Reproduction May be More Than You Learned in Biology 101

Biological reproduction has to do with the propagation of the species, among other things. You remember cellular reproduction, right? And then of course there is all that stuff about “the birds and the bees”… But there may be more to it than they taught us in Biology Class; in his second letter to Timothy, Paul talks to Timothy about spiritual reproduction, which is a whole ‘nother thing…

reproduction

A Different Kind of Multiplication

“Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me in among many witnesses, the same thou commit to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2, KJV)

This verse is well-known for being the template for spiritual reproduction. One believer teaches another. They teach another, and so on. It is Paul’s one sentence plan for reaching the whole world with the message of Jesus Christ. Quick, how many generations of disciples are connected to your reading of these verses?

The classic answer is four generations. Paul, who teaches Timothy (in the presence of other witnesses), who is told to teach faithful men, who will teach others also. That’s how spiritual reproduction works, one generation passing the gospel down to the next.

So, What is Paul Saying?

1) Paul calls Timothy his son. These men had a close bond, forged from a friendship that transcended tribulations and generations. Passing the torch of discipleship is no casual relationship. It is one of commitment and expectation. It involves acceptance of authority and accountability.

2) Committing something to faithful men is different from “let’s all go to church once a week and maybe that’ll get it done spiritually”. It uses the word “commit”, so maybe that’s self evident. It involves training, consistency, discipline, and daily devotion. How fair would it be to men sent into battle after training them an hour or two a week for a few months? They’d get slaughtered! (Instead, think spiritual Marines. Think intensity and training. Think, life and death struggle. Yeah, most of us are FAR from being the equivalent of spiritual Marines!)

We approach the very real spiritual warfare in which we are engaged with a very cavalier attitude…Perhaps that’s why churches are waning all around us, and perhaps that is why the enemy seems to be taking ground from us every day in our generation.

First or Last?

3) Every generation has the opportunity to be the final (last) Christian generation. While I know that God has other plans, this is a sobering thought. If we all quit teaching others, and all stopped committing it to faithful believers, the Christian movement would simply die from neglect. Are you ending or extending the marvelous story of Grace?

4) Count the generations again. I think there are actually SIX generations represented. The first unspoken one is the one who taught Paul. Since he spent time in the desert being taught by Christ, it’s logical to say that Jesus was the first generation (and come to think of it, that is logical not only for Paul but for all of us!).

The Next Generation

The sixth generation, as you read this verse, is YOU. You are the one who was ultimately reached by “others also”. You are the next one up, the generation upon whom future generations depend. Who are you reaching? Who are your “faithful men”? Not all of us are gifted as prophets or evangelists or preachers. But all of us are gifted with relationships. Each of us has the opportunity to pass the torch. It is up to us to extend not just the gospel but a culture of discipleship to those coming after us. Don’t break the chain.

Reproduction

Paul explained to Timothy, “What you have seen and heard from me
Review and study well. And then, commit those things to faithful men
Who, when they listen well and learn, will carry on and take their turn
To pass the torch as Christ directs from this generation to the next.
Make sure your generation’s torch is passed.
The seeds are sown, the die is cast:
If you are not the next one, then you may just be the last…

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 Worst Sinners Often Make the Best Kind of Repenters

Here’s a question: Who is the worst sinner you can think of throughout history? Or who is just the worst sinner you know? Think a little bit before you answer this one…

Who is the Worst?

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16, NIV)

We all think of the Apostle Paul as a holy man. He was a zealous convert to Christianity, a dedicated missionary, and an amazing theologian. But that’s not how Paul thought of himself. Based on what he wrote, I’m pretty sure Paul believed himself to be the worst of all sinners. Not only had he been a self-righteous “Pharisee of the Pharisees”, but he was also a persecutor of the early church. I’m sure he had a lot to answer for. I’m sure he was aware of the Biblical prediction that every man was appointed to die, and after that, to face judgement. (Hebrews 9:27)

I guess I could be relieved that Paul was the worst sinner, and I could perhaps even feel a little smug looking around at lots of people who are pretty sinful. But what I have been learning over the last few years is that every one of us has a lot to answer for—and that what YOU have to answer for should matter to YOU, and what I have to answer for should matter to ME. I’m not sure the Holy Spirit ever convicts us about OTHER peoples’ sins. I have observed that often the people who think they are close to God seem to be righteous and indignant over the wrong person’s sin.

worst sinner

Finger-pointing May not be Good For You

You may think you have been relatively good, but the more I read Scripture, the more concerned I am about all the things I have done. I’m concerned even more about all the things I haven’t done. James 4:17 says “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” THAT verse can set you back on your heels a bit…

I also see things in Scripture that hold me accountable not just for what I have done, but for what I have thought. (And I hate to admit this, but I have committed far more despicable sins in my mind than I have even had time to commit physically. Perhaps you are different, and never sin mentally or dabble with mental selfishness or depravity…)

Based on my rough assessment of my own personal inventory of sin, I’d have to say that Paul might need to move over and accept his place as the SECOND worst of sinners; he may have over-staked his claim to being worst.

In the real world, my ACTUAL sinfulness has cost me opportunities and relationships, and it has caused immeasurable harm to any number of people, including those I love the most. It has also diminished my own usefulness: how much time have I wasted on sin that could have been spent serving others or spending more time with my Father? How do I account for that? Paul says that it took the “immense patience” of Jesus Christ. His brutal, painful death paid the penalty for sin, and made it possible for a Righteous Judge to offer mercy to all sinners.

It Still Comes Down To Me

So here’s the thing: even if I were the ONLY sinner to ever live, Jesus would still have had to go to the cross for my redemption. It’s nice that Jesus died for the sins of the world, but the main thing to me is that he had to die because of ME. MY sin was incredibly costly. Salvation is free but it’s not cheap: It cost God his Son. It cost his Son his life.

It has become clearer to me that the closer we get to God, the more our own sins matter. We become more convicted. Not in a morbid, negative way (oh I feel so guilty! Whatever am I to do?), but more in a totally different sense. It’s an ‘awareness of the majesty and mystery of Grace’ way (oh I feel so grateful! What, Lord, should I do?).

I hope you are aware enough of what Christ did to be grateful. I hope that we sinners can be aware enough to be deeply convicted as well… If you feel like you’ve been pretty good overall, and you are not somehow devastated by the price that has to be paid for your sins, then you probably ought to do a quick position check. You may not be as close to God as you think.

Who Owns the Title?

Of all the righteous Pharisees, Paul said he was the first;
But out of all the sinners, he proclaimed himself the worst!
Now, Paul preached Christ in every town and prison he was in,
But he still felt inadequate because of all his sin.
We all judge sin from time to time–it’s what we see in others;
We even notice faults among our Christian friends and brothers.
Surely Paul’s assessment of his sins was overrated,
And when He called himself the worst, perhaps he over-stated…
Perhaps we’d see Paul differently and understand him clearer
If we felt worst about the sin reflected in our mirror.

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

Choose Encouragement When You Are Tempted by Dis

You know about people who gripe, right? They always complain because they are disgusted or disappointed with something. Social Media is full of them, unhappy people who aren’t really happy unless they are making someone else unhappy! They discuss negative things or offer disparaging comments. Unhappy people diss things. They like to dispute more than they like to contribute. There’s a BIG Difference between “en” and “dis”, when it comes to courage. Think about the difference between “Encouragement” and “Discouragement”…

(And by the way, if you are following along, it’s Day 60 of our Reading through the Bible, bringing us to Second Thessalonians…)

A Good Word

“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17, NIV)

Some days it’s just good to hear encouragement. So many things happen in life that wear us down or cause distress that we might just need an encouraging word… Some of those things are merely mechanical. Perhaps you’ve had one of those weeks where your car breaks down, your refrigerator goes out, your flight gets cancelled, or your phone breaks. Days like that are irritating and annoying. And it’s not just these “little” things that tear us down, but on top of that we are beset with bad news, health issues, loneliness, and emotional distress. Life has so many ways to discourage us…

The Difference Between “Dis” and “En”

It was true in the first century and it is true now. If we focus on the negative, we can get caught up in discouragement. But don’t do “dis”: Do “en”. Think about the difference those prefixes can make. “Dis” can turn enchantment into Disenchantment. Courage can be made into Discouragement. But, it can also become Encouragement!

There are lots of ways to distribute encouragement. You can speak an encouraging word, offer a smile, or give a hug. In the days of the great sailing ships, mariners would often tattoo words of encouragement onto their knuckles to remind them what to do. But however you deliver the message, use the positive prefix to offer positive feelings.

encouragement

Chuck Swindoll encourages us to encourage someone else, and then to take it to another level! He said, “When we encourage others we spur them on, we stimulate and affirm them.” He also said, “Appreciate what someone does, but also affirm who he is. Affirmation goes deeper.” Along those same lines, the Apostle Paul says, “Stand firm” and “hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you“.

Do you know teachings that build you up and give you hope? (I know where you can find some!) The New Testament promises that God (who “loved us by his grace” and gave us “eternal encouragement and good hope”) will Himself encourage our hearts and strengthen us in every good word and deed.

An Encouraging Word

Have you ever felt strengthened by God? Have you ever felt encouraged by his presence? God’s encouragement is no small thing. It’s eternal, which always trumps temporary, and you don’t have to earn it because it is freely given to us. What’s more, when we embrace it, it will show up in our actions and our words. So wherever you are, be ENCOURAGED today. Act ENCOURAGING. Speak an ENCOURAGING word. I think you’ll find those are all related.

Take A Little Encouragement

Here's a word that I hope will last:
Be strong! Stand firm! Hold on; hold fast!
Be encouraged today if things go wrong,
Find hope in God! Rise up! Be strong!
When life is hard and goes amiss,
And the world for 'couragement' offers "dis",
Remember the man who set his face
To go to the cross to take our place
And pay the price for amazing grace!
He took my place, where I might have been,
So I've said it before, and I'll say it again:
Because of his courage, I'm all "en"!

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

Share: Maybe They Were Right in Kindergarten, After All

You know that friend you have with whom you share everything? I think Paul had lots of those kinds of friends. When he wrote to the Believers at Thessalonica, he reminded them of just how close they had become when he had worked among them.
“Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well… For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, 11-12 NIV)

Picture This:

To me, this is the true picture of evangelism: a relationship that builds upon the foundation of the gospel to incorporate love and encouragement into everyday life. I think the KJV translation portrays it even better: “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherishes her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.”

Who is dear to you? Who do you cherish? I often think of cherishing my own children or grandchildren; not so much people very different from me, or people who don’t share my values… Although as it turns out. God has blessed me with some relationships that feel like family even though we are different.

So, What’s YOUR Definition?

And what is evangelism? Is it big crusades with invitations? Is it taking the chance to share the Gospel on the streets? Why we do Evangelism is not based on numbers or results, or even on the importance of our mission; but we should really only share the gospel with someone because we love them. That’s really the only root cause of missions, of being called by God, and of being the Church.

How loving would it be to see someone deathly ill, to possess the antidote, and to refuse to share it with them? Compassionate love is the underlying reason for the gospel, reminding us it is not only about fulfilling a mission but about performing ministry. Evangelism is a means to engage others to encourage, comfort and exhort. It is a way to express to others what Jesus gave to us.

Is It Really Just This Simple?

It means stepping out from our biases and culture; it means going out into a Covid world to help. Evangelism is not thumping your Bible or out-positioning a skeptic, it is about doing what Jesus said we were supposed to do: love one another. The gospel is delightful and important; it is tender and demanding. It is a call to kingdom and glory, and to service and humility.

share life

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a clue from Paul’s letter and at least encourage my own kids, Jessica Nelson, Katy Burton, and Jordan Jackson (and Chris Nelson, John Burton, and Mallory Jackson too!) to “live lives worthy of God”. I know you guys do, and I know it’s not always easy. But take heart, and be courageous! It’s a journey worth taking.

Paul’s verses here in his letter to the Thessalonians remind us that we should urge and encourage one another to live the right kind of life. And to all of us today, Paul says: share the gospel, share your life. That also works when you flip it around: share your life, share the gospel! We were all taught to share in kindergarten. Maybe this is why.

Sharing is Caring

Evangelism conjures up a sermon and a Bible,
A fiery preacher calling folks to have a big revival.
Paul said there’s another way to share the gospel news:
Cherish people. That’s a harder sermon to refuse.
If you’d like to win someone to Christ, then take this dare:
Love them well, just as you’d love a child for whom you care.
Offer them your friendship, showing love by what you do:
And then they’ll find the gospel’s something they can to listen to.

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

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 to watch or 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 things you watch 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? Is its message good or bad? 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. The riches revealed in those moments 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, but there it is.

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 Perfect 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. The reality is, sometimes they fail miserably. But, 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

How Did Saul the Christian Killer Become the Apostle Paul?

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
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