Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fools for Christ

Psalm 119:42 - "then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in Your word."

When you think about it, we Christians believe some pretty strange things. We believe that God created the earth. We believe in the virgin birth. We believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. We believe that Jesus is coming again. We believe that heaven is real and so is hell. We believe that people who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord will not go to heaven.

And, the world hates that message. The world says that the message smacks of arrogance. The world says that those who believe such things are fools. And, the world has said that for a long time. David's enemies taunted him. They made fun of his belief in God. And, David prayed that God would prove His word to be faithful.

In this verse we are reminded that God will be true to His word. But, God works in His time and not ours. David would have to rely upon God, love and trust God, and love his enemies as he waited for God's truth to be revealed.

We live in a world that continues to reject God. And, they continue to think that Christians who take God at His word are fools. Are you ready to live as fools for Christ?

A fool for Christ will:

1) Love those who mock her.

2) Believe that God will follow through on what His word says.

3) Speak of for Christ when the opportunity arises.

4) Not think of themselves as having it all together, but recognize that it is only because of Christ that we have anything to offer the world.

5) Reject the world's system in favor of God's.

What else? What would you say that a fool for Christ will do? I'd love to hear from you.

Dear God,

Sometimes it is hard to live for you. There are times where we don't want to feel different. There are times where we grow weary. Give us faith. Help us to know that you always follow through on Your word. Help us to always love a world that treats us like we are foolish. Help us to embody Your love.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Salavation From What?

Psalm 119:41 - "May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise;"

One of my favorite theological truths about Jesus is that He is God incarnate; God in the flesh. Jesus Christ left the glory of Heaven to dwell among us. In a moment's time the Prince of Peace entered our world of war.

In Psalm 119:41, David pleads with God for His unfailing love to come to him. He longed for God's salvation. Those of us who have tasted and seen that Jesus Christ is God, know this love. We have experienced God's grace. We have been granted His salvation. Because of the incarnation, we have reason to celebrate. Faith in Jesus Christ, and He alone, is the basis for our salvation. Romans 10:9 tells us that "If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, we will be saved."

Do you know what a HUGE deal that is? The greatest gift in all of the world has been offered to you. The God of the universe wants to save us. A couple of years ago, my brother Mark and I were talking. He asked, "Brian, what is it that God saves us from?" The seminary grad answered his businessman brother, "From hell. From Satan. From ourselves."

"Wrong!" he answered back. "God saves us from God."

My brother was right. God saves us from His furious wrath. And, that is a message that is being lost on the church today. David understood it. He understood that his salvation was completely dependent upon God. So many today want to believe that Jesus will save everyone in the end. Or, we want to believe that there are more important things that the church can be involved in than seeing lost people come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus still transforms lives. The majority of people in the world will reject His message. Too often that is because of the messengers. In today's Minneapolis Star Tribune, actor and activist Martin Sheen is interviewed. In the interview he says, "I'm a radical Catholic who sincerely believes in the Gospels. We are commanded by the Gospels to love our enemies. I love Gandhi's quote about [how] Christianity would be a great religion but it's never been tried." You can read the complete interview here: Link.
It's a valid point. A new book, released earlier this week entitled, unChristian reports about the incredible skepticism that has arisen towards Christianity by today's 16- to 29-year-olds. This new generation believes that Christians are hypocritical, judgmental, and full of hate. Only 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties have a positive impression of Christians. To read more follow this Link.

Martin Sheen and the book unChristian aside, we have to recognize that even when Jesus walked this earth, with a love like the world had never seen, "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3).

If it is true that if there is salvation to be found in God, if Jesus Christ is the Savior, then there is something that we need to be saved from. I read a blog entry on The Ooze Blog, yesterday, that concerned me. The most disturbing part was this paragraph, which read, "This alleged holocaust by God, or at least the threat of it, portends much harm. It is a distraction from the true plan of the creator---a plan for peace and restoration. There are adequate resources in the church to thwart hunger, disease, pollution, everything, yet those resources are too often being used to save souls from hell. There is way too much focus on dying and not nearly enough on living. Jesus' focus was not for us to save souls. He told the believers to make disciples---people who live out the way of the Sermon on the Mount." You can read the post, and my response to it, in it's entirety Here..

It is time for the church to get back to the whole Gospel. Yes, we need to be about social justice. Yes, we need to care about the earth, and take care of God's creation. But, of utmost importance is sharing the Gospel. The Gospel won't be heard if Christians try to preach repentance without demonstrating love. But, some will never want to hear it. Remember what Jesus did when he walked into a town? "Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (Matthew 9:35-38).

Jesus was filled with compassion. He loved his enemies. He loved those who would never follow Him. We need to do the same.

Dear God,

Thank You for Your incredible gift of salvation. There has never been a gift like it, and there will never be another like it. We do not deserve it. Forgive us for making Christians look hypocritical, judgmental, full of hate, and by default making You look bad. Give us courage to walk with You when others won't. Give us compassion to meet people where they are at. Give us wisdom to know understand the economy of the Kingdom of Heaven. Help us to make investments in the things that really matter. We hear all the time that the church has enough resources to solve world hunger, disease, famine, etc. If that is true, then help us to do it. If not, then help us to give more than we do, and to do more for others than we do for ourselves. Bottom line is, we want to please You. We want to ultimately be about the things that You are passionate about. We want to love You, to make You known, to make You look good, and to love others more than we love ourselves.

In Jesus' name,


Friday, September 28, 2007

To the Prodigals

Psalm 119:40 - "How I long for your precepts! Preserve my life in your righteousness."

Not long ago I had a conversation with a father who was clearly distressed. His child had made one bad decision after another. She had once walked closely with God. She was active in inviting her friends to church and had even seen many of her friends come to faith in Jesus. Something happened along the way. Seduced by the lure of the world, this girl ran from God. Today, she is addicted to drugs and alcohol. She has watched her life spiral out of control. She is finally ready to give God control of her life. She knows that the things that she has been chasing are killing her.

I had a conversation with another father some time ago. He too was distressed, but his distress stemmed from a marriage that was falling apart. He felt helpless as he watched his wife make one poor decision after another. Her embrace of alcohol, rejection of her husband and children, and denial of the faith was wreaking havoc on her life, and the life of everyone that she once claimed to love.

Maybe you've been there. Maybe you've run from God. Maybe you are there today.

In Psalm 119:40, David cried out, "How I long for Your precepts!" When does one long for the law of God? Often times it's when we realize that we need God's touch in our life more than ever. It's when we are at the end of our rope. It's when we are drowning and we need a lifeline to pull us in.

It's Peter, who jumped out of the boat to walk with Christ on water, and then took his eyes off Christ and began to sink.

It's the Prodigal Son who wasted his inheritance and then while dining with the pigs realized that he desperately needed his father's forgiveness.

It's my friend Joe, who battle drug addiction. He has been in and out of rehabilitation more times than I can count. When he's clean there is no one like him for zeal for the Lord. And, when he's not, it's the saddest thing I've ever seen.

To the prodigals out there, and if we are true to ourselves we know we're all prodigals from time to time, remember that when we walk with the Lord, when we follow Him, we experience life to the full. When we don't we trade the glory of heaven for the temporal satisfaction of hell.

Do you know what will preserve the life of the prodigal daughter and prodigal wife that I mentioned earlier? The same thing that David said in verse 40. It's following God. Both of these women are so close to losing everything because they want to live life without regard to God's standards. I pray that they'll be healed. I pray that they'll come back. And, I pray that all of us prodigals will run back to the Father.

Dear God,

Thank you that you love prodigals. Thank you that none of us have ventured so far that we enter back into Your arms. Help us to live for you. Help my prodigal friends. Help us to long for you, like David did.

In Jesus' name,


Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Worried Cub Fan

I love baseball. It's my favorite sport -- always has been. And, there is no team that I love more than the Chicago Cubs. So, why am I so upset tonight? My Cubs are in first place. They hold a two game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers. And, they could clinch the division tomorrow with a win over Reds coupled with a Brewer loss to the Padres.

Three games left. Magic number: Two. And, Cub fans all over the world almost convinced that the Cubs will find a way to blow it.

That's the problem with growing up a Cub fan. We are way to used to the phrase Wait 'til next year.

I hope this is the year. Go Cubs.

Wise Words From A 16th Century Puritan Pastor

Psalm 119:39 - "Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good."

I love the way that C. H. Spurgeon wrote. The man, who history has called, The Prince of Preachers was an incredible orator, but also quite proficient with the pen. In his classic work, The Treasury of David, Spurgeon analyzed every verse of the Psalms, phrase by phrase.

As I read today's verse, I turned to Spurgeon for help. When David asked God to take away the disgrace taht he dreaded, Spurgeon was convinced that the disgrace had to do with David's enemies. The King James Version of the Bible translated this verse, "Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good." David was pleading with God for divine intervention in dealing with his enemies. He wanted God to not allow his enemies to make a mockery of him. I would agree with David. I don't like it when a mockery is made of me. But, I'm not a King. When David battled enemies, his entire country was effected.

When talking about the end of this verse Spurgeon quoted Richard Greenham. Greenham was one of the most prominent Puritan pastors of the 16th century. I'd love to have one of Greenham's original books some day. Spurgeon, quoting Greenham wrote the following of the words, for thy judgments are good, which are found at the end of Psalm 119:39.

"The judgements of the wicked are bad judgments, but the judments of God are good; (At this point in the reading I was thinking, 'Wow! This Richard Greenham was a real rocket scientist.') I pray against those, I appeal to these: I fear one, I approve the other. Now the judgments which God pronounceth in His word, be they threatenings in the law, or consolations in the Gospel, yea, and those also which He executeth in the world, whether upon the godly or godless, they must needs be good. 1. Because God is goodness itself. 2. He cannot be deceived. 3. He will not be bribed. 4. He alone is no respecter of person, but judgeth according to every man's work."

So, today, let's focus in on a God whose judgments are good. His desires for us are good. Let's try to remember that God does make demands of us. That God's demands are for His glory and our betterment. Let's pursue God with everything we have. And, let's rejoice that His judgments are good.

Dear God,

There is not one of us who deserves Your love. Your judments are indeed good. They are not fair, or we would all be condemned to hell. Thank You that You deal with men in grace and love. May You be lifted higher in our lives.

In Jesus' name,


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

God Keeps His Promises

Psalm 119:38 - "Establish Your word to Your servant, As that which produces reverence for You." (NASB)

Have you ever had someone promise something to you and then not deliver on that promise? I know that I have. In fact, I know that I've too often been guilty of making a promise that I failed to deliver on.

God will never do that.

Psalm 119:38 says, "Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared," in the New International Version of the Bible. The New American Standard Bible translates it more liteally when it says, "Establish Your word to Your servant, As that which produces reverence for You."

At first glance this verse may look like David is making a deal with God. If God fulfills His end of the bargain then David will fear God. But, that's not a completely accurate way to look at this verse. David wasn't bargaining with God. God had already made a covenant with him. That covenant is recorded in 2 Samuel 7:16, which says, "Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever." (NASB)

When God made this covenant with David, the King responded with the following prayer,

"18Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, "Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far? 19"And yet this was insignificant in Your eyes, O Lord GOD, for You have spoken also of the house of Your servant concerning the distant future And this is the custom of man, O Lord GOD.

20"Again what more can David say to You? For You know Your servant, O Lord GOD!

21"For the sake of Your word, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness to let Your servant know.

22"For this reason You are great, O Lord GOD; for there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

23"And what one nation on the earth is like Your people Israel, whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people and to make a name for Himself, and to do a great thing for You and awesome things for Your land, before Your people whom You have redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, from nations and their gods?

24"For You have established for Yourself Your people Israel as Your own people forever, and You, O LORD, have become their God.

25"Now therefore, O LORD God, the word that You have spoken concerning Your servant and his house, confirm it forever, and do as You have spoken,

26that Your name may be magnified forever, by saying, 'The LORD of hosts is God over Israel'; and may the house of Your servant David be established before You.

27"For You, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made a revelation to Your servant, saying, 'I will build you a house'; therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You.

28"Now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are truth, and You have promised this good thing to Your servant.

29"Now therefore, may it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue forever before You. For You, O Lord GOD, have spoken; and with Your blessing may the house of Your servant be blessed forever."

Did you notice the similarity of verses 24-26 with Psalm 119:38? In the Psalm, David was merely asking God to do what God had promised to do. He saw God's fulfillment of His promise as a reason to worship God.

So, what has God promised us?

He's promised to forgive us when we truly repent.

He's promised to never stop loving us.

He's promised salvation to all those who make Him Lord of their life.

He's promised to return.

He's promised to never leave us or forsake us.

He's promised to listen to us.

He's promised to watch over us.

He's promised to accomplish His purposes in our lives.

He's promised to . . . well you get the idea.

I'm just hitting the tip of the iceberg.

We may not have a throne that will never end . . . but then again . . . we, who are joint heirs with Jesus do have thrones . . . and we will rule with Christ for eternity . . . and He will be our God . . . and we will be His people . . . and God will keep His promise.

Dear God,

We will never be You. We will never be God. And, we thank You for that. But, You have made promises to Your children that are spectacular. Those who have been redeemed by You will live and reign with You forever. Sometimes it's easy when we are living our day-to-day lives to feel like your promises have been forgotten. Help us not to live with a temporal perspective, but with Your eternal perspective. Help us, to like David, look at your answered promises as a reason to worship you. For, you, God are worthy of our praise.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What Really Matters

Psalm 119:37 - "Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word."

Are you ever amazed at how much time you spend on things that won't really matter when all is said and done? I know that I'm guilty of that.

So, how do we determine what things are worthwhile pursuits and what aren't? Is it wrong, for example, to have wealth?

No. It's wrong if wealth has you.

Is it wrong to have hobbies that require excessive amounts of time? No. It's wrong if our hobbies have us.

Is it wrong to sin? Of course. We can all agree that sin is a worthless thing to pursue. But, sin, catches our eye all too often. The temptation to puruse that which displeases God is ever present.

David knew this. He asked God to actually turn his eyes away from sinful things. He was incapable of this without the assistance of God. And, so are we.

All too often the good things in our life can begin sin when we allow them to crowd God out of the place that He so rightly deserves. May we never allow anything to creep into our life and take the place that God deserves. All such things are worthless.

What really matters? God. Life is about God. Pursue Him with all that you have.

Dear God,

Like David, we ask that You would turn our eyes from sinful things. Help us to pursue You with everything that we have, everything that we are, and everything that we hope to be. You are worthy.

In Jesus' name,


Monday, September 24, 2007


Psalm 119:36 - "Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain."

How easy is it for you to get distracted?

It's pretty easy for me. I've often times wondered if I have Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.). I don't remember A.D.D. being checked for when I was growing up. Nowadays, when I hear the profile of the ADD person, I say, "That sounds like me."

Do you ever feel like you have Spiritual A.D.D.? You plan to spend time with God but that time gets crowded out by so many other things. I think that's the point David was trying to make in Psalm 119:36. He wanted God to help him care more about God than anything else in his life. For David, the big request was that he wouldn't desire selfish gain, or wealth, more than he desired God. It might be something else for you.

Is there something that distracts you from God?

I ran across this video on YouTube today. I did a Google search on the words "Spiritual A.D.D." and this video came up. It's thought provoking and worth watching.

Dear God,

Help us not to get distracted in our relationship with You. Help us to desire You more than anything that this world has to offer. Take away our spiritual A.D.D. and lead us in Your ways.

In Jesus' name,


Sunday, September 23, 2007

What Delights You?

Psalm 119:35 - "Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight."

Our family is traveling to the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa today. We're driving to a church that we were privileged to serve at for 5 1/2 years. It's been a few years since we have been there. And, we're excited to go back! We're excited to see old friends. We're excited to show our kids the house where we lived. We're excited to show Jeremy and Zach the hospital where they were born. We're excited to see our old church. And, we're excited about going to Whitey's.

Whitey's? If you've ever lived in the Quad Cities you have spent time at Whitey's. It's the best ice cream place in the entire world. And people in the Quad Cities are proud of it! Summer nights in the QCA (Quad Cities Area) often times involve at trip to one of the several Whitey's locations all over the city. You might even say that people from the Quad Cities take delight in this ice cream.

While delight for ice cream is kind of fun, delight in the Lord brings with it the ultimate satisfaction. Where is it found? It is found by walking in the commands of the Lord.

Walking in God's way means that our priorities are straight. It means that we are trusting that God ultimately has our best interests in mind, and although His idea of what those best interests are may be different than ours, His ways are better. When we come to realize that we find incredible satisfaction and delight.

The best days of my life have been the days where I have walked with God. They are the days where I have truly sensed His presence and His guiding hand. The days aren't always easy, but they are satisfying.

So, what delights you? Really.

My friend Greg Speck speaks in schools all over America. Normally there is a rambunctious group of young men sitting in the back row when Greg speaks in the school's gymnasium. The noise from the constant talking is a distraction, so Greg will ask one of the young men to stand up.

He'll say, "I'd like to ask you a couple of questions."

The boy usually responds, "What, are you talkin' to me? Yo, bring it on! Bring it on!"

"Okay," says Greg. "Do you have a stereo system at home?"

"Dude, I've got an iPod with 7,000 songs connected to a speaker system that you wouldn't believe. Uh huh! What you got? Huh?"

"Well, I'm sure it doesn't compare, but let me ask you another question. Do you have a video game system?"

"I've got a video game museum; from Pong to the Playstation 3 and everything in between."

"Alright. How about a car? Do you have a car?"

"You bet. I've got a 1985 Ford Fairmont with rims like you wouldn't believe and a spoiler, and a souped up engine. It's incredible."

"Do you have a baseball bat?"

"Yeah, I have a baseball bat."

"When you get home from school today, would you take that baseball bat and take it to your iPod and speaker system?"

"No, that's stupid. Of course not. What's wrong with you?!"

"Would you take the bat to your video game system. You know, use your X-Box 360 for some batting practice?"

"No, of course not! What's wrong with you, fool?"

"Okay, would you take the bat to your car?"

"To Bessie? Don't be talking about my car like that?"

"You named your car Bessie?"

"Don't be messin' with Bessie!"

"Okay, one last question. If you could have any girl in this auditorium and have your way with her sexually, with no chance of getting caught would you do it?"

At which point the boy usually responds, "Any girl?"

"Yeah," Greg says, "Any girl."

"Well, sure," the boy responds.

It's at that point that two things usually happen. The young ladies in the gymnasium respond, "Loser!"

And, Greg says, "That's what is wrong with us today. We've become a society that loves things and uses people instead of a society that uses things and loves people."

When it comes to God, I'm afraid His bride (us, the church) has grown to love all of the things that the world has to offer and we have grown to view God as something that we use to get what we want. Our prayers reveal much about how we view God. Our prayers have become appeals for more of everything but the things that delight God. May we become people who become passionate about that which God delights in.

What delights you?

Dear God,

We are so guilty of finding delight in things apart from you. Help us to remember that every good and perfect gift that we have comes from You. You delight in taking care of Your children, but You want Your children to delight in You. You are our greatest satisfaction. You are our delight. Help us not to forget. You are God, and You alone are worthy of our pursuit. Help us to remember that.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Something God Loves

Psalm 119:34 - "Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart."

Welcome to day 34 of this 176 day journey through Psalm 119. I hope that God is teaching you new truths about Him as we work our way through this ancient chapter of Scripture together. I know that God is instilling within me a new appreciation for His holiness, His love, His mercy, His law, and His word. Over the past month we've seen David continually cry out to God for help in falling in love with His law. Keeping the law of God was tough for David, thousands of years ago, and it's tough for us today.

We live in a day where people are increasingly rejecting God in favor of living a life where they are their own god, answering to no moral authority but themselves. Some of the best selling books in America last year were books attacking Christianity. Christopher Hitchens', God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Richard Dawkins', The God Delusion, Karen Armstrong's, A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and Sam Harris', Letter to a Christian Nation all appeared on the New York Time's Bestseller List, some reaching number one, and all asserting that the real problem with our world is those who actually believe the tenants of their religion. They were particularly infuriated by those who believe that their religion is the exclusive means to finding God.

So, what's a Christian to do? We live in a day where our faith is consistently under attack. But, the faith has always been under attack. To be a Christian and try to separate spiritual warfare from the Christian life is to deny the fact that there is a very real war that takes place every moment of every day for the souls of men. Remember, history is God's story. It's not ours. We are bit players in His glorious purpose. As such, we have a responsibility to stand for Him. We are to know Him and make Him known. Our lives are for His glory. If we make life all about us, like so many in the world do, we miss out on what it is that God has created us to do.

So, let us, like David, cry out to God for understanding in this day in which we live. God loves that. He loves when we ask for wisdom. When he gave Solomon the unique opportunity to ask for whatever it is that he wanted, God was pleased when Solomon asked for wisdom (See 1 Kings 3). He was so pleased that He gave Solomon more wisdom than any man that lived on the face of the earth. 1 Kings 4:29-34 describes Solomon's wisdom, "God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite—wiser than Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom."

When God gives us understanding, His desire is that we would use it to follow Him. When we obey God, it makes a difference in the world and in our life. Solomon's wisdom was used by God to make a huge difference in the world around him. But, wisdom alone isn't enough to keep us following Christ. Solomon's life took a tragic turn when he, despite his knowledge, chose to disobey God. Before we are too tough on Solomon, remember that we too, every time we sin, reject the knowledge that the Holy Spirit reveals to us, in favor of following our own way. In a very real sense we put ourselves in the place that God belongs every time we sin. We try to put ourselves in control of our lives. For a moment, we become our own god. And, then, through the Holy Spirit's work in our life, we realize that we have made a most grievous error. We have broken the first commandment. We have broken that which God is most passionate about. We have loved ourselves more than we have loved God.

So, let us pray for God's understanding so that we might keep God's law and obey it with all my heart.

Dear God,

Forgive us for those times when we put ourselves ahead of You. Every time we do we break Your first commandment. We have all been guilty of not loving you with all of our heart. You desire our hearts more than anything, and we insist on pleasing ourselves more than we please you by chasing after our own desires. We don't want to be our own gods. We need You. Help us to understand You and Your desires and to follow you with all of our heart.

In Jesus' name,


Great Article by John Ortberg for Teachers of God's Word

There is nothing that excites me more than having the opportunity to preach. There is also nothing that scares me more. It is a huge responsibility. Anyone who takes this responsibility seriously knows what I am talking about. John Ortberg, the Senior Pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, has written a phenomenal article for Christianity Today entitled Birthing A Sermon. It's not a long read, but it is power packed. If you are a pastor or if you have any opportunity to teach God's Word, i.e. Sunday School teacher, Bible Study Leader, Christian School Teacher, etc., you need to read this article. Check it out: Link

Friday, September 21, 2007

I Have Decided To Follow Jesus

Psalm 119:33 - "Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end."

One of my favorite lessons to teach is one that I call The Nine Values of World Changers. It's a lesson that deals with the biblical characteristics that are seen in the lives of most people who have a huge impact on the world. One of those character qualties is endurance. Towards the end of his life, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, his young apprentice and said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7-8) This was written in the last chaper of the last recorded letter that we have of Paul's. He was proud of the way that he finished his life.

My Grandpa was a pastor for many years. Several years before he died my Grandpa called me into a room in my parent's home and asked to have a private conversation with me. He asked if I would be willing to preach the sermon at his funeral (He would later change his mind). He asked if I would speak from 2 Timothy 4:7-8. Grandpa wanted people to know that his life's ambition was to follow Christ and honor Him until the very end. Several years passed between Grandpa's request and his death. The last time I visited my Grandpa he was struggling with dimentia. My parents told me that he probably wouldn't recognize me, my wife or our children. We went to Grandpa's retirement home expecting the worst. What we found was an old pastor, sitting in a church service with a retirement home chaplain. When he saw us come in, he smiled, instantly recognizing our family. He spent the next hour or so with us talking about ministry. He talked about his life. He introduced us to his friends. He told me that he prayed for our family every day. He told me that he was proud of me. And, he pointed out a friend at the center who didn't yet know Christ. Grandpa asked me to pray that the man would come to know Christ before he died. Grandpa died two months later. And, he finished life well.

In this verse, David tells God that he wants to learn how to follow God's decrees so that he can follow them until the end. May we all end well. And, may our decision be to follow Jesus.

Dear God,

I have decided to follow you, and I need you to help me walk the path of truth. May I finish my life strong. May you be glorified in me. May many come to know you because of seeing you reflected in me.

In Jesus' name,


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Start Running!

Psalm 119:32 - "I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free."

Are you a runner? I wish I was. I really do. It seems like every time I get into a rhythm with running, it is quickly disrupted. I could come up with every excuse in the book, but they all fall short. I dream about one day being able to say that I ran a marathon, but unless I start running it's never going to happen.

Are you a spiritual runner? Like running for exercise, running along the path of God requires moving beyond motivation to motion. David describes the state of his life as being one whose heart has been set free, after he runs in the path of God's command.

What does a heart that is set free look like?

It looks like a heart that feels no guilt. There are no lingering regrets. There is love found there. It's a love that can't get enough of the object of that heart's desire. What's the object? It's better asked, "Who is the object?" And, the answer is God. A heart that is set free can only be set free because of the touch of God within the person. It's only made possible because of Christ.

So, today, let me encourage you to run!

Run with God and in the end find a heart that has been set free.

Dear God,

Thank you that you have provided for us the path to a heart that is truly set free. Help us to run with you each and every day. Help the world around us to notice the joy in us that only you can bring in a life. May you be glorified in your church.

In Jesus' name,


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What Are You Ashamed Of?

Psalm 119:31 - "I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame."

What are you ashamed of?

"Wow, that's bold," you may say.

"None of your business," may be your reply.

And, you know what? You're right. It is bold. And, it's not really any of my business.

But, if you are like me, there are things about your life that you hope are never broadcast for the rest of the world to see. There are ugly parts of your life, hidden away in some secret place that you don't want anyone else to know about. And, try as we may, it's futile to try to hide it from God. You may have something that you have been able to hide from every single other living person, but to God it's known, and has been from the very beginning.

I wonder why David is almost pleading with God here not to be put to shame. It sounds a little bit to me like David is trying to make a deal with God.

"I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD;" it's here where I want to editorialize and add the words, "Really, I do."

"do not let me be put to shame."

If David truly held fast to the statutes of God, he would have nothing to be ashamed of. But, we know that David, like you and like me was a sinner. And, it's our sin that should cause us to feel shame.

There is a difference between feeling shame and being put to shame though. I believe that David was truly pleading that God would not put him to shame. He had seen many men put to shame through their own arrogance and feeling that they didn't need God. He didn't want to be one of them. May we not be that person either.

So, what are you ashamed of?

Here are some practical suggestions.

1) Confess it to God. It's about time. It's not as though it will be a surprise to Him.

2) Agree with God that it is wrong. And ask God for the strength to walk away from it.

3) Find a person or group of people that you can trust and confess your sins to them. James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins to each other. Don't pick just anyone to confess to. Find someone or some people that will hold you accountable and ask you how you are doing in relation to that sin on a regular basis.

4) Pray . . . Pray . . . Pray

God wants to take that shame and turn it into rejoicing for the work that He is doing in your life.

Praise God for the gift of His grace and mercy, and for His correcting hand in our lives.

Dear God,

Like David, we ask that You would keep us from shame. Give us the courage to walk with you and walk away from sin. Thank You that You love to change lives. Begin with us.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Choose Wisely

Psalm 119:30 - "I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws."

I love the scene in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indiana Jones stands in front of the knight who is guarding the holy grail. There are so many choices in front of Indiana Jones. He needs to choose the correct cup or he and his ailing father will die. Two of Jones' associates choose poorly and die. The knight had given all three the admonition to choose wisely.

In Psalm 119:30, David says that he has chosen the way of truth. Wise choice! Choosing to follow Jesus isn't always easy. But, it is always wise. There is a book in my library that was written about 20 years ago called, Love is a Decision. My wife and I started to go through that book while we were college students. I didn't like it. I couldn't possibly understand how anybody would have to choose to love someone. Anyone who has been married for any amount of time will tell you that to stay married, often times you have to choose to love someone. The same person who you fell in love with years ago can become difficult to love after all of the pretenses of dating are stripped away. True love says, "I choose to love you, no matter what."

And, that is the type of love that we are to show to God. We choose to love Him even when the temptations and the pull of the world are strong. Loving God means choosing to do what is right. It means picking Him above everything else.

May you choose wisely!

Dear God,

Thank you that when we choose You we don't go away disappointed. Following you brings us joy and satisfaction that the world will never understand. May we become less so that you become more.

In Jesus' name,


Monday, September 17, 2007

The Deception

Psalm 119:29 - "Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law."

I don't know about you, but I'm not a big fan of the word deceitful. I don't like to deal with deceitful people. When I do, it's usually the last time. I don't like to see other people treated in a deceitful way. And, I certainly don't like it if the word decitful refers to me.

In Psalm 119:29, David asks the Lord to keep him from deceitful ways. He didn't point his fingers at other people's deceit. David squarely recognized that it was his own deception that required him to plead for the grace of God. Like David, you and I are guilty of deception too.

Have you ever fallen for the lie that you are better than others? You're not. You and I are guilty of being deceivers and being deceived when we feel that we have the right to act as the judge in the life of someone else. We have been deceived when we feel like we've got it all together.

Today, ask God to help you extend His grace to others as He has so lavishly extended it upon you. Ask Him to keep you from the deception that you can do it on your own. Ask Him to tranform you anew. And, ask Him to help you walk in His word.

Dear God,

We've done it again. We have somehow come to the conclusion that we are better than someone else. Help us to remember that the good that dwells inside of us is only because of you. Help us not to deceive or to be deceived.

In Jesus' name,


Sunday, September 16, 2007

How Is Your Soul Doing?

Psalm 119:28 - "My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word."

How is your soul doing today?

Not, "How are you?"

No, this question is deeper. How is your soul doing today?

Nobody gets to see your soul. In fact, seeing our soul is something that is even tough for us to do as individuals. But, it's there. It's the part of us that will exist for eternity. Long after our bodies have decayed, our souls will live on . . . and on . . . and on.

So, how are things with your soul?

Some people are under the mistaken impression that once you become a Christian things are supposed to be perfect. You never have conflict with anyone. You always get the good parking spot. You don't have days filled with doubt and despair. You never get seriously sick.

Wouldn't that be nice? But, that's just not the case. Christians are no more immune to life's trials than those who are not Christians. There are days where our hearts ache. Recent news stories have focused on Mother Theresa's 50 years of doubt and despair. She never had a day where she doubted God's presence until she began her ministry to the destitute on Calcutta's streets. And then she never had another day in her life where she felt God's presence. And yet, Mother Theresa continued to serve. She continued to serve God, despite the fact that she couldn't feel His presence.

And, David, weary and in despair cried out to God in Psalm 119:28 for God's divine comfort. Like Mother Theresa, David wanted to feel the presence of God. And, David, in his wisdom, knew where to go to find that comfort. He asked God to strengthen him by His word. God's word can do that like nothing else.

I stood by the deathbed of a woman not long ago. Her family was frantic because the death was coming so unexpectedly. A granddaughter had just had lunch with her a couple days before. Her son was in town and a family dinner was planned for the following day. Her brother and sister-in-law had plans for the next week. And, her hair stylist had just seen her earlier in the day for her normal appointment. There were no indications, prior to her being admitted to the hospital that night that this woman was sick. And, just four hours after being admitted to the hospital this woman was on her last breath. A pastor's job in a situation like this is to bring order to the chaos. And, there is no better way to do that than to go to God's amazing Word. As I read Psalm 23, the entire family calmed down. Including the patient. And then, the patient breathed her last and entered into the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, how is your soul today? Is it weary with sorrow? Go to the Word. Is it ecstatic with joy? Go to the Word. Is it somewhere in between? Go to the Word.

Go to the Word!

Dear God,

It's so easy to let this world and all of it's trial keep our eyes focused on us instead of You. Bring order to our chaos today. Take control of our lives. Allow your Holy Spirit to teach us and make us more like You. Take away the weary feelings and replace them with your peace and joy.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Before You Go To The Word of God . . .

Psalm 119:27 - "Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders."

One of my best friends in ministry is Mark Brown. Mark is the Student Ministries Pastor at Trinity Church in Redlands, California. He was also a classmate of mine in college. We didn't really know each other in college, but after we graduated, and both got married, our honeymoon apartments were right next to each other. We lived next door to each other for about nine months. We maybe talked a grand total of five times in that nine month period.

Then, while I was serving as a youth pastor outside of Washington D. C. and he was serving as a camp director in central Virginia, our paths crossed again. We were in the same seminary class and he invited me to bring my students to the camp that he ran. I did. And, a lifelong friendship was forged.

My northern Virginia, Presbyterian students, loved Mark's Southern Baptist teaching. Every time Mark would teach he would begin the lesson with the words, "Before we go to the Word of God, we must first go to the God of the Word. Because, there is no way that we can comprehend what it is that God wants to teach us without His Holy Spirit guiding us."

I was reminded of that simple lesson as I thought about today's verse. David was asking God to help him understand God's precepts. He knew that he could never comprehend the depths of what God was trying to teach without God's help. David understood James' words long before they were written: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)

When was the last time you asked for God's wisdom as you read His word? Maybe that is a natural thing for you. Maybe you do it every time. But, maybe, you've been trying to understand spiritual things with your natural mind. I talk with people regularly who tell me about how they are disenfranchised by their study of Scripture. Invariably they admit that they are just going through them motions and have not asked for God's help teach them as they read.

Invite Christ to be your guide as you walk through the pages of His word.

Dear God,

We need you to help us understand the mysteries that are wrapped up in your sacred word. Help us to not grow weary of time spent with You. Help us to keep you as our first priority and our first love.

In Jesus' name,


Friday, September 14, 2007

Great Story on Samkon Gado

My favorite player in the NFL is a backup runningback for the Houston Texans. His name is Samkon Gado, and he is a graduate of Liberty University. While in college, Gado only started two games. He went undrafted and was eventually signed as a free agent by the Green Bay Packers. He was the surprise of Green Bay, his rookie season, when injuries to the backs ahead of him forced his coaches to give him playing time. Eventually Gado would be traded to the Texans.

Samkon is a Nigerian native who sees football as a means to an end. He is studying to become a doctor. Earlier this year, Gado asked his coach if he could miss a few days of Texans training camp because he was studying for his M-CATs and his exam was during camp. His coach granted him the days off. And, Gado made the team as the third string runningback.

Check out this great video about Gado's desire to make a difference in Nigeria:

He listens

Psalm 119:26 - "I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees."

Do you know what I think one of God's greatest gifts to us is? It's that He listens. We never have to wonder if God is listening to us when we pray. He loves to hear His children talk to Him. He loves to hear about the good, the bad and the ugly in our lives. It's not like He doesn't know what is going on with us. But, God desires for us to recognize His supremecy in our lives. He wants us to acknowledge that He is there. He wants to show His great hand of mercy and love in our lives.

When David was at his worst, he reached out to God. I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased these verses in The Message. Take a look at his rendering of Psalm 119:25-32.

"I'm feeling terrible—I couldn't feel worse!
Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?
When I told my story, you responded;
train me well in your deep wisdom.
Help me understand these things inside and out
so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.
My sad life's dilapidated, a falling-down barn;
build me up again by your Word.
Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;
grace me with your clear revelation.
I choose the true road to Somewhere,
I post your road signs at every curve and corner.
I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me;
God, don't let me down!
I'll run the course you lay out for me
if you'll just show me how."

It was a difficult time for David. And, through it all, David was able to trust in his God.

The more I dwell upon it, the more I feel like Psalm 119:26 may be some of Scripture's most beautiful words. "I recounted my ways and you answered me. . ." God answered David.

And, God answers us. When He does, it requires us to be ready to be students at the feet of the ruler of the universe. It requires us to say, "Teach me your decrees." We want God to teach us the lessons that He wants us to learn. The sooner we learn, the better life will be.

Dear God,

Thank You for listening. Help us to listen to you.

In Jesus' name,


Take some time to listen to what God wants to say to you today through His word.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Psalm 119:25 - "I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word."

Someday I'd like to do a Biblical word study on the word dust. The word appears exactly 100 times in the New International Version of the Bible. It's found in the second chapter of the Bible and found in the 18th chapter of the Bible's last book, Revelation.

In Scripture we read that man was created from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), that dust was placed on the head as a symbol of mourning (Joshua 7:6, 1 Samuel 4:12, 2 Samuel 1:2, 15:30, Job 2:12, 42:6), that the disciples were to shake the dust off of their feet when the encountered a town that refused to hear the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:14, Acts 13:51), and we read about a little known event in the life of David, the same man who I believe wrote Psalm 119.

The story is found in 2 Samuel 16. David's sin with Bathsheba brought about numerous consequences in his life. His family would never recover from the sorrow that David brought upon them. David lost the son who Bathsheba carried in her womb. He lived out of fellowship with God for a period of over a year. He had one family crisis after another. And, in 2 Samuel 16 we read about one of those crises. David's son Absalom grew to hate his father. He planned a coup, to overthrow his father's government and rule as the new King of Israel. David fled with his top advisors. And something strange happened. In 2 Kings 16:5-14 we read,

"When King David came to Bahurim, behold, there came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came out cursing continually as he came. He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left. Thus Shimei said when he cursed, 'Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless fellow! The LORD has returned upon you all the bloodshed of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. And behold, you are taken in your own evil, for you are a man of bloodshed!' Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, 'Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over now and cut off his head.' But the king said, 'What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah? If he curses, and if the LORD has told him, 'Curse David,'then who shall say, 'Why have you done so?'' Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, 'Behold, my son who came out from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him. Perhaps the LORD will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day.' So David and his men went on the way; and Shimei went along on the hillside parallel with him and as he went he cursed and cast stones and threw dust at him. The king and all the people who were with him arrived weary and he refreshed himself there."

David truly felt like a cursed man. And, part of that cursing involved the humiliation of the fleeing King of Israel, who was afraid that his own son was going to kill him, being pelted with stones and dust by a relative of his predecessor, King Saul. David's bodyguard offers to go take care of this troublemaker, but David refuses. Why? Because David felt that he deserved this cursing. He deserved this punishment. He, the King of Israel, deserved to be chastised. He knew that he hadn't lived like a man after God's own heart.

In Psalm 119:25, David writes as a man very familiar with dust. He knew the story of creation. He knew that in comparison to the God of the universe, he was dust. He had used dust as a symbolic means to express his grief before God. And, he had been covered in dust in an unforgettable moment of time in his life. God preserved David's life on multiple occasions. And, I believe that David, while looking back on all of these occasions, could think of no more appropriate place for him to be in front of his God than in the dust. He couldn't stand. He needed to be face down, prostrate before the God who is the perfect embodiment of the law. He needed God's grace.

And, so do we. We need to recognize that we are so little. History is God's story. We are bit players in His eternal story. And, the sooner we understand that, the better. May God be pleased with our lives! May He take delight in the way that we follow Him. May our lives be an accurate reflection of Christ to the world around us. And, may we celebrate that God loves people of the dust.

Dear God,

At funerals we are reminded of our mortality. Our lives are not long. They are here for your glory. Forgive us for seeking the glory that only you are deserving of. Forgive us for thinking that we are something more important than we are. Like David, help us to come to the realization that we must not think higher of ourselves than we should; that your holiness is something that should cause us to be in awe. Help us to remember that you are not just the God of love, but also the God of wrath. Help us to live in wonder of who you are.

In Jesus' name,


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The World's Greatest Counselor

Psalm 119:24 - "Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors."

A few weeks ago my daughter, Breanna, and I visited the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was an incredible day. We both love presidential history and I was blown away by the events chronicled in the Ford Musueum. My favorite moment of the tour was when we entered a room that was an exact replica of the room where the Presidential Cabinet meets in the White House. Breanna and I each took turns dreaming about what it would be like to sit in that room as the President of the United States. And, I thought, what a wonderful gift a good cabinet would be to a president.

I have a friend who serves as the youth pastor at a church in Iowa. He has been a youth pastor for over 20 years. The guy is sharp. I've been blown away by the depth of his marriage. He hasn't gone without difficult times. His oldest child has made some mistakes that have caused great pain in their family. But, he is seeing God work on his child's life in remarkable ways.

Several years ago, my friend told me that he and his wife make it a practice to go to a counselor at least one time a year, whether they need it or not. Why? Because, there is something incredibly healthy about being able to debrief all that you have been through in the past year. Think about it. 365 days is a long time. If I look back at the past year, there are so many different things that I've experienced. He told me that being able to have one more person as a sounding board in his family's life was a great thing.

Counselors can be a wonderful gift. It's not just professional counselors that we are talking about here. When you have a huge decision to make, it's important to surround yourself with wise counsel. Proverbs 15:22 says, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed."

Human counselors are great, but can't compare with God's counsel. And when human ideas conflict with God's ideal in the life of a Christian, God must win out. David nailed it. The statutes of God were his counselors. Like President Ford, David would have had numerous counselors. Those counselors would no doubt have disagreed from time to time. God doesn't do that. He is the ultimate counselor. His words are recorded for us and are incredible gifts. Take advantage of His counsel today!

Dear God,

You are the Great Counselor. You provide us with the guidance that we need to live our daily lives. Thank you that you also provide us with friends and other Christians to help us when we need more input. Thank you for the gift of your word.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Crazy Christians

Psalm 119:23 - "Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees."

Have you ever heard the phrase crazy Christians? It's a phrase that is typically used when talking about Christians who are hypocritical and fake.

A former student of mine has completely turned his back on Christianity. His main reason? Because of what he sees in other Christians. In his process of turning, this student has decided that all Christians are crazy. And, that makes me sad. And, it makes me wonder if that is what David felt like in Psalm 119:23.

Now, David, of course, wouldn't have been called a Christian. He was a Jew. Jesus Christ had not yet come to offer salvation to the world. David believed that the Messiah would one day come to earth, and trusted in God's promise.

And, I believe that the rulers of other countries thought he was crazy. Like any politician, David was the object of pulic ridicule, scorn and contempt. He had his detractors and his enemies. He knew the lonley road of leadership. He knew the pain that came from the words of others. And, he knew that the only way to get through it all was by holding on tight to the promises of God. So, in his times of distress David spent time with God.

I know that there have been many times in my life, when under the microscope of criticism I have felt pain. And, my strength during those times is God's word.

Joe Stowell, the former president of Moody Bible Institute had an opportunity to dine with the evangelist Billy Graham on an occasion a few years back. Joe says that he asked Graham what Graham's greatest joy in ministry was. He was expecting to hear Graham talk about some great crusade or the number of souls that had been saved. Graham responded, "The greatest joy in all my life, far and away has been my fellowship with Jesus."


That is powerful. And, that is the kind of relationship that I believe that David, the man after God's own heart, had with his Lord.

When we are hurting, being slandered, oppressed and discouraged, may we always go first to God. May we meditate upon his life-giving Word. May we bask in the presence of the glory of Christ.

Dear God,

Thank you that you are with us in the darkest of days. Thank you that you are with us in the best of days. And thank you that the darkest of days can be the best of days when we focus on you. May you be glorified in our lives today and forevermore.

In Jesus' name,


Monday, September 10, 2007

I Wonder . . .

Psalm 119:22 - "Remove from me scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes."

I wonder what he was feeling . . .

when he wrote these words:

Remove from me scorn and contempt

Do you remove something that isn't there?

Was he feeling the pain that would inevitably come if God was showing him scorn and contempt?

I wonder if . . .

I've ever been the object of the scorn of God.

That's a selfish thing to wonder.

I wonder.

I wonder if . . .

David felt like he had to bargain with God.

He felt like he had to prove himself.

He truly felt that he kept God's commands.

I wonder.

And, I wonder how it would feel if you felt like you were living under God's scorn and contempt to have that removed. To be washed clean. To be forgiven.

I know.

Dear God,

I do know. For, I am a sinner, saved by grace. I have been washed clean. You are so good. You are so full of grace. You are God and Your love endures forever. I am so blessed.

In Jesus' name,


Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Tendency To Stray

Psalm 119:21 "You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from your commands."

Do you have a tendency to stray?

When I was a child, my Dad took us to Sears. He liked going to Sears, and my brother Randy and I didn't have much of a choice. We weren't huge fans of these errands. That is, until the Atari video game system came out. When we saw the display system, Randy and I begged Dad if we could stay and play while he shopped for what he was looking for. He said, "Sure," and off we went.

It didn't take Dad long to finish his errands. He came back and said, "Boys it's time to go." We started to follow him. In fact, I think Randy kept following him. But, not me. The pull of that Atari video game system was too strong. It was as if a magnetic force was pulling me back. I had been locked into the tractor beam of the system and I felt like it was useless to fight back. I went back to play. And, my Dad didn't even notice that I was gone.

I was well into my third game of Asteroids when my Dad found me. And, boy, was I in trouble. Why? Because I strayed. I strayed from my father's instruction, and he was worried about me.

And, today, I fear that I haven't learned the lesson that straying is not worth it. Do you know what God calls my ignorance? He calls it arrogance. To stray from the commands of God, when I know full well what those commands are, means that I am inviting the Lord's rebuke upon me.

What do you think God's rebuke looks like? David says that the arrogant are not only rebuked, but they are cursed. Cursed by God, himself.

At least one Old Testament prophet wasn't buying Psalm 119:21. It was Habakkuk. In his short, three chapter book, Habakkuk complained bitterly about the preferential treatment that he felt the ungodly were receiving from the Lord. In Habakkuk 1:2-4, the prophet complains, "How long, O LORD must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you 'Violence!' but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted."

Do you ever feel that way. When we feel like we've got it all together spiritually, (which I'm not sure has ever been the case for me) and we see those who deny God and think Christians are stupid, having what looks like such a great time, it can feel like God is being unfair. He's not. God responds to Habakkuk in the following verses. He tells Habakkuk that the wicked nations will not go unpunished. They will experience what Psalm 119:21 talks about. In their arrogance they will be rebuked. But, it would happen in God's time, not Habakkuk's. Those that Habakkuk complained about were punished decades later. Decades!

So, back to you and me. I know my tendency to stray has yielded me less punishment than I deserve. God, in His mercy, has extended more grace upon me than I deserve. Maybe that's so that I'll stop straying. So that I'll recognize before it's too late that God's love is extravagent. I don't want to feel His rebuke. I don't want to love God out of fear, and I don't think that's the point. But, I do believe that God will get our attention if we continue to stray from His commands. And, it will come when we least expect it. May we all learn the lesson of Psalm 119:21.

Dear God,

You are grace. You are love. You have extended your mercy, love and grace upon us even though we don't deserve it. We all deserve Your rebuke and cursing. Help us to walk in Your ways. Help us to desire You more than anything this world has to offer. Help us to love you not out of fear, but because of the love that you have lavished upon us. We can't deny that love exists. Help us to celebrate it every moment of every day.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, September 08, 2007

One Pure and Holy Passion

Psalm 119:20 "My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times."

I'll never forget the first time I heard the song played. I was in church and listened as our high school worship team led us in worship. The soloist sang with a heart of unbridled passion for God. The words were first recorded by the Passion Praise Band. The song, One Pure and Holy Passion goes like this:

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me on magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You

To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your dicsiple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you, my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after you
To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your disciple in the truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you

Lord to know and follow hard after you
And to grow as your disciple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you

I love those words. They remind me of the words of David in Psalm 119:20. David, writing with great passion, tells God that he is literally consumed with knowing God. I wrote an e-mail to the camp director at the camp that we use for our summer retreat each year. He responded to me earlier today. When he signed his e-mail, he didn't write, "sincerely," or "In Him" or "In His Service" or one of those lines that so many Christians use when they sign e-mails. He wrote, Totally consumed by HIS call, and then signed his name.

So, what consumes you. Between David, and my camp director friend, and the song One Pure and Holy Passion, I find myself asking that question a lot lately.

May I, like my friend, say it's God and his call on my life.

Let Him consume you!

Dear God,

Consume me. Consume my friends. Consume those who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ. Help us to desire more of you and less of us. Help us to live like ones who have been marked as your children.

In Jesus' name,


Friday Night Lights

Psalm 119:19 - "I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. "

This is the weekend that I take our volunteer staff and student leaders on their annual planning/vision/bonding retreat. This year's retreat is in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. For those of you who don't know, Eden Prairie is the same city that our church is in. We are staying in a hotel where you can literally see our church steeple.

Last night I took our staff and students to a high school football game. We saw Eden Prairie High School take on Chaska High School at Chaska. When we arrived at the game the atmosphere was electric. The Chaska side of the field was packed. It was standing room only. The Eden Prairie side of the field? Packed; standing room only. And in the time that we were at the game, I watched our adult staff morph into high schoolers. Okay, they still acted like adults, but they remembered their high school years. After the game I asked the adults to tell me what they experienced and how they felt as they watched the game. Many of them recounted their own high school experiences. They talked about what groups they were in while they attended high school. They talked about how strange it felt to be at a high school campus, not as a student, but to remember how awkward it felt to be in high school. And, they talked about how they felt like strangers walking into a stadium full of people that they didn't know.

In Psalm 119:19, David says that he is a stranger on earth. Some translations choose to translate the word stranger as sojourner. David knew that his time on earth was temporary. He was passing through this life. It's easy to forget that. In the long days of life it is so easy to get sidetracked and chase after all that the world has to offer. And in the end, we end up feeling dissatisfied with life's bitter offerings. In the midst of life's busyness, it's easy to forget God.

Do you remember what it was like to be in high school? If it's been a while, a lot has changed. But, there is so much that is still the same. In high school I had a very real awareness that there was life beyond high school. I cared about which college that I would go to, and what my career would be. But, I also lived my life very much in the moment. I see students today that make incredibly poor, life altering decisions, on a whim, because they can't see past today. Someday those same students will be standing on the sidelines of a football game and realize that they are strangers in that place.

We are sojourners or travelers or strangers in this thing that we call life. I like how David put it in Psalm 39:12 when he said to God, "Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; Do not be silent at my tears; For I am a stranger with You, A sojourner like all my fathers."

Today, keep in mind that our lives our short. Pursue that which really matters. Love God. Love others. Declare His name among your world.

Dear God,

Help us not to get so wrapped up in the world around us that we lose sight of You. Help us to live for Your glory. Help us to love You with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength.

In Jesus' name,


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Great Blog Post on Suffering

Maybe I'm just a proud brother, but I don't think that's it. My sister has written an incredible post on suffering. Check it out at: Uncensored Thoughts Pondering Life. Let me know what you think.

It's Time To Take Off The Blinders

Psalm 119:18 - "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law."

I heard a sad statistic today. A recent survey says that 55% of wives have had extramarital sex. (Slightly less than husbands). 90% of them said that they didn't regret it. See: The Growing Trend of Cheating.

While 90% may not regret it now, they will later. Sin has a way of being satisfying for a season, and then it burns us. In Psalm 119:17, David asks God to open his eyes so that he can see the wonderful things in God's law. God's law, wonderful? Yes, it is. And, when we follow it, life goes well. Put work into meeting your spouse's needs by honoring her or him and guess what? Life goes better.

God tells us throughout Scripture to love others more than we love ourselves. He tells us to look out to the needs of others before we look out for our own. He tells us over and over again what is best for us. And, over and over again we try to say that we know better than God. It is as if we have put the blinders over our eyes and we don't want to see any of the value in following God's ways. Oh, that we would grasp the love that God has for us. His laws are not meant to suffocate, but to give life. Paul describes this love in Romans 8:38-39 when he writes, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Open your eyes. His law is beautiful.

Dear God,

It's easy to put the blinders on in today's world. The grass looks greener on the other side, so we stray towards that which brings your grief and us consequences. Help us to trust in You. Help us to remember that you have our best interest in mind. Help us not to settle for less than your best in our lives. Help us to follow your law.

In Jesus' name,


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The King Who Viewed Himself As A Servant

Psalm 119:17 - "Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word."

He had it all. He lived in a beautiful palace. He had great riches. The people that he ruled loved him. In the world in which he lived, David was the biggest celebrity. People around the world respected and feared him. He had servants who waited on him day and night. And, he recognized that in the grand scheme of life, he was nothing.

In Psalm 119:17, David implored God to be good to him. When I read this I want to say, "Duh, David, you are the king. God has been good." But, I think that David is recognizing that everything that is good, has been given to him by God. Even his life is in God's hands. That's why David asks for God to be good. Just as last week, we read of David's fear that God's Spirit would be taken from him, this week we see that David's fear of the Lord even extended to his very life.

David reveals something else about his character in this verse. And that is that he truly did regard himself as God's servant. That had to be tough for the celebrity King. And, yet, David, the man after God's own heart, probably didn't even give it a second thought. When David lived with God at the center of his life, and as God's servant, Israel prospered. When he strayed, his family and his country suffered.

In Psalm 84:10, David wrote, "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked."

He understood what it meant to be a servant. And, I need to learn all the more what it means to be a servant of God.

Dear God,

Help me to strive to descend to the role of a servant. Help me relish in the opportunities that I have to make You look good to the world around me. Help me to take joy in the low positions, and not seek to puff myself up. Help me to live for You and Your glory.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Psalm 119:16 - "I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word."

Have you ever had a situation where all you had to do was hear a word, and your stomach turned? For me, it's the word neglect. Why? Because it is rare that you hear the word neglect and it is related to something positive happening.

Neglect your diet and your waste line grows.
Neglect your children and they go through incredible difficulty.
Neglect your marriage and get ready for hard work.
Neglect your lawn and the weeds take over.

Neglect God's word and . . .

My guess is that we'd all answer that a little bit differently. And, we'd all answer from personal experience. We've all been there. We know how busy life can get. We have all of the excuses memorized. I can't spend time with God because of 1) 2) 3). We lay the case out as if we are presenting it before a judge. And, yet, God's desire doesn't change.

He desires that we spend time with Him. And, one of the primary avenues that God has to speak to us is through His word. So, today, spend some time with Him. Beyond, this blog, allow God's word to saturate your heart. Let Him speak to you through the ancient words of Scripture.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)

Dear God,

Thank you for your word. Allow it to transform us as speak to us today. Thank you for your love that reaches down to us each and every day. Help us to show it to the world around us.

In Jesus' name,


Monday, September 03, 2007

Take Time To Study

Psalm 119:15 - "I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways."

Tomorrow marks the first day of school for most students in Minnesota. All four of my children are looking forward to beginning the next chapter of their lives in the morning. Breanna begins high school. Chris is a seventh grader. Jeremy is very excited about third grade. And, Zachary? He's just thrilled to be starting first grade. No more kindergarten for Zach!

Do you remember what it was like for you when you went back to school after a long summer? Maybe you are still in school, and reading this blog? Do you remember last year? Most students are excited about the first day of classes. There is the bittersweet realization that summer is over, but also the euphoria that comes with something new. That is until the homework starts piling up. It seems that within a few days or weeks, students are left longing for the long days of summer.

When I first read Psalm 119:15 today, I read it in the New Living Translation. The translators of the New Living Translation chose to translate this verse this way, "I will study your commandments
and reflect on your ways." I like this version. It reminds me of 2 Timothy 2:15, where Paul tells Timothy to study! God wants us to study His word. One of the ways that Webster defines the word study is: careful or extended consideration.

The last couple of weeks have helped me gain a new appreciation for the commands of God. They are worthy of our study. They are worthy of careful and extended consideration. They are worthy of being known. They are worthy of being allowed to change our lives. They are life giving. And they are God's words.

So, as students begin school this year, let's all make a renewed commitment to be students of the Word. Let's reflect on God's commands and reflect on His ways.

Dear God,

It was elsewhere that the psalmist said that your ways are too wonderful. They blow us away. You are mysterious, and yet you make yourself known. Help us all to be better students of your word this year. Help us to allow your word to be reflected upon in our very souls. Help us to allow you to transform us into the image of Christ. We love you.

In Jesus' name,


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Psalm 119:14 - "I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches."

When it debuted in the United States on August 16, 1999, even most astute television analysts could not have predicted the monsterous success that would instantly grace Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? The show made television history, and made Regis Philbin, Millionaire's affable host an even bigger star than he already was. Why? Because no previous game show had ever had a million dollar prize. And, the show looked simple enough for anyone to have a chance at becoming an instant millionaire.

King David would have been considered a millionaire in today's world. At the height of his empire, David was easily the wealthiest man in the world. His son, Solomon, would eclipse the net worth of his father, becoming not only the wisest man ever to live, but the richest too. So, when David says that he rejoices in God's statutes as one rejoices in great riches, it's worth listening to. Because, David understood riches better than anyone that I know ever will. Most people that I know like money and would like to have more of it. But, money isn't the answer. The precepts of God, are better than gold and silver. They are priceless. It kind of reminds me of the MasterCard commecials that you see today. You know, the ones that say things like . . .

Fishing pole - $18.50
Bait - $11.25
Tackle Box - $17.88
Fishing Boat - $11,000
The look on his face when he catches his first fish - Priceless
Some things take money, for everything else there's MasterCard.
... Cut to emotional scene with father's arm around son with tear in his eye . . .

The precepts of God, truley are priceless. And, they can change your life, more than riches ever will. Take some time to thank God for his Word. And, on this Labor Day weekend, thank Him for allowing you extra time to reflect upon His love.

Dear God,

Thank you for your statutes. Help us to follow them day by day. Thank you that nothing in this world can ever replace the true riches found in following You.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Speak Up!

Psalm 119:13 - "With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth."

Have you ever had an opportunity to speak up for Christ, and not acted upon it? If you are a Christian, the answer is probably, yes. In fact, if you are a Christian, like me, the answer would probably be that there were several times just this week, where you had an opportunity to say something for Christ and didn't. Psalm 119:13 isn't really a verse about evangelism, but it is a verse that reminds us that we are to constantly be talking about Christ. In this verse the Psalmist says that he actually speaks the laws that came from the mouth of God.

I imagine King David and his sons at the dinner table. The King has just returned from yet another day of battle. He is tired. The day has been long. And, more than anything else he'd like to kick back and relax. But, he is also a man after God's own heart. So, in the course of conversation he talks about the law of the Lord with his children. He repeats the ten commandments and his children tell him that they have heard it a million times before. He talks about the importance observing all of the Sabbath law. And, his children tell him that they do. The point is he is talking about it. And, he is talking about God.

Maybe it didn't really go that way with David. There is certainly much evidence that this man ignored huge portions of God's law. He was certainly a flawed instrument. And yet, he knew what he should do.

None of us like the hypocritical leader who says, "Do as I say, not as I do." But, we are all guilty of hypocrisy, every time we who name the name of Christ choose to sin. So, let's not be too tough on David here. Let's point the finger back at us. For me, I'd say, "Brian, are you taking the time to share the love of Christ with those you come in contact with? Are you talking about God with your children? Are you going beyond lip service and really living out your Christian convictions? Are you willing to share Christ with the world around you no matter what the cost? With your lips, do you recount the laws that came from the very mouth of God?" How about you?

Okay, I feel sufficiently convicted.

Dear God,

Thank You that You have spoken. Thank you that Your words are not a mystery. We don't know everything about You, but we know enough to know that You are good and Your love endures forever. Thank You that we can't know everything about You, because if we did, You wouldn't be God. Give us the courage to obey Your holy law. Give us the courage to speak up for You every opportunity that we have. Help us to make You look good to the world around us.

In Jesus' name,