Monthly Archives: March 2010

Everyone Who Finishes, Wins

Today, you are officially 90 days into our 360 day epic journey through the Bible in a year. That means you’re a quarter of the way through. Congratulations!

You may feel a little ragged from the run, but you are stronger today than you were three months ago. And, you’re planting seeds into your soul that will yield a harvest for years to come.

If, for some reason, you’ve been forced to drop out of the race here or there, that’s okay too.

Everyone who finishes, wins.


Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20
Luke 9:7-27
Psalm 72:1-20
Proverbs 12:8-9


Deuteronomy 16. How fortuitous that we would read about Passover during Holy Week!

I never noticed this before, but Moses refers to the Passover bread as the “bread of affliction” (Deuteronomy 16:3). It’s the only time the phrase is used in Scripture. The “bread of affliction” refers to their time in slavery and deprivation while in bondage to Egypt. But it also symbolizes their deliverance from captivity and freedom.

The reason why the people couldn’t include yeast in their bread or the evening Passover sacrifice to remain until morning was because both symbolized the presence of spoilage.

The Feast of Weeks mentioned in verses 9-12 is better known as Pentecost.

In his summary of the Feast of Tabernacles, Moses tells the people to be joyful in the celebration and that as a result, their “joy will be complete.” This is the only time the phrase is used in the Old Testament, but it is used six times in the New Testament. If you want to learn more about how you joy can be complete, look up John 3:29; 15:11; 16:24; Philippians 2:2; 1 John 1:4; and 2 John 12.

Deuteronomy 17. Reading through the Pentateuch, it’s hard to escape the fact that our present laws governing western civilization are built upon Old Testament laws. First, God issues a command that judges must not take bribes. Then he says that no person can be put to death for doing evil in the eyes of the Lord except for the testimony of two or three witnesses. But most interesting (to me at least), if a person is put to death, the witness must be the first one to “pull the trigger,” so to speak. If the accuser is lying, then the he must wrestle with the guilt of putting another person to death for the rest of his life. That probably provided some kind of deterrent to false witnesses.

Reading over the rules concerning Israel’s future king in verses 14-20, I couldn’t help thinking about King Solomon, who violated these very commands.

Psalm 72. In case you didn’t notice, this psalm was written by King Solomon—one of only two psalms he contributed to this book. The other one is Psalm 127.

Reading through the psalm, however, it quickly becomes obvious that Solomon could never fulfill his request. Only through Jesus, the king of kings, could his request become reality.

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Although we’ve studied the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 earlier in the gospels, what struck me this time (Luke 9:10-17) was how Jesus’ disciples limited their leader. After watching Jesus calm the storm, cast out demons, and raise a little girl from the dead—and then ministering on Jesus’ behalf with the authority to drive out demons and heals diseases, they still doubted him.

We read that they reported to Jesus what they had done and then took a long, hard look at the large, hungry crowd.

“Send the crowd away,” they instructed Jesus.

“You give them something to eat,” he retorted.

“We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.”

Despite their first-hand, front row seat watching Jesus in action, the disciples still limited him according to the confines of this temporal existence.

But Jesus is so much bigger than that!

And I’m no different than the disciples. So often when I encounter a problem, I try to solve it on my own rather than invite Jesus—the Lord of heaven and earth—into my difficulty.

Since returning from my getaway almost a week ago, I’ve felt extremely tired and lethargic. Granted, I hobbled through a marathon the week before, but my weariness was beyond explanation. While laying in bed at 2:30 this morning contemplating another day of exhaustion, I finally prayed Jesus, would you please deliver me from this lethargy?

And you know what? Today I felt 100%.

My recovery might be a coincidence, but then again, I might be assuming too little of Jesus.

Obviously, God is greater than any formula, but it prompts me to ask myself, How often do I respond to problems as if Jesus can do nothing to change them?

When I observe the interaction between Jesus and his disciples, it quickly becomes obvious that he continually tried to convince them that he was greater than their minds could conceive.

If you’re a disciple of Jesus, he’s probably trying to convince you of the same thing.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What everyday problems do you inadvertently leave Jesus out of? Why do you think you do this?
  3. How can you better include Jesus in your plans?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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Avoiding Shortcuts To Nowhere

For a few years, our family lived in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. After spending most of my life in Denver, where the streets run north and south in straight lines, Philadelphia threw me for a loop. Literally.

Many of the roads in Philly date back hundreds of years. One of the main roads in an outlying town is called “Cowpath Road.” Obviously, the road was once a cow path that was converted into a road. Cows don’t walk in straight lines. This is just one of many examples.

So at times, when the traffic on the two-lane roads backed up, I tried taking side streets to get ahead. On more than one occasion, my “shortcut” brought me back to my starting point. I was literally driving in circles.

That’s often the case when we take shortcuts in other areas of our lives.

Please join me today as we look at one such shortcut.

If you don’t have plans for celebrating Easter this Sunday, and you live in the Denver, Colorado area, please join me at The Neighborhood Church. We meet at 10:00 a.m.


Deuteronomy 13:1-15:23
Luke 8:40-9:6
Psalm 71:1-24
Proverbs 12:5-7


Deuteronomy 13. Prophecy, healing and other miraculous works have played a significant role in my spiritual journey. In fact I wrote a book about my experiences that was released about a year ago entitled Strange Fire, Holy Fire.

Despite my belief in the existence of what the Bible calls “signs and wonders,” I was mildly surprised to read Moses’ words at the beginning of this chapter. He tells Israel to follow God rather than any prophecy the people might hear.

Many people with backgrounds like mine will benefit from Moses’ instruction. Signs and wonders are exciting, but they should never serve as the point of our spiritual journey. And they should never replace the importance—and authority—of God’s word.

Next, Moses tells the people to kill anyone who might tempt them to worship other gods. Obviously, we can’t—and shouldn’t—kill anyone today who might lead us astray. But we can incorporate that same attitude toward temptation.

Deuteronomy 15:1-11. Once again, the theme of caring for the poor presents itself. In verse 11, Moses tells the people, “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”

Jesus quoted this verse in the Gospels. “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11, et al). As a result, many Christians take a fatalistic approach to caring for the poor: “Jesus said the poor will always be with us, so why make it a priority?”

But the force of Moses’ instruction here is that because the poor will always be with us, we should always be generous to them.

Luke 8:40-56. To reread what we discussed on the story of Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage, read the post from February 21.

Luke 9:1-6. After watching Jesus minister to the crowds, he sent his disciples throughout the region to imitate him.

The New Bible Commentary offers some interesting insights into Jesus’ instructions to the disciples:

They were to live as simply as possible, perhaps so as to avoid any criticism for making money out of their work, and also to avoid being mistaken for other travelling people who made money unscrupulously…They were not to go round looking for (better) hospitality.

Psalm 71. This is an anonymous psalm written by a middle-aged person who is encountering adversity but wants to end well.

In verse 7 he writes, “I have become like a portent to many.” A portent is an example that others can see.

In spite of the psalmist’s adversity, this psalm resonates with hope. He writes in verse 5, “For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.” Then in verse 14, he writes, “But as for me, I will always have hope.”

God was the psalmist’s hope in the past and will be his hope in the future.

Verse 20 really jumps out at me:

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.

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Growing up in the church, I’ve witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly in church leadership. At various stages in my life as a pastor, I must admit that I’ve done my part in presenting a poor example of leadership as well. So please understand that I’m not casting stones.

Our reading in Deuteronomy 13 addresses who we follow in spiritual leadership. Our human nature gravitates toward following charismatic individuals who will speak to us on behalf of God. Often, this is the result of our laziness. Relying on someone who will “stand in” for God is like opting for the Cliff’s Notes version of a great novel. Rather than read the Bible for ourselves and seek an intimate relationship with God, we prefer that someone do it for us.

Moses was concerned that the people would follow false prophets who would lead Israel away from God. So Moses warned Israel, “It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere” (Deuteronomy 13:4).

When our walk with God is dependent upon the leaders we follow, we set ourselves up for tremendous disappointment and pain.

Pastors, TV preachers, televangelists, and authors all must be compared against the truth of Scripture. Just because they say something that sounds good, or they say something that you want to be true—doesn’t make it true! Many have led well-meaning believers astray. And history continues to repeat itself.

Nor can we allow them to play the role of God in our life.

Not long ago, I witnessed first-hand a church split that affected thousands of people. Some of the people who were damaged by the fallout were devastated and vowed never again to return to church or trust a church leader. In my judgment, many of those people followed the Senior Pastor rather than God.

My friends, please join me in following Moses’ advice. Let’s follow God and avoid the unnecessary disappointment and pain that inevitably meets people who depend on fallible men and women for their walk with God.

Shortcuts in our walk with God lead us nowhere.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What shortcuts have you tried in your walk with God? Where did they lead you? If you were hurt from the experience, how did you recover? Have you recovered?
  3. Why would God want us to avoid following people instead of him?
  4. What does this tell you about God?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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A Simple Command

This weekend I performed my 45th wedding. After officiating so many weddings, most ceremonies seem the same. Nevertheless, participating in such an important moment in the life of a couple is always an honor for me that I never want to take for granted.

But participating in a wedding ceremony is much different than making a marriage.

Thinking through the many weddings—and marriages—I participated in over the last 23 years, I can think of one word of instruction that will give them the best chance of building a happy, healthy marriage: love each other. If couples would love each other along the lines of 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 5:25-32, they would stand a good chance of making it.

So really, it boils down to a simple command: love.

In today’s Bible conversation, we’re going to look at a similar command that God has issued to all of us, which will hopefully change our perspective on following Jesus.


Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32
Luke 8:22-39
Psalm 70:1-5
Proverbs 12:4


Deuteronomy 11-12:32. In verse 2, Moses tells Israel that their children “were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord.” But then he describes it as God’s majesty, mighty hand, outstretched arm, and so on. In this context, “discipline” might be better translated “instruction.”

In verses 18-21, Moses offers advice to Israel on how to keep from falling into idolatry. He lists them as meditating on his words, creating symbols to serve as reminders, teaching them to their children, even writing them on their houses and gates. If you’re looking for down-to-earth application, this is it!

Chapter 12 then explains how God wants to be worshiped.

Luke 8:22-25. Jesus and his disciples encounter a storm while sailing across the Sea of Galilee. Where was the safest place on earth at that moment? With Jesus in the boat. Sometimes in the middle of stressful situations, Jesus seems so far away. But he isn’t. He just might be hidden  in the boat, sleeping.

Luke 8:26-39. We’ve explored this story of the demonized Gerasene man in one of our previous Gospels. Two thoughts hit me about the story this time: Despite his power over the demons, the villagers were terrified of Jesus. Given a choice, the people probably would have preferred that the man remain in his demonized condition than find healing. Such is the price of status quo. Change can be frightening.

Secondly, I was struck by the fact that after he was healed, Jesus instructed the man to remain in Gerasa to tell others what God had done for him. Who can refute the power of the story of a changed life?

Psalm 70. In many ways, this is an abbreviated version of Psalm 69.

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Reading Deuteronomy 11 today moved me in a profound way. In verse 13, Moses offers us a new definition of obedience: “To love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” He more or less repeats this again in verse 22.

Our society—as well as human nature—tends to view obedience as adherence to a list of meaningless rules that we don’t want to obey. It’s drudgery. Obedience to God? Well, that’s like carrying a cross–a necessary evil of sorts.

But in reality, that’s not the case in our walk with God. Essentially, he issues us one command: to love him. Similar to the piece of advice that every engaged or newlywed couple needs to love each other.

That’s all God wants from us—to love him completely. With everything that’s within us.

There’s another word that describes this: worship. The Westminster Catechism (a historic church document used to instruct children in the Christian faith) rephrased it as “enjoying God.” From this perspective, obedience doesn’t sound so dull and dreary.

With our new definition of obedience in place, we understand why idolatry is such a big deal to God. In fact, that explains why Moses addresses idolatry immediately following this passage. The opposite of obedience is idolatry. Making an idol of something that prevents us from loving, worshiping, and enjoying God completely. Usually the idols we worship are fashioned in our own image.

Remember that in Friday’s reading, we saw that God desires to give us life—through the life of obedience.

Living a holy life, focused on loving and enjoying God, will bring life. It’s the life God intended for you and me! The life that we will enjoy. The life that brings significance and purpose.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How would you live your life differently if you viewed obedience as an opportunity to love God with all your heart and your soul?
  3. Do you have any stories you’d like to share about how you’ve learned to better love, worship, and enjoy God?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.


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Climbing Out Of Your Hole

If you’ve spent much time in rural areas, you know that farms are notorious for the presence of abandoned wells. If they haven’t been sealed, they pose a serious risk to adults and especially children. Unfortunately many wells remain hidden behind overgrown bushes and hedges.

If an adult or child falls into the abandoned well—and hopefully it’s dry at the bottom—serious problems result. The only way out of the hole is to rely on someone else to rescue you.

Like the man in the video above, all of us have fallen into a hole. Without the help of someone beside ourselves, we’re helplessly lost.

After watching the video, please join me in learning more about the person who rescues us.


Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22
Luke 8:4-21
Psalm 69:19-36
Proverbs 12:2-3


Deuteronomy 10. After recounting Israel’s sin in chapter 9, Moses reminds Israel that God responded by giving them another set of the 10 Commandments on tablets of stone. Then he instructed Moses to construct an ark that would contain the tablets and operate as God’s “throne away from home.” In other words, he gave them another chance.

How should they respond?

And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?  Deuteronomy 10:12-13

Luke 8:4-15. Reading through the parable of the sower and the seed—our third time thus far in the Gospels—I was struck by the identity of the seed. It’s the word of God. “The word of God is living and active” we read in Hebrews 4:12. In Isaiah 40:8, God declares that “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”

By joining in our Daily Bible Conversation, you’re planting powerful seeds into your life that will last forever. But seeds still need to be watered. While bursting with life, seeds can still lie dormant in the soil for years. Once life sprouts out of the seed, they must be nurtured and fed.

Jesus explains how the seed grows in verse 15: “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

A good and noble heart is the soil. We create conditions for the seed to grow by hearing the word, retaining it, and persevering. The Message offers an interesting paraphrase. The good-hearted people “seize the Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there’s a harvest.”

Here’s the Klassen paraphrase: The harvest comes to those who meditate on God’s word, and believe it throughout every season they encounter until the harvest comes.

You don’t need to be a hero to reap a harvest—you just need to believe God’s word and hang on.

Luke 8:16-21. Jesus’ words in verse 18 reinforces the point of our parable: “Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”

Then, to complete his thought on the sower and seed, Jesus explains, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

Psalm 69:19-36. I love the fact that in the midst of his pain, David still offers praise to God. “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving” (verse 30). He still find reasons to be grateful to God in suffering.

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Following the theme of yesterday’s conversation, God reiterates to Israel in Deuteronomy 9 that their righteousness isn’t the reason behind their blessing. God tells Israel in verse 9, “Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.” God gave the Promised Land to Israel because of his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and because of the wickedness of the people inhabiting it.

For the rest of the chapter, Moses then recounts Israel’s sin of worshiping the golden calf, a transgression as grave as the surrounding nations. They deserved to be destroyed as well, but God spared them. Then he reminds them of their rebellion and hard-heartedness in other places (see Numbers 11 and Exodus 16).

For millennia, philosophers have debated the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” But after reading Deuteronomy 9, I’d have to ask, “Why do good things happen to anyone?” With so much darkness in the world and my personal battles against self-absorption and rebellion among a host of other transgressions, it’s a wonder that God spares any of us from destruction.

Every breath, every sunset, every laugh, every moment of rest, every encounter with the divine is a gift from God.

Today is Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week, which begins with the high point of Jesus’ ministry. He enters Jerusalem to cheering crowds who shout praises to him and to God. Five days later they shouted “Crucify him!”

Any time we strain to pat ourselves on the back for something good we’ve said or done, we must remember that the vestiges of sin and darkness still remain. Akin to Israel in the wilderness, we all deserve destruction and judgment.

Like falling into a hole, all of us need someone to pull us out.

But praise be to God, he sent Jesus to save us—not because of our good deeds but because of his great love.

Building on yesterday’s conversation, I add to the caterpillar’s question “Who are you?”

By yourself, your actions merit destruction and hell. But that is no longer your identity. You are loved by God and forgiven of your darkness and sin, not because of your good deeds but because of God’s great love.

This week two thousand years ago, Jesus climbed into the hole and carried you out. The rest of our lives are simply one big THANK YOU for rescuing us.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does the hole look like for you? What methods have you tried to climb out of your hole?
  3. How did Jesus rescue you from your hole?
  4. How does this fact influence the way you live?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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Who Are You?

“Who are you?” the caterpillar asked Alice in the Disney’s Alice in Wonderland movie.

It’s an insightful question which cannot be answered quickly or easily.

Who we are determines our values and how we see ourselves. And the person who determines who we are is extremely important. We can decide—or allow someone else to decide our identity for us.

Recently, my wife read me a quote from a book that more or less said, “One of the greatest dangers to the well-being of our nation is the self-esteem movement.”

The self-esteem movement damages our well-being? Sounds almost like an oxymoron.

Dr. Nathaniel Brandon’s self-esteem movement teaches that people must search deep within themselves in order to ascertain our value. Everybody is special and no one is different. Proponents advocate that by protecting people’s feelings from being hurt and making people feel good about themselves, we’ll all play nice.

Unfortunately, recent studies indicate that the hypothesis didn’t work out in real life. “The false belief in self-esteem as a force for social good can be not just potentially but actually harmful,” wrote Carnegie Mellon University psychology professor Robyn M. Dawes in a recent publication.

But if our value doesn’t come from within, where does it come from?

Please join me in today’s conversation.


Deuteronomy 7:1-8:20
Luke 7:36-8:3
Psalm 69:1-18
Proverbs 12:1


Deuteronomy 7. God commanded his people to have nothing to do with the men and women of the surrounding nations, even totally annihilating them in battle. These are hard words to stomach, especially in light of Jesus’ example to love everyone. While we can’t and shouldn’t live completely separate from people who share our faith (and certainly not kill non-believers), the words in this chapter remind us to be aware of the pervasiveness of this world’s values. As believers, we should have an uneasy friendship with our culture.

Deuteronomy 8. In verse 2, Moses explains the purpose of wilderness experiences: “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” Since we looked at this topic a few days ago, I won’t belabor it beyond this: the purpose of wilderness experiences is to build humility and determine what is in our hearts.

Next, Moses explains the tendency in all of us once we reach our Promised Land: “your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God” (verse 14). The New Bible Commentary wisely advises us that “great wealth can lead to the delusion of self-sufficiency.”

Luke 7:36. At a minimum, any woman with her hair exposed to public view would be considered promiscuous, but the woman in the story was probably a prostitute. So, the expensive bottle of perfume which she used to anoint Jesus’ feet was likely purchased with her “earnings.”

The irony of this passage is that the “sinner” was more aware of her sin than the righteous Pharisee.

Psalm 69:1-18. This is the most frequently quoted of the psalms in the New Testament:

  • Verse 4 (John 15:25)
  • Verse 9 (John 2:17; Rom. 15:3)
  • Verse 21 (John 19:28; cf. Mt. 27:34, 48)
  • Verse 22 (Romans 11:9ff.)
  • Verse 25 (Acts 1:20)

Proverbs 12:1. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge.” The word for “discipline” here means “correction. The most beneficial lessons often come at the price of pain.

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In Deuteronomy 7:6-8, God established the basis for Israel’s identity:

The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers.

Israel was God’s treasured possession–not because they did anything special, not because they were more emotionally healthy than the other nations, not even because they behaved better than the surrounding nations.

God chose Israel because he chose them. Granted, he agreed to follow through on his covenant commitment to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—but God chose Israel to be his chosen people out of all the nations of the earth…for nothing.

This is a good reminder for anyone who follows Jesus. We’re not better than anyone else. This underlies the importance of humility, a theme that’s interwoven throughout Scripture. But also, our value in God’s eyes doesn’t come from what we do but from simply being chosen by him.

When we fix our value on our ability to love and accept ourselves, we end up riding a roller coaster that follows our emotions and actions. But God doesn’t ride roller coasters. He remains faithful when we are faithless (2 Timothy 2:13). He cannot and will not be moved.

Who are you? A child of God, created in his image, chosen.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. With whom do you most identify in Luke 7:36-50—the Pharisee or the prostitute? Why?
  3. What do you tend to look to in determining your value? Why?
  4. If you really believed that your identity came from God, how would it change the way you think and act?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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Created To Fly

Mary Poppins ranks as one of my favorite movies of all time. Call me a nerd, I don’t care!

My favorite scene occurs at the end of the movie when newly recovered workaholic George Banks invites his children to join him in flying a kite. The scene always moves me to tears.

With springtime in the air, we’re entering kite flying season. I’m not a physics whiz, but have you ever considered how kites stay in the air? Obviously, they need wind and a tail. But they also need a string. You’d think that by letting go of the string, the kite would soar even higher—but that isn’t the case. Let go of the string and your kite will fall to the ground. But hang on to the string—even tug it—and the kite will soar higher.

The thing that holds the kite up in the air is the thing that ties it down.

Believe it or not, that summarizes today’s daily conversation.

Please join me!


Deuteronomy 5:1-6:25
Luke 7:11-35
Psalm 68:19-35
Proverbs 11:29-31


Deuteronomy 5-6:25. Horeb is another name for Mt. Sinai.

In this section, Moses recounts the heart of the covenant between God and Israel by reciting the 10 Commandments (the first time they’re mentioned is in Exodus 20:2-17). This time while reading through them, I noticed something interesting in Moses’ instructions regarding keeping the Sabbath in verse 15. He reminds Israel, “Remember that you were slaves.” What does that have to do with the Sabbath? When Israel worked for Egypt as slaves, they labored seven days a week. They never enjoyed a day off for rest, hence, work was bondage. The Sabbath, then, celebrates Israel’s freedom from slavery.

This gives me pause to consider the power that work can play on any individual. Working seven days a week is slavery. Bondage. Taking a break from work is one way we can declare to ourselves and everyone that our jobs are not our masters. This is something I need to seriously consider, because pastoring and writing gravitate toward requiring seven days a week.

Luke 7:11-17. The widow in the story was truly in a difficult place. She had no husband to support her and then her only other source of provision—her son—had died. Notice that Jesus touched the coffin, rendering him defiled the rest of the day.

Psalm 68:19-35. If you have time, meditate on verse 19 for a moment: “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” Every day, God bears our burdens. Imagine what your life would look like if he didn’t bear your burdens.

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“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always,

so that it might go well with them and their children forever!”

-Deuteronomy 5:29

This passage of Scripture expresses God’s desire for us. He wants our lives to go well.  Moses reiterates this in Deuteronomy 6:3: “Be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey.”

God wants you to thrive–believe it!

This reminds me that because God loves us, he only desires good for us. But notice that his words were spoken within the context of obeying his commands. In fact, his words immediately follow the listing of the Ten Commandments.

This tells me that the law wasn’t intended to serve as a means to restrict Israel’s joy, it was intended to enhance it. Oftentimes what we regard as “freedom” is really bondage in disguise. And some “restrictions” actually open the door to greater freedom.

Like the string on a kite, the thing that keeps you up in the air is the thing that ties you down—and obedience to God is the string.

Sometime today, I encourage you to take a moment to ask God, In what areas of my life are you calling me into greater obedience?

I could offer you different options on what obedience might mean for you, but I think that would counteract the process. God created you to fly, but in order to fly you need something to tie you down.

I’m not advocating legalism. Danger lies on either end of obedience—living an overly restrictive life or with too much license.

If you want to fly, then pay close attention to what holds you down.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How have you experience freedom through obedience to God?
  3. How have you experienced bondage through your freedoms?
  4. How is God calling you to obey?
  5. What would your life look like if God didn’t bear your daily burdens?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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Your One And Only

Greek mythology tells us about a young man named Narcissus. Shortly after his birth, his mother realized her young son was exceptionally beautiful and was advised by a prophet that Narcissus would live to a ripe old age “if he never realized how beautiful he was.”

Throughout his life, his mother kept Narcissus from seeing himself in the mirror. By the time he reached 15 years of age, every girl in town was in love with him—but all the attention resulted in a very cruel, self-absorbed boy.

One day while hunting in the woods, he approached a pool of water. Thirsty from his long, hot day in the woods, he bent over to get a drink. And as he leaned over, he saw his reflection.

Immediately, he became transfixed with his beauty. What stared back at him from the water was so mesmerizing, so magnificent, that he couldn’t pull himself away.

So enamored he became with himself that he couldn’t eat or drink and he eventually died of thirst and starvation. Because of his utter and complete self-absorption, Greek mythology tells us his soul was sent to the “darkest hell.”

And where he died, the narcissus flower grew—to serve as a reminder of the boy who fell in love with himself. Greek mythology tells us that Narcissus still keeps gazing on his image in the waters of the river Styx.

Following Narcissus’ example, many of us struggle becoming self-absorbed. You could say we’ve made idols of ourselves…which is the subject of today’s daily conversation.


Deuteronomy 4:1-49
Luke 6:39-7:10
Psalm 68:1-18
Proverbs 11:28


Deuteronomy 4. The book of Deuteronomy entails the covenant God established with his people. In the first three chapters, God established the basis of their relationship. Chapter 4 consists of the prologue. In verse 1 we read, “Follow [God’s commands] so that you may live.” God doesn’t grant us salvation because we follow his ways, but following his ways do bring us life.

God sought to perpetuate the faith for generations to come. In verse 10 God tells his people, “Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” The primary location where our faith is perpetuated is not in church but at home. This brings a degree of responsibility on every parent (me included!). This keeps parents honest, because our children can compare what we say with what we do.

Verses 44-49 comprise the introduction to the covenant God entered into with Israel.

Luke 6:46-49. What’s the rock in Jesus’ parable? Many people refer to this parable and say Jesus is the rock—and while he is our rock, he isn’t talking about himself in this parable. The rock is obedience to his word. Jesus said the one who “hears my words and puts them into practice…is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock.” Obedience isn’t sexy. It rarely serves as the point of movies that break the box office. We gravitate to stories about the “rebel without a cause.” But in God’s economy, obedience is important. Doing what we know is right.

Psalm 68. Notice the object of God’s concern in this psalm: the fatherless, the widow, the poor. If you count yourself as one of these, be encouraged because God has special concern for you. If you don’t, pay attention to these people. If you’re interested in joining God in his work, then help them, too.

Proverbs 11:28. “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” Following the theme of our study in Deuteronomy, trusting in riches is a form of idolatry. Sometimes I dream about what it would be like to win the Lotto and never have another care in the world. But that wouldn’t be the case because rich people have struggles, too. Most importantly, I think I would struggle with trusting in my riches rather than God. Maybe God knows it’s best for me not to be rich.

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The single most important aspect of the Jewish faith that set Israel apart from the other nations was that it allowed no image to be made of God. God didn’t want us worshiping his creation…he wanted us worshiping him. Unfortunately, we still struggle with this temptation today. We look to creation—relationships, activity, stuff, ourselves—to fill the hole in our heart. Looking to anything or anyone but God for our identity and fulfillment is idolatry.

Worshipping a God who we cannot see requires faith. Hebrews 11:1,6 tell us “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists.” All too often, we place our faith in something or someone we can see, knowing full well that the object of our faith will do little or nothing to fill the hole or meet our need. But it’s easier to place our faith in what we can see over what we cannot see.

My point is this: God wants to be the only one in whom we seek purpose, provision, fulfillment…everything. He doesn’t want to be the best version among a pantheon of gods. He wants to be our one and only.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What or who is your idol of choice? Why does it appeal to you? How can you live in such a way that he is your “one and only”?
  3. Why do the stories in our society gravitate toward rebels?
  4. What do today’s readings tell you about God?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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Finishing Well

My wife Kelley and I spent the last six days or so in Los Angeles to see our oldest daughter, Anna, who’s a sophomore at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. And since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to run in the Los Angeles Marathon. This was Kelley’s second marathon and my first. The video above shows the race from one person’s balcony.

In a departure from the norm, I’m going to share a few thoughts about the race that have absolutely nothing with today’s reading, but everything with following Jesus.

Please join me…

Thank to our guest bloggers who filled in most admirably in my absence. Eugene, Jeff, Mike, and Mark, thank you for allowing me to take a little break!


Deuteronomy 2:1-3:29
Luke 6:12-38
Psalm 67:1-7
Proverbs 11:27


Deuteronomy 2. The book of Deuteronomy comprises Moses’ last words to Israel before they crossed in the Promised Land. Like the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, it reads almost like a sermon transcription.

At this point in Deuteronomy, Moses is recounting Israel’s wilderness history up to the present moment. Recounting our past is important. All too often, our society functions as if we’re only 5-10 years old. But we are the sum total of our past. All of us bring our history—good and bad—into our present relationships.

Deuteronomy 3. Notice how God refers to King Og of Bashan in verse 2: “Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you with his whole army and his land” (italics added). God refers to Israel’s defeat of Og as if it already occurred. In God’s economy, all of history is past tense. Even our current struggles. Hmmm, that gives me a different perspective on my struggles. I wonder how I would respond to my challenges if I treated them as past struggles?

Luke 6:12-38. This section is quite similar to Matthew 5-7. Matthew’s account contains the Sermon on the Mount. This account in Luke is called the Sermon on the Plain. Matthew tells us Jesus “went up on a mountainside and sat down” (Matthew 5:1). Luke tells us Jesus “stood on a level place” (verse 17). So are they one account or two? They’re probably versions of the same account, with each writer highlighting different aspects of Jesus’ sermon. Details specifying the location of Jesus’ sermon weren’t important to the people of that day—so making it fit exactly isn’t nearly as important as paying attention to Jesus’ words.

What strikes me in the Sermon on the Plain is the heavenward focus:

  • “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.”
  • “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.”

At the same time, the social ramifications of Luke’s gospel are quite evident:

  • But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
  • Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

Proverbs 11:27. Books like The Secret tell us that we attract whatever we think. Although I have serious concerns about the book, I will say that the principle of good attracting good is for the most part, true. People who seek good, find goodwill. People who search for evil, find it.

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Running a marathon is probably the third hardest thing I’ve ever done—after writing a book (13 and counting) and being married. Here are a few thoughts that hit me during the run:

Every person runs a different race. Despite running the same 26.2 mile route, all 26,000 people ran the Los Angeles Marathon with different concerns in mind. I was concerned about re-tearing my calf (which I tore 2 weeks earlier). Kelley was concerned about aggravating the plantar fasciitis in her heel. Everyone was concerned about finishing. Ironically, my calf never bothered me while Kelley’s heel refused to cooperate. Nevertheless, I sustained a painful foot injury on mile 13 and hobbled the rest of the way to the end. Weird injuries can materialize out of nowhere.

Injuries happen. Days before the race, I explained my concerns about my calf injury to a veteran marathoner. She told me, “Everybody who runs a marathon is dealing with some kind of an injury.” Most of us begin our lives injury-free, only to sustain bumps and bruises along the way. We all get knocked around in the course of our lives. How we respond to those injuries determines how we finish the race.

Everyone who finishes wins. While training, veterans advised me, “Don’t try to break any records on your first race—just make it your goal to finish.” When my foot injury materialized out of nowhere, I asked myself, How will I ever run another 13 miles with this kind of pain? Everything within me wanted to quit. I actually considered spending the $20 in my pocket to pay for a cab that would transport me to the finish line.

In the middle of my pain, I ran past a café, where a man sat at a table enjoying his breakfast. When he saw the grimace on my face, he looked at me, pointed at an empty chair next to him and said, “Want to join me?” I shook my head and kept running.

I couldn’t think about mile 15 or mile 21—all I could think about was finishing. But in order to reach my goal, I would have to run one mile at a time. When I completed mile 13, my next goal became mile 14, then mile 15.

Although my time wasn’t as fast as I had hoped, I was relieved once I crossed the finish line. At that point, my time didn’t matter. I finished. Sometimes life is painful…but you just keep going on.

We’re all in a race, but the goal isn’t to beat everybody else, the goal is to finish. Sometimes you just have to bear down and work through the pain. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). Sometimes the most courageous thing you can do is stand. You don’t have to look victorious–all you must do is not give up.

We all run re in a race. We all sustain injuries along the way and we all can come up with excuses to quit.

So what will you do?


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. If you were in Moses’ shoes, what last words would you leave with the children of Israel?
  3. How you would respond to your challenges if you treated them as past struggles?
  4. What social implications do you read in Luke 6? What do they look like lived out in your life?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.


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Jerry’s Secret

The new TV show, Marriage Ref, is on the surface a light-hearted look at marriage. If you haven’t seen it, the show videotapes married couples having fights and then a celebrity panel makes jokes about the couples and their disagreements. Then they make their recommendations to the marriage “ref” who emcees the show. Finally, the “ref” makes the final recommendation or judgment concerning the couple. I am all for comedic approaches to marriage—and they make me feel better about my marriage and myself.

This show gives me a sense of superiority by convincing me to say to myself, Boy! Am I glad my marriage is a whole lot better than those marriages!

However, I also realize this show communicates messages that run counter to my journey as a Christian. Jerry Seinfeld, the producer of the show, just celebrated ten years of marriage, an eternity by Hollywood’s standards. He believes he has a “sense of mission” to share with America the secret to marriage: “Your marriage is fine— we’re all [fighting].”

Please join me today as we evaluate Jerry’s secret.

Mark Benish is today’s guest blogger. He’s graduating this May with a Master’s in Counseling from Denver Seminary. Thanks Mark, for your contribution to today’s blog.


Numbers 36:1 – Deuteronomy 1:46

Luke 5:29 – 6:11

Psalm 66:1-20

Proverbs 11: 24-26


Deuteronomy 1. After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the Israelites are about to enter into the Promised Land. Moses, who will not be joining them, is giving the people their final instructions before entering.

Moses begins by reminding the people of the covenant that God entered into with them through Abraham. He proved his faithfulness in doing what he promised to Abraham and Moses. They’ll still face difficulties, but knowing that God is faithful and ever-present with them should give them strength.

The final leg of their journey is more than 100 miles over an almost waterless and dusty plateau. The prospect of the Promised Land, with its abundance of milk and honey, must have seemed very distant. Yet the people persevered and obediently followed God’s direction.

Luke 5:29-6:11. The word for “complained” in Luke 5:30 shares the same meaning as the word for “grumbling” in Deuteronomy 1:27. Rather than offering a minor complaint, the Pharisees were grumbling against God. Their issue concerned table fellowship, which was a sign of mutual acceptance. The Pharisees definitely thought of themselves as better than tax collectors who were the lowest of the low on the social ladder.

Fasting, discussed in 5:33-39, was a serious expression of worship and was practiced during numerous Jewish festivals. Every Monday and Thursday, the Pharisees resolutely practiced this spiritual discipline. When Jesus compared a fast with an impending wedding (see verses 34-35),  the religious leaders understood that he was referring to God’s relationship with his people. Jesus was saying to the Pharisees, “I am God.”

Through his subsequent parables, he proclaimed a new way for the spiritual life. New cloth on old will tear away from the old as soon as it is washed. Simply putting a patch on the old ways won’t work.

In the same way, Jesus’ listeners would have understood immediately what happens when you pour new wine into old wineskins—the new wine will ferment and split the skin. Similarly, trying to force this new way into the old way of doing things will not work.

In verse 39, he says, “And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’ ” Jesus is probably saying that he knows there are some, the ones who have practiced the old ways, who will not accept him and who will continue in their old ways.

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Moses gives much better advice than Jerry Seinfeld about where to turn when facing problems—in marriage or in life. We need to look at our history and remember everything that God has already done in our lives. Moses reminds us to remain obedient to God, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable issues, even when the Promised Land, the blessings, seem far away and unattainable. God will bless you if you remain faithful and follow his lead.

Moses modeled this to us. Because he kept his focus on God’s power and faithfulness, he kept his problems in perspective. The people repeatedly focused on what seemed impossible and turned to go their way, which brought them impoverishment. When they returned to God, they experienced his blessings.

Similarly, Jesus shows us God’s way, which differs greatly from the world’s way. All of us should be different from people who follow their own way. Jesus said that he came for those who recognize their need and who are willing to repent of the old ways of life. His way is not the way of rules and doing it your way. His way is the way of love—loving God and loving others as yourself. Come, repent of your ways and learn his way.

Not everyone in marriage is fighting as Seinfeld claims. He is showing how to do it your own way. Our readings, today, call us to turn, not to others who are doing it wrong, but to Jesus, the one who can show us the way of love, the way of loving God and others.


  1. How are the complaints of the Pharisees and teachers of the law similar or different from the people in Deuteronomy? From us today?
  2. How has God helped you in the past?
  3. What principles for wise living do these passages give us?
  4. The next time you are facing problems or conflicts, should you handle the situation differently? If so, how?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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Do You Believe In Miracles?

Kathryn Kuhlman was a “faith healer” (she hated that title as the Youtube clip shows), a Presbyterian who lived in Pittsburgh during the middle part of the last century.  She was loved by some and distrusted by others.  She had a habit of showing up on stage in a slinky black dress with see-through sleeves and acting in dramatic ways.  But the fact is people were healed during her services.  Really.  I know one quite well.  The sad fact is that not all got healed and no one, especially Kathryn, knew why.  She never pretended to be the healer, only a conduit.  She lived in a fine home surrounded by a security fence and additional security, knowing that she was continually a possible target of one who didn’t get healed

In a way, all of our Scripture readings today deal with things that lead to health—be it personal or national.  Look for this theme as you read our four lessons.

Our “second” guest blogger today is Rev. Mike Mullin. A retired pastor, he and his wife Elaine split their time living in Cincinnati, Ohio and the Colorado mountains. Thanks Mike for pitching in today! He contributed to the February 1 post.


Numbers 33:40-35:34
Luke 5:12-28
Psalm 65:1-13
Proverbs 11:23


Numbers 33:40-56. Were you struck by the precise detail of the camping places?  In his book, Why I Believe the late D. James Kennedy notes that archaeology has not once uncovered contradiction of the biblical record.  Just a thought.

The command in verses 51-56 seems harsh, but is it?  The Canaanites could note how God has preserved Israel and turn to him.  They haven’t.  God knows how easily we can be corrupted and Israel has demonstrated their tenuous trust.  This command demonstrates God’s sovereignty over all mankind, and his judgment of those who fail to receive him.

Luke 5:12-16. We have noted before that leprosy could be a variety of skin conditions.  Here Luke, the physician, uses a medical term describing the extent of this man’s ailment.

In verse 14, Jesus sent the healed leper to the priest. Going to the priest accomplished several things.  It fulfilled the law and verified that the man was healed so he could be released by the priest into society.  It was also testimony to the ministry of Jesus.

Luke 5:17-28. The famous hole-in-the-roof story.  Pharisees are present.  Their name means “separated ones.”  Many scholars believe Jesus leaned toward the Pharisees and his battles with them were like family squabbles.  But the Pharisees just didn’t get it.  Here Jesus takes the opportunity to speak directly to the legalism of the Pharisees, and to demonstrate that he is God among them.

Read verse 26 carefully. If the Pharisees didn’t believe Jesus was God at least they were filled with awe!

Psalm 65. The NIV Study Bible notes describe this psalm as:

A hymn of praise of God’s great goodness to his people.  In answer to their prayers (1) he pardons their sins so that they continue to enjoy the “good things” of fellowship with him at his temple (3-4); (2) he orders the affairs of the world so that international turbulence is put to rest and Israel is secure in her land (vv 5-8); and (3) he turns the promised land in at veritable Garden of Eden (vv 9-13).

Is this a kind of healing?

Proverbs 11:23. Advice on how to stay healthy?

This proverb predates Paul’s advice to the Philippian Church but he may have gotten the wisdom here: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8)

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I have always been fascinated by miracles.  I thought it would be great fun to be able to heal the sick.  Graciously, once in a while, God does permit me to know the unrevealed truth or to be present for a healing but he has brought me much further.

Reading about Israel questioning every step in the wilderness and often failing to see how God was teaching and guiding and protecting them is like looking in a mirror.  I’m that way, too!  Ouch!  Jesus performed miracles because he demonstrated great love for those considered sinful since they were afflicted.  And he performed miracles to demonstrate that he, Jesus, a man from Nazareth whose mother is Mary, is Emmanuel, God with us.

The Apostles’ Creed, apparently an early baptismal confession, never mentions the teachings or miracles of Jesus.  We are to see HIM.  The Pharisees were in awe, but still they didn’t see God who can as easily tell a crippled man to walk as he can forgive his sin.

None of us are called to be Jesus.  We are called to be like him, however.  He spent long hours alone to pray.  So should we.  He was God’s man on earth, come in flesh and blood.  Have you ever considered how difficult it would be if you were God in flesh to reveal your true identity?  In mental hospitals I have met Jesus and even God himself!  See where indiscriminate claims to greatness got them.   Jesus was very wise in his self-revelation.  He often used miracles to reveal himself.

At every miracle there were some who got it.  Most of the influential never got it.


  1. Did today’s reading expand your faith?
  2. Have you ever been a conduit for God’s power?
  3. What is the greatest healing one can experience?
  4. Is thinking good thoughts part of your spiritual discipline?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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