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

 

Pray as if your Whole Relationship With God Depended on it

When you pray, do you sometimes mail it in? Just throw up the quick request and fall asleep? When it comes to praying, do you ever wonder if it matters, or if it is even necessary? Then here’s some food for thought…
“Jesus said, “When you have seen me, you have seen the Father”, and “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30; 14:9) You might suppose that, as the Son of God, Jesus had an automatic connection with the Father; But not so. He stayed connected in the same way each of us has the opportunity to stay connected: he prayed. He talked to his Father, and it was an integral part of how he did what he did. Our prayer life is a spiritual lifeline, a way for us to stay connected to the Lord. If you want to understand God and stay connected to Him, take a closer look at a few of the passages about Jesus’ prayers. Maybe you’ll find a clue!
“So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” (John 11:41-42 NASB)
“But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke 5:16)

“After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.” (Mark 6:46)
“After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23 NASB)
“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” (Mark 1:35 NASB)
“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12 NASB)
“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 6:9, NIV)

So…How’s your prayer life these days?

Praying sometimes feels like such a bother,
 It sounds pretentious or it sounds so trite--
 So different than just talking to our Father
 When he would tuck us into bed at night.

 You'd think that Jesus wouldn't have to pray,
 Since He was God--the way, the truth, the Light!
 But he prayed often: every single day,
 Early, late, and deep into the night!

 He prayed with passion and he prayed with trust;
 Jesus prayed with such an intimate tone...
 He prayed for others. (Wow, he prayed for US!)
 He prayed in public, and he prayed alone.

 Jesus taught his followers how to care,
 And even gave us words that changed the game,
 Providing his example of a prayer:
 "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.

 Bring on Thy kingdom; may your will be done!"
 It's called "The Lord's prayer". Surely you have seen it,
 And maybe you've recited it once or twice;
 But have you really prayed as if you mean it?
 If not, then here's a little prayer advice:
 If God seems far away, or just seems hid,
 Try this: go off and pray like Jesus did.

 

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

 

Fresh Wind and Full Sail is the Antidote to Getting Stale

Jesus was talking to his disciples about the wind, using it to describe the mystery of the spiritual life: “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 NASB)

So, what exactly does Jesus mean by this? The wind is an intriguing analogy for one of the most difficult aspects of inner life. How do we know about the Spirit of God? Is He real to us, and as much a part of our perception of God as the other two members of the Trinity? Is a spiritual life some vague, random occurrence? Is Jesus emphasizing what we don’t know and can’t see? Is he saying, like Mohammed Ali, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; you can’t hit what you can’t see!” Or something else? Here are a few observations related to wind:

1) A spiritual life does have a source beyond us, something that is not necessarily evident. We don’t have the resources on our own to produce it.

2) There is an element of mystery to it; since it is not something we produce and control, we don’t know for sure where it will take us. We took a balloon ride over Napa Valley, and I was surprised that the balloon pilot had so little control over direction. He could go up and down, but he had to navigate according to what the wind dictated. In terms of our spiritual wind, it has a definite direction, but we don’t always know what that is, and it doesn’t necessarily serve human logic.

3) We notice it by its absence. Ever wished for a breeze, when it was still and miserable? Have you ever been spiritually becalmed? Dead in the water? If you are lacking that spiritual push, maybe you long for a little fresh air.

4) The wind, while we can’t see it, provides empirical evidence of its existence—we hear it and feel it. We know it from its effect, much like we know the Spirit from its fruit.

5) The wind is unimaginably powerful (think: tornado, hurricane). Yet we usually feel it blowing gently, or see it filling the sails of a graceful vessel, providing energy and speed. The Spirit is the same: while It is overwhelmingly powerful, He can also move gently through our inner life, providing a source of power and direction. Do you feel a freshening breeze? Better put up some sails, and make sure we are properly rigged; we’re about to set sail for adventure!

The wind expands the billowing sail,
Pushing a mighty ship with ease;
A wind can displace all that’s stale,
And cool your porch with a freshening breeze…
The wind is powerful, wild and free:
You sense the wind and you feel it blow,
Although it’s something you can’t see!
It goes wherever it wants to go…
The breeze can blow the goldenrod,
Invisible whether it’s light or dark;
And so it is with the Spirit of God,
Who is not seen, but leaves His mark.
For when you let the Spirit take command,
He’ll guide you with His gracious, unseen hand.

 

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

 

Treasure is Not What You Can Measure, But it is the Heart of the Matter

What do you treasure? And how do you keep it safe? “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe. A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, like a high wall in his own imagination.” (Proverbs 18:10-11 NASB) As humans, we rely upon physical things to provide us pleasure or protection. We often take comfort or seek solace in material things, and imagine ourselves to be secure in our own devices. If you think about it, what is your strong tower? What gives you security? Wealth, especially, is considered the answer to all ills in our society. If only I was rich, everything would be great… Then my life would be awesome.

Perhaps because he was familiar with the fact that many rich people still have emotional or moral issues, or maybe because he knew what has real value in life, Jesus did not place much stock in material things. He never owned a home. He never negotiated a contract. After he began his public ministry, he never held a job or opened a savings account. Of himself he said in Luke 9:58, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

We, on the other hand, are often more like Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof”, who fantasized about what life would be like if only he were rich (“Lord who made the lion and the lamb; you decreed I should be as I am. Would it spoil some vast eternal plan if I were a wealthy man?”). A rich man may feel secure because of his wealth, but Proverbs says that kind of security really only exists in his imagination. As Robert Frost said (in “Provide, Provide”), “No memory of having starred atones for later disregard, or keeps the end from being hard…” Everyone will face the end, and no one will get any help from their stuff. When we stand before God, all of the money in the world will not justify us or redeem us. The story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:22-23 illustrated the vast difference between trusting God and depending on wealth. Jesus challenged him to come be a disciple, but he had other priorities. “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” He often contrasted God’s kingdom versus man’s, and when he spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, he said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:32-34) Not many will sell everything we have and give it away; but we can all ask about ourselves, Will your purse wear out? What do I value the most? Be careful where you store your treasure. Be careful where you seek refuge.

Life for most means keeping score,
Depending on what you value more–
A bank account, the cash you’ve made,
Or heavenly gain that will not fade.
It all depends on how you measure
What you think is really treasure.
If your pockets are full, but your heart is not,
Then take a minute and have this thought:
Security and wealth reside, not in your stuff–but deep inside,
Where your hopes and dreams and thoughts abide…
When you stand before God, will you have your stuff?
Refining fire will burn away the fluff:
Just pray that what you have will be enough.

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

 

A Different Kind of Kingdom for a Different Kind of World

There are many different kinds of rulers in the world, and if you look at the shape our world is in, what with poverty, wars, corruption, genocide, nuclear weapons, taxes, etc., you could ask, like Dr. Phil, “How’s that working out for you?” Perhaps a different kind of Kingdom would result in a different kind of world…

“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bond-woman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bond-woman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.” (Galatians 4:22-23, 28-29 NASB)

According to the Bible, Abraham had a son (Isaac) born to fulfill a spiritual purpose according to the promise of God, and a son born according to the flesh (Ishmael). Isaac was a miracle, born out of time to a 99-year-old man whose 90-year-old wife was also well past the age of child-bearing; Ishmael was the result of Abraham’s own effort to jump-start the promise by impregnating his servant girl. Ishmael, the son born according to the flesh, later bullied Isaac, and there was conflict between them and their offspring that persists to this day. This dichotomy between the flesh and the spirit is a common Biblical theme, and it applies to us individually just like it applied to Abraham’s sons.

In John three, Jesus told Nicodemus that everyone is born of the flesh but that you must also be born of the Spirit. He said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” This conversation was popularized during the Carter administration when the phrase “born again Christian” was used to describe Jimmy Carter and other evangelical Christians. When writing the introduction to his gospel, John said that “to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (1:12-13)

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a child of God who has been adopted into His family. You are also part of a spiritual Kingdom with new potential and new possibilities. Christians hope for a redeemed and perfect world, achieved not through evolution or progress or science or technology, but through the Spirit of God. It is God’s Spirit that will bathe the world in love, that will be present in heaven, and will power the kind of kingdom where “the lion will lay down with the lamb”. It won’t be built on any kind of earthly power, but on the Graceful presence of God’s Holy Spirit,

Paul says here in Galatians that everyone born of the Spirit is a child of the promises to Abraham. In Romans 7 and 8, Paul describes the natural conflict that exists between man’s fleshly nature and God’s Spirit. Romans 8:5 says, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

One of the things that makes Christianity unique is its reliance upon the Spirit of God as opposed to the works of man. Hindus believe in cause and effect; Karma teaches that what goes around, comes around. Islam proscribes keeping the law (efforts of the flesh) to be acceptable to God. Anyone who tries to achieve righteousness in the flesh will always be at odds with those who accept grace. The kingdom of the flesh will always be opposed to the spirit. Based on the human logic of getting what you deserve, grace will never seem fair to those who work according to the flesh…

Jesus’ kingdom was spiritual, not physical. It confused Pilate, and it has confused lots of folks ever since. It seems logical that we should work our way to God, but He has confounded that logic. Two takeaways: 1) it might be a good thing to depend upon God’s spirit, rather than your own effort; and 2) don’t expect a cessation in persecution anytime soon. It’s been going on for 3000 years, and “so it is now also”.

Abraham was a shepherd man 
Without much wealth and without a plan,
But God told him to start afresh, 
To walk in faith, but not in flesh.
So Abram started, not by sight, 
To walk with God both day and night,
Beginning a spiritual family that actually changed history,
And somehow the genealogy was opened up to you and me...

Sometime later in history, two men discussed a mystery:
Nicodemus--a Pharisee--went out at night and tried to see
If he and Jesus could agree on how God's plan was meant to be.
Jesus said,
"Nick, the problem is sin. 
To live, you must be born again!
And Nicodemus sat in his room, 
and said, "I can't go back in the womb!"
Jesus said, "not that kind of birth!
I'm speaking of heaven, and not of earth!
As a teacher, you should be smart--or near it--
So understand this: Be born in the Spirit.
Only by being born again 
Can you free yourself from the power of sin.
(Like Pilate he couldn't see the worth
Of a spiritual kingdom that's not of this earth.)

What Jesus told Nicodemus to do 
Is still correct and still holds true,
And is still the best option for me and you:
Like Abraham, just start anew, like Jesus told Nicodemus to do,
Not of this world, and not of men, just this: You must be born again.
Spiritual birth makes all things new
If that is something you're willing to do.

 

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

 

To Condemn or Not to Condemn: the Unfair Trial that Led to a Shocking Conclusion

“And Jesus lifted up himself, and said unto her, Woman, where are they? Did no man condemn thee? And she said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.” (John 8:10-11 ASV) The woman caught in adultery is one of the more dramatic scenes in the Bible, and has a number of interesting elements to it.

First of all, there’s a note in most Bibles that says 7:53-8:11 were not included in the earliest manuscripts of John’s Gospel. Scholars feel that it was probably inserted after the original version was written, because Jesus was not at the meeting of the Pharisees, and the transition “Then each man went to his own home. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives” seems a little abrupt. They also place it logically after Luke 21:37-8, which states that Jesus stayed on the Mount of Olives and came early each day to teach in the temple. In any case, the story was included because it was undoubtedly true to circumstances and to Jesus’ teaching and character.

The Pharisees were trying to place Jesus onto the horns of a dilemma, asking him to render judgment that would be wrong no matter what he chose. In the first place, it wasn’t a fair trial, and it didn’t follow the law. Deuteronomy 22:22 said, “If a man is caught sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die.” The Pharisees didn’t bring the man involved, only the woman. If Jesus permitted them to stone the woman, he would have broken the law. He would also have offended the Romans because under Roman law the Jews did not have the right to exercise capital punishment.

It’s interesting to note that in verse 6 Jesus “bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.” I have heard entire sermons speculating about what he might have written there. Maybe he wrote several of the commandments, and perhaps they were pointedly the ones broken most often by the men carrying the stones. Perhaps he wrote the Shema, Israel’s foundational verse to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. He could have simply written a list of sins that related personally to each of the would-be judges, which they would recognize as their own…

Some speculate that perhaps he wrote the names of some of the men themselves, surprising them and convicting them as they looked on, wondering how Jesus knew so much. Whatever he wrote there in the dust, it must have provided dramatic counterpoint to the motives and intents of the self-righteous hypocrites. The accusers stood there, stones in hand, ready to execute judgment and condemnation. Somehow, with a few words written in the dust, Jesus stopped them in their tracks. We don’t know exactly what he wrote, but it was effective.

This story provides another instance of Jesus declining the chance to condemn, although the language is interesting, because he asks, “Did no man condemn you?” And she answers, “No man, Lord.” The subtlety of his inference is both loving and direct, because he does not exclude the real possibility that God would not approve of her activity…and his actions challenged her to reconsider everything she thought about God, accountability and judgment.

He encouraged the woman to change her ways and leave her life of sin, but he did not exercise judgment. Christians (followers of Jesus), take note! Imitate. I have always wondered what became of this woman, and how she lived from then on. The power and magnitude of Grace calls us to leave our sinful lives and remember what Jesus did. He didn’t come to condemn, but to save. He doesn’t lower the bar, or make excuses, or spin that it’s ok to sin. He gently but powerfully reminds us that we are called, not to make anyone ELSE holy, but to BE holy. Probably such a full time job that we’ve very little time left over to accuse anyone else.

The woman on the street was cast in shame
Because a man had tried to own her.
No one even asked her name,
But they were all prepared to stone her,
Till someone knelt beside her in the dust
And let her know that she was not alone.
He said, “Go ahead and judge her if you must,
But let the perfect man among you cast the stone.”
One by one, the accusers walked away,
But Jesus looked at her; He didn’t budge.
The woman thought she knew what he would say:
Instead, he asked her, “Where are those who judge?”
She looked around and saw no hateful men,
Still trembling from their angry cries of “Whore!”
But he said, “Woman, neither do I condemn,
So you are free to go and sin no more…”

 

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

 

The Proud Impostor: Who Are You, Really, Behind that Mask?

“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14, NIV)

If you are reading this, you have probably exalted yourself at some time or another. It’s human nature. You have looked in the mirror and thought, “I look good!” You have spent money that didn’t HAVE to be spent on some personal treat. When you have confessed your sins, maybe you are relieved that there are other folks who are far worse. Perhaps you have merely taken pride in an accomplishment, or perhaps (like me) your pride has subtly exercised itself in less edifying ways. Maybe you have been secretly glad that you were not like someone more evil or less principled than you; maybe you shake your head at someone else’s rude behavior, and are glad that you aren’t like that.

At some time or another, all of us hide behind a persona that presents us to the world as someone who appears better than we actually are—much like the Pharisee who prayed his very public self-congratulatory prayer… In the wonderful book “Abba’s Child”, Brennan Manning says our proud public self is actually someone called the Impostor, who offers a presentable image but hides our flaws and our true, broken self. He says: “The impostor is the classic co-dependent. To gain acceptance and approval, the false self suppresses or camouflages feelings, making emotional honesty impossible. Living out of the false self creates a compulsive desire to present a perfect image to the public so that everybody will admire us and nobody will know us. The impostor’s life becomes a perpetual roller-coaster ride of elation and depression… The impostor is a liar.” (pp. 34, 35)

My good friend Mark Krimm and I were accountability partners for several years, and one of the things we discovered was that we not only had an Impostor, but we have an Impostor to HIDE the Impostor. He’s the guy who humbly acknowledges his sin and brokenness 1) without sharing all of it, and 2) is secretly proud of how humble and transparent he is. He looks good on the outside, but his priorities are messed up and he’s really not doing business with God where it counts.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as external spirituality, and it hurts to realize sometimes that I have the capacity to portray a humble but broken Pharisee, even though I am an unfaithful dirty rotten sinner. On the other hand, the tax collector had no such pretense. He didn’t even deserve to be in church, but he was there, praying an honest prayer. Israelites despised tax collectors because they worked for the hated Romans, and were considered traitors at best, extortionists and thieves at worst. They were social pariahs, the lowest of the low. In the gospels, they are often mentioned as synonymous with sinners, as in “tax collectors and sinners”. No Pharisee worth his salt would even go into the same room as a tax collector, and yet Jesus called one (Matthew) to be his disciple, and had several notable encounters with them.

This story about prayer and confession would have offended and enraged the Pharisees, but it gives hope to the honest sinner who 1) is so convicted and downcast that he is absolutely humbled before God (he couldn’t even raise his eyes towards heaven); 2) is passionate and truly sorrowful about his sin (he beat his breast in anguish); and 3) is honest and repentant before God (he begged for mercy). The question that arises from this story is, which category are you in? A proud Impostor who feels self-righteous, or a humble sinner begs for mercy? Every day we choose one of those attitudes or the other. Both of those folks will be surprised by God’s response; but only ONE of those folks will be justified.

Two men went to church one day,
Where they could take some time to pray.
The sinner and the Deacon stood,
And one felt bad, while one felt good.
The Deacon proudly walked the aisle;
His tie was straight, he had a smile
And stood down front for all to see:
"I thank you, Lord, for blessing me!
I'm glad I'm in your Holy plan,
Unlike this other, sinful man...
I thank you I don't drink or cuss!
I come to church without a fuss,
And tithe from all that I possess,
While other people love you less."
The sinner stood way back in place,
While streaming tears ran down his face,
Anguished, hoping none could see,
He beat his breast and made his plea:
"Oh Lord, be merciful to me!"
He humbly prayed with no disguise--
He couldn't even lift his eyes...
The God of Grace, the God who cares
Will listen well to both these prayers,
And both these men will be surprised,
When only one is justified.

 

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

 

Flesh is Flesh, and Spirit is Spirit; Are You Listening? Can You Hear It?

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6 KJV) Do you ever notice the spiritual dimensions of life? Out of all the animals on the planet, only man concerns himself with spiritual things. Animals don’t debate morality, they don’t pass laws, they don’t worship God, and they just really don’t pay attention to spiritual things. But the spiritual dimension is clearly around us humans all the time, even when we don’t notice, or even when we just flat-out ignore it…

Now, that doesn’t mean that a man HAS to notice spiritual things. He can stay as carnal and as practical as he wants to; in fact, millions of people disregard spiritual things because they require empirical evidence or they just can’t see them. But the spiritual dimension is always there, waiting to unveil its power and beauty, pointing to something more profound and moving than the empirical facts suggest.

A sunset can merely be a cosmological array of physical properties—flesh—but the way it moves you with its beauty speaks to something deeper (perhaps an artist of the highest caliber)—spirit. A history book can be a bunch of dry facts—flesh—but when we find ourselves motivated by the gallant acts or lofty notions from those who have gone before, well then—spirit! And a kiss can be merely the oscular physical contact between two organisms–flesh—or it can be—well, you know… It can take your breath away, and speak to the passion and love behind it!

It’s interesting to me that if you live in the flesh you will minimize the Spirit, and lose its enhanced perspective and all of its attendant blessings. But if you live in the Spirit, you can actually elevate the experience in the flesh and complete it by allowing it to be all that it was intended to be. A kiss can merely be the exchange of saliva, it can even be limited to lust, OR it can be—LOVE (pointing to something more profound and moving than the empirical facts suggest)! The more we stay in the flesh, the less we experience the spiritual aspect of things. And the more we live in the spirit, then…That’s right! The more life means, and the more we see and experience the true meaning behind everything.

Flesh or Spirit?

Are we merely carnal creatures?
What can set mankind apart?
Is it instinct? Are there features
That transcend the human heart?

When I live in stress or tension,
When I limit how I feel,
There’s a spiritual dimension
Where God’s love is fresh and real!

Let me walk in realms of glory,
Even with my feet of clay;
Help me see salvation’s story
Every ordinary day.

Into Thy hands I commend my Spirit,
More than just in words or talk;
Make my heart like Yours—or near it;
Help my feet to walk the walk.

As I sense the world around me,
Let me see you, Lord, afresh;
Let your loving heart surround me
In the Spirit, and the flesh.

 

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