Which Way is RIght? Don’t all Paths Lead to the Same Place?

Is there only one way to heaven? Do Christians have any right to be exclusive about heaven?  The Bible says this: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, KJV) This is a singular statement that was made to explain a radical event.

In Acts 3 Peter and John healed a beggar who had been lame from birth, telling him in words that have been memorialized in a well-known children’s song, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” The Sanhedrin (whom Peter addressed as the “rulers of the people and elders of Israel”) arrested them and held them overnight. Then they questioned Peter about how they had healed this man, and he said (vv 9-10), “If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” Peter then concluded that salvation could also only occur through Jesus.

Now, if Peter’s statement was just the ranting of a religious zealot, the Sanhedrin could have dismissed him; but since the man who had been healed was standing by and watching the proceedings, they didn’t know what to do. They held a private council. (v 16-17) “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” Of course Peter and John refused to do such a thing. Luke says, “After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.”

Three things: 1) What have you seen God do in your life that you cannot help but speak of it? Don’t give in to social pressure, don’t hesitate because you might feel too pushy. Talk freely about what God has done for you. Your perspective is legitimate testimony about who God is, and how He has impacted your life. Testify!

2) Giving financially is good thing; but don’t ever let silver and gold take the place of personal ministry. When you let God work through you, it will bless others, and it will bless you. And to contradict Jerry Maguire, it has nothing to do with money. Show me the LOVE and you can show me the WAY.

3) There is no other way to salvation other than Jesus. He either is the real deal or He isn’t. Let that sink in for a minute. The world around you will try to bend that truth, water it down, and replace it with possibilities that seem more inclusive and less restrictive. In our current climate of cultural and intellectual relativism, we are being told that whatever you feel or believe is ok, as long as it works for you. I think that’s a great philosophy as long as you can ignore the person and work of Jesus Christ; but if he was real, and if what he taught was true, there is no other way

The world will offer substitute salvation through doing good, following a charismatic or powerful leader, attaining Nirvana, obeying the law, or achieving spiritual enlightenment. All of those approaches have some merit, but none of them provide salvation. They are cheap imitations of the real thing. Am I being narrow-minded by rejecting those other beliefs? Yes.

If you were honest, you’d admit that sometimes you HAVE to be narrow. You can’t just ignore traffic laws and remain safe while driving. Yes, the laws restrict you from racing through red lights or driving the wrong way onto the freeway, but they are designed to keep everyone safer on the road. It is only by giving up your freedom to drive however you want to that you can drive safely.

If you were dying from a tumor that required a delicate and life-threatening operation, would you prefer a surgeon who said, “Oh, there are lots of ways we can treat your symptoms, and we can perform a number of medical procedures on you that will be good for you. They all provide help, and really they all end up at the same place.” Or do you want a surgeon who says, “We have located the problem and I am going to perform surgery to remove it. Now, we have to exclude all of these other treatments because, while they might provide some benefit, we have to address this life-threatening disease in a radical way.” Being narrow minded is a good thing when there is adequate proof to exclude other alternatives.

4) The Sanhedrin had proof standing right before their very eyes, but were blinded by their own assumptions and positions of power. Don’t be that guy. These other alternatives have various ways they sell their solutions, but only Christianity has Jesus. If someone can come up with something better than Jesus, I’ll follow it. But the more I know him, the more I know he was right when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me.” One Jesus. One way.

I was the guy who sat and begged
With shriveled, useless twisted legs,
Hoping passers-by would see
And throw a coin or two at me...
But Peter stopped amidst the crowd
And turned to me, and said real loud,
With words that boomed out big and bold:
"I have no silver coin, nor gold,
And nothing from the world of men,
But this: Rise up and walk again!
The power of God has been revealed;
In the name of Jesus Christ, be healed!"
And thus this fisherman proclaimed, 
That I, who had from birth been lame,
Can stand before you and avow
That I am proudly walking now.
The leaders told them once or twice 
To stop proclaiming Jesus Christ,
Because it caused them an affront.
But they would not; I hope they don't. 


 

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

 

Consider This: The Best Arguments Have Nothing to Do With Words…

“For consider him [Jesus] that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Hebrews 12:3 KJV) The uniqueness of Jesus is often overlooked, believe it or not. His parables and teachings have a timeless quality, and have been woven into the common wisdom of many of the world’s cultures. Most people credit him with being a prophet or a great teacher, apparently without knowing anything else about him…
Two things about him stand out in this verse. First, there are only two groups mentioned here: 1) sinners; and 2) Jesus. He is not listed with the sinners, but he is in a different category, listed as the one who endured their contradictions against himself. He stands apart from sin, the man who broke no law. Consider our leadership today and even in the past. Can you think of another public figure from history that meets this criteria? The fact that everyone close to Jesus claimed that he was sinless is pretty unique, and sets Jesus apart from, well… everyone.
Would my wife or any of my close friends claim I was sinless? (Quit laughing!) How about yours? Would they say YOU are sinless? (Ha! Who’s laughing now?) And yet men who were around Jesus every day for years comment upon his behavior in ways that haven’t applied to any other man or woman. In fact, they COULDN’T apply. But consider this: In 1 Peter 2:22 Peter says of Jesus, “He committed no sin”. John says (1 John 3:5) “In him [Jesus] was no sin.” Paul, who originally persecuted followers of Jesus as heretics, says this about him in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He knew no sin.” Even the man who sentenced him to death (Pontius Pilate) said, “I find no fault in Him”. The fact that eyewitnesses, friends and even enemies claim he was sinless make Jesus very unique indeed.

Second, there is power in his being an example. The writer of Hebrews says, “Consider him.” The motivational power of a good example is huge in life, and it’s natural that we think about Jesus’ life and find encouragement when times are tough, “lest we be wearied and faint in our minds”. Are you stressed? Can the world be rude and uncaring at times? Don’t you hate driving with all of those careless, distracted, selfish people on the road? Consider him.
Consider the man who blessed the children, healed the sick and caused the lame to walk. Consider him who spoke wisdom and taught us that we should love one another. Consider him who bore the cross to Calvary, “lest you be wearied and faint in your mind”. Does anybody dispute that if you meditate and reflect upon the example and teachings of Jesus Christ, it will make you a better person? Who in this world can disparage his life and teachings, or the example that he set? After all, he gave himself so that we might live.
But don’t forget that being an example creates a legacy and a standard for followers to live up to. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, you should also love one another.” He used himself as an example of how to love! And then he told us to do it ourselves! Not only did he present himself as our example, he challenged us to BE one as well. So here’s the question: What are you doing that’s exemplary? And who might be watching you, encouraged by your persistence, your habits, and your attitude? Consider them, too.

The greatest sermon ever heard
Had no alliteration;
You didn’t hear a single word
Of grand pontification.
There weren’t three points, a poem, a prayer–
Perhaps some teaching here and there,
But this: a life of love to share,
A cross that He alone could bear,
A servant’s heart beyond compare
Who counted the cost, who saved the lost,
Who stills the storms for the tempest-tossed,
Who lived without a sin or vice to be a perfect sacrifice;
He gave himself so we could be secured:
Consider Christ, and all that He endured…

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

Heaven: Do You Want to Know What It is Really Like? Then Read This

Everybody wants to go to heaven, but only one person has ever been qualified to talk about what it will be like when we get there. His teachings abound with references to heaven, and they are not about harps, angels, and streets of gold. In fact, most of them–like this one–should make us scratch our heads and think:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.” (Matthew 25:14-19 NKJV)
What on earth did Jesus mean about heaven?
In these verses, as He often does in the book of Matthew, Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven. It was a major theme in his preaching (see the Beatitudes, and read through his parables), and is certainly highlighted in Matthew, where Jesus used the phrase more than 50 times. Some scholars think that “heaven” is actually interchangeable with “God”, but that Jewish sensitivity to using God’s name prevented Jesus from using it unnecessarily. Since Jesus did occasionally use the phrase “kingdom of God”, I think when he says the Kingdom of Heaven, he is pointing us to something specific.
Consider this: of all the people who ever lived, Jesus alone is qualified to make distinctions about heaven. He’s the ONLY man who ever lived who had been there BEFORE he came to earth. His Father lived there, and even while on earth, Jesus spent time with him every day. When Jesus tells us about the kingdom of heaven, he is talking about a real place with a real King, and he is reminding us that we are subjects in that kingdom. So, what does that mean?
In this somewhat unusual story, Jesus describes how subjects of the king are given talents and expected to invest them wisely. Does that mean heaven is all about investments, banking, and ROI? What will it be like to live in God’s kingdom? What observations can we make? First, it appears that our citizenship begins here and now. Second, there is accountability in the kingdom; and third, all of the citizens of heaven are given assets to be accountable FOR. As you reflect on your daily activities, would you say that you are bearing fruit? Are you creating a profitable return?

In terms of heaven, how do we apply this story? I think a good way to start is to understand the benefits and responsibilities of living in the Kingdom. Retell this story to yourself by putting God in the place of the man who was traveling, and your own name in place of the servants. “The kingdom of heaven is like the Lord, who called ____________ (YOUR NAME HERE) and gave talents to you, according to your ability. After a long time, God came and settled your account.” So what talent(s) do you think the king given has given you? And what have you done with them? Have they been used profitably? Being a good subject means that you can’t hide your talents. What are you doing with them? Someday you will settle accounts with the one who gave them to you: invest them wisely.

Thoughts of heaven may inspire a throne that burns with Holy Fire,
Or angels sitting on a cloud and singing songs of praise real loud.
But Jesus knew of heaven’s ways–
He’s the Alpha-Omega, the Ancient of days–
He spoke of a king that none could denounce,
Who will look at our books and will settle accounts.
He will show us our talents and tell us our story,
Asking if we used our gifts for His glory;
And we will be utterly chastened to find
That we wasted our talents and gifts, and our time…
He’s the King we are serving, we don’t have to wait
‘Til we’re standing in front of the heavenly gate!
The Kingdom of Heaven begins here, today:
Don’t take all your talents and hide them away,
But put them to work for the King and his Son;
When He settles accounts, He will tell you, “Well done.”

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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Redemption: How Much Does It Cost? And Are You Worth the Price?

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Ephesians 1:7-10, NIV)

If you read these verses, this is a pretty good list. Paul says not only are we redeemed and forgiven, but that God has lavished grace upon us and revealed to us the mystery of his will. Those are all amazing things to think about, and all of them are connected to Christ’s sacrifice for us. Paul maintains that it is through the death of Jesus that we are forgiven, given grace, and brought into God’s family under Christ’s leadership. Stop and think for a minute about the first thing on the list, redemption. As Christians, we have been redeemed, and I bet we haven’t spent five minutes thinking about how important that is. There are two things about redemption that stand out to me. The definition of redemption is “the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.” If you traded your wedding ring or smart phone to a pawn shop in exchange for a loan, then you can’t have it or use it anymore until you REDEEM it by paying back the loan. In ancient times, prisoners taken in war would be held captive until someone paid a price for them and bought them back from slavery. They had to be REDEEMED by someone who loved them enough to buy them back. The whole process is linked to something (or someone) being held as collateral for a price. In your case, YOU were taken hostage by Death, and only God cared enough to redeem you from Death’s captivity by paying its price. Sin and the Fall forced everyone in this world into captivity to Death; only by being redeemed can we escape Death’s penalty and experience a different quantity and quality of life. Being released from Death is awesome, but there is a second and more subtle result of redemption.

16 Aug 1957 — 8/16/1957-Levittown, Long Island, NY- Loaded down with premiums, a happy mother and daughter leave the King Korn Redemption Center (at 2841, Hempstead Turnpike) in Levittown, Long Island, NY, after exchanging their trading stamps for a variety of goods. Stamp savers can walk out of these stores with anything from baseballs to electric broilers. The firm has found that the average family fills one stamps-saver book of 1500 stamps a month. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

When I was little, my mom would get S & H Green stamps at the grocery store and paste them in a book. When she had enough books, we’d go to the redemption center, which was like a store full of things that you could buy with your stamps. There were things like toasters, lamps, and hair-dryers you could get for a few books of stamps; and there were washing machines, refrigerators and furniture for LOTS of books. But the merchandise would sit there, unclaimed and unused until someone wanted it and redeemed it.

Those toasters never toasted, the washers never washed, and the merchandise never fulfilled its purpose as long as it remained unredeemed. It sat there in the store just waiting for someone to claim it, take it home and use it. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? WE were like that. We had been put on the shelf by death, set aside as unwanted and unclaimed. But God loved us enough to pay the price for us! He redeemed us! So here’s the question: now that you’ve been redeemed, have you been put to use? Are you glad that someone paid for you?

In the movie “Saving Private Ryan” a platoon is sent across war-torn France to find the last survivor from among the four Ryan brothers who were killed serving in World War II. The War Department had a policy that was designed to keep a family from losing its last surviving son, so men were dispatched to located him and extract him from the field of battle. Ultimately he is found and rescued, but there is a great cost.

Later on, long after the war he visits the Normandy grave of the team leader who helped to save his own life, and reflects on D-Day and the horrible things men experienced in combat (things he himself went through). Team Leader John H. Miller was played by Tom Hanks, and most of his team was killed finding and saving Private John Francis Ryan. There is a pivotal moment near the end of the film between Miller and Ryan. As he lay wounded amidst the ruins of battle, Miller wearily looks around at the sacrifices made on Ryan’s behalf, looks him in the eye and exhorts him to “Earn this!”, and then dies.

The movie begins and ends at a cemetery in Normandy, where the older James Francis Ryan visits Miller’s grave as Ryan’s wife, children and grandchildren look on. In a very touching scene, while his family waits in the background, Ryan speaks to the grave, and affirms that he has tried to live up to Miller’s exhortation. In tears, he asks his somewhat confused wife, who has come up beside him, “Have I lived a good life? Have I been a good man?” He seeks affirmation that he was worthy of the sacrifice made for him.

Perhaps that is something all of us should do as we pray from time to time. Since Christ redeemed us, we don’t have to EARN it: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) But perhaps, in thinking of our redemption, we should remember the price, and strive to be WORTHY of it.

Back when I was little, and my mom would save some stamps,
She'd take them down to S & H for toasters, or for lamps.
We'd go to the Redemption Store, where there was lots of stuff,
And you could buy a couch with stamps if you had saved enough!
Saving Private Ryan tells about the brutal cost
That's paid to find John Francis Ryan, whose brothers had been lost;
The team who finds him has to fight their way through hell on earth,
And they exhort him to remember what his life is worth,
Reminding him of efforts made for him--that lives were lost--
Exhorting him to live his life remembering the cost...
If you've ever been redeemed, whatever you may do,
Do you ever count the cost of what God did for you? 
If you ever think of Christ, it might just make you weep
To know redemption might be free, but it was never cheap...

 

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 Ransom for Sin: It’s A Matter of Life and Death

In the Old Testament times, the Israelites were required to pay something like a ransom for sins, in the form of an offering. “And he brought the bull for the sin offering. Then Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull for the sin offering, and Moses killed it. Then he took the blood, and put some on the horns of the altar all around with his finger, and purified the altar. And he poured the blood at the base of the altar, and consecrated it, to make atonement for it.” (Leviticus 8:14-15, NIV)

I have wondered about sacrifices. It was a messy, bloody business, certainly an uncivilized way to do church. And yet the Hebrew priests and people participated in all manner of animal sacrifices to atone for sin. Why? Because the justice system of the universe treated sin like a deadly disease. Very early on, in Genesis 2:17, God warned Adam about the forbidden tree: “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Guess what? Adam and Eve didn’t die that day, but they both experienced the certainty of sin’s penalty thereafter. So have all of their descendants. In essence, mankind was kidnapped by sin in the garden, and Satan demanded the appropriate ransom.

In Romans 6:23, Paul reminds us that sin has a result: “for the wages of sin is death”. Leviticus 17:11 points out that Life of the flesh is in the blood. Sin is a life and death matter, and sacrifices provided a graphic reminder of sin’s penalty. Every time the Israelites killed an animal they were reminded that only death could satisfy the legal requirements for being disobedient. The ransom had to be paid.

There is no other way to deal with sin, and no way to get around it. Only by being sinless could someone avoid sin’s ultimate penalty, but no one could accomplish that, so God provided a temporary means for men to illustrate how that penalty would be paid until the permanent solution could occur. These temporary animal sacrifices helped prepare the way for the permanent necessary sacrifice that was to come. It was only by the willing substitution of the perfect man that sin’s debt for mankind could be paid. It’s important to remember that Jesus was a volunteer, not a victim. As he said in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Sin and death kidnapped you, with the worst of intentions, and demanded that you pay the full price for all that you have done. But there is some AMAZING news! If you have been captured or held hostage by sin, the ransom’s been paid!

Think, today, as you draw each breath,
the wages for all your sin is death!
Whatever you think, and whatever you’ve planned
Is hostage, held by death’s demand.
You pled your case to the Righteous Judge,
But He said the Law just couldn’t budge,
So Jesus took your ransom cost
And satisfied it on His cross:
In spite of every mistake you’ve made,
When the Reaper swings his deadly blade,
In spite of the way you’ve disobeyed,
Great news! Your ransom has been paid!

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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Mercy is not just something you need to get. It’s also something you need to GIVE

Can you imagine a world without mercy? Have you stopped lately to consider how important mercy can be? This Psalm says it well: “Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.” (Psalm 119:76-77, NIV)

Do you need a little more love and mercy in your life? David did. Consider his life and fortunes, and I bet you can relate somehow. David knew about the importance of love and mercy. He was the least and smallest brother, the sheep-tender, stuck way out in the pasture while his older siblings did the important stuff. He knew what it was like to feel lonely, vulnerable, unappreciated. He was the least popular kid in middle school.

When Samuel came to choose Israel’s future king from among Jesse’s sons, David was an afterthought, only brought in from the pasture when Samuel asked “Are these all the sons you have?” (1 Samuel 16:11) After he was anointed as the future king, he rose to the heights of celebrity by killing Goliath. You’d think a hero like David had it made now, right? Wrong. Saul’s murderous jealousy turned David into a fugitive, hiding in caves and running through the badlands. He had to consort with enemies and feign madness. His future seemed uncertain at best, so he depended on the promise of God and comforted himself with God’s steadfast love. I’m sure there were many times where David prayed, “Let your mercy come to me, that I may live.”

Then Saul was killed, and David became king. But it must have been a bittersweet moment for him, because his best friend Jonathan was killed along with Saul, so David’s ascension was tempered by harsh reality. Life is like that, isn’t it? But once again, “let your mercy come to me, that I may live…”

Then David became king, so he’s set now, right? Wrong. He gets bored, commits adultery, and then has Uriah killed trying to cover up his sin. Then Nathan called him out in front of everybody. Most despotic monarchs would have killed Nathan and denied everything, but not David. He confessed and threw himself at God’s feet. He dealt with the consequences of his actions the rest of his life. He experienced humiliation, rebellion, heartache and loss. But David found God’s mercy and lived.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you’ve been under appreciated. Perhaps you have felt adrift in circumstances, just making your way the best you can. Maybe you’ve been on top of the world. Maybe you have fallen from that mountaintop… I certainly have a couple of times, and let me tell you, it is lonely and painful. Perhaps you know that, too…

In this life, love and mercy are both things we all could use more of. Here’s a secret: you’ll find them in the Bible. They are in the story of David, and they leap from the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Matthew, John, and Paul. God’s mercy changes people. God’s people change the world. In 1 Timothy 1:16, Paul said, “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” If you study the Bible with an open heart, it will set you free by bringing you love, mercy, and promises to live by today. And tomorrow… And the next day….And oh yeah, every day after that.

Lord, when I rebel and turn my face away from your encouragement and grace;
When I listen to those inner voices, following them with stupid, selfish choices;
When I wander from your love and care, and find myself immersed in dark despair,
When I’ve given all I have to give: Be merciful to me, that I may live.

 

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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Foundation: Build Your House Upon the Rock That Won’t Roll

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his foundation on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27, NIV)

When it comes to building, everything in the structure depends on the foundation. Jesus knew about construction because he was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3), so his statement about what makes a house strong is more than just common sense, it is a professional opinion.

If you think about a foundation, it is below the surface, something that you can’t really see, that doesn’t draw your attention. We spend far more time looking at the aesthetic details of a house than at its foundation; but if the foundation fails, all the designer details fail with it. If the house collapses, then the wall texture, the upgraded light fixtures and the crown molding have all become worthless. It’s not only true about construction, it’s also true about life.

Whatever philosophy or religion you choose to build upon better have a good foundation. In our world we build upon all sorts of foundations. Some of them are authentic, and some of them are not. Even when they are not true, people still build elaborate structures upon them, and then add many details to draw your eye away from the foundation. The shifting sands of falsehood may hold things up for a while, but Jesus said that such structures will ultimately fall. He also said, “Whoever hears these sayings of mine, and DOES THEM” is a wise person who has built on the rock.

What do you think of Jesus’ sayings? How many of them are you familiar with? Jesus taught somewhere between 33 and 60 parables, depending on who is keeping score and how you define and count them. They are all in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) although some scholars feel that the Good Shepherd and the Vine are parables in John’s Gospel as well. How many can you name? I know a lot of people who think they know about Jesus but couldn’t name more than four or five of his parables… Have you ever actually read them all? Have you ever thought about practicing what they preach?

I think if you give them careful consideration, you just might find that Jesus 1) was incredibly wise, and 2) offers a solid foundation upon which to build your life. Napoleon Bonaparte is reported to have said this: ““Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but on what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.” History proves that Napoleon was right. Those empires are all gone, swept away by the shifting sands of time and deceit. The Kingdom of God remains, secure upon the rock. Jesus said, (Matt 24:35) “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away.” Did he tell the truth? So far, so good…

Napoleon and Caesar both had armies to command,
But history shows their empires were just built on shifting sand.
Jesus recommended that we build upon his sayings,
When storms and wind descend and we can feel our structure swaying.
Know the things that Jesus taught, and what he had to say;
His words will stand forever, though all else will pass away.
Build a firm foundation on His message and His calling:
When trouble comes, His wisdom may just keep your house from falling.

 

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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Doing Good: The Best Way to Silence all of Your Critics

“For this is the will of God, that by doing good * you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (I Peter 2:15, NKJV) I think sometimes that Christianity is losing the debate out there… Our world seems to be changing around us, and when Christians try to stand for conservative values and sensible morality, they are dismissed as oppressive or old-fashioned, held up to ridicule, and even arrested.

Our culture believes that killing a fetus is ok, that it is reasonable to change genders, and that authority should be challenged. Social media is filled with debates where it is obvious that one side will not convince the other, and harsh words fly back and forth without affecting anyone who holds the opposing point of view (Except perhaps to make them more angry and more entrenched in their unreasonable position.)

Dialog has ceased in favor of diatribe; interaction has deteriorated into insults and invective. These types of personal attacks seem to be common whether the subject is abortion, gay marriage, politics, or race. Maybe you’ve been drawn into a Facebook or Twitter argument, and were surprised at the passion and hatred that was thrown your way. Did it change your mind about anything? Probably not.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that no one has ever been forcibly argued into the Kingdom of God. It is a volunteer organization. Anyone can join, and everyone has a choice. If you think about it, wouldn’t everybody want to join a group whose main values are grace, love, and peace? So why are churches shrinking? Why are so many people turned off by organized religion? Why is the vocal minority expanding, claiming huge chunks of Kingdom territory for its own, and why are Millennials leaving the church? Could it be that “ignorant men” are winning the debate because the people the Church is trying to reach are not being overwhelmed by goodness?

It is not a Christian’s mission to be moral or righteous; God gives us righteousness by faith. Peter says that God’s will is for us to do good things. Could it be that too many Christians are concerned with BEING good instead of DOING good? It could open up an existential debate. Descartes and Kant said, “To do is to be”. Socrates and Nietzsche said, “To be is to do.” Does what we believe show who we are, or does who we are show what we believe?

Jesus knew that what we do is a reflection of who we are, and so he said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” (Matthew 12:35) He agreed with the great modern philosopher Frank Sinatra, who said “Do-Be-do-Be-do.” A quote I remember from college was from Peter Lord, who said: “What you REALLY believe shows in your life every day. All the rest is just Christian talk.”

The point is, we Christians will not silence ignorance by our crafty arguments or by being “holier-than-thou”. Peter says we will share our faith with those who disagree most effectively by doing good to others. And if you think, “Well, I do lots of good things, so I’m covered”, then consider the twist James puts on it: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) Voltaire echoed that verse when he said, “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do.” Have you done good things? Good! Is there more we can do? Absolutely. Let’s get out there and argue with our good works. Change the debate and change the world.

When other people see your life, assume that this is true:
They do not listen to your words, but to the things you DO.
The world is full of ignorant men who argue night and day;
The church will never reach them merely by the things we SAY.
St Frances preached perhaps the greatest sermon ever heard:
"I preach Christ always; but, when necessary I use words."
Less debate, less judgment and less hate should be unfurled:
Change debate to love, and then go out and change the world.

*(And to all your grammarians out there, yes I know that technically it should be “do well” or “do good [things]”, and not “do good”, so just assume that where I have said, “do good” I am actually inferring the correct form. I was conforming with the King James version in writing this.)

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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Perspective: What You can’t See is What you SHOULD See

We are concerned about many temporary outcomes in this world, and yet we are unconcerned about eternal ones. Perhaps we have the wrong perspective…

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:28-31, NIV)

Have you had a bad week? Are there times when you feel under the pile, alone and neglected, and you’re just not feeling it? There are two things that jump out of this passage, and both of them have to do with perspective. In order to consider that, I think you have to start by putting perspective itself into perspective. A woman named Edith was at the deathbed of her longtime husband Ralph. He looked up at her and said, “Edith, I remember playing football in high school and breaking my leg. You rushed over from the cheerleading squad and you were right there with me. Then, later in college when I almost flunked out and quit, Edith, you were right there with me. And when we got married and started our own business, and it failed, you were right there with me. And now here I am in the hospital, with a bad heart, and Edith you are right here with me… You know, Edith, I’m beginning to think you are BAD LUCK!” Sometimes in life, how you look at things makes a very big difference in how you FEEL about things


.
Jesus says that the way we look at things is wrong. First, he says, we are consumed with the temporary when we are participating in the eternal. Our perspective is wrong. Our spiritual life is far more important (and far longer) than our physical life, and yet where is our focus? Do you spend more time each day taking care of your physical body—cooking and eating, drinking, working out, bathing, deciding what to wear, doing nails, applying makeup, doing hair, shaving, etc.—than you spend on your spiritual self? Change your perspective. Don’t stress over temporary stuff while ignoring the eternal stuff. Then he reminds us that we need to shift our perspective on what has value. Small things matter. Intimacy matters. Jesus says that “the very hairs on your head are all numbered”, and that God is aware of what is happening in your life down to the smallest details. If that’s true, then we can take heart knowing He cares about us so intimately. In 1905, Civilla Martin and her husband were visiting a couple named Doolittle in Elmira, New York. These friends were quite cheerful in spite of several afflictions. She says: “One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” In the hymn Civilla Martin wrote that year it says, “I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.” Jesus says that if God is aware of a tiny sparrow’s fall, then take heart: He values YOU, and He is aware of your afflictions as well.

When it feels like life is hard no matter what you do,
It may not just be circumstance: it might depend on YOU.
The Lord sees great and mighty things; He sees the sparrow, too;
You may think God doesn’t know just what we’re going through,
So change your life by changing to a brand new point of view:
His eye is on the sparrow, and He watches over you.

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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Words Matter: Is What you say Helping or Hurting?

Words matter, don’t they? Have you ever stopped to consider the power of words and how much they influence what we think and what we do?
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11, NKJV). This quote from Proverbs extolls the positive potential of words and reminds us that they are actually communications currency. They express how we feel and what we think. Without them we are on an island longing for expression.

When I went to Angola in 1975 as a BSU Summer missionary, I discovered that culture shock was not being surprised by what other people do, or dealing with “When in Rome”, but it was the difficulty of communicating, of having things to say and being unable to say them. In a Portuguese speaking nation, my halting Spanish only helped a little, and I became frustrated over the narrow boundaries it set for me. I could barely get directions or ask for help (and that was with the Portuguese, forget about trying to understand any of the very common native dialects like Mbundu or Ki Mbundu). It was ironic that I was proud of being called articulate in an article written about my upcoming trip, and I floundered around in frustration once I got there. I felt like I was stupid and slow, and was sure that everyone else felt that way about me too. I realized how much of my image of myself was tied to being able to say words, or in this case, being UNABLE to say them…

Words have magnitude. They can assassinate character and start wars. Words can connect us or they can divide us. Solomon knew the value of words, and he compared them to expensive jewelry. He said that ONE word spoken at the right time was a treasure, a work of beauty and craftsmanship. He compared it to something beautiful made from precious metals, something temporary that offered lasting and incorruptible value. One easy application of this verse is: say something nice to everyone you meet today. Give them verbal jewelry, and bless them with spoken treasure that has lasting value.

And while you are thinking about saying nice things, don’t forget that what we say cuts both ways: Do you remember the nicest thing someone ever said to you? (Probably not) But I bet you remember the meanest. There are things that still come back to me from middle school and high school, hurtful words that I remember from over 45 years ago, sitting there still trying to hide the golden apples in my memory. So today, give someone words of encouragement that will stand atop all those old words of discouragement. Give them fresh shiny jewelry that sparkles from the corners of their minds. Speak something “fitly” today!

Jesus understood the value of words, too. He said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Luke 21:33) So far (although it’s only been 2000 years) he is absolutely correct. He says that words are the one currency we handle here on earth that will mean something in eternity. What we say here, and how we feel about words will matter forever. “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26) Get to know what Jesus says, and do not be ashamed of it. You might find that it’s worth far more than apples of gold in settings of silver.

A word fitly spoken can heal a heart broken,
And can feel like a gift while it offers a lift!
A word can be used to deliver tomfoolery,
Or it can be like some beautiful jewelry,
Meant to embellish, to bless, to adorn!
Such words are a gift that is meant to be worn!
It’s easy to give them; just try it, you’ll see
They are silver and gold you can give folks for free.

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 to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle edition, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160023&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread