Upon Reflection, the Son is the Spitting Image of the Father

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? The reflection there will do everything you do, and say only what you say. Paul said in the book of Colossians that if you want to see God, then just look at His image.

reflection

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation… And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15, 18-20 NIV)

If Jesus Was a Good Teacher who Spoke Truth, Would He have Lied to Us?

Jesus said, “When you have seen me, you have seen the Father”, and “I and my Father are one”, claims which–if false– would have been abhorrent to a follower of YHWH. Paul offers a reflection about Christ’s resurrection here, and it builds a very logical case about Jesus’ identity and authority, relative to his work on the cross. Paul infers that Jesus is the “firstborn from the dead”, and that God reconciled us to himself by his death. So, IF the resurrection is true:

1) It AUTHENTICATED who Jesus was: he was not just an itinerant rabbi, he was the incarnate image of the invisible God. He’s a pure reflection of the Father. An image can ONLY reflect the original, and do exactly what the original does. Stand in front of a mirror and try it! Your image will do what you do. Jesus showed us what the Father looked like. It means that Jesus is the visible image of a spiritual God, and you know what? We can be, too.

2) It CONFIRMED the possibility of eternal life. As the firstborn from the dead, Christ opened the very gates of hell and demonstrated a new possibility of triumph over death.

What Does a True Reflection Look Like?

3) The resurrection VALIDATED Christ’s position: he is the head of the church, the pure expression of the Father’s fullness in human form… God’s fullness burst forth in new life not only for Him but for us. He shows us how God looks, acts, and lives, and calls us to follow him. Because of his actions, He now has supremacy in everything. He earned his position not by conquest, not by coercion, but by humility and sacrifice.

4) Finally, it proved that he RECONCILED us to God: the wages of sin are death, and every human after Adam was held to account for their trespasses. The only hope seemed to be in keeping the law (at which all men failed) or having faith in an unlikely promise of redemption. Christ’s position enabled him to keep that promise, (since his voluntary death paid our accounts in full), and his resurrection demonstrated the result of being reconciled: LIFE!

If Christ is in you, then your now-reconciled, eternal life is indeed a reflection of the very image of God. Doesn’t that just fill your day with new possibilities? Smile at someone today as if God was smiling through you to them. Then do everything else as if He was, too.
You know what? He is.

A Reflection

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
It’s really not you, but who could it be?
It’s your image, a precise presentation of you
Who says all that you say, and does all that you do.
Your image reflects every wrinkle and scar,
And it shows you exactly the way that you are.
There’s an image of God, which he gave us to show
Every detail about him that we’d like to know–
His image is not in a temple of stone,
Or a statue of gold, or an idol of bone–
There is only one image of God, only one:
It’s reflected, perfected in God’s only Son.

Since you can’t see God’s Spirit, try looking instead
At the life that he lived, and the things that he said.
Look closely at Jesus. Upon close inspection,
I think you will see God the Father’s reflection.

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

Watch What You Hear, Think, See: They Become Your Destiny

Paul’s letter to the people of Philippi was essentially a love letter to a group of dear friends. At the time he wrote it, he was in all likelihood under the watch of Roman guards during his house arrest in Rome, around AD 61. His letter was full of affection and Fatherly advice, seasoned with some encouraging exhortation. If you read the whole letter, it is easy to see that Paul wrote them based on the close personal relationships he had formed among the citizens of Philippi.

watch

A Better Kind of “Whatever”

As the epistle draws to a close, he offers them this exhortation: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV).

Paul’s advice to the Philippians was given in a simpler time, when people had fewer options and more control over what they thought about. They could actually choose what to think about rather than having their thoughts (pick one) influenced, polluted, distracted, contaminated, invaded, diluted, or dulled by hundreds or perhaps thousands of daily media messages… (Sources say that they average American sees 3000-5000 commercial messages a DAY! Even if it is half that, think about the number of images and messages you encounter every. Single. Day.)

Now ask yourself this: Of the media you hear or see every day (TV, movies, advertising, song lyrics, social media, Pinterest, Internet searches, etc.), how much of it is noble or pure? How much of it is excellent or praiseworthy? How many hours a day are you watching or listening to someone else? What music do you listen to? What does it really say? What song lyrics have you memorized over the years without even thinking about it? Paul says what we put into our minds is one of the keys to enjoying a peaceful heart!

Realizing What Becomes You

Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote, “I am a part of all that I have met.” But, what has become part of YOU? Even some of the “harmless” media like Facebook or Pinterest can suck you in and hold you spellbound over things of this earth. You can waste a LOT of time dreaming of things and comparing, even perhaps coveting some of the things you see… And there are FAR more harmful things than Pinterest out there on the internet. So be careful what you think about.

Don’t forget the acronym to WATCH your inner life: Watch your Words, for Words become Actions. Be careful of your Actions, for Actions become Thoughts; Watch your Thoughts, for Thoughts become Consistent. Consistent Actions become Habits. Watch your Habits, for they become your Destiny. I have modified that old statement in a way that seems more progressive to me: WATCH refers to What you see, your Attitudes, Time, Character, and Habits, and how that influences your Will, your Actions, your Treasure, your Companions, and How you Live:

WATCH

Watch WHAT YOU SEE, for when you close your eyes, you see it still:
It nibbles the foundation at the corners of your WILL.
Your Will affects your ATTITUDE and ACTIONS that you take;
They influence your TIME and the decisions that you make.
Your THOUGHTS become your CHARACTER, which governs what you do,
Or maybe the COMPANIONS you decide to take with you…
Will they create good HABITS in the end, or will you see
That what you’ve done in all these things affects your destiny?

Paul challenged folks in Philippi to think on what is pure,
To dwell on lovely, noble things of which they could be sure.
He challenged them to think on what is lovely, right and true:
If that advice was good for them, it’s good for me. And you.

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

The Riches of Inheritance are Not Diminished by Adoption

If I could write a really awesome prayer for you, it might go something like this: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know the hope to which he [God] has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:18-21, NIV).

A Super Book full of Riches

Ephesians is Paul’s letter of superlatives. He talks about the riches of God’s grace “lavished on us” (1:7); Christ being “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (1:23); the “incomparable riches” of God’s grace (2:7); the “boundless riches of Christ” (3:8); and about the God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (3:20).

Paul is not speaking here of having a logical, rational relationship with God. He talks about “the eyes of our heart” being enlightened. This is no academic pursuit, no theological construct. He is using the kind of language that you see in love letters, and says he has been overwhelmed with his lover’s characteristics and swept away with emotion. To paraphrase Buddy the Elf, he is saying, “I’m in love! I’m in love! And I don’t care who knows it!”

riches

Irrational Love

Do you feel that way about God? Can you, like Buddy, run down the street and say that? There are two things that stand out to me among the smitten superlatives. One is that God has given us “the riches of his glorious inheritance”. We can only receive an inheritance if He has adopted us into his family, so that is awesome news! Adoption changes everything.

So, how has being adopted changed your life? Have you stopped to consider the consequences of bearing a new name, having a new family, and being eligible for a big inheritance? Well, stop and consider it. Now. Seriously, stop and think about the fact that YOU have been adopted into GOD’S family! What does that mean for you?

riches of adoption

A Different Father, Different Family…

Paul says that resurrection power is available to us, here and now. That means whatever enabled Jesus to suffer unbelievable hardship, to persevere, and to endure the cross is available to us. I have to say honestly that I don’t really live in that power very often. I putt-putt around in my little world, doing my little things. There doesn’t seem to be cosmic power surging through me like an electric current.

But I have seen moments when God worked, and when His power transcended circumstances. I was able catch a glimpse of an eternity powered by the resurrection—moments of forgiveness, joy, and awe that confirmed what it says in Hebrews 11:1. It says that faith provides us “the substance of the things I hoped for, and the reality of the things I have not yet seen…” Embrace the resurrection, and enjoy your adoption today! It’s a very powerful thing!

The Riches of Inheritance

Birthright is a powerful thing that every family shares,
Preserving rights and privileges that cannot be co-opted.
It guarantees inheritance is passed to rightful heirs,
Not only to the born, but just as much to the adopted!
Orphans all, caught up in fallen time and random chance,
We dreamed about a family where we could play a part;
We looked at heaven’s Wedding feast and heaven’s glorious dance,
And felt the longing of belonging in a hopeful heart.

Then the Father called us to the feast! He said, “Come in,
And take your rightful places at the table by my side.
You are now my children: I have imputed every sin,
And you will join my Son not just as children, but a Bride.
The work He did upon the cross, the love we have ensures
That you are mine. My glorious inheritance is yours.”

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

Heaven: Is it Really a “Life or Death” Situation?

Where do you turn for help on important issues? Do you throw up you hands and say, “Heaven help us!” or do you research and look for an answer? For everyday situations in life, there is a ton of available advice. Bookstores all have a self-help section, and you can You Tube or Google anything to see how to do it better. There are some things, though, that you really just can’t find in a self-help book or video.

There are times in life when we encounter “a life or death situation”. We use it when the chips are down, or when things really matter. It could refer to everything from having surgery to choosing between heaven and hell. Those situations require some extra diligence because, well, they are life or death. Kiefer Sutherland ran into them on every episode of 24.

Your “Life or Death” Situation

The Apostle Paul had a somewhat curious notion about that saying; he believed that all of us are in a “life or death situation”, and that it was actually through the pain of death we are able to experience the true richness of life. He says:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:20-21 NIV)

(This is Day 55 or so of our walk through the Bible, by the way. You’ve made it to Galatians, the first of Paul’s epistles after Corinthians, the “G” in  “God’s Electric Power Company”, an acronym to help you remember Galatians-Ephesians-Philippians-Colossians!)

What About Heaven?

When you think about life or death situations, perhaps the ultimate one revolves around eternity. Is there eternal life? Is there eternal death? There has to be one or the other, don’t you think? People spend a lot of time thinking about it, although Loretta Lynn, Kenny Chesney, Allison Kraus and Mark Lowry have sung a song that says, “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, but Nobody Wants to Die”. It’s a somewhat humorous answer to a somewhat serious question: do you want to go to heaven?

heaven

If you interviewed the average person on the street and asked them what they needed to do to get to heaven, they would probably say something like, “Well, if I’m good enough, I think I’ll make it.” “If I have more good deeds than bad deeds, then I hope God lets me in.” These opinions seem logical from the human point of view about justice, and in fact most religion is based on earning God’s favor by doing more good stuff. If I just do enough for God, maybe He’ll like me enough to let me into heaven.

I’m sure that improving oneself or doing good stuff for God is a commendable thing, but Paul says here in Galatians that we have another option.

How Do You Get There?

There’s an amazing secret in this verse, one that I hear echoed in Scripture and teachings all the time. The Christian life is not about doing good, or being righteous, or even about love. It’s about being crucified. It’s about dying to your old self so that you can live in your new one. trading a physical life for a spiritual one. As Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” We are spiritual beings, not spiritual doings.

We will not find permanent joy and peace anywhere in our carnal, physical life. In this world, we can’t rehabilitate the flesh, dress it up, make it better, improve it, or serve God by being busier with it. We get this wrong in church all the time as we try to redeem culture or cash in on the latest marketing fad. Those are fleshly things which will never deliver eternal value. The only way to utilize the flesh is to crucify it and replace it. So what should you do today to improve?

Consider this advice from Jesus: “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV) When we are able to do that every day, we’ll be able to walk right past that “Self-Help” section. Stop doing things for God and start. Being. God’s.

Getting to Heaven

How do I get to heaven? Everybody wants to know.
If there’s a heaven, surely everybody wants to go!
If I am good enough, then maybe God will let me in,
But I feel sure that I am out because of all my sin.

Maybe if I lose my pride, accept the fact that Jesus died,
and let myself be crucified, then I can be reborn inside!
What Christ gives to me, He can live in me, so that I can be
Living eternally– it’s by believing and not by achieving
That we’ll be receiving and so not be grieving
That this earth we’re leaving. We live by the love of God,
Bought by the Son of God, Born to be one of God’s,
Learning the secret of Heaven by seeing this:
Not getting there on my own, but by being His.

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

Treasure in Jars of Clay: Why Would Anybody Do That?

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10, NIV)

Half-time Speech

Have you ever felt hard pressed, or perplexed, or struck down by circumstances? Sometimes it seems that life just turns against us. Circumstances knock you down, and you almost feel like giving up. I knew a coach whose speech to the team about a tough day or moment was always the same: “Men, life is hard. No one ever said it’d be easy. Sometimes you get knocked on your keister. But you’ve got to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back in there. It’s not how many times you get knocked down; it’s how many times you get back up!”

(That’s me, front row center, # 77 in your program, but #1 in your hearts: Cambridge Colts, 1964 or 5) Our coach may not have been quoting Paul, but he certainly reinforced the idea of hanging tough when life knocked you down.

treasure

More Inside Than Outside

Of course this was good advice for young football players about handling hard knocks, but Paul’s response takes somewhat higher aim. First of all, Paul says that we are full of treasure, that the immeasurable richness of God’s glory has been put into jars of clay.
Is that amazing or what? Our bodies are temporary. They can and will fail, but the very richness of God’s Spirit has been put within bodies that grow old and decline. The mortal has been invested with immortality. The corrupt, Paul says, has been made incorruptible.

We are far more than what we look like on the outside. Our Creator formed our physical bodies, yes, but He also created our spirit. Our physical bodies seem fragile, but we are spiritually strong. We may seem temporary, but God is eternal. And somehow, the fragile physical body houses the strong, eternal spirit. It seems inconceivable to us that the Lord would place incorruptible immortality into frail human bodies.

It seems an unlikely place to hide treasure, doesn’t it? The secular world hides its treasure in bank accounts and money markets, and puts its gold in Ft. Knox. I guess that’s because men are scheming right now about how to steal what somebody else has. In a spiritual economy, however, Paul says God puts His treasure into weak, temporary structures. Our bodies will perish, but our souls are another story. There is more to our value than money, and more to God’s economy than Ft. Knox.

Treasure Where You Least Expect It

We are merely jars of clay on the outside, but since God has placed his treasure in us, we have been gifted with a new reality and new possibilities. As God’s creation, we are endowed with spiritual possibilities that transcend carnal limitations. We have spiritual potential that is not limited to what our bodies can achieve. The only way to appropriate those possibilities, Paul says, is to “carry around in our body the death of Jesus”. By claiming kinship with his death, we gain access to his resurrection, and that perspective changes everything.

Looking back on Easter, the death of Christ became the springboard to life. The darkest hour exploded in glorious light! No matter what happens to us, we are not abandoned and we do not need to despair. As Christ showed the world on Easter, the jar of clay can be broken; but when that happens it opens the door to release God’s treasure and show his all-surpassing power. Christ’s death was indeed brutal and painful, but it wasn’t final.

It may just be that God’s treasure is not meant to be hoarded, but to be given away. The power of His resurrection lives on in us, and we will never be crushed, abandoned, or destroyed. Next time something bad happens, take comfort in that. Then dust yourself off and get back in there.

Hidden Treasure

Think on this brief thought today:
We may exist in jars of clay,
And tragedies may come our way,
But few can see our inner measure,
Hiding place of God’s great treasure.
Spiritual possibility transcends this earth’s reality:
Our vessels house eternity. We are much more than you can see.
When by God’s Spirit jars of clay are sealed,
The resurrection’s power is revealed.

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

Work Only Works If It is Built on the Proper Foundation

Generally speaking, the foundation of a building dictates its size and strength. It is certainly possible to create a structure that looks great from the outside, but is actually worthless because it is built on the wrong type of foundation. If the foundation is faulty, then the structure of the house won’t work either. Jesus spoke of the difference of the house built upon sand versus the house that was built upon rock. Ancient builders were no strangers to using huge stones as the foundation for large structures. As a carpenter, Jesus understood this principle well.

work works

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of another type of construction: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, NIV).

What are You Building? And What are You Building it ON?

What are you trying to build in this world? And what are you building it upon? Paul tells the Corinthians that there is only one foundation for good work, and it is spiritual rather than emotional or physical. He makes the somewhat cryptic statement that the only foundation for good work is Jesus Christ. That seems like a rather narrow and pretentious claim, but take a closer look at it.

As humans, we do good works for all manner of other reasons. We do good things to look good, to impress somebody else, feel better about ourselves, or to keep from feeling guilty. We work to perform acts of kindness to pay it forward or to earn Brownie points. But all those temporary motivations to work in our own power do NOT provide the right foundation for true goodness. Technically speaking, all good works that we do to feel or look good are still acts of selfishness. Good works we perform to get to heaven? Still, selfishness…

The Only Foundation that Works

Paul teaches that true goodness resides in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and that he is the only foundation laid for doing good. Unpack that a bit to see why: Grace is free because Christ’s death on the cross was an utterly selfless act. He didn’t die for HIMSELF; he died for US. Therefore our true reward doesn’t come from our own good works but from His. Paul explains that not all good works carry eternal value, and that come Judgment Day, our selfish portfolio of good works may not survive. Many things which we assume will carry a reward will disintegrate when tested by fire; but the foundation will remain.

Paul’s statement echoes what Jesus said in Matthew 6:5-6. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” There’s an old saying that it’s amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit. Let’s give God all the credit– and build more good stuff in secret.

Why Work?

Why do people do nice things?
Is there some blessing that it brings?
Perhaps a place in heaven is had
By doing good instead of bad…
Do we do good works because we should,
Or just because we feel so good?
Should we get credit for what we do,
And hope our deeds will pull us through?
Instead of doing works to please,
Do works for Christ that no one sees:
Paul says there’ll be a celebration
Because we built on the right foundation!
“Only one Life, ’twill soon be past;
Only what’s built for Christ will last.”*

*last two lines from “Only One Life” by C.T. Studd


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

Reality Check: You May Be Far More Powerful than You Think

Paul’s brilliant treatise connecting the Hebrew Law with the work of Jesus is both logical and challenging. Even though he stood on a firm foundation of faith, Paul did not separate his brain from his beliefs. In fact, he presented the reality of the Gospel in ways that have clarified it for billions of people. But as intellectually powerful as it is, the logic was not really the thing Paul fixed upon. In fact, he grew downright passionate about something else:

No Power On this List is Big Enough

“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) Wow! What a statement!

I don’t know about YOU, but I’ve been let down by humans lots of times. As strong as love’s bonds may be, they sometimes fail. And sometimes they fail miserably. What if there was a perfect love that never let us down, and never let us go?

separate reality

Here, in his letter about sin, the law, and faith, the Apostle Paul puts a stake in the ground about the reality of God’s love. He is convinced. Nothing in all of creation can separate us from it! It’s a magnificent statement from an amazing book; if you read that list, it covers pretty much everything in existence that could possibly keep us from being surrounded, protected, and rescued by God’s love in Christ Jesus.

The Most Powerful Thing

There’s one thing he leaves off this list, however. In reality, it’s the one power on earth that will allow you to be separate from God’s love, and in fact it’s the ONLY thing I know of that can do it: it’s YOU. Your WILL is able to separate you from God’s love. While Angels and Demons can’t do it, YOU can. Just decide you don’t want him. Decide he’s not there for you. Decide that God’s love has no place in your life, and you can be totally separate from God. It may seem odd, because God is love and He’ll never take His love away from you–but he will allow you to take yourself away from it.

reality

C.S. Lewis said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

As I see it, you can be independent and do your own thing all you want to; or you can feel convinced about the inseparable love of God and respond accordingly. It’s totally up to you. Just don’t complain later when you feel unloved. It’s what you, in all your power, chose to do.

A Choice Above All Powers

Not the future, nor the past,
Nor any power that can last;
Not witches who could cast a spell,
Or demons from the pit of hell,
Nor angels’ voices as they sing,
Or any earthly lord or king,
Or any mere created thing–
Nor height or depth, nor width or breadth,
Not even the power of life or death!
No fatal flaw or ancient curse,
Not one thing in this universe,
Not things below us or above,
Can separate us from God’s love!
The only way that you can lose
Is if that is the way you choose.
You want God’s love? Expect it.
And if not, just reject it.

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

Somehow, Saul the Persecutor Became Paul the Apostle. Why?

There was once a zealous man named Saul (from Tarsus) who hounded the young and growing Christian church at every turn. He persecuted and attacked the followers of the Way, and accused those who preached Jesus’ resurrection of blasphemy. His career as Pharisee was taking off because he was ruthless in his judgement and relentless in his pursuit. But somehow, something changed for Saul: this same man had an experience that transformed him and changed his life completely.

What Happened?

We know him now as the Apostle Paul, the same man who said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” How could a Pharisee of such unparalleled zeal make such a change? How could an enemy of the Church become one of its staunchest defenders? What changed him from Saul the persecutor into Paul, the Apostle? History tells us that something happened to change his life and change his name. Apparently the power lay in the Gospel, which Paul defined so well in his first letter to Corinth:

“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)

Quite a Resume

Saul of Tarsus was a Hebrew scholar, educated at the feet of Gamaliel, a famous rabbi of that era. He persecuted the early church in his zeal as a Pharisee, and his Jewish credentials were impeccable. (Paul referred to himself as formerly “faultless” in the eyes of the law in Philippians 3:6). He was consenting to Stephen’s death in Acts 6, but a short time after that encountered Jesus in a vision while traveling to Damascus. (By definition an Apostle had to have seen Jesus, and this was Paul’s encounter. It changed him forever.)

Saul apostle

He embraced the reality of the resurrection and began to follow Christ with the same zeal he had previously applied to persecuting the church. He spent three years in Arabia communing with and learning somehow from Christ himself, and then taught in Damascus, strengthening the church. The Apostle Paul became perhaps the greatest Hebrew apologist for Christ the world has ever known, and his missionary efforts spread the good news all over the world.

So Why Focus on a Pharisee Who Converted?

You can doubt a lot of things about Christianity, but you really can’t argue with the historical impact of Paul. If you haven’t read his letters, they are amazing in their ability to connect the work of Christ with God’s revelation through the Old Testament. He said in Romans 8:38-39, “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.”

Saul apostle Paul

Saul’s testimony still counts as an eyewitness because he was transformed after an encounter with the risen Lord. He went from being an enemy of those who followed Jesus to a follower himself. When he encountered Jesus, he began to connect the dots, and the rest is history.

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. I hope they do for you!

Unashamed

Saul abhorred the gospel, and he hated those who knew it;
If there was any way that he could stop them, he would do it.
He encountered Jesus as he traveled to Damascus;
Witnesses said, “Yes it really happened there. Just ask us!”
That was not the only testimony to that day;
Saul was transformed into Paul, and then had this to say:

“I am not ashamed at all! The Gospel gives me power,
And I am going to preach it every minute, every hour.
I will go in grace to those who used to fear and hate me,
And preach God’s endless love, from which no power can separate me!
I’ll gladly preach of healing where I used to cause such pain,
For me, for Paul to live is Christ! For me 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
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The Roman Road: Follow It and See Where it Takes You.

The Roman Road system was an amazing accomplishment in the ancient world, and it allowed people to travel all over Europe. The zealous Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, was traveling on such a road from Jerusalem to Damascus when he had a life-changing experience.

In the Book of Acts, Dr. Luke describes it like this: “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.” (Acts 9:1-3)

Roads That Take You Somewhere

The actual road to Damascus took Paul on a life-changing journey; the spiritual “Roman Road” he outlined in the book of Romans can do the same for you. J R R Tolkien’s poem in The Hobbit said, “The road goes ever on and on, Down from the door where it began”, offering a hint of adventure and mystery about where a road might lead. And of course Robert Earl Keen pointed out that “the road goes on forever”, indicating he may have been aligned with today’s blog, although perhaps he wasn’t thinking about Rome in particular…

Roman road

.

One of ancient Rome’s contributions to civilization was a system of public roads that was unrivalled in the ancient world. Their handiwork is still evident today, and in fact our tour group rode bicycles down the Appian Way, a road said to have been traversed by the Apostle Paul (among many others) back in the day…

In terms of its impact on life and culture, the Roman roads were sort of the equivalent of light speed in Star Wars, or a Star Trek transporter. Wikipedia says, “At the peak of Rome’s development, no fewer than 29 great military highways radiated from the capital, and the late Empire’s 113 provinces were interconnected by 372 great roads.“ It was the best means of getting to the desired destination in the entire world, and stretched from Rome all the way to Gaul and Great Britain.

Roman road

Many Roads, Many Possibilities

Robert Frost wrote about taking “The Road Less Traveled”, and the difference it made in his life. He pointed out that our choices can take us down roads whose destination is uncertain or unscripted. In “The Wizard of Oz”, Dorothy met the Scarecrow at an intersection when she wasn’t sure where to go. We encounter many such crossroads in life’s journey, and some of our choices cause us to fall in with dubious companions or go down the wrong path.

In Scriptures, there is another “road” that provides the best means of getting to your desired destination. Do you want to go to heaven? Would you like assurance that your journey is leading to God’s Kingdom? The “Roman Road” is a series of verses in Romans that outlines man’s position relative to being judged by a Holy, righteous God, and outlines God’s provision for man’s salvation. If you’ve never travelled the Roman Road, I highly recommend that you follow its course.

Read through these verses from Romans and see where it leads you:

“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.” (3:20)

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (3:23).

“For the wages of sin is death…” (6:23a).

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (5:8)

“But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (6:23b).

“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (10:9, 13).

It’s why Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” (1:16). Take a walk down the Roman Road. And while you’re at it, take somebody else with you.

THE Roman Road

Roman soldiers built their roads to carry armies, men and loads
So Roman soldiers could be hurled to any target in the world.
Roads were built for one and all–Roads in Europe! Roads to Gaul!
Starting here and going there, your feet could take you anywhere.
Paul described a journey, too–a roadway built for me and you,
To transport us from earthly states up all the way to Heaven’s Gates.
Just read Romans, you will see the path laid out for you and me:
Walk that path around the bend. Who knows indeed where it will end?
Read in Romans, then take heed; who knows indeed where it will lead?


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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Astonishing People! Surprise, You Might Just Be One of Them

What makes something astonishing? Have you been astonished lately? Or have you been astonishing? As we have walked through the Bible book by book, we can pause to remember that the Gospels contain some astonishing stories, like these from Matthew:
“Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” (Matthew 12:22-23, NIV)

“When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.” (Matthew 22:33, NIV)

Jesus did some things that were astonishing to everyone around him. Crowds gathered around him and followed after him to see what he would do. Before there were paparazzi, there were people from all walks of life around Jesus, waiting to see what would happen. There were miracles everyone wanted to see and sermons everyone wanted to hear.

Just a Few Samples

I think of the four guys who carried their friend on a pallet and then broke through the roof to get him close to Jesus. They were hoping he would do something astonishing!

I think of blind Bartimaeus standing at the edge of the crowd shouting out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” He paid no attention to those trying to shush him. He wanted Jesus to do something astonishing.

I think of Lazarus walking forth from a tomb, still wrapped in grave-clothes, blinking in the sunlight as disbelieving observers tried to process what had just happened…

These events highlight the fact that Jesus was different. After all, Jesus was the Son of God, and it was natural that he do amazing things. He had power and connection to his Father that gave him access to miraculous possibilities. That makes sense, but as we arrive here in the Book of Acts, how do you explain this verse? “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13, NIV)

astonishing men

A Few Good Men

I love to point out (along with Dr. Luke) that Peter and John were unschooled, ordinary men, and yet they astonished those around them. Now, what on earth made them able to do that? The Bible doesn’t say that the people around them were astonished and took note that they had been to seminary. Observers didn’t note that they were busy at church, held official religious positions, or were even vocational pastors. What people noticed about unschooled and ordinary fishermen James and John was one thing: “they had been with Jesus.”

astonishing disciples

Hmmm, does that mean anything to you? You too have opportunity to be with Jesus every day. You can read his words, speak privately with him, and walk with him everywhere. Take note: go be with Jesus. Then go be astonishing!

The Secret Ingredient

If only I’d been with Jesus, maybe seen him in the flesh,
My walk would be dynamic! And my writing would be ‘fresh’!
If only I had heard him talk, or ever seen him heal,
My faith would be amazing, and I’d walk with him for REAL.
If I had only seen him laugh, or watched him preach the word,
Then I would recollect for sure the wisdom I had heard…

Well if you want to walk with Jesus, there is still a way
To see his life and hear him preach a sermon every day.
Just take your Bible, open it to Matthew–take a look–
The things that Jesus said and did are written in that Book!
You may think that only the Apostles had the power,
But when’s the last time you just sat with Jesus for an hour?
Please don’t be offended, understand I’m not admonishing–
But just go be with Jesus. Then, just go and be astonishing.

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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Prayed For in the Garden: Who Did Jesus Pray For, and Why?

The Prayer That Sent a Message

Just before he was betrayed and arrested, Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. Since he knew what was coming, I would imagine that he prayed for what was absolutely most important to him, wouldn’t you? So here’s what he said:

“But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:13-17, NIV)

I think it’s significant that Jesus prayed for those who would follow him; and when Jesus prayed for his followers, what he said is revealing. In verse 20 he made it clear that he prayed not only for the disciples who were with him in the garden, but for you as well. He said, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.”

Remember the Alliteration

These few verses of Jesus’ prayer echo down the corridors of history to reveal His position, His purpose, His prediction of persecution, His protection, and His process. “I come to you”: Jesus is petitioning the Father, and places himself under the Father’s authority. Jesus prayed often (Mark and Luke both remark upon this habit), and he prayed for all of us who would someday believe in Him.

He is on God’s mission, and he makes it clear that God is in control, acknowledging the Father’s ability to take his disciples out of the world or to protect them in it. “I speak these things in the world that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” Wow! Jesus came to provide JOY!? How many joyful people do you know? His stated purpose was to share his own joy and have it fulfilled in his followers.

What Did Jesus Want For Us?

In John 15:11 he said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” If you are one of his followers, that applies to you. Are you joyful? Is joy being fulfilled in you and because of you? Isn’t it cool that He prays for our joy? Of all of the characteristics of eternal life, this is my favorite. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit; it is a characteristic of the Kingdom of Heaven; it’s the natural result of the resurrection! It’s essentially why Jesus came, and it is essentially why we are here on earth.

Stop for a moment and just choose to feel joyful no matter what your circumstances. It may seem almost impossible, but it is a choice available to us regardless of what is going on around us. The joy Jesus refers to is not dependent upon comfort or affluence, or having perfect circumstances. Perhaps that is why He also prayed over believers who will experience persecution both from the world and from the evil one. “The world has hated them because they are not of the world” is both an acknowledgement of what his disciples experienced and a prophecy about what is happening today.

Set Apart in Prayer

If you experience opposition as a Christian, take heart! It means you are not of the world, and that Jesus held you in his heart that stressful night in Gethsemane. Jesus prayed protection over you, and asked his Father to protect all of His children from the evil one. No matter how dark our circumstances, Jesus’ prayer seems to indicate that there is hope beyond the difficulty. Has life got you down? Ever feel discouraged or alone? Jesus has been there, and he knows not only how you feel, but what you need.

prayed for

Jesus asked the Father to reserve us to himself, and told us how that happens. “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.” Sanctified means “set apart”. Are you? Is your life entwined with things of the Spirit or things of the world? Do you read social media or watch TV more than you read God’s word?

Connect the dots here. Jesus says he spoke these things “that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. But I have given them Your word…” The process for sanctification comes from the Word of God, and so does Joy! Has life got you down? The more time you spend with God’s Word, the greater both your sanctification and your joy will be. Dive into the deep waters of Jesus’ prayer for you and you will find them both.

He Prayed for US

Agonizing in the Garden, facing his greatest trial,
Jesus knelt there in the night and prayed hard for awhile...
Knowing what he had to face and what he had to do,
Jesus took some time to intercede for me and YOU.
He prayed for our protection from what Satan might employ;
Then asked the Lord to sanctify us, and to give us joy.
He prayed for us as he prepared for Calvary's rugged slope,
Knowing that his work would bring us joy and give us hope!
If life has brought you trials, and your heart has been dismayed,
Embrace the joy that Jesus promised to us when he prayed.

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

There Are Two Eternal Things: Do You Know What They Are?

Let’s talk about the Only Two eternal Things on Earth, as we work our way through the four Gospels: Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Luke 21:33, KJV). Over the last month and a half (in case you haven’t noticed), my FB posts worked their way through every book in the Old Testament.

At Easter time we discussed Passion Week, and went through the events leading to the resurrection. Then we launched our journey through the Old Testament all the way through the Minor Prophets. We looked at Malachi, the last OT book; then we discussed a couple of things “between the testaments”. It was interesting stuff, connecting the dots from the Old Testament to the new, and now we find ourselves in the Gospels. Those narratives are unlike any literary genre or approach to writing, and provide most of what we know about Jesus of Nazareth. Yesterday’s post came out of Mark.

Congratulations!

So if you’re keeping up, and you’ve been reading for a while, you have now read through the entire Old Testament. Have you ever read intentionally through every OT book before? Well, if not: Congratulations! You’ve done it! If you want to go back and catch anything you missed, you can always check in to www.bojackson54.com!

So, why should you spend time reading the Bible? There are only two eternal things we encounter in this world; one of them is the people we meet (the souls of men), and the other is the Word of God. We should treasure the people we meet, and we can have hope because of the Word of God! I hope you are impressed with yourself for having read in every Old Testament book! You will carry those words into eternity.

Now we’ll continue to go right on through the entire Bible, covering the rest of the New Testament… Back in the Ten Days of Passion Week we certainly covered some ground in the Four Gospels, and since those books focus on the story and teachings of Jesus, I thought it might be interesting to pause and ask a couple of questions.

Are the Gospels Trustworthy?

First, why trust the Gospels anyway? And second, aren’t they just like any other hero stories from the First Century? Is their content eternal? This little chart offers some detail about the audiences and themes of the Gospels. They have much in common, but tell the story of Jesus to four different groups and in four different ways.

eternal things

Timing of authorship would place them as early as 37 AD, beginning with Mark. It is commonly held that perhaps he used a source material as background, and that Matthew used either Mark’s Gospel or the same source. They were all certainly written within a decade or so of the crucifixion. So how do we know they are reliable, except for the fact that a bunch of religious fanatics think they are true?

Evidence Worth Considering

Here are a couple of quick logical reasons, courtesy of Dr. Jim Wicker of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: First, no Jewish writer would have written about the story of Jesus without utter conviction that it was true. The Messianic titles of Jesus contained in the Gospels were problematic for monotheistic Judaism. If untrue, they would have been considered heresy punishable by death. So, it is way more likely they are true than that some first-century Jewish Christians made them up. They were committing blasphemy to consider them, and the social consequences were severe; yet these Jewish authors used them anyway.

Second, there were a number of intrinsic historical quality controls that existed in days of early church [when the gospels were written]. For instance, eyewitnesses to Jesus were still alive, who could attest to the truthfulness of the Gospels [or expose their lack of truthfulness]. If it was a hoax or a lie, people would have called them out about it.

Dumb Disciples?

Also, the fact that embarrassing and even problematic material is included in the Gospels (such as the denseness of the Disciples) helps prove the Gospels are truth rather than fiction. (You’re an author, writing about Jesus; surely you can make him look good without having to put stuff in there that makes you and your friends seem dumb!) Using such an approach runs contrary to the common literary technique of all other previous hero stories or legends. Why show the disciples as dim-witted or slow to grasp who Jesus was if they are the very witnesses you are depending on to carry his message?

The Gospels are really unlike any other literature ever written up to that point in terms of content, approach, and technique. They are incredibly short portraits of Jesus, and yet they provide a richness of detail and contain the passionate ring of truth. That may be why they are still best-sellers today, and why we are still reading Jesus’ eternal words today. Maybe when he said, “My words will never pass away”, he knew what he was talking about… Quick: how many OTHER Middle Eastern rabbis from over 2,000 years ago are you familiar with? Amazing? Yes. Eternal? Yes. Coincidence? No.

Pretty Good News

The Gospels are Love, and about life and death,
They’re about every heartbeat, and every last breath!
The gospels are power and passion combined,
Eternal combustion and love intertwined—
Take a look at the Gospels anew, redefined,
And let them explode in your heart and your mind:
They are news just for YOU, of the very best kind!

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