?
Imagine love, the way you dreamed,
Romance and passion, all redeemed!

See love reflected in God’s face,
And feel it in His warm embrace.
For God so loved us, every one,
He sent His precious, only Son

To come and revolutionize
The depth and width, the lows and highs
Of love—so broken on the street—
In ways so intimate and sweet,
That in Him, we are made complete.

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

 

The Idolatry You Should Forsake: Worship Like You Mean It

Most of us would scoff at the idea that we would practice idolatry. And yet most of us engage in it. “Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly. “ (Ezra 10:1, NIV)

After returning to Israel from exile in Persia to rebuild the temple, Ezra learned that the people who had remained in Israel had taken up with local women and local gods. They were bowing down to little idols and figurines in supplication and praise. He became utterly convicted because Israel was practicing idolatry and worshipping lesser deities instead of God. In the Jordan River valley, people worshipped the sun as well as local gods who were thought to govern fertility or rain. Pagan worship practices included repetitious music designed to help achieve a catatonic state of ecstasy; there were also stimulants and temple prostitutes to add to the local worship experience.

In our modern world, we may feel a little smug because we don’t bow down to little statues, but trust me—we practice idolatry pretty much every day when we put any other thing or desire in front of our love for God. Be honest now, does anything ever get between you and God? Ever have ANY desires that you want more than Him? Any things you want to do more than you want to worship God? Yep, those things aren’t little statues, but they ARE idols. So, take a little inventory. What do you worship?

Ezra was so stricken with grief over the danger of sin that he confessed and wept openly before the whole assembly. There are a lot of verses from the Bible that we use to express optimism and joy. We rejoice in our salvation. We know that Jesus came that our joy might be full. One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy. But when is the last time that you went to church and had a good cry, and wept openly in front of God and everybody?

Now, I know we feel that we can cry out to God when misfortune strikes, when life seems unfair, or when we are hurting over something that has happened to us or someone we love…That is an appropriate time to cry, but that is not the kind of crying Ezra is talking about here: When was the last time you wept in a worship service because of something YOU have done (or haven’t done) before God? When were you inconsolable in worship, not because of some bad circumstance, but because you realized the magnitude of both YOUR offense to God and the price He paid for your redemption?

I think our worship today often falls short of what it could be in terms of being transparent and repentant before the Lord, particularly in churches where expression is frowned upon, and God’s Spirit is limited to what time the local NFL game starts. Perhaps that’s because many of us are only partly committed to worship, and EACH OF US falls short of being truly repentant and vulnerable when we go to church. Could it be that we worship our own sense of decorum more than we worship the Lord? Do we worship appearances more than transformation? James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Ezra led the people of Israel by confessing and weeping, and bowing down before everyone in the house of God. The large assembly that gathered around him expressed their fellowship by weeping bitterly alongside him, by sharing his conviction over how he had fallen short of true commitment to the Lord, and being repentant over his sin. When is the last time you wept bitterly over your sin? When was the last time the whole church bowed before God in genuine emotion to confess and express true repentance?

Here’s the problem: I’m pretty sure that I’m not ready to go blurt out my sins in front of everyone at church, and I’m pretty sure most of them aren’t ready to hear me do that, either; but perhaps I can take some steps in that direction by being more honest in my confession before God, and a little more distraught about the idolatry in my life. I bet if enough of us did that BEFORE church, we’d have a different experience when we got there.

Ezra bowed, and prayed and cried with love that couldn’t be denied–
No pretense here, no foolish pride, just honesty from deep inside.
And all the people wept and prayed, forsook the idols they had made,
Left the coolness they displayed, and bowed in grief and awe, afraid.
Israel joined–no one declined–to leave their idols far behind.
What about YOUR secret mind? If you looked closely, could you find
Some altars of idolatry that none suspect, and none can see?
Confess and weep. Repent and see that if you pray transparently,
Your worship wouldn’t be so lame, your church would never be the same
And You won’t check the time in worship, waiting for the Cowboys game…

 

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