Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spreading Fame

Matthew 4:24-25
(24)  So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.
(25)  And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

(24) καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἡ ἀκοὴ αὐτοῦ εἰς ὅλην τὴν Συρίαν· καὶ προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ πάντας τοὺς κακῶς ἔχοντας ποικίλαις νόσοις καὶ βασάνοις συνεχομένους καὶ δαιμονιζομένους καὶ σεληνιαζομένους καὶ παραλυτικούς, καὶ ἐθεράπευσεν αὐτούς.
(25) καὶ ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοὶ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ Δεκαπόλεως καὶ Ἱεροσολύμων καὶ Ἰουδαίας καὶ πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου.

Jesus had something of a rockstar following here.  When I read ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοὶ I get an image of a combination of U2 and the Grateful Dead on tour because the word πολλοὶ means "much, many, large," which modifies ὄχλοι (crowds).  But what else would you expect?  After all, He was healing people from conditions for which the people had no cure.  They hadn't heard about what it means to follow Him yet (come back tomorrow), so they were interested in the show and what He could do for them.

There are a couple of ways I can go with this.  First, I think about how many today follow Jesus simply because of what they hope He will do for them.  They don't care about His glory or serving Him, but about the peace He brings or other benefits they hope to get.  As we'll see in the next three chapters, that is not where we should be.

The other thing I think of is how He healed.  The Greek καὶ δαιμονιζομένους καὶ σεληνιαζομένους καὶ παραλυτικούς can literally be translated as "those being with demons and those being epileptics and those being paralytics."  It's also possible that instead of "and" separating those words you could insert "even" as that is one of the things that και can mean.  I'm not going to crack open my Wallace for this, but I can tell you that I find it fascinating to read about how our medical science is so much better now that we can treat these conditions with drugs, but in that premodern era they would have attributed these diseases to supernatural forces.

This is particularly interesting with the case of demon-possession.  I realize that there are various known diseases today that will cause epileptic seizures and paralysis.  However, if the Bible says that Jesus cast out demons then that is good enough for me.  In other words, I think maybe we're a bit quick to prescribe drugs for conditions that may be related to powers of darkness rather than some kind of pathology in the body.

It's just something to think about.  I'm not a doctor, but it's something I've thought a lot about with respect to various psychological diagnoses.  I think there are some persuasive arguments from medicine, but it's hard to argue with Scripture.  In fact, to be quite literal and blunt, I'd say that it would be damned stupid.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Really Rejoicing

Matthew 2:10
(10) ἰδόντες δὲ τὸν ἀστέρα ἐχάρησαν χαρὰν μεγάλην σφόδρα.

Matthew 2:10
(10)  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

This is one of those verses that really comes out more strongly in the Greek than in English.  Even if you don't read Greek, you can see that there is a similar form in these two words: ἐχάρησαν χαρὰν.  That is because one is a verb and the other is a noun.  They are cognates of each other and they are put together for emphasis.  This is very serious rejoicing.

What's interesting is that the words at the end don't have anything to do with joy.  You can think of μεγάλην σφόδρα as referring to "great exceedingly" or something like that.  This really serves to emphasize the enormity of their joy.

What about you?  As we wind down the Christmas season and get ready to settle back into the routine of the new year, how are you reacting to the news of the Savior?  Does contemplating His incarnation cause you to rejoice exceedingly with great joy or are you just going about your day?  If I'm honest, I have to say that I am not reacting the way the Magi did.  It is far too easy for my relationship with the Lord to become routine and lose the power of seeing His star in the sky.

My prayer is that we all would rejoice exceedingly with great joy over the Savior.  I hope you join me in that.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Changing Up

As I've written many times before, I'm a bible reading plan junkie. I've done straight through from Genesis to Revelation a couple of times. I've done a plan where you read from the Pentateuch one day, the history the next, then psalms, poetry, prophecy, gospels, and epistles. I've done a chronological plan. I've done the ESV reading plan. I've done the Discipleship Journal plan (my favorite). I suspect I've read through the whole Bible at least 8 times in various translations (NIV, NASB, ESV, and NLT). I write this not to brag, but to establish where I'm coming from. I highly recommend all of these.

What's on my heart now is to read through the entire New Testament in Greek. I also want to read through the entire Old Testament in Hebrew. I know that I won't do this unless I make this my regular reading for the day. Therefore, I am committing to a chapter of the New Testament every day for 2010. My plan is to keep reading a little bit of Hebrew ever day as well. My goal is that eventually I will read both devotionally every day.

The problem now becomes this blog. I know that there are a few of you who read it regularly and I really appreciate it. It encourages me that anyone would find my musings useful, especially since I just write here as something of a personal journal. I haven't settled on this yet, but my initial plan is to journal about what I find as I read through the New Testament in Greek. I may post the passage in Greek and English and write about it. I haven't quite decided yet.

What I do know is that we have something of a "game reset" going on as I read Matthew 1 today. I may write about some of my favorite psalms in the meantime. I haven't decided yet, but I do know that I plan on continuing to blog. We will see where this goes together.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Who is Lord?

Matthew 22:41-46
(41) Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question,
(42) saying, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David."
(43) He said to them, "How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
(44) "'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet'?
(45) If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?"
(46) And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

The Pharisees were looking for a king to overthrow the Romans and restore the glory of Israel. They figured that this king would look like David since he would be of David's line. After all, the name "Yeshua" means "deliverance" or "salvation."

Of course, we know in hindsight that was not what Jesus came to do. He will do this in the second coming, but that was not his mission in his first coming. Instead, He came to save us from our sins. He was a deliverer, but not in the way that the Pharisees expected.

On a side note, do you see how Jesus speaks to the inspiration of Scripture? He says that "David, in the Spirit" wrote about how Christ is the Lord. That means that somehow the Holy Spirit worked with David as he wrote Psalm 110. If you ever question the idea of the inspiration of Scripture you don't have to look any farther than the words of Jesus, though of course that argument is a bit circular.

The overall point of this is that Jesus is lord. If He really is Lord of our lives then He will have more influence than any secular ruler can have. We have to obey laws in our country, but our hearts don't have to be in it. If we follow Jesus we have to give Him our whole hearts. Where is your heart right now?

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Shadow

Matthew 21:8-11
(8) Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
(9) And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!"
(10) And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?"
(11) And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee."

This may seem like a strange passage to write about on Incarnation Day. However, I think that it bears mentioning for a couple of reasons. One is that it is what I read this morning for my reading. More significantly, I think that it makes sense out of the Incarnation.

Any religion can celebrate the birth of its founder. Islam can do that. Jews can remember Abraham. Buddhists remember Buddha. And so on. Christianity is the only faith that celebrates a resurrection. The triumphal entry into Jerusalem reminds us of the purpose for which Jesus was born. He became flesh and dwelled among us so that He could live a perfect life, die on a Roman cross, and be resurrected on the third day.

Note too how this "stirred up" Jerusalem. He came into the world with little fanfare. He left it with near riots in the town. This is how Jesus works. Has He rocked your world or is there just a little notice of Him once or twice a year?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Matthew 18:21-35
(21) Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?"
(22) Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
(23) "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.
(24) When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.
(25) And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.
(26) So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.'
(27) And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
(28) But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.'
(29) So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.'
(30) He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.
(31) When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.
(32) Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
(33) And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?'
(34) And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.
(35) So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

Pardon the very long passage this morning, but you can't very well discuss a parable without quoting the parable. Here Jesus is giving a parable as an illustration of a shocking truth He just told Peter. The Jews believed that 3 was the number of times one had to forgive. Peter was trying to impress Jesus by going double plus one. As you can see, Jesus was not impressed. The manuscripts read either (70 x 7) or (77). Either way, the idea is that you don't count it.

What impressed me this morning was the explanation I read of the two debtors' sums. In today's terms, the first man owed roughly $6 Billion. Yes, that's billion with a b. The other owed a fair amount around $15,000, which is significant. However, that's a drop in the bucket compared to the $6 Billion.

This is quite a metaphor for us, isn't it? We owe God an incalculable debt. I think the number "ten thousand talents" was meant as a round number to indicate "an unpayable debt," kind of like how Wilt Chamberlain described his exploits with "ten thousand women." The point of this parable is to look into our hearts. If God could forgive us so great a debt, who are we not to forgive any wrong done to us? No matter what someone does it cannot compare to the debt that we owed to God.

As you prepare for Christmas and consider the Incarnation, ponder this parable. Think about what it means to be forgiven. That's what Jesus came to earth to do. It all started one night with a virgin giving birth to a boy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Law

Matthew 17:24-27
(24) When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the tax?"
(25) He said, "Yes." And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?"
(26) And when he said, "From others," Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free.
(27) However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself."

Until today, I tended to see this passage as speaking to the miraculous power of Christ over nature. He did not have the ready means to pay the tax, so He sent Peter off to employ a miracle to get the money. This passage certainly does speak to that.

However, I got a new perspective from the ESV Study Bible today. In the past I tended to read right past verses 25 and 26. What Jesus is saying is that as sons of God He and His followers are free from the demands of the Law. This does not refer to the civil law, but rather to the Law as given by Moses.

This seems to dovetail with some of other Jesus' statements like that in the Sermon on the Mount about how He came to fulfill the Law. What I take this to mean is that we are no longer obligated to jump through all the hoops provided by God to come to Him. The blood for atonement was shed on the cross. Let's rejoice in that and enjoy the fellowship with God that follows!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Earning Rewards

Matthew 16:24-27
(24) Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
(25) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
(26) For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
(27) For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

I've been listening to the audio book of John Piper's Desiring God. Piper's big idea is that as Christians we are to be "Christian Hedonists." In other words, he changes the beginning of the Westminster Confession to read that God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. It is both our duty and our delight to treasure God for the sake of Him being God.

What does that have to do with this passage? We have developed a kind of gnostic asceticism in today's church. We tend to be of the belief that good works are their own reward and that they somehow lose value if we try to gain anything from them. This passage tells us something different.

Instead of gnosticism we should become hedonistic in enjoying the pleasures that only come from God. This passage tells us that what we do will ultimately have reward. We naturally seek gain from everything we do. We sin because we think that sin will give us something that holiness will not. The problem is that sin becomes more attractive when we think that holiness has no gain.

Let us instead fix our eyes on the eternal. Sin may have its immediate effects, but long-term only holiness will truly satisfy us and give us what we need. Let's remember this.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Get Close

Matthew 14:35-36
(35) And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick
(36) and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

I don't want to turn this into a missive on faith-healing, though that does seem timely with the demise of Oral Roberts. What I do want to consider is the faith of the folks in Gennesaret. They realized that all they had to do was get near to Jesus and touch the fringe of his garment to be well.

What are you doing with Jesus? Do you give Him mental assent and keep Him at arm's length or father? Or are you getting close to Him and trying to touch the fringe of His garment? Where is your faith? Do you believe that He can free you from your bondage to sin? Or do you just want to keep Him at a safe distance?

I implore you to draw near to Jesus. Spend time with Him. He will heal your soul.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Strange Dogma

Matthew 12:46-50
(46) While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.
(47) [Someone told him, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you."]
(48) But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"
(49) And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!
(50) For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

I was always confused about the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary when I read this passage. How could Jesus have brothers and sisters if she remained a virgin? And how is it that the Catholic church says that Mary has special access to Jesus that we don't have? He doesn't seem to treat her with any kind of special reverence here and in fact seems to do the opposite.

What's even more puzzling is how Luther and Calvin could have just taken the virginity of Mary as a given. Didn't they read their Bibles?

I would maintain that they were too busy with the matter of justification by faith to worry about this stuff. I also know that the dogma was not nearly as developed then. The perpetual virginity of Mary as well as the other baggage such as her assumption have only really been codified since the 20th century. Therefore, this was not a big deal to them.

My point is that we need a little history to understand why certain things are and aren't emphasized. Some folks wonder why we don't read more about homosexuality from the church fathers. Back in their day it was considered a given that homosexuality was wrong because they took the straightforward meaning of Scripture. It's only fairly recently that this has become such a hot topic.

Let's be sure to let history give us some context as we examine issues and quote men and women from the past.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Prayer Request

Please take a look at this post about Matt Chandler. He, his family, and his church could really use all of our prayers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Matthew 12:39-42
(39) But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
(40) For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
(41) The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
(42) The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

A reading of the Old Testament will show that there were three main offices in Israel -- prophet, priest, and king. Jesus is saying that He fulfilled all of these. This has huge implications for us as Christians. We don't have to submit to the temple system anymore. There are millions of Jews who reject Jesus as Messiah, but they don't have anywhere else to go. The temple has been gone for over 1939 years. We have Jesus who is greater than any of the prophets, priests, or kings.

This fills me with great hope. However, this passage also confused me for a long time because of how Jesus draws on the story of Jonah. Jesus died on a Friday and was buried. He rose again on Sunday. How is that three days?

The explanation is that the Jews reckoned time differently than we do. They would have considered a partial day to still be a "day." Therefore, there is no problem with this. I mention this only because I think it underscores the value of some level of background study. How are we to understand Scripture rightly unless we know this about first-century Jews?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Incredibly Gentle

Matthew 12:17-21
(17) This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
(18) "Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
(19) He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
(20) a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory;
(21) and in his name the Gentiles will hope."

The imagery of this passage is vital to understand it. I don't know a whole lot about reeds, but one thing I have learned from teachings on this passage is that bruised reeds don't stand a chance. If a reed is bruised it is going to break. Period. There is no hope for it.

Similarly, smoldering wicks don't spontaneously come back to fire. Think about that brief orange glow after you blow out a candle. Unless it's a trick candle you won't see it spontaneously burn again. A smoldering wick simply has to go out.

That is unless Jesus is involved. Before He saved me I was a bruised reed. There was no hope for me. I was a smoldering wick that had to go out. There was no hope for fire in me. Then Jesus came along and healed me. He kindled the fire and now it glows again, though there are days when it glows more brightly than others.

This is the offer of the gospel. Would you bring Jesus into your life to heal the bruise and to rekindle the flame?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Give 'Em What They Want

Matthew 11:16-19
(16) "But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
(17) "'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.'
(18) For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.'
(19) The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds."

There is a school of though that churches should be set up to give people what they want. If people feel like they need help with their marriages then they should teach about marriage. If people need help with parenting then the church should focus on that. And so on.

There is some truth to this. We don't preach to junior high students the same way we preach to the elderly in the rest home. Our language and focus will naturally be different. If it isn't then the preaching is not going to be effective for one or both of the crowds. We need to "exegete our audience," to borrow a phrase from Haddon Robinson.

However, this passage tells us a vital truth about human nature. People don't really know or want what is best for them. We all think we know what is best, but we are actually quite fickle and our hearts are unreliable. The people in Jesus' day wanted Messiah to come. Who wouldn't with the way their lives were under Roman rule?

The problem is that they didn't recognize who God sent. He sent John the Baptist and they were looking for Benny Hinn. Then He sent Jesus and they wanted an ascetic like John the Baptist. I would maintain that the problem was with the message. What they wanted was a conquering king who looked like a conquering king.

Let's be careful as we sit under the teaching of God's Word in our churches. Maybe, just maybe, as our pastors go through their teaching of the Word we can trust that the Holy Spirit is leading them to teach us what we need, even if it is not what we want.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Who Do You Love?

Matthew 10:37-39
(37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
(38) And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
(39) Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Who is the Jesus that you follow? Is he simply a marginalized Galilean peasant who would not hurt a fly? Is he someone who lived a life that was just a great example? Is he someone who came to bring unity to the world at all costs?

Or is He the King of Glory who is worthy of total devotion? Is He someone that you need to love more than anyone else, including closest family members? Does He demand all of your life or is he someone who is happy to just be a part of it? Who is the Jesus that you follow?

This passage tells us that Jesus gives some pretty harsh requirements to be His disciple. He demands total devotion. Of course, that does not mean that we are perfect as we never can be in this world. We all sin regularly. It is His righteousness that gives us our standing in heaven. However, the question is about our hearts. Are our hearts turned toward Him or toward ourselves? Does following Him more closely bring us joy? Is obedience the deepest longing of our hearts or is it sin?

How we answer these questions determines who we are in Christ. How do you answer them?


From today's Tozer:

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. --2 Corinthians 12:7

The experiences of men who walked with God in olden times agree to teach that the Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him. The degree of blessing enjoyed by any man will correspond exactly with the completeness of God's victory over him....

We might well pray for God to invade and conquer us, for until He does, we remain in peril from a thousand foes. We bear within us the seeds of our own disintegration.... Deliverance can come to us only by the defeat of our old life. Safety and peace come only after we have been forced to our knees. God rescues us by breaking us, by shattering our strength and wiping out our resistance. Then He invades our natures with that ancient and eternal life which is from the beginning. So He conquers us and by that benign conquest saves us for Himself. The Pursuit of Man, 45,50.

"Lord, indeed invade and conquer my heart today. Bring me to my knees in complete surrender; break me; shatter my strength and wipe out my resistance. Invade my nature today and conquer me for Your glory. Amen."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Doing the Words

Matthew 7:24-27
(24) "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
(25) And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
(26) And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
(27) And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."

There are still some smoldering embers of a debate over what is sometimes called "Lordship Salvation" as opposed to "Free Grace." In summary, the Free Grace folks believe that a profession of faith is all that is necessary for salvation, whereas the Lordship folks believe that evidence of a changed life is necessary.

To me, this passage as well as others in the Sermon on the Mount lead me toward the Lordship side. It seems to me that the idea of salvation apart from making Jesus Lord of your life is a foreign concept to Jesus. To truly know God means to love Him with all you have.

Of course, there will still be sin in our lives. The question is about our focus. Are we turning from sin and running to God? Are our lives characterized by humility and repentance, or by sin? What delights our hearts? Do we agree with the Psalmist in Psalm 119 or do we not really care about God and His Word?

It seems to me that the biblical record is clear that we are to make Jesus Lord of our lives if we are truly saved. The book Desiring God bears this out or, if you prefer a shorter read, check out Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Matthew 6:31-34
(31) Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
(32) For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
(33) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
(34) "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Our society is very good at being anxious. In fact, we're so good at it that there is a huge pharmaceutical industry to help people deal with their anxiety. We get anxious about our jobs. We get anxious about our families. We get anxious about acquiring more stuff. We get anxious when we drive. We're a society on edge and we seem to think it needs to be that way.

From what I've seen the church is not very much different. Sometimes we get anxious about the things that the world gets anxious about. Other times we get what we consider to be righteous anxiety about things related to the kingdom of God. We worry about how we are going to pay the bills, or maybe how we are going to get enough volunteers to work some ministry. Sadly, we often don't look much different than the world.

As a church we're very good at the big sins that involve sex or substance abuse. However, I'm not sure that we are so good with this one. Jesus expressly tells us not to be anxious. Obviously we still need to work. We don't just sit back and expect God to miraculously work things out. He uses means to accomplish His will. However, we must not be anxious about how it's all going to work out.

There is an overused phrase today of, "It is what it is." That's something we need to remember as we let ourselves get worked up about things. Either things will work out or they won't. Our attitude about it speaks volumes about our faith. Do we trust that God has a good plan or do we think that He needs our help to keep things straight? When things don't work out the way we hoped do we think that God made a mistake?

Let's seek His kingdom and His righteousness first. Once we do that our priorities will be His priorities and then we will be able to rest in His providential goodness.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Matthew 6:21
(21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

It's amazing just how cutting Jesus' words are. These hit me like a punch in the stomach. I'm pretty good about how I handle money now. I wasn't always and I could still improve, but in general I'm pretty good. Amanda is really the more generous one and thanks to her we give fairly generously in a lot of ways.

I write that not to boast, but to consider where we are. It would be easy for me to rest on those laurels and say that we're doing enough. As a family perhaps we are. But then I think about it more deeply:

Are we hospitable? We can be, but not nearly as much as we probably should be. Having company over can cause a lot of stress, so we tend not to do it.

What motivates me? My birthday is on Friday and I have to admit that I'm pretty much living for that. Amanda got me some surprise and I really want to know what it is. I'm very much looking forward to a day off of work. I'm looking forward to the end of the semester too. I just want to relax a little bit. Plus, I'm looking forward to seeing what kinds of gifts other people got me. I'm looking forward to reading books and playing with toys.

I don't think that there is anything inherently wrong with these things, but I want to make sure that they don't become my treasure. My treasure must be Christ. He must be sufficient. The way I look at life often tells me that He really isn't sufficient for me and that gives me pause.

How about you? Is Christ your treasure? Are you like the man who found a treasure in a field and sold everything so he could obtain the treasure? Or is he more like the cherry on your life's sundae?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Matthew 5:48
(48) You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This is one of those really loaded verses. Is Jesus saying that we need to keep the Law perfectly to serve Him? Is He saying that it really is about what we do rather than what He has done? How does this work with Paul's statements about how we are all sinners?

The Greek word translated "perfect" has a range of meaning with words like "complete" or "mature" as alternative understandings in English. This is still no solace to the one who feels like he has to work to merit God's favor though. What do we do with this?

I think that it is explained with the Reformed view about the need for an alien righteousness. We cannot attain this "perfection" on our own. Therefore, we need something external to us to complete us. That is what happened in Jesus' life, death, burial, and resurrection. This command means what it appears to mean, but when we are ultimately judged we will be seen through Christ's life. Our life is hid in Christ on high.

However, this does not get us completely off the hook. If we believe that we can be saved without the pursuit of holiness then we are not really saved. If we have no desire to be more like Jesus then we do not really understand what it means to know Him. The idea of salvation without ongoing sanctification is foreign to the Scriptures.

Where are you with this? Are you working to be more like Jesus? Are you working out your salvation with fear and trembling? Or do you think that knowing Jesus is just a matter of cosmic fire insurance? Where are you with this?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Truly Blessed

Matthew 5:3-12
(3) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(4) "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
(5) "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
(6) "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
(7) "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
(8) "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
(9) "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
(10) "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(11) "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
(12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

What does it take for you to feel blessed? Does it take money? Sex? Approval of others, including your spouse or children? What do you do to feel blessed? Do you take care of yourself? Do you look out for number one?

This passage is known as the "beatitudes." This is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. There is so much in here that a quick blog entry can only scratch the surface. What I think demands emphasis for the whole passage is how backwards all of this seems to our ears.

I don't think people have fundamentally changed since Jesus preached this. After all, we can see just how timely it is for today. However, I do think that our highly psychologized culture makes this seem even more counter-cultural than it was in Jesus' day. Jesus was speaking to the natural inclinations of our hearts. He pronounces blessing for things that we naturally avoid. Now thanks to Oprah and others we are basically told that Jesus was wrong.

We then come to a choice. Are we going to trust Jesus or Oprah? Are we going to do what we think is best for ourselves or are we going to trust what God says is best for us? How we answer that question determines how we live our lives. It also shows just how sincere our devotion is to our Lord.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Easy Following

Matthew 4:23-25
(23) And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
(24) So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.
(25) And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

Passages like this one make me see the value of reading the whole Bible and not just cherry-picking passages. It's exciting to read about Jesus' early ministry. After all, we want to root for Jesus. We love to see how successful He was. Here He was starting to get some measure of fame because of all that He was doing.

However, in three years all of this would turn against Him. People would forget all that He did and call for His crucifixion. Yet that is why He had to come to earth. All of these works testified to who He was. We can look back and realize that He was indeed God incarnate. At the time folks just wanted what He could do for them.

It's really no different today. So many of us want our "plastic Jesus" who will keep us safe from trouble. However, as we'll see throughout the book of Matthew, that really devalues Jesus' true worth.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Model of Faithfulness

Matthew 1:24-25
(24) When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,
(25) but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

I think that there are a couple of interesting things in this passage. One is part of the reason I'm a Protestant. I just can't buy the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary given this passage. The word "until" is straight from the Greek here. That tells me that after Jesus was born Joseph did "know" Mary. After all, the Bible does speak of Jesus' other brothers later on.

The other interesting thing is the model that Joseph gives us for faithfulness. Imagine not being able to consummate your marriage on your wedding day. For those of you who are single and faithful, I suspect that this is pretty much unthinkable. Yet Joseph was willing to wait because of Jesus. He knew that there was something much bigger at stake. After all, he had waited as long as he had. What would another few months be?

Do we have that attitude about physical pleasure? Sex is a big one for sure, but there are plenty of other things that distract us too. How focused are we on the Savior rather than ourselves? I am not a Gnostic. I do not think that physical pleasure is bad. However, I do know that there is nothing on this world that can compare to knowing the Lord.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Links in the Chain

Matthew 1:1
(1) The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

I think a lot of us kind of tune out when we read parts of the Bible like Matthew 1:1-17 or Genesis 5. Who wants to get bogged down in genealogies? After all, didn't Paul tell us to avoid them?

What we may forget is that these tell us a lot about God and how He sovereignly rules over His creation. God gave us a hint of what was to come in Genesis 3 when He promised that someone in the line of Eve would eventually crush the serpent. Then He gave us another hint in Genesis 12 when He dealt with Abram and promised him land, seed, and blessing. This then carries over to 2 Samuel 7 when He made His covenant with David.

God is incredible. He sovereignly worked through men and women throughout history to bring us Messiah. This all came about in Jesus. Think about that this Advent season as we anticipate the celebration of the birth of the Messiah. While we can argue about the actual date of His birth, the important thing is that He came as it was prophesied. Who else but a sovereign God could make that happen?

Thursday, December 03, 2009


I'm in between the testaments now, so I will resume the normal programming shortly when I get into Matthew. I hope that will be tomorrow.

In the meantime, I want to share how things are going with school. Hebrew is winding up and I think that will be fine. It's really just a matter of keeping up. I do need to do a vocab review before today's quiz though.

I have now preached two sermons. The first was on Psalm 51:10-17. That was pretty easy because the structure of the passage lent itself well to a sermon. On Tuesday night I preached on Luke 18:9-14, which is the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. That didn't go as well. I had a hard time fitting the parable into the structure we used for our other sermons. It turns out that I should have gone with my gut and done what I thought I should do. After I finished my professor said that he "fixed my outline" for me. Now I know more about how to preach parables.

The good news is that I am told that my delivery is very good. My professor was shocked that I had never preached before. In fact, he said that our class is one of the best he's seen in year's of teaching preaching. He didn't expect it to be so good with such a small class, but it has been. That's quite an encouragement.

I have one week with a solid push to go and then I'm done for a month. I'm looking forward to that.

Monday, November 30, 2009

That Day

Malachi 4:1-2
(1) "For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.
(2) But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

This is at the end of the English Old Testament. The Hebrew Old Testament actually ended with Chronicles, but this is still a high note for us to end on. Here we see that there is judgment coming, but that there is a way out of it. I take the "sun of righteousness" to refer to Christ.

Whose name do you fear? Your boss? Your spouse? Your parents? It is of course good to treat folks with respect. Ultimately we need to fear the name of the Lord. Is that where your focus is? If not, what is stopping you?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Building Sandcastles

Malachi 1:4
(4) If Edom says, "We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins," the LORD of hosts says, "They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called 'the wicked country,' and 'the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.'"

When I read this I think of my daughter building a sandcastle a little too close to the ocean. She can get all kinds of sand piled up. Yet nothing will stand against the waves when they come in. No matter how hard she tries the ocean always wins.

It's the same way when we fight against God. He is always going to win in the end. We may build up what He wants to be torn down and in the end He will tear it down. The verses before this passage talk about how God loved Jacob, but He hated Esau. This does not refer to emotions in the sense we would usually take for "love" and "hate," but refers to preference.

This is a reminder to me of what an incredible privilege it is to be a chosen child of God. If you are His, rejoice in that fact. As we come off the time for national Thanksgiving, this is something for which we all should be particularly thankful.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Coming King

Zechariah 9:9
(9) Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Anyone who has ever been to church on Palm Sunday should recognize this passage. As Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem He rode on a donkey's colt. What are the chances of this happening by accident? I'd say that they were pretty slim.

Of course, one might make the argument that this happened because He wanted to fulfill the prophecy. In other words, the situation was contrived so that it would happen that way. But how was it even possible for it to happen that way? How was it sufficient to simply say that "the Lord has need of it" when the owner of the colt asked what the disciples were doing? I would maintain that it was God's providence in guiding the whole thing.

This is the God who is in heaven. This is the God who created everything and who rules over all things. The God who can make prophecy come true hundreds of years after it was recorded. That is the God I want to worship.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What We Do

Zechariah 7:5-6
(5) "Say to all the people of the land and the priests, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?
(6) And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?

This reminds me of a passage in the New Testament as well:

1 Corinthians 10:27-31
(27) If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.
(28) But if someone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience--
(29) I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience?
(30) If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
(31) So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

The context of the New Testament passage is a bit different because it is talking about matters of conscience. However, the point is that whatever we do it is to be for the glory of God. That should be the overriding focus of our lives.

This passage in Zechariah really condemns those who were not living with proper motives. It's easy to take care of the externals. Going to church each week is pretty easy if you get into the habit. Tithing is not difficult if you change your attitude a little bit. However, doing these things for God is a lot harder.

I think of this with my diet and exercise. I fought a long battle with gluttony and laziness. Yet through it all it was easy to get caught up in doing it for myself. God would get the credit for helping me, but I really was just glad to be losing weight and getting more fit. I still struggle with that.

Ultimately our fasts should be for God's glory. We may reap benefits from them, but they need to be God-centered. I take fasting to go beyond just food as well. It could be abstaining from anything good in the pursuit of Someone better.

Who do you fast for?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Creating the Temple

Zechariah 6:12
(12) And say to him, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.

This passage should take us back to Jeremiah. Whenever we see "Branch" mentioned we should think of the coming Messiah as predicted by the prophets and as fulfilled in Christ. Zechariah is giving us a prophecy of the coming Messiah and what He will do.

So what I wonder is whether this has to do with a literal temple that is coming, or if this refers to the temple at the very end where everyone will come and worship. I have a hard time seeing how the future temple relates to Israel as they are understood in the Old Testament sense. Instead, I see it as a place of worship for everyone who is in Christ.

I don't have any particularly profound applications or truths to apply from my reading today, so all you get are these musings. I'd be interested to read thoughts on this around the blogosphere.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Clean Garments

Zechariah 3:1-5
(1) Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
(2) And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?"
(3) Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.
(4) And the angel said to those who were standing before him, "Remove the filthy garments from him." And to him he said, "Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments."
(5) And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.

This passage is just pregnant with meaning for us who are on this side of the cross. The next time you read through the Old Testament and you feel like you're really slogging through Leviticus, I hope that this passage helps you to see the point. Joshua's garments had excrement on them. This would make the high priest unable to offer sacrifices.

Similarly, we naturally stand before God this way. We cannot clean ourselves up. I think of how my 2 year-old tries to clean himself. All he does is smear peanut butter around his face. It takes mom or dad with a wet washcloth to get him really clean.

That is how God's grace works in our lives. There is nothing we can do on our own. Yet God in His grace chose to clothe us with clean garments. Now we can stand before Him. If you are in Christ have you considered this? If you are not in Christ, please consider your attempts to clean up your own life. Are you perfect yet? If not, there is still work left to do and only Christ can do it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Zechariah 2:13
(13) Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.

This verse comes at the end of a vision about the Lord's judgment. The vision shows just how powerful He is and what He is able to do. This verse is a logical consequence of seeing the Lord's power.

How are you doing with this command? As for me, I could improve on this. I am great at doing, but not so much at being silent. The closest I come is when I go running in the mornings. Even then my mind wanders to trivial things like today's football game or some other matter.

The Lord has indeed roused Himself from His holy dwelling. He became a man, lived a perfect life, and died as an atonement for our sin. That should certainly lead to praise and to holy living, but it should also lead to quiet reverence at His majesty, amen?

Friday, November 20, 2009

He is Faithful

Zechariah 1:6
(6) But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented and said, As the LORD of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us."

The Lord is faithful. Chris Tomlin (among others) sings a great song about this. The chorus goes like this:

Forever You are faithful,
Forever You are strong,
Forever You are with us,

Isn't that beautiful? Whenever I hear that song I am of course reminded of God's covenant faithfulness. I'm reminded of how He has brought me through so many self-inflicted storms. I'm reminded of the work He has done in my life and it fills my heart with praise.

However, this verse touches on another side of God's faithfulness that we may not usually consider. He is not just a grandfather in the sky who winks at iniquity. He is also faithful to do what He says He will do to those who disobey Him. Israel learned about this the hard way.

The good news for us is that we are on the other side of the cross. God has taken out all of His just wrath on His Son if we will accept this gift. Otherwise, He is going to remember our iniquity and it won't be pretty.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Value in Trials

Haggai 2:15-17
(15) Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the LORD,
(16) how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty.
(17) I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the LORD.

I realize that I keep writing about this, but that's only because it keeps showing up in the Minor Prophets (or the Twelve, if you want to go with the Hebrew name). God uses trials to bring us to Him. Sadly, this doesn't seem to work all the time.

What I see is that folks were just as narcissistic then as they are now. If something doesn't seem to immediately benefit us then we cannot see its value. I can remember going through trials as a child and my dad would say that it is "character-building." Of course, a child doesn't really understand that, but I do now. God uses trials to build our character and bring us to Him.

This is easy to write about here in the comfort of my home with nothing pressing on me right now. But I think now is the time to consider such things before the pressures do mount because they certainly will someday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

God's People

Zephaniah 3:12-13
(12) But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD,
(13) those who are left in Israel; they shall do no injustice and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. For they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid."

This comes just after God declares His impending judgment on the world. It won't be pretty in the day that God gathers the nations to feel His wrath. Yet here is a wonderful promise about the remnant that He will preserve.

Are we a people "humble and lowly?" If we are in Christ then we absolutely must be. How else can we be? We were set free from our lives of sin. Though we still sin, we are forgiven and washed clean by the blood of Christ. God has given us new natures that we could not manufacture in ourselves because of our natural bents toward sin.

God did all of this in us and we deserved none of it. If we are not humble and lowly then I don't think we really understand the gospel at all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Calvinist Call

Zephaniah 2:1-3
(1) Gather together, yes, gather, O shameless nation,
(2) before the decree takes effect --before the day passes away like chaff-- before there comes upon you the burning anger of the LORD, before there comes upon you the day of the anger of the LORD.
(3) Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD.

Calvinists are often accused of having a theology that is anti-evangelism. Critics figure that if God has an elected people chosen before the beginning of time then there is no point in telling people the gospel. I think that the only thing it changes is our language. I don't think it is wise to speak about God's will with any kind of absolute certainty since we don't know who He chose for salvation. However, we can still evangelize with confidence because we know that it is God who saves and not our own cleverness.

Zephaniah seems to have that kind of perspective in this passage. He is calling folks to repent, but he also acknowledges that not all will be hidden. He also knows that the day of the Lord is coming on the Lord's time, not mankind's. Therefore, we had better repent sooner rather than later.

Are you ready for the day of the Lord's anger? If you wonder what's taking Him so long I would refer you to 2 Peter 3:9. God is gathering all of His elect and then He is coming back in glory. Are you going to be ready for that?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Great Offer

I am organizing a bulk purchase of BibleWorks 8. Please let me know if you would like to get in on this. The bulk purchase will lower the price from $350 to $250. This is the premier exegesis software for the PC. If you do any work with the original languages you will want to buy a copy. So far I have 5 of the 10 I need to do this, so please let me know if you are interested. You can also read the blurb I put on my seminary blog here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I Will Rejoice

Habakkuk 3:17-19
(17) Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
(18) yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
(19) GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

This is the very end of Habakkuk and we see that he has learned a valuable lesson. He has done a 180 from his previous lament. He wondered earlier why God ran the universe the way He does. Now he realizes that God deserves praise no matter what is happening.

I'll be honest about suffering. I've never really suffered a whole lot. My senior year in high school was pretty miserable because I didn't get along very well with my stepmother. It was no fun when my parents divorced and I was in 7th grade. We had a molar pregnancy in between Lily and Noah. None of these things were good to go through.

The only one that I endured as a Christian was the molar pregnancy. Looking back, I think it was much harder on Amanda than it was on me. I think it was hard on me only in that I didn't want to see Amanda suffer so much. At any rate, it was nothing like a cancer diagnosis or losing one of our children to disease or accident.

My point is that my experience does not carry much weight, but it seems to me from the clear reading of Scripture that we are to rejoice at all times. There will be times when the fig tree does not blossom. The Christian life is not all happy-clappy joy joy. Trials will happen. I may not have suffered through the worst that this fallen world can throw at me, but I stand on the authority of God's Word that the proper response is still rejoicing.

Of course, that is impossible apart from knowing Christ. Unless we are in Christ God is just a capricious monster who pulls the wings off of flies. But if we do know Him, we can trust that God is a loving Father who knows what is best even when we don't.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

iPhone Bible App

I've been using the same mobile Bible app for a long time now. In fact, I've read the whole ESV on it more than once. What I really like is the ability to do highlighting and note taking. Plus, I understand that they are working on getting syncing working between the PC and the iPhone.

You can check it out here. Olive Tree may do a few things that this one doesn't just yet, but I think that it is a nicer interface and a smoother reader.

Waiting for Judgment

Habakkuk 2:2-4
(2) And the LORD answered me: "Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.
(3) For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end--it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.
(4) "Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.

I'm having a conversation over at this blog about the nature of God's judgment and how we respond to the problem of evil. There are some obvious theological differences that I am going to have with that blog's author, but I don't think that we're too awfully far apart. At any rate, I think it is interesting to find myself in Habakkuk today in light of that discussion.

Habakkuk lamented to God about the problem of evil. He also wondered why the wicked were allowed to perish. He saw the Babylonians and wondered how God could allow such things to happen to His people. The verses above are God's response.

Basically, God is telling Habakkuk and us that we need to wait and trust in His timing. He will take care of the wicked. If we are righteous then we will have to live by faith. Of course, we are not righteous except for the imputed righteousness of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. That's important to note lest we become puffed up in our pietism.

At any rate, the answer is not that we need to understand. In fact, I don't think that we will ever really understand why things work out the way we do. I think it is foolish to attribute reasons to a Hurricane Katrina or the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. What I do know is that all deserve to die, but it is by God's common grace that we do not. I'm going to trust the God who saved me that He has a plan bigger than I can get my mind around. Besides, who wants to worship a God that he can completely understand?

Monday, November 09, 2009

God Is...

Nahum 2:3
(3) The shield of his mighty men is red; his soldiers are clothed in scarlet. The chariots come with flashing metal on the day he musters them; the cypress spears are brandished.

The Church of Oprah and other vague spiritualities like to emphasize the fact that God is love. It is true that God is loving. As I've written before, we have a hard time imagining just what His hesed is all about. We can get parts of it, but we can't really comprehend it.

This passage tells us that there is a side of God that you don't want to be on. One theory about the color of these shields is that they are red from getting bloody in battle. In other words, they remain red because the blood of God's enemies is regularly splashed on them. I'm not sure how that fits into Oprah's image of her god.

The book of Nahum is a prophecy against Nineveh. While the city did repent in the days of Jonah they turned back to their evil ways and God used Nahum to proclaim a judgment against them. God always takes wickedness seriously.

This is why it is so important to come to the cross and live. Apart from the saving work of Christ we are as doomed as Nineveh was. I'd rather be behind the warriors with the bloody shields than in front of them, wouldn't you?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Honor the Triune God

I get a daily devotional with Scripture arranged as prayer. This is a really good one. If you are interested in subscribing you can click here.

I must give honor to the three persons in the Godhead distinctly, to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that great and sacred Name into which I was baptized and in which I assemble for religious worship, in communion with the universal church.

I adore you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, Matthew 11:25(ESV) and the eternal Word, who was in the beginning with God and was God, through him all things were made, and without him was not any thing made that was made; John 1:1-3(ESV) and who in the fullness of time Galatians 4:4(ESV) became flesh and dwelt among us and showed his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14(ESV)

And since it is the will of God that all men should honor the Son, just as they honor the Father, John 5:23(ESV) I adore him as the radiance of his Father’s glory and the exact imprint of his nature; Hebrews 1:3(ESV) herein joining with the angels of God, who were all bidden to worship him. Hebrews 1:6(ESV)

I pay homage to the exalted Redeemer, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth, Revelation 1:5(ESV) confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:11(ESV)

I also worship the Holy Spirit, the Helper, whom the Son has sent from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, John 15:26(ESV) and who is sent to teach me all things and to bring all things to my remembrance; John 14:26(ESV) who indited the Scriptures, holy men of God writing them as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21(ESV)

The Solution to Evil

Nahum 1:7-8
(7) The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.
(8) But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.

A lot of folks have a problem with the God of the Bible because of the problem of evil. They wonder how a good God could allow so much suffering and evil in the world. Why doesn't He eradicate it?

I would say that these folks are being too small-minded. We all naturally tend to think of this world and experiences within it. They are looking for some kind of earthly justice. God has something much bigger in mind. They will suffer eternally for their evil, while the good will enjoy fellowship with Him forever.

Keep in mind that there is no one good, so this would be a real problem if we were left on our own. However, one who was perfectly good stepped in our place to take God's wrath for us. Christ died on the cross so that we might be reckoned among the righteous.

In the end, we don't really want a just God as we understand justice. We want a gracious God. The good news is that perfectly describes the true and living God in heaven.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Making it Happen

Micah 5:2
(2) But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

It's one thing to make prophecies that are general. Nostradamus' work sometimes takes a little mental gymnastics to fit into what seem to be fulfillments. Then you have the work of St. Malachy, who is hopefully right that the Papacy is winding up. Either way, his work takes some mental gymnastics too. If you squint just right you can see where he has been right through the years.

While there is some prophecy like that in Scripture, this verse is not one of them and it shows us just how incredible the Bible is as an inspired text. Plus, it's hard for us to imagine just how small Bethlehem was. We may sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" at Christmas, but the smallness is almost inconceivable to us now. Think of the smallest little country town you can think of. In today's terms, Bethlehem might have had a blinking light to mark the town center, but certainly would not have had a full-fledged traffic light. It would have been just a few hundred people at best.

What would be the chances of two kings coming from that town? I'd say pretty small. Yet that is what happened. David was born there and ended up being Israel's most faithful king. Then Jesus was born there to a virgin girl. What humble beginnings for the earthly ministry of the king of the Jews! This is especially remarkable when you consider that He has existed with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit through all eternity past. To go from being part of the creation of the universe to a baby in a tiny backwater town is humility indeed. This helps to give me some context for Philippians 2 as well.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Spiritual Warfare and Sin: Don't Suffer Shipwreck

This was today's daily Tozer. It fits in pretty well with the other post from today:

This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck....
--1 Timothy 1:18-19

Yet the ministry is one of the most perilous of professions. The devil hates the Spirit-filled minister with an intensity second only to that which he feels for Christ Himself. The source of this hatred is not difficult to discover. An effective, Christ-like minister is a constant embarrassment to the devil, a threat to his dominion, a rebuttal of his best arguments and a dogged reminder of his coming
overthrow. No wonder he hates him.

Satan knows that the downfall of a prophet of God is a strategic victory for him, so he rests not day or night devising hidden snares and deadfalls for the ministry. Perhaps a better figure would be the poison dart that only paralyzes its victim, for I think that Satan has little interest in killing the preacher outright. An
ineffective, half-alive minister is a better advertisement for hell than a good man dead. So the preacher's dangers are likely to be spiritual rather than physical, though sometimes the enemy works through bodily weaknesses to get to the preacher's soul. God Tells the Man Who Cares, 90-91.

"Lord, the battle is intense and the enemy is strong. I pray for every one of my fellow-servants this morning, especially those who may be close to succumbing. Give Your great grace and victory today. Amen."

Tickling Their Ears

Micah 2:11
(11) If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, "I will preach to you of wine and strong drink," he would be the preacher for this people!

I suppose it would be easy to use this verse out of context as a proof-text for complete abstinence from alcohol. I don't think that is what Micah is doing here, and neither does the author of the notes in the ESV Study Bible. Instead, what Micah is saying is that anyone who preaches to the desires of the people would be very popular.

I am amazed at the chronological snobbery of those who think that the Bible is outdated. While our technology has improved I don't think human nature is any different. Osteen's latest book is proof of that. We are no different from those folks from so long ago. We want people to validate what own desires as being godly. Instead we should be looking to God's Word to change our desires.

That's easier said than done. Preaching that way will garner no private jets. However, I think that the reward in heaven will be worth it.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Misplaced Anger

Jonah 4:9
(9) But God said to Jonah, "Do you do well to be angry for the plant?" And he said, "Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die."

This is the end of Jonah's pity party for himself. He really wanted to see God rain fire down on Nineveh, but they repented and God relented. He preached his message, but he didn't really want for them to believe it. Instead he wanted the hated Ninevites to perish.

I'm very glad that God doesn't look at us the way we look at each other. I'm sure that there are plenty of folks who wish that I had never believed the gospel. If we turn it around it gets even more interesting. Suppose that Osama Bin Laden repents and believes in Christ. How would we react? Would we treat him with compassion or would we have Jonah's attitude?

I'd like to think that I would accept him as a brother, but I'm not sure. I don't trust my heart enough to say one way or the other. I also would hope that I could get past my own selfish needs and look to the salvation of his soul as more important. Jonah was more concerned about his comfort than he was about the salvation of Nineveh. I have to ask myself about my own approach to the world. Do I care more about my comfort or about reaching the lost with the gospel?

It's easy to read this passage and look down my nose at Jonah. What I find is that the passage can also be a mirror that convicts me of the same attitude at times.

Monday, November 02, 2009


Jonah 2:8-9
(8) Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.
(9) But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!"

This is the end of Jonah's prayer from inside the fish/whale. Incidentally, the Hebrew word is a bit ambiguous, but I think it's safe to say that there was some kind of large sea-going animal that swallowed and later vomited Jonah. This is one of those things that seems awfully ridiculous to the skeptic, but apparently so does creation ex nihilo

I just want to emphasize this passage because it continues the drumbeat of the prophets. Salvation is from the Lord. The Lord saves us because we can't save ourselves. If we instead turn to idols we forsake the hesed of God. How ridiculous! This would be like giving my family a Wii for Christmas and Lily wanting to spend all of her time playing with a bag that holds the controller. It's absurd, yet it's what we do.

Of course, salvation implies that there is something we need to be saved from. We are no different than the Ninevites that were in line for God's wrath. We deserve judgment. Yet in His incredible hesed He chooses to save some.

Perhaps you're reading this and you don't know if you are chosen for salvation. You may wonder what chance you have. Well, if this is something that you are thinking about and earnestly desire then I would say you have your answer. Genuine salvation is a heart-change. What is the most earnest desire of your heart?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Wartime Conversions

Jonah 1:14-16
(14) Therefore they called out to the LORD, "O LORD, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you."
(15) So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.
(16) Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

We diagrammed Jonah 1 in Hebrew class on Thursday and this happened to come up in my slow walk through the prophets, so I thought I'd comment on something. Earlier in the chapter we see that each man was calling out to his own god. By the time the storm really got going and they learned more about Jonah and the God that he supposedly serves, they were convinced that their own gods could do nothing to save them.

This is bolstered by the language used. Earlier in the chapter each man was calling out to elohim, or gods in general (though this is sometimes used for YHWH). But by this point in the chapter they are calling out to YHWH. In other words, they realized the futility of their own gods and saw their need for the One True God.

As professing American Christians we tend to look down our collective noses at the ignorance of these sailors and are glad that they came to see the light as we have. I would submit that these sailors had a deeper and truer faith than most in the pews this Sunday morning. We may not have the same names for our gods that these men did, but we tend to be just as guilty.

Take away someone's job and see how he reacts. Does he trust God or does he get upset because you've removed his idol? Downgrade his car. Replace his wardrobe with one from the thrift store or from Wal-Mart. See what he thinks.

Take away someone's coffee. Take away the fine food that they enjoy, or at least reduce the quantity significantly. See how that goes over.

Take away the NFL. What would our nation do on Sunday afternoons in the fall? Take away Division I football or basketball and see how it goes over.

And so on. We all have to fight idolatry at some level. Let's not look down at these formerly pagan sailors, but let's emulate the deep faith that they developed in YHWH.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

He Doesn't Forget

Obadiah 1:8-11
(8) Will I not on that day, declares the LORD, destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of Mount Esau?
(9) And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman, so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter.
(10) Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.
(11) On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.

As a parent, I know how easy it is to forget a planned judgment. We charge Lily 25 cents for each lie she tells. When we first started this we tended to forget to collect the fee. Of course, sometimes the threat is even more important than carrying out the action. She knows that we're serious.

We don't tend to give God quite as much respect. There may be a woe pronounced way back in the Pentateuch and we forget about it. Then we find something in the prophetic literature where it comes to pass. He never forgets.

This should show us that He is serious about the whole wrath thing. We may have read Romans at some point and given mental assent to the truth of the Gospel. However, if we just tuck that away and go about our business we show that we have failed to grasp the fundamental truth of the Gospel. God is serious about punishing those who are under His wrath. That means everyone who has not been washed clean by the blood of Christ.

Where are you with Christ? Do you know Him?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Preach Truth

Amos 9:10
(10) All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, 'Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.'

I realize that I beat this drum fairly often, but it shows up enough in the prophets that it is inescapable. It is clear that sometimes God's just wrath will come upon disobedient people. It certainly happened for Israel. Yet many chose to instead preach what people wanted to hear.

Our age of "tolerance" is certainly no different. We like to have our ears tickled by hearing how great we are. But are we really? We all still need to hear a message of repentance.

I'm being trained to preach truth. It seems pretty easy to be bold while sitting in a homiletics class. I've had times talking to people where I know that I turned them off by telling them what I believe to be truth. It was certainly not easy. Will I be able to do this in front of a congregation? Time will tell. I do know that the more I think about preaching the more I respect the faithful men who do preach truth. It's much easier to be liked.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Watch What you Wish For

Amos 5:18-20
(18) Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light,
(19) as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him.
(20) Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?

I love this little passage for a couple of reasons. One is that it really exalts God's holiness and justice. The other is that I like somewhat sarcastic imagery Amos uses to describe how the day of the Lord will be for his readers. They had an idea that it would be a good day for them. Amos informs them otherwise.

I think we all have a sense of personal justice in that we think that we are going to be vindicated for how we think and live. We believe that perfect justice will see us in the right and others in the wrong. This passage tells us differently. Much later on in Scripture we get a pretty vivid description of this day from Peter:

2 Peter 3:9-12
(9) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
(10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
(11) Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,
(12) waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

The Lord is waiting until all of His elect are in the fold before He comes back in justice. My hope is in the fact that the day will come. I have assurance that I will be safe from the upcoming judgment because I am in Christ. It won't be pretty for a lot of people though. If you don't know Jesus I advise you to give this consideration. The world had a start and it is going to have an end. Are you going to be ready?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Worship the Creator

Amos 5:8-9
(8) He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name;
(9) who makes destruction flash forth against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress.

There is a similar passage earlier in Amos 4 that mentions how He made the mountains as well. According to my ESV Study Bible notes, this stands in contrast to the beliefs of some people that there were gods in the mountains or that the constellations were gods. While the passages both certainly stand on their own in describing God's great power and majesty, I think the background information adds a little texture.

The point is that we are faced with the same choice every day. Do we worship the Creator or His created? It's a lot easier to worship the created and we seem to do it very naturally. We worship sex, money, power, fame, comfort, etc. After all, these things are right in front of us and they do demand our attention. We decide whether they will get it or not.

Worshiping the Creator is a bit more difficult. He reveals Himself to us through His creation, but we cannot ever fully grasp who He really is. All we have are analogies. We can compare His greatness to finite things that we can understand, but none of them fully capture just who He is.

There are many folks who say that studying theology is a waste of time. Why do I need to worry about details when I just want to worship? The answer is because we cannot trust ourselves. We need to get focused on the object of worship if we are to worship correctly. That's why studying theology is important. That's also why I update this blog regularly with my findings in Scripture about who God is. I need to work this out and make the connections as much as anyone.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pressed Down

Amos 2:13-16
(13) "Behold, I will press you down in your place, as a cart full of sheaves presses down.
(14) Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain his strength, nor shall the mighty save his life;
(15) he who handles the bow shall not stand, and he who is swift of foot shall not save himself, nor shall he who rides the horse save his life;
(16) and he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day," declares the LORD.

We went to a local pumpkin patch and corn maze yesterday, so this passage kind of jumped out at me. There is a big difference between the way an empty cart rides and when the hayride is full of parents and kids. The ground certainly shows the difference too.

That's the image used here to describe how the Lord will press down His rebellious people. It's not a pretty sight, is it? This view of God is a little different than the one typically peddled here in the United States. We want our God to make things better for us. We interpret grace to mean that it doesn't matter if we transgress His laws because He is like some kind of cosmic grandfather who winks at sin.

We see a different view here. This is not to say that God delights in pressing down the disobedient. However, He will do so if that is what they need to repent. A subsequent passage makes it clear that a remnant would survive, but it won't be pretty:

Amos 3:11-12
(11) Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "An adversary shall surround the land and bring down your defenses from you, and your strongholds shall be plundered."
(12) Thus says the LORD: "As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed.

I am not saying that God will beat us down if we are disobedient, though that might happen. My point is simply to show God's character. The gospel is necessary because apart from the atoning work of Christ we are destined for His just wrath. It may not be popular to discuss God's wrath these days, but I think that meditating upon that aspect of His nature makes grace seem that much more amazing.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Joel 3:10-12
(10) Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, "I am a warrior."
(11) Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD.
(12) Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.

This is at the end of the book of Joel as the Lord pronounces judgment on the nations. Basically, this tells them that they will be in serious trouble. And, for what it's worth, judging in the Valley of Jehoshaphat is kind of a play on words because the name "Jehoshaphat" comes from the word that means "to judge."

Verse 10 is what got me when I read this today. Frankly, until I read the note in my ESV Study Bible I read it backwards because I am used to seeing that imagery in terms of the final peace that will come when Christ returns in glory. While God's people will be able to turn their swords into plowshares, those who are not His will need to do the reverse. Of course, it won't help them, but they're going to want to put up as much of a fight as they can. The long and short of it is that you want to be on the winning team at the end.

This verse also makes me think of a basic hermeneutical issue. My school teaches a Dispensational hermeneutic. That means that they take every passage literally unless there is a very good reason to see it otherwise. But what to do with these plowshares and swords? Two hundred years ago it would have seemed perfectly reasonable to take this literally. Now we might see it as a general metaphor that we will not need weapons of war anymore. I think that is a perfectly valid interpretation, but isn't it conditioned by the culture? If we could have taken this literally 200 years ago and now realize that we don't need to do that, then weren't folks reading it wrong 200 years ago?

I'll have to bounce this off some friends.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mercy in Action

Joel 2:18-19
(18) Then the LORD became jealous for his land and had pity on his people.
(19) The LORD answered and said to his people, "Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.

This is a transition from all the calamity that had come upon the people. The land was in bad shape after the plague of locusts and the drought. And yet God relented toward His people.

What I notice in this account is that the people could not do anything to save themselves. Yes, there was a call to repent. However, it looks like God made the first move. He had pity on His people and then decided to send them "grain, wine and oil" so that they may be satisfied.

That is what He has done for any of us who know Christ. He has saved us. He is the one who does the action. Yes, we must repent and believe. However, He makes the first move. I don't know why He saved me, but I'm sure glad that He did!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Calling in Dryness

Joel 1:19-20
(19) To you, O LORD, I call. For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flame has burned all the trees of the field.
(20) Even the beasts of the field pant for you because the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

This passage comes at the end of a chapter that describes a terrible blight on the land. Locusts have devoured all the plants. There is a terrible drought. The priests don't have anything to offer at the temple. Basically, the nation is in trouble.

We all have calamity from time to time. How will we respond? We could shake our fists at the heavens and tell God that He doesn't know how to run our world very well. We could be like the new atheists who are sure of two things:

  1. God doesn't exist
  2. They hate Him
Or we could respond in humble submission to His authority. We could trust that maybe He knows how to run the universe better than we do. There are plenty of times when it seems that He is not good because of our circumstances. I think that as we go through Joel we'll see that He is more loving and good than we can imagine.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Know His Word

Hosea 14:9
(9) Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.

It's incredible to see just how many exhortations there are in Scripture about the value of knowing God's Word. This whole book has been about the unfaithfulness of Israel to the covenant they had with God. Chapter 14 speaks to God's amazing grace in still keeping His side of the covenant and the offer of restoration if they would repent and return to Him.

This is the last verse of the book. Life is very simple really. We just need to know what God's Word says and then obey it. Of course, that is much easier said than done. We can know what to do and fail to do it. But if we are in Christ we have a Helper in the Holy Spirit. He will help us to walk in God's ways. After all, He wrote the book.

This all presupposes a knowledge of God's Word. What are you doing to learn more about what it says?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Prepare the Field

Hosea 10:12
(12) Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

I think it is sometimes difficult for me to really grasp all the agrarian imagery of the Bible. I grew up in a suburb and the closest I've come to farming is when I would visit my grandparents' house in SW Ohio. My dad grew up on 65 acres and they farmed the land, though that was not their sole source of income. I have some agrarian roots, if you will, but I don't have much experience with it.

What I do know is that this verse reminds me of the parable of the four soils. I have put in a couple of new lawns in my day and I have been amazed at how grass seed will grow even on the cracks in the sidewalk. It will even grow briefly on the sidewalk if there is just a tiny bit of soil there. However, it does not last.

I think of how hard my own heart is. I certainly spend regular time scattering seed in it. I read Scripture daily. I review my memorization work. I attend church. I listen to good podcasts of sermons and other Christian discussions. With all of that I feel like my life should produce a lot more fruit. I feel like there should be much less sin in it. Yet I still see a dearth of fruit and more sin than I feel like there should be.

I need to have my fallow ground broken up. This is a hard lesson for me! I've been through brokenness and I don't want to go through it again. Yet the commands of Scripture are inescapable.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Staying Pure

Hosea 7:8-10
(8) Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples; Ephraim is a cake not turned.
(9) Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not.
(10) The pride of Israel testifies to his face; yet they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him, for all this.

I've baked a few cakes in my day and I can tell you that it is not pretty when one is half-baked. That's how Ephraim is described here. It comes from being mixed in with the other peoples. I can tell you that a cake will not come out right if you start mixing foreign things into the recipe. That's what happened to Israel.

This makes me think of our mandate to be salt and light to the culture. How far does relevance go? On one hand, we need to be able to "exegete the culture," as Haddon Robinson would say, but we also need to make sure that we don't get the culture mixed in with us lest we become like Ephraim here.

I know that personally I do better with the less I mix in from the culture. I don't miss TV or movies. Even when we go to see a movie that is OK we get bombarded with all kinds of junk in the previews. You can't watch a football game without seeing the cheerleaders. And so on.

The good news is that, fundamentally, the gospel is always relevant. Yet I know that we need to present it in a way that people can understand. I'm all for that. Let's just make sure that we do not get anything wrong in our batter.