Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Birthday Blessings

Psalm 119:73 - "Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands."

I'm so happy that today's verse focuses in on the God who made and formed us. Today, my oldest son, Christopher, became a teenager. Cyndi and I are now parents of two teenagers. Tomorrow we will celebrate the 15th birthday of our daughter, Breanna. And, on Friday, we will celebrate Jeremy's 9th birthday! It's kinda crazy around here. And as I think about my children I am in awe of their God. God's hands formed Breanna, Chris, Jeremy and Zach. And, God's hands formed you and me. And, David understood that the created need the Creator to help us understand his law.

My friend Mark Brown is a pastor in California. He loves to practice the indispensible principle every time he preaches. He says, "Before we go to the Word of God we must first go to the God of the Word, because there is no way we can understand God's Word on our own." God wants us to understand Him. And, He promises us that if we ask for wisdom, He will give it. So, go ahead, ask. And, be amazed. God will reveal so much to you.

Dear God,

Thank You for creating us. Thank You for Your desires for our lives. Help us to understand You better. And, please give us wisdom to understand Your Word. And, God, thanks for my new teenager. Help him to always live for you.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pure Gold!

Psalm 119:72 - "The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold."

One of my college professors had the most extraordinary home I've ever been in. The home was designed to look like a miniature European castle. It had a mote, a dungeon, a great hall with coats of armor, weapons, and more. It was kind of a spooky place.

In his dungeon was a treasure chest. The chest was overflowing with coins. It had the appearance of being full of gold and silver. I'll never forget that treasure chest. When I asked him where all the coins came from he told me, "When I go to another country, I always visit the bank. I ask the bank if they have any coins that are no longer in use. (In the 1980s many countries changed their currency and were left with worthless coins.) I'll give them $10 US and they will give me a bag full of coins."

So, the coins, were worthless. But, the picture, was priceless. And, priceless is exactly how David would describe the the Word of God. It is more valuable to David than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. The average reader of David's writing would have never seen that much wealth in his or her lifetime. So, the image that David is giving in Psalm 119:72, is that God's Word trumps all. It is worth more than anything that the world will ever see.

Do you treat it that way? Tonight Heather Flies and I will be speaking to our volunteer youth staff. We're talking about the heart of the youth worker. In preparation for tonight I looked on my bookshelf for one of the books in youth ministry that encouraged and developed my thinking on youth ministry back when I began. It's called Back to the Heart of Youth Work, by Dewey Bertolini, and has long since gone out of print. I couldn't find the book on my shelf, so I bought it for .99 on from a used book dealer. It was fun to reopen the pages of a book that meant so much to me early in my ministry. I love Bertolini's book because of the first two chapters. These chapters deal with the personal spiritual condition of the youth worker's heart.

In Chapter One, Bertolini talks about Psalm 119. While writing about Knowing God, Bertolini says, "Three clearly defined qualities characterize one who has a heart of knowing God. Each of these must develop in our own lives if we are to take the first step towards being good servants.

1. Constantly nourish yourself on the Word of God (1 Timothy 4:6).

Effective youth ministry must begin here. To attempt to lead a person spiritually while at the same time neglecting one's own spiritual life would be a travesty. Any leader who fails to take nourishment daily from the Word of God will most certainly degenerate into a voice from a vacuum. It is much too easy and tragically too common to become so busy doing ministry that we forfeit the greatest privilege and most essential priority of all: our own personal walk with God.

Scan Psalm 119. It's 176 verses express in the clearest of terms the psamist's heartfelt commitment to the truth of the Word of God. Does your heart echo these same thoughts? 'How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart. They also do no unrighteousness; they walk in His ways' (vs. 2-3). God's ways, as expressed in His Word, are:

- to be kept diligently (v. 4);
- to be rejoiced in and delighted in (vv. 14, 16)
- filled with wondrous things (v. 18)
- our counselors (v. 24)
- a reviving force and strengthening power (vv. 25, 28)
- to be cleaved to and trusted in (vv. 31, 42)
- to be kept continually forever and ever (v. 44)
- to be proclaimed without any shame (v. 46)
- to be loved (v. 48)
- our comfort (v. 50)
- the songs in the house of our pilgrimage (v. 54)
- righteous judgments (v. 62)
- better than thousands of gold pieces (v. 72) - TODAY'S VERSE!
- faithful and forever settled (v. 86, 89)
- never to be forgotten (v. 93)
- making us wiser than our enemies (v. 98)
- giving us more insight than our teachers (v. 99)
- giving us more understanding than the aged (v. 100)
- sweeter than honey to our mouths (v. 103)
- a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths (v. 105)
- the rejoicing of our hearts (v. 111)
- our hope (v. 114)
- wonderful and longed for (vv. 129, 131)
- pure (v. 140)
- truth (v. 151)
- founded by God forever (v. 152)
- awesome (v. 161)
- the songs of our tongues (v. 172).

Let's be honest. Does Psalm 119 accurately express our consistent attitude toward the Bible? Or do we tragically neglect God's Word? In a world permeated by seducing spirits disseminating doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1), we servants of Jesus Christ must daily saturate ourselves with the truth of the Word of God. To do anything less renders us poor servants, having committed a sin of omission of gargantuan proportions."

May all of us love God and His Word like this. May we recognize how awesome is the treasure that we have in it. May we become treasure hunters, never being content with less than knowing and loving God and His Word.

Dear God,

Thank You for the treasure of Your Word. You are more precious than all the gold, silver and wealth of this earth and all of the universe. Help us to love You like You long to be loved. Help us to grow to love Your Word more and more, every day.

In Jesus' name,


Monday, October 29, 2007

The Hard Times

Psalm 119:71 - "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."

Several years ago I went through some of the darkest days of my life. No matter how hard I tried to get things right, it seemed like everything around me was falling apart. I questioned God. I wondered why He would allow me to go through such difficult times. (As if I was any more worthy to go through less suffering than anyone else. Talk about arrogance!) I wondered if the difficult days would let up. I wondered if it could get any worse.

I bet you've been there too. We all go through difficult times. Sometimes it takes years, but when we are able to get far enough removed from a situation to look back with a different perspective we can see that the ordeal didn't leave us permanently scarred. In fact, sometimes those toughest ordeals can teach us the most valuable lessons in life.

I didn't like the trials that I went through years ago. But, I rejoice that I went through them. I rejoice that God chose to work in the hardship to bring about His glory. David rejoiced when God took him through his own difficult times. Because, David recognized that those hardships brought about more intimacy in his walk with Christ.

Rejoice in the hardships! Rejoice in the good times. Rejoice!

Dear God,

You are good even in our darkest days. Help us to remember that. Thank You for your Word. Thank You for the comfort that it brings. Thank You for working through the fire.

In Jesus' name,


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Evangelicals and Scientists Travel To Alaska To See Global Warming First Hand

Recently, my senior pastor, Leith Anderson, and several evangelical leaders joined a group of scientists to study the effects of global warming. The unlikely pairing of scientists and evangelicals was chronicled by the PBS show NOW. The show aired on Friday night. You can watch it by following this LINK.

Calloused Blasphemy

Psalm 119:70 - "Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law."

This afternoon I spent time with the Student Leadership Team for Wooddale Senior High. This is a group of 10th-12th graders who have chosen to be peer leaders. They lead our Area Bible Studies, and our taking peers from their high school and neighborhoods through the book of Mark. The groups have already met twice, so today we prepared for their third meeting, in which they'll discuss Mark 3.

In Mark 3, Jesus confronts his critics; religious leaders who have accused Jesus of being possessed by the spirit of the Devil. Jesus responds to their criticism by addressing the unpardonable sin, saying, "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin" (Mark 3:29).

What a sobering verse. Earlier this morning, I had read our verse for today, Psalm 119:70. Remember, David is talking about the people who were smearing him with lies in verse 69. Now, in verse 70, David refers to these people as being those with calloused hearts. They are unfealing people who reject and make fun of those who follow God.

Today, the world is full of people whose hearts have become calloused towards God. The world is full of people whose hearts have grown so cold towards God that unless things change, they will spend eternity in hell. That truth should bring a tear to our eyes. To be a Christian and speak of hell, without having an urgency to be about God's work of rescue souls from hell, is to be someone who is not very different than those whose hearts have grown calloused towards God. Jesus was always about interacting with those who needed God most.

David loved God's law. We should too. But, we need to do more than love it. We need to live it. We need to live out the Great Commandment to love God first and our neighbors second. We need to live out the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. And, we need to do it today.

Dear God,

Give us an urgency for your Gospel. Help us to be about your work of making disciples among all people groups. Help us to be passionate about our friends and neighbors who don't know you. Help us to not be afraid to share the truth of your word. Use us in your great work.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, October 27, 2007

I Want The Truth

Psalm 119:69 - "Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart."

What would it take to get you to stop following Christ? Can you imagine any circumstance or series of circumstances that would shake your faith in Christ so much that you would stop following Him? I hope not. But, sometimes, following Christ can be hard. We go through difficult seasons in our walk with Christ when we have followed Him for any significant length of time.

One of the characteristics of true faith is a heart that is fully devoted to Christ, no matter what the circumstances. That's the kind of heart that you see David expressing in Psalm 119:69. He is being lied about, but instead of blaming Christ, he goes to The Truth, and finds relief. God is our Truth. He is our Protector. He is there even in the worst of days. I don't know about you, but I want THE TRUTH!

Dear God,

Thank You that we can depend upon You even in our darkest days. Help us to follow You with a heart that is fully devoted to You. We love you! We love that you are THE TRUTH!

In Jesus' Name,


Friday, October 26, 2007

Do As I AM . . .

Psalm 119:68 - "You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees."

I wonder if a quote similar to the quote, "Do as I say, not as I do," existed during the time of David. I'm sure there had to be something similar. After all, every generation has had its share of hypocritical teachers. And, I think most of us would say that we don't enjoy listening to that type of teacher.

That's what is so refreshing about the truth that David expresses in verse 68 of Psalm 119. God is good, and God does what is good. Pretty revolutionary, huh? No, really; think about it! God is good, and God does what is good.

Wouldn't it be great if that could be said of everyone? Wouldn't it be great if Christ followers could say, "I am a Christ follower, and I live like a Christ follower!" It's what we should strive for.

In their book, The Big Idea, Dave Ferguson, Eric Bramlett, and Jon Ferguson suggest that we no longer use the word Christian. Does that make you a little bit uneasy? It does me. The reason that they give is because over 80% of Americans call themselves Christian, and there is relatively no difference between the way those who call themselves Christians live their lives and the way that non-Christians live their lives. That is a tragedy. I understand the authors' reticence to use the word. But, rather than give up a precious word, how about living it? How about if we call ourselves Christians, that we agree to live like Christians? It's not revolutionary. It's expected that we will. And, it's God and the world who are looking for it to happen. Lead the way in your generation. Let's live like God intended us to.

Dear God,

There is no sense of hypocrisy in You. Every time we sin, we prove ourselves to be hypocrites. Help us to live our lives in a way that brings You pleasure. Help us to live our lives with passion and without surrender for You. Thank you that you have given us your Holy Spirit. We can do this, with you.

In Jesus' name,


Thursday, October 25, 2007

All We Like Sheep

Psalm 119:67 - "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word."

I don't know what David was afflicted with, but whatever it is caused him to stop straying and come back to God. In Psalm 119:67, David talks about straying from the Lord, and now coming back. And, he intimates that obedience to God's Word is the cure to a wandering heart.

Have you ever gone astray? It's all too easy to find ourselves in a spot in life where we want to say, "No!" when God wants us to say, "Yes!"

God's will for us in no secret. He has revealed to us His desires for us in His word. He has very specific mandates for our life. If we can get the first mandate down, the rest come easy. God's most passionate desire for His children is that we love Him. And, He wants us to love him with everything that we are.

Have you ever been so in love with someone that you found that you couldn't imagine living life without them? That's what God wants from us. And, when we do, the desire to stay close to Him will be there.

Dear God,

You have made it very clear that you are the Great Shepherd. We are the sheep of Your pasture. Help us not to be dumb sheep, thinking that we know better than You. We want to follow you. We want to know You. We want to love You. And, we want to know what it is like to be Your friend. Help us to follow Your commands. Help us to live as light in our generation. Help us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

In Jesus' name,


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Today's Students Are Crying Out For Knowledge

Psalm 119:66 - "Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands."

I just returned from spending 90 minutes with a group of teenagers at an event that we call Pizza and God Talk. It's a bi-monthly gathering of students who are committed to talking about spiritual things. These students come from a wide variety of perspectives. Some of the students are more committed to talking about God than others, but each night we meet I am amazed at their questions and insight.

Tonight's questions began with, "Is it ever okay to lie?" A spirited discussion was had by those in attendance. There was passion on both sides of the issue. Then the question, "Do the ends ever justify the means?" was asked. Another great discussion.

Tonight as I reflect on Psalm 119:66, I thank the Lord that David's prayer for being taught knowledge and good judgment is still be prayed by people today. God promises us that if we ask for wisdom that he will give it. Many people think that this generation of students is walking away from God. While there are many who have strayed, and while church attendance figures for people in the twenties is abysmal, I am blown away by the commitment of those students who do choose to walk with God. To walk with God in their generation is tough. And, yet, I see students doing it and shining as stars in their generation.

May God raise up a generation of students who call out to Him for knowledge and discernment. May these students, like David, change their world for Christ.

Dear God,

Today, we ask you for wisdom. We need your knowledge and discernment as we walk in our world. Thank you that you love us and have promised to give wisdom to those who ask.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

God is Good All the Time

Psalm 119:65 - "Do good to your servant according to your word, O LORD."

When I lived in the south, preachers loved to bound up to the pulpit, put on a cheesy grin, and pronounce, "God is good, all the time, and all the time . . ." and the expected response from the congregation was for them to shout back, "God is good!"

I hated this exercise. I just thought it looked so dumb. It wasn't that I hated the message. I just hated the way that the message was usually given.

As much as I hated that exercise, the truth of those words remains. God is good all of the time. It's one of His attributes. God is a good God. He's good when I'm not feeling happy. He's good when I can't sleep. He's good when I wonder how I'm going to pay the bills. He's good when I am stressed. God's gooddness never ceases.

That's why David's plea for God to do to him according to his Word puzzles me. God had been so good to David. This guy had been spared from giants, lions, bears, enemies. He had ascended to the throne of Israel. He was rich. He had prestige. What could he have been lacking?

David's plea for God's gooddness reveals the truth that no matter where we are at in our stage of life we can sometimes forget God's goodnness to us. Maybe it wasn't that David forgot God's gooddness as much as it was that David didn't want God's gooddness to stop. Maybe God wants us to pray in such a way. But, maybe God just wants us to trust that He is who He is. God is good. He has never been anything but good to us. So, let us celebrate the truth of God's gooddness and extend that gooddness to others.

Dear God,

You are good. Thank you that we can know that and trust in that. Help us to remember that when we feel like life shoudl revolve around us. Help us to live for you when we don't feel like doing it. Help us to trust that you are who you say that you are, and to remember those times that you have proved yourself to be who you are.

In Jesus' name,


Props to Assembly of God Youth Ministries

One of the heartbreaking experiences that every youth pastor goes through is when you graduate a group of students and know that many of them will graduate from church. So many of our brand new college students get sucked into a lifestyle that eventually brings them signicant pain and lifelong baggage. The Assembly of God Denomination is doing something about it. Check out this video:

Well done! I can't wait to see similar ministries start all over the country.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How Great Is Our God's Love

Psalm 119:64 - "The earth is filled with your love, O LORD; teach me your decrees."

How much does God love us? David loves to answer that question. In Psalm 139, David tells us that God loves us so much that he thinks about us constantly. If we were to try to put a number on how many times a day that God thinks about us, it would outnumber the grains of sand on the seashore (vs. 16-18). The Apostle Paul spoke of God's love as being so great that nothing could separate us from it (Romans 8:38-39). The Apostle John spoke of the person of Jesus being so great that the entire world was not large enough to contain the books that could be written about Him (John 21:25).

I love the way David describes God's love in Psalm 119:64. He says that the earth is filled with God's love. Think about that for awhile. The earth is filled with God's love. Filled!

I write this as Southern California is being ravaged by fire. It can be easy to forget God's love in the midst of the trial. But, in the midst of Southern California's trial, communities are banding together. Stadiums are becoming sanctuaries. Gatherings are becoming prayer meetings. God's love will shine through even in this rough time. Why? Because, that's what God does. And, that's what God's people do. Jesus told his followers that they would be the light of the world. When we live that way, the world sees the love of God in action. God is love! God's people are the reflection of that love. Let your love so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and gloify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16)! Church, let it shine! Let it shine.

Dear God,

The earth is full of your love. On this night of tragedy and destruction in Southern California, let your love be evident. Let the church rise up and praise you. Let your glory be declared in the nation. Help us to be an accurate reflection of your love to the world around us.

In Jesus' name,


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Friends of God

Psalm 119:63 - "I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts."

I spoke to a room full of junior highers today. It was a special experience, because two of the junior high students were my children. My daughter introduced me to her peers, and my son sat in a row full of his friends. I chose to speak about the fact that God believes in us. As I spoke I scanned the room.

Do you know what I noticed?

I noticed peer groups. I watched who was sitting with who. And, I thought, as I taught, about the impact that peer groups have on students. In Psalm 119:63, David spoke of being friends with all who fear God and follow his precepts. In other words, those who were friends of God were friends of David. I like that. The closest people in our lives should be those that are friends with God. Can you say that is true of you? Who is it that you count among the closest people in your life.

One of the things that I told our students today was the famous quote, "The biggest difference between you now and five years from now are the books you read, the people you meet, the places you go." Our friends have a huge impact on us. That's one of the reasons that David was so passionate that his friends be people who are friends of God.

Throughout his life, when David was in trouble, he had a group of friends that were faithful to him. They were called his mighty men. David's mighty men were there when King Saul wanted him dead. His mighty men were there when his son planned a coup of David's kingdom. His mighty men were there when David sinned and when David lived a life that glorified God. Friends will do that. They will lift you up when you need it. They will give you a swift kick in the seat of your pants when you need it. They will encourage you and hold you accountable. They will protect you.

So, what kind of friend are you? Make it a priority to become the type of friend that David would have surrounded himself with. And, surround yourself with those friends.

Dear God,

We all need friends. We all need people who will lift us up when we are down. We need friends who will hold us accountable. We need friends who are loyal and true. We need friends who are friends You! Help us to live our lives in such a way that we surround ourselves with these type of people. Help us to be this kind of friend to others.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, October 20, 2007

When God Wakes You Up

Psalm 119:62 - "At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws."

Not long ago I was talking with someone who told me that they never understood the passage in Scripture where we are instructed to pray without ceasing. No one can actually do that. The person talked about how his understanding of this passage was that we were to be in a continual attitude of prayer. When we go throughout our days, we are to have conversations with God. When we have decisions to make, God is to be the first one that we go to. When we face temptation throughout the day, we are to run to God.

Then he told me, "Brian, I had the most incredible experience last night. I went to bed praying to the Lord. I fell asleep. When I woke up, I found that I was still praying."

For my friend, this was a very special spiritual experience. I'm not quite sure that this is what God meant when He instructed us to pray without ceasing. And, I'm not sure my friend truly prayed all night long. I questioned him about it and he didn't think that he had. He was just in awe over his God that day. He was grateful that he went to sleep with praise on his heart and awoke the same way. And, I think that's what was probably happening to David when he wrote this verse. He had so much to be grateful for, that he felt the need to wake up in the middle of the night and praise God for His righteous laws.

What about you? What has God blessed you with? It's probably more than you really stop to thank Him for. Unless you are a person who can pray 24/7 without stopping, you probably can't possibly run out of things to be grateful to God for. He has blessed us in more ways than we can count. Does that mean that our lives look perfect? Far from it! Life is hard. We will not even begin to experience life like God intended it to be until we reach heaven. But, this side of heaven gives us plenty to be grateful for. May we, like David, praise God for all that He is, all that He has done for us, and all that He promises to do.

Dear God,

Forgive us for the times that we complain. We have so many things that you have blessed us with. It's not that we deserve it. You have given us more than any of us deserve. Thank you for your mercy and grace and love. Thank you for your patience. Thank you that you love us like you do.

In Jesus' name,


John Piper on Satan's Ploy to Get Christians to Waste Their Life

John Piper has a terrific article at CT Online about sin and the way that Satan uses guilt over our sin, particularly sexual sin, to make Christians ineffective in their walk with God. The article is so well done and I plan on using it with people who struggle with guilt. Check it out by following this LINK.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Dark Days

Psalm 119:61 - "Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law."

I've never been bound with ropes. I don't have enemies that are trying to hurt me like that. I have watched plenty of movies or TV shows where the terrorist organization binds the hero with ropes and begins to torture him. I can't imagine that it is ever something that I would want to go through. I imagine that the person that is in such a condition would dream of death's release. David may have experienced such a thing. Some of the men who served in David's army certainly did. Euguene Peterson's paraphrase of the Psalms quotes this verse as if David truly did experience this binding with ropes from the first person perspective when he writes, "The wicked hemmed me in—there was no way out— but not for a minute did I forget your plan for me."

If it is true that David did indeed face such persecution, it must have been on of the darkest moments of his life. And his response to the darkest time in his life was to not for one minute forget the plan that God had for him.

When we go through the dark days of life, God is there. We may not ever be interrogated by terrorists, but we will go through our own dark days. And when you do, remember, you are never alone. God's plans for you are good. That knowledge will keep you going in the darkest of days. God's plans for you are good! They are better than you could ever imagine.

Dear God,

I pray today for those who are going through the dark night of their soul. Give them strength for each new challenge. Give them hope for the difficult times. Help them to trust that You love them and have good plans for them. Help them to grow more and more in love with you no matter how hard the days are.

In Jesus' name,


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mark Driscoll's Session at the Convergent Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, recently spoke to the Convergent Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I've had a lot of people ask me about my take on the emergent church movement. There are things that I love about the movement, and there are some things that turn my stomach. Driscoll does a good job of covering some of the major theological underpinings of the movement in his address. I'd encourage you all to download this one and listen to it. You can access the sermon by following this Link and going to the September 21 address labeled Session 3.

Today is the Day

Psalm 119:60 - "I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands."

Have you ever talked with someone who you knew was a train wreck waiting to happen? The decisions that they were making in their life, compounded with their total disregard for God's standards had sent their life in a spiral? I've spent a lot of time recently with folks like these. And, I am constantly reminded of just how close all of us are to making similar poor choices.

If you are one of the people that I speak of, let me encourage you to take David's approach from Psalm 119:60. David recognized that now was the time to get things right with God. I spent time with two people a few years back in the span of one week. One was in the midst of a drug addiction and recognized that he needed help, the other was also in the midst of addiction, but didn't care. The one who sought help, found healing. It didn't happen right away. In fact, he went through rehab several times. But, he is well now. The other? Still struggling with addiction and has almost died on multiple occasions. The latter always wants to put God off. The former realized that without turning to God, healing would never begin. Today is your day to find healing and hope. Run to Jesus. He's waiting with open arms to bring you freedom.

Dear God,

Thank you that you are still the God who heals. Help us to run to You. Help us to run to your desires. Help us to follow you.

In Jesus' name,


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

True Confession

Psalm 119:59 - "I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes."

What is true confession? It is agreeing with God that what you have done is sin, and then turning from that sin. And, that is what David talks about in Psalm 119:59. He has considered his ways. And, upon consideration he has turned from them and to the statues of God.

So, when is the last time that you took time to truly consider your ways? Did you know that God desires that we would daily confess our sins to Him? When we are followers of Jesus Christ, it only makes sense that when we sin, it saddens us and causes us to want to make it right with God. True confession comes from a heart that desires to please God. True confession means that we will do everything in our power and with the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to stop the pattern of sin.

Does this mean that a Christian can attain sinless perfection here on earth? No. We will continue to struggle with sin as long as we are on this side of heaven. But confession, and living our lives in a way that is consistent with God's word will allow us glimpses of what heaven will be like. When we become passionate about the things that God is passionate about, our appetite for sin will decrease. And when the appetite decreases, our lives go better. Consider your ways, as I do the same.

Dear God,

Thank you for the brains that you have given us. Thank you that we have the ability to consider our ways. When I consider my ways I see so many ways in which I fall short. Help me to run to You and away from sin. Help me to make You look good in my generation.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Seeking the Face of God

Psalm 119:58 - "I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise."

The little girl's voice has been heard in our home quite a bit lately. My wife was the first one to hear her. It was at her job. Some of the women there played this video for her. She made sure that we saw the video too.

Here is her video:

I love this video! And I love the way that the little girl is so excited about her God. May we, like her, seek God's face with all of our heart. May our hearts long for God. May we seek Him. May we, like the little girl, smile when we think about the incredible truth that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Dear God,

Help us to desire You more than anything else. Help us to, like this little girl, seek Your face. Help us to long for You and to bring as many people to You as we can.

In Jesus' name,


Monday, October 15, 2007

Our Great Portion, Our Delight, Our God

Psalm 119:57 - "You are my portion, O LORD; I have promised to obey your words."

The New Living Translation simply translates this verse, "Lord, you are mine! I promise to obey your words!"

What a beautiful truth. If we are followers of Jesus Christ, He is ours, and we are His. When I think about God being my portion, or God being mine, I am blown away. We belong to God, but He has given Himself to us.

When a couple is married, we speak of them giving themselves to each other. As the bride of Christ, He has given Himself to us and for us. Because of that, how can we do anything but respond with obedience?

Our response should be that which many of us have sung in the old hymn, How Great Thou Art.

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

God is great. His ways are hard to fathom. May we long for a relationship with Him that is growing sweeter and sweeter every day.

Dear God,

Thank you that the theological truth that You are ours is shown all over Scripture. Thank you that we belong to You. Help us to remember that You desire for us to honor You with our lives. You long for us to be faithful to You. You demand our obedience. Help us to be what You long for us to be.

In Jesus' name,


Peak Performance

My friend, Scotty Brown, runs a ministry called Peak Performance. It's an evangelism and leadership school that takes place in the mountains of Nepal. I love what Scotty's school does in the lives of students. He just put a 9:10 movie on YouTube that chronicles the ministry. This ministry is more than just a school in the mountains. It is a ministry to unreached people. It is a ministry to leapors. It is a ministry to girls who need to be rescued from slavery. You've got to check this movie out. And, if you are a college student-young adult, pray about participating in it yourself! It will change your life.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Just Do It

Psalm 119:56 - "This has been my practice: I obey your precepts."

Several years ago the Nike Corporation had a very successful ad campaign. It featured many atheletes who encouraged consumers do Just Do It! The idea that they were trying to convey was that you just needed to go out there and exercise, and that exercise would look better if you used their products.

So, what's your spiritual practice like?

Devotions, or taking time out of each day to devote to your relationship with God can seem a daunting task early on. It is so daunting that so many people decide not to spend any time with God.

David is finishing his thoughts from Psalm 119:55 when he writes that this has been his pracitice. He was talking about spending time with God. And, if Dvid were here today, he'd encourage you to do it.

So, let's commit to continue to spend time with God. No matter how many distractions that you face in your life, do not let the most important part of your day pass you by. Make it your practice!

Dear God,

Thank you that you actually want to spend time with us. Help our desire for You to grow every day. We love you.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Interview With God

My brother Randy sent me an e-mail earlier today with a link to a website with this video. I watched it, and wow! All I can say is watch it for yourself. It will make you want to live life differently.

In The Night . . .

Psalm 119:55 - "In the night I remember your name, O LORD, and I will keep your law."

It's Saturday night and we are on our annual fall retreat. I love what we have experienced this evening. You see, on Saturday nights, for the past few years, we have spent a good deal of time in what we call, A Night Of Prayer. We set up stations all over the sanctuary. Students pray for their friends and family who don't know Christ. They pray for different churches around the Twin Cities. They pray for different countries. They pray for their own needs. They also have a place where they can go to be prayed over, or a place where they can go to confess sin.

This has been a powerful evening. God has moved. Students have met with their Savior. And, I love it.

As I read Psalm 119:55 tonight, I thought about David's words, In the night I remember Your name. This is a night that our students have remembered God's name. They have dealt with the issues in their life. They are excited about who God is. They remembered that He is Who matters most. He is to be praised. And for that, I praise God.

Dear God,

Thank you for the nights that we remember You. Forgive us for too many nights in between where we forget. Help us to live for you. Help us to bring You glory. Help us to exalt Your name. You are good, and Your love endures forever.

In Jesus' name,


Friday, October 12, 2007

Always On My Mind

Psalm 119:54 - "Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge."

This evening, I'll be taking a group of about 75 people on our annual Senior High Fall Retreat. I love retreats. They give people an opportunity to get away from the pressures of every day life and reflect on what it is that God wants to teach them. Our theme for this weekend is Extraordinary: When God Uses Ordinary People to Accomplish Extraordinary Things. I'd appreciate your prayers as we go with our students.

I couldn't help but think about our weekend retreat as I read Psalm 119:54. David talks about God's decrees being the theme of his song wherever he lodged. David was a musician. He loved to sing. The Psalms are really a songbook that David and a few others composed to God. And, this Psalm, in particular is all about God's decrees. But the part that struck me about this verse what David's longing to sing of God's decree wherever it was that he lodged. David lodged in many places. He was hotly pursued by enemies, and his lodging became a cave. He knew what it was like to lodge in a field with sheep and in a castle with servants. Wherever David went, God was always on his mind.

It reminds me of the old Elvis Presley song Always On My Mind.

Elvis' divorce from Priscilla kept her on his mind constantly. It's sad. And yet, in a beautiful way, God wants to be on our mind constantly. He is a jealous God. He desires fellowship with us. So, throughout your day today, focus on Him. Focus on His desires for your life. Focus on His presence. And, may you, like David, constantly have a song on your lips, of praise for all that God has done for you.

Dear God,

Thank You that we can count on the fact that You will never leave us or forsake us. You are faithful and true to Your word. Help us to live in constant awareness of Your presence. Help us to live this and every day as if You were walking alongside of us. Because, You are. And, that is beautiful.

In Jesus' name,


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Righteous Indignation

Psalm 119:53 - "Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law."

Eugene Peterson paraphrases Psalm 119:53 as follows, "But when I see the wicked ignore your directions, I'm beside myself with anger."

Have you ever felt that way? It's called righteous indignation. And, it's easy to feel that way. But, let's be honest. All of us are guilty of forsaking God's law from time to time. So, what is it that makes David so angry here? I think it's the repeated disregard for the laws of God that the ungoldy show. David has already talked about how he was being continually mocked by his accusers. He felt angry, because these were people who had no regard whatsoever for his God.

Fast forward about a thousand years and Jesus Christ comes on the scene. Instead of righteous indignation for the ungodly, Jesus was indignant towards those who called themselves followers of Yaweh, but who worshiped Him with their lips only. Jesus had compassion on the unrepentent. It was for them that he came.

Today, I see many believers who treat the world like the enemy. The world is not our enemy. Satan is. And, Satan has convinced multitudes that they don't need God. These multitudes need to see the love and grace of God lavished upon them. So, be His hands and feet to a world that needs Christ. And, let's let God be the judge.

Dear God,

It's easy to get frustrated when we see Your name defamed, and your people mocked. It's easy to want to fight back. Help us to show your love and grace to your largest critics. Do a miracle. Bring those who are farthest from you into a relationship with you, and use us in your redemptive process.

In Jesus' name,


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What Comforts You?

Psalm 119:52 - "I remember your ancient laws, O LORD, and I find comfort in them."

One of our children loved his blanket when he was younger. He carried his blanket around everywhere he went. He was a little bit like the character Linus, from Charles Schultz's famous Peanuts cartoons. I remember the day that he lost it and we couldn't find it. It was awful. There was no comforting the child. I felt so bad. He cried and cried. We bought him another one, but it took some time to get used to it. It just wasn't the same. As he grew older, his need to have that blanket grew less and less. But, his need for us didn't. He will still climb into bed with us and give us hugs every morning. And, when he's sad, he just wants mom and dad to hold him.

David found comfort in his heavenly father, and in God's law. There was comfort in God's Word. And, there still is. When the world around us changes, the Word of God doesn't. God's standards remain the same for all people at all times. There is comfort that comes from knowing that God has bondaries. Those boundaries are not to be broken. They aren't there for our misery, but for our protection, and His glory.

Take comfort today in His Word. Know that it is relevant. God wants to speak to you through it. And, I believe that the more you read, the more comfort you'll find.

Dear God,

Thank you that your words are like a sweet smelling aroma. They can bring comfort to the most troubled soul. Help us to follow your law. Help us to spend time with you. Help us to know that there is nothing better than you.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Faith in Difficult Circumstances

Psalm 119:51 - "The arrogant mock me without restraint, but I do not turn from your law."

Have you ever been made fun of because of your faith? My guess is that David was. It could be that the mocking that David talks about in Psalm 119:51 was over something else. Either way, it hurt. No one likes to be mocked. No one likes to be mocked in the way that David was mocked either. It was extreme. The mocking went on without restraint. Perhaps the mocking was aimed at his family. Maybe it was at the way that he governed. Maybe it was at his beliefs. It was so bad that David could only describe it as a mocking that showed no restraint.

How would you respond in that circumstance? I think it would be tough. I might even be tempted to blame God, or to turn my back on him.

Not David. David says that he won't turn from God's law.

Now that's devotion. And, that is what God desires from us.

Not long ago I heard about some missionaries in an Islamic country. The missionaries had served in this country for many years. They had a few friends that served on the field with them, and among them was another couple, around the same age, who served many miles away.

This past year, tragedy struck. The friends of the missionary couple that I know were martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ. The couple that I know have made the heroic decision to replace their friends -- to go to the site where their friends were martyred and continue their work. Talk about faith in difficult circumstances.

So, how's your faith? What would it take to shake your faith? How do you live out your faith in the difficult circumstances of life? Keep trusting! God loves you and He believes in you.

Dear God,

When times are tough and our faith is weak, help us to trust in you. When we are tired and hopeless, bring back hope. When we are tempted help us to never stray. Help us to live for you no matter the cost!

In Jesus' name,


Monday, October 08, 2007

Great Article on my Pastor in the Star Tribune

Yesterday's Minneapolis Star Tribune had a front page feature on my pastor, Leith Anderson. I'm proud of the work that Leith is doing, and the way that he lives his life. He's the real deal. Check out the article by following this Link.

Youth Pastors and Halo

Yesterday's New York Times had a fascinating article about the popular video game Halo and the use of it in churches all across America. The title of the article is Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Video Game at Church. You can read the entire article by following this Link.

After you read the story answer this question for me: How do we as youth pastors possibly look good in this story? I've played Halo with students on multiple occasions, but I've got to tell you, after reading this article, my stomach turned. What is it that we are saying to the world around us when we play? Do you think we look at all two-faced when we say that we value life and then play the game? Or, is it a different thing, since in Halo it's aliens? Maybe it's time that we re-examine that entire Christians are to be set apart deal and begin to take it serious in all parts of life.

Thanks to Jon Clauson for sending me the link.

When You Suffer

Psalm 119:50 - "My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life."

Have you ever been through a period of suffering? Maybe you lost a loved one. Maybe you lost a job. Maybe it was extremely difficult circumstances that led to a depression. Mabye your suffering was over your faith in God, or your faith in someone that no one else had faith in. Perhaps it was an illness. Perhaps you are suffering now.

So, how do you get through life when life gets tough. In the past few years, several people that I have known have decided to end their own life. It's sad. In their moment of despair, these friends thought that the answer for them was suicide. It's not the answer. The answer is something that David discovered long ago. The answer is that no matter how tough the circumstance, no matter how great the suffering, God is true to His word. God has promised relief. It may not come when we want it, but it will come. And, it was this promise from God that sustained David during his darkest nights.

What has God promised for those who love Him? Scripture tells us that it is so grand that no mind can even conceive of it. We know that it is good. It is paradise. And, it is awaiting those who love God.

Reach out for His comfort today.

Dear God,

When we are sad, discouraged and downright suffering help us to remember that You have promised you children an inheritance that will never fade away. Help us to reach out in love for you. Help us to trust.

Thank you for loving us.

In Jesus' name,


Sunday, October 07, 2007


Psalm 119:49 - "Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope."

Poet Emily Dickinson once wrote the following about hope,

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul.
And sings the tune
Without the words,
and never stops at all."

I love that. There are those in this world who have become too afraid to hope. Hope brings with it the possibility of despair. And, because of that, some have decided that they would rather not hope at all.

I want to suggest that hope, in anything or anyone but God, will bring disappointment. Hope in God is not a guarantee that you won't be disappointed. Philip Yancey, the famous Christian author wrote an entire book dedicated to the topic several years ago when he penned his famous work, Disappointed With God. (It's worth picking up if you've never read it.)God is worth putting hope in. He always follows through on His promises. It's just not always as fast as we'd like, or necessarily done the way that we would want.

Aren't you glad that you don't have to make decisions for God? Aren't you glad that you aren't God? I know that I'm not worth hoping in. I'll continually fail those who put their hope in me. God won't. And, He's worth trusting with our all.

Dear God,

We place our hope in You. We need Your touch in our life. There is nothing on earth that compares to You. Help us to believe when our faith is weak. Help us to trust when we are disappointed. Help us to never stop loving You.

In Jesus' name,


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Biblical Meditation

Psalm 119:48 - "I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love,
and I meditate on your decrees."

It's been 48 days now since I began this journey of a verse a day through Psalm 119 for 176 days. I have to say that these weeks have been some of the most spiritually satisfying that I have ever enjoyed. In today's verse, David talks about worshipping God. As he does, he lifts his hands toward heaven, in celebration of the commands of God. Again, David tells us that he loves the commands of God. And, then David tells us that he meditates on God's decrees.

That is, in a sense, what we have been doing these last 48 days. Many of you have undertaken this journey with me. You have meditated on God's Word. Instead of trying to digest large portions of God's Word, you have taken in delicious samples, bite sized portions, if you will, of God's Word.

How has it been?

I've loved these 48 days, but I've found that they make me hunger for more. I've been thinking about what comes next. One idea? To go through this same exercise with the words that Jesus spoke while he was here on earth. I'd begin with the Gospel of Mark, then go through Matthew, John, and finally Luke.

I don't know. It's just a thought. And, I'd probably do that paragraph by paragraph, rather than verse by verse.

But, for today, I am reminded of the value of biblical meditation, and in awe that God's Word is so alive.

Dear God,

It was the Apostle John who mentioned that all the books in all the world couldn't contain the stories about you. You are so vast. You are so wonderful. Thank you for Your Word. Thank you for the love that is literally shown all over the pages of Your Word. Thank You for allowing us to think deeply about Your words for hours on end and know that we are only scratching the surface.

In Jesus' name,


Friday, October 05, 2007

Loving God's Commands

Psalm 119:47 - "for I delight in your commands because I love them."

Do you love the commands of God?

I was at lunch a while ago with a person who had walked away from God. He was searching in all the wrong places for fulfillment in life. He knew that he should probably come back to God, but he didn't want God, or anyone else for that matter, telling him how to live.

God loves you. His commands are not meant to ruin your life, they are meant to enhance your life. They are meant to protect you and to show you the best way to live.

Celebrate His commands as you do whatever it is that you are going to do this weekend. Learn to love His commands, because they are His desires for us.

Dear God,

The weekend is here. This is the time of the week that many like to check out on their relationship with you for awhile. Help us to love your commands and to follow you no matter what. Thank you that your commands are good and trustworthy and worthy of being followed.

In Jesus' name,


Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Intimidation Factor

Psalm 119:46 - " I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame,"

Who intimidates you?

Maybe you are one of the few people in the world that isn't inimidated by anyone, but most of us could probably name at least one person or group of people who intimidate us.

When it comes to sharing your faith, who initimidates you? Most people would answer that question, "Almost everyone!"

It can be tough to speak about that which is most important in our life. When I ask people why they are afraid of sharing their faith the answers I normally hear are, "Rejection," "Fear of offending someone," "Not knowing what to say," or, "I'm afraid of saying something wrong."

David said that he would speak of the statutes of God before Kings. In other words, David didn't care who it was that heard about his love and devotion for God. In Acts 25-26 we read the story of Paul and his defense of his faith before two very powerful men, Festus and King Agrippa. Paul was not intimidated by either one of these leaders. To King Agrippa, he preached so passionately and persuasively that Agrippa declared, "'Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?' Paul replied, 'Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains'" (Acts 26:28-29).

I love Paul's passion. I love David's passion. And, I pray that all of us may have similar passion. Let's not be initimidated to share our faith or our beliefs with as many people as possible. And, let's show it too. Let's let our lives AND our words bear witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is the best thing that ever happened to us.

Dear God,

We all have opportunties every day to speak up for You. Help us to take those opportunties. May we reflect Your character in word and deed. May You be glorfied in everything that we do every day.

In Jesus' name,


How Would You Introduce Jesus Christ?

As a Christian, I continually have the privilege of introducing people to my Savior, Jesus Christ. I love Him. He has changed me, and he loves me like no one else ever will. Comedian Steve Harvey has a pretty cool dream. It will never happen. But, if he were able to introduce Jesus Christ to the world, this is how he'd liek to do it. Enjoy! And, thanks to Marceia Duhm for e-mailing this to me.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Psalm 119:45 - "I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts."

How would you like to experience pure freedom? I'm talking about freedom from guilt, from shame, from the bondage of sin. Wouldn't it be great to be able to escape that? As long as we walk in the way of the Lord, we can. David knew that there was a direct correlation between walking in the path that God calls us to and experiencing freedom. I know that David's statement here is absolutely true. The times in my life where I have felt the most lighthearted and free were the times that I knew that I was walking in a path that was pleasing to the Lord.

Today, celebrate the freedom that can be found in Christ. Celebrate the joy that He wants you to know. Celebrate freedom; true freedom!

Dear God,

Thank You so much that You offer us freedom. Help us to walk in Your ways. Help us to trust that Your ways are better than our ways. Help our love for You and Your laws to increase.

In Jesus' name,


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

How Idealistic Are You?

Psalm 119:44 - "I will always obey your law, for ever and ever."

There is no way that David was able to pull it off. We know that David was a man after God's own heart, but he was also a man. So, what's the lesson that we can learn from Psalm 119:44? How about this: God loves it when we desire to please Him. David made a bold statement in verse 44. But, it was a statement that stemmed from a passion for holiness.

Let's hope that all of us would desire to obey Christ like this. Too many times our knowledge that we are sinners becomes a licence to sin. A few years ago the WWJD craze hit Christianity. Bracelets were all over the place. WWJD stood for What Would Jesus Do? The bracelets were so popular that even non-Christians were wearing them as fashion statemnts. The WWJD idea came from Clarence Sheldon's classic work In His Steps, a book in which a pastor challenges his congregation to ask what Jesus would do before the make every decision. In the fictional book, the church is used by God to transform their world. Is it idealistic? Yes. But, sometimes idealism is so beautiful. So, what would happen if we tried to live like David talked about in this verse? Maybe our world would be transformed. At a minimum, you would be, and God would be pleased. And, that's worth it!

Dear God,

We really do want to please you with our lives. Help our knowledge that we will sin not become license to sin. Help us desire to please you. Help us not to lose the idealism that we once had. Help us to be changed by You and to be used by You to change Your world.

In Jesus' name,


Happy Birthday, My Best Friend!

Today is my best friend's birthday. It as 19 years ago today that she officially became my girlfriend. We were sophomores in college and we'd been dating for about a month. I'll never forget that night. There was a full moon. We were in the mountains of Virginia. And, she looked so beautiful. 19 years, and four children later, she's still my best friend.

I love you, Cyndi.

Monday, October 01, 2007

It's True!

Psalm 119:43 - "Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws."

Prior to joining the staff of Wooddale Church, I served as the Student Ministries Pastor at First Evangelical Free Church in Moline, Illinois. I loved the years that our family spent there. They were years of learning. They were years that forced us to grow as a couple. They were the years that our last two children were born. And, they were years where we saw God work in special ways.

One of the things that I remember about the church building where we served was the cornerstone of the building. It was an engraved brick that said, "First Evangelical Free Church - Holding Forth the Word of Truth."

What do you call the Bible? I've heard it called God's word, the Word of God, the Bible, my biblical (from my best friend in high school), Scripture, the Holy Bible, and many other things. But, I don't believe that I've ever heard a friend or pastor refer to the Bible as the Word of Truth.

Think about the power of those words. God's word, unlike any other words that we will ever hear in life is absolutely true. There is not a bit of exageration in it. It's reliable. It is worth building our lives around. It is worth allowing it to transform our lives. God's word isn't God, but it is inspired. Not inspired like a sermon that I might preach, or a speech by a politician. It is truly he breath of God.

If it's been awhile since you've allowed yourself to be blown away by the Word of God, allow yourself to reflect on just how precious this Word of Truth is. Put your hope in the God of the word, and share about that pecious Word with the world aroudn you.

Dear God,

Your Word is true, and it's a precious gift. Thank you for giving it to us. Help us to immerse ourselves in your word and to share it with the world around us.

In Jesus' name,