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.