The Surprising Christmas Story in John’s Gospel

christmas-1

7 Life-Changing Christmas Facts in the First Chapter of John

When we think about the Christmas story, we usually start with the Gospel of Luke and Gospel of Matthew. There we see the shepherds, the magi, and the angel Gabriel’s stunning declaration to Mary. Other colorful characters appear, including Elizabeth and Zacharias, Simeon and Anna.

But John’s Gospel presents the rest of the story. As the final of the four Gospel accounts, it reveals the deeper meaning of the events in Bethlehem that first Christmas.

In the first chapter of John, we see 7 important facts about the true meaning of Christmas…

  1. Christmas is about eternity, not just about Bethlehem.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

You see, Christmas didn’t start with Gabriel’s appearance to Mary or with the manger scene. The Son of God stepped out of eternity as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Numerous Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by Him, and these amazing predictions came through several different people over the course of five centuries from 1000 to 500 BC. Twenty-four specific prophecies were fulfilled in just the 24 hours before Jesus’ death.

Just as your Heavenly Father could look down through the centuries and foresee the details of Jesus’ life, nothing in your life is catching Him by surprise. The same God who fulfilled His promises in intricate detail in the life of His Son Jesus will be faithful to fulfill every promise of His Word for YOU today!

  1. Christmas has been under attack since its inception, but Jesus and His message are invincible, destined to prevail.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not [overcome] it.

King Herod massacred babies in an attempt to eliminate the newborn King (Matthew 2:16-18). Throughout history, others have tried to diminish the memory or message of the Messiah.

But John’s Gospel points out the wonderful fact that darkness is powerless to overcome the light. That’s very good news if you are facing some kind of darkness in your  life today.

  1. Although we love the Christmas stories about Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the magi (people who loved Jesus), many people either were unaware of Jesus’ coming or else completely rejected Him.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

Even today, there still are billions of people in the world who have never heard the name of Jesus even once. Others know about Him, but have rejected His message.

Instead of being offended by this rejection or taking it personally, we should be motivated all the more to proclaim the name of Jesus, the only One who can save humanity from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

  1. Christmas ultimately is not just about a baby born in a manager; it’s about His power to give a new birth to anyone who receives Him as Lord and Savior.

12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

As C.S. Lewis well said, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” Our physical birth is not enough, Jesus told religious leader Nicodemus. We must receive a spiritual birth too, being “born again” in order to see and enter God’s kingdom (John 3:1-7).

  1. Christmas is the story of Immanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14), and His presence is always characterized by both grace and truth.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

God loved the world so much that He didn’t just send a letter, a postcard, an email, or an Instagram. He became flesh, personally stepping into our world.

In contrast to the example of many of His followers today, Jesus was full of BOTH grace and truth. This is a great reminder that we’re called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)—never shrinking back from sharing the truth, but always communicating it with grace.

  1. Christmas would be a meaningless event if it hadn’t been for Jesus’ death and resurrection.

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

The baby in Bethlehem grew up! John the Baptist accurately discerned His calling as God’s sacrificial Lamb—the Savior who was born to die (Isaiah 53).

  1. Christmas illustrates the promise of an open heaven, with God not only sending His Son, but also every other blessing we need (Ephesians 1:3, Philippians 4:19).

49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Jesus was referring to Jacob’s vision of an open heaven, with a ladder between the heavenly and earthly realms (Genesis 28). As John’s Gospel unfolds, we’re told clearly that Jesus Himself is the ladder or bridge to heaven, and there is no other pathway but Him (John 14:6).

Yet Christmas is about more than just getting people to heaven. Jesus also brought some of heaven down to US, and He told us to pray for heaven to be revealed through our own lives as well (Matthew 6:10).

Along with Jesus, we’re privileged to receive everything else that’s included in God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:33). That’s why Paul could say in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us ALL things?”

This Christmas, I hope you’ll remember that the God who loved you enough to give you His Son will also hear your prayers and give you the other things you need in life. The next time you hear someone say, “Merry Christmas,” keep in mind that it’s not just about a historical event in Bethlehem. It’s a transcendent reality meant to change your life today—and your future in eternity as well.

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The Cure for an Uneventful Life

lame man

Recently a friend texted me and asked how my week was going.

“Uneventful!” was my reply.

My friend texted back and said that sometimes “uneventful” isn’t such a bad thing. I guess he had a point, but in my case “uneventful” was pretty much equivalent to boring.

This got me thinking about one of my favorite stories in the Bible, the lame man who was healed in Acts 3:1-9. The chapter begins at three o’clock in the afternoon, as Peter and John are on their way into the Temple for a prayer meeting.

The part that intrigues me is that these mighty apostles had apparently had an uneventful day up until that point—and the day was more than half over.

If you’re an old guy like me, there’s a fantastic message of hope here. Even if things have been relatively uneventful in your life up until this point, a miracle from God might be right around the corner. Hey, the day isn’t over yet, and you might be about to meet someone who would remain “crippled” without your prayers or encouragement. Perhaps it’s a waitress, a gas station cashier, or someone next to your cubicle at work, but you encounter lots of people who need a miracle from heaven.

Yet we also have to face the fact that some days—or months or even years—are seemingly uneventful. Remember how Moses spent 40 years in the backside of the desert, taking care of his father-in-law’s sheep? Life must have been pretty boring, to say the least.

Little did he know, but Moses was about to see a burning bush that would completely change the trajectory of his life (Exodus 3:1-22). In an amazingly short period of time, his life was rebooted—and he was 80 years old at the time!

When I view my uneventful life from the perspective of Acts 3 and Exodus 3, I realize a troubling fact: Often our lives are uneventful simply because we’re not alert to the divine appointments God puts in our path.

Countless people passed by the lame man every day, but only Peter and John recognized that this was an opportunity for the Lord to perform a miraculous healing.

And God didn’t address Moses from the burning bush until “the Lord saw that he turned aside to look” (v. 4). In other words, this pivotal event in the history of the Israelites might never have occurred if Moses had failed to pay attention to what he saw.

I’m convinced my life wouldn’t be quite so uneventful if I was more sensitive to God-ordained opportunities along my path. Even when it’s three o’clock in the afternoon, there’s still time for a life-changing event to change everything.

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You, the Magic Kingdom & Happily Ever After

Magic Kingdom

I had a strange dream last night. I was doing a Q & A session at a Christian conference, and someone unexpectedly asked, “What do you think of Mickey Mouse and the Magic Kingdom?”

Considering it a very odd question, I initially started to brush it off. “Well, I don’t really have much to say about Mickey from a Biblical perspective,” I said.

But suddenly I had a flash of insight…

“One thing I would point out, however, is that the original Disney franchise thrived because people were thirsting for something magical—which we would call supernatural or miraculous in the Christian life,” I explained. “Glass slippers, fairy dust, magic wands, and kisses that can raise the dead were symbolic of the kinds of things we’re yearning for God to do in our lives. We inherently sense that we’re unable to accomplish these things without His supernatural involvement.”

As the dream continued, I pointed out other parallels. “God’s kingdom IS a ‘magic’ kingdom. When Jesus preached on the kingdom of God, He performed healings and did all kinds of miracles. In His kingdom—as in an old Disney movie—each of His sons and daughters is a prince or princess, and we should treat other Christians like that today.”

Right before the dream came to an end, I went on a rant about how our churches and our Christian lives today should rediscover the “magic”—reflecting more of the miracle-working power of God.

Living Happily Ever After

After waking from this unusual dream, I’ve been reflecting on why we love the Disney fairy tales so much. Yes, there have been some great love stories, like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. But it’s not just  that the protagonists are handsome, beautiful, hard-working, or intelligent. They’ve needed something magical  and supernatural  in order to get to their happy ending.

In the same way, the Christian life is a magical, supernatural life, energized by the Holy Spirit instead of mere human effort. Without Christ living His life through us, all we have is dead religion—which doesn’t make for a good fairy tale at all.

Just as in the Cinderella story, we all need three things in order to experience a happy ending in our Christian life: (1) A love relationship with Jesus, the Prince; (2) Recognition of our glass slipper, the customized purpose we were born to fulfill; and (3) Reliance on the power of the Spirit to bring about His “magic” in our life.

Cinderella’s life was dreary until she experienced these three things, and ours will be as well. But the good news is that God wants to come on the scene and work some of His magic to turn things around for us.

Yet you may ask, “Is it really possible to experience a ‘happily ever after’ kind of life?”

I understand why you may be skeptical. This world is full of discouraging circumstances, making it exceedingly difficult to “wish upon a star,” as the Disney theme song prescribes.

Nevertheless, King David’s words at the end of Psalm 23 show us that “happily ever after” is possible, after all: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

David was a king who had met the Lord as his loving Prince and Good Shepherd. And He was confident the “goodness and mercy” of that Prince would last him all the days of his life.

And notice that while we all hope for a “happily ever after” outcome in this present life, God gives us something even better to look forward to—happiness with Him for all eternity…forever.

No wonder the classic Disney movies are so popular. They tap into our heart’s longing for our Heavenly Prince, our glass slipper, and the magic available by His Spirit.

It’s fitting that we’re treated to these classic Disney stories decade after decade. We all need periodic refresher courses in the supernatural, love-filled Christian life, reminding us of our high calling as princes and princesses in God’s magical kingdom.

Some stories never get old, nor should they.

 

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Your Title Deed to a Better Year Ahead

What are you hopes and dreams for the coming year? I was journaling about that question today. My conclusion was that I have many small hopes for next year and one big one.

What about you?

When I was discussing this with a friend recently, he made an interesting prediction. “Jim, I feel as if we’re about to ‘turn a corner.’ Many of the things God wants to do for us aren’t even visible right now. We’ll have to turn the corner in order to see them.”

My friend’s statement got me thinking about one of the most intriguing verses in the entire Bible: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

On the one hand, faith is a “NOW” experience—something tangible we can hold in our hands today. However, faith has no real meaning unless it’s connected to “things hoped for”—God’s promises for our future.

As you head into a new year, what are the things you’re hoping for? Even though they may be “things not seen”  yet by your natural eyes, by faith they can nevertheless be REAL.

The writer of Hebrews continues this thought throughout chapter 11. All of those in the Bible’s “Hall of Fame of Faith” had to trust God for things they couldn’t yet see…

  • Abraham and Sarah were promised a son.
  • Moses and the Israelites were told about a Promised Land the Lord had prepared for them.
  • The disciples were promised the Holy Spirit, who would soon come and empower them.

The Amplified translation of Hebrews 11:1 says faith is the “title deed”  to things not yet experienced by our physical senses. These things may be right around the corner or many years off. We simply can’t see them yet.

However, when God made a promise to someone in the Bible, it was as good as done. Perhaps the person wasn’t actually living in their Promised Land yet, but they had the title deed.

Many of God’s promises are generic and timeless. For example, we’re promised His faithfulness (Lamentations 3: 22-24), His presence (Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5), and His continual goodness and mercy (Psalm 23:6). Not only does He promise to meet all of our needs (Philippians 4:19), but He also promises to give us the desires of our heart  if our main delight is in Him (Psalm 37:4).

Of course, the Bible has many other general promises applicable to all of us who are believers in Christ. But what about situations where we need something more personal, addressing a very specific need in our lives? What if we’re asking God to do something for us that isn’t specifically covered by any of the generic promises in His Word?

In such cases, we need to hear His voice!  We must draw near to Him in prayer and listen for the promptings of His Spirit. Like Peter, who wouldn’t dare step out of the boat until summoned by Jesus, we need to await His instructions.

So…

Do you have your title deed—your promises from God—for the coming year? If so, you can wait patiently for their fulfillment. Or if action is required on your part, He will enable you to take bold steps of faith and overcome all obstacles.

At times your title deed will be a direct promise in the Bible, energized by the Holy Spirit as you pray. At other times, He will customize a promise just for you. Either way, the assurance that comes with the title deed will give you deeper rest and peace than you’ve ever experienced before. No more striving…worrying…fretting. The moment He declares something, you can consider it finished.

So take a deep breath and thank God for everything He’s promised you. If you have the title deed, all you need to do is trust and obey. He will take care of everything else.

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Extra-ordinary Is Easier Than You Think

Lately I’ve been amazed by how many people seem content to settle for an ordinary life. A line from a popular Switchfoot song has been echoing in my head: “We were made to live for so much more…have we lost ourselves?”

This widespread acceptance of mediocrity is especially sad in light of the fact that it takes so very little to be above average…to be extra-ordinary.

Jesus pointed this out when He said, “Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:41). You see, it was common for Roman soldiers to force people to carry their gear for a mile. But Jesus said His followers should do even MORE than what was expected of them—not the bare minimum.

Are you that kind of person, seeking to be extra-ordinary in every situation and relationship? Or do you only do what is required of you—what you must do to “get by”?

  • It’s ordinary to get to work on time…but extra-ordinary to arrive a little early and leave a little late.
  • It’s ordinary to meet  your deadlines…but extra-ordinary to beat  your deadlines.
  • It’s ordinary to try to fulfill people’s expectations…but extra-ordinary to do more  than they expect.
  • It’s ordinary to treat people like they treat you…but extra-ordinary to treat others better than they’ve treated you (Matthew 5:46-47, 7:12).

How does this principle apply to YOU? Have you settled for ordinary, when extra-ordinary is so clearly within your reach? Or perhaps you haven’t even been going the “first mile,” let alone the second.

If we’ve truly given our heart to Christ, living an ordinary life in inexcusable. After all, He now lives in us through the power of His Spirit (Romans 8:11, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:27). From start to finish, the Christian life is meant to be a SUPERNATURAL life. So how could we ever allow it to become merely ordinary, no different from those who have no relationship at all with the Lord?

Another fascinating component of this is found in Acts 19:11: “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul.” I don’t know many American believers today who are performing even ordinary miracles, do you? Yet this verse says the miracles done through Paul were extra-ordinary—above and beyond the fruit of the Spirit and the supernatural manifestations expected of average followers of Jesus (e.g., Galatians 5:22-23, Mark 16:17-18, 1 Corinthians 12).

Maybe you think I’m being rather harsh, setting the standard too high. But if we sincerely compare our present lives to the extra-ordinary Christian life depicted in Scripture, won’t we conclude that the opposite is true? Haven’t we been guilty of lowering the bar instead of setting our sights too high?

Instead of blaming me for bringing up this uncomfortable issue, I encourage you to spend some time asking God how it applies to you. Are there a few simple changes that would take your life from ordinary to extra-ordinary?

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What Is That in Your Hand?

Jim preaching JPG

If you had just 20 minutes to prepare a sermon, what would your topic be? That was my uncomfortable predicament while visiting friends in Auckland, New Zealand recently.

My friend Rob was scheduled to preach at a Filipino church that Sunday, and I was expecting just to sit in the front row and cheer him on. I knew he was dealing with some health issues, but I always thought he would rally in time to preach.

But in the 20 minutes it took for his wife to drive us to the church, it became clear that I better get serious about giving the message. Up until that time, nothing was on my heart, but I suddenly got inspired by God’s incredible question to Moses in Exodus 4:2:

“What is that in your hand?”

When the Lord asked this question, the only thing in Moses’ hand was a crude shepherd’s rod. It wasn’t much. Just a piece of wood. An inanimate object. A tool of Moses’ trade.

God was commissioning him for the daunting task of delivering over a million Israelites from slavery in Egypt. And all Moses had in his hand was the wooden staff he had used for 40 years to tend his flocks of sheep.

Do you see how powerful this message is for you and me? Like Moses, we’re being called to do great things…supernatural things…things much bigger than we could ever accomplish without divine assistance.

Too often we think our problem is that we lack some important ingredient or resource for success. But notice that God wasn’t asking Moses to give Him something he didn’t already have. Instead, He asked Moses, as He is asking us today…

 “What is that in your hand?”

Moses had been carrying around that ordinary piece of wood for many years, and nothing dramatic had happened as a result. But after Moses surrendered the wooden rod to the Lord, it became “the rod of God” instead of merely the rod of Moses (Exodus 4:20). No longer a mere piece of wood, this rod enabled Moses to part the Red Sea, bring water out of a rock, and defeat enemy armies.

What is in YOUR hand, my friend? Money. Time. Possessions. Influence. Some kind of special God-given aptitude.

If you’re honest, the thing in your hand probably seems totally inadequate to meet the needs around you. However, you’ll be amazed by what can happen when you surrender it to the Lord.

Remember…

  • Samson slayed hundreds of Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.
  • David defeated Goliath with a slingshot and five smooth stones.
  • Jesus’ used a young boy’s lunch—five loaves and two fish—to feed thousands of hungry people.

So go ahead and give God what you’ve been holding on to. It’s not doing you much good in its present condition anyway, is it?

Don’t delay. Anytime you transfer what’s in YOUR hands into HIS hands, miracles happen. He will give you back the rod you’ve surrendered, but this time it will be infused with supernatural power to change the world.

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The Power and the Process

I really like the concept of miracles. As a writer for a Christian ministry, I find myself regularly penning articles and books about God’s desire to give “supernatural breakthroughs” to His people in their health, finances, emotions, and relationships.

It’s not entirely hype. I’ve seen breakthroughs like that, and they are awesome. We desperately need to see more of God’s supernatural power manifested in the American church today.

However, like almost any Biblical issue, there’s another side to the story. Yes, God wants to reveal His POWER, but He also wants us to understand that some miracles require a PROCESS.

A simple illustration is the conception, development, and birth of a baby. The whole thing is pretty miraculous, if you ask me. But God doesn’t do it all by Himself. He works through a man and woman through a set process that ultimately leads to a baby being born.

A great quote attributed to St. Augustine says, “Without God, we cannot. But without us, God will not.” In other words, we’re called to be what the apostle Paul described as “God’s partners” (NLT) or “God’s co-workers” (NIV). He will always be faithful to do HIS part, but the outcome of a matter is often dependent on us doing OUR part as well.

Farmers traditionally have had a keen appreciation for this partnership. Perhaps that’s why Jesus told several parables about sowing seeds and trusting God for a fruitful harvest (e.g., see Mark 4). I particularly love the parable about a man who scattered seed on the ground and then went to sleep (vs. 26-29). Isn’t that cool? The man knew he had faithfully done his part, and then he rested in the assurance that God would cause his seeds to “sprout and grow,” even though “he himself does not know how.”

The farmer in this story didn’t have to understand the entire biology of “how” his seeds would be turned into a crop. He simply knew the process would work, if he worked the process.

It’s fascinating to see that although this man’s harvest could be aptly described as a “miracle breakthrough,” it wasn’t instantaneous but gradual and progressive in nature: “first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.”

If you’re like me, you get frustrated by this. Why can’t the harvest come all at once, fully grown right from the beginning? While I’m sure some harvests DO arrive instantly, that’s surely not the norm. Almost always, we have to wait for our seeds to sprout, and then we have to wait some more until they come to maturity.

I’ve noticed that some people are so in love with the concept of the supernatural that they overlook their responsibility to plant any seeds. They haven’t witnessed to anyone, but they seem puzzled that no one is getting saved. Or they beg God to open the door for a new job, even though they haven’t gotten around to sending out their resume yet.

Other people are painstakingly trying to work life’s processes, but they are in desperate need of a supernatural touch from God to energize and multiply their well-intentioned seeds. They’ve forgotten that even after seeds have been planted and watered, GOD must be the one who makes them grow (1 Corinthians 3:6).

In order to reach maximum fruitfulness, we need both God’s power and His processes. The processes may not be glamorous, but they are a necessary part of receiving the Lord’s provision. Apart from Him we can accomplish nothing of lasting value, but as we abide in Him and patiently apply His prescribed processes, we will surely bear much fruit (John 15:5).

 

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5 Things You Can Expect When Jesus Is in the House

 

Churches all over the world claim to have Jesus “in the house,” but sometimes there is scant evidence to support that claim. Mark 2:1-12 provides us with a vivid outline of what it looks like to have Jesus actively working in our gatherings. The chapter begins by saying that Jesus had come back to Capernaum, His home base, and word had gotten out “that He was at home.”

I pray that this kind of word-of-mouth marketing is happening for your congregation today. Long before Facebook and Twitter, word quickly got out that Jesus was in the house, and a number of stunning results followed.

Here are 5 things you can expect to happen when people hear that Jesus is regularly “in the house” during your church gatherings:

  1. Crowds will come. Verse 2 says, “Many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door.”  While your congregation may not be a megachurch, the Biblical model makes it clear that large numbers of people will be attracted if they truly know that Jesus is in the house.
  2.  The Word of God will be taught. Verse 3 tells us, “He was speaking the word to them.” Other aspects of Jesus’ ministry would be demonstrated later in the story, but first He taught the Word. Today we have many churches that teach the Word, but which demonstrate no power. We also have churches that are highly experiential, with very little teaching from the Scriptures. Yet when Jesus is in the house, the two go hand in hand.
  3. Radical faith will be sparked. Hearing that Jesus was in the house, four men carried a paralyzed friend to the meeting place. When the large crowd prevented them from bringing the paralytic through the doorway, they climbed up on the roof and dug a hole to lower the man on a pallet in front of Jesus. What radical behavior! This kind of passionate determination would be so out of character for polite, conventional, American Christians. Verse 5 says Jesus SAW their faith—quite a contrast to the common misconception today that faith can be a private, personal matter that we keep to ourselves.
  4. Forgiveness will be released. Although the man had been brought to the meeting for healing of his paralysis, Jesus saw a much more critical need, telling the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (v. 5). Countless people today are paralyzed because of a need for forgiveness. Either they are immobilized by guilt and shame over things they’ve done, or else they are locked in an emotional prison because of their unwillingness to forgive others. Jesus was about to perform a miracle of physical healing as well, but first He made sure that the forgiveness issue was fully dealt with in this man.
  5. Miracles will happen. When was the last time you witnessed a genuine miracle in your church? Yet that’s the kind of thing that can be expected when Jesus is in the house. After He had taught the Word and dealt with the forgiveness issue, He boldly told the paralyzed man, “Get up, pick up your pallet and go home”  (v. 11).When people saw the man immediately set free from his paralysis, they “were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this’”  (v. 12).

I absolutely love this conclusion of the story. God was glorified  by what had happened, as He always is when we invite Jesus to freely work in our gatherings.

People testified that they had never seen anything like this before. That’s exactly what will happen again today when you and I allow Jesus to come and fill our house today. Even if we’re longtime Christians, we will marvel at the blessings and miracles released by our Lord’s presence among us.

So let’s not settle for anything less in our churches and our homes than to have Jesus in the house.

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Jed Clampett’s 7 Surprising Keys to a Financial Breakthrough

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed,

A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed.
Then one day he was shootin’ at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude.

Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.

– “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” by Paul Henning

For most Baby Boomers, the amazing story of Jed Clampett’s sudden wealth is well known. “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV show chronicled Jed’s discovery of oil while “shootin’ at some food.” Suddenly Jed is a millionaire, so he packs up his old truck and moves his family to California.

While Jed Clampett’s story seems whimsical, if not ridiculous, it’s actually packed with some vital biblical lessons for anyone who desires a new level of financial prosperity:

1. Miracles happen. Not many people discover oil when they’re out coon hunting! Ordinarily, wealth is attained “little by little” and day by day rather than by some kind of sudden financial breakthrough (Exodus23:29-30). Those who adopt a “get rich quick” monetary strategy are usually lazy and prone to be suckers for lottery tickets and bets at race tracks.

You’ve probably heard it said that “money doesn’t grow on trees”—but that’s not true! Just ask someone who gets their living by growing apples, oranges or peaches. Even Bill Gates—the wealthiest man in the world—“planted a tree” when he started the Microsoft Corporation!

So when you ask God for a miraculous financial breakthrough, consider that He often responds by telling you to plant something that can bear fruit. Despite Jed Clampett’s remarkable story, things usually don’t happen that way. The Bible’s teaching is clear: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously”  (2 Corinthians 9:6-11). If you want a great harvest, you need to sow some seeds!

Nevertheless, God wants us to know that He can, and WILL, give financial breakthroughs to His people. The pages of Scripture are filled with examples of this:

  • In mere hours, Joseph went from the prison to the palace—from dire poverty to sensational wealth (Genesis 41:39-43).
  • Mephibosheth experienced a sudden and unexpected rise from the squalor of Lo-Debar to the splendor of the king’s banquet hall (2 Samuel 9).
  • Four lepers were starving to death just before they took a bold step of faith and discovered riches more lavish than they ever could have dreamed of (2 Kings 7:3-9).
  • Job had been stripped of all his possessions before God broke through and gave him double of everything he had lost (Job 42:10-12).
  • Peter and his fishing partners had “worked all night and caught nothing” right before Jesus gave them a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:1-11).

Like Jed Clampett, these biblical characters each experienced a special moment in time when their financial situation took a “quantum leap” forward. And if it happened to them, it can happen to you.

These characters in Scripture also have something else in common with Jed: They were suffering tremendous lack just prior to receiving their breakthrough. In Jed’s case, he “barely kept his family fed.” Joseph was in the dungeon…the lepers were starving…Job was destitute…and the fishermen were frustrated by their inability to prosper at their profession.

If you are experiencing financial frustrations in your own life today, remember this first lesson: God can do miracles to turn your situation around.

2. Do what you love  to do. When did old Jed’s turnaround occur? He was hunting—doing something he loved to do!

The TV scriptwriters could have said Jed struck it rich on Wall Street or in the real estate market, but that would have been even harder to believe than his discovery of oil! In the same way, God usually will give us our breakthroughs when we’re doing something we love—fulfilling the very thing He has put in our heart to do.

Taking your shotgun into the woods or your fishing pole to the lake may not seem a very likely way to strike it rich…but the key is to look for careers or entrepreneurial ventures that truly fit your God-given personality and passion. You will always find God’s blessing in the place He wants you to be—even if that means being outdoors, “shootin’ at some food.”

3. Accidents can be a blessing. Before Jed Clampett took his shotgun into the woods, he didn’t tell his family he was going out to search for oil!  His discovery was merely a by-product of being in the right place, at the right time, doing the thing God wanted him to do.

Likewise, many of the greatest scientific and medical discoveries in history were made entirely by accident!

  • Christopher Columbus wasn’t looking for the New World—he just wanted to find a shortcut to India and China. His “accident” turned out to be quite a blessing!
  • Coca-Cola was invented by Dr. John Pemberton in May 1886—as a headache tonic. When Coca-Cola was first marketed as a beverage at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, sales averaged just nine servings a day, and Pemberton lost money on the product. But today more than one billion drinks of Coke are consumed each day, and the Coca-Cola Company receives trillions of dollars of annual revenue.
  • Penicillin was discovered in 1928, when Alexander Fleming noticed that mold spores from an open window were destroying harmful bacteria samples he was experimenting on.
  • X-rays were accidentally discovered in 1895 by German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen when he was studying cathode rays.
  • Post-it Notes were made possible when a researcher at the 3M Company was trying to improve adhesive tape. He came up with a semi-sticky adhesive that at first seemed worthless.

These stories show that God can use our mistakes and accidents to be a blessing, but it’s crucial for us to recognize the blessing when it comes. Jed somehow realized that the “bubblin’ crude” was a valuable discovery.

Don’t miss this vital lesson: We must be alert to God’s blessings, even when we stumble upon them by mistake or during a time of apparent failure in what we set out to do. We’re not told whether Jed ever succeeded in shooting any food for his family that day…but that didn’t matter in the larger scheme of things.

4. God gets the credit. Supernatural breakthroughs are truly super-natural—a matter of grace rather than human effort. Jed obviously couldn’t take much credit for his financial windfall. God had sovereignly blessed him, and Jed merely stumbled into his newfound prosperity.

Of course, there’s also another side to this. Miracles often come when we take action  to obey some kind of instruction or prompting by God:

  • The four lepers took action to leave their comfort zone and visit the Syrian camp.
  • Job’s financial restoration came after he prayed for his friends.
  • The fishermen received the miracle catch of fish after they obeyed Jesus’ instruction about where to cast their net.

Nevertheless, no human merit or effort could be credited for the extraordinary abundance these folks received. As Deuteronomy 8:17-18 tells us, “It is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

5. The oil was there all along. Did God first create the oil reserve on the day Jed found it? Of course not. The oil had been there all along—right under Jed’s feet as he lived in near poverty with his family. But Jed was so preoccupied with his coon hunting that for years he failed to recognize the incredible hidden wealth that was available to him.

And don’t miss this: If the reservoir of oil could be revealed by Jed’s stray bullet, it must have been awfully close to the surface! Even though our financial breakthrough may seem a million miles away, the truth is that it’s often right under our feet and just below the surface! It has been there all along, and we simply need to dig in the right spot.

6. Jed’s breakthrough caused a ripple effect. Jed wasn’t the only one impacted by his discovery. The ripple effect of blessing touched each of his family members and an ever-widening circle of others who were touched by his bounty.

In the same way, God wants to bless us so we can BE a blessing (Genesis 12:2). Those who are generous will prosper (Proverbs11:25), and their prosperity will touch many others. God wants to bless us in such a way that people all over the earth will hear of Him! (Psalm 67:1-7)

If you woke up tomorrow morning and found that a few million dollars had unexpectedly been placed into your bank account, who would be impacted? Hopefully there would be a multitude of other people who would be touched because of your unselfish generosity.

7. Jed had to learn how to handle his windfall. It’s one thing to receive a windfall of money, and it’s quite another thing to know what to do with it. That’s why many lottery winners are absolutely broke just a few years after receiving an award of millions of dollars. They didn’t have the knowledge or character to handle their sudden abundance.

Jed’s lifestyle dramatically changed. He was used to living in the hills, but NOT Beverly  Hills! Most of the humor of “The Beverly Hillbillies” involved Jed and his family learning an entirely different skill-set from anything they had known before.

What about you? Do you have the wisdom, self-control and character to handle a huge financial windfall if the Lord gave you one? Would such a windfall be a blessing or a curse to you?

I was impressed by an interview several years ago of Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.  Rick pastored a large church, but never in his life had he seen financial compensation like the millions  of dollars he received in royalties for his best-selling book.

How did Rick Warren handle his rapid financial boon? He and his wife determined that their standard of living would not change substantially. He set up a nonprofit foundation to handle most of the added revenue and funnel it toward humanitarian purposes. And Rick even decided to give the church back all the compensation he had received as its pastor over the years.

Are You Ready?

I’m preparing my heart for a financial breakthrough, and I hope you are too. It could come today  as you are “shootin’ at some food,” or perhaps it will take a while longer. It may come as a dramatic and surprising event like Jed Clampett experienced, or it may occur gradually, through the processes of wise saving and investing.

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