Treasure Isn’t Necessarily What You Can Measure, but It is the Heart of the Matter

Events this past week have been about treasure of one kind or another. You may have bought flowers for your Valentine or spent money on a restaurant or gift. One estimate says that $29.5 BILLION is spent on Valentine’s each year in the US.

And of course, billions of dollars were invested in football teams, players and coaches to try to get to the Super Bowl. Billions more are wagered on the game each year. And don’t forget, the players who made it to the big game each receive a paycheck for ONE game that’s more than most people make in a year. https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/how-much-will-the-winners-and-losers-of-super-bowl-lviii-get-paid/ar-BB1i7YS9?ocid=socialshare&pc=LCTS&cvid=75f01bd6297b420bb6b53a274551ddb1&ei=14 ) In a nation where money is one of the primary ways we keep score, what do you treasure? And how do you keep it safe? “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe. A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, like a high wall in his own imagination.” (Proverbs 18:10-11 NASB)

As humans, we rely upon physical things to provide us pleasure or protection. We often take comfort or seek solace in material things. We imagine ourselves to be secure in our own devices. If you think about it, what is your strong tower? What gives you security? Wealth, especially, is considered the answer to all ills in our society. If only I was rich, everything would be great… Then my life would be awesome.

Material Value

Perhaps because he was familiar with the fact that many rich people still have emotional or moral issues, or maybe because he knew what has real value in life, Jesus did not place much stock in material things. He never owned a home. He never negotiated a contract. After he began his public ministry, he never held a job or opened a savings account. Of himself he said in Luke 9:58, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

treasure heart

We, on the other hand, are often more like Tevya in “Fiddler on the Roof”, who fantasized about what life would be like if only he were rich (“Lord who made the lion and the lamb; you decreed I should be as I am. Would it spoil some vast eternal plan if I were a wealthy man?”).  As he trudged wearily along, he prayed: “Lord, I realize that it is no sin to be poor. But it’s no great honor, either.” Like all of us, he longed for the comfort and security of financial abundance.

You Can’t Take It With You

A rich man may feel secure because of his wealth, but Proverbs says that kind of security really only exists in his imagination. As Robert Frost said (in “Provide, Provide”), “No memory of having starred atones for later disregard, or keeps the end from being hard…” Everyone will face the end, and no one will get any help from their stuff. When we stand before God, all of the money in the world will not justify us or redeem us.

The story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:22-23 illustrated the vast difference between trusting God and depending on wealth. Jesus challenged him to come be a disciple, but he had other priorities. “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Different Kingdoms, Different Treasure

He often contrasted God’s kingdom versus man’s, and when he spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, he said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)

Not many will sell everything we have and give it away; but we can all ask ourselves, Will my purse wear out? What do I value the most? Be careful where you store your treasure. Be careful where you seek refuge.

Measure of treasure

Life for most means keeping score,
Depending on what you value more–
A bank account, the cash you’ve made,
Or heavenly gain that will not fade.
It all depends on how you measure
What you think is really treasure.
If your pockets are full, but your heart is not,
Then take a minute and have this thought:
Security and wealth reside, not in your stuff–but deep inside,
Where your hopes and dreams and thoughts abide…
When you stand before God, will you have your stuff?
Refining fire will burn away the fluff:
Just pray that what you have will be enough.

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

The Equation That Changes Everything

As we enjoy the glow of Valentine’s Day, let’s reflect on love and math. There is an equation about love that John uses to describe the nature of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. It is simple but surprising. The equation is this:

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (I John 4:16, NIV) John claims that God is love. This makes sense from a Biblical view, and it aligns with what Jesus taught—that love is a distinctive which identifies those who follow God. You know how an equation works, right? X = Y means that everything on one side of the equation equals the other side EXACTLY. They are interchangeable because they are equal.

equation

It All Adds Up, Somehow

And “God is Love” is not the only equation in the New Testament. Consider this: we are designed to be complete only in relationships, and relationships are only complete when they run on love. The equation is, two people become one flesh. Husband equals wife. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one”. The equation is, Jesus equals the Father.

When John says, “God is love”, he is saying that love is God’s makeup—it is the essence of His personality, his character, and his being. If you think about it, we know about and acknowledge several things about God’s character. God is holy. He is a Righteous Judge. He is the source of all forgiveness and grace. But John’s equation sets the baseline for who God is. What He does is motivated by love and is an expression of love. God cannot commit a purely selfish act.

Love, Backwards and Forwards

When you flip that statement around (which you can always do when you juxtapose two equal objects with a verb of being, and it will still be true), it says, “Love is God.” John is saying that not only is God characterized by love, but that EVERYTHING loving is from God. Whatever love you encounter in this world comes from God—there is nothing loving apart from him or possible without him. We experience love in many forms, and probably every one of those forms is valid, as is anything that we perceive as love.

We experience a mother’s love, there is love in friendships, and there is the love we have for puppies and little children. There is deep, abiding love, romantic, mushy love, and there is even sexual love between a husband and wife (yes, God created sex, and in way more than fifty shades!). There are all manner of other kinds of love we feel or encounter or touch in this life.

But here’s the deal: None of them would exist without God. Some of them may seem to us to be disconnected from God, but if you look closely I think you’ll start to see in them a glimmer of God’s presence, or a fleeting glimpse of his character. And the more you look, the more you’ll see that they couldn’t exist without Him, that there is no real love apart from God, because God is love, and love is God. Good thing to think about during the month that contains Valentine’s Day.

A Different Equation: One Plus One Equals One

To my lovely wife: you’re the love of my life!
To my family and friends, may our love never end!
It is more than a fad or a transient trend.
Just remember this stuff, when the going gets tough:
Love is God; God is love, it all comes from above;
It’s the nature of God, and when push comes to shove,
It is God’s DNA, and it’s what He’s made of!
So, everything loving you happen to see’s
A reminder that God lives in you, and in me:
Love’s what He gives us, and calls us to be!
Just in case I haven’t said it enough,
What you say: Love is God. What it means: God is love.

Go love somebody, and go feel loved today. In other words, be godly. Then thank God that you just saw Him where you weren’t looking before!

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

Fearless Love Will Help You Dance Like Nobody’s Watching!

Would it be good for you to be fearless? The Apostle John thought so, and I know he went through a number of dangerous situations. All of us probably have moments when we’d love to be fearless (such as when you ask someone to be your Valentine!), although there are certainly times when it might not be such a good idea…

fearless

John said this: “By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.…” (1 John 4:17-19, NIV)

Talk About Love…

On this day we tend to think a lot about love. There are a lot of notions about love, aren’t there? There is love of things (I love my car/house/video game), love of appetite (I love chocolate/beer/steak), love of animals, love of others (friends/family), romantic love, selfless love, summer love, endless love. Songs reflect that diversity with titles like “Love hurts”, “Love is a Battlefield”, “Love is a Wonderful Thing”, “Bleeding Love”, and “Love is All you Need”.

Love gets intertwined with all kinds of things in media and culture, so we allow it to have many definitions, most of which are not love at all. Sometime we can clarify what something means by stating its opposite, and most would probably say that the opposite of love is hate. But here in these verses, John infers that the opposite of love is not hate but FEAR. I don’t know that I ever think of it as the opposite of fear.

What does John mean by that? Perhaps that, unlike the transient, earthly love we so often experience, true love is dependable. True love gives absolute confidence. Why would John have juxtaposed love with fear? For one thing, he watched Jesus up close for several years, and if you think of it, none of the Gospels ever says, “Jesus was afraid”. John noted Jesus’ courage and understood its source.

Peerless Love

In John 13:1 one he makes the observation that Jesus, “having loved his own who were in the world, loved them unto the END.” To quote a praise song, John observed first hand that “your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me”. He says that love casts out fear, and the one who fears is not perfected (matured) in love. We can test that in a way by saying it in reverse: fear casts out love; but those who embrace love are fearless.

fearless dance

Tell, me, are you fearless? What are you most afraid of? Being hurt or rejected? Being marginalized? John says God’s love won’t do that. He reminds us that there is an intimacy with Christ that we carry through this world, that we are somehow united with him as we live our lives… I kinda think John’s point is that since God’s love protects us in something as big as the Day of Judgment, all the rest of our concerns are really nothing to be afraid of by comparison. You don’t need to control things to be secure; you just need to realize what love means in your life. Look up and be glad about how much God loves you today. Then, take a deep breath, ignore those little insecurities, and be “dance like nobody’s watching” fearless!

Opposites Attack

Love for some is just a sport, perhaps a game of chance;
Love can be chemistry that sparks a new romance,
With someone that you like a lot, the spark is real, the kiss is hot,
You both decide to take a shot and vow to give it all you’ve got!
But even love with such high hopes can end with a broken heart,
With bitterness that lovers feel when they are split apart.
If we describe the kind of love that goes out on a date,
Most of us would say the opposite of love is hate.

But I had never thought of love the way it’s written here:
John says that the polar opposite of love is FEAR.
Our earthly love can turn to hate, reflecting its impurity;
He says God’s love is something we can all embrace with surety,
The Father’s perfect love can give us freedom and security.
If you embrace the fearless love that God has given you,
How would your life be different then? And what would you go do?
Consider that. Consider that His love will cast out fear,
And you can dance like no one’s watching. Yep, you read it here.

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 Bridegroom is The Happiest Guy at Every Wedding

After the Super Bowl, and before Valentine’s Day, let’s connect the dots between Jesus and the greatest performance ever, and the time early in his ministry when he talked to John’s disciples about a wedding. This new Rabbi who presented himself to be baptized by John at the Jordan River was different. He had a different way of doing business than both his ascetic cousin and the religious elite from Jerusalem. In the TV series, The Chosen, Peter protests Matthew’s call by saying, “But that’s different.” Jesus answers him by saying, “Get used to different.” Some of John the Baptist’s followers were concerned that Jesus and his disciples partied a little too much. His answer caught them off guard: he described himself not as a Rabbi, but as a bridegroom:

“Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:14-17 NIV)

Why Wineskins?

When John’s disciples questioned Jesus why his disciples did not fast, Jesus used a couple of very different references to describe growth and change. The wineskin verse has always puzzled me a bit, but it occurred to me that it really fits with New Year’s resolutions. It refers to growth and expanding to new horizons, and Jesus describes those things in ways that everyone listening would understand.

First of all, Jesus talks about celebrating the groom at a wedding feast. He points out that 1) he is the bridegroom at the feast in the Kingdom of heaven—which makes us the bride—and 2) we should live in the present, unburdened by fear of what might happen in the future. We should party with the bridegroom at the feast while we have the chance. The eternal Son of God always encourages to be present to be in the moment.

A Subtle Exchange

In a subtler context he is also reminding his audience about commitment and change. When we get married, it is a new commitment, and it involves a new way of behaving. It represents leaving an old life behind as a single person and starting a new one as a couple. When you get married, it doesn’t improve your lot as a single person; you actually exchange your old single life for MARRIED life!

wedding bridegroom

When you get married, you can’t keep living the way you did when you were alone. You have to share, to adapt, and to live differently than you did before. Jesus compares himself to a bridegroom and calls us to participate in a new reality, to celebrate our relationship with him while there is still time. He then enlarges upon his teaching about growth by reminding his listeners that new wine (which expands as it ages) must be put into new wineskins, which have the elasticity to expand with it.

Not a River in Egypt

His immediate context points out that the old, legalistic way of relating to God has become a new dynamic, and he calls his followers to relationship rather than religion. He teaches that it is not by doing new things with our old selves that we change; but it is by embracing new selves that we can act and feel differently. That’s why he tells his disciples in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

We can’t improve the flesh but we can REPLACE it. In his book, “If I Perish, I Perish”. Major Ian Thomas says that we can’t attain spirituality by dressing up our old nature and hoping that he reforms. You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig. Our flesh will ALWAYS be sinful and will ALWAYS long to return to its selfish ways. He cites Israel as an example for us, and points out that God didn’t leave the Israelites in Egypt, hoping that they would evolve into more devout followers. He says “God never intended to improve their lot under Pharaoh but to exchange their land.”

Like He did with Israel, God calls us to a new way of life. They couldn’t patch the old wineskins, but had to get brand new ones. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV). Resolutions to change the outer man won’t help us if we don’t exchange the inner one. If you want to change, make one resolution this year: In 2024, I am going to celebrate with the bridegroom every day!

Exchanging Vows

The bridegroom’s face is beaming with pride,
As all heads turn to see the lovely bride;
They will be exchanging vows and rings,
And changing the future, whatever it brings…
Gone is the independent single life;
From this day forth, they are man and wife.
This life will put them through stormy weather,
But come what may, they will deal with it together.
This is what they will strive to do,
As together, they make something new–
And one stronger life is forged from two.

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

Gratitude: Do You Expect Some? Well, Do You GIVE Some?

Why do some people show gratitude, while others don’t? We’ve probably all been thankful for something, and we’ve probably all experienced a lack of thankfulness, even when it was merited. There’s no formula for appropriate gratitude, but A.A. Milne was pretty close when he said, “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” Perhaps this story about thankfulness can help us as well.

“As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood in the distance and cried out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them he said, “Go, and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:12-16, NIV)

A Surprising Story

gratitude

Ten lepers, who were outcast and marginalized men who could not mix with healthy people, were out on the outskirts of a village. They asked Jesus for mercy, and he gave them instructions that would both heal them and prepare them for reentry into everyday life. Once the priests saw they were free from leprosy, they could once again mingle with friends and family, hug their kids, and have a chance to live normal lives.

“Doctor” Luke points out that only the unclean and socially unacceptable Samaritan gave credit to God for his healing. The nine other formerly leprous men went on their way, probably too excited about going back to society to stop and say thank you. It may be that they felt entitled somehow, finally getting what they deserved after years of presumable injustice. It certainly is surprising that there wasn’t more gratitude expressed, but people can be a little self-absorbed…

So What Do We Make of This?

Two things here: Not everyone who meets Jesus is grateful, even when they experience healing because of Him. Sometimes we get so busy living our lives or even going to church that we forget how much we have to be grateful for. (How about this: DON’T FORGET! Regardless of where we are in life, it is good to have an attitude of gratitude!)

Secondly, some of the people you help along the way will not thank you for it. Jesus healed all ten, even though he was aware of their heart attitudes before he acted. Gratitude doesn’t always manifest itself the way we think it should, but remember: we shouldn’t do good just so that someone says, “Thank you”.

Our motivation for helping others is often wrong. We do good things in order to receive recognition, or to feel good about ourselves. Paul said, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

Why?

Like Paul, we should perform acts of kindness for the Lord’s sake, not for men’s approval. As Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” In the Sermon on the Mount, he taught that our devotion to God should not be a matter of public pride, but something best kept between Him and us. Matthew 6:4, 6 and 18 all point to the same outcome: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Acts of kindness should be done for our Father with an expectation of gratitude, or regard for human response. Go out and commit some today.

Be Grateful

People are amazing. Sometimes, helping them exposes
That some will offer thanks, while others just turn up their noses…
Some will smile with thankfulness that bubbles up inside,
While others turn aside, from their entitlement, or pride–
No thank-you cards are tried, and gratitude is just denied!
I pray that I may never be the one with such an attitude–
For health, for all I see, Lord, help me show you gratitude!

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

The Greatest Performance In the Biggest Game of All Time

A great performance is always pretty impressive. If you are an old-school NFL fan like me, you remember the AFL New York Jets upsetting the mighty NFL Baltimore Colts back in January 1969. Both teams were champions in their respective Leagues, but only one could win the Super Bowl. The AFL team had never won before, and most folks figured the NFL champion Colts would easily defeat the New York Jets. Jets quarterback Joe Namath sent shock-waves through the sports world when he boldly predicted victory for his team. (Joe Namath’s Super Bowl III Guarantee: Legends of the Super Bowl | NFL NOW (youtube.com)) It seemed brash at the time, but the Jets went out and proved him right. Broadway Joe had a big game on the big day.

performance

Men work hard to make it in the NFL. There is an elite group of billionaire owners and millionaire athletes who compete fiercely as they try to find every edge that might help them win. In addition to the game itself, before they play the Super Bowl, the NFL gives out its annual awards. They extoll the accomplishments of players both on and off the field. Each team nominates a player for the Walter Payton man of the year award. It is good to see some of the athletes giving back to the community. (It helps offset the stories of political protests, arrests, drug use, and domestic violence.)

Gladiators

With its inherent dangers and the high risk of injury, the NFL has become our modern equivalent of the gladiators in ancient Rome. Players literally put their bodies on the line to try to win championships. America was reminded of the life-threatening nature of the game when Darryl Stingley was paralyzed from a neck injury, or when Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during a game (and prayer was suddenly ok again in football!) But, toughness in the NFL (and in many professional sports) means that men will play through pain and injury to achieve glory. Fans look upon them as heroes for staying on the field of play even when they are put through tremendous physical stress.

I was trying to imagine what those players headed to the Super Bowl were doing and thinking, making the final preparations for their huge moment in the spotlight, when they would be putting their training, their skills, and their determination on the line for team and personal glory. Would they be fine-tuning their technique, confident that they have prepared physically in every way? Perhaps they would be visualizing success, or meditating on their assignments… Would they succumb to outside influences, or be distracted from their goal by all of the hype?

Perfect Preparation Empowers Perfect Performance

What kind of performance would they give on the biggest stage of their careers? I was reflecting on the adulation and status we confer on such men, in some cases rightfully so. They are men who work hard, are committed to a goal, who embrace team virtues, and who put themselves at risk to attain glory. People are so fanatical about their teams that we call them “fans”. You’ve seen them. They dress up and carry signs. They follow and support their athletes with passion and emotion. (Ok, they are a little bit crazy…)

I know there are still Cowboys’ fans who still are STILL mad that Jackie Smith dropped a wide open touchdown pass against Pittsburgh in 1979! (He was so frustrated by his missed opportunity that he kicked his legs out as he lay on his back in the end zone.)

performance

Based on the effort and the risk and the high stakes involved, it seems natural to us that the men who make such preparations and take such risks should be considered heroic. Their performance certainly has a lot riding on it.

The Highest Stakes

Then it occurred to me: there was once a man who also faced the biggest day of his career, who was committed to a goal, and who put himself completely at risk to not just attain glory but to reflect it and give it away. The night before he had to compete in perhaps the toughest contest of all time, and certainly the biggest game, he was preparing as well. Perhaps we need to re-calibrate our perspective on what it means to be a hero.

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:36-38, NIV)

The Most Pressure

Jesus knew what was coming, and he knew the price he was about to pay. I’ve often thought that the fact Jesus knew he would be resurrected from death did not diminish the pain and agony that was coming. He knew he faced the devastation of being separated from the Father. And I don’t want to sound like I doubt God’s power or plan, but I’ve always thought that BEFORE the cross, God had never experienced death, so that there had to be some sense of risk involved… what if it didn’t work? What if something went wrong?

While Jesus wrestled with the weight of what he was about to do, and prepared for the suffering he knew was coming, he thought of YOU. He said: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20, 21, NIV)

Two things. If you are willing to be fanatical about an athlete who gave his greatest performance in the biggest game, then think about Jesus. Become a fan. He thought about you. Second, take a moment to reflect upon the fact that he prayed for you: Be worthy of that prayer! You, too, are playing in a high-risk game, and it has nothing to do with football.

The Ultimate Game

Every year the League allows its teams
The chance to play upon the field of dreams;
They work all year to win the coveted prize,
To show their skills before a billion eyes…
The pundits say that history is made;
But isn’t it really just a sport that’s played
Between two groups of men who play a game?
The big things in this world will be the same,
With war, corruptions, hunger, lies and fear–
And they will play this game again next year…

There was, however, once the fiercest test,
When one competitor had to be his best.
The heat was on, but he was cool as ice,
When it was on the line, he paid the price
And showed mankind the ultimate sacrifice.
One athlete made a difference on this earth:
Our calendar revolves around his birth,
And he competed right until the end.
I’m proud to call him Savior, Lord, and friend.
He sometimes called himself the Son of Man:
He won the ultimate game, and I’m a fan.

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

Chance May Help Determine the Outcome, But It’s More Than Just a Game

Who is going to win the Super Bowl? (2024 Super Bowl LVIII Sunday – When, Where & More – NFL.com) Experts say that billions of dollars will be wagered in games of chance by hopeful bettors. Since no one yet knows the outcome, I guess everyone has a chance to win based on the myriad factors that might influence the final outcome.

Is life a gamble, or perhaps a game of chance? Or are events set by God’s will, decreed before the foundation of time? Those bookends can create some theological debate, but Solomon makes an interesting comment about life in Ecclesiastes: “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 NIV)

This is a good reflection to have before Super Bowl Sunday. Solomon had seen it all, and he understood that not everything happened the way the odds-makers might predict.

chance

Solomon was Right

Life’s outcomes are not predetermined, and we are not automatons living in fatalistic patterns. To quote Solomon: “time and chance happen to them all.” I believe in God’s sovereignty, and even in His activity. I think there is some degree of direct divine intervention in this world. I just don’t know how often He visibly intervenes, or to what degree.

Certainly, God’s presence exists in creation and in the order of the universe, and gravity comes from somewhere. God’s influence is woven into the fabric of the universe, and His character is reflected in the order of things. But we don’t’ see obvious occurrences of God’s direct actions too often (like parting the Red Sea, or walking on water), so it’s easy to question just how involved God is in our world.

Arguments Against

Skeptics ask for a sign, and cynics reject God because they say that if He was loving and kind, He would fix all of the ills in this world. Since He hasn’t made things perfect, then He must not exist. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are people who think that if you stay in God’s will, then nothing bad will ever happen to you, or you will be given prosperity and comfort. Still others say that God’s will or foreknowledge pre-determines our choices and actions.

I think that while these different approaches are all based on some kind of logic, all of those hypotheses are limited and flawed. God’s sovereignty and will are bigger than any of those rational, logical positions. Because God created us in His image, he gave us the possibility of choice, the ability to exercise our own will.

This quote from Ecclesiastes teaches us that underneath the larger umbrella of God’s sovereignty, there is cause and effect, there are choices and consequences such that outcomes aren’t always inevitable and things don’t always turn out the way we think they will. To borrow the old sports adage, “That’s why they play the game.”

A Bigger Picture

One verse is not enough to build a doctrine upon, but it does provide an important principle: God’s sovereignty is comprehensive enough to allow for every possibility within human choice. If you just follow the story of the patriarchs, you see men deceiving and cheating to obtain God’s favor; and yet the Lord works around and over even through their sinfulness to accomplish His perfect will no matter how their choices twist and turn…

God’s will is so far-seeing and perfect that it allows for time and chance, and includes every possibility for every choice we make. You and I are not robots locked into a fatalistic pattern. We have the freedom and the power to make choices, to be independent, and even to reject God if we want to. We can initiate cause and effect, and we can choose to navigate the currents of time and chance either with God’s help or without it.

In spite of the exponential number of possibilities that creates, God is so big that He maintains His sovereignty over everything. According to the writer of Ecclesiastes, life (and our relationship with God!) is dynamic, and you not only have a lot of decisions to make, you have a God who allows you to make them. Choose wisely!

A Chance to Choose

Do we humans have a will? Are we truly free?
Or are we just automatons within God’s sovereignty?
Do our choices matter? Is it even realistic
To feel like we can choose, or is the world just fatalistic?
We cannot know how things will go before the race is run;
And Solomon said that Time and Chance will impact everyone.

So, does God’s will determine things before they ever start,
Or does He make allowance for the wayward human heart?
Is He in control? Or do we humans have a voice?
Does God determine things, or do we really have a choice?
Solomon said there was an answer. You don’t have to guess:
Those questions can be answered, “yes”. And yes, and yes, and yes…

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

What Has Importance? The Important Man Who Discovered Something MORE Important

The Super Bowl is this week, and I’ve been hearing about its importance. There’s lots of money wagered on the game, and people talk about its place in “history”. Fans are spending huge money to get tickets in Las Vegas, and celebrities and important people will be attending… But consider this: A funny thing regarding importance happened to a man of importance on the Way to Damascus. In his own words…

“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)

importance

The “Faultless” Man Who Wasn’t

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. (Paul referred to his old self 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. There may have been more to it, but Acts 9 records the encounter this way. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

An Eyewitness With New Vision

His vision caused him to reconsider everything. He became stricken with grief about murdering innocent people, and began to follow Jesus. It was certainly a dramatic conversion that sent shock-waves through the early church. He embraced the reality of the resurrection. As a result, he 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. They could still verify that what he said about Christ was true. Had his statements been false, he would have been branded as a lunatic, or worse. 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.

A World-Changing Event

That’s what Paul did, along with thousands of other believers. If you haven’t read his letters, they can be life-changing. They are amazing in their ability to connect the work of Christ with God’s revelation through the Old Testament. Read 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.am

The Waiter: A Man Who Left His Station to Preach a Powerful Sermon

Stephen was a deacon in the early church who was selected to wait on tables in Acts 6. I’m sure he must have been a pretty good waiter, the kind of server who made sure the food was evenly distributed and all; but apparently he had other skills. Acts 6:8 says of his selection, “They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” As it turned out, he was a pretty good preacher, too…

Not Just Your Average Waiter

In an earlier devotion I mentioned that Stephen used the phrase “the Son of Man” in his sermon in Acts 7:56: “Look”, he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Stephen was one of seven men with Greek names chosen to be a waiter at meals for the early church. He was not an Apostle (one who saw Jesus in the flesh), but he did miraculous things (Acts 6:8) and contended with the wisdom of the Spirit (6:10).

With all of those gifts and attributes, I imagine Stephen might have been expected to rise to prominence in the early church, perhaps as a leader or preacher. He had good character and was obviously prepared to lead. Instead, Luke tells us that when an argument broke out about portions being given to the Greek widows at the covered dish supper, the church chose seven men “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3) to wait on tables and hand out the food.

Giving Away What You Cannot Keep

For a guy chosen to be a mere waiter, Stephen had a fairly comprehensive knowledge of both Jewish history and the Scriptures, and preached a pretty effective sermon before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7. He had to know that his preaching would stir up a hornet’s nest, but he was bold and fearless.

waiter

(His actions remind me of Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed in 1956 while reaching out to the Auca Indians… Jim said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Like Stephen, Jim was a bold preacher whose faith put him in harm’s way. You can read his inspiring story in this book, written by his wife Elisabeth, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Through_Gates_of_Splendor )

Stephen, who just moments before was serving as a waiter, preached such a powerful sermon that the authorities decided to shut him down. The Sanhedrin condemned him and dragged him out to be stoned, and he became the first martyr in Jerusalem. (And oh yeah, his stoning was approved by a guy named Saul. He probably heard that sermon. Maybe it even produced unexpected fruit in his life just a little ways down the road…)

Prepared for the Unexpected

Here are a couple of important things about Stephen: he was prepared for this moment long before this moment happened. He was well-versed in God’s word and gave a ready answer to those who opposed him. He preached a powerful sermon, giving comprehensive context about who Jesus was and how he fit into Hebrew history. In the face of death he continued to proclaim his beliefs; he even died while forgiving those who were casting stones to kill him.

So how do we normal folks apply Stephen’s experience in our lives? He makes a pretty strong argument that seeing Jesus “in the flesh” is not necessary to have faith or to experience life-changing belief in Jesus. We can do that too. Also, we should realize that it’s not what we DO or how we serve that gives us value.

You may be a waitress or a salesman or a sanitary engineer, but if you know Jesus and God’s word, you can contend with wisdom. You can live a changed life. It may be a truism, but someone whose Bible is falling apart usually has a life that isn’t… A daily walk with God is the best preparation for the big moments in life. So, when your moment comes, be ready!

The Powerful Waiter

Stephen was a man who seemed a lot like me and you;
He served, and waited tables, and he probably bused them, too!
He did his job, just serving bread, or bringing food to eat–
And Stephen probably thought his life was pretty much complete!

He must have studied Scriptures when he wasn’t waiting tables,
Since, when he started preaching, it is clear that he was able!
He must have had a walk with God that happened every day,
Since when his moment came he knew exactly what to say!
So even if you’re doing hair, or slinging some spaghetti,
Just have a daily walk with God that’s regular and steady,
And when your moment comes to serve –like Stephen– you’ll be ready!

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

Who is The Son of Man? Well, Who Do YOU Think It Is?

Jesus often referred to himself as the “Son of Man”. Have you ever wondered why? He used the term many times in the Gospels, not the least of which is found here:
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16, NIV)

This particular passage is perhaps better known for Jesus’ answer to Peter’s declaration, in which he told Peter he would receive the “keys to the kingdom” because of his testimony. That statement has been celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church as being their charter and establishing Peter as the original leader for the church in Rome. You could therefore make the case that Peter’s simple declaration changed all of history.

son

A Common Phrase that was Uncommonly Significant

But to me, the substance of Peter’s confession is even more intriguing than the result. The title “Son of Man” was a phrase that had profound prophetic implications in the Hebrew Scriptures, and it was well-known to any Jewish person looking for the Messiah.

“Son of Man” is used by the prophet Ezekiel 93 times, emphasizing his humanity in the presence of God’s revelation. It is probably best known from its use as a Messianic reference in Daniel 7:13-14: “I looked, and there was before me one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

The teachers in Jesus’ day had varying opinions about who this prophetic figure represented. Some thought he was one of the prophets; some thought maybe it was John the Baptist. Jesus often used this title to refer to himself (it appears 78 times in the gospels), and it was never attributed to anyone but him in the gospels. Stephen used it while he was being stoned to death to describe who he saw in heaven in Acts 7:56.

A Prophetic Claim

Almost every Hebrew churchgoer had some knowledge of the phrase, and the disciples’ mixed response about it in verse 13 is probably typical of the different opinions people had about who the Son of Man might be. Peter’s bold declaration was a leap of faith, and connected the dots between Daniel’s prophetic vision and the possibility that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

It’s also interesting that it is Jesus’ most common way of referring to himself: it encompasses his humanity as a son of Adam (which was proclaimed in Luke’s genealogy), but it also refers to his divinity as the Son of God. It is a title expressing humility because he is fully human. But, at the same time it refers to one whose Kingdom will never be destroyed. It is an explicit reference that springs from Old Testament prophecy about Israel, eschatology (the last days), and the Messiah. Peter’s brazen testimony shows that he connected the dots, and that he suddenly gets it.

The only other question is, Have YOU? Do YOU?

That Prophet

Of all the titles, “Son of Man” is one connected to God’s plan,
From ancient prophecies foretold in Scriptures from the days of old…
It speaks of Jesus eloquently: divinity and humanity combined in personality
Expressing his authority for all of human history extending through eternity!
The complex span of God’s redemptive plan, the title of the only one who can
Be fully God–and somehow fully man–the only Son of God, the Son of Man!

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

Doubting Thomas? Maybe You Should Hear the REST of the Story

“Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting, and believe.”

doubting Thomas

A Nickname for the Ages…

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29, NIV) The name “Didymus” indicates that Thomas was a twin, but we don’t know much about his brother. This half of the twins, Thomas is famous for not being sure, and has been known throughout history as “Doubting Thomas”. (I guess that rolls off the tongue in English better than “Doubting Didymus”, although I definitely think you could make a case for the alliteration with the “D’s”.)

There was certainly more to Thomas than doubt. In John 11:16, when the disciples are reluctant to go back to Judea, he tells them “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” His question in John 14:5 (“How can we know the way?”) resulted in Jesus declaring himself to BE the way! But he’s been known for centuries as “Doubting Thomas”, and that’s what we still call him. I actually kinda respect his skepticism, and it is a legitimate point of view because many thoughtful people have a hard time capitulating to faith. Doubting something can be hard to overcome.

Many who claim to be scientific or rational thinkers (perhaps you?) say they can’t believe in Christ because they need more evidence and don’t take things just on faith. That is a little odd when they actually believe in any number of things based on assumption and faith. (Such as: “Big Bang”; composition of the universe; evolution as it is often taught, among others…there is no absolute empirical knowledge about any of them, but even scientists are willing to leap to assumptions at some point in every one of them)

More Than Meets the Eye…

So consider this: there is plenty of evidence about Jesus, but people often refuse to consider it. Their assumptions about other things limit what they are willing to consider, and I think they get caught up in a battle of will rather than actual evidence. It becomes an issue of firmness of opinion rather than faith, and of pigheadedness rather than proof. Remember, you don’t have 100% assurance when you get into your car that you won’t have an accident, and yet you put 100% of yourself into that car every time. You don’t have to have 100% proof to make a 100% commitment. People get married every day with less than 100% proof that it will all work out, but there they are…)

doubting

Behind closed doors, Doubting Thomas saw the evidence and was able to remove all doubt. His testimony still stands in front of us today. I bet if people really looked at all the evidence, truly investigated who Jesus was, and added a little faith, they’d do the same thing. Jesus said those of us who did not see him but still believed would be blessed. He said that to me, to you, and to everyone who was not in the room to literally touch his hands and side. As for Doubting Thomas, Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed.” Maybe he should be known as “Believing Thomas”. After all, that’s really who he was.

Doubting Thomas?

Sometimes skeptics will hold out because they have abiding doubt,
Or hold themselves from faith aloof unless they have abundant proof.
Thomas would not trust in lies! He had to see with his own eyes,
And his belief was incomplete until he saw the hands and feet–
The places where the nails had been– and saw the Lord alive again!
“Doubting Thomas” then received the Risen Lord, and he believed!
Perhaps he really should be called “Believing Thomas”. After all,
That name’s more accurate because at the end of the day, that’s who he was.

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.ama

Resurrection and Life: Is Quantity More Important Than Quality?

Lazarus died, and his sister Martha was upset that Jesus had not arrived in time to heal him. She made a bold request: Then said Martha unto Jesus, “Lord, if thou had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”

Jesus saith unto her, “Thy brother shall rise again.” Martha saith unto him, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said unto her, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever lives and believeth in me shall never die. Believe thou this?” She saith unto him, “Yes, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” (John 11:21-27 KJV)

(Sometimes I just have to keep some King James Version in here because I like rocking it old school. It’s what I grew up on as a Christian, and I still love its lyrical anachronisms…but I digress.)

The Devastating Delay

When Mary and Martha sent word that their brother Lazarus was sick, Jesus waited two days before coming to them in Bethany. In the meantime, Lazarus died. It’s not hard to imagine the scene at their home as the sisters waited anxiously for Jesus to come heal their brother, only to watch him slip away. They thought they had things under control, but their plans didn’t work out. It had to be emotionally devastating.

Ever been there? Things didn’t work out like you planned, and God didn’t do what you expected Him to? Lazarus had just died, and his sister Martha was distraught. (Her tone is even a little accusative, like “why did you take so long?” Have YOU ever asked God, “WHY?” Have you ever accused God of failure?) Martha let Jesus know he could have done better.

Even so, she offers a testimony about Jesus that’s worth remembering. She expresses her confidence that Jesus has such a connection to God that he can do something as miraculous as a resurrection from the dead. Jesus comforts her with the statement that her brother will rise again. She believes in a traditional Jewish way, that Lazarus will experience resurrection at the last day. (Resurrection was a hot topic of debate between Sadducees and Pharisees—the Pharisees believed in it, but the Sadducees did not, which I’ve always heard is why they were Sad, you see…)

Expectations Delayed are not Necessarily Expectations Denied

Jesus challenges her traditional faith and asks her if she believes in HIM. Now, her brother is dead, and she has no way of knowing, like we all do, that Lazarus will come back to life. But she looks Jesus in the eye and gives testimony to who He is. “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”

resurrection

You know the rest of the story. Lazarus came back to life after three days in the grave. He experienced new birth, new life, and a new beginning. It’s important to note that Lazarus’ resurrection was not eternal. He still lived a normal life and then died. But do you think perhaps that he appreciated life a little more the second time around? That he hugged a little harder and enjoyed his friends and family a little more? Experiencing resurrection–being brought from death into life–should do that, shouldn’t it? In that sense, EVERY believer is Lazarus, able to find joy in the resurrection that changes the quality of their lives…

In this case, Jesus changed the quality of Lazarus’ life and provided a solution outside of Martha’s control. Her lack of faith was keeping her from seeing the things that are possible with God. What is your traditional faith holding you back from? What have you lost that you wish you could have back? Why wait for pie in the sky when you die by-and-by?

Eternal life is not a quantity of life, it is a QUALITY of life, and it has already been given to you. Look Jesus in the eye and let him know what you want. Something dear to you that you thought was lost might just come forth and live again. It might be time for a new beginning.

Eternal Musing

Will we be spending endless time just sitting on a cloud?
Will we employ eternity to sing our hymns out loud?
Or will we find that life is life, with nothing now to bind it,
Just filled with God’s eternal growth around it and behind it?
For us to learn God’s heart and mind, the riches of His love,
I think eternity itself will not be long enough…

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