Weakness: The Kind That Actually Makes You Stronger

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

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

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

We share and rejoice together in victories when we win by human standards, not so much when things don’t go our way. Is it possible that it’s actually MORE miraculous when we “lose”, but experience God’s grace, and encounter His comfort in the midst of sorrow? I think the same is true about spiritual health—it’s harder to share our failures, or talk about the ways God’s secret grace has brought us out of the depths of our own depravity, but if we encountered God’s power in our weakness, then it’s truly miraculous.

I can honestly say that whatever worth I have in this world is based solely on God’s grace and forgiveness, not upon my wit or charm. Had I been the only architect of my fate, the structure of my life would have collapsed and burned long ago, compromised by inherent weaknesses and mistakes.

weakness

I have found over the years that if I’m left to my own devices, I will fall into personal selfishness and fail (usually on an impressive scale). I will turn away from sanctification and embrace sin. I will exercise greed instead of grace, lust instead of love, and hate instead of holiness…I can’t possibly give you all the details about how ugly and selfish and foolish I have been, but trust: my life should easily be a testament to failure.

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

The Wanderer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

danger

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

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

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

I, Paul

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

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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Critics Don’t Count, but It’s the One Who Dares to Strive Who Matters

Paul gives critics the same answer that God does…read this and see if you agree:
“For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing. Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. ” (2 Corinthians 10:10-11, NIV).

critics

Paul apparently had critics when he was alive; he still has them today. Women’s rights advocates and even Christian egalitarians criticize his view of women. Our culture sees him as outdated and out of touch. In a world where we are supposed to tolerate everything, his strong stance about many issues seems harsh and unyielding. Critics abound in every culture and every forum.

But as Teddy Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Roosevelt himself faced many critics, and he knew from personal experience that endeavor and perseverance were always more substantial than armchair criticism. Today’s academics and armchair theologians are critical of Paul’s writings, which perhaps can be expected from a world that reacts against strong doctrinal stances. But it’s not just current culture that is critical of Paul– even when he was alive, he heard murmurs about his style and ability.

His critics said he wasn’t a good preacher, that he was not as impressive in person as he was in his letters. People said, “Yeah he sounds pretty tough in the things he wrote, but he’s not around, so don’t let him intimidate you.” Funny, people say the same thing about God today. His book seems pretty impressive, but where is He when I want to see him? Make him appear, show me some evidence!

Surely a loving God won’t judge sinful, independent men as harshly as the Bible says He will. Surely we can do whatever we want, and God won’t mind “that” much. Surely He is like the nice parts of the Bible and not the parts that talk about eternal separation and the lake of fire… I wonder if God would give them the same answer that Paul did: “What I am in my Book when you do not see me, I will be in my actions when you see me.” Something to think about.

For All You Critics Out There

It’s easy just to criticize, to throw some shade, to offer lies,
To try to throw someone off track, to sneak around and take the tack
Of offering innuendos and some snide remarks behind their back…
Paul’s critics said, “He seems to be an authority, but he’s absentee,
And you should really not believe in someone that you cannot see.”
Paul said he would soon return, and all his critics then would learn
That if they thought him less than strong,
Their judgment could not be more wrong,
And when he finally appeared, he would be stronger than they feared!
Hmmm… much like all of those who said,
“God is not here, He must be dead.”
I’d recommend they take a look at what is written in His Book,
And feel its depth, and read its length-
Just hear it talk about His strength!
Have faith in Who you cannot see,
For God is not an absentee,
And all within His Book will be fulfilled for all eternity.
If He were writing this today, I think, like Paul, that He might say,
“What I’ve written, although absent, I will be when I am present.”
There are those who criticize, but someday, you’ll look in His eyes,
And see the Truth, and realize that faith in Him is pretty wise…

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

Separated From the Love of Christ? Here’s the Most Obvious Reason Why

At one time, Saul of Tarsus hated Christians, so he must have hated Christ as well. But something changed for Saul, and he grew to believe that he could never be separated from the love he found in Jesus Christ; in fact, he made an astounding statement for a man who had pursued and persecuted followers of Jesus:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV). Paul was confident that no power or opponent could separate him from Christ’s love.

separated

Think back to elementary school, where we were taught the proper way to spell by remembering that there is “a rat” in separate. Being separated from someone you love is painful; being separated from the source of all love would be impossible.

Paul’s bold statement is a powerful thought in a world where it often seems like love can let you down. It comforts me to know that God’s love will never be taken away from me. There are things in life that call us away from love, whether they are on social medial, in politics, or from haters or the media or bigots, or just bad drivers. If you watch the news, the world and its values call us to divisiveness and even hatred. When we have shallow reactions to a shallow culture, it is easy to allow oneself to be separated from the love that Christ taught.

I have found, though, that over the course of my life it has not been external influences or agents of evil that have pulled me away from the love of Christ. If I’m honest about it, there has been one thing that consistently does it, that separates me from the love and the teachings of Jesus. That something is far more insidious and closer to home than any of the evils in the world: that something is ME. I have been separated from the love of Christ by my pet sins, my selfishness, and the pull of temporary gratification.

Oliver Hazard Perry once proclaimed victory by saying, “We have met the enemy and they are ours” .His words were later humorously misquoted by the comic strip “Pogo”: “We have met the enemy and he is us”. Are you ever like that? Like Paul doing the evil he did not want to do, or Esau trading his birthright for a pot of savory stew, I have often been the one who chose to step away from the secure and endless love I find in Jesus to pursue something tawdry or temporary. How foolish we are, to step away from the joy and security of the warm, passionate, eternal love of Christ to experiment with something selfish, limited, and fake.

Tell me: what is it that causes YOU to step away from Christ’s love for the cheap thrill of a temporary fix? Chemicals? Credit? Comfort food? Golf? Bragging about your kids? Beer? Fifty Shades? That big promotion? Living in the bigger home? Paul would tell you it’s not worth it. Step back into the welcoming arms of Jesus, and make him a priority. Enjoy the comforting “love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You won’t be separated. And you won’t be sorry!

Separated by What?

The Apostle Paul had seen it all, had traveled far and near;
He spoke with Kings and Pharisees without a lick of fear.
He had been beaten, whipped and stoned, and knew all kinds of pain,
But said, “For me to live is Christ; For me to die is gain!”
He stood before the judge, and was condemned to prison twice,
But claimed no power could separate him from the love of Christ.
If Paul could make that statement after all that he’d been through,
Then it’s a powerful testimony. I believe it, too.

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

Casting Lots May Not Be Enough: Things to consider next Time you have to choose an Apostle

Need to choose a Thirteenth Apostle? You can’t just go to Central Casting and ask for one. There is a lot to consider..

After Judas committed suicide, it was deemed necessary to replace him. The disciples followed a time-honored method, selecting likely candidates and casting lots. (Traditional Jewish wisdom held that God would reveal his will via this method, even if it seems cultural, or even a bit like flipping a coin…Even though decision makers would pray and seek God’s will, they still tended to rely upon a process that much of their society also used—kinda like modern search committees…)

“So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”

casting

Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:23-26, NIV).

Churches everywhere follow a pretty secular template to selecting people to be on staff. They review resumes, conduct interviews, and they select the candidate who seems most worthy based on the process. They differ from mere business interviews because they pray over their selection, and they certainly ask the Lord to provide them with the one whom He has called. The current model that churches follow today is actually still very similar to the one used by the Apostles. (With the exception of casting lots, which was actually considered a good indicator of God’s will in first century Jewish circles.) I have no doubt Matthias was a godly man and a worthy choice to replace Judas.

I have no doubt that the disciples had good intentions and followed the best process they knew… but here’s the thing: This is the LAST time Matthias is mentioned in the New Testament. I am sure he was an honorable man who had a meaningful ministry, but his name never comes up again in the records of the growth and development of the early church. Meanwhile, through another process, God acted to provide his own replacement for Judas—a guy named Saul of Tarsus, whose name was changed to Paul. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.

We often turn to our own ingenuity and wisdom to try to carry out God’s mission, forgetting that the one irreplaceable factor is the power of His Spirit working within us. Let’s not forget that all the processes in the world can’t hold a candle to being selected, motivated and empowered by the Living God!

Casting Call

Disciples did the interview, and got the candidates down to two,
Proceeded in they way they knew by casting lots from which they drew.
Matthias’ name became selected, so he was the one elected.
Though he was named Apostle then, we never heard from him again!
Meanwhile, God sent out a call to a Pharisee whose name was Saul:
A persecutor full of hate, a most unlikely candidate,
Who had to have a brand new start–
God changed Saul’s name, and changed his heart.
Just remember, understand that processes designed by man
Are doing things as best they can but they cannot replace God’s plan.
If you question this at all, just think of the Apostle Paul,
On whom God’s grace was once bestowed
right there on the Damascus road!
God’s choice in this was simply plain;
Instead of trying to explain,
Just read what Paul once wrote again:
“To live is Christ, to die is gain!”

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

 

Importance May not be what You think: The Important Man Who Discovered Something More Important

A funny thing regarding importance happened to a man of importance on the Way to Damascus…

importance

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. The he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me, as to one abnormally born.” (I Corinthians 15:3-8, NIV)

Saul of Tarsus was a Hebrew scholar, educated at the feet of Gamaliel, who was a famous rabbi of that era. Saul was a career Pharisee who spent his formative years studying the Hebrew Scriptures, teaching and spreading the message of Judaism. He persecuted the early church in his zeal as a Pharisee, and his Jewish credentials were impeccable. (He referred to himself as “faultless” in the eyes of the law in Philippians 3:6). He was mentioned as the official consenting to Stephen’s death in Acts 6, a man feared by followers of the Way because of his aggressive self-righteousness. Shortly after he endorsed Stephen’s execution, however, he encountered Jesus in a vision while traveling to Damascus.

It was certainly a dramatic conversion that sent shock-waves through the early church. He embraced the reality of the resurrection and began to follow Christ with the same zeal he previously applied to persecuting believers of the Way. He became perhaps the greatest Hebrew apologist the world has ever known, and his missionary efforts spread the good news all over the earth.

At the time he wrote this passage to the Corinthians, most of the witnesses he referred to were still alive, and could still verify that what he said about Christ was true. Had his statements been false, he would have been branded as a lunatic, and the Christian movement would have died along with the generation who invented it. Instead, believers with changed lives held resolutely to the Gospel in spite of suffering persecution and even martyrdom.

That’s what Paul did, along with thousands of other believers. If you haven’t read his letters, they can be life-changing, and they are amazing in their ability to connect the work of Christ with God’s revelation through the Old Testament. Read some of his Epistles, and you will be impressed with his logic, his knowledge, and the inspiration behind his work. He gave an impressive testimony about who Jesus was and what his teaching meant.

His testimony still counts as eyewitness because in the real world he was an enemy of those who followed Jesus until he encountered Jesus himself, and then he began to connect the dots. It’s really the same for all of us—a lot of things aren’t clear until we encounter Jesus. But once we put him in the proper place, there are so many things that suddenly make sense. Once you have received the things of first importance, give them first importance.

Conversion

Tell me, do you think it strange that everything in life can change?
On roads where countless men have trod, can one lone man encounter God?
Can a Scholar change his mind? Can the sighted see, though blind?
Will a zealot cease to kill and change his heart, and change his will?
Somehow in the darkest night a blinded man can find his sight,
Can see that love–not law–is right, and move from darkness into light.

 

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

 

Condemnation: Who is Going to Judge the Judges?

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17 KJV) Institutionalized Christianity has a long history of condemnation, from the Crusades to the Inquisition, and from the Church Lady to Westboro Baptist.

When unchurched people are asked why they don’t go to church the #1 answer is “I feel judged when I go there.” In the name of Jesus, folks who call themselves Christians have condemned Muslims and Mormons, Denominations and Democrats, homosexuals and heretics. Now, I’m not saying those folks are all immune to judgment by a righteous God, because ALL OF US are going to give account before Him. So none of us is immune to condemnation. We’re just not supposed to heap it on each other. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

condemnation

The only sin you should ever get concerned about is your OWN. If you are sitting there reading this thinking, “Yeah, but, what about that group?” or, “What about those other guys?”, then you have the wrong perspective about sin.

The Bible teaches clearly that a Holy God cannot/will not tolerate sin, and that sin will be judged. Since sin and death cannot abide in the presence of the Living God, unresolved sin will be left to its own devices. In essence, it will judge itself. Those who reject God’s provision for payment will bring death and separation from God upon themselves.

Sin by its very nature requires condemnation because it brings death.
As Paul says in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” I definitely believe that the Bible teaches about sin’s penalty and the righteous judgment of a Holy God. But in John 3, when Jesus told Nicodemus why he came into the world, he ruled condemnation out of his mission statement. (And yes, I know he condemned the hateful self-righteousness of the Pharisees, but whenever sinners were brought before him, he offered grace. You can look it up!)

Apparently Christ does not condemn, he only saves. Repeat that. Remember that. In a world full of blame, finger-pointing, criticism, and condemnation, Christ does not condemn. I bet most of us still focus on the theology of right and wrong, and we focus on God as the Righteous judge. Curious, then, that His only son didn’t come as a judge but as a Savior.

Read John 8 sometime. When the Pharisees accused Jesus of being a demon possessed Samaritan (racial slur) he said, “I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” (John 8:50-51) God didn’t send his Son to condemn, but to give life.

As John said, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” If you were ever a sinner, if you have ever wronged someone else, or if you have ever been less than godly: remember that, and be grateful; remember that, and be gracious.

In a world of polar hate, where almost no one budges,
Who is going to heal the scars, and who will judge the judges?
You can look at other folks and judge them for their sin,
But in the end, your condemnation will not help you win.
Point out someone else’s sins, but know that when you do,
Three fingers there upon your hand are pointed back at you!
Christ told Nicodemus, though the world might be depraved
He came, not to condemn the world, but that it might be saved.
Take a hint from Jesus when the shallow world condemns,
And offer love instead, because you know love always wins.

 

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

What’s in Your Mind Really Matters; So does WHO


In the old Star Trek episodes, there was a very unique thing Spock could do called the Vulcan mind meld. He would grip a person’s head between his fingers and then he could actually get into their mind and read their thoughts for a moment. It was certainly a useful tool on the Starship Enterprise, and it gave them vital information from time to time. The Bible speaks of something along those lines, although it has nothing to do with Star Trek:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5 KJV). “…but we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16) The Bible actually gives a new twist to the common saying, “mind over matter.” Paul tells us that our minds matter… and he actually advises that we should allow Christ’s very mind to be in us, that we should adopt the same attitudes, thoughts and responses to things that Jesus had.

It is a possibility explored in Charles Sheldon’s well-known book “In His Steps”, where people from various walks of life decided to try to live their lives, make practical decisions, and conduct business as Jesus would. They decided to walk “in his steps” by making his teaching the guiding principle for everything they did. (Wow, that sounds a lot like “being a Christian”!) This was the seminal story and could have been the verse behind the Christian WWJD bracelet fad of a few years ago that advocated asking, “What Would Jesus Do?” before making decisions or taking action.

Stop and think for a moment how you’d be different if you ACTUALLY had the mind of Christ… (There’s probably a bad Frankenstein reference available here about Igor bringing me the wrong brain, but never mind…) If I could do a “Vulcan Mind Meld” with Jesus, I could see His thoughts and understand exactly how He thinks.

mind meld

But what would Christ think about? Would he play video games? Waste time? Worry about his golf game? Look at Pinterest or Houzz? Think about shopping? Be concerned about ESPN? If I had Jesus’ thoughts and attitudes, how would I be different?

Hmm… wow, that’s a list I’d really rather not have to make. If I had the mind of Christ, I’d be loving, all the time. I’d be connected to my Father, who is good and holy. I’d be passionate about the things of God. I’d be compassionate about others. I’d have the wisdom of the ages, and the very character of God to guide me!

I’d be humble. I’d never act based on what the broken world thinks I should do. I wouldn’t find my worth in the approval of others. I would confer value on other people no matter what their social status or political leanings. I would be understanding and non-judgmental.

James Allen said, “As a man thinketh, so is he.” How would I think with the mind of Christ controlling and guiding me? If only I could have the mind of Christ, I would act and think differently than if I operated by the more pedestrian and carnal brain of Bo. But perhaps there are some things we can do: Reflect on the things Jesus taught and did. Think about your favorite Jesus moment, and put that moment into your mind; keep it there… Perhaps you’ll have an opportunity to put that into practice today. Perhaps you could have a WWJD moment and walk “In His Steps”.

Don’t let the wrong brain do all your thinking for you. Paul assures us in Corinthians that we already HAVE the mind of Christ; his challenge in Philippians is to “Let this mind be in you”…Do you want the thoughts, attitudes, and responses of Jesus in your life? The Scripture says it’s not a matter of you HAVING them in place, it’s a matter of you LETTING them take precedence. What are you going to do about that? Maybe it’s time to make up your mind…

“As a man thinketh, so is he” is something that’s been said
To indicate how much we’re shaped by what is in our head.
Paul agreed that what we think will dictate what we do,
And so he said, about our head: “Let this mind be in you.”
Not the brain of Bo for words, or Dillinger making a heist,
Not even Einstein’s brain, but this: we have the mind of Christ.
Would His mind change just how you think, or change your point of view?
Would you make different choices, and would you see things anew?
If you had the mind of Christ, do you think you’d run with a different crew?
Well you have the mind of Christ. So tell me, friend, what should you do?

 

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

Perseverance and Hope: Maybe the Best of Things

It’s one of those “chicken or the egg” questions: does perseverance result in hope or does hope result in perseverance? Here’s what Paul said: “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:24-25 NASB).

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
“I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope…” (First Andy, and then Red, from “The Shawshank Redemption”. Andy had escaped from prison; Red had been released after years of incarceration.

perseverance

Both men had left behind a life in prison for a new life fueled by hope—not a bad analogy for a picture of the Christian life, eh? Were you ever in bondage? Were you freed from the shackles of self-loathing and discouragement? In a life of freedom, hope is the new horizon, and we Christians should be walking towards it with confidence.) So, where are you walking? What do you hope for?

Hope, Paul says, comes with salvation. It is the logical result of believing the Scriptures and learning from them. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) It is no accident that hope and endurance or perseverance are mentioned together in these verses, because they are irrevocably intertwined. Tell me, in a marriage is it love that sustains the commitment, or is it the commitment that sustains the love?

By the same token, does perseverance sustain hope, or does hope sustain perseverance? Hope is a present commitment based on a future result. It is a powerful thing, perhaps the single most important result of discovering who Jesus is and what he did….

What do you, deep inside, truly hope for? What do you wait for with perseverance? If you long for self-improvement, grab on to that hope. If you worry about the future, then hold on to hope. If you are in a low place, or if you have your doubts, then visualize that hope, and claim Paul’s prayer in Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” No matter your circumstances, you can be assured that someday you will see whatever it is that the God of hope has promised. I hope you will claim it with confidence. And I hope you will wait for it with perseverance. I hope…

Prison does things to a man; his heart and soul are battered,
Until his hopes are dashed, and all his earthly dreams are shattered.
In Shawshank, Andy made it out; then Red secured parole.
They persevered in Hope, and dreamed that it would make them whole.
And we are all in prison; every one of us walks the yard,
Longing for release–a chance to slip beyond the guard,
Free from sin and failure, free from penalty and fear,
Motivated by the Hope that we will persevere.
Approach the prison gates and ask the Warden to set you free;
Remember the perseverance that was shown on Calvary:
Jesus will look at you and smile, and offer you the key…

 

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

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

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. The Bible puts it like this:

“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.

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?

redemption Private Ryan

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.

Redemption

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, 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