A Timeless Statement in Response to an Eternal Question

Who Is This Man? In the Book of John Jesus made a statement that defied human logic. If his statement was false, it truly deserves skepticism; but if it was true, it demands investigation. Take a look at it for yourself and decide…
[In a conversation with the Pharisees] Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:54-58, NIV)

statement

This is another of the “I am” statement from Jesus that is NOT usually listed as one of the seven great “I am” statements… Here he asserts not only connection with and validation from his Father, but also a present-tense existence BEFORE Abraham. When he said this, the Pharisees took up stones to cast them in judgment. This was heresy! How could this Galilean Rabbi claim to be equal with God, or use the name of the Almighty?

They were shocked and offended that Jesus would say that he existed in the time of Abraham. How could that be? No mere man could say that he had lived hundreds of years ago! To falsely make this claim is to commit perjury or blasphemy; to believe this if it were not true is lunacy. This statement is a preposterous claim, so ask yourself: was Jesus immoral or crazy? Or perhaps you could just consider a third alternative: was he just stating the facts?

Jesus uses the same statement here about identity that he did when he spoke with Moses: “I AM”. To the Pharisees, this claim directly tied Jesus to the name that YHWH used, an unthinkable thing to do. It links Jesus to the unspeakable name of God. And why on earth did God call Himself “I am”? Why do you think God identified himself this way?

Here are three things to consider about the nature of God wrapped up in this statement: (which would be true about Jesus if they are true about God.) 1. He is the eternal God who transcends time, who pre-existed it and presides over it. The fact that Jesus Christ transcended time gives us assurance that we will, too. (I AM going to heaven…)

2. He is in the moment with you– not stuck in the past, or even pie in the sky when you die by and by– but NOW. He comes to us NOW, wherever and however we are. It can be said that the only time you truly experience heaven on earth is when you pray, because in those moments you are connected to the eternal Father, transported into heavenly time as long as you abide in Him. This statement claims that every bit of relationship you build with him here is eternal. It will outlive earthly time and connect you with him both here and in heaven. You don’t have to wait for eternal life because yours has already started!

And 3. He is the God who knows us and meets our needs… In a world full of temporary distractions and broken promises, He tells us, “I am sufficient for you”. Do you need forgiveness? That’s what I am! Do you need love? That’s who I am! Do you need encouragement? That’s what I am. Whatever you truly need… I AM.

The Pharisees took up stones because
When Jesus told them who he was,
They didn’t believe, and couldn’t see
How such a thing could ever be.
The sheer impossibility
Suggested immortality
And, if untrue, was blasphemy.
They picked up stones with hateful scorn—
They knew when Abraham was born!
Yet Jesus said of Abraham,
“Before his life and birth, I AM.”
He must be mad to make this claim;
They grabbed their rocks, they all took aim—
But then they didn’t follow through;
No rock was thrown; no judgment flew…
It was as if they somehow knew
That everything he said was true.
If that’s the case, friend, what about you?
If Jesus was God, what will you do?
If Jesus was God what will 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

Get Help from the Helper, and Be Comforted by the Comforter

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:26 NASB)

There’s something of a mystery about the Holy Spirit. How do we hand over the controls of our life to him? How do we set aside our natural instincts and become inclined to “walk in the Spirit”? How do we supersede our very human nature and allow God’s character to shine through us? I always thought that the disciples had it easy, of course, because they had Jesus. Certainly if I could just hang out each day with Jesus, I’d be more likely to act like him or think like him… I wouldn’t need a helper because I’d have JESUS.

That logically creates TWO questions for me, because 1) Jesus is the Word made flesh, technically speaking, so don’t I have the Word to explore every day as often as I like? (Yes, it’s just the Bible and not Jesus in the flesh, but it IS the written Word, the exact representation of the LIVING Word…)

And 2) He promised he would ask the Father to send me help, so don’t I have the Holy Spirit to seal me, indwell me, and teach me? The Holy Spirit is the HELPER Jesus asked the Father to send to us. He will provide hope when things look hopeless, faith when you can’t believe what is happening, and comfort when life in a fallen world seems like too much to bear. As a believer you are NEVER alone. In verse 18, Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans.” So he sent us his Spirit to assist us. Shouldn’t that mean that, with God’s own Spirit within us, there is nothing spiritual we can’t do? If God be for us, why, who can be against us??

God’s intent in the New Covenant is to provide us with support and strength as long as we are yielded to Him. Circumstances can’t stop Him. Satan can’t stop Him. The only thing that can prevent that is ME. There’s a reason 1 Thessalonians 5:19 says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit has come to dwell within Christians in order to provide the followers of Jesus a presence and a resource that previously existed only when he walked among them. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit was sent to assist us and teach us, which is great news, and news that we should take advantage of.

helper

But notice that he doesn’t say the Helper will magically implant knowledge into our brains. Jesus says He will “bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” To me, this implies that I’d need to have ‘heard’ things Jesus had said to me so the Holy Spirit could help me REMEMBER them. Jesus said the Holy Spirit will bring those things to my remembrance, and He will teach us, interpret, expand the truth to us, and motivate us… But how much do you know about the things Jesus said for him to be ABLE to call them to your remembrance? How many words of Jesus are in your subconscious, just waiting to be recalled and illuminated by the Holy Spirit? I probably need to listen to Jesus more, and hear him better. I think I probably haven’t always given the Holy Spirit a full deck to play with.

Jesus taught us how to live, if only we will hear it;
Then he went home, and in his place, He sent the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit is the Comforter, who helps us to abide,
And leads us into truth: He is our teacher and our guide.
Walk, then, in the Spirit, January to December:
If you forget what Jesus said, He’ll help you to remember!
Our human, carnal nature offers spiritual resistance,
So walk, then, in the Spirit, and He’ll give you some assistance.

 

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

 

Answer this Question Honestly: Do Your Preconceived Notions Keep You Blind?

Lawyers say that you shouldn’t ask a question if you don’t know already what the witness will answer. The Pharisees ran into that problem here: “So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:24-25 NASB) Here in John’s account about this particular Sabbath day, Jesus healed a man who had been born blind. This seemingly joyful occasion prompted some very unusual responses,  and almost everyone seems confused except Jesus and the man who received his sight.

People who observed it were so wrapped up in preconceived assumptions that they didn’t see the obvious answer. Friends weren’t sure what had happened because the man didn’t look or act the same; his parents were worried they might get kicked out of church. The Pharisees, who were concerned with the fact that Jesus may have broken the Sabbath, could not fathom how a man who broke their law could perform such good works. Their rigid legalism did not accept the possibility that Jesus might be from God, so they refused to give him credit and questioned his character… Their very assumptions about the truth kept them from seeing the truth.

answer

The blind man, who knew nothing of Jesus’ past, took a “Dragnet” approach: just the facts. His new vision was not obscured by assumption, pride, or an agenda. The great irony in John’s account of what happened is that the man born blind could see clearly, but the Pharisees (who could see) were actually blind. They were so busy questioning God that they couldn’t even rejoice over what happened. Does a skeptic ever dance with joy? Skepticism is essentially a selfish act, because it places one’s ability to doubt above the power of faith. Show me a cynic, and I’ll show you someone who has made an idol of their own intellect. Do you have any assumptions that keep you from seeing the truth? Take a real, unfiltered look at Jesus, not based on what I say about him, or what someone else says– and don’t let your own assumptions keep you from seeing Jesus the way he really was. See what he said with your own eyes. Take a look at what he did. Ask some honest questions, and give yourself an honest answer. You might be surprised by who you find.

The man born blind received his sight,
Which made the Pharisees start a fight,
Since all of them could not agree
On how this thing had come to be.
According to their theology
This hadn’t happened legally.
No evidence that they could find
Encouraged them to change their mind.
Though they could see, they stayed quite blind.
The man born blind was quite surprised,
Since he could see with both his eyes!
He said, “What is it with you guys?
I don’t know Jesus’ pedigree,
Or who has the authority,
But I was blind. And now I see!”
And all of us are one of these,
Either the man who suddenly sees,
Or someone who just disagrees.
You say that Jesus doesn’t heal,
And there’s no proof that He is real?
Well, I would say, just look at me:
I once was blind, but now I see!
I was in bondage: now I’m free!
For the man they sent to Calvary,
What will your decision be?

 

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

 

Give Credit Where Credit is Due: Whose Shoulders are You Standing On?

Whenever people work together, there is always a question that comes up: Who Should Get the Credit? The human ego is an amazing thing, fueled by the survival instinct, self-interests and a hierarchy of needs and hidden agendas that would make Maslow’s head spin! I’ve often thought it should be called “Igo” instead of ego. There is no “I” in team, but there IS an “M” and an “E”.

Igo certainly makes itself known in the business world, and it even pops up in the humble circles of Christian ministry. Maybe that’s why Jesus told his disciples, “And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reaps. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor: other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors.” (John 4:37-38 KJV)

There’s an old saying that it’s amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit. Jesus was reminding the disciples not to get too proud about what they were able to do, because their accomplishments were based upon the labor of many who went before them, from the Patriarchs to the prophets and up to John the Baptist and his disciples…

This is so true in life. Much of what we do, we accomplish because someone has gone before. Think about it: Can YOU take credit for learning to walk, or to tie your shoes? Someone else taught us to read, to solve problems, to be independent…you are who you are at least partly through the labor of others.

credit

Before you roll your eyes at your elderly Mom’s lack of knowledge about technology, just remember that she’s the one who potty trained you and taught you how to use a SPOON. My own mother passed away over thirty years ago, but I know I owe her many debts. I also owe my Dad and Stepmom, my wonderful grandparents, and numerous other teachers, coaches, and friends along the way! So, to all of those of you who have taught me, who labored before me so that I could grow, I give a heartfelt THANKS! You deserve the credit for any growth I have or progress I have made. Each of us attains more because of what has been accomplished by those who have gone before. Isaac Newton said it this way: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

In our spiritual world, the same thing applies. Without the labor of others we are surely at risk. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age…” Someone else has studied, written, or lived the Gospel in such a way that it motivated or inspired us. Don’t forget to give them credit. We have all entered into a greater enterprise that requires higher stakes and offers richer rewards than any business endeavor or athletic competition.

To every one of you who has taught me spiritually, or who has encouraged me, or challenged me to be about God’s business, again I say thanks. Believe me, I don’t have any illusions about who I am spiritually: I am a selfish sinner saved by grace. I have failed many times, and I’m still very much a work in progress, but there is a legacy of love upon which I walk, and through which I rejoice! I am blessed, not because of my own merit, but because someone loved me and taught me to continue past those first, halting steps. If you are laboring, I hope you will encourage someone today and have faith in the Lord of the harvest. And if you are reaping, I hope you’ll take a moment to remember those who prepared the way for you to be fruitful!

We all take credit for what we do– but when you’re keeping score,
Remember the legacy of love from those who’ve gone before.
Remember there were hands that picked you up from off the floor,
Who taught you how to use a spoon, to read, to do a chore!
They worked in you, you worked in me– and if we work some more,
Our legacy may bear some fruit, upon some distant shore…

 

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

Seeing is believing. Sometimes, NOT Seeing is Also Believing…

They say “seeing is believing”. Is it also possible that “NOT seeing is also believing”, and perhaps even more so?” “And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.” (John 4:47-50, 54 NIV, KJV)

seeing
I’ve always thought that Jesus’ conversations with Nicodemus and the woman at the well really showed the dramatic impact he had on other peoples’ lives. They illustrate how the Messiah talked with folks from very different walks of life in very different settings. Those conversations had a high degree of engagement. They resulted in changed lives. And certainly a man of God who healed, who fed thousands, and who walked on water deserved their full attention. Jesus was after all a famous Rabbi who had a following and a reputation.

But consider this: this miracle in John 4:47 is the SECOND miracle Jesus performed, after turning water into good wine at the wedding in Cana. When Jesus talked to Nicodemus and the woman at the well, there would not yet have been any buzz started among the paparazzi, and no adoring, curious, or hungry crowds had started following him around at this time. Nicodemus and the woman spoke with him without seeing or hearing about any of the miracles we are all familiar with.

The wedding at Cana had probably started a couple of rumors, but it was a private affair in a small, remote town. As Jesus told Mary, “My hour has not yet come.” He had barely started his public ministry, and “water into wine at a wedding” was not yet much of a resume. He had probably made a good impression at the feast in Jerusalem, but these conversations with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman took place BEFORE this second miracle, early in his ministry.

Perhaps lost in the shuffle is that, with these two significant conversions, Jesus did not yet have a crazy reputation or mad street cred—just himself and the truth. Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman saw no signs or wonders, they just heard Jesus’ words and believed. Hmmmm… Imagine not seeing any of Jesus’ miracles and depending solely upon his words and the truth. Nicodemus and the woman at the well were simply able to hear what he said and accept him. (Wow! That’s a lot like us, based on the same type of opportunity everyone in the world has…)

If you had a conversation with Jesus today, what do you think would he say to you? If you are a doubter, maybe something along the lines of what he said to Thomas in the upper room: “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) Like Thomas, you too can be blessed whether you’ve seen miracles or not: Listen. Believe.

It’s hard to imagine who Jesus was,
Before the attention, the crowds, the buzz–
A carpenter from a backwater town
Where no one followed him around,
Or said ‘Hosanna!’, or made a fuss:
“It’s Joseph’s son! He’s just like us!”
As he walked around, do you think they knew?
Did folks in the town even have a clue?
You could certainly tell he was no fool
When he taught the kids in Sunday School.
I’m sure they thought he was kind and wise,
And yes, there was something about those eyes…
But before any miracles were received,
There were some who listened, and then believed.
In a way they’re just like you and me,
With faith in what they did not see,
Believing in promises yet to be,
And the quiet man from Galilee…

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

Word to the Wise: Out of the Thousands You’ll Hear or See Today, THESE Words Matter

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) This short statement is amazingly full. First of all, consider the first two words: Jesus SAID. The spoken word is incredibly important in the Bible, even from its earliest statements on. Genesis 1:3 says, “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” Armed with nothing more than His Word, God created the heavens and the earth. The first chapter of John informs us that Jesus himself WAS the Word of God made flesh, which is validated in part by this: Armed with nothing more than his words, Jesus Christ changed history.

word

Think about some of the things he said, and consider the impact of his words: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” (Luke 21:33) What Jesus said is eternal. “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” (John 6:63) “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6 :68) “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” (John 8:51) Listening to and obeying what Jesus said (the spoken Word) gives life.

But wait, there’s more! “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) “He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28) The Word provides blessing. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

The Words of Jesus are foundational and provide wisdom. “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24) The Word provides redemption from the penalty of sin, and a way to escape death and judgment. “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

The word, which is the truth, offers not only redemption but sanctification. It is an actual means to personal growth and behavioral change. And lest you dismiss all of this about the words of Jesus and take it lightly, consider this: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26) Consider what he said. Cross over from death to life. Be blessed!

Two thousand years ago, before recorders or TV,
Before the printing press became a new discovery,
The mystery of history depended upon memory,
And men who put things on a page to save them for another age…
Of all the pages that have been read,
Of all the things that men have said,
This claim withstands time’s harshest test,
And stands alone, above the rest:
“Heaven and earth will pass away,
And everything that men may say, But my words never will.”
He spoke two thousand years ago,
And history proves that this is so: His word is living still.
Think about it: What are the odds? Chances are, these words are God’s

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

Jesus Said, “I Am the Resurrection.” Was He Crazy, or What?

“I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) Of all the claims Jesus made, this is the most fantastic and unbelievable—and it’s the one that holds the most promise.

Jesus claims to have power over death and to be the key to life after death. Think about how you might react if someone you knew made that claim, and really believed it and meant it. Well, that’s the same thing everyone around Jesus must have thought. They looked at him a little sideways and started getting the commitment papers ready… He’s gotta be crazy to say that, right? He ACTUALLY says, “I am the resurrection”. (Of course, he does raise Lazarus from the dead right after this, and he does come back from the dead later himself…) BUT, If THIS claim isn’t true, he’s just another guy. A good teacher, yeah; a wise man, yeah, but if this statement isn’t true then He was just a revolutionary rabbi with a short career.

If Jesus did not triumph over death, then there is no greater reason to follow him than there is to follow Buddha, or Joseph Smith, or the Dalai Lama… There have been plenty of teachers/preachers/rabbis/wise men/charlatans who have spoken persuasively and offered spiritual truth in various forms. So why pay attention to Jesus? The resurrection changes everything. If this isn’t true, then we should just “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” We are wasting time being good and serving when we could be concentrating on accumulating fat stacks of cash, making a name for ourselves, or just flat-out partying. Forget all that selfless love stuff and look out for old Number One. Do your own thing. YOLO! Life is short: work hard; you’re gonna die, so play harder. If there’s no resurrection, there’s no hope, and no reason to serve…

But here’s an existential question: Is partying really better for people who believe it’s all over when we die? The ones who don’t have the Church lady looking over their shoulder, restricting them to Puritanical behavior? One of the stereotypical views of Christians is that we don’t have any fun or like to party.

resurrection

From one perspective, that stereotype has a point: if Jesus was NOT the resurrection, then Christians are wasting a lot of time serving and trying to be like him. They have missed the whole point, and are throwing away their lives in an empty pursuit. As Paul says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 KJV) Now, I know some Christians who are actually (sadly) miserable in spite of what Paul asserts, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what he means…

Because here’s the thing: Jesus is also the LIFE. Yes, He offers resurrection! Yes, He offers hope for eternity, but he also offers abundant life in the here and now. (He actually says that’s why he came in John 10:10). If we actually DO have hope in Christ for the life to come, we are of all men most blessed. You see, Christians win eternally because Jesus was the resurrection and the life, and we win NOW because we live with purpose in fellowship with our creator.

We can party just as hard as anyone, only we don’t have to experience regrets like “How did I get this tattoo?” or “Dude, where’s my car?” or the walk of shame, or hangovers. The Christian life was meant to be abundant and full, and we have all been invited to the wedding feast. We don’t even have to wait in order to start the party! Eternal life starts NOW. It’s not that we can’t/shouldn’t party right now—it’s really the only way that, in the words of the great Robert Earl Keane, “the road goes on forever, and the party never ends.” Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” If that’s true, then the party will go on forever! Start now. Party on!

If I said, “I’m the resurrection!”, tell me what you’d think:
(“Maybe he meant something else, or had too much to drink…
Surely he just didn’t know he sounded so intense;
He’s nuts. A guy who makes this claim is just not making sense.”)
So why then would an honest Rabbi make this astounding claim?
An illustration? Maybe shocking listeners was his aim?
Maybe he was just confused, or maybe he got lazy,
But wouldn’t everybody think that such a man was crazy?
We should question everything that’s taught by such a man,
Who claimed to be the Son of God, who said he had a plan;
He said, “Though earth will pass away, these words I say will stand.”
So there’s your answer: question what he did and what he said:
Don’t accept, investigate and question him instead.
Was Jesus really wise, or was he just out of his head?
A Con man or a lunatic is not worth listening to,
Something I would not encourage anyone to do–
Unless, perhaps, this crazy claim he made was somehow true…
That changes the game for me. My friend, it changes the game for 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

 

You are Loved Forever. Believe That, and be Thankful. Embrace that, and Have Peace

In Hebrew worship services around and before the time of Christ, there was a common refrain to verses of some hymns: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” Who do you think this verse is talking about? And who is it talking to? Generally, it would be sung by someone in worship, someone who wanted to feel the love of God. Someone like YOU. It offered contentment, hope and perspective about life, love, and our place in the world: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV)
In the New Testament, there is an extension of this thought in Paul’s love letter to Philippi: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
These verses connect the dots from being loved to  thanksgiving to peace, and they inspire some observations. I’m sure you will find your own, but here are three things that jumped out to me:

1) Our love, and our ability to be loving can ebb and flow with the hustle and bustle of holidays and family gatherings, God’s love endures. In a world full of temporary items and elements, it is good to know that some things last forever. God’s love is one of them, and the Bible tells us it is good. When or if patience gets thin over the holidays, use His to help you show yours. Since you are loved, remind someone else that they are loved, too. Remember, when the casserole isn’t perfect, or you realize again why you only see those relatives once a year, or patience is thin: YOU ARE LOVED. Share that feeling with everyone else!

Second (2), being thankful comes from recognizing who God is and what He’s done. Take a moment to reflect on the blessings in your life, and wrap thanksgiving around yourself like a comforting blanket.

loved

Remember to give thanks, not for material things but for the things that actually matter. Take a moment each day to reflect on being loved, and on what that means in your life, even if the turkey turns out like the Griswold’s or gets eaten by Bumpus’s dogs. And don’t forget that the family Holiday banquets we have here will pale in comparison to the Wedding Feast we will experience there.

Third, I’d never realized that peace not only depended on my prayer and supplication, but my THANKFUL prayer and supplication. If I lack peace, perhaps I forgot to be grateful as I made my supplication. Hmmm… It might just be that if I prayed with thanksgiving for EVERY thing first, I’d end up with a different set of requests. And a different level of peace. Happy Peace Giving, everyone! You are loved.

An attitude of gratitude can calibrate your altitude,
and help improve your aptitude when someone else is crude or rude.
People can be selfish, mean or hateful,
But you can rise above it if you're grateful!
Praising God whenever as we worship Him together
Will remind us of His Goodness; and His love endures forever.
Held in His heart, with love that does not cease,
We offer Him our Thanks. He gives us Peace.
Will the Lord stop loving us? No, never!
His steadfast love for us endures forever.

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

 

Being Thankful can Run Full Circle: Be Thanks Full as well!

There’s a difference between “Thankful” and “Thank-full-ness”…
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1 NIV) You’ll notice that this verse from the Psalms is exactly like the verse from Chronicles in yesterday’s devotion. Being thankful for God’s goodness was a regular part of worshipping Him.

thankful thanks

The Bible is full of reasons to be thankful: 2 Chronicles 5:13 says, “The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” David used this verse over and over in the Psalms when singing praises, when he was leading worship, and to commemorate important events. (It also appears in Psalm 106, 107, 118, and 136.) Being thankful for God’s goodness and love was a major part of his life, and a major theme in his praises. He probably hummed this song while shaving or when he was walking to work in the morning.

During the Thanksgiving holiday week, we’ve probably taken a break to give thanks, and now our lives will get back to normal. There is shopping to do and there are Christmas decorations to put out. As we enjoy leftovers, and as homes quiet down from the joy and busy-ness of family gatherings, remember this: EVERY day is Thanksgiving Day. Even though no one will probably ask you for another year, “What are you thankful for?” it’s still a good question to ask. (Much better than “what’s in your wallet?”—don’t you think?). Be a little bit thankful every day. God gives us much to be thankful for because it emanates from His character. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father! He actually delights in giving to His children more than we do! Jesus said in Matthew 7:11 “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Perhaps as you read that, you are thinking about all the gifts you have been given, and you are indeed grateful for all of your blessings.

If that’s so, then here’s a little twist to think about as you reflect on what you are thankful for: What are other people thankful for about YOU? Are they thankful for your generosity, your patience, or your joy? Have you given someone ELSE a reason to give thanks this week? Be not only thankful; be thanked-full as well. Happy thankfulness-giving, everybody!

One special day each year we pause and offer up our thanks
For all the blessings that we have, both in and out of banks.
We’re thankful for the blessings and the love that we’ve received,
And grateful for the grace bestowed on all who have believed.
And while your saying ‘thank you’ is the proper thing to do,
I wonder, is there someone saying, “Thank You, God!” for 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

 

Are You as Wise as You Should Be? Are You as Wise as You CAN Be? Hearken to this: Be Wise.

Do you know a lot of wise people? DO you think of yourself as wise? The dictionary says that being wise is “having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgment”, which makes me think of the old saying: “Good decisions come from experience; experience comes from making bad decisions…”

Solomon, regarded in his day as the wisest man who ever lived, put it this way: “Wisdom says: “Now therefore, my sons, hearken unto me; For blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that hears me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” (Proverbs 8:32-34 ASV)

Think about applying it this way. Are you coachable? A coach draws up a game plan designed to maximize his own players’ skills and take advantage of the other team’s weaknesses. What if all the players on the football team, on their own, decided to do their own thing on every play? Even though the coach had a plan, and even though there was wisdom behind that plan, do you think that team would have any success? God says that the ones who keep His ways and hear what He has to say are blessed. This verse implies that ALL of us can receive instruction, and that everyone can have an opportunity to be wise.

wise

Are you maximizing your opportunity? God has a plan for us, and He has even given us a playbook full of wisdom with the details of His plan. In the game of Life, however, many of us just do our own thing, freelancing on every play even though there is a plan in place with love and wisdom behind it. I guess it would be nice if God had a magic wand and just touched our heads so they were instantly filled with wisdom, but it doesn’t happen like that.

Solomon doesn’t say that we are gifted with wisdom all at once, in an instant. He says we can hear it, and we can watch daily at the gates, waiting expectantly to receive it. Who are you listening to that gives you wisdom? Where do you wait expectantly to receive it? There are lots of types of “wisdom” in this world, but Godly wisdom seems to be a rare commodity. Here’s an exercise: keep track how much time you spend reading or listening to men’s opinions each day, and then compare it to how much time you spend hearing wise, God-inspired instruction. If you were honest, I’d bet you were surprised at the disparity between those different sources.

Do you consider yourself to be wise? If not, why not? According to Proverbs, God’s wisdom is available to anyone who wants it; James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Hearken to God. Ask Him for wisdom. Seek him out, listen to him, and keep His ways. Be wise.

Wisdom offers gifts to all–the meek or proud, the great, or small;
Its treasure can be freely gained and all its wealth can be attained
By every one, though strong or weak, by all who diligently seek.
There’s just one catch to carrying out this task:
You have to go to God, and you have to ask.

 

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