A Good Body May Involve More than How You Look on the Beach

It’s that time of year when people are conscious of their “beach body” readiness, and are sure to work out and eat right to get in shape. While you’re getting ready for the beach, take a minute and think about ANOTHER kind of body: ”For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:3-5, NIV)

body of Christ

Self-Improved or Self-Absorbed?

There is a lot to consider in this passage in Romans. It refers to a sacrifice that stays alive, and a body that is more than a body…And it tells us not to think too highly of ourselves. Do you know anybody who thinks more highly of themselves than they ought to? Are they fun to be around? When someone is self-absorbed, that’s really the opposite of love, isn’t it?

Here in the (other) love chapter, Paul declares that the result of love is not looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, but it is a life seasoned with humility and honest reflection. A life of faith does not abandon rational self-evaluation. On the contrary, it encourages us to look at ourselves honestly, and to see ourselves the way God sees us.

Seeing Yourself Through a Different Lens

On one hand, that’s a bit intimidating. God sees my inward failings, my secret sins, my selfishness, and my insecurity. If I think of myself the way God does, then I should probably be frustrated over my limitations and sad about all my failures, right? Wrong!
Because if I truly look at myself through the lens of Grace, then I can see my redeemed self the way God sees me, unblemished and full of potential, ready to be made into who He created me to be!

I have been given a place in the family, and a role as part of the body of Christ. No one is born in a vacuum; every one of us is designed for relationship, to be part of a bigger team. If I am willing to take MY story and subjugate it to HIS story, then I will find meaning and fulfillment in my role. Further, Paul says that in the body of Christ we ALL have different roles, and that “each member belongs to all the others.”

Anyone who has ever participated in a team activity knows how this works: you make the extra pass, take on extra duty to support a teammate, lay down the sacrifice bunt, take a meal over during stressful times, watch the kids, make the key block, contribute your creativity to someone else’s presentation…

There’s an old saying that it’s amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit. I’ve been privileged to be on that kind of team several times in my life, and it is absolutely true. If you are not seeing the results in your life that you’d like to see, ask yourself two questions: What team(s) are you on? And, Who do you belong to? Maybe it’s time to work on a DIFFERENT kind of body…

A Different Kind of Body

People work out every day to maximize their looks,
Striving to achieve a nice physique that really cooks.
While you flex or stop to see the beach’s latest hottie,
Don’t forget you also have another kind of body.
If you find your role with other people who believe,
And no one’s concerned with any credit that’s received,
You’ll be amazed at how it works, and what you can achieve!
You’ll do almost anything with this body, if you let it.
You’re part of the body of Christ, so do not let yourself forget it.
God will bless if no one cares about who gets the credit!

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

Persistence Pays Off: the Widow Who Wouldn’t Stop Praying

Calvin Coolidge once said: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Long before that, Jesus told a somewhat surprising parable about persistence that perhaps confirms President Coolidge’s statement. Read it and see if you agree:

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” (Luke 18:1-5, NIV)

persistence

The Persistent Widow

Luke shares a significantly under-utilized parable about persistence in prayer. Do your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling sometimes? Are you ever doubtful that God answers prayer? The judge in this parable is an independent arbiter of justice who doesn’t fear God or regard men’s opinions. In other words, he rules without prejudice, and he is not swayed by religion, politics, or human influence. And yet there is a widow who has brought a case before him persistently, continually reminding the judge that she is expecting an answer. She is a pest; and she refuses to give up.

The quote from Calvin Coolidge ends, “Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”. This may have been “Silent Cal’s” most eloquent statement, but I wonder if he (or any of us) really thought about applying this to our PRAYER lives?

How often is too often?

In this case, the widow’s persistence won the day because she never gave up. She received justice against her adversary because the judge grew tired of being pestered. And Jesus spoke this parable to illustrate “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart”. Say, when was the last time you petitioned God so relentlessly that He granted your request? When did you pray against all hope, begging God each morning, noon, and night? And how often do you persevere in prayer with all your heart? I know–me neither.

James (the Lord’s brother) used Elijah as an example and said, “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man makes a huge difference.” Perhaps he knew about Elijah; perhaps he had watched his older brother get up “a great while before day” to pray, or he watched him “continue all night in prayer”. The Apostle Paul said, “Pray without ceasing.” It seems that both the Lord and those close to him were advocates of continuous, persistent prayer…

Is Jesus really saying here that we have the ability to wear God down, and to inflict our will upon Him? Not likely. So why does he tell this parable? Perhaps the widow’s persistence is simply an indicator of faith, and is an outward show of her continuous inner belief. To tie it more explicitly to Jesus’ other teachings, perhaps it shows that she has the faith of a mustard seed, and is about to move the mountain. Jesus says we should wear God out by coming before him continually. I know I don’t do that very often. I bet you don’t either. Don’t lose heart. Pray. Pray with persistence.

Never Stop Being Persistent

If you want to move that mountain, here is the place to start:
Persevere in prayer, and go to God with all your heart.
The widow showed persistence, pleading every single day;
The haughty judge relented just to make her go away.
Have the faith to be persistent, begging to be blessed:
Bring your case before the Lord, and He will do the rest.

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

Sinners Seem to Throw All the Best Parties. Should We Go?

“Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And the scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:29-32, NIV)

What’s so Bad About Tax Collecting?

When Jesus called Levi the tax collector (known to us as Matthew), he sent ripples of social indignation through the synagogue. It was a dramatic cultural statement about values, righteousness, and the gospel. Tax collectors were a totally unacceptable social group in Judea. Most folks viewed them as turncoats who collaborated with an occupying enemy. Their job basically amounted to legal extortion on behalf of Rome, and they made lots of money. Tax Collectors lived comfortably in large, opulent homes with richly dyed fabrics and plenty of first century bling. (Think “The Godfather” meets “Scarface” in terms of style and general social acceptance…)

Because their wealth was built on Roman oppression, they were despised by their fellow Hebrews as traitors and criminals. I would imagine that as they sat by the pool in their private courtyards, the tax collectors took solace in the creature comforts their lifestyle provided (even though they weren’t welcome at church anymore.) When Jesus called Levi from the tax collector’s booth at the city gate, it was a radical move. It was one thing to call fishermen, or John’s disciples, but it was unthinkable to good Jewish citizens that Jesus would call someone like Levi. To make it even worse, Levi went and threw a big party for Jesus at his place!

sinners party

He invited his friends—the OTHER tax collectors and their girlfriends, and Jesus ACTUALLY WENT. Ok Christians, here’s a couple of things to chew on. How many friends do you have who would even qualify to go to this kind of party? If most of us Christians threw a party, wouldn’t it be too lame for any non-believer to want to attend?

What Kind of Party Do Sinners Want to Go To?

And of course the big question: when was the last time you threw a party at your house for sinners? A party that had other folks at church questioning your motives and behavior? There’s an Australian church called “Matthew’s Party” that reaches out to street people. I love their name and their mission. Tell me: Is their mission any different than ours? Jesus said, “It is not the righteous but the sinners who need to be called to repentance.” Is your life so insulated among the righteous that you’d have a hard time coming up with a good guest list of sinners who needed to come? Maybe it’s time to throw a party!

Sinners Party

Matthew threw a party and invited folks he knew;
According to the Pharisees, these friends were less than winners.
So, they threw shade at Jesus there, and his disciples too,
Criticizing them for hanging out with such big sinners.
Jesus said, I’m here because the sinners need me most;
Besides, I like this party and I really love the host.
You should be glad I’m here instead of being mad I went;
I came to call the sinners–not the righteous–to repent.

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

If Only I Won the Lottery, that Would Solve All my Problems, Right? Think Again

Moses was tending sheep out in a remote area when he saw a curious sight. He may not have realized he had just won the theological lottery, but he ended up having a conversation that changed his life.

“Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14, NIV). Have you ever stopped to wonder God introduced himself to Moses as ” I AM”? It’s a fascinating descriptor, but what exactly did God mean by that?

If Only

Russ Massey, my Bible Study Fellowship teaching leader in Conroe during the 90’s, shared a situation that many of us could relate to. The Texas State lottery had begun, and he said that a couple of times he and his wife had fantasized about winning the lottery… No big deal, but they thought about all the good ways they could use the money (starting with a nice tithe back to God, of course). Nancy and I have done the same thing—played the “if only” game… Wouldn’t it be great if we won the lottery? If only we won the lottery, then life would be great!

lottery winners

If only we had that money, we could pay off the kids’ mortgages, set up some education funds for grandchildren, and generally provide many, many benefits for those close to us. (And yes, some of those benefits might come our way as well…) We could retire easily, we could have things, we could travel, and we would be set. The Lottery could solve all of our problems… “If only” seems like a pretty innocent exercise, one that most of us have played from time to time. But as Russ shared that scenario with us, he said something that stopped me in my tracks. He said we play that game and fantasize about something like that for many reasons, not just winning the lottery.

If only I got that promotion, if only we lived in a different neighborhood, if only my spouse were a better person, THEN life would be better. Russ said, “Isn’t it strange that we never put God in that blank after “if only”? What if we said, “If only GOD,”? Would life be better then? He went on to say that when we play the “if only ______” game, then whatever we use to fill in the blank, that is god to us. We may not consciously worship it, but it is. Kinda makes you stop and think about what we put into that blank and why.

A Sneaky Form of Idolatry

Russ finished his thoughts by connecting some important dots. God called himself “I AM”, which fits exactly into the “if only” game. We say, “Lord, if only I had what I need.” God says, “I AM” what you need. “Lord, if only I felt loved…” I AM love. “Lord, if only I knew the way…” I AM the way. “Lord, if only I had more of this or that…” I AM all you need.

The logic behind Russ’s conclusion is perfect. When we try to plug temporal things into our lives to complete ourselves, we stay incomplete. Moses objected to accepting God’s call because he felt unworthy. As he told God how he (a murderer and a fugitive) was not adequate or willing to lead, God understood. In fact, the Lord had already countered all of Moses’ objections when He told him His Name. Can’t speak well? I AM going to provide for that. Afraid of being ill-equipped? I AM sufficient.

What about you? What are your objections to serving God with all of your heart and soul? Lord, work and the kids keep me busy; just wait until I retire! Lord, if only I were a better speaker… If only I had more time… If only I were better prepared! God would say to you the very thing He said to Moses: “Whatever you need… I AM.” Don’t wait on the lottery. Just Go.

I Will Because I AM

Moses saw a burning flame and asked the Lord about His name:
"I AM", said God, but Moses asked if he was worthy for the task.
Speaking, he objected to the work that God expected:
"Oh Lord, he said, I'm just a man with halting speech! Without a plan!"
And God said, "Whatever you need, I AM."
See, Moses didn't calculate how much the great I Am was great!
He focused on his lack of skill, but God told him to say, "I will"!
"When people grumble or resent you, tell them that I AM has sent you!
If people say you are a sham, tell them that you serve I AM!"
Moses learned God's mystery. The rest, of course, is history.

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

Covenant Keeping is Serious Business; Don’t Make One Unless You Mean It

In the old days, when people made covenants they would sometimes sacrifice an animal and walk between the two halves of its carcass to signify how important the agreement was. The act implied, “May this happen to us if we break this covenant.” It was a graphic reminder of the importance of their vow to one another, and it indicated that covenants should be taken seriously. The Prophet Jeremiah probably had this life-and-death image in his mind when he gave this revelation about God’s future plans for Israel.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.

covenant

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34, NIV)

The Pattern of Covenants

In the Biblical narrative, God has consistently reached out to mankind by offering covenants. In the Old Testament He made one with Adam, with Noah, Abraham and his offspring, Moses, and David. In these covenants He declared his intention to bless all of mankind, and He engaged in an intimate relationship with His people. Lest you think of covenants as an old, dusty practice that went out of style in the Christian era, consider this: In the New Testament, Jesus continued the covenantal practice with his disciples: “after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Even if you follow Jesus and major in New Testament, you are a covenant follower, too.

The Bible consistently affirms the principle of the covenant by comparing our relationship with God to a marriage. Even though God offered himself as a husband, his spouse (Israel) repeatedly (and consistently) broke their marriage vows and went off on their own, pursuing false gods and worthless idols. How could they DO such a thing? God delivered them from slavery and death, yet they cast him aside to chase other delights?? Today, we assume that’s all in the past, because WE don’t have graven images or little shrines in our houses where we blatantly worship other gods.

The Problem With Idols

But before you feel too smug, stop right there! There are idols in your life, other things that sometimes take God’s place in your priorities or in your heart. We are possessive about the wrong things. You may covet a better home or car. You might worship money or security. You may present yourself to the altar of self-righteousness. You could be depending on chemicals to make yourself feel better, or comfort food, or pornography, or Pinterest. (yeah, I said it, Pinterest could be an idol)

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis made this point when he said, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

If the Lord loves you as a bridegroom loves His bride, beware lest you abandon your marriage vows for something so fleeting or temporary. He takes covenants seriously. The good news is that the Lord has promised to make us children of the new covenant, and He will write His law in our minds and in our hearts. And He is possessive in the RIGHT way. As the newlywed Husband who is smitten with his bride, God wants us to covet Him just as much as He covets us. We will be HIS, and He will be OURS. Covet that. Covenant that.

Your Covenant

A covenant is serious stuff, defining where and how
Two parties will agree to act; it is a solemn vow.
In ancient times, agreements would be sealed by sacrifice;
Before they broke a covenant, both parties would think twice.
Agreements based on life itself had mortal consequences,
So if you broke the terms, you’d taken leave of all your senses!
Have you ever stopped to think, in all you say and do,
That Jesus gave his life to make a covenant with 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

Scripture: It’s More Than a Collection of Writings. It’s the Right Tool for the Job

What if I told you that there was a tool that will help you be more profitable and do more good? Would you use it? There is such a tool, and it is probably as close as your bookshelf. It’s a book of wisdom that says this: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV)

scripture

What Good is the Bible, Anyway?

In order to guard against “evil men and impostors”, Paul tells Timothy to look at his own exemplary life, and to continue in the things he has learned and been assured of (v 14). Paul reminds Timothy that the Scriptures offer him the necessary assurance to bear opposition and uncertainty. What are you ASSURED of? When the chips are down, what gives you strength and confidence? What do you absolutely believe?

We live in a world assaulted by relativism, where we are told that truth is subjective and individual. Something may be true for you, but it’s not necessarily true for everyone. One of Satan’s great accomplishments in our lifetime is his assault on the truth. If he can make us, like Pontius Pilate, question the nature of truth, he can reduce the influence of Scripture and erode the underpinnings of faith. And since Jesus said, “I am the truth”, it follows absolutely that by attacking truth, Satan is attacking Jesus, the Gospel, and everything that offers hope in this world.

Paul reminds Timothy that the Scripture is still his foundation. First, it is inspired by God. The original language asserts that God’s word is “God-breathed”. It is a dynamic, living document that was infused into authors so that it can be infused into us. Are Scriptures as much a part of your life as breathing? Do you ever consult the Bible on issues of morality, ethics, or how to get things done?

The Tools for Almost Every Job

Paul says that if you use Scripture, it is profitable and useful. It will equip you for doctrine (you will understand what generates and maintains the foundation of faith), for reproof (you will know how to exhort and encourage others), for correction (you will know right from wrong and be able to act upon it), and for instruction in righteousness (you can continue to be infused with the same character that God has).

If you invest in the Word, Paul says, you will be “complete”, and “thoroughly equipped for EVERY good work.” That covers a lot of good works. Grab hold of the Scripture. Get equipped. Do good.

A Workman's Tools

Paul tells Timothy to stay and study Scripture every day,
To find within its pages all the wisdom of the ages.
It offers doctrine and correction, reproof and spiritual protection;
Follow what it says. You'll find it helps your heart & soul and mind.
When into its wisdom you have dipped,
You'll find you have a foot that hasn't slipped,
And furthermore, my son, you'll be equipped!
Life can be approached by any fool; 
It's better if you use this awesome tool.
If you apply yourself, and do not shirk,
You'll soon be well-equipped to do good work.

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

Leadership Upside-Down: The Man Who Led the Wrong Way

There are lots of different definitions of leadership, and many different ways to lead. Wikipedia says, “Controversial viewpoints are present in the literature, among Eastern and Western approaches to leadership, and also within the West, on US vs. European approaches.” I’m sure these approaches have their strong and weak points, but there’s a rarely used one in the Bible that’s worth considering. It’s also one that’s worth following.

leadership

A Different Template

“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45, NIV)

James and John had approached Jesus and asked to sit next to him when he came into glory. This caused some friction among the other disciples, who resented the idea and wanted to establish their own place in the pecking order. Jesus starts by reminding them how the Gentile leaders operated, and told them to turn that model upside down. This paradigm for leadership was not just something Jesus talked about, it was something he lived and demonstrated.

When some of John’s disciples asked him what he was about, his answer was “Come, and you will see.” (John 1:30) His direct, accessible leadership style was founded upon exemplary humility and service. Instead of lording over them, the Lord of Lords humbled himself and served them in the most menial act of service their society had to offer…

Quick, now: make a list of all the leaders you have ever known who operated the same way. I bet it’s a short list. Our cultural definition of leadership rewards authority, giftedness, the ability to motivate people, strength, and ego. In today’s political world it also takes a large amount of money. Members of Congress used to be called public servants; now we call them millionaires. 237 current members of Congress are millionaires, which is roughly 44% of the people in the House and the Senate. (Whereas only about 1% of all US citizens are millionaires… let that sink in a moment.) Jesus says that instead of lording it over others, the leader should be a servant and a slave to all. So stop and recalibrate your definition of leadership. Think of ways you can serve others. Then get out there and lead!

Upside-down Leadership

Politicians interest me. It seems that no one dares
To ask why all those Congressmen end up as millionaires…
Aren’t they public servants? That’s a term that I’ve heard used,
But more and more it seems like public trust has been abused.
Leaders strut and posture, and they’ll offer up a speech,
But more and more it seems that they are rich and out of reach.
Jesus told his followers, “Don’t do what rulers do:
They exercise authority and lord it over you.
Instead, if you desire to lead, and want to be the best,
Don’t emulate those leaders who are just like all the rest,
But here’s a thought on leadership that you should contemplate:
Go serve, and be a slave to all. Then you’ll be truly great.”
The disciples looked around the room; they knew it must be true.
For after all, it’s what they’d always seen the Master 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

Training Happens Every Spring. So Shouldn’t You Start Training?

With the exception of 2020, Pro baseball players have always begun their year by going to Spring Training. (And in the summer, Pro football players attend training camp.) Coaches and trainers are engaged, and every resource is provided to help maximize a team’s potential. Athletes use all kinds of training regimens to get into shape and be prepared for the challenges they face. They work out every day in order to be able to perform at the highest levels. In the Spring of 64 AD or so, Paul encouraged Timothy to do the same thing, but with a different end in mind.

The Exhortation

“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come… Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, 11-12)

Paul was advising Timothy about how to be an effective pastor, but his counsel carries a few good words of advice for all of us no matter what our vocation. 1) Don’t be distracted by what you hear in the media, social or otherwise. There’s a lot a misinformation floating around out there, so concentrate on the good stuff.

2) Train yourself to be godly. Godliness apparently doesn’t just happen magically, and Paul says that you can pursue it like an athlete pursues fitness.

training

Would you say that you are in training to be godly? What is your daily regimen? What are your goals? How hard do you work? Training doesn’t just happen; it requires thought and effort. Paul points out that physical fitness has value, but that spiritual fitness is something you will carry not only through this life but the life to come.

I get mail from my gym on a regular basis encouraging me to engage the services of a personal fitness trainer. Many people think nothing of spending money to help achieve their physical fitness goals, but does anyone ever think of spending time and money to achieve SPIRITUAL fitness goals? Have you ever thought of doing that?

Equipping the Called

3) “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young”. Paul wanted to encourage Timothy as a young pastor, but I see this as a fill-in-the-blank verse. There are always naysayers and obstacles to overcome in this life, and Paul is saying that they pale in comparison to the high calling of God.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are __________.” Fill in the blank: Not trained. Too old. Inexperienced. Damaged goods. Too ordinary. Too Out of the ordinary. You fill it in. There’s a saying that God doesn’t call the equipped, but He equips the called.

The Example

4) “Be an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” I think that list covers just about everything. Training to be godly has results. If you’d like to reflect these actions and values, work on it. Keep training!

Spring Into Training

Paul tells Timothy that athletes work hard on their fitness,
And challenges him to work out just as hard to be a witness.
Physical training has some value, but spiritual training brings
A godliness, the growth of which brings value to ALL things.
Equip yourself with habits. Every day you can begin
By having time alone with God, to build you from within.
So train your spiritual self, work out! And build your spiritual pecs
Since godliness has value, both in this world and the next!

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

Eternal Impact: What Can We Do To Have Eternal Impact in a Temporary World?

Every generation has people who want to create eternal impact in a temporary world. From Ozymandias to Hitler to Mohammed Ali, men have wanted to be immortalized as (use your Mohammed Ali voice here) “the greatest of all time”. Athletic contests are characterized as “history-making”, and athletes become legends. Sports fans love to argue endlessly about the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), whether it’s Ali vs Tyson, MJ vs LeBron (or Kobe, but nah!), or Nicklaus vs Tiger.

eternal greatest

The Bible says that this type of impact is possible, just not in the way Ali thought. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, NIV). “For you have been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever “. (1 Peter 1:23, NKJV) “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17, NIV).

eternal

Making Eternal Impact

If you want to have eternal impact, consider this: You only touch only two things in this world that are immortal, two things that will outlast heaven and earth. These two things that you will encounter not only here on earth but also in eternity…One of them is the Word of God. It will not pass away even though the world will fall. (And hey, it’s still here after 2000 years, so it’s doing pretty well so far…) This makes sense in a way because the written word is an expression of the Living Word, who is the second person of the Trinity.

Eternity will involve being intimate with the Word of God, of knowing Him just as he knows us. Everlasting life will not be the end, but a means to another end, and the Word of God, which abides forever, will be a living, dynamic part of our eternal journey. Think about it this way: “Home” is wonderful not because of the floor plan or the bricks or mortar, but because of the words we receive there, words of love and affirmation. We love going Home because of the relationships there. Heaven won’t be amazing because it has streets of gold, but because we will be welcomed there as family who have been adopted by the Word of God. We will have an eternity in our new home to get to know Him and to grow in his wisdom and love.

Eternal Conversations

The second eternal thing we will experience long after we leave this world is all around you, and something we all encounter every day. It’s people. It is the souls of men, which are all destined for eternal life one way or another.

C. S. Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” Think about that: Everyone you know will live forever. What friendships and conversations will we carry forward? We think of our earthly legacy, but I believe we are also here creating a legacy that will go with us when we transition into eternity.

Peter says that everyone born again will be incorruptible, and John says that whoever does the will of God lives forever. The relationships that begin here in a corruptible world will outlast it, carried by the will of God into the endless eons of eternity. So think about that. Every day you have the opportunity to invest in short-term, temporary things, or you can invest in eternal things. Charles Thomas Studd, an exceptional cricketer and missionary in the 19th century said “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” I put it like this:

Eternal Difference

Living in a world that's messed,
Men will strut and pound their chest
And strive to be the very best.
To be the greatest, pass this test;
“On earth, two things outlast the rest:
Friends and the Word. Invest. Invest!”
Eternal investment, eternally blessed.

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

A Soldier, an Athlete, and a Farmer Walked Into a Church…

What do a Soldier, an Athlete and a Farmer have in common? And what do they have to do with you?
“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.” (2 Timothy 2:4-7, NIV).

soldier athlete farmer

Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is a great challenge about leadership on the Christian walk, and it is full of subtle details that make it applicable no matter who you are. Paul begins by saying, “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier”. Being a Christian, Paul says, is like being a soldier. We are in a battle. We have a chain of command. We have orders. We experience suffering. He is not challenging Timothy to lead from afar, he is calling him to his side in the battle’s fray. Paul is not consulting, or leading theoretically. He is familiar with the hardships, the inconveniences, and the requirements of battle. His advice is true because it comes from experience. What soldier wouldn’t follow a leader like that? A good soldier understands his/her orders, and is committed to carrying out his/her mission. They stay focused on the objective.

Tell me, what is YOUR mission? How entangled are you in other affairs? How much do you want to please your commanding officer? But wait, there’s more: Apparently following Christ involves way more than going to church once a week. Paul also compares the Christian life to running a race. Why this analogy? Christians as athletes? Running to win? Athletes train. Athletes compete. They play by the rules. They strive mightily, and leave it all out there on the field…

Do we really do those things in our spiritual lives? How much do you train? How spiritually fit are you? How hard do you strive? How badly do you want the prize? Most athletes train every day, fine-tuning their bodies or trying to gain small improvements over their baseline. They work on specific areas where they can improve, with regimens designed to get them there. What’s the spiritual equivalent of that? Are we spiritual couch potatoes or athletes?

Finally, Paul compares the Christian life with being a “hardworking farmer”. A farmer clears land, prepares soil, plants, and cultivates. He calculates and plans his outcome, anticipating the benefits he will reap from his harvest. He invests countless hours in planting, tending, and harvesting his crops, and is rewarded with the fruits of his labor. He has to have patience and faith in order to complete his process. In each of these three examples, the participant is called upon to suffer, to strive, to work; and in each case there is a reward: the commander’s commendation, the victor’s crown, the first fruits.

These labors and these rewards are natural aspects of their respective crafts, but Paul takes it a step further. He says they apply not only to Timothy but to us. When Paul says, “Join with me in suffering”, he is inviting all of us. We are all in the battle. We are all in the race. The fields are white unto harvest. FIGHT. COMPETE. GROW.

Three Things

Soldiers go through weeks of training; they do not meander.
They work hard to satisfy the demands of their commander.
Athletes work out constantly gain the speed and size
So that in competition they can strive to win the prize.
Farmers work out in the fields with toil, and sweat, and grime
So they can reap the first fruits of their harvest when it’s time.
Why does Paul compare us to the way an athlete strives?
He says it represents the way we live our Christian lives.
We are in the battle and the race, and you should know:
The fields are ready for the harvest. Fight, compete, and GROW.

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