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

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

Jesus claims to have power over death and to be the key to life after death. Think about how you might react if someone you knew made that claim, and really believed it and meant it. Well, that’s the same thing everyone around Jesus must have thought. They looked at him a little sideways and started getting the commitment papers ready…

He’s gotta be crazy to say that, right? He ACTUALLY says, “I am the resurrection”. (Of course, he does raise Lazarus from the dead right after this, and he does come back from the dead later himself…) BUT, If THIS claim isn’t true, he’s just another guy. A good teacher, yeah; a wise man, yeah, but if this statement isn’t true then He was just a revolutionary rabbi with a short career.

If Jesus did not triumph over death, then there is no greater reason to follow him than there is to follow Buddha, or Joseph Smith, or the Dali Lama… There have been plenty of teachers/preachers/rabbis/wise men/charlatans who have spoken persuasively and offered spiritual truth in various forms.

So why pay attention to Jesus? The resurrection changes everything. If this isn’t true, then we should just “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” We are wasting time being good and serving when we could be concentrating on accumulating fat stacks of cash, making a name for ourselves, or just flat-out partying. Forget all that selfless love stuff and look out for old Number One. Do your own thing. YOLO! Life is short: work hard; you’re gonna die, so play harder. If there’s no resurrection, there’s no hope, and no reason to serve…

resurrection

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

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

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

We can party just as hard as anyone, only we don’t have to experience regrets like “How did I get this tattoo?” or “Dude, where’s my car?” or the walk of shame, or hangovers. The Christian life was meant to be abundant and full, and we have all been invited to the wedding feast. We don’t even have to wait in order to start the party!

Eternal life starts NOW. It’s not that we can’t/shouldn’t party right now—it’s really the only way that, in the words of the great Robert Earl Keane, “the road goes on forever, and the party never ends.” Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” If that’s true, then the party will go on forever! Start now. Party on!

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

To purchase my newest 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

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

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

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

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

wise

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

Solomon doesn’t say that we are gifted with wisdom all at once, in an instant. He says we can hear it, and we can watch daily at the gates, waiting expectantly to receive it. Who are you listening to that gives you wisdom? Where do you wait expectantly to receive it? There are lots of types of “wisdom” in this world, but Godly wisdom seems to be a rare commodity.

Here’s an exercise: keep track how much time you spend reading or listening to men’s opinions each day, and then compare it to how much time you spend hearing wise, God-inspired instruction. If you were honest, I’d bet you were surprised at the disparity between those different sources.

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

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

To purchase my newest 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

Hope for the Best, Even When Things Are at Their Worst

“Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.” (Psalms 119:116 NKJV) David had a unique perspective about God’s word. He saw it as more than something to read in church, and more than a book of wisdom that helped him understand how to live. We sometimes just hit the high spots in David’s biography, but when you really look at the circumstances and events in his life, you realize that there were plenty of times that were discouraging and difficult. In spite of that he consistently found hope in what God said.

hope

As a shepherd, David sang about God’s word and meditated upon it under the stars; as a fugitive hiding in caves from Saul’s dangerous mood swings, he drew strength from it; and as a sinner he depended upon it for comfort and forgiveness. He found in the Scriptures a connection to God that upheld him and gave him strength; he was motivated by it and hopeful because of it. What gives you hope?

Having hope is a good thing. Being unashamed of it means two things: 1) you tell everybody you know about your hope—why you look forward and what you are hoping for—without hesitation or reservation. David publicly demonstrated his hope because he was confident in what the Lord had promised.

Being unashamed could also mean: 2) you will not need to be ashamed of your hope because it WILL BE fulfilled. Your confidence in your hope is justified. David exemplified both of these points of view. Perhaps that’s why he pursued God’s commandments so strenuously. “I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Your commandments. Look upon me and be merciful to me, as Your custom is toward those who love Your name.” (Psalm 119:131-132 NKJV)

The second King of Israel’s story had many chapters, and he longed for God’s word whether he was an unknown shepherd, a fugitive, a king, or a sinner. The hope he gained from his relationship with God sustained him and kept him coming back for more. David said he hungered for God’s commandments so much that he literally opened his mouth and panted.

Do you ever jump up in the morning thinking, “Wow! I can’t do anything else today until I read God’s word and get connected with him!” Or “Wow! I need God’s mercy today! Gonna dig into that Bible and let it wash over me!” Something in God’s commandments made David hunger for them… How does your appetite compare to that?

David suffered hardships and failure, yet he believed absolutely that God is merciful and reliable. His life had plenty of discouragement, but he had hope in God. Have you found anything in God’s commandments that makes you as confident as David was? He knew that God’s custom is to be merciful to those who love Him, and he took hope from that. He got up early to bask in God’s love, and he meditated upon it in the night watches.

cycle of hope

Like David, Paul also knew that hard times produce a hope in which we cannot be ashamed: “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) Have you found God’s mercy? When the world lets you down, it will hold you up.

David had to flee and hide:
He ran to caves and hid inside,
And lived in dusty, thirsty fear
That murderous Saul was drawing near.
Before bipolar was a thing, the melancholy, jealous king
Whose heart and mood would darkly swing
Was soothed when he heard David sing…
Yet even though he was David’s fan,
King Saul was still a dangerous man
Who tried to kill him. So David ran.
And somewhere in a cave at night,
Unsettled by his hopeless plight,
Young David found a way to cope
And sought God’s Word, which gave him hope.
Strengthened thus, he then proclaimed
That he would never be ashamed
Of hope in what the Lord can do.
So here it is: don’t misconstrue,
But when you’re hopeless–this is dope:
The God of grace will give you hope.

 

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

The Shocking Conversation that was Just Full of Surprises

The disciples thought they knew Jesus pretty well, but they sure didn’t see this conversation coming…

[Jesus said] “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24 KJV)

In this chapter (a great one to read, BTW) John records one of the most fascinating conversations in history. According to all religious and social standards of the day, it never should have happened. On the way from Judea back to Galilee, John says that Jesus went through Samaria. It looks like the logical path on a map, since Samaria lies right between Jerusalem and Galilee, and it may have been that Jesus was in a hurry and just took the most direct route. But most religious Jews would travel far out of their way before going through Samaria.

Rather than walking straight north, good Jews would go east through Jericho, then over across the Jordan River, north around Samaria, then back over to Galilee–a route that added hours of walking to their journey. They avoided Samaria altogether since it was considered to be a hotbed of heresy, and the Samaritans were considered to be beneath them culturally, socially and spiritually.

When the rulers and upper class Israelites were taken captive by the Assyrians in 721 BC, those Jews who were left behind a) were left from the tribes who revolted and pulled away from Judah; and b) intermarried with locals, participating in pagan worship and setting up their own temple on Mt Gerizim. Orthodox Hebrews knew that the ONLY place to worship was Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, and they despised the Samaritans as half-breeds and idolaters. An upright Hebrew would normally shun a Samaritan; he certainly wouldn’t have a conversation with one. So while it seems like an everyday occurrence, Jesus taking his disciples through Samaria was a big deal. He was going into territory no righteous rabbi would have traversed.

conversation

Then, while his disciples go to find food, Jesus shatters social and religious convention by talking to 1) a woman (talking to a strange woman was against all existing culture and convention for a Rabbi) who

2) is a lowly Samaritan (considered unclean and impure by pious Jews), and who also happens to be considered

3) immoral and socially outcast (She came to the well at midday, rather than in the morning with all the other women; she probably did this because, as a fallen woman, even the OTHER Samaritan women looked down on her).

Any one of these considerations would have made this conversation socially unacceptable or scandalous, and it explains why John said in verse 9 that “the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” and why the disciples “were surprised to find him talking with a woman” in verse 27 when they returned. When you consider all these factors, it’s clear that Christ’s participation in this conversation broke all kinds of social and religious barriers.

The conversation itself is also ground-breaking. He pulls no punches about her life and issues, and yet she never seems to feel judged or abused… And then he tells her that we should worship God in Spirit and in truth. She tries to stir up the argument about where to worship, but Jesus points out that the Father (much like the prodigal’s father, who saw him coming home from a long way off), is SEEKING us to worship him!

How do you think she felt about that? How do YOU feel about it? Do you think the Father would appreciate your worship? Do you worship with your spirit? Enthusiastically, whole-heartedly, deeply? And is there any deception influencing you that could cloud the truth? Any prejudice or assumption or half-truth that keeps you from yielding to the Father? Have your own conversation with Jesus. Maybe it’s time to break whatever conventions are keeping you from being honest with him. Your spirit will be glad you did!

The disciples never saw it coming. Jesus talked to a scarlet woman
Who happened to be a Samaritan, alone there at the well.
Although she wasn’t Abraham’s daughter,
He boldly asked her for some water! The disciples thought
He shouldn’t ought to talk to her a spell…
But Jesus knew the how’s and why’s, he didn’t believe society’s lies,
And Jesus didn’t marginalize the woman, just because…
He knew about her wasted youth; He sat with her and spoke the truth
But never once was he uncouth as they spoke about who she was.
She heard the things He had to say about his being the only way,
and the woman left redeemed that day! Her neighbors started to buzz!
And you and I are at that well:
we’ve done more things than we like to tell
(We might be headed straight to hell!)
But when we look at Jesus: we see a friend who doesn’t judge,
but sees through all our sin and sludge,
And he gives our hearts a gentle nudge
Towards the faith in Him that frees us.
If you’ll just talk to Jesus, you might find
That He can change your heart, and change your mind…

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

Knowledge Puffs Up, So Here’s What You Really Ought to Know:

“And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” (1 Corinthians 8:2 KJV) A long time ago I chose this as my life verse, thinking that having an arbitrarily closed mind is not really a Christian attribute, that knowledge in itself has limited value, and that life should be a constant opportunity to learn.

Socrates may have contributed to Paul’s logic when he taught that “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” It is sometimes challenging to try to stay intellectually open as a Christian when there are certain bedrock truths that are non-negotiable, and the idea of being dogmatic is probably seen as a negative by most folks in our culture. But being dogmatic is not necessarily a bad thing. Without bedrock, there is nothing to build upon. Perhaps it is the WAY some people are dogmatic that can be objectionable.

knowledge puffs

Paul was right when he said that “knowledge puffs one up” and contributes to pride and self-aggrandizement. It is only by allowing for our own possible ignorance that we access the opportunity for wisdom. You can’t put more treasure into a buried chest; a full Xmas stocking holds no more gifts; a sprung trap captures no more game; you can’t put ten pounds of… Well, you get the idea.

And really, if you look a little deeper, the point of our spiritual lives is not knowledge, but love. The verse right after this one says, “But if any man loves God, the same is known of him.” Paul knew that it is not knowledge but LOVE that transforms us. What fun would a friendship or a marriage be if we limited our relationship to only rational thought and knowledge, without any emotional connection? And yet we often treat God that way. It is not knowledge that completes us, but love. Paul reminded us about that in 1 Corinthians 13:13, when he said, “these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

As humans our very nature is not based on knowledge, but on loving relationships that actualize us and enable us to be who we were created to be. I don’t follow the rules just because I know them, but I follow them because I care about breaking them. Timothy Keller connects the dots like this: “The secret to freedom from enslaving patterns of sin is worship. You need worship. You need great worship. You need weeping worship. You need glorious worship. You need to sense God’s greatness and to be moved by it — moved to tears and moved to laughter — moved by who God is and what he has done for you.”

knowledge worship

How much have you been moved by God lately? You may be reading your Bible, and you may be increasing your knowledge, but when is that last time you were so moved by God that you fell in love with Him all over again? If you are in love with God, your worship will transform you and people will notice. And isn’t it a much cooler thing for someone to say, “Wow, that person really loves God!” rather than, “Wow, that person really thinks he’s smart!” Love God. Be known for it.

Go to College, get more knowledge; it will help you win debates.
Just beware and be aware that ego sometimes self-inflates.
Find your mind some worldly wisdom, it will make you self-assured;
But realize you’ll be surprised at some things wisdom does not cure.
You can’t earn and you can’t learn this truth no matter where you go:
Just Love God. That’s all you need to live, and all you need to know.

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

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; but when you truly consider what he said and taught about God’s love, he is unique among all the rabbis, teachers, and wise men who ever lived. The writer of Hebrews touches it here.

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 those who lived in all past generations. Can you think of another public figure from history that meets this criteria? Who even comes close? It’s not just the author of Hebrews who makes this assertion; so did Jesus’ best friend, John! So did Peter, Matthew, Mark and Luke. So did a Jewish zealot named Saul. The fact that everyone close to Jesus claimed that he was sinless is pretty unique, and sets Jesus apart from, well… everyone.

consider leaders

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  “In him [Jesus] was no sin.” (1 John 3:5)

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.

consider Christ

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 his very life 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, 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

The World Changes Faster Than Ever These Days, But Remember This: Grace Doesn’t

Stop and think for a moment about all the changes you’ve seen just in the last couple of years… Or back up and take a longer view of the changes that have happened in the last fifty years, when the world had no cell phones or personal computers. Everything changes so rapidly it is hard to keep up!

Well, the Bible has a take on change: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10, NIV)

The world is changing all around us at a pace unequalled in human history. Each generation likes to talk about “the good old days”, when things were simpler and life was less stressful and less complex. But no generation has ever witnessed the changes and the rate of change that we have experienced over the last 50 years, which shows no sign of slowing down; if anything, it seems to be accelerating.

changes happen fast

The flow of information has accelerated exponentially, and you are exposed to more messages (both good and bad, true and false) in a WEEK than the average person 50 years ago received in a lifetime. Today there are over 35 billion Google searches every month. In 2006, there were only 2.7 billion. In 1992 there were a million internet devices. Today there are more than FIFTEEN billion (and growing). To put it in Isaiah’s words, changes are “shaking the mountains”.

Opinions, discoveries, and facts are flying at us at a rate faster than we have the ability to process. The amount of new technical data is said to be doubling every two years, which means that a 4 year technical college student will find that what she learned her freshman year is out of date by the time she is a junior. The amount of new information generated in 2015 surpassed the total amount of annual new information generated (combined) over the last FIVE THOUSAND years.

changes phone

We are a generation immersed in change, forced to do things in new ways while leaving traditional values behind. One in seven couples who gets married in America today met on the internet. Gender is a choice. The average employee will have held 10 jobs by the time they are 38. Our world has been shaken by continuous, rapid change. Social gatherings consist of people getting together to sit separately and look at their phones.
Electronic connection has overtaken the personal touch in our world, and it makes you wonder if the best things in life are still free.

Isaiah says that there is a constant in the midst of a changing world. “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” Love and peace are still the two things everybody wants, and the two things sometimes hardest to find. Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” While the mountains are shaken and the hills are removed, God’s unfailing love surrounds and supports us. “The Lord”, Isaiah says, “has compassion on you.” God’s love offers us peace in the midst of turmoil and consistency in the midst of change.

Today’s message is simple and it is clear: The world changes. Grace doesn’t.

In cities, or on the open range
The only constant thing is change.
People, Data, growth, disaster
Fly around us ever faster,
Causing things to rearrange:
But don’t worry, that will change.
You can’t run, and you can’t hide,
No matter what you’ve done, or tried
The changes come at us so fast
It seems like nothing good will last!
Blast these changes! So infernal,
Is there nothing that’s eternal?
In a world of speed and sham,
There’s always him: the Great I AM.
Change will fly through time and space,
Moving at a faster pace,
And mountain tops will be replaced,
But this abides: Amazing Grace.

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

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. Wait, what?! 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 from this passage?

First, it appears that our citizenship in heaven 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, what resources have you been given? Would you say that you are bearing fruit? Are you creating a profitable return?

heaven investment

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, 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

Promises You Should Know, Promises You Should Claim!

“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” (2 Peter 1:4, NIV)

promises

How long has it been since you explored the promises of God? According to BibleInfo.com, someone has counted 3573 promises in the Bible. Bible Gateway.com lists 127 uses of the word promise in the NKJV. How many of them do you know? How many have you claimed?

According to Peter, God has given us “great and precious” promises that enable us to share in his divine nature. What promises do you think Peter had in mind when he wrote this? Was he thinking of God’s promises to Noah, Abram, Moses, and David? As Christians, those promises extend to us, and God’s covenant with them is also His new covenant with us. Are you familiar with the terms and promises of the covenant? They are part of God’s precious promises to YOU.

Peter would have been familiar with the law and the prophets; and he would have certainly been familiar with the teachings of Jesus. (You remember, Peter’s best friend, Rabbi, mentor, hero, redeemer…) Maybe he was thinking of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He may have been thinking of Ezekiel 36:26: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” He may have been reflecting on Pentecost and thinking of what Jesus said in John 16:7: “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

There are so many precious promises that applied to Peter but that also apply to YOU. Do you know them? Have you claimed them? Perhaps he thought of God’s ability to provide peace in a violent world: Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is fixed upon Thee; because he trusts in Thee.” Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27). Are you peaceful? Do you believe God’s promises enough to find peace when circumstances dictate otherwise?

God’s word offers more than promises about peace; it offers ways to deal with success and failure. Peter, who was a passionate and impetuous man, experienced extreme highs and lows in his relationship with Jesus. In the same chapter when Jesus promised him the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16), Jesus also rebuked him as worldly, calling him “Satan”. Peter was willing to take up a sword to defend Jesus and yet denied him on the same night. Peter the leader became Peter the loser; and Peter the disciple became Peter the denier. After he refused to identify with his Lord, the three synoptic gospels record that Peter “wept bitterly”–not the kind of response you’d expect from a man who was tuned in to God’s promises…

John recorded the way Peter was restored by Jesus by the Sea of Galilee (John 21), but he also took note of what Jesus said in verses 18-19: “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.” Circumstances were not always going to be easy for Peter, but I bet he claimed God’s great and precious promises to the very end, and I bet he thought of something else written by his good friend John, the most important promise of all:
“And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.” (1 John 2:25, NKJV) It’s a pretty good promise, and John says it belongs not just to Peter, but to us! Know it. Claim it.

Peter made the brashest boast, then failed the man he loved the most;
There in the courtyard, he denied his friend and had to run and hide,
A broken man who could not keep his promise, and it made him weep.
But later Peter was restored to service by the Risen Lord:
So Peter preached at Pentecost to thousands who had once been lost!
Despite his prior, bitter tears, he led the church for many years,
As proof of God’s amazing grace, redeemed again from his disgrace.
Full of power, grace and glory, this is God’s redemptive story;
That we should all be witnesses to great and precious promises,
That lift us far from our mistakes. God’s promises are all it takes.

 

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

An Ode to Debt: To the One Who Paid the Debt We Owed

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 12:8-10, NIV)

First Corinthians 13 is certainly a wonderful description of love, but Paul wrote another love chapter in Romans 12 that actually extends about halfway into Romans 13. It is chock full of practical applications about love. The first seven verses exhort Christians to respect authority and to obey those in authority over them, because love is not rebellious or selfish. He encourages us to “give everyone what you owe them”, whether it be financial, social, or spiritual. (Taxes, revenue, respect, honor…)

Who do you owe something to? Paul says we are to live as if we have a “continuing debt of love to one another.” Think for a moment about the people in your life; who are you indebted to? Is there anyone to whom you owe a heart-felt ‘thank you’, an apology, or a kind word? Is there anyone to whom you should express respect or honor? What is keeping you from completing that transaction? Paul then draws his logical progression of thought to a close with an important conclusion about love: it is debt-free.

The law is based upon debt. When you break the law, you owe a penalty for what you did. It is only by paying the penalty that you can atone for your transgression and obtain pardon. The fundamental problem with sin and selfishness on a cosmic scale is that we accumulate more debt than we can repay, and God’s righteousness requires payment for justice to be served.

debt paid

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Love paid the debt, and Paul says the only way to keep from incurring further debt is to live in love. Once again he echoes the teachings of Jesus (how did he know so much about what Jesus taught without a printing press or even the internet?), who said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-39) Love fulfills the law in several ways. It offers payment for the penalty of the law; it offers freedom in the presence of the law; and it prevents our falling further under the power of the law. It’s not money or stuff that enables you to live debt-free, it’s only love. Go do something loving today. Send a word of encouragement. Mend an old fence. Say that ‘thank you’ to someone you once carelessly forgot to thank. Give a hug. Or just get down on your knees and remember who you were most indebted to, and who paid the debt.

Heaven: everyone wants in,
But everyone is touched by sin;
Remember as you draw each breath,
The wages for your sin is death.
You owe a debt you cannot pay
No matter what you do or say.
In spite of all the plans you’ve made,
You have a debt that must be paid.
But God reached out to you, and me,
And Jesus paid our penalty.
He superseded time and space,
And offered us amazing grace:
He paid our debt. He took our place.

 

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