Category Archives: The Word

Leadership Tuesday

Each Tuesday, I’ll be posting thoughts, resources, and challenges to help develop our Leadership muscles. Today I wanted to share with you some of the questions I began wrestling with after reading Philippians yesterday.

As I read, I noticed that Paul is pleading with the church in Philippi to live in unity, have one mind, and to be singular in focus. As leaders, Paul is speaking directly to us. If you have some time today, please read Philippians before you read the rest of this post.

Here are 9 Leadership Questions that we each need to think about and pray through if we are going to be all that God desires us to be:

1) Am I praying with joy for those I lead? Philippians 1:3-5 – Paul prays with joy for those he considered partners in the gospel. You and I have to do the same if we want to be a true spiritual leaders of the people God has entrusted us with.

2) Am I praying for an increase of love and knowledge and depth in my own life and in the lives of those I lead? Philippians 1:9-11

3) Am I living in such a way that those closest to me will know that whatever happens to me- good or bad- Jesus Christ will be praised? Philippians 1:12-26

4) Am I looking to Jesus as my model of service and unity or am I simply trying to keep everyone around me happy and cordial? Philippians 2:1-4 – Jesus shows us what love looks like in public.

5) What am I complaining about? Philippians 2:14-16 – If we want to be different than the world around us, let’s start by putting the KIBOSH on complaining. In Inception, Leo DiCaprio’s character has a great line where he tells his team that he believes “positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time.” As a leader I have the responsibility to serve as an ANTIBODY within my sphere of influence to STOP INFECTION and DECAY (complaining, divisiveness) IMMEDIATELY. This starts with stopping the infection in myself.

6) Am I committed to the mission of following Jesus? Philippians 3:7-11 – As I read this passage I was reminded of Dallas Willard’s quote about THE COST OF NON-DISCIPLESHIP, He says, “Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly the abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10)” Failing to commit to Jesus is a bigger risk than following Him.

7) What am I holding on to in my past that is keeping me from experiencing NEW LIFE in Jesus? Philippians 3:12-14 – What ever this is, I must lay it down and move on toward who Jesus is call me to be.

8. What is something I can rejoice in today, right now? Philippians 4:4-6 – One thing that you can rejoice in is that what ever you are worried about- that thing that kept you up all night- you can take that to the Father in prayer. Let this truth give you peace and guard your hearts and minds. Praise Jesus!

9) Do I spend more time thinking about these things or do I spend more time focused on the junk that the world sends my way? Philippians 4:8-9 – Last week, the world spent too much time praising, laughing with/at, and deconstructing Charlie Sheen. Admit it, you gawked at the train wreck. Your neck got sore from staring at the flaming wreckage. Mine did too. This week, let’s do the opposite. Let’s spend time meditating on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

Thanks to Perry Noble for inspiring today’s post with his 21 Questions Leaders MUST Wrestle With from the Book of James.

Penn Gets a Bible

I came across this video earlier in the week. A friend posted it on their Facebook page and I have been going over it in my mind all week. It is a video blog posted by Penn Jillette, the illusionist. In the video Penn, an atheist, recounts a conversation that occurred after a Penn & Teller show between him and a Christian business man. Watch the video below and then read my observations. (If you are reading this in RSS you may need to click through to see the video)

Ok, now for some observations:

Genuiness. The first thig that Pen noticed about this man was that he was GENUINE. The way the man complemented the show and spoke praise to Penn & Teller came across as real and from the heart. Penn also saw that this genuine nature wasn’t just evident in the way he praised the show. This man had a genuine concern for Penn’s soul. Having the character trait of being genuine with and about people was shared by Timothy in the Bible. In the letter to the Philippians, Paul writes that Timothy was a man who had real and genuine concern for the people of Philippi. Paul writes, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” (Philippians 2:19-22)

Boldness. Acts 14:3 says, “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time (in Iconium), speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.” Penn Jillette is a bear of a man. At 6’6″ he towers over most men and his booming voice looms large as well. Penn speaks his mind and is very animated when he talks. As nice as he seems most people would try to avoid any argument with this vivacious magician. However, it was the boldness of this man that seemed to capture Penn’s attention and his respect. It seems that Penn wasn’t the only one pulling off amazing wonders that night. God had a few tricks up his sleeve as well.

Love. Penn argues, “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Penn, a dedicated atheist, believes that sharing your faith in Jesus Christ is ultimately an act of love and that keeping quiet about your faith is actually telling the world that you hate them and want them to go to hell. Think about that one for a minute.

One. In the video clip, you can tell that Penn is wrestling with the entire situation. He isn’t dismissive. He was touched. He isn’t defensive. He’s disarmed. He isn’t angry. He is thankful. One man. One incident. One gift. One conversation. That’s all it took.

“I know there’s no God and one polite person doesn’t change that… but I’ll tell ya, that was a very, very, very good man. And… that’s real important. And with that kind of goodness… it’s ok to have that deep of a disagreement. And I still think that religion still does a lot of bad stuff, but, man, that was good man who gave me that book.”

I’ve really been thinking about this video all week. How can I make an impact on others the way this man impacted Penn? I hope that I too can be GENUINE, BOLD, and LOVING to others so that God can use me to impact others in His name.

New Day, New Beginning

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomband saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 20:1-21:25 TNIV)

It’s Friday…

“When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.

Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.

Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.”This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound himand brought him first to Annas, who was the father–in–law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

He replied, “I am not.”

It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.

Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret.Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”

He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robeand went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”

So this is what the soldiers did.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy–five pounds.Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” (John 18:1-19:42 TNIV)

The Star Maker

Psalm 147:4
He determines the number of the stars & calls them each by name.

Growing up I always felt pretty average. I wasn’t ever the best at sports or the smartest in class or anything like that. I was smack in the middle. Completely average in every way.

In football, I was the only starter under 6 feet. I played hard but my name never appeared in the paper next day and there was never any chance that I would play beyond my four years in high school.

As for my grades, I graduated 25th in my class… out of 54. It doesn’t get more average than that!

Even today I still feel pretty average. I’m not the best looking or the most talented. This average guy is just pretty plain vanilla. Rather than feeling sorry for myself I feel pretty great about my average status. When I look in scripture, I see a plethora of average or below average individuals. Even a cursory reading of the Bible makes me see that I am part of a very large group of average men and women. Some might even have called these people losers. They started life out as average joes and janes but they didn’t remain average for long. These average people rose above themselves and became great and powerful, amazing and world-known. These individuals went from average so-and-sos to international super stars. Let’s take a quick look at a few nobodies to find out who they were and what they became.

David- When we first meet David he is a mere shepherd boy so average that his own family essentially forgets about him. When Samuel comes calling looking to annoint a new king they “conveniently” forget he’s even a part of the family. However, this shepherd boy showed his mettle when he killed Goliath, became a feared warrior, and became a great and mighty king. Don’t forget that he also came to be known as a man after God’s own heart. Average no more.

Gideon- In Judges 6, Gideon is told (by the angel of the Lord no less) that he is a mighty warrior. Gideon’s reply shows just how average Gideon saw himself. “How can I save Isreal?” he asks. “I am the least in my family.” The least in his family ended up leading the army of Israel into a great battle where they triumphed over an army that greatly outnumbered his own.

Moses- He left Egypt as a disgraced prince and lived for 40 years in utter obscurity as a shepherd. He returned to Egypt in order to lead the Israelites out of slavery and triumphed by standing toe to toe against the most powerful man in the world.

Joseph- Joseph was seen by his brothers as some punk with a loud mouth and a big head (full of crazy dreams). To silence him they sold him into slavery. After toiling away as a slave and then in prison, Joe rose to the ranks of a great leader and literally saved the world from famine and starvation.

The Woman at the Well (John 4)- She was an outcast so outside of her community that she had to fetch water at a time when no one else would be at the well. But after a chance encounter with The Living Water she went back into town and became a powerful witness for the Gospel. “Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did.”

The Apostles- They were simply a rag-tag group of no names and nobodies. They were simply average men living in the middle of Palestine, a obscure Roman outpost. It is hard to believe that these nobodies took the message of Jesus to the masses and turned the world upside down.

But let’s be clear. In fact, I want to be crystal clear that these people became stars because of one reason and one reason alone.

They didn’t become stars because they were the smartest, the best looking, or the most talented. It wasn’t because of their titles or their deep pockets. They didn’t become stars because they were born that way.

The only reason these average people became stars is because they had the faith and the courage to obey when they heard the voice of God.

One more time: The only reason these average people became stars is because they had the faith and the courage to obey when they heard the voice of God.

The world around you will encourage you to be average. The world wants you to look and be just like everyone else. They will tell you to just go along. Don’t stand up for your beliefs or stand out in the crowd. Don’t cause a scene. Do as your told. Blend in.

That is no way to live your life. Nobody should shoot for average.

The only way for us to shine out like stars is to give our lives over to the Star Maker. No one in the kingdom of God is average. Jesus Christ came to this earth to invite us into the family. The Father takes us in and through the power of the Spirit average lives are transformed in to the extra-ordinary.

In order to shine like a star you must have the faith and the courage to obey when you hear the voice of God.

So here’s the question.

What is the voice of God calling you to today?

Do you need to make that apology? Do you need to confess that sin? Patch up that friendship? End that relationship that is dragging you down?

If you want to rise above mediocrity- to be more than average- you have to step out in faith and into obedience.

1 Corinthians 13 & Bob Dylan

A few weeks ago I purchased the Bob Dylan Collection, a digital box set, from iTunes. The collection includes every Bob Dylan release from Bob Dylan (’62) to Modern Times (’06). I have found so many great Dylan songs that I have never had the chance to hear before now. One of my new favorites is Watered-Down Love from the 1981 album Shot of Love. The lyrics seemed instantly familiar to me. They sound an awful lot like what Paul had to say about pure love to the church in Corinth.

Watered-Down Love
Shot of Love
Bob Dylan

Love that’s pure hopes all things,
Believes all things, won’t pull no strings,
Won’t sneak up into your room, tall, dark and handsome,
Capture your heart and hold it for ransom.

You don’t want a love that’s pure
You wanna drown love
You want a watered-down love

Love that’s pure, it don’t make no claims,
Intercedes for you ‘stead of casting you blame,
Will not deceive you or lead you to transgression,
Won’t write it up and make you sign a false confession.

You don’t want a love that’s pure
You wanna drown love
You want a watered-down love

Love that’s pure won’t lead you astray,
Won’t hold you back, won’t mess up your day,
Won’t pervert you, corrupt you with stupid wishes,
It don’t make you envious, it don’t make you suspicious.

You don’t want a love that’s pure
You wanna drown love
You want a watered-down love

Love that’s pure ain’t no accident,
Always on time, is always content,
An eternal flame, quietly burning,
Never needs to be proud, restlessly yearning.

You don’t want a love that’s pure
You wanna drown love
You want a watered-down love

I hope that no one would ever dedicate this song to you or me. Jesus said that people would know that we were his disciples by the way we loved others. Let’s live everyday loving those around us with pure and unadulterated love.

No watered-down love around here.

“If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self–seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1Corinthians 13:1-8 TNIV)

The Gift

I had the chance to preach again yesterday. I don’t do it very often but I really enjoy sharing a message with the people of our church family whenever I get the chance.

I taught on Romans 12 and the Gift of Life, Jesus.

Since it is the week of Christmas I could let the opportunity of teaching a Christmas lesson pass me by. We’re taking off to Tennessee later this week so I want to post some of yesterday’s message with you here. These posts are from my teaching notes.

I hope that it helps you focus on the greatest gifts that we have been given- Jesus Christ and a new life lived by his Spirit. It don’t get much better than that.

The Gift of Life- Romans 12
We love giving gifts don’t we? Of course we do! I know the reason we love to give gifts- Genesis tells us that we are made in the image of God and He is a gift giver. In fact he is the ultimate gift giver. Scripture chronicles the great and mighty gifts that God has given mankind:

Life (that’s a biggie)
In the fall we deserved death but he showed his loving kindness
Saved Noah
Chose Abraham (To be blessed AND to bless the whole world)
Provided for Isaac
Renamed Jacob
Rescued the world from famine through Joseph
Repurposed the price of Egypt, Moses, and gave freedom to his people
The Law- knowledge of what is required
The promised land
Teachings from the Prophets

Finally God gave us himself through his son Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter the date because Galatians 4 says,

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer slaves, but God’s children; and since you are his children, he has made you also heirs.” (Galatians 4:4-7)

Do you see that? Do you hear that? God didn’t just send his Son for us. He didn’t just send us his Spirit. It wasn’t enough for God to just give us freedom. Scripture tells us that on top of all this God also adopts us as his own sons and daughters.

Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection were the ultimate gifs given to mankind.

From our human father, Adam, we received the gifts of sin, death, selfishness, murder, wrath, and spiritual poverty.

From our heavenly Father we have received life and resurrection. This gift of new birth and everlasting life is for all who wish to have it.

Tomorrow: From Theory to Practice

Review: ESV Study Bible

Matisyahu 3Why The ESV?
I have used the English Standard Version in my private reading, teaching, and speaking since 2003. While my primary teaching Bible has been the TNIV I like getting away from the familiar phrases and wording and into something a bit different like the ESV.

The ESV is a word-for-word translation in the vein of the NRSV and NASB. It can be a bit stiff in some places but there is a lot of life in these pages.

Why The ESV Study Bible?
Study Bibles are designed to help the reader dig deeper into the history, meaning, and application of God’s Word. I will be forever grateful to my first NIVSB for helping me begin to understand Scripture. That Bible logged many hours and late nights with me through high school and college studying for pleasure and studying for school. Since then I have used Life Application Bibles, devotional Bibles, “master” study bibles, reference Bibles, and the TNIVSB. In most of these Bibles the notes and study helps tend to overshadow or crowd out the text. With the exception of the TNIV, I have been unable to find a study bible that drives me deeper into the word or causes me to become enveloped in the passage and the study helps.

It is in this that the ESVSB succeeds.

Why the ESVSB Succeeds
The stats for the ESVSB look like this:

2 million words— of Bible text and insightful teaching in 2,752 pages.
20,000 notes— focusing especially on understanding the Bible text and providing answers to frequently raised issues.
Over 50 articles— including articles on the Bible’s authority and reliability; on biblical archaeology, theology, ethics, and personal application.
200-plus charts— offering key insights and in-depth analysis in clear, concise outline form; located throughout the Bible.
Over 200 full-color maps— created with the latest digital technology, satellite images, and archaeological research; printed in full color throughout the Bible.
80,000 cross-references— to encourage easy location of important words, passages, and biblical themes.
40 all-new illustrations—including full-color renderings and architectural diagrams of the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, Solomon’s temple, Herod’s temple, the city of Jerusalem in Jesus’ time and throughout the history of Israel, and many more.
(from the official ESVSB website)

I’m not going to lie to you. 2 million words, 2,752 pages, and 20,000 notes do not a light Bible make. This thing is huge! It has to be huge to fit all this stuff inside the TruTone cover. However, don’t let these stats scare you away.

The notes are solid but do not take anything away from the actual text. The biblical text is in a large font at the top of the page while the notes are in significantly smaller somewhat italicized font on the bottom of the page. This makes for a smooth reading experience. I am currently working through the entire Bible again. While the goal is to simply read through the text, I have purposely slowed my pace down to take advantage of the study helps. This has been a huge blessing to me and has really made some of the more difficult passages come alive.

Winning Features of the ESVSB
illustration-solomons-temple.jpgColor Pages, Illustrations, and Charts
Color pages are nothing new but here is the first time that color pages in a Bible have impacted my study of scripture. From the subtle hints of olive green highlights on each page to the glorious, highly detailed illustrations to the colorific maps the ESVSB truly uses color to its advantage.

Take the illustrations as an example. The picture on the left is of Solomon’s temple and can be found on pages 604-605. This two-paged, full-colored rendering is quite beautiful and far exceeds anything I’ve ever encountered in a Bible. The same goes for the charts and diagrams. While reading in Numbers I was able to visualize for the first time how the Israelites were commanded to march and encamp through their wanderings. The tabernacle was to remain in the center of the camp and the people wether at camp or on the move. God’s presence is to be at all time central in the life of the believer. While on one hand this is a great revelation to me I am also saddened that I’ve never fully grasped this small truth before. Thank you charts on pages 267 & 269!

Reference Materials
Not only are there highly academic intros to each biblical book and the usual concordance here but there are also a ton of scholarly articles and features covering everything from Biblical Ethics to Reliability of the Cannon to What Role the Bible Played into Evangelical Protestantism throughout history. There is a MA in Biblical Studies available at your fingerprints here.

Online Features
Everything on page between the TruTone covers is available online to everyone who purchases a physical copy. That includes the illustrations, notes, charts, text, and supplemental readings. The online area also allows you to upload your own notes as you study and since the feature is web based you can access your notes from any computer. Very forward thinking feature.

So that does it for this extended commercial. While the ESV isn’t my favorite translation this Study Bible has proved to be an invaluable part of my study. I would highly recommend this Bible for anyone who wants to dig a little deeper into God’s Word.

Thank you Crossway for all your hard work. The effort has truly paid off!!!

Catalyst Labs: Scot McKnight

Key Question: How do we apply what we read in the Bible?

How do we really live out what we read? Frankly, everyone picks and chooses passages that they choose to follow and we ignore what we don’t like or don’t understand. There are things that we read that Paul said that we don’t do. There are things that we read that Jesus said that we don’t do.

In essence, when we don’t live out what we read we are saying, “Sorry, I really don’t believe that passage.”

5 Ways We Read the Bible That Can Leave Us Distorted

1) Morsels of Law -reading the Bible in such a way as only looking for Yes/No commandments. Problem: This truly is an all or nothing endeavor but we don’t really believe that either.

2) Morsels of Blessings and Promises– reading the Bible in such a way as only looking for blessings and promises. Problem: reading in this way gives us “spiritual diabetes” (my phrase) and distorts the word of God. McKnight noted that you never see a calender filled with Wrath passages. 🙂

3) Rorschach– opening the Bible and looking for the “answer” much like an inkblot test. Problem: Reader projects their own agendas, desires, thoughts onto the Biblical passages

4) Systematic Theology Scatter-Shot Reading in such a way as to boil down the Word in to understandable statements of fact and theology. Problem: Peterson said that reading the Bible this way “Tames the Bible so that we no longer can hear its wildness.” Things get left out or minimized.

5) Seeking the Maestro– People read the Bible through the lens of their favorite “master voice.” Jesus is a Maestro. Paul is a Maestro. Ezekiel is usually not a Maestro. Problem: fails to take all voices into account.

So what do we do? How can we read the Bible in way that is faithful to the revealed Word of God and actually live out what we read?

The secret is to read in such a way and with such intensity that our lives are sucked up into the story.

Ruth 1:16-17- Where the Bible goes we will go…

1Corinthians 9:19-23- allow the HS to guide you to follow what you read in every context in which we live.