The Mighty Works that Don’t Work; the Foolishness that Does

Do you attain righteousness by what you do? Is a person justified by their works? The Bible says this: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’.” (Romans 1:17, NIV)

One of the biggest conundrums about being a Christian is the idea of justification by faith. It seems counter-intuitive to most that salvation is gifted by faith, and cannot be gained by doing good works. For legalistic and self-righteous man it is an astounding thing, one of the hardest concepts to grasp, and one of the most difficult things to accept. We just can’t believe that righteousness can be given apart from the good works we do.
Religion depends upon people earning their way into God’s favor, or achieving enlightenment, but those things are not consistent with the Biblical view of God. The Bible teaches that God requires righteousness (since He can’t abide sin), and since man is unable to earn it with works, God gives it to man for free. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” The people who work for God’s favor will always resent those who accept it as a gift. Religion based on works instead of grace becomes a full-time job…

That’s why the Pharisees could not see who Jesus was (they didn’t believe in Him). It’s why Satan fell (He had faith in himself rather than God). It’s why the Roman Catholic Church condemned Martin Luther to death for nailing this statement to the door as one of his 95 Theses in Wittenberg. They couldn’t imagine that sin’s penalty had been paid apart from their system of penances and indulgences. Self-centered man cannot accept the fact that God would give him that which costs everything for nothing. It defies human logic.

That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The message of the Gospel is not works, or righteousness out of duty or obligation; it is not about striving or attaining perfection. It is about God giving the perfect gift to us imperfect men; and it is about our pursuing righteousness out of gratitude rather than obligation. Faith begets righteousness, not the other way around. You can’t work your way to grace. Accept God’s free gift. Be astounded by the overflowing measure of grace. Think about the cost of it all, and shed a grateful tear. Then remember the foolishness of it all, and smile, and embrace the power of God…

The Righteous Lord cannot abide our fallen, sinful state;
Our works don’t make us righteous, even if we’re good, or great!
Because we want to work our way to holiness–or near it–
The message of the cross is foolishness to most who hear it;
It proclaims that works don’t work, no matter how hard we chase:
The just shall live by faith, and sinners must be saved by grace.
Stop hoping, then, in mere good works to give your soul a lift,
And open the Father’s foolish, graceful, unbelievable gift.

 

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

 

Fruit is the External, Visible Result of an Internal, Unseeable Process

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25 NASB) What do you know about fruit? The Bible has used it in connection with our spiritual journey since the Garden of Eden.

Eve was drawn to it in Genesis 3:6: “the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye…” She could have eaten ANY fruit but was more tempted by the forbidden fruit. (Does that still happen today?)

Fruit is colorful, refreshing, juicy, and tasty. It is the external result of an internal process. The plant or tree takes in light and nourishment, and produces the appropriate resulting fruit. From a biological standpoint, a piece of fruit is actually like a lifeboat for seeds. It harbors seeds surrounded by sustenance, so that when it falls to the ground, the seeds have a better chance to grow and flourish. The flesh of the fruit will die to support the new life that can come from the seeds.

Paul says in Galatians that the spiritual life is also characterized by its fruit. There is an external result of an internal process. A person’s fruit is evident in his actions and attitudes. If I’m yielded to God’s Spirit then I should be loving, joyous, at peace, patient, kind, good, faithful—exhibiting all of the attributes of the Spirit. But perhaps the easiest litmus test is the inverse of that: if I am selfish, anxious, impatient, rude, harsh, judgmental, then I can be sure I am walking in my own way, ordering my own steps.

I have always thought that we were given God’s Spirit as Christians somewhat magically to help us live a sanctified life, and I’ve wondered why God didn’t just take over and magically change my behavior to all those really neat spiritual qualities. I’m often the same carnal guy I would be anyway. How come we as Christians do not exhibit the fruits of the Spirit all the time? Here are a couple of thoughts.

Fruit is still an external result of an internal process. Are you getting enough light and nourishment? Have you consciously crucified your fleshly nature today? Our Imposter wants to improve our flesh, have it do some good deeds, and present it as morally sufficient to the world. The Spirit, who wants to replace the flesh, requires the same process as biological fruit. The flesh must die to produce new growth, which is something Jesus spoke about in John 12:24: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Jesus says that the fruit from wheat is not merely to be food, but that its seed is produced for a larger purpose. We often think of the fruit of the Spirit as things that make US better, or help OUR behavior. But think about it. Everything on that list is something designed to help SOMEONE ELSE. A person who walks by the Spirit will be a blessing to everyone around them. Christians are not given love, joy, peace and patience as a badge of honor for good behavior but as bandage of hope for whoever needs blessing. Nail your selfish flesh to the cross today and be fruitful. Paul says there’s no law against that.

The Fruit of the Spirit is from above,
With joy and peace, and patient love.
It’s being good, and controlling your mind,
Staying faithful, and being kind.
The fruits of the Spirit are like precious jewels,
Which, Paul affirms, don’t break any rules.
So walk in the Spirit each step of the way,
Yielding yourself to Him, come what may,
And receive this fruit each and every day:
But it’s only yours to be given away.

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

 

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.

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 closed Xmas stocking gets no gifts; a sprung trap captures no more game; you can’t… 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.”

Tim Keller speaks about it 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.” 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, 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

 

Law Versus Grace: and The Reluctant Apologist Accepted

An apologist is “one who defends or supports something, such as a religion.” Saul of Tarsus zealously pursued righteousness through keeping the law until he discovered God’s reason for law and purpose for grace… “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20-21, NKJV)

Saul, a Pharisee from Tarsus, was a man striving to do the right thing. He obeyed the statutes to the letter, and he prosecuted blasphemers to its fullest extent. He was a brilliant, passionate man who feared God and wanted to do what pleased Him. He was confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), and had perhaps one of the most significant conversions to Christianity in history.

His sight was taken from him for three days, and I am sure he came to grips with his own spiritual blindness as he waited for God to tell him what to do next. As a powerful Pharisee, he originally saw the law as a means to earn God’s favor. As a sightless pilgrim, he grasped the concept of grace, and he came to understand that the law’s purpose was not to save, but only to condemn.

In Romans 3:20 he said “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” In Romans 4:15 he said “the law brings wrath.” Religion that is built upon law will always fail for two reasons: 1) The law exists only to demonstrate that men will fall short of its standards and face the wrath of a righteous God; and 2) all men will fall short of its standards.

The Apostle Paul (as Saul is known to us) knew that the law hates sinners, and he called himself the “chief of sinners”. Paul and all of us sinners were doomed under the law’s rigid standards. When Saul encountered Jesus, he stood before Christ not as a righteous Pharisee or even as a good man, but as a sinner. So it is with all of us. Often one of the biggest obstacles we have in discovering God is our own sense of righteousness. Don’t ever let doing good take the place of discovering Grace. Paul says that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. If, like me, you are a sinner who has done wicked and dishonest things, who has failed the legal requirements in so many respects, that is amazingly good news! Whatever your sins, whatever you have done to break the law, Grace is greater.

Saul of Tarsus, on that night,
When you were blinded by the light,
What did you see? What did you find
That changed your heart and changed your mind?
What caused your ruthless heart to thaw,
To see the hopelessness of law?
Was it the look on Jesus’ face
That turned you towards amazing grace?
Was it in blindness that you found
That Grace could more than sin abound?
Where legalism failed to heal,
Your righteousness from Grace was real!
When you were blinded, you could see
God’s love in perfect clarity,
And wrote so that the mystery
Of Grace–that fell on you—could fall on me.

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

 

Legalism is the Basis for Most Religions. Too Bad the First Part of Self-Righteousness is Still Self

For some people, religion is a form of legalism that embraces holiness and self-righteousness. The Apostle Paul understood all about that when he said “…[I am] found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; ” (Philippians 3:9 NKJV)

As someone who was raised in the strict tenets of Jewish orthodoxy, Paul knew all about legalism. He had kept the law from his youth. He was educated in the Scriptures, and he had spent his life pursuing righteousness. At any party or social gathering, he was probably always the most righteous person in the room. He summarized his qualifications to be self-righteous in the verses just preceding this one: “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (verses 4-6). He was so zealous in his legalism that he persecuted and killed those who opposed what he believed. (Funny how legalistic people do that in the name of religion, whether Jewish or Christian or Muslim…It’s given us the taking of the Holy Land, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and now Isis, all done in the name of following God…)

In terms of being pure, he had dotted all the “i’s” and crossed all the t’s… People who create their own righteousness will always have a subtle (or obvious) superiority complex, because they have “earned” the right to be better than everyone else. They are the speck-plank people Jesus spoke about in Luke 6:41: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” There are lots of folks can pontificate about the sins that others have while harboring their own. A self-made man often becomes his own self-made god.

One of the deeply ingrained facets of human nature is the desire to be acceptable. Not so bad in itself, but when it is extended out to its logical conclusion, it becomes a dangerous and deadly vice that moves from a natural desire to be loved and accepted to a selfish desire to attain that favor by being better than others. How many times have you seen people try to elevate themselves by stepping on the backs of others? It’s where bullying, bigotry, and racism come from. We all experienced that in middle school, but even when we’re adults it never goes away, does it? Arrogant jerks try to lift themselves up by putting someone else down; insecure people deflect from their own personal flaws by pointing out the flaws that others have.

Let me be clear: NO FOLLOWER OF JESUS DOES THOSE THINGS! Paul was a great example of that: as a young man, Paul had not only felt superior, he felt he had the right to persecute and kill Christians. Now, however, writing this letter, the former zealous Pharisee wept as he prayed for the Philippians, the very kind of people he once persecuted. What changed for Paul? He traded his legalism for love, his egotistical feelings of superiority for humility. He found a gift of righteousness he could not earn, and he says he found himself “in Christ”.

What did he mean by that? He meant that he quit being a Pharisee in order to follow Jesus—he lost his material things to become rich, stopped following the law in order to live by faith, and found himself out of control and in love. The false security of legalism paled in comparison to the fellowship he found in the sufferings and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Once Paul found Christ, he traded haughtiness for humility, cruelty for compassion, and legalism for love. He exchanged the smug superiority of the bigot for the heartfelt compassion of the converted. The self-righteous will never know the humility of the cross; those who earn their own small version of righteousness will miss the magnitude of Grace. The next time you are mad about someone else’s sin, stop for a moment to be grateful for the Grace that covered yours. If you are trying to be righteous, don’t achieve it: Accept it. It’s not what you earn but what you learn; it’s not what you achieve but what you receive; and it’s not rising above, but falling in love. Be found in Him.

The truest hope for the human race 
Is not in righteousness, but grace.
Legalism just imparts self-righteousness to human hearts.
Instead of judging sins all day,
Embrace the grace that came your way!
If you follow Jesus, know that I can't be much clearer:
The only time to judge someone is looking in the mirror.

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

 

Maybe the Best Thing About the Past is That It’s Actually a Present

If there is anything to be learned from history, it’s that we should learn from the past, but we can’t live there… The Apostle Paul put it this way: “Brethren, I do not count myself yet to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 ASV) Because he followed a worthy goal, Paul left everything behind in pursuit of his new quest. An important part of reaching his prize was being able to let go of the past, which creates an interesting question: If you’re a Christian, do you really forget the things you’ve left behind?

There are a couple of ways to look at that. We can easily get trapped by looking back in a somewhat unhealthy way, longing for unspiritual things, and the fulfillment of old, unsavory appetites. Paul talks about that in Romans 7, where he expresses frustration over the fact that he does things that he doesn’t want to do, motivated by his own sinful nature. The pull of temporary, sinful desire can certainly derail us from loftier goals. Paul challenges us to concentrate on where we are going, not on where we used to be. I think this is what Jesus meant in Luke 9:62, when he said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” When you plow a field, you have to stay focused on a point straight in front of where you want to go.

If you want to plow a straight furrow, you have to focus on what’s ahead; otherwise you will get off line and your rows will be crooked and useless for cultivation. Jesus knew that it was impossible to be fruitful and productive in the present while gazing back into the past. To paraphrase George Santayana’s famous quote, “Those who choose to stay chained to the past will be doomed to repeat it.” Release yourself from old habits and patterns by focusing on new goals and opportunities! The other mistake we often make about the past is that we fail to allow ourselves to grow beyond it. We repeat unkind messages to ourselves, we refuse to forgive ourselves, and we limit our potential based on feelings of unworthiness. In the Kingdom of God, those limitations are past. Do you see yourself the way God sees you? He’s not looking at your mistakes or failures, He sees you the way he intended you to be. He sees you complete and perfect, pristine and pure, and He has already forgotten your flaws and imperfection. Psalm 103:11-12 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” If that’s not enough assurance, then read Isaiah 43:25: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” God removes our transgressions from us and remembers them no more. If HE is willing to forget your mistakes and move on, then So. Should. You.

There are some things from your past, you wish you could delete them,
Mistakes we all should learn from so that we do not repeat them!
Forgetting that which is behind, we strive to run the race
By reaching forth to what's ahead, empowered now by grace.
We lay aside unneeded weight, and give the race our all,
As we pursue the prize extended by the Savior's call!
Press on to the mark, and towards the finish set your eyes;
Don't look back! Your race is forward, running for the prize.

 

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

 

There’s Plenty of Bad News Out There: Here’s Some GOOD News that’s the Gospel Truth

The Gospel simple means “good news”, and for many, many generations it was taken to mean something that is absolutely true. Even Mark Twain, who was critical of church-goers, often wrote colorful dialect for some of his western characters who, when referring to something being true or reliable, would say: “That’s gospel, pard.” The Apostle Paul changed his vocation, his plans, and his entire life because of the gospel, and he says this about it:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16, NIV)

The Good News

The world all around me, I just have to say
Is full of bad news that we hear every day;
There’s real news, and “fake news”, and media spin;
There’s plenty of hatred, and judgment of sin–
[And that just depends on which church you are in!]
In all of our talk about “don’ts” and the “do’s”,
There are lots of Church words that we Church people use,
Such as “gospel”– which, Paul says, means very good news.
In Old English, it’s “God-spell”. So why is there passion
Stirred up by a word that is so darned old-fashioned?
Just what is the gospel? It’s something I’ve heard
In the Church all my life; it’s a Sunday School word–
Just the kind of expression evangelists say:
So why is the Gospel important today?
If your loved one’s in surg’ry, might not make it through,
Would you hope that the surgeon brings “good news” to you?
When a marriage proposal is made, does he fear
That it won’t be “good news” from the one he holds dear?
When your boss says there’ll be some reorganization,
Do you hope for “good news” about future vocation?
When you took a hard test, and you’re given your grade,
It’s only “good news” if a good grade is made!
But the Gospel is more than a grade on a test–
It’s not news that’s just GOOD, it is news that’s the BEST!
The headline reads: “Jesus Christ died on the Cross,
Giving Life Everlasting to all who were Lost”!
The Gospel is love. It’s about life and death.
It is every last heartbeat and every last breath!
The Gospel is power and passion combined;
It’s truth, transformation, and love intertwined;
Take a look at the gospel anew, redefined,
And let it sink in to your heart and your mind:
It is news just for YOU, of the very best kind.
Jesus died for the world, we all know that is true–
It’s the oldest of news, it’s the newest of new:
But the good news means He also died just for YOU.

 

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35, NIV)

 

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

Heavenly Thoughts: In A World Full of Low Places, How High Can You Go?

Have you ever heard someone say, “Oh, wouldn’t that just be heavenly!”? The Apostle Paul probably used that phrase from time to time, and since he had once been caught up into heaven in a vision, he knew what he was talking about. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on heavenly things, not on earthly things”. (Colossians 3:1-2 NIV) What do heavenly things look like? What would life be like if we could set our hearts on heavenly things?

Stop and think: are there options heaven offers that you haven’t thought of yet? What would you want that you don’t want now, and what would you cease to want that you DO want now? What if there was something far more valuable than money, way more satisfying than pleasure, and much more comforting than food? What if this fallen world provides the merest shadows of what our Father actually intends for us to have? Take time, for instance. It is almost impossible for us, so wrapped in finite time, to imagine eternity. How much longer will it be? How will infinite time change our perspective, broaden our horizons, and expand our potential? The heavenly view of time will change everything, and we will perceive such a gap between our old earthly sense of time and our new heavenly one that we will consider the earthly view of time laughably outdated and inadequate. If you can make that comparison, then apply the same differential to everything else. Our concept of pleasure will totally change, replaced by its infinitely greater counterpart. Our ability to experience comfort and joy and love will be multiplied exponentially, and we will find that our limited view of life itself will explode into an infinitely more fulfilling one, the one that God intended us to have. So will our understanding of intimacy and relationship. Paul hints at this in 1 Corinthians 13: 12, when he says, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” God wants us to know Him as he knows us; and He wants to replace the incomplete and transient with the perfect and eternal. In “The Weight of Glory”, C S Lewis says, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Paul tells us in this to set first our hearts, and then our minds on higher, greater, heavenly things. The good can be the worst enemy of the best. Don’t keep aiming too low. First, connect your passion to the living God. Sing! Dance. Rejoice in honest prayer and test the purity of repentance. Open your heart to eternal possibilities. Then, set your mind on things above. Instead of hungering for the things of this world, discover heavenly wisdom and truth that will change your trajectory. You may just find that you’ve been aiming too low.

 

Shootin’ Too Low

On top of Ol’ Smokey, all covered with snow,
When winter time comes, Friend, why, that’s where I’ll go.
There’s nothing that brings a man laughter and cheer
Than to go out and hunt in the cold time of year;
When the snow covers all with a blanket of white
And the brisk, bracing air makes a man feel just right;
There’s nothing I know of that so entertains me
As a hunt in the snow—why, my Friend, it sustains me!
There was no better thing, I don’t mind tellin’ you
Than to hunt for some game with my Old Hound Dog, Blue…
You see…Blue was much more than a dog, or a pet:
In all of my life, he’s the best friend I’ve met:
A companion, a soul-mate; much more than a friend,
And it just broke my heart when old Blue met his end.
We were huntin’ on top of Ol’ Smokey one day
When a turkey just happened to flap out our way;
Well, Blue pointed him up, and he stood there stock-still,
When the turkey flapped over the crest of the hill,
And I, in my haste to taste fresh, roasted game,
Pulled my shotgun right up to my shoulder, and aimed,
And, as I was gettin’ that turkey in sight,
I may have been dazzled by all of that white,
when I fired at the turkey, cause something went wrong,
And I saw that shot go where it didn’t belong—
An explosion of white from a snow-covered log,
Made it hard to see Smokey, or turkey, or dog—
And I waited to look, when the powder had cleared
When my eyes were exposed to a sight that I feared…
For the turkey flew down from the snow-covered hill,
But my good old dog Blue lay there, breathless and still.
Yes, there on the ground was the dog that I loved,
For it seems that my aim was just not high enough.
On top of Ol’ Smokey, all covered with snow,
I lost my dog Blue from a-shootin’ too low…

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

Deliverance: Sometimes You Get It FROM the Stones. Sometimes, Though…

Deliverance apparently has different meanings to different people. Take Paul, for instance: “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” (2 Timothy 3:10-11 NIV) The Apostle Paul certainly experienced some incredible trials and hardships on his missionary journeys. He shared in 2 Corinthians 11 that he was flogged, imprisoned, and shipwrecked (among other things).

While writing here to Timothy, he speaks of being rescued at Antioch, Iconium and Lystra during his First Missionary journey. There’s an interesting detail to note about this: Paul rejoices in his deliverance by the Lord in each place. Sure enough, at Antioch and Iconium, he escaped angry mobs and persecution. They left Antioch and “shook the dust off their feet”. At Iconium, opposition was stirred up, but Acts 14:6-7 says, “…they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country where they continued to preach the gospel”.

At Lystra, the deliverance Luke describes is very different. Acts 14:19 says the mob caught Paul and STONED HIM and left him for dead. Yeah, you read that correctly: they hit Paul with big rocks until they assumed he was dead, and yet Paul includes that in his list of places where the Lord delivered him.

Maybe Paul’s definition of being rescued is different than mine, but I would normally classify being pelted with rocks and left for dead as a loss rather than a win. Not so for Paul. What he teaches Timothy is far more profound. He basically says that sometimes God delivers us FROM the stones, and sometimes He delivers us THROUGH the stones. Faith enables us to see that deliverance is not always the absence of hardship or pain, but it’s finding God’s comforting presence in the midst of them. On your journey, the Lord may give you a present of pure escape, when He protects you from calamity or misfortune. But the next time you are being pelted by the stones of life, remember that when you don’t receive His presents, you will definitely receive His Presence. And perhaps like Paul, you will have a broader definition of deliverance from and deliverance through.

Paul said there were many persecutions he endured,
But every time, he said, the Lord's protection was assured.
In Antioch he left the presence of an angry crowd;
He shook their dust beneath his feet and walked off strong and proud.
Iconium's unbelievers turned into an angry mob,
But Paul escaped before they had a chance to do the job.
At Lystra, Paul said God delivered him; but read the text:
You may have missed where Luke described what happened next!
The angry caught up with Paul; the Riot Act was read,
And Paul was taken up and stoned (with ROCKS!) and left for dead.
And yet, Paul says, he was delivered from the persecution,
Including Lystra, where they carried out his execution.
The stones of life will come, Paul said, so here's what you must do:
Remember God delivers FROM. And He delivers THROUGH.

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Leadership, God’s Way: Put the Wrong Kind of Leadership in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

There are lots of books and blogs about leadership; apparently God hasn’t read any of them. Instead of dominating His way into men’s affairs, He chose to place Jesus into His Kingdom like this: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…” (Philippians 2:6-7 NIV) As you consider what Paul is saying about leadership, here are a couple of observations about these verses: First, Jesus left his position in the heavenly realm and became a man.

Take a moment and just try to imagine the gap between where he was and where we are. He came from the right hand of God the Father, a position of heavenly power and glory. He left all that to come to earth. Hw did not arrive here as the reigning monarch, but he allowed himself to be placed into the tiny form of a helpless baby. He traded the omniscience of deity for the vulnerability of manhood. He left the security of his kingdom to go behind enemy lines, wagering everything in history on not his Father’s might, but His Father’s love…

He took no unfair advantage over the powers of this world, and yet he challenged them utterly with nothing but his Word and his life. He was very God of very God, and yet he demanded no riches, no opulence, no glory… Compare that with Roman Emperors, who used every advantage, leveraged every bit of power they could grasp, and even claimed to be gods! Jesus, refusing the trappings of the world, came to a common family, far away from palaces and politics. As “Jesus Christ Superstar” once pointed out, he came to earth before the printing press, mass communications, and even before social media. Quick: how many Rabbis do you remember from the first century? How many Roman Emperors? Rulers of Persia, Egypt, China? How many people who were crucified by the Roman government?

The Roman Empire is long gone, yet Jesus established a kingdom on earth that people everywhere still recognize, and his story had been told throughout history, throughout the world. His organization did not follow any earthly blueprint for success: he didn’t go to the best schools or have earthly wealth; his recruits were fishermen, tradesmen, students, and even a traitor; he came as a servant and always gave glory to someone else; he was vulnerable, honest and forthright; and he was killed at a young age by men who wielded earthly  power. Yet in spite of all of those things, his kingdom thrives today, twenty-one centuries later…

Which leads to observation #2: His leadership was totally counter-cultural. Even though he was GOD, He humbled himself. He didn’t leverage deity to try to be important, as Caesar did; he came as a servant and served. The contrast between the way Jesus led and the way our leaders do is still dramatic. How many of our Congressmen and Presidents these days are wealthy? How many of them ACTUALLY serve anyone? Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Maybe our criteria for leadership is a bit flawed… If we only selected leaders with humility who are willing to serve, I bet the world would be a better place. I bet it would look a lot more like the place that Jesus left in order to come here.

Leaders lust for power, fortune, fame, and for renown;
God took earthly leadership and turned it upside down.
Earthly leaders like to strut, but God threw them a curve,
And sent a spiritual king whose only mission was to serve.
What if leaders acted like they all were heaven-sent?
Would it change the Congress, or the current president?
Jesus was a servant. You just think of that, because
I wonder how our world would be if EVERY leader was?
For Jesus that's only way a leader is defined;
Sadly, servant leadership is pretty hard to find;
(It's not the way our leaders or our culture is inclined)
But if you're called to leadership, then please keep that in mind.

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