Mark 1:45 offers a interesting perspective as we continue to work through The Kingdom series these next few weeks at Forest Hill. Grab a Bible and read through with me: "But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter." A man had just been healed from leprosy.  Jesus had specifically told him not to share this news with anyone.  Jesus was trying to guard his message, knowing that the religious leaders would want him dead as his message and works spread.  However, in direct disobedience to Jesus, and in great joy, he went out and told everyone.

Jesus cannot stay hidden.  Whenever he entered any town the mobs would swarm to him.  Throughout Mark's Gospel, this continues to be a problem.  Excessively, they want Jesus' miracles and miss his true purpose in coming: to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God.  His mighty miracles only proved his identity and authenticated his message.  What he really wanted people to understand was God's kingdom and rule coming to earth through him.  He wanted total authority over their lives.

We do the same thing to Jesus.  Too many people often miss the point regarding why he came.  We make it all about us.  We want Jesus to do something for us.  We'll flock to him as long as he meets our every need.  But the message of God's kingdom ruling in our hearts, God's desire for holiness in us, God's call for us to be obedient to him in every area of our lives, his call to take the Gospel message through us to all of the world, gets clouded, even lost, in our desire for Jesus to give US something.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not about us.  It's all about him.  He came to save us so that we would be his servants, not vice versa.  Is this you?  How often do you go to Jesus asking him to do something for you?  Conversely, how often do you go to him asking him what you can do for him and his kingdom?

May the joy of the healed leper be our joy today.  May his joyous passion to tell others about the One who healed him be our passion today.  May we look to Jesus not to be served, but to serve others and give our lives away to those who need it.


The Post (Week 17: Romans 8-14) 

Romans Chapter 8 begins with some of the best news I have ever heard. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Christians love to quote this good news so much it has almost become passé. But let’s stop and soak this one in. This phrase doesn’t come out of the blue. It comes in the midst of an honest, even humiliating, confession about the difficulty of living a faithful life. And this confession comes from one of the pillars of our faith- Paul himself. At the end of Chapter 7, Paul was as honest as anyone could be about his struggles. He found himself doing the exact opposite of what he knew he should do. We don’t really know what his specific struggle was, but we know our own struggles, right? If we read Romans 7 a couple of times, we can turn away from wagging our finger at Paul and focus on our own story. Again the great thing about Romans 8 is that God did not leave us there in our awful cycle of failure. At the perfect time, the rescue comes. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That includes Paul. That includes me. That includes you.

Chapter 8 is one of the best-loved chapters in the entire Bible. Paul’s is preoccupied with the work of the Spirit. As a matter of fact he mentions the Spirit by name 19 times in this one chapter! He tells us that the Spirit is our liberator now from the law and sin. He is the giver of a new identity and He is a guarantee of the resurrection to come. Let’s unpack this a little by looking at how the Holy Spirit helps us deal with our guilt and shame. We feel guilt as a result of a specific sin we have committed that needs to be confessed. It is something we have done. Shame, on the other hand, is a general feeling about who we are. For example, when I lie I need to confess that specific sin of lying. But deep inside I know that the reason I lied was because I was afraid and backed away from telling the truth. I feel shame about who I am- a coward. The Spirit’s work deals with both my guilt and my shame. When the Holy Spirit convicts me of my sin, I can ask for forgiveness and receive a clean slate for what I did. But when the Holy Spirit reminds me that I am a new creation, deeply loved in all my brokenness, I can release my shame and realize who I am – a child of God (not a coward) who has a future that includes being in the presence of God, blameless without condemnation.

This new identity is something that is not always easy to accept. Paul spends the rest of the chapters in Romans talking about how to live with our new identity and how to live within the body of Christ. Let’s conclude with that good news – therefore there is no condemnation (for that lie or my act of cowardice) for those who are in Christ Jesus (that is us- our new identity).

Tips for Reading (Interpretation tip)

(Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture.

Have you ever wondered what people write in their journals? One popular discipline that many Christians have in their time with God is journaling…but what does that mean. It may mean writing out prayers, or processing emotions through writing, but you can also use your journal to take notes about what you are reading in your Bible Study. I think it is funny how I can believe that somehow I am going to remember what I am learning without writing it down and taking notes. For years I would not take the time to write out my thoughts about the chapters I was reading because I had a notion God would somehow make it stick since it was from Him. Now I call that a shortcut and to be honest laziness on my part. The truth is just like taking notes on your science reading so that you remember what you read, there is an appropriate time for taking notes on the Bible.

One way you can take notes is to spend some time summarizing what you have read. In other words, when you get done with a book of the Bible put it all together.

Here are a few helpful tips from Howard Hendricks in “Living by the Book” While you are studying through the book assign titles to paragraphs or chapters. Be creative and make them your own, not just the one’s already written in the Bible you are using. This will help you retain your insights in neat packages. Create a chart using all these titles you have been writing. The book of Romans is a great place to try this because there are several big sweeping ideas. Focus on Chapter 1-8, Chapter 9-11 and Chapter 12-16. Keep the charts simple. You can always add more detail later when you study the book again. The challenge is to clear away clutter. Just write the big ideas, the key characters to start with. I will give you a couple more tips in this area next week. We are heading into several books that are short and easier to chart to get you started.

Notes from David's Journal

Spend some special time in Romans eight. It is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Not only does it speak of the Holy Spirit's power through grace to break the power of reigning sin, but it also talks about our position in Christ as His adopted children, how creation and our bodies "groan" for the day of Christ's return and total redemption of this world, God's sovereign control over all for those who love Him and are doing His will, and the enormous love god has for His children, that His is "for us", not against us, loving us, not condemning us, and that this love one day will conquer all. I know this is a lot of Biblical truth to ponder, but that's why we all need to camp out, spend some time in Romans eight! It's a magnificent chapter, rich in theological, Biblical truth.

The bad news is we're lost forever without Christ. The good news He has found us and extended His rich love based on His grace, not our works. As someone once said, most of our problems in life are because we don't believe that the bad news is much worse than we think. The world really is under the bondage of sin and death. But the good news is also much better than we think. God's love is much greater than we could ever realize! Both realities explain much about life. Believe them. It's the foundation of why we should live as we live.

Romans 9 and 11 address the question of where the Jews fit in God’s eternal plan of salvation. Read the chapters closely and you’ll see how much God still loves the Jews. Indeed, we Gentiles are the wild branch. The Jews are still loved by God. He wants them to come to faith in Him. In fact, when you start seeing a fair number of them coming to faith in Jesus, start looking up! It’s an evidence of the completion of time.

Finally, realize that in all the Pauline epistles, there is a section of orthodoxy (proper doctrine) and orthopraxy (application of proper doctrine). Romans follows this model. Proper doctrine is chapters 1-11, what we’ve examined last week and this week. Chapters 12-16 is the practical application of the Gospel of grace. Read these chapters closely. See how we Christians are supposed to live if grace is true. It’s a challenge for us all to see if we’re living according to our identities in Christ.

Enjoy Romans! It’s the Mount Everest of all the Pauline letters!


Take a minute to read Psalm 107:22-43 today.  These verses have a theme of God's ability to help us when all seems hopeless.  Verse 28 restates the prayer God loves to hear from us all: "Lord, help!", this time referring to sailors on the sea amidst a huge tempest and storm.  "And he saved them from their distress."  God is faithful to his people who cry to him for help. Sometimes, when reading a section of Scripture, one verse stands out.  It's a verse of hope.  It's a verse that builds your faith.  That happens with me as I read verse 35: "But he also turns deserts into pools of water, the dry land into flowing springs."  The Holy Spirit kept whispering to my heart, "David, God is able."  That's the heart of faith and hope, isn't it?  God is able.  God is able to take the deserts and dry places of my heart today and give me fresh, flowing, living water.  He is able to give me streams in my desert places.  There and there alone do I rest my faith and hope.

Yes, I too have desert places in my heart.  I love God in Christ with all that is within me.  Yet there are parched places in my soul.  So I find verses like this one, cling to them, and believe in hope that God will pour his refreshing water into these places.  When so, like water on dry ground, a pool of drinkable water can quickly form.

That's my prayer for all of us today.  May this one, small verse give us all hope today.


Let’s keep the honor conversation going.  Someone asked about why an unbalanced life dishonors God?

You must remember the definition of honor.  It means to value, prize, treasure, and esteem something or someone with inestimable worth.  A synonym is the word worship.  When you honor God, he takes first place in your life.  You seek his kingdom above all else.  You worship him.

When you try to have it all, working furiously all day long to garner more and more possessions, exercising furiously to sculpt the perfect body, and then try to cultivate all the meaningful relationships you can find, where can there possibly be time for God?  And the advancing of his kingdom?  I bet you’re exhausted most of the time.

Plus, if you’re sleeping with whomever you want, whenever you want, you’re looking for love in the wrong place.  It’s just two people temporarily gratifying a momentary desire.  It’s not love.  It’s not covenant commitment.  It’s counterfeit.  It’s a cultural lie.  And you wake up the next morning still looking for what you don’t have.

Moreover, all these things are outward focused.  They are used by you to promote your image.  You want to look good in the world’s eyes, purportedly having it all.

But God is a God of the heart.  He changes people from the inside out.  When his gospel invades a person, there’s the slow, imperceptible change inside.  People start to think and act like Jesus.  Indeed, they are being conformed to his image.

Did you catch that word “image”?  It’s Jesus’ goal for all his followers.  Paul clearly states it in Romans 8:29.  He is primary.  His kingdom’s advancement is the primary motivation for living and breathing.  He is our life.  In him, we live and move and have our being.  Everything, and I mean everything else becomes secondary—especially the tawdry, ever-changing, image-prompting lies of the culture.  His image is the bomb.  It becomes steadily life’s highest virtue and priority.

You may think you can have it all.  You can’t.  No one ever has.  Anyone who tells you they have is lying to you.  I would bet dollars to donuts their inward hearts are caving.  They just to a great job of hiding it.

But if you learn how to honor God and give him first place, the rest of life falls into line.  That’s what Jesus meant in Matthew 6:33 when he said, “Seek first the kingdom of God.  And all these other things will follow.”  The “things” in the verses before this verse are fashion, food, and fellowship.  They aren’t unimportant.  They just aren’t most important.  And they will never deeply satisfy the longings of your heart.

Honor, value, esteem, treasure, and praise God and his kingdom first in your life.  It’s the key to a meaningful life.  Everything else you hunger for will follow.  It’s just not as important.

In fact, it becomes a distant second in importance.


The Post (Week 16: Romans 1-7) 

If you were going to give the most important news to the most influential people in the world, how would you start? How would you introduce yourself? How would you broach the subject of the Messiah, knowing that the religious community would think they didn’t need it and the irreligious community would think you were crazy? Well, that was Paul’s dilemma as he began the book of Romans.

Paul begins with a pretty shocking description of himself. He calls himself a slave and a God-ordained apostle. These terms put together seem to imply a powerful person who has freely laid down his power to represent someone higher. This would get attention in a hurry. Like the time the Pope wanted to drive and his chauffeur rode in back. As they exited the car someone asked “who was in that limo?” The reply, “I don’t know but it must be someone remarkable because the Pope is his chauffeur!”

Most of Paul’s writings were really letters. Interactions between people he knew, and situations he was somehow involved in- even if at a distance. But the book of Romans is not nearly as personal (at least in the first half) and is more like a theological textbook explaining the truth of the gospel. Some commentators point out the legal terms that Paul uses and equate the book to a legal case. So after giving a detailed description of who he was serving (Jesus Christ our Lord, a descendant of David and the Son of God) and the good news he was proclaiming (salvation for all who believe), Paul goes straight to presenting the case that we are all in need of the grace of God.

He begins with the easier task of the talking about how the outcasts of society, the publicly broken people, need salvation. This would probably make the religious community say “amen”. Even the people he was describing would not have a hard time agreeing with him. (Remember when we talked about the tax collector in the temple who was quick to ask for God’s mercy when the religious man could not?) But Paul continues to build his case that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. He eventually concludes that even the most moral Jews who obey the laws to a great degree are still without righteousness. These first chapters build and build until we are all in a desperate place for some good news. At the end of chapter 3 we find ourselves asking “well who is good enough?”. Basically Paul is telling us all that we need this gospel of grace and then he leads us to where we can get it.

In Chapter 4, Paul takes us all the way back to Abraham and explains that he was not pronounced righteous because of his good works, but on account of his belief in the lavish grace of God. Can you imagine what the moral Jew thought about Paul pulling out Abraham’s name as a believer in grace? In Chapter 5, Paul asserts that although we all have Adam’s sin nature we can be credited as blameless because of Jesus’ obedience. God’s love and grace are more lavish than we could have ever expected and Jesus’ work of salvation even more profound. Chapters 6 and 7 begin the process of unpacking how we are to live in light of this new life. Paul camps on this theme for the rest of the book.

Tips for Reading (Interpretation tip)

(Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture.

A Simple Question

As we start to study the writings of Paul, we can see a simple pattern Paul uses. Paul likes to ask questions in his letters and then he likes to answer them! The question is one of the most powerful tools of communication. If I ask you a question, doesn’t it more or less force you to think? Paul uses this tactic to engage his readers and to encourage them to discover the answers. In Romans 6:1 Paul, raises the question, “What shall I say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” Then he answers “by no means.” Again in verse 15 he uses the question: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” Again the answer is “By no means.” (See the repetition too!!) These important questions lead us to consider how we approach God. Do we take grace for granted? Do we abuse God’s gift and live for ourselves? Or do we stand in awe of the work of Jesus on the cross that gives us the stamp of RIGHTEOUS before God. In that awe we are called to live a life of gratitude devoted to the one who did the work for us.

As you read the book of Romans, pause when Paul asks a question, try to answer it before you move on. You can learn a lot about what you really believe when you let his questions penetrate your soul.

Notes from David's Journal

Romans is the pinnacle of theological truth. In it, you find the Gospel outlined in great depth. For example, in Romans chapters one through three Paul outlines how all have sinned and fall far short of God's glory. In Romans one he says how all are "without excuse," creation and our moral consciences proving the existence of God. Romans two shows how the Jews don't obey the very law they uphold. Romans three shows how the Gentiles also fall short of God's glory. Then Romans four begins the conversation about the importance of faith, not law, being what leads us to God's forgiveness. David and Abraham are used as examples of Old Testament men who lived by faith and received God's blessing and forgiveness by faith.

Romans one through three is the "bad news." We are fallen people, all of us, and cannot earn God's favor by words. Romans four exalts the power of faith to bring us before God's favor. Romans five through eight is the "good news," God's forgiving love through Jesus, given freely, thoroughly. It is the only thing that can free us from the things we don't want want to do, yet do (see Romans seven).


I thought I would re-share one of my favorite recipes with you all today. I hope you enjoy this one and put it to use!


  • 1 cup of consideration
  • 2 cupfuls praise
  • 1 reasonable budget
  • 2 cupfuls of flattery carefully concealed
  • 2 cupfuls milk of human kindness
  • 1 gallon faith in God and each other
  • A generous dash of cooperation
  • 3 teaspoons of pure extract of “I am sorry”
  • Children (more or less, to taste)
  • 1 cup of confidence and encouragement
  • 1 large or several small hobbies
  • 1 cup of blindness to each others faults
  • 1 cup of courtesy
  • 1 small pinch of in-laws
  • 1 cup of contentment

Flavor with frequent portions of recreation and a dash of happy memories. Stir well and remove any specks of jealousy, temper, or criticism. Sweeten well with generous portions of love and keep warm with a steady flame of devotion. Never serve with a cold shoulder or a hot tongue.

– Author Unknow


I want to try and keep the honor discussion going.  It’s a lost art in our culture.

What’s the opposite of honor?  One antonym is shame.  As honor desires to esteem, value, and treasure another, shame desires to put down, embarrass, and humiliate the other.

Many people feel shamed today.  They feel like they never measure up to what they think they should be.  From where does this shame come?

1   Sometimes it’s from parents who placed a performance-based lifestyle on us.  We feel we must measure up to their standards, but have always failed.  That sense of shame haunts our insides.

2   Sometimes it’s culture.  We are bombarded daily by advertisements and media that tells us what we should look like, how we should dress, how to be accepted by others, and how to live.  If we just do these things, then we will feel honored.  We try, fail, and then feel ashamed and unworthy.

3   Sometimes it’s that inward sense of shame that occurred in the Fall in Genesis 3.  After Adam and Eve sinned against God, they killed animals and put loincloths around their waists (the first evidence of blood being shed to cover sin).  They knew they’d failed God.  So do we.  God does have a moral law and because we have this inbuilt disease called sin, inherited from Adam and Eve, we feel shame when we fail God.  Our “loincloths” are just anything and everything we can think of and do to cover our shame.  We all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  Inward shame is something we all experience.

What’s the answer?  Forgive my simplicity, but the answer is Jesus.  How?

In his death and resurrection, he not only forgives us our sin but gives us a new identity.  In accepting his love, we know we now belong to him.  Nothing can ever separate us from his love.  We are adopted children into his family.  He chose us to be in his family—all because of love!  


1   A parental, performance-based mentality is no longer ours.  I have only one parent I want to please: my Father in heaven.  And he loves me today and forever---not based on my performance but his grace given to me through his Son, Jesus.

2   The culture and all its ever-changing fads don’t define me.  I’m honored in Christ.  I play to an audience of one: Jesus.  And He never changes.

3   My inward shame is gone.  It was given to Jesus when I knew his forgiveness.  He absorbed every ounce of it.  I don’t need any of the world’s loincloths to hide my shame.  I am loved in the Beloved.  I’ve been set free.  My God through Jesus has ransomed me and given me a new identity in him.

Shame simply can’t be a part of a Christ-follower’s life.  It’s antithetical to a Christian’s new identity in Jesus.  He has honored, esteemed, valued, and treasured me so much that he died an excruciating death to give me eternal life.  Could there possibly be a greater love given to me?  Could God have possibly given me more honor?

And my natural response is to honor the One who has honored me so much, praising him forever for the absorption of my shame and the gift of eternal life.

Keep the honor discussion going!  Honor is a natural part of the Christian’s life.


The Post (Week 15: Matthew 15-28) 

The key phrase throughout the book of Matthew is the Kingdom of God (or heaven). Now it's a little bit hard to get a handle on all the components but I would like to set out some ideas to get you started and I am sure you can add a lot more as you go.

First of all, there is an idea of the now and the not yet. We live in the truth of redemption and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit now and future paradise in the physical presence of the King. It's almost like a person who is under the age of 18 and waiting to inherit a fortune. That person is in the now and the not yet. He is planning and living today for what is truly to come in the future.
Matthew 17:1-5 gives us a picture of Jesus himself living in that kind of tension.

"After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.' While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'"

This story gives a picture of the future glory of the king and yet He was still headed to the cross. It calls out the idea that "one day every knee will bow" and still our redemption had not yet been bought. Peter misunderstands and thinks that Jesus is being elevated to their status of prophets. But God, the Father paints the picture in a terrifying display, "This is my son in whom I am well pleased." Jesus has no rivals. He is the only one person of whom it can be said that he made us, and then became one of us; that he is the Lord of glory, and a human being; that he died in shame on the cross, yet is now seated on the right hand of Majesty, having returned to the glory he shared with the Father before the world began.

Now let's see a passage dealing with how we should live in this world, but in light of our future heritage. Matthew 25:31-40 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." This is an amazing picture of the calling on our lives in the kingdom.

We are actually interfacing with Jesus daily when we are serving the marginalized, the broken, the victimized and the poor. As we do this in this life, we are actually doing it for the Kingdom of the future. Now that melts my brain. Lastly,the resurrection has the same now and not yet component.

Easter shows how dangerous he is. It says, he's out there somewhere risen and you are never sure what he is going to do. "He's not safe, but he's good."

Tips for Reading (Interpretation tip)

(Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture.

We are getting down to the end of our observation section of bible study. Next stop in 3 weeks will be interpretation. It might be a good time to go back over what you have learned and put them on an index card in bullet form so as you go to the next part you take observation with you.

Okay, here's the next tip. Look for things that are emphasized. I have been leading you to this in the above section because of the kingdom emphasis. Of Matthew's 1062 verses, over one third are in the form of Jesus giving a discourse. Guess what the main topic is? That's right, the Kingdom. The main topic of the book of Matthew is the King and his Kingdom.
So, as you read these 14 chapters this week take note of every story that is an illustration of the Kingdom. Write down what it says about it, for now and for later. How are we called to live in light of these truths? For example, when you see our king dying for his enemies, how does that reflect how we should treat those who have different political views, different values, or are just downright folks we don't get along with so well?

Notes from David's Journal

Re-Read closely Matthew 23. It's a fascinating diatribe from Jesus to the Pharisees! These words flow from the gentlest man who ever lived. He loved in a way no one of us could ever loved. But He really didn't like the Pharisees at all. Why? Because they reduced God's kindness, mercy and love to rules and regulations. They made their faith an outward obedience instead of an inward compassion.

In fact, I've often wondered if there are only two religions in the world: Pharisees and genuine Christians? The former (and you fill in the brand of the different "religious" codes) emphasize doing, outward and pride. They feel they have "it" (God) and anyone who doesn't do what they do is outside His favor. But true Christians know how unworthy they are. They live in constant humility. They bask daily in God's unmerited grace. And they love to give that grace away to all, those who do and don't do alike!

Spend some time this week identifying what I call "the Pharisee in me." Make sure it's eliminated from your faith walk. Or you just may hear Jesus' harsh words of Matthew 23 spoken to you...and me.


Romans 1:6 reads “…including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”

The call of God through Jesus Christ is personal and specific.  It’s for individuals.  It’s for you and me.  It’s for people God knows personally by name.

And notice it’s a personal call from God.  He is the one who initiated the call.  He first picked up the phone and called us.  He invited us by name to know him.  He is the one who wants the eternal relationship with us, so much, that he’d take the necessary first steps to have the relationship with us.

Next time you doubt his love, remember who initiated the love relationship.  Remember who called whom first.


The Post (Week 14: Matthew 1-14) 

One of my favorite verses in Scripture says, “His compassions never fail, they are new every morning. Great is Thy Faithfulness,” Lamentations 3:22-23. I claim this daily because I need grace. I look forward to new beginnings, and here we start over with Matthew 1. I love how Matthews opens. It is not just a lineage. It is a family tree about grace, written by a man who tasted grace first hand. Somehow Matthew, who was an outsider and a disrespected Jewish tax collector, was welcomed to the inside. Matthew was so far inside he was one of the writers of the Bible. Now that is grace.

Our author, Matthew writes very little about himself. Matthew makes sure we understand that Jesus invited him to be his disciple in Matthew 9:9. He was a tax collector (tax collector equals thief to the Biblical culture because they overcharged their own countrymen to earn a living). He would have been a bitterly hated man. As a tax collector, Matthew would have had the gift of precision and attention to detail. Because of this, some scholars think Matthew might have been the original documenter of most of Jesus’ sayings. Look at William Barclay’s commentary on Matthew if you want a detailed account of this hypothesis. Matthew is the only gospel, for example, where an actual sermon by Jesus is written out in its entirety, Matthew 5-7.

Matthew’s book is focused toward the Jewish community. It was written by a Jew to convince the Jews that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. Matthew sets out to demonstrate that all the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus, and therefore He must be the Messiah. One of the recurring phrases throughout the book is “This was to fulfill what the Lord has spoke by the prophet.”

The book of Matthew is written for easy retention. He arranges things so that they can be easily memorized. Ideas are grouped in 3’s, 7’s and 14’s. For example, there are 3 messages to Joseph and 3 denials of Peter. There are 7 parables of the kingdom in chapter 13 and 7 woes to the Scribes and Pharisees in chapter 23. There are 3 sections of 14 generations in the first chapter, the before-mentioned family tree. Let’s look at this tree for a moment. It is organized in 3 sections based on 3 stages of Jewish history. The first section covers the covenant’s beginnings with Abraham to Israel’s greatest King David who made the Israel a world power. The second section goes thru the exile to Babylon, which tells of the nation’s shame and disaster. The third section ends with the ultimate King, who turns tragedy to triumph with his death and resurrection. If you look at the 3 sweeping movements of this genealogy it echoes the whole of Scripture. There is a beautiful creation, a tragic fall and God’s interceding redemption and ultimate restoration. Now let’s look closer at the names in the genealogy. There are 4 women in the list which traditionally was exclusive to men. Ironically there are 3 Gentiles listed. The Jews regarded purity of race as the supreme. As we examine the lives of the recognizable names, we see many broken people. There is Judah, who in his sin produced his heir, Perez, in Genesis 38. The lineage includes a prostitute redeemed named Rahab in Joshua 2, and it includes an adulterer named David who murdered his mistress’ husband in 2 Samuel 11. I am glad we started this entry with remembering grace, because we are knee deep in the grace of God now! It is amazing how God crossed racial and cultural lines to bring the Messiah into the world.

Tips for Reading (Interpretation tip)

(Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture.

I recently watched the movie Be Kind, Rewind (very funny by the way) and the one thing that jumped out at me was its creativity. The writers basically retold 10-15 classic movies in their own way. It had me thinking that if we approached the Bible in the same way the stories would jump off the page. For example, as you read thru Matthew 1, try to picture the stories from the Old Testament if you know them or look them up. What did Rahab feel as she was being rescued from Jericho? Can you see the story? Can you picture Rahab watching the walls of her city fall? Let’s rewind Matthew 3, what was it like to listen to John the Baptist speak? What are your feelings as you hear his words? This week let’s look at the Bible accounts through as many lenses as we can. Let’s get creative and read the chapters in different translations and notice the nuances. Try reading the chapter aloud to yourself or someone else. For example, Matthew 5-7 is a sermon. It is called the Sermon on the Mount. It shouldn’t be divided into chapters. Those divisions came much later than the original text. So give the sermon. What jumps out as you hear it? I was at a conference and the speaker simply read thru the Sermon on the Mount and sat down afterwards. It was very moving. Or here’s one more idea that might be a real challenge- write a paraphrase of a story from your reading this week. Write it down in your own words. Then you can really see what you notice and understand and what you do not..

Notes from David's Journal

As you read through the Gospel of Matthew, remember Matthew wrote it with a Jewish audience in mind. Note all the Old Testament Scriptures used by Matthew to support his views. This is very intentional. He is trying to reach a Jewish audience and show them that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophecies in their sacred documents.

However, especially note that in this section of Matthew you will find the beloved Sermon on the Mount. As you read it through in Matthew 5-7, please note how Jesus contrasts His message of grace to the Law. "You have heard it said of old," Jesus said, and then would quote one of the Ten Commandments. Then also note what follows, "But I say to you..."Note how Jesus claims to be the fulfillment of all Old Testament Law. Note His obvious claim to deity: His perspective supersedes Old Testament Law. Note His use of "I", claiming a Godly power to reinterpret the Law! And when He did so, it would always usher in a grace message: "You have heard it said of old, don't murder but I say to you murder begins in the heart, with anger. That's what needs to be controlled for murder to cease!" (my paraphrase). What can control all the heart's emotions? Grace. It is the most powerful force in the world. When you love God because of His loving us first, we want to please Him above all else, thus controlling lust, anger, retaliation, bitterness with His amazing grace. Grace is the answer to all life's issues.

Let me encourage you all to spend some time thinking about Matthew 13. In this section of God's Word, Matthew tells several of Jesus' parables. The one that most causes me pause is the parable of the wheat and the tares. In it, Jesus clearly states that the evil one is going to sow tares among the wheat in the kingdom of God (the church). These tares, or weeds, look like wheat in so many different ways except one: they cannot produce fruit. Jesus says they will exist alongside wheat until the day He returns and separates the two. As you read this parable, ponder these truths:

-there will be people in the church who will call themselves Christians but are not. They have been placed there by the evil one to cause confusion in the kingdom of God.

-faithful followers of Jesus are not to judge who is a real believer or not. That is the Lord's job alone at the time of the Judgement.

-however, we can look at their fruit and begin to draw some conclusions about them. Again, we are not to judge, but we can be fruit inspectors (reread Matthew 7 for this same message from Jesus).

-finally, doesn't this parable give us great insights into atrocities throughout the ages by supposed "Christians" that are so far from the spirit and character of Christ (the Inquisition, the Crusades, the way some native Americans were treated, etc)? Jesus warned us it would happen.

Bottom line: if we call ourselves followers of Jesus there will be manifested "fruit" in our lives: the fruit of character that is Christlike. The fruit of serving the poor and needy. The fruit of other people coming to faith in Christ because of us.

Let's make sure if we call ourselves Christ-followers we bear fruit for Him! Never let anyone say we are really more resembling a "tare," a weed for Jesus! How incomparably unimaginable!

May the grave of God be yours today. 



I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what brings success.  Oftentimes, we overlook some key, seemingly less significant details for success to happen.

Here are a few I know I’m foolish to overlook.

First, today, refuse to compartmentalize your life.  Strive to see the sacred and the secular intertwined.  They are!

Next, refuse to dance the dance of mediocrity.  You are unique in every way.  There really is nothing mediocre about you at all.

Finally, don’t miss caring about smaller things in life.  When you pay attention to all the smaller things in your life, amazingly, the bigger things become more conquerable.  In fact, most successes are built upon the careful oversight of the smaller issues in life.

Remember: your entire life matters.  There really is nothing insignificant for success to occur.


Easter should be celebrated every day.  It’s not a one time event in the life of the believer.  It is an eternal reality that should be relived every morning when our feet hit the floor. Today, contemplate the resurrection anew.  It is wonderfully good news.  My sins are forever forgiven.  I have a personal relationship with the living Lord of the universe.  I am filled with his acceptance, love and grace.  There is hope for all my problems.

But here’s another reason the resurrection is great news: because it came right after a defeat.  A victory is always good news.  But one that comes right after a battle that has apparently been lost is even better news.

This truth is illustrated in the battle of Waterloo.  When the news about this battle first came to England, there were no telegrams or radio sets.  Yet everyone knew a very important battle was occurring across the English Channel.  The Englishman Wellington was facing the indomitable Napoleon. If Napoleon won, most assuredly the French would soon try to cross the Channel to capture the motherland.

A signalman was placed on top of Winchester Cathedral, his eyes fixed on the sea.  When he got a message, he was to give this message to another man on a hill.  Then the message would be passed on to another, then another, until everyone knew the result all across England.

The man in the cathedral saw a ship far off in the channel.  It was extremely foggy, very difficult to see.  He strained his eyes.  The signalman on board the ship sent the first word—“Wellington.”  Then came the next word—“defeated.”  Then the fog became even thicker.  Nothing else could be seen.  So the signalman sent those two despairing words to the man on the hill: “Wellington defeated!”  That message was sent all across England.

Despair engulfed the nation.  Hopelessness took over every soul.

Then the fog lifted.  The rest of the signal was sent again.  This time the entire message was sent, read and understood.  It said: “Wellington defeated…the enemy!”  Suddenly, England was transformed from defeat to victory, from despair to joy because of a few words rightly sent.

After the cross, Jesus’ followers were plunged into hopelessness.  They spoke to their hearts, “Jesus is defeated.  Evil has won.”  Then three days later, after the fog of despair had been lifted, the full message came through: “He is alive!  He has risen!  The enemy is forever defeated!”

In your faith walk, always remember the words of that inestimable theologian, Yogi Berra, when he said, “It ain’t over till it’s over!”

Are you greatly discouraged today?  Does it look like the enemy has won?  Then remember: it’s not over until God says it’s over.  Though Friday’s darkness may engulf your soul, please keep hearing the whisper of the Father, “But Sunday’s coming.”

Have hope today!  Jesus is alive.  He has conquered the grave.  He has conquered your problems.

To God alone and always belongs all the glory.


Week 13: Psalms 44-50

The Psalms-there’s a bit of all of us in them

As we approach our final week of the Psalms, I hope you enjoyed our trip deep into the heart (literally) of the Bible. John Calvin says this about the Psalms.

“The varied and resplendent riches which are contained in this treasury it is not an easy matter to express in words; so much so, that I well know that whatever I shall be able to say will be far from approaching the excellence of the subject... I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately, ‘An Anatomy of all the parts of the soul; for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the grief’s, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.”

We can see the full range of human emotion expressed in the Psalms. At first it may not seem very “Christian” of the Psalmists to talk like they do to a holy God, but the truth is they recognize that God already sees their soul and longs for His people to come to him with their struggles. Amazingly, even the Psalms that start off pretty rough, end in hope. How can that be? Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73, admits he was like a wild beast until he came into the presence of God where he understood the whole picture (Psalm 73: 16-22). Many times, seeing eye to eye with God can lead us to walking hand in hand with Him.

The Psalms can be categorized according to their content. Here are some of the traditional categories.

• Messianic Psalms: These are the Psalms of hope that speak prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. Remember Psalm 2 that pictured Christ.

• Penitent Psalms: These are the Psalms of repentance. They speak to the brokenness of our spirit and turning away from sin. Remember last week’s reading - Psalm 38? It is a penitent Psalm.

• Imprecation Psalms: These are Psalms expressing emotions like resentment toward evil. Imprecation really means asking God to deal with the evil instead of you taking it into your own hands. Psalm 35 is an example of an imprecation Psalm.

• Psalms of Lament: These Psalms cry out to God when the pain is overwhelming. The Jewish community knew that godly sorrow was a good thing. Expressing deep emotions before God is the way to intimate connection with Him.

The final category will we look at this week is the Wisdom Psalms. These Psalms are specifically written for those who want to be wise. The best way to do this is to meditate on Scripture. Psalm 49 is an example of a Wisdom Psalms. It reads, “Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike; My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding” (Vs. 1-3). I’m going to wet your whistle with these opening verses and you can read for yourself his words to gain wisdom.

Tips for Reading the Psalms (Tip #13)

The Psalms can be a little hard to read if you read them all together in a row. There are a lot of them and there is not a narrative to follow. So here are a few very practical ways to read the Psalms:

• Read one Psalm a day with other Bible reading that you are doing.

• Pray the Psalms: Many Psalms are easily adapted into prayers of either praise or request for rescue. Considering reading them out loud as a prayer to God.

• Re-title them: If you looked in my Bible you would see that I retitled each Psalm so that I could easily locate a psalm that matched my specific emotion. This practice also makes sure that I understand and absorb what I read.

• Look for Christ: underline references to the Messiah and see how they are fulfilled in the New Testament. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to do this. Use your cross reference to discover the connections.

• Make a topical list: Take a blank sheet of paper and every time you come across a Psalm that expressesan emotion, write down the emotion and the Biblical reference. At the end of this year you will have a list of emotions and a reference to a Psalm that deals with that emotion. Keep the list handy for you next emotional meltdown!

Notes from David’s Journal

Some of you may remember in your traditional church hymnody the great hymn by Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Interestingly, he wrote the words to this hymn based primarily on Psalm 46, one of our readings this week. God is our God. He is a bulwark never failing! We are secure in Him. He cannot be moved! What wonderful promises from the Word of God about our God. Also, please note verse 10. There are times regularly, indeed even daily, when we need to stop, be still and know God is God. Our hurried lives don’t always allow us this privilege. But a part of this daily Bible reading is to give us all a regular, daily time to pause, be still, read God’s Word and know that God is God, still on His throne, ruling the world and our lives, even when it feels like it cannot be true. God is our fortress. He is impregnable. Let us find our rest today and always in Him and Him alone. 


My wife and I travel a great deal.  We have to carry and roll our baggage from home, to the airport, to our destination, to the motels in which we are staying, then back home again.  It's tiresome, to say the least!  I get tired thinking about it!

Here's a truth we've learned about carrying this baggage: you really don't know how heavy it is until you put it down.  You muster all the strength you can to get to your destination.  But when you finally stop and put the baggage down, you say to yourself, "Whew, that was really heavy.  How did I keep carrying it?"

The same is true with our life's baggage.  We are all carrying some.  Maybe it's resentment toward a person who hurt you.  Or perhaps it's a life disappointment, something that didn't work out like you wanted.  Or maybe it's that job you didn't get or the team you didn't make.  

Most often, this baggage is cumulative.  It builds up over years.  Yet we keep moving forward, carrying heavier burdens by the year.

Today, why not try putting the baggage down?  How?  Just do it!  Release it from your puny hands and give all of it to God.  Say to him, "You are sovereign over all.  You know this happened to me.  I'm tired of carrying it.  I'm giving it to you. It's too heavy to keep carrying.  I'm letting you carry it.  You promised to use it for my good and your glory.  So I'm trusting you.  I'm letting go.  I'm putting it down."

Then walk away.

Not only will you discover God really does care for you, and is carrying your burdens as he promised, you'll also discover how heavy the baggage was and how light your walk with Jesus is now.

"Cast all your cares upon him, for he cares for you"--I Peter 5:7.  Wise words for tired people carrying lots of life's baggage!

This weekend as we celebrate Easter, know that the cross is for you. The sacrifice made was for the burden you carry, the sin that overwhelms and the hurt that you have experienced. 

I hope you know the wonder and majesty of the cross this Easter! 


Let’s keep the honor conversation going.  In case you’re just joining us, we’ve been examining how the word honor is found throughout the Bible.  My wife Marilynn and I have recently written books about eight great ways to honor your wife or husband.  If you’ve read them, we hope they’ve helped you individually and in your marriages.  That’s why we wrote them.

We’ve loved hearing from you and the questions you’ve asked.  Last week I tried to address the question, “How do you honor a President and government that is seemingly dishonorable?”  I hope my answer helped you in some small way.

Let me handle another hot question this week: “How do I honor abusive, distant, uncaring parents when the Bible commands me to honor them?”

It’s a great question.  Here’s my answer.

First, realize that honor has much to do with someone’s position, not their character.  That’s how Peter could command Christians to honor the emperor even when he was terribly cruel and godless (Nero).  The same is true with parents.  You may not like your parents but they are the ones you have.  The position of mom and dad was set up by God to give life to kids.  That position should be honored.

However, that does not mean you are to like and accept their behavior.  The Bible teaches that we are to obey the authorities over us as long as a) they don’t forbid us to do what God requires or b) require us to do what God forbids.  When that happens, we have the right to practice civil disobedience.  

The same is true with bad parents.  Though their office as parents is honorable, their behavior may not be.  Therefore we can adamantly oppose them if they are behaving dishonorably and not place ourselves in positions of vulnerability while being under their authority.

Yes, this is especially difficult for young children who don’t have the power to stand up for themselves or leave abusive situations.  That’s why the government must intercede and promote the common good.  But if you are in a situation where you can stand up for yourself, you should—even if the one you’re standing against has a position of honor.

Then, when you grow up and marry, please make sure you choose to be a person of honor with your kids.  Live and love in a way that makes them see Jesus.  Let them want to honor your position and person.  That’s one of God’s specific wills for your life.

That’s God’s desire.

And remember: The commandment to honor your mom and dad is the only commandment with a promise—that you’ll live long in the land (Exodus 20:12).  It’s a general premise rooted in God’s great promise.  When kids are raised in godly homes, ones where grace is in place, with loving parents, emulating Jesus, their own health tends to be good.  Long life generally follows.  And the nations prospers.

Keep trying to compete with one another to outdo one another with honor (Romans 12:10).  It reclaims a very valuable word in our lives and culture.  And you become more honorable—which is very valuable within itself.


Week 12: Psalms 36-43 Behind the Psalm

Have you ever listened to a song and wondered what prompted the songwriter to create it? VH1 even has a show called “Behind the Music” where they explore the life of musicians and the story behind the music. It is one of our favorite shows! This week I want to look into the life of David, the writer of most of the Psalms we have been reading. Many of us know a little something about this shepherd crowned king, but do we take what we know about him with us as we read the Psalms he wrote? More ancient writings exist regarding King David than any other person in history, so we could spend years studying him. But let’s look at some of his main characteristics, accomplishments and failures as it relates to this week’s Psalms.

David the Warrior: David was an accomplished war hero. We know about his defeat of Goliath, but there were many other battles that David fought and won in Scripture. He was a risk taker to say the least and would do seemingly crazy things in battle when God directed him to.

David the poet and songwriter: David was a gifted songwriter and poet, hence the Psalms. David was in touch with his humanity as well as being personally acquainted with the mighty power of his God. He had learned how to trust God with overwhelming success and popularity, with humiliating, dark failure, with personal betrayal, with physical danger, and with the responsibility of leading a great nation. The Psalms give us a taste of what it was like for David personally and spiritually to walk through all these situations.

David the worshiper: Scripture calls David a man after God’s own heart. He loved God passionately and even infuriated his queen by dancing with the commoners as they brought the Ark of the Covenant back into Jerusalem. David was not afraid to celebrate the good things with all his might.

David the Broken man: David was also a broken man. He committed adultery; had someone killed to protect his own reputation; he was betrayed by his eldest son and chased out of leadership, hiding in caves for many years.

David was not a superhero God-follower. Many of the Psalms we will read this week speak to his brokenness.Take Psalm 38. It’s subtitled “A Petition.” David admits in verse 3 and 4, and then again in verse 18, that he is burdened with guilt and sin and is being disciplined by the hand of His God. He is acutely aware of his brokenness and his guilt before a holy God. At the same time, Psalm 38 declares “Lord, do not abandon me; my God, do not be far fromme. Hurry to help me, Lord, my Savior” (Vs. 21-22). David knows exactly what his abilities are here; limited. He is in a helpless situation and in need of intervention. He is broken and needy. But he knows exactly who can put him back on the path, the faithful, loving and merciful Father. Here is the good news that echoes through the Scripture, we are worse than we think we are and our situation is more desperate than we know, and God’s lavish grace is more abundant and life giving than we ever dreamed it could be.

What Do You See? (Tip #12)

Let’s repeat a tip that is very helpful in the Psalms: Look for Repeats. The Scripture writers repeat concepts or themes and even actual phrases to emphasize the importance of certain thoughts and ideas.

For example, if you read Psalm 37:4, you find, “Take delight in the Lord.”

This is a similar concept to last week’s Psalm 33:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Both of them encourage us to find in God a love that is almost indulgent. Both verses call out to our senses to experience God in a deep manner. It is a repeated theme.

Psalm 42 takes this a step further and actually repeats words in verse 5 and 11, “Why are you so downcast O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God.” Side note - David is talking to his soul here! Sometimes we need to do that! If you look at Psalm 39 you will see the word “Selah” repeated. Did you ask yourself, “what is that?” We hope so! Remember, when you are reading the Psalms you are reading songs, poems and liturgy. Repeated lines can be equated to the chorus of a song. Songs and poems are often cyclical like this. When you see Selah, connect it to a break in the lyric for reflections. Think of a guitar solo when you see Selah. It is a time to listen and think about what you just sang. It is a time to let the words ring deep in your soul.

As you are reading this week, play some instrumental music and sing along to these songs. Look for the chorus and find more repeats. Listen to the guitar or violin solo and Selah.

Notes from David’s Journal

It’s close, but perhaps my favorite Psalm is Psalm 37. I love it because it is so practical. Have you ever been hurt by some- one who is really not very Godly? I know I have. Everything within me wants to swell with retaliation. Moreover, I just can’t understand why often these evildoers not only get away with it but even prosper.

In Psalm 37 God reminds me of several truths regarding these people:

• I’m not to fret when they prosper

• Their blessings are only momentary

• Their lives fade like the green grass becoming brown

• I am called to continue to live righteously

• My blessings will eventually come, both here and in the life to come

• Evildoers will be judged one day

• They will not get away forever with their misdeeds

• If I trust and do God’s will, the desires of my heart will most likely come to me.

Or, as Jesus put it in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God and all his righteousness and the other, secondary stuff will come to you.” I hope you enjoy Psalm 37. There is so much rich, practical information in it.

Again, it’s one of my favorite Psalms. 


Marilynn and I schedule every Friday morning to be together. Nothing interferes with it. It's urgent for both of us. We look forward to it. She knows she is never more than six days away from being able to talk about something with me. 

Why Friday? The church I pastor has a Saturday night service and I spend all day Saturday preparing my message. On Sunday I must deliver the message two more times. I arrive home around one o'clock in the afternoon, and by then I'm absolutely exhausted. One study suggests that a 30-minute sermon, delivered passionately, is equal to running approximately 9 miles. If this study is accurate, that means that every weekend I run about 27 miles - about the same distance as a marathon! No wonder i'm exhausted every Sunday afternoon when I come home after church. 

Because my weekends are furiously busy, filled with deadlines and responsibilities, Marilynn and I cannot be together during that time. At first we tried Monday's as our Sabbath day of rest. That didn't work because of all the things that piled up after a weekend. I ended up spending Monday thinking through all I had to do on Tuesdays once I arrived back in the office. Then we tried Tuesdays, but that made Wednesdays impossible. 

So years ago we settled on Fridays. We actually get a bit of Saturday morning too, before I begin to focus on my sermon preparation for the evening service. It's a semblance of a weekend for us. 

But we both look forward to Friday mornings. We go out together. We get a cup of coffee. We go find a quiet place where we can sip our coffee and talk. We'll go for a walk together. We pray together. I get caught up in her world. She asks about mine. 

Find that time. It's crucial. It's worth it. It will bind you together. 

With that - I am off to enjoy my Sabbath with my bride! 


I want to keep the honor conversation going that began in February.  This valuable word that has gone missing in action in our culture, needs to be reclaimed.  We need to value, esteem, respect and HONOR one another.  Especially among Christians, we need to try to outdo one another with honor (Romans 12:10).

Let me try to answer some questions that arise about honor.  Here’s one: How do I honor the government when it seems dishonorable?  When it seems corrupt?

It is possible to honor the position without honoring the person.  I may not agree with a lot of what the President does, but he is still the President.  I’m reminded that every four to eight years, there’s a new person who occupies the office.  I shouldn’t put my faith in any person but in the God who controls all leaders everywhere.

More specifically, I pray for the President.  God has placed this office in authority over me.  I ask for him to have wisdom and grace.  I request God to give him courage and reflect biblical principles.  And as I pray, I’m reminded that God ultimately controls his world, not the President.  I honor the office.  But I mostly honor the God who oversees the office.

I refuse to speak ill of him.  I can question his decisions without slandering him.  I realize slander is another form of air pollution.  When I refuse to slander him, I honor him.

And I trust the God who controls government.  I live as a person who desires to reclaim a civil society.  I choose to love, not hate.  I live to serve, not be served.  That gives honor to government as well.

There are ways to honor government even when you disagree with it.  Even when you think it’s evil and corrupt.

What else do you think can be done to honor government?


Week 11: Psalms 29-35

Celebration: It’s a matter of life and death

“Concerning David, when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech, who drove him out, and he de- parted.” That is the subtitle of one of our Psalms this week, Psalm 34. Does this strike you as odd? Are you asking your 6 W’s? Abimelech...Who is Abimelech? Drove David out from where? Why was he acting insane? My mind was full of those questions when I read that subtitle. To find our answers we need to turn to 1 Samuel 21. David, who had killed Goliath, but had not been crowned king of Israel, was running from his enemy Saul. He ran into the king of Gath (are you asking Gath...where? – Gath happens to be where Goliath comes from!) The king recognized him and David was afraid of being exposed, so he acted insane. OK! We understand the subtitle now. Let’s dive into the heart of what I am sure will be a juicy Psalm.

The first few lines of Psalm 34 read, “I will extol the Lordat all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boasts in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us extol his name together.”These are not the words we expect to hear from a man who is literally running for his life. This was one of the most humiliating and terrifying moments in David’s life and somehowhe seems to be able to invite us to worship God with him. Maybe he was temporarily insane! Or maybe there is another answer. In the heart of this song, David challenges us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (v 8). It’s like someone holding out a deep red strawberry and asking you to bite into it and enjoy its goodness. David (and God through David) is offering us something very very good.

But still, how can David have this attitude? I believe David’s relationship and understanding of who God was and the depth of God’s love for him, allowed him to sing in the midst of crisis. Knowing God like this must be a real key to life full of joy instead of complaining.

John Piper, author of “Desiring God,” said Psalm 34 and other verses like it reveal the heart of following Christ. He describes it as being a Christian Hedonist. This is pursuing God not as rules, but as a love affair. For example, if I take flowers home to my sweet wife on Valentine’s Day and say “Here are flowers because I am supposed to give them to you.” She would not receive the gift as love, but instead as an offense. So when we obey God, not out of love, but out of duty, how do you think God responds? After teaching the need for obedience, Jesus told his friends that his aim was that they should be filled with complete joy. It seems God may think we are not happy enough for his taste. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” John Ortberg says, “The Bible puts joy in the non optional category. Joy is a command. Joylessness is a serious sin, one that religious people are particularly prone to indulge in.” The word “holiday” comes from the term “holy days” which were daysset aside by God in the Old Testament for Israel to gather together in celebration because they knew they were loved by the one true God.

Could this be the real key to David’s attitude of celebration as he was a fugitive from a wicked King? Could this change the whole way we read Scripture and the way we live our lives? As you read the rest of the Psalms this week, see how much celebration you can find, in David’s life and in your own. And grab some strawberries while you read.

Asking, “So What?” (Tip #11)

Okay, we are at the last W and then we will go into some new ideas. “Wherefore” is the question of difference. You could paraphrase it “so what?” What difference would it make ifI were to apply this truth? “Wherefore” is the question that pulls us toward action regarding what we have read. Remember, the Word of God was not written to satisfy our curiosity, or even to give us deep truths as much as it was written to change our lives. For example, how can we “Taste and See the Lord is good?” Does your life have the enjoyment that David seems to have in tough times? Can you sing in rush hour traffic? Can you invite your children to extol the Lord with you in the midst of a struggle over bedtime or homework? Practically speaking, where is God inviting you to experience joy right now?

One short detour I cannot resist-about reading the notesin your study Bible. This takes some time, but it is amazing what you can learn. For instance, I learned that Psalm 34 is an acrostic poem (ask your 5th grader if you have forgotten what that means!). Each verse of Psalm 34 begins with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. David is showing some amazing creativity in the midst of the chaos.

Notes from David’s Journal

Sometimes Christians wrongly think that forgiveness is a unique theme in the New Testament. Mistakenly, they believe the Cross of Jesus is reserved to grace and therefore is only found in the witness of the New Testament. Obviously, this is not true. Interestingly, the Old Testament is filled with various revelations of God as merciful, kind and forgiving. One of the places this is best revealed is in one of our Psalms this week: Psalm 32. Please read it carefully. Catch the powerful message of forgiveness that pervades it. Also, realize that David may very well have written it after his adultery with Bathsheba and God’s forgiveness that came to him after con- fessing it to God.

There is no sin that is greater than God’s forgiving love. Nothing you have ever done can separate you from His forgiving grace. It’s everywhere throughout the Old and New Testaments. It’s especially seen in Psalm 32. Read, enjoy and be washed anew in God’s forgiveness!



I would consider myself a person of prayer.  I pray to God often.  I ask him for answers.  I hope for, believe in his blessings.  I believe I can ask God anything in prayer.

But here's a great lesson I've learned about prayer and God's answers.  I pray for everything but I'm certainly glad that God has not given me everything for which I've asked.  

As I look back on my life, if God had given me what I wanted, it would not have been best for me.  I remember that girl I thought was the right one for me.  I prayed.  Then we broke up.  If I'd married her and not my present wife, there wouldn't be over three decades of love and friendship, three beautiful kids and three grandkids in the world today.

God sees and knows all.  From his high vantage point, he knows what's best for us.  Therefore, he invites us all the pray fervently.  But then he asks us to trust him for the answers.

What we may want may not be what's best for us. That's why we need faith when we pray, to trust God with the outcome.