Victorious Outcomes Aren’t the Only Thing That Makes You Victorious

There is an amazing story in Daniel that illustrates vividly that outcomes are not everything. Daniel’s friends declared that you can be Victorious, Whether in Victory or Defeat…

victorious

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, NIV).

Daniel’s three friends were put to the test. Since they refused to bow down to a golden idol, the king decreed that they were going to be thrown into a fiery furnace. This was their response, and it is the essence of true faith: “We believe God will deliver us, and we’ll stake our lives on Him, but even if he doesn’t deliver us from the fire, it’s ok. We still won’t bow down to any idol or give our worship to anyone less than God.”

I think their response is fascinating because it provides the key to living a victorious life. We often want our faith validated by the results we desire. If I ask for protection, but something bad still happens, then God failed to be victorious! He didn’t do what I asked Him to do! Perhaps then, I might reason, God is not worthy of my faith. If I ask for healing, and don’t get it, then I could say He failed to provide a miracle. I could see it as God’s failure to take care of me, and be angry because I assume that I know more about appropriate outcomes than He does. If I had cancer, and went into remission, is that a miracle? If it comes back, is that God’s fault?

Just what is it that makes me victorious? Perhaps the miracle is God’s abiding presence, or peace within the valley of the shadow itself… Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego staked their lives on God; either He would deliver them from the fire, or He would deliver them by letting them be consumed in the fire. It certainly looks easy on paper, removed from the consequences, but to these men in that moment it was all or nothing, wasn’t it?

Either outcome was the Lord’s, and their faith was justified regardless of circumstances. If they lived, they lived BY faith. If they died, they would die IN faith. The Apostle Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) He also said, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)

victorious contentment

Next time we pray for a selfish outcome, perhaps instead we should ask God for the courage to believe him regardless of what the outcome might be. Find that place in your heart and you will be victorious in every circumstance. I think you’ll find true worship as well.

Does victory only happen when we triumph, or are glorious?
Or should we redefine just what it means to be victorious?
The God we serve can save us from the devil’s fiery furnace,
But even if He doesn’t, and our circumstances burn us,
We can find His peace, and still be comforted by this:
We are victorious not by winning, but because we’re HIS.

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

 

New Hope Arises Every Day, no Matter How Dark the Night.

Every week, it seems, brings new challenges and new problems. From minor inconveniences to life-changing events, having problems is one of the things we can count on in this world… Thank goodness there’s something else we can count on as well:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV).

Lamentations is a book full of just that; it expresses grief and mourning over the fact that Israel has been conquered and destroyed. As 1:12 plaintively asks, “Is there any sorrow like my sorrow?” 1:20 says, ““See, O Lord, that I am in distress; my soul is troubled; my heart is overturned within me, For I have been very rebellious.”

Lamentations is filled with images of grief and pain. The citizens of Jerusalem have been devastated by the Babylonians, and there is ruin and destruction all around them. This Book of the Bible is written by real people who have experienced the horrors of war; the Book of Lamentations is a lament over the fact that their men have been decimated and their women have been violated. Grief is pervasive and overwhelming.

Yet in the midst of the violation and devastation, this song is sung: the Lord’s compassions never fail, and they are new every morning. From the depths of sorrow comes a ray of hope: God is compassionate in the midst of sorrow. While there is no guarantee that all pain will cease, He promises that if you turn to Him, He will care about you and offer comfort in the midst of it. A ray of hope may not seem like much, but to someone lost in overwhelming darkness, it can seem like the only thing that is worth holding on to.

Today is a new day, and you have made it through the darkness to another dawn. Winston Churchill famously said “When you are going through hell, keep going.” While I admire Churchill’s persistence and indomitable spirit, the writer of Lamentations might say, “When you are consumed by darkness, be comforted by God’s inextinguishable light.”

new hope

Perhaps you have been through hard times, or have been discouraged by the darkest of times. It is a new day, and you are here. Look up! Remember that God’s compassion and faithfulness are unfailing, and He is extending them to YOU. The world may have mistreated you, and circumstances may be difficult. But the fact that you are still standing offers hope, for you can still reach up. In John 16:31, Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Today is a new day, full of hope. Seize it! Proclaim God’s faithfulness, and keep on living!

Even in the darkest night, there is a coming dawn–
A rising hope that sends its light to tell us, “Carry on!”
No matter what our circumstance, no matter what we do,
The gathering light reminds us of the God who makes things new.
In troubles, we discover what the Lord’s great love entails;
Find solace in His comfort: His compassion never fails.

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

 

Expectations Aren’t Always True: If God is Not Who You Expected, Maybe You Should Change Your Expectations

Expectations play a large role in our contentment and happiness. Have you ever met someone who did not turn out to be who you expected, and you were disappointed? Have you met someone who surprised you by exceeding your expectations? It’s a pleasant surprise, isn’t it?

When you look at the life of Jesus of Nazareth, there were people who saw him on both sides of potential expectations. What if Jesus was not who you expected him to be? Does that give you a free pass from the penalty of your iniquities? Isaiah said that the Messiah wasn’t a triumphant king but a suffering sacrifice. He also compared us to sheep who insist on going our own way, regardless of the consequences:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 NIV).

expectations

I’ve wondered many times why my Jewish friends don’t see Jesus the same way I do. He was Jewish, and he came as Messiah, yet he was not who they expected. In a way, I totally understand, because we are all immersed in our own reality, and sometimes it’s impossible to see around our own perspective. At the time, under Roman occupation, the Jewish Leaders looked for revolutionary deliverance, and were hoping for political independence and freedom. Yet Jesus was not who they expected: he never got political, and didn’t seem to give a fig about overthrowing Rome.(Kind of ironic when you consider that Christianity played such a big role in ending the domination of the Roman empire…)

I’m sure the Jewish zealots who followed him were disappointed that he came as a suffering servant rather than as an earthly king. Apparently Jesus, who came to set up a spiritual kingdom through his suffering, did not meet their Messianic expectations, and they rejected the notion that he could be the One.

I once heard Bill Dial preach a really good sermon speculating that perhaps Judas betrayed Christ only to force his hand and start the revolution he thought was ultimately coming… He expected Jesus to rise up in power, not to be tried like a criminal. When that happened, Judas was devastated by the way things turned out because he expected a King instead of the cross. He missed Jesus’ true purpose as expressed here in Isaiah, and ended up hanging himself in grief and remorse.

Question: do we ever miss who God really is because we are hoping for something different? Is God’s response ever different than you expected? “Lord, bless me financially and I’ll believe you are real.” “Lord, heal me and I’ll know it’s you.” Can we be so wrapped up in our own presuppositions about who we’d LIKE Jesus to be that we miss who he IS? You know what they say about ASSUME… (When we do it, “it makes an ass out of u and me”).

So don’t put God in a box—expect to find Him in unexpected ways and places… And while you’re at it, set aside your assumptions about church. Enter church as a suffering servant rather than as a sanctified saint. Stop being judgmental about the judgmental. Look at the man who was pierced for our transgressions. For my money, he was the Messiah who came to deliver not just a kingdom in Israel from occupation, but all of us from enemy territory. But don’t take my word for it; get to know Jesus. Then decide for yourself.

In a world of independent rights, here’s a disturbing thought:
God is always WHO HE IS, whether you like it or not.
What if He turns out to be much more than you expected?
What if, on the Judgment Day, you stand there unprotected?
What if, in the Kingdom, we are standing there like fools,
Just wishing we had got to know the king of Kings who rules?
Perhaps you don’t believe in God; But what if He’s really there?
What’s his personality? And should you even care?
If you have never talked to God before, consider this:
It might be good to get to know him just the way He is.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

The Prayer of Jabez is Good. Here’s One I Like Even Better!

Do you remember The Prayer of Jabez,  the best-selling book from a few years ago? Let’s take another look at the man made famous for his prayer:

“Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10, NIV).

This little passage was the subject of Bruce Wilkinson’s book, “The Prayer of Jabez, Breaking Through to a Blessed Life”, back in 2000. Mr. Wilkinson’s work was embraced by many who agreed with him that praying this prayer devotedly and persistently would result in God’s blessings. Others criticized it because they said it focused on prosperity rather than on spiritual blessing, and prescribed rote, formulaic prayer rather than sincere, heart-felt prayer. Whatever your take on it, it is a well-written book that was quite popular, and got folks talking about the power of prayer.

Jabez

The book does a great job of encouraging us to be persistent in prayer and to claim Bible promises for our own, just as Jabez did in 1 Chronicles 4. Mr. Wilkinson did a great job sharing the story of Jabez and drawing some Biblical principles from it. I’ve given it some reflection as well, and here are my own observations about this passage:

1) Jabez is a sincere and honorable man, and he turns to God for blessing. I’d have to say that if everyone we met was sincere and honorable, the world would be a better place. But apparently then—as now—being honorable was the exception rather than the rule. Be the exception.

2) Jabez seemed to be motivated by the fact that his name meant “he makes sorrowful”, apparently or possibly because of the pain he caused his mother in childbirth. He didn’t name himself, but as he grew up he was constantly reminded that he had once been the source of pain… Parents, be careful what hurtful things you say to your kids, because there are things that stick with them. (I can remember some that were said to me, and I know there are lots of dumb or angry things I have said to my kids or my wife that I wish I could have back! Sorry guys, if anything I said gave you a negative message or memory. I really do love you a lot with my imperfect love!).

3) This isn’t necessarily a bad prayer, since Jabez asks for God’s hand to be on him, and to keep him from evil so that he would not cause (or have) pain. “And”, the Bible says, “God granted his request”. So there’s that. It’s a prayer that identified Jabez uniquely among his peers, and God answered it. It’s a good prayer, and probably one that all of us would make from time to time…

But when you break it down, the prayer of Jabez does seem perhaps a bit self-serving, and might just be a bit focused on personal benefit. (Bless ME. Keep your hand on MY territory. Let your hand be with ME. Keep ME from harm. Keep ME free from pain.) These are all legitimate requests to make of God, but there’s a different prayer in the Bible that also asks God for something, and it’s one I can relate to far better.

If I had to pick a Bible prayer that we should pray early and often, it’s not the one prayed by the arrogant Pharisee who stood in the Temple in Luke 18 and thanked God that he was more righteous than his fellow men; it’s the sincere, passionate one prayed by the humble, repentant tax collector as he beat his breast in anguish in Luke 18:13: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

Now, THERE’s a prayer worth repeating! (And one that I can certainly relate to!) “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Try praying that one. I bet it will enlarge your territory.

Jabez was an honest man who went to God and prayed,
He asked for God’s protection in the petitions that he made.
Apparently he was honorable; and he was surely blessed.
The Bible says when Jabez prayed, God granted his request.
I guess I’m not like Jabez, since my prayer life is much thinner;
I’m much more like the man who said, “Be merciful to this sinner!”
You may have a different prayer you think of when you pray,
But when you kneel before your God, and find the words to say,
I hope you pray with love and passion every single day.

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

 

Solomon was Given a Mission, but the Temple didn’t Build Itself!

Solomon was given a Mission, ordained and blessed by the God of the universe. Since you’ve also been given a mission, perhaps it would be instructive to see what Solomon did!
“I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, ‘Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name…’ When Hiram heard Solomon’s message, he was greatly pleased and said, “Praise be to the Lord today, for he has given David a wise son to rule over this great nation.” … The Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him. There were peaceful relations between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty. King Solomon conscripted laborers from all Israel—thirty thousand men. He sent them off to Lebanon in shifts of ten thousand a month, so that they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills, as well as thirty-three hundred foremen who supervised the project and directed the workers.” (1 Kings 5:5-16, NIV)

Solomon mission

Wow, this was a pretty big construction project—as far as Israel was concerned, it was the biggest one of all time… God could have chosen David to build the temple, but he didn’t. Solomon was given a clear mission by God, and he went out committed vast amounts of resources, workers, and leaders to get it underway. He worked hard to fulfill his mission. It should be instructive to us that the Lord gave Solomon a job, and he then did everything he knew how to do to get it done. God could have just created a temple and set it right down in Jerusalem, but he gave that task to Solomon. The king could have waited for workers to appear miraculously, and for timber and stone to materialize, but he realized that God had put him where he was to have an impact on the world, and he applied himself to doing God’s work. He exercised his own wisdom and position in leveraging relationships and managing people, and he used all of his skill as king to serve God. He knew that he had been chosen by God to perform a task, and he believed that God had put him there to get it done. Here’s the point: Why are YOU where you are? What mission has God given you? How much have you committed your skill and resources to make it happen? We may not be building a temple, but we ARE a temple (I Corinthians 6:19-20), and we HAVE a mission (Matthew 28:19-20). There is something to be done that only you can do. The fabric of eternity is woven with millions of seemingly unrelated tasks that change the world for good, and not all of them get headlines. The small commissions matter just as much as the big ones in God’s economy, and He has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the mighty. Jesus told us to love each other, to love “the least of these”, and even to love our enemies. Who will you love today? God has a job for each of us to do. What will He do through you? It only remains for you, in Paul’s words (Philippians 2:12-13), to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to act to fulfill his good purpose.” Go. Fulfill.

God gave Solomon a mission: build a temple, fit for me;
Put it in the center of Jerusalem for all to see!
Solomon secured the workers, more than a hundred thousand men,
Working shifts in Lebanon to bring the cedars back again.
Everything was organized–the workers getting stone and wood,
And Solomon made certain they were doing everything they could.
See, God gave Solomon a mission, so he had to do his best;
He had lots to do, but this priority outstripped the rest.
No matter what transpired, he knew he had to get the Temple done:
God gave Solomon a mission–but he’s not the only one.
Jesus gave us all a mission, there in Matthew twenty eight:
“Go and make disciples. I am with you. Don’t procrastinate!”
God has given us the job of reaching out to every man;
I hope, like Solomon, that we are doing everything we can.

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

 

Enough, Already: You Aren’t Big Enough or Strong Enough, or Gifted Enough. That’s ok with God

Sometimes we feel that we aren’t strong enough to handle what life has thrown at us. You’ve been there: confronted with a job too big to do, or a failure too big to overcome. Well, God has an answer for all of us weaklings… Read this exchange between the Lord and Gideon.

“The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (Judges 6:14-16, NIV)

enough

In this passage, Gideon expresses his insecurity to God, who assures him that his military mission will be successful. While it is somewhat startling to read about and remember the harsh “kill or be killed” environment that existed when Israel entered the Promised Land, what really jumps off the page to me is how God handles Gideon’s pitiful objection to God’s call.

Gideon responds to a call from the Almighty God of the universe by saying, I’m a weak man from a weak clan, and I don’t even have a plan! I’m not big enough or strong enough!” Interestingly, God gives Gideon a one sentence answer that reverberates through Scripture like a call to arms: “I will be with you.”

When Gideon says, “I am weak”, God says, “I am Enough.” It’s the same thing God told Moses in Exodus 3:12 when Moses objected that he was inadequate to lead Israel: “I will be with you.” It’s also what God told Joshua preparing to go into the Promised Land in Joshua 1:5, and what he told Paul in Acts 18:10. “I will be with you”. Over and over again in Scripture the Lord answers objections not with a plan, but with His presence.

Do you ever feel unworthy to serve God? Ever feel like you are not gifted and talented enough to do big things for Him? After all, we are commissioned to go share the Gospel with all the world in Matthew 28:19, and most of us get a little uncomfortable just sharing the Gospel with people on our own street. “Lord”, we object, “surely that commission stuff only applies to the disciples, or to missionaries and preachers. I’m not adequate. You must mean someone else.”

If you face a daunting task, or an obstacle that seems bigger than your resources, then remember God’s answer to Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Paul. It also happens to be the same answer Jesus gave to believers after telling them to go and make disciples of all nations in Matthew 28:19. Go ahead and read verse 20. It is the answer He gives to you when you feel unworthy or too small to do something big: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” When you feel overwhelmed or inadequate, remember who is with you. God is enough, and more than enough. Your worthiness, abilities, and gifts just got HUGE. Go do something big!

We can feel so very small, confronted with the Father’s call,
Worried that the world will see our obvious inadequacy.
We can try to step aside, or even try to run and hide,
And go to almost any length to not rely upon our strength.
The Great Commission has revealed God wants us on the mission field,
In spite of weakness we may feel, God’s call to all of us is real.
If being called was not your plan, since after all you’re just a man,
Feel free to call God out and say, “There has to be a better way!”
And He will say about your call, just like to Gideon or Saul,”
“Remember, I have chosen you to do what only you can do:
If your journey seems too tough, if circumstances get too rough,
Recall the cross and perfect love, and realize I AM enough.”

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

The Equation that Changes Everything in the World

There is an equation that John uses to describe the nature of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and it is simple but surprising. The equation is this:
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (I John 4:16, NIV) John claims that God is love. This makes sense from a Biblical view, and it aligns with what Jesus taught—that love is a distinctive which identifies those who follow God. You know how an equation works, right? X = Y means that everything on one side of the equation equals the other side EXACTLY. They are interchangeable because they are equal.

equation

And “God is Love” is not the only equation in the New Testament. Consider this: we are designed to be complete only in relationships, and relationships are only complete when they run on love. The equation is, two people become one flesh. Husband equals wife. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one”. The equation is, Jesus equals the Father.

When John says, “God is love”, he is saying that love is God’s makeup—it is the essence of His personality, his character, and his being. If you think about it, we know about and acknowledge several things about God’s character. He is holy. He is a Righteous Judge. He is the source of all forgiveness and grace. But John’s equation sets the baseline for who God is. What He does is motivated by love and is an expression of love. God cannot commit a purely selfish act.

When you flip that statement around (which you can always do when you juxtapose two equal objects with a verb of being, and it will still be true), it says, “Love is God.” John is saying that not only is God characterized by love, but that EVERYTHING loving is from God. Whatever love you encounter in this world comes from God—there is nothing loving apart from him or without him. We experience love in many forms, and probably every one of those forms is valid, as is anything that we perceive as love.

We experience a mother’s love, there is love in friendships, and there is the love we have for puppies and little children. There is deep, abiding love, romantic, mushy love, and there is even sexual love between a husband and wife (yes, God created sex, and in way more than fifty shades!). There are all manner of other kinds of love we feel or encounter or touch in this life.

But here’s the deal: None of them would exist without God. Some of them may seem to us to be disconnected from God, but if you look closely I think you’ll start to see in them a glimmer of God’s presence, or a fleeting glimpse of his character. And the more you look, the more you’ll see that they couldn’t exist without Him, that there is no real love apart from God, because God is love, and love is God. Good thing to think about during the month that contains Valentine’s Day.

To my lovely wife: you’re the love of my life!
To my family and friends, may our love never end!
It is more than a fad or a transient trend.
Just remember this stuff, when the going gets tough:
Love is God; God is love, it all comes from above;
It’s the nature of God, and it’s what He’s made of:
So, everything loving you happen to see’s
A reminder that God lives in you and in me:
Love’s what He gives us, and calls us to be…
Just in case I haven’t said it enough,
What you say: Love is God. What it means: God is love.

Go love somebody, and go feel loved today. In other words, be godly. Then thank God that you just saw Him where you weren’t looking before!

 

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

 

Certainty Seems to Be the Scientific High Ground, Until You Look a Little Deeper

Some types of Wisdom seem to provide certainty, but do they?
“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”. (I Corinthians 3:18-19, NIV)

Paul is saying that having conventional wisdom may be an obstacle to having true wisdom. One of the great paradoxes of intellectual life is that Christianity can seem like intellectual suicide, accepting by faith things that fall outside of normal, observable criteria. But here are a couple of things for you to think about:

One, ALL intellectual positions about certain things require leaps of faith, whether scientific or faith-based. As soon as you move from certainty to assumption, you enter the realm of faith. It’s fascinating to me how many people seem willing to die on a scientific hill, when they have no more actual certainty of the wisdom of their position than I do of mine. Let me challenge you a bit and ask about the most obvious examples:

1. “Big Bang” proponents, can you give me any real proof about the way the universe originated, since you couldn’t observe or record it? Science has developed a set of assumptions to guide their thinking, but there’s no absolute proof of origin. Have you considered that your scientific position requires some major leaps of faith? Doesn’t “Big Bang” require every bit as much faith in the unknown that creation does?

2. I’m also interested in having folks who are sure about evolution give me proof without making any assumptions about their certainty that the current complexity of life developed from random events that all came together over millions of years, rather than from creation. The laws of probability suggest it would take more time than is possible, and yet they believe in it as if it were scientific fact.

And, 3: I would like to hear those who feel ok about abortion explain how they “know” when the fetus becomes a life… I’m pro-choice but against ending a human life. However, I have yet to hear the definitive explanation from the Pro-Choice side about exactly when a fetus is a living soul. If it’s just part of a woman’s body, then it’s truly her right to get rid of it.

certainty

But if it’s a life, then ending it is morally wrong, and it’s only assumption–not science– that “justifies” the decision to terminate it. I believe that when a fetus becomes a living soul, then it is protected by moral law. “Pro-choice” proponents cannot empirically demonstrate exactly when that happens, so they act on assumption rather than certainty.

The law has in some cases arbitrarily assumed that a fetus is not considered viable until 20 weeks, but how do they know for sure? What if it becomes a soul at TEN weeks? At heartbeat? At conception? Who knows? But any abortions after that point would be murder… I’m not saying I’m right–they’re wrong, but I am saying that, in the end, each of those people HAS to have as much faith about their position as I do about mine. The wisdom of the world is saying, “go ahead and terminate full-term babies”, which is the logical extension of their assumptions. But if that’s wrong, then terminating a fetus also becomes wrong at some point. The question is, when do we have certainty?

And according to this verse, holding fast to this world’s wisdom may keep someone from finding God’s… In Hebrews it says that it is impossible to please God without faith. In the biblical view of things, faith begets wisdom, not the other way around. God rewards those who come to Him in faith with true wisdom. Earthly wisdom is its own reward. Heavenly wisdom is directed towards, well, HEAVEN. Don’t deceive yourself: become foolish.

Some of us demand to see the proof with our own eyes,
And point to scientific evidence to make us wise.
We use empirical proof to see some things that give us certainty,
And trust that we will grow to be superior intellectually…
God provides his wisdom, but it is another kind;
He asks us to depend on faith; to see where we are blind,
To evidence that is not seen, or based on something “school-ish”:
He asks us to believe in Him when others call us foolish.
Academics scoff at faith. They even have the gumption
To ridicule belief as something based on mere assumption!
But even science makes assumptions everywhere you turn,
And there are leaps of faith required no matter what you learn.
So in that place where evidence ends–perhaps I’m kinda dense–
Having faith in “nothing” doesn’t make intellectual sense.
So I agree with Paul, and I will read his words again:
The “foolishness” of God is wiser than the wisest men…

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

 

Weakness: The Kind That Actually Makes You Stronger

Perhaps the strongest moments you ever have will only come through your weakness…
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

We live in a world where strength is made perfect in strength. We are impressed by athletes and actors, media stars and moguls. We don’t tend to see a lot of value in the ordinary or the marginal. It’s even the same way in Christian stuff: If you can teach, God uses your teaching. If you can sing, He uses your talent. If you can turn a phrase, create a nifty slogan, and “unpack” the Bible, God will show himself through your competent efforts. And please don’t misunderstand this, all of those things are good. I certainly like it when I can do my best work for God instead of for myself.

But God is way bigger than that. I think he is perhaps glorified most when we are experiencing things in HIS power rather than in our competency. It’s a lot easier to talk about our victories in Jesus, or the mighty things God has done through, and for, and around us. We appreciate God’s strength in healings, but maybe not so much in the cases where somebody DOESN’T get healed…yet His grace is there in either case.

We share and rejoice together in victories when we win by human standards, not so much when things don’t go our way. Is it possible that it’s actually MORE miraculous when we “lose”, but experience God’s grace, and encounter His comfort in the midst of sorrow? I think the same is true about spiritual health—it’s harder to share our failures, or talk about the ways God’s secret grace has brought us out of the depths of our own depravity, but if we encountered God’s power in our weakness, then it’s truly miraculous. I can honestly say that whatever worth I have in this world is based solely on God’s grace and forgiveness, not upon my wit or charm. Had I been the only architect of my fate, the structure of my life would have collapsed and burned long ago, compromised by inherent weaknesses and mistakes.

weakness

I have found over the years that if I’m left to my own devices, I will fall into personal selfishness and fail. I will turn away from sanctification and embrace sin. I will exercise greed instead of grace, lust instead of love, and hate instead of holiness…

I’ll tell you this: God has been present when I’ve done those things. He has forgiven me and restored me. The details aren’t important, but His presence in my weakness was far greater than any of my gifts in their finest hour. We are comfortable letting God use our strengths. But how do we let him use our weaknesses? For instance, I’m not worthy in any way to write about God, but here I am, offering a testimony to His grace and to the fact that He saved me from myself. You probably aren’t worthy either, but what’s YOUR testimony about God? Paul says he would brag about his own weakness, for when he was weak, God was strong. Let God’s strength shine through your life, not in your accomplishments, but in your failures.

I’ve been married thirty-seven years,
I have three awesome children who are grown;
I’ve had the most enjoyable of careers,
A lovely wife, a house to call my own.

Perhaps you’d look at me and say, “Success”,
According to the things that you can see,
But I can tell you, life would be a mess
If everything depended upon me.

I’ve done some things of which I cannot speak,
Made choices that I never should have made;
I have been stupidly, unutterably weak,
Like Esau offering birthright in a trade…

I’ve turned my back on God without remorse,
Allowed myself to squander and to roam–
Yet He reached out to me, and changed my course,
And killed the fatted calf, and brought me home.

No matter what you’ve done, or where you’ve been,
The Father’s love will go to any length–
Yes, to the Cross! To save you from your sin-
Your weakness will reveal the Father’s strength.

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

 

Danger Held No Fear For Him: But Should We Really Follow Paul’s Example?

The apostle Paul went to great lengths to spread Christ’s message, and he willingly faced all kinds of danger. Maybe he was so zealous because he had tried to wipe out this new movement about following Jesus; maybe he was just a passionate guy. But he served Christ with all of his heart, regardless of personal discomfort or danger.

In spite of that, he was criticized by others, picked at by wanna-be church leaders, and stabbed in the back by jealous contemporaries. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he addressed some of the folks who boasted about all they had done, casting aspersions that Paul was not as committed as people said he was. Since they had called him a fool, he said in 2 Corinthians 11:16: “Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting…”

He went on to remind them of his qualifications:
“Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.

danger

I have been in danger from rivers, from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked…” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, NIV)

This was Paul’s response to critics who tried to disparage his ministry. As you look at it, just make a note of each of the dangers, risks, hardships, and life-threatening situations he endured to share the Gospel. It’s quite a resume. Five beatings of thirty-nine lashes. Three beatings with rods. One very personal encounter with angry stones. Three shipwrecks. And those are just the highlights! He doesn’t even get to his imprisonments and martyrdom…

To Paul, following Christ was an “all in” proposition. (After all, he was the one who said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!”) You really should read that list again to let it sink in. In today’s world, we get bent out of shape if the sermon goes 20 minutes over, and people (on average) spend about NINE minutes a day being involved in church. Yep, about an hour a week. When I look at Paul’s list, I am struck by both the hardship he was willing to endure and the passion he brought to sharing the message of the gospel. To Paul, things like hunger and thirst were just minor inconveniences compared to the glory of telling the good news. Kinda makes you feel a little bad about saying you don’t have time to be a greeter, doesn’t it?

I, Paul

I have lived a joyful life! I’ve learned to be content.
Just think of all I saw, and all the places that I went!
I went to Macedonia, and traveled far from home;
I sailed upon the open sea! I got to go to Rome!
Yes there have been some hardships that occurred along the way,
Like when our ship went down, and I went swimming for a day.
And yes I was arrested, and got whipped a time or five–
And that time I was stoned, I’m still amazed I stayed alive!
But even though I’ve had some inconvenience and some pain:
I know for me to Live is Christ, for me to die is gain!
But looking back now, I can say I’ve served Him from the start:
And I would challenge you, my friend, to serve with all your heart.
When you are looking back on life, with all the good and bad,
I hope that you can say with me, “I gave it all I had!”

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