Jesus’ Words Cut Deep

Reading Luke 6 today and I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t read Luke’s account of the Beatitudes in a while, but Jesus words are very cutting today.

In v20-26 He pronounces blessings on these groups:

  1. Poor – for yours is the kingdom of God
  2. Hungry – for you shall be satisfied
  3. Weep – for you shall laugh

So, perhaps a good summary of mission – Jesus came to bring us the Kingdom, to satisfy us fully, and to be our joy?

He also pronounces blessings on those who are persecuted for His name – even telling them to rejoice becasue their reward is great in heaven. I’ve been reading “Tortured for Christ” and I can’t believe some of the stories in there – the moments of joy and singing praises to our Father amidst unspeakable tortures becuase of their faith in Christ.

He also pronounces woes on these groups:

  1. Rich – for they have already received their reward
  2. Full now – for you will be hungry later
  3. Laugh – for you will weep.

I didn’t notice until just now that those groups were the complete opposites of each other.  So, I guess to ask the Piper-like question: where are we basing our total riches, satisfaction and joy?  If it’s in Christ you will be blessed, but if it’s in this world now and that is what you pursue, then you will not be and you are headed down the wrong road. Also, hope in Christ is true hope, because Christ will never change and is always faithful, unlike hope in this ever changing life.

v31 contains the infamous often over-humanized “Golden Rule” which most people don’t even realize is in the Bible.

v37 again, a famous and often incorrectly-interpreted passage, Jesus tells us not to judge – this doesn’t have anything to do with church discipline (see Matt 18), but I loved the ESV study note that says “Lit: stop judging…condemning. Jesus is not ruling out the legitimate use of discernment, church discipline, and law courts, but rather admonishing his listeners to discontinue their tendency to criticize and find fault with others.” Ouch.  That hurts. I do that WAY too much.

v39 cautions us to remember to check our own lives before we go off “correcting” others. The blind cannot lead the blind. (hmmm…another humanistic saying?  🙂 )

v46 is where the real cutting for me happens.  Jesus’ words are very simple and sharp:

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?


In looking at v47-49 it was a great reminder to see that the foundation of him who built on the rock was the one who heard the words of Jesus and DID them.  Most often I forget that, I just think of building my house on a foundation in “trusting in Jesus.” Yeah…well there is ACTION there buddy…’hear the words and DO them” in order to have a rock solid foundation – then we can stand when the flood comes.

Assurance, justification, regeneration…oh my!

Great news! I’ve busted into the New Testament! It is so sweet to be reading the NT having read the entire OT…to actually SEE the prophecies come to life in Jesus…to see how much of the OT is quoted in the NT. Amazing.

I’m in John 5 and I came across verses 23-24 and there is so much in them — amazing stuff.

24Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
25″Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

There are some really sweet promises and assurances in here:

  • whoever hears my word and believes in him who sent me HAS eternal life” — as in it is IMMEDIATE.  Think about it…our earthly bodies will pass away, but that verse is assuring us that we already have eternal life now…an assurance that we will be immediately in the presence of Jesus upon these old tentative bodies finally calling it quits – ASSURANCE.
  • He does not come into judgment” — If we believe…we will not face judgment for our sins – why not?  Because Jesus already did.  He took all our sins on the cross and paid the penalty for our sins, there is nothing left to be judged if we believe in the perfect sacrifice of Jesus.  — we are fully JUSTIFIED
  • has passed from death to life” – in case you didn’t get it the first time…the work is done, we have eternal life, starting now.  “has passed”  — as in already happened! More ASSURANCE!
  • an hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” — the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation – in our natural state we are ‘spiritually dead’  and when we hear the words and work of Jesus, the Spirit opens our hearts to the message and we believe – we LIVE, we are REGENERATED!  New life.  And just to confirm, Jesus himself indicates that he is the one who brings life “…is NOW here”

That’s a nice way to start a Thursday morning, eh?


Are we being intentional?

Well, I’m up to Ezra in my chronological read of the Bible – the Jewish people, still mostly in exile or scattered, were now under the control of King Cyrus of Persia who overthrew Babylon.  Cyrus lets the people go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple.  The Spirit stirred in the hearts of those to go and rebuild (Ezra 1:5) – about 42,000 of them…included in that lot were the sons of Asaph.  Hold on to his name, we’ll get back to him in a second.

The first thing they do is rebuild the altar and offered sacrifices to the Lord (Ezra 3:3) — they consecrated themselves —  then they started to rebuild. After they laid the foundation they paused, to worship. (3:10)

Ezra 3:10-11 - Worship Leader - rollin' OT Style!
Ezra 3:10-11 - Worship Leader - rollin' OT Style!

10And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD,(A) according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD,

(B) “For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

The foundation had only been built and they are worshiping! I found this pic on the web, and I’ll bet Asaph IV the worship leader is probably leading them in the 9th chorus of “Forever”! Worship has been restored to Jerusalem! But another thing that jumped out at me is the sons of Asaph were there.  At WorshipGod09,  the theme was “From Generation to Generation” and Bob K pointed out that we must be intentional in passing on the deeds, mights, wonders, and works of the Lord.  The ultimate way God manifested himself in all of this is the Gospel – the Cross of His Son Jesus!

…but back to our friend Asaph.  He first appears in 1 Chron 15:19 as a cymbal player – close to 500 years BEFORE the rebuilding effort in Ezra.  He was faithful then, he became promoted to chief musician (1 Chron 16:15) and his legacy is still around 500 years later.  That’s amazing to me.

Am I doing that?

I’ll admit…I stink at long range planning. I’m a really great short term planner – I can plan a day down to the minute.  I’m a mediocre mid range planner – perhaps a few months…sometimes now as I get older I even think a year ahead, but for long range planning – I stink.  I need to think more about my children’s future, and (gasp), THEIR children.  That’s pretty hard for me when they are 12 and 9 right now, but I’ll bet Asaph was thinking that far ahead and imparting to them the legacy of the works of God.

Are we being intentional in pursuing our children and the younger generation?  Not sure about you, but I need to do better…

Deut 6:4-9

4“Hear, O Israel:(A) The LORD our God, the LORD is one.[a] 5You(B) shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And(C) these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7(D) You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8(E) You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9(F) You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

New covenant


Ahh…Saturday mornings.

Fresh cup of Java on the desk…Word open…not a peep in the house…yet.

In my chronological Bible read, I’m up to Jeremiah (31 to be exact), it’s refreshing to see the shift in the tone of the book, moving from “this is what’s going to happen to you because you abandoned me no matter how many chances I gave you” (for the record in Jeremiah alone God gives Israel over 100 chances to repent and change their ways) to “here is the new plan, despite your constant unfaithfulness to me, I’m going to still be faithful to you.”

In Jeremiah 31:31-34 God says that he will establish a new convent with Israel and abolish the old faulted law. Note that it wasn’t faulted by God’s design – it was faulted because Israel didn’t keep it – they broke it…time and time again and being judged severely by God for it. Yet God still has mercy on them.

31(A) “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make(B) a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when(C) I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke,(D) though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33(E) But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD:(F) I will put my law within them, and I will write it(G) on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’(H) for they shall all know me,(I) from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For(J) I will forgive their iniquity, and(K) I will remember their sin no more.”


Well, the Jesus answers that Himself and identifies Himself as the new covenant – check out Matt 26:28 —

28for(A) this is my(B) blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for(C) many(D) for the forgiveness of sins.

Paul refers to this again in1 Cor 11:25 –

25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Jesus Christ is the new covenant. He is the one who has come to abolish the old law written on stone and make a new law – written on our hearts.

God sent His Son to establish this new covenant with us by His death on cross – the shedding of his holy, divine blood for our sins, one perfect sacrifice.

This is wonderfully explained in my favorite passage of the Bible in Rom 3:21-26.

  • God’s righteousness is manifested APART from the law, it is now by FAITH
  • it is good for ALL (Jew, Gentile, Yankee fans, whoever), because ALL have sinned. We all have turned from God in our own ways.
  • it is a GIFT, there is nothing we do to earn it or deserve it
  • it is a (nother) tremendous merciful act of God to do this for us and Jesus willingly gave His life – but this is clearly the most merciful and gracious act God has ever done for us
  • God’s righteousness needed to be upheld, because in his mercy he had already forgiven the sins – but how can he just look past sins if He is 100% holy – well, that’s the issue, something needed to satisfy that – and it was Jesus
  • God is forever all the time just and fair – and he is the JUSTIFIER – he has provided the means for us to be justified before Him.

For more great thoughts on this check out my recap of John Piper’s message from WorshipGod09.

Now…back to more Java and possibly some Mahaney.


How big is your God?

Scenery - Mountains 03 Seriously…how big is your God? Do you think of a God that is sovereign over all your current struggles?

We tend to forget…or at least I do.  I get a very narrow view, kinda like putting on the blinders. I focus solely on the problems, and not God.

In preparation for leading worship on Sunday, the Lord led me again to Bob Kauflin’s Worship Matters where he encourages us to consider the greatness of God, and as leaders, part of our job is to remind people:

Every time we lead people in singing God’s praise, we stand before people who just like us, tend to forget who God is and why he’s so worthy of worship. We’re called to clearly and specifically remind them what God has shown us about himself

Bob goes on to say:

What size does God appear to be when our mind is preoccupied with all the cares, worries, and concerns of life? Very small.

At the risk of sounding corny, we need to remember that God is “bigger” than our current, momentary challenges. (See I didn’t say “problems”, did I?!) Therefore, only He is the one that is truly able to help us see the right perspective. My reading in Isaiah 55:8-9 this week was a sufficiently sweet reminder:

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9(A) For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

In this perspective, God reminds us that He is more powerful, more mighty, more faithful, more sovereign, more just and fair, more loving, liberating – than anything we can dream up ourselves to “fix” whatever issue we have.

Isaiah 63:1 sums it up nicely:

he who is splendid in his apparel,
marching in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, speaking in righteousness,
mighty to save.”

God, evidenced thru the perfect work of Christ on the cross, is really the only one who is mighty enough to truly save us — and that includes giving proper perspective on our “light and momentary troubles” (2 Cor 4:17)


PS. Yes, God is bigger than the BOOGIE MAN

Please stop beating around the bush, Pastor Piper

I’ve just started digging into Piper’s “God is the Gospel.”  I got it for Christmas…yes…I’m aware it’s JULY, but I have a lot of good books to get thru.  I love Amazon’s “Wish List”…when birthdays or Christmas roll around, my family just checks the list and picks a book.  Sweeeet.

Piper poses a few pointed questions (Ow. Stop.) right on pg 1 of the Introduction.  (Seriously, Pastor John…next time, just get right into it…stop beating around the bush…). Emphasis – mine.

The acid test of Biblical God-centeredness – and faithfulness to the Gospel- is this:  Do you feel more loved because God makes much of you, or because at the cost of this Son, he enables you to enjoy making much of him forever? Does your happiness hang on seeing the cross of Christ as a witness to your worth, or as a way to enjoy God’s worth forever? Is God’s glory in Christ the foundation of your gladness?

Like I said, Pastor John…please just come right with it…

HOLY MOSES. My highlighter is overheating already and I’m on page 1 of the INTRODUCTION for cryin’ out loud.

He waits a few pages and then pulls the pin on another mind-grenade:

Would you be happy in Heaven if Christ were not there?

Amazing.  Just pull the towel off of me when I get out of the shower why don’t you.  YIKES.

In my yearly Bible read, I’m up to Isaiah, and the rule of King Hezekiah.  I really liked Hezekiah…he’s got potential.  He reopened the temple, refocuses his people on the LORD, he even keeps seeking the LORD first when those pesky Assyrians are threatening.  But in Isaiah 37-39 we see some amazing stuff.  Not only does 1 angel of the LORD wipe out 185,000 people…and the LORD grant ole Hezekiah an extra 15 years…we see after all that Hezekiah’s heart take an ugly turn when the King of Babylon strolls in and Hezekiah acts like this is an episode of MTV Cribs.  He shows off all of HIS riches, possessions, all the bling bling.  Yup…it’s all me, dude.  I got all this, check me out.

Isaiah comes to him and is like “What the heck was THAT about?  You showed him EVERYTHING?”  Isaiah then breaks the bad news to King Hez that Babylon, since they have such a taste for all your riches…are going to come back one day and carry all that stuff off to their kingdom.  Yeah…thanks for giving them the inside tour.

We see Hezekiah’s heart is really out for his glory, not God’s in the end.  Dang.  I really liked him too.

I do this a lot, I have to admit.  Not necessarily give foreigners tours of all my riches (that would be a pretty quick tour), but more often thank not I think I find my hope in this Earth and ME, or and not God and himself as the one to take all my joy and glory in.

I should be making much of God, because thru Christ he enables me to make much of HIM, and yes…it will be sweet to be in Heaven with Christ…after all, He is the guest of honor, without him…I’m definitely not getting past the bouncers.


Peace…amidst the bears

Last night was a really good night. We had our VBS Closing Program at church, the kids had a great week and it was so cool to end on an up note like that. We had pizza with friends before and ice cream after…pretty much your quintessential “good” evening.

bearWe got back to our friends house and my son, who usually is not all that “perceptive” shall we say, looks towards their back door and in a very serious tone, for a 12 year old, says:

What is THAT?

I look and I see the biggest black bear I have ever seen (and living here I’ve seen a lot) 20 feet away from us and we are headed right towards it in the pitch dark with 4 kids.  YIKES, to say the least.  I announce to all that there is a bear over there, and we need to get back in the Man Truck immediately.  Thankfully, we all do – but the kids…were kinda shaken up.  I’ll admit it, I had a few seconds of near panic when I thought of how I was going to wrestle my daughter away from  a giant angry bear…but thankfully, my wrestling skills remained safely in their holster.

In my chronological read this morning, I was in Isaiah 26, and found some great nuggets:

3(D) You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
4Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

When we made it back to the truck last night and watched the giant bear walk by us we felt safe…we were in the truck, a “rock” so to speak, so when I read that the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock, I could quickly relate.  God wants us to find our refuge in Him and Him alone.  Not anything else of this world, but Him.  Our reward for turning to Him?  He will keep us in perfect peace.  (Phil 4:7) AMEN.

It’s so good to pray thru the scriptures.  This is a great one to do that with.  Pray that you truly consider God to be your Rock, that the desire of your heart is toward Him and His Word.  That as Isaiah goes on to say:

(H) your name and remembrance
are the desire of our soul.
9My soul yearns for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

John Piper wrote a great post called “Nine Ways to Pray for Your Soul, Praying in Sync With the Way God Works, one that I turn to again and again to keep my soul yearning for Him and to earnestly seek him.  I strongly recommend reading, meditating, and praying thru it. Life in this world will quickly take our eyes off of our Father and His Word, we need to be constantly vigilant in guarding our souls to keep Christ the center.

…cuz, sheesh…you never know what is lurking around the next corner in the pitch dark!

Are we still running hard?

I jumped into Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God” this morning, as I only have a few minutes I wanted to pass along the questions it spurred in my mind.

Everything is made to center upon the initial act of “accepting” Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected to thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him…we need no more seek Him.

Are you still seeking Him today?

I want to deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God.  The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate.

Is he going there?  Um…yes…he is.  He is directly referring to the spiritual health of the church.


Wait…it gets better…

Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. the simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us.  Instead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart.  The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imprefectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.

Yeah. Ow. He’s right on the money though.   Here’s the last punch:

When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking “God-and” effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation.

Let’s run hard, but not after our things – after God. Just God. Not God AND our programs.  God AND our corporate efficiency. Just God.  After the exact imprint of God who is His Son Jesus.    To quote Mark Driscoll – “Its about Jesus. Just Jesus. It’s always been about Jesus.  If you aren’t about Jesus, you should quit.” Check out the audio and video from Advance09…great stuff.

Am I Done Yet? How about now. Now?

I gotta admit it, most of the time I’m a quick fix, “bottom line” kinda guy. I want to cut to the chase. I want things fixed NOW! Even in my own spiritual maturity, I just want to be fully sanctified already…knowing what to do in each situation, conducting myself with perfect poise and grace, and leading folks to the Lord with heart slicing tidbits in under 30 seconds.


The Bible contradicts my own immature view of this, and although I’ve read this passage 1,245 times it didn’t hit me like the ton of bricks that hit me as I was reading it waiting for my flight home at gate B3 of the lovely Chicago O’Hare airport, where I wasn’t sure if I handled some situations the best way I should have…

1(A) Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,(B) we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also(C) obtained access by faith[b] into this grace(D) in which we stand, and(E) we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. 3More than that, we(F) rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering(G) produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and(H) hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love(I) has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

In these verses is a formula (if you will…), but the formula is  a paradox – it’s not a quick fix, bottom line formula.  It’s a slow cooker.  As I’ve heard it said, “God is not in the microwave business, he prefers crock pots.”  So, it directly contradicts my stubborn pride of wanting to master every situation immediately.  Instead, I will learn to have the constant, unmoveable, unshakeable, “master of situations” hope how?  By going thru lots of sufferings.  GREEEAAAT.  That sounds like it will take time.  I don’t have time.  I’m an American.  From New Jersey no less, can we get this MOVING?!? Not what I wanted to hear, but God’s word is true and I must submit.

Normally the “Message” Bible gives me heartburn, but I really like the way they say James 1:2-5 when it reads “dont’ try to get out of anything prematurely” —

2-4Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

“Let it do it’s work…” = that suffering thing again.  Slow cooking.  (or as Cross Movement says “slow roasting”).  That’s how we become mature and complete.  No bottom lines.   Dang.

These are just a few of great scriptures to pray thru in our walk (not RUN) with our Lord Jesus.



During my morning 1hr 15min drive to work this morning, I was overjoyed (ok…just “pretty happy”) to find out that I had neglected a conference message on my iPod from CJ Mahaney at New Attitude 2007 on Idolatry. (Click HERE for the MP3)

Needless to say, I had been thinking about idolatry a lot these days…duh…I guess that’s why I’m posting about it.

Also needless to say, there were a few zingers in this message that nearly caused me to slam on the brakes and proceed to slam my forehead into the steering wheel of my trusty G6 in repentance.  I immediately took out my trusty iPhone and snagged a few sections, thanks to my trusty Evernote iPhone app.

Here are a few nuggets for your conviction:

Idolatry may well come in the form of an over attachment to something that is in itself perfectly good

Oh.  An “over” attachment eh.  Like…when I don’t get it…it bothers me?

More to the point of what it really is…

Idolatry is a sinful craving for one of God’s gifts that you want more than God himself.

An idol is something that is within creation that is inflated to function as God.  (Richard Keys)

You know the gifts – they could be anything – food, sports, drinks, sex, TV, money…the “usual” list goes on…but what about the “not” so usual list?  What’s on that…well…as Pastor Mahaney says “anything that you want more than God himself.”

Anything that I want more than God himself?


Other juicy nuggets:

An idol causes you to profess a love for the true and loving God while functionally loving and serving a false god.

And summing it up nicely is Mr. Calvin, whom Pastor Mahaney also quoted:

The evil in our desires usually doesn’t lie in what we want, but that we want it too much (Calvin)

So…how bad do you want [whatever it is].

Do you want it more than God himself?