Monthly Archives: May 2010

In Memoriam

For our foreign readers, today is a national holiday in the United States called Memorial Day. It’s the day we commemorate the men and women in the military who have died in service to their country.

Thank you, men and women, for serving our country.

In the spirit of this special day, we’ll read about someone who gave his life in service to all of us.


2 Samuel 17:1-29
John 19:23-42
Psalm 119:129-152
Proverbs 16:12-13


2 Samuel 17:1-29. Ahithophel’s loyalty to Absalom was an extreme surprise to David because he happened to be the father of Bathsheba, David’s beloved wife. Scholars can’t figure out why David’s once-trusted advisor would divide the family like that, but there must have been deep hatred toward his former employer because he advised Absalom to assassinate the king. Perhaps the fiasco involving his daughter’s illicit affair with David simmered deep within until Absalom emerged on the scene.

Hushai, on the other hand, offered much different advice. Remember, he was secretly loyal to David, and joined Absalom’s stable of counselors to undermine the advice of Ahithophel. Whereas Ahithophel advised Absalom to clandestinely assassinate the king and bring a quick end to the resistance, Hushai recommended a massive mobilization of the army. The New Bible commentary offers some interesting insights:

Hushai’s advice was…based on the fact that Absolom’s army was bigger than David’s. The flaw in his scheme (as Hushai well knew) was that it involved a long delay, and so would give David and Joab, with all their military experience, ample time to make proper preparations. Hushai’s scheme was so bad, in fact, that Ahithophel soon committed suicide (verse 23).

Throughout the story of Absalom’s insurrection, we see the hand of God. Absalom accepted Hushai’s “bad” advice, and the men bringing David information about Absalom’s plans were undiscovered in the woman’s well. Even when circumstances appear grim, God is still in control.

John 19:23-42. The legs of the two men hanging beside Jesus on the cross were broken in order to hasten their death. In a crucifixion, people die from asphyxiation. As long as they can support their bodies on the cross, they can delay their death—sometimes living for several days. But if their legs are broken, they can no longer support their weight.

We read, though, that Jesus had already died, so the soldiers decided not to break his legs. This fulfilled the words of the psalmist in Psalm 34:20: “He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” Also, Jewish law mandated that the Passover lamb’s bones must not be broken.

The presence of blood and water when the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side was significant to John and his readers. The New Bible Commentary explains that “John’s intention here is to affirm the physical reality of Jesus’ death, in contrast to the views held by the Docetists, who claimed that he had only appeared to die.”

Jesus was then placed in a grave “in which no one had ever been laid.” This was significant because it meant Jesus’ body wasn’t’ defiled by other bodies laying in the tomb. This likely fulfilled the prophecy in Psalm 16:10, “You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (italics added).

Psalm 119:129-152. Verse 131 caught my attention: “I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.” The message expresses it this way: “My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous!— insatiable for your nourishing commands.”

Such is the desire of those who desire God.

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Not so coincidentally, today our reading in John finishes telling the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.

The last words of Jesus are fairly well-known: “It is finished.” In the Greek language, this is a one-word sentence—tetelestai. It’s an interesting word because it means more than finishing a project or task. The word was used in commerce. When a person paid off a debt, their bill was stamped tetelestai. Paid in full.

My hunch is, most people look at Jesus’ death on the cross and readily accept that their debt of sin is paid. Kind of like a down payment—but we must finish making the payments.

In Jesus’ case, though, he paid our debt of sin in full. What does this mean?

Every law written in the old covenant (found in Genesis through Deuteronomy) was fulfilled.

When we give our lives to Jesus, every fragment of sin from our past, present, and future is completely forgiven. We need no longer fear that our darkest secrets will endanger our position of eternity with Jesus.

Even the minutest sins we commit—the ones we never realize we’re committing—are forever forgiven.

We can do nothing to earn our salvation.

We’re free to live without the fear of messing up and endangering our relationship with Jesus. For this reason, Martin Luther once said, “Love God and sin boldly.”

When we realize Jesus paid our debt of sin IN FULL, we live with boldness and confidence.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does Jesus’ words “Paid in full” mean to you?

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

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When The Best Of Times Are The Worst Of Times (And Vice Versa)

Years ago, I served as an associate pastor in a church that included a number of ex-convicts who lived in a halfway house. Their exuberance about their faith challenged me in my walk with God. “I know how much I need Jesus,” they would tell me. “Without him, I’d be living on the streets taking drugs.” Their humility and enthusiasm brought life to our church.

Nearly all of them attended our church religiously and then suddenly disappeared. Finally, I asked the director about the problem.

“As long as they live in the halfway house outside of the inner city, they’re okay. But the minute they begin earning enough money to purchase a car, they drive into the city, buy drugs, and then drop out of the program.’

Strange. A “blessing” from God actually became a curse. And what seemed like a curse (serving time in jail) actually became a blessing to the men because it brought them into a relationship with Jesus.

How can this be?

Please join me in today’s reading.


2 Samuel 14:1-16:23
John 18:1-19:22
Psalm 119:97-128
Proverbs 16:8-11


2 Samuel 14:1-16:23. After fleeing from Israel for killing his half-brother Amnon, Absalom receives permission from his father David to return. The first warning sign about Absalom is his description: “In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him” (2 Samuel 14:25). If you remember, Saul was “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others” (1 Samuel 9:2). God isn’t opposed to a person’s impressive appearance, but it can deceive people about a person’s true character. Absalom being one.

The ringleader behind Absalom’s return was Joab, the commander of David’s army. So why was he so concerned about bringing Absalom back to Israel? He assumed the man would become the next king. Yet, as we’ve already read, God chooses people not based on appearance but on the heart.

After returning to Israel, David refused to see his estranged son. This inactivity on David’s part added to the increasing estrangement between the father and son. And, now that he lived in Israel, Absalom was able to build support for conspiring against the king.

As we read on, we see people devoted to Saul expressing their allegiance to Absalom.

In little time, David lost nearly everything: his kingdom, the devotion of Israel, his palace and belongings, even his son. Upon arriving at his next destination, we read that he was exhausted—not only physically but emotionally. Then we read these familiar words: “And there he refreshed himself” (2 Samuel 16:14). This is reminiscent of what we read earlier about David when he was on the run from Saul: “But David found strength in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6).

John 18:1-19:22. Notice the irony in Jesus’ trial: The Jewish leaders didn’t want to enter the Roman palace because it would defile them and prevent them from partaking in the Passover ceremonies (John 18:28). Yet, at the same time they were orchestrating the murder of an innocent man.

After standing before Pilate, three times the Roman governor proclaimed Jesus’ innocence. Why was this so significant to John that he mentions it three times in his gospel? My guess is, John wanted people to know Jesus wasn’t crucified by the Romans for political reasons. He was crucified because he claimed to be the son of God.

Psalm 119:97-128. Reading this psalm, I can’t help asking myself, How often do I desire God’s word like the psalmist? If I truly believed they would bring me life, I would act much differently toward it. And it does bring me life!

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Today’s reading begins with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. When the soldiers and religious leaders arrive to arrest him, Jesus responds by saying, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11).

This sounds eerily familiar with David’s words when Shimei cursed him: “If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’” (2 Samuel 16:10).

This brings into question God’s role in our pain.

Years ago, I had God pretty well figured out: All pain came from the devil and anything associated with comfort or provision came from God. But examining the words of David and Jesus seems to imply that God is the author of at least some of our pain.

It seems that in our society, pain and inconvenience are seen as the ultimate curse. But something tells me God’s perspective on pain is different than ours. If pain brings about our ultimate good, wouldn’t it come from God? And alternatively, if riches and comfort draw us away from God, shouldn’t we consider it a curse?

David treated Shimei with respect because he knew that God would ultimately do what is right. In the same way, Jesus welcomed the cross with joy (Hebrews 12:2) because he knew his pain (and death) would result in the offer of salvation to the whole world.

Perhaps God is far better, wiser, and more loving than we ever thought!


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. When has a “curse” ended up becoming a blessing in your life?
  3. What does this say about God?

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

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The Glory of Self-Promotion

This week is the culmination of many television programs for the broadcast season. Lee DeWyze was voted the next American Idol, and Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussy Cat Dolls and her partner Derek Hough won the dance competition on Dancing With The Stars.

At some level, all the contestants on these programs promoted themselves. In fact, most recognizable personalities in our society draw their living from promoting themselves.

Is promoting ourselves a noble or self-absorbed pursuit?

Please join me as we explore this further.


2 Samuel 13:1-39
John 17:1-26
Psalm 119:81-96
Proverbs 16:6-7


2 Samuel 13:1-39. Like father, like son. Just as David had committed sexual sin, so Amnon followed in the steps of his father. Since he was David’s eldest son, Amnon was the heir apparent to the throne—a scary thought considering how Amnon treated his half-sister Tamar.

While David was furious with his son for raping his sister, we see no evidence of any retribution. Nothing is done to Amnon and Tamar is left in disgrace. Because of this, Absalom, Tamar’s brother takes justice into his hands.

Even worse, we see no evidence of David comforting his disgraced daughter. Because David did nothing, we read in verse 20 that she came under the care of her brother Absalom. Despite David’s brokenness over his sin with Bathsheba and the warnings of calamity on his household, David demonstrated a disturbing aloofness toward his family and the laws of Israel. This inactivity on David’s part likely planted the seeds of discontent in Absalom.

Following in the violent footsteps of his half-brother, Absalom killed Amnon and then fled.

This was fulfillment of Nathan’s words to David: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you’” (2 Samuel 12:11).

Like a chemical chain reaction, our actions affect others. Think about how many people were affected by David and Bathsheba’s sin:

  • Uriah, who was wrongly killed on the battlefield.
  • Other brave warriors who died on the battlefield (as Eugene mentioned yesterday)
  • Uriah’s grief-stricken family
  • The extended families of David and Bathsheba who were disappointed by the couple’s actions
  • The unborn baby who died in Bathsheba’s womb
  • Amnon—who learned sexual impropriety (to some extent) from his father David and was later murdered by his brother Absalom
  • Tamar—who was raped by Amnon
  • Absalom—who was enraged by his brother’s actions and father’s inaction. This led him to start an insurrection against David which eventually led to his death.
  • Israel—who felt betrayed by David’s actions (and inactions regarding his sons) which laid the groundwork for Absalom to rebel and steal the hearts of Israel from his father.

We may not serve in positions of influence like David, but I can name countless people whose actions have affected people—some of whom they never met.

John 17:1-26. This chapter probably gives us the best window into the way Jesus prayed and into the relationship between Jesus and his heavenly Father.

Of the many profound insights Jesus makes in this passage, one stands out to me. In describing his followers, Jesus prays: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Jesus’ concern was that his followers would huddle together to the exclusion of people who don’t follow Jesus in order to avoid being stained by the outside world. This is assuredly a prayer Jesus continues to pray to the Father today.

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As a writer and occasional published author, I periodically experience seasons when I must promote something I’ve written. When my book Strange Fire, Holy Fire was released about 18 months ago, it brought to the surface a quandary that has plagued me for years. Amidst the marketing promotion my publisher organized on my behalf, I felt deeply uncomfortable about promoting myself. And to be honest, I wasn’t exactly diligent about marketing the book from my end. I subconsciously (perhaps even consciously) convinced myself that promoting my book was prideful.

This morning, reading Jesus’ prayer in John 17 made me realize that I was completely wrong in my assumptions.

Here’s what Jesus prayed to his father: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you…And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:1, 5).

Jesus was quite comfortable asking to be glorified because he knew that he would take that glory and return to this Father.

Here’s what I learned from Jesus this morning: receiving the adulation of others isn’t wrong, if we pay it forward to our heavenly Father. In fact, I’m coming to realize that promoting ourselves (or our work) isn’t wrong either, as long as we pay it forward to God. Actually, that “self-promotion” might actually be God-ordained.

It really goes back to what we do with the glory we receive.

If we keep it to ourselves, we place ourselves in the unenviable position of setting ourselves up for a fall (see Proverbs 16:18).

But if we genuinely reflect it toward God, then the glory we receive servers a greater purpose than just promoting ourselves.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How have your actions affected others? How might decisions you’re making right now affect people in the future?
  3. What does it look like for you to “pay forward” the glory you receive from others to God?

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

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What Do Bob Newhart and Jesus and Nathan the Prophet All Have in Common?

Comedian Bob Newhart reminds me a lot of Jesus. Okay so Jesus didn’t perform stand up comedy, or star in hilarious TV sitcoms, though I believe Jesus was funnier than he is portrayed by all those deadly serious British actors. Nor did Bob Newhart change the world. But I digress.

Bob Newhart and Jesus were both great story tellers. In the original Bob Newhart Show Bob played a psychologist who stammered through the surreal situations his crazy patients and friends drew him into. His solutions to their problems usually came in the form of a story. “Emily,” he would say to Suzanne Pleshette, who played his wife Emily, “that reminds me of a story.”

Jesus did likewise. And the prophet Nathan did too when approaching David with the truth about David’s sin. Why?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

2 Samuel 12:1-31

John 16:1-33

Psalm 119:65-80

Proverbs 16:4-5


2 Samuel 12:1-31: God is never without a voice. He always has someone he can call on. Nathan only shows up here and in the early part of 1 Kings. And he is called on in extremely difficult situations.

David and Bathsheba’s child dies despite the baby’s innocence and David’s repentance, fasting, and prayer. This seems unfair and even cruel. But in order to honor the freedom God grants each of us, God cannot subvert or remove the consequences of those very free choices. David chose his course and God did not alter it.

John 16:1-33: One core idea of this passage contradicts some tenants of a wide stream of modern Christianity. Jesus tells us that following him will bring us trouble and persecution. Yet many today seem to believe in a Jesus whose sole job is to make them happy and keep them safe (in the U.S. we have transferred much of this belief to our government). Jesus promises us both peace and trouble. Seeking only half the equation means we may only get half of Jesus.

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For the majority of human history story (factual and fictional) has  functioned as the major way we communicate truth and important ideas with one another.  As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, Scripture itself is 75-80% narrative. Even in today’s rational, scientific, “just the facts, ma’am” world, ideas (good and bad ones) are often more effectively communicated through story than any other medium.

For example, several scholars wrote tomes containing the questionable idea that Jesus did not die on the cross and after waking up may have married Mary Magdalene. But no one paid attention until Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code” hit the book stores. Even in our biblically illiterate world, the best known Bible stories are the ones that have been made into movies and books. Story, though much maligned, especially in Christian circles, is and has been an extremely powerful communication tool.

This is why Bob Newhart and Jesus told so many stories and why Nathan confronted David about his dangerous moral failure using fiction.

Notice how Nathan’s story contains elements David’s relates to. David too was an underdog and a shepherd. On hearing the story, David relates and his newly hardened heart is cracked wide open.

Story simultaneously knocks down our defenses and invites us in to the process of change and growth. Had Nathan come to David with bold, only factual accusations, he may not have lived to help David repent. Nathan’s little lamb story also reached David’s emotions and not just his head. It is always harder to deny and debate feelings What we call facts are always debatable. Stories travel that long road between the head and heart faster.

God too is a storyteller. It is his surest way of reaching our heads and hearts. Below are a couple of questions to help you explore the stories God may be using to form you.

  1. What biblical story has made the biggest impact on you?
  2. What is your story?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog


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Do You Tweet, Skype, or Facebook? Are You Linkedin?

Are you connected? With the proliferation of cell phones, the internet, and social media we can connect and communicate with almost anyone almost anywhere in the world. Just a glance at Twitter tells me one friend just ate a delicious cookie. Another tweeted he was seeking prayer for his church.

Trivial? Mundane? No. They are identical to the crumbs of conversation friends would drop casually while sitting on the back deck of an evening. Identical except . . . . They just happen to be bits of electronic data flung across the planet.

Identical except this electronic connecting makes me yearn for more.

“What kind of cookie? Pray for what?” I would ask if we were physically close. I would listen to the tone as well as the words, taste the cookie, grasp hands to pray and feel heat or cool–but life anyway. A deeper more organic connection would happen, the kind of connection Jesus is referring to when he calls himself the vine.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

2 Samuel 9:1-11:27

John 15:1-27

Psalm 119:49-64

Proverbs 16:1-3


2 Samuel 9:1-11:27: 75-80% of the Bible is narrative, true story. Sometimes then it helps to read these sections not as propositional problems to be solved but stories to be drawn in to and experienced.

This section of 2 Samuel reads like the key chapter in a well written novel. We open the chapter with David, our protagonist, stepping into his long fought for role as king of Israel. Instead of disposing of all those who may contest his throne, he grants mercy and protection to Jonathan’s son and reaches out a royal hand of fellowship to the son of an opposing king. He truly is a different kind of king, not just from Saul, but from any we have read about so far. He is fearless, righteous, brave, kind, and a man after God’s own heart.

As readers we love David; we believe in him.

Then as our hopes soar, David falls as far and as horribly as any despot ever. The chapter ends with David using his power to seduce a married woman. He orders his entire army into battle to cover up that sin. Uriah, the husband, is killed along with other good and true soldiers. The scepter he wielded with justice and mercy now drips with innocent blood.

And as with any good page turner, we plunge on in the story asking, “How will this end? If there is no hope for one such as David, how can there be hope for me?”

The Author smiles and says, “Read on. I have a surprise ending in store for you that you will just not believe.”

John 15:1-27: In the discussion of Jesus readying his disciples for his death and departure and of the coming of the Holy Spirit, we often overlook a key fact. Jesus, being God in flesh, is bound by time and space. He spent time with a few disciples in part because his divinity was constrained by his humanity. While he remained thus he could only be present to those in close proximity. Though he lived and died and rose for all, he could not be present to all. Only God the Holy Spirit could.

I’ve heard many people say they wish they could have seen Jesus while he walked the earth. That is a tantalizing thought. But unless you or I were Jewish or Roman living within approximately 100 miles of Jerusalem, we would have lived and died without ever knowing Jesus ever took a breath. The Holy Spirit, however, not being bound by flesh and time and space, brings God the Father and God the Son’s close, comforting, tangible presence to us anywhere, anytime just as Jesus did for those few who saw physically him. We are the fortunate ones.

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Some people think that Jesus used so many agrarian word pictures because of the time in which he lived. But if Jesus had come in 2010 instead of the first century, I don’t believe he would have changed his agrarian “I am the vine” metaphor to match modern times. In attempting to sound hip and relevant he would not have said, “I am the internet. Stay online with me.”

Isaac Asimov, the great science fiction writer, unknowingly predicting the internet, wrote a story about when one final connection of a massive telephone system was made, the system came to life and took over the world. But obviously this has not happened and will not. The internet is inanimate, inorganic, dead. The internet, more connected and massive than even Asimov could imagine, only is able to pass on information, some of it even useful.

Jesus, however, came not just to pass on information about life, but life itself. And life is organic and calls for a connection altogether different than the internet provides. Jesus saying he is the vine uses no mere handy word picture to try and help us understand him. If I disconnect from the internet, I may lose touch with distant people and information but I am still alive. If I disconnect from Jesus, like a branch broken and hanging by a strip of bark, I slowly (so slowly I may not for years notice) dry up and die.

In calling himself the vine once again Jesus reminds me that knowing about him is not enough. Nor is believing in him so that one day I can go to heaven. Knowing Jesus means being inseparably connected heart, soul, and strength to him.

Are you connected? Being connected through the internet is good, but it’s not enough, especially where Jesus is concerned. If we are not growing and changing, producing fruit, if his life, blood, wisdom, peace, forgiveness–his very self–is not flowing flow through us from the moment we believe on, then we had better check our connection.

  1. What theme or idea that connects these four readings?
  2. When have you been most connected to Jesus?
  3. What is your story?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog

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The Rat In The Locker

“Hello, this is Lisa Myles,” my voicemail informed me this morning. “Your daughter is on ‘in-school’ suspension for sticking a dead rat in another girl’s locker. Over the weekend it began decomposing and our custodian has had to disinfect the girl’s locker twice. The girl isn’t a friend of your daughter’s, so we know it isn’t a practical joke. I’m sorry, but we won’t let her go to the amusement park with the rest of her class next week.”

The minute I heard “dead rat,” I knew my daughter had been involved. It’s a long story that brings a conclusion to a very difficult and frustrating seventh grade year.

The question is, how do I talk to her about it?

My default setting is set to: “yell at her, threaten her, get in her face, and ground her for the rest of her life.”

But I know a deeper issue is at work. As much as I want her to obey me with no questions asked, today’s reading helps me understand a better approach to conversing with my daughter when she comes home from school today.

It also reflects the way our loving God seeks to work on our issues with all of us.

Please join me.


2 Samuel 7:1-8:18
John 14:15-31
Psalm 119:33-48
Proverbs 15:33


2 Samuel 7:1-8:18. After consolidating his power in Israel, what was David’s first order of business? When many kings would begin enjoying the privileges of being king (i.e. building a palace), David sought to build a permanent home where Israel would gather to worship.

God saw David’s heart and rewarded him by promising him descendants on the throne for generations. Until Israel’s sin prompted God to send the nation into exile 480 years later in 586 B.C, a descendant of David sat on the throne. Eventually, a descendant would be born into David’s lineage who would reign as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Although David didn’t build the temple (see verses 13-14), he began preparations for the massive building project.

Reading chapter 7, I can’t help noticing the intimate relationship David enjoyed with God. This didn’t suddenly appear in chapter 7—it was the result of an ongoing relationship over a process of years.

John 14:15-31. Despite the fact that he was about to be crucified, Jesus explains that the “prince of the world” (i.e. the devil) has no hold on him (v.30). In other words, Satan wasn’t orchestrating Jesus’ journey to the cross—Jesus and his Father in heaven were. Obedience to the Father meant going to the cross.

The literal translation of verse 30 is even more forceful. Literally translated, Jesus said the prince of the world, “has nothing in me.” The New American Standard Bible probably translates it most accurately: “For the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in me.”

Even when it appears that darkness is overwhelming us, Satan has absolutely no power over Jesus.

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Three times in John 14, Jesus makes a connection between love and obedience:

  • “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (v. 15).
  • “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (v.21).
  • “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (v. 23).

Notice what comes first: Love. Obedience is the natural outgrowth of our love-relationship with God.

Looking at it from another perspective, our lives reveal the measure of our love-relationship with God.

What’s the point? God desires to establish an intimate relationship with us—which becomes very clear in John 15 (tomorrow’s reading).

Not coincidentally, Jesus describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit here as our counselor. The word refers to someone who comes alongside us and helps us in this endeavor.

The relationship between love and obedience is further evident in our reading from Psalms. “Direct me in the path of your commands,” the psalmist writes, “for there I find delight” (Psalm 119:35).

So what’s the underlying connection between love and obedience? When I love someone, I want to do whatever pleases that person. Not out of duty but out of delight. That’s why John can later write in his first epistle, “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

The key to working with my daughter lies in connecting with her heart. The deeper my wife and I can attach to her, the more we’ll see her behave. This is a challenge for her because before we adopted her five years ago, she bounced around from home to home in the foster care system. Attaching–and therefore obedience–is hard for her.

But the same applies to our relationship with God.

Obedience devoid of a relationship with God is lifeless duty. But an intimate love-relationship with God naturally leads to obedience. We call this worship.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. If, like David, you had ultimate control over your life and could accomplish all of your dreams regardless of cost, what would you do? What does it reveal about your priorities?
  3. What ongoing feuds do you have with God? How might a deepening relationship with him make a difference?
  4. How do you grow deeper in your love-relationship with God?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

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

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With summer upon us, we’re entering my favorite season of the year: grilling season.

Years ago, a friend shared his favorite marinade with us. Here’s my favorite marinade:

  • Minced garlic
  • Soy sauce

My favorite way to use this marinade is with salmon. Try it and you’ll thank me.

If you marinate your favorite meat for just a couple of minutes, you won’t taste the marinade. The secret of any good marinade is time.

On the other hand, if I marinate my meat for too long, then all I taste is the marinade.

Like a master griller, God knows just how long to let us soak before using us.

Today, you’ll read about his marination process with one person in particular.

Please join me!


2 Samuel 4:1-6:23
John 13:31-14:14
Psalm 119:17-32
Proverbs 15:31-32


2 Samuel 4:1-6:23. Upon the desertion and death of Abner, Ish-Bosheth—an already weak king—became even weaker. It was just a matter of time until his reign, and the short-lived dynasty of Saul, would come to an end.

Two of Ish-Bosheth’s military leaders, Recab and Baanah, assassinated their king and brought his head to David. Rather than reward them, David demanded that their lives be taken as well. Scholars speculate about the reasoning behind David’s actions. He obviously believed that only God should remove a king from his power. But also, he certainly didn’t want to appear to grab the throne of Israel by force. But one underlying reason for objecting to Ish-Bosheth’s murder is because this man was Jonathan’s brother. At some level, David must have felt a sense of loyalty to this man—despite the fact that both were vying for leadership of a unified Israel.

Upon the death of Saul’s son, the rest of Israel recognized that David was the obvious choice for king. Not only would he be the obvious choice for commander-in-chief, but he had also demonstrated the needed qualities to lead.

In his first act of king, David led his men into battle to take possession of Jerusalem. Why Jerusalem? Because it sits on a bluff, making it much more difficult for attacking armies to conquer.

The New Bible Commentary also explains: “It was much more central than Hebron, and since it lay in Benjamite territory, it would help the northern Israelites to feel that David was truly king of all Israel.”

David then expanded the influence of Jerusalem by making it not only the political capital, but also the spiritual capital of Israel when he brought in the ark of the covenant.

John 13:31-14:14. What does obedience to Jesus look like? “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

The first part of John14  does not place the disciples in a positive light. Thomas asks for further explanation on the way to heaven—failing to realize Jesus was the way. Philip then says, “Just show us the father and that will be enough for us.” In other words, after spending three years with Jesus, listening to him preach and seeing him talk about his relationship with the father, they still didn’t get it. Remember, this was the week of Jesus’ death.

Psalm 119:17-32. “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times” (Psalm 119:20). Reading this section, it quickly becomes apparent that the psalmist is longing for more than mere rules. The psalmist recognizes that obedience to God brings life.

Then we read in verse 32, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Rather than bring bondage, obedience to God brings freedom. How can this be?

Proverbs 15:31-32. Seemingly building on our reading in the psalms, Solomon tells us, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.”

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Have you noticed how long David waited to become king? After being anointed king, he spent much of his 20s on the run from Saul, but then waited seven more years until he became ruler of a unified Israel. He may have spent as much as 20 years waiting to become king, proving that God is never in a hurry to thrust us into new positions of responsibility. Not enough can be said about the importance of seasoning.

I must admit that I’m not a very good at waiting. All too often I fail to realize that seasoning takes time. Yet that’s what God chose to do with David—and often chooses to do with us.

In order to prepare us for his purposes, God often allows us to soak in his divine marinade. His intention is to bring out our true selves, while giving off the distinct flavor of Jesus.

And what can this look like?

  • Waiting.
  • A dead-end job.
  • Pain.
  • Frustration.
  • Persecution.

The list goes on.

It doesn’t appear very glorious—and neither did David’s season of marination. Yet at the right time, when David’s heart was ready, God thrust him into new prominence.

I can’t promise that this is true for every person who encounters hardship, but at a minimum, God can redeem every tear.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How have you experienced freedom by following God’s commands?
  3. What’s your favorite marinade?
  4. What has God used to marinate you?

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

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An Awkward, Endearing Experience

Earlier in my writing career, I spent two years ghostwriting books for television evangelists. No, most famous personalities don’t write the books they “author.” They simply don’t have the time nor are they likely to be adept at speaking, running a large-scale ministry, and writing. Usually, the publisher sent me a bunch of sermon transcripts with the charge, “Make it into a book.”

I chuckle when I consider that I only met one of the eight or nine men who contracted me to write their books. But I digress…

On one of my ghostwriting projects, I became increasingly upset over the sloppy theology and downright heresy that the man was professing from the pulpit. My integrity wouldn’t allow me to include some of his core material. I wanted to quit the project but I needed the money. In fact, despite being fairly busy as a fulltime writer, all of my publishers were paying me extremely late. So time was ticking as my bank account was being quickly depleted to nothing.

One afternoon my wife came down to my office and announced, “Mike, in two days we’re going to have an automatic withdrawal come out of our bank account. If we don’t deposit some money SOON, we’re going to bounce checks everywhere.”

Ever been there?

So that afternoon I called this televangelist’s ministry. “Umm,” I stuttered. “I apologize for making this request, but I’m in a financial bind. Is there any way you could pay me early…and send my check overnight?” This is a definite no-no in the publishing industry.

“Not a problem,” the voice on the end responded without hesitation. The next day, my check arrived and our financial crisis was averted.

Immediately, my attitude toward the televangelist changed. Although he still needed me to pull him out of his heretical holes, the graciousness of this ministry changed my attitude toward them.

It’s funny. Although I share little in common with the man’s beliefs, I’d consider writing another book for him—just because he washed my feet.

If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, please join me in this weekend’s Bible conversation.


2 Samuel 1:1-3:39
John 12:20-13:30
Psalm 118:19-119:16
Proverbs 15:27-30


2 Samuel 1:1-3:39. It’s ironic that the man delivering news about Saul’s death happened to be an Amalekite—since David had just rescued his family from the Amalekites. The man was probably lying in order to get on David’s good side, but his poor decision resulted in his death (David didn’t know that Saul had already fallen on his sword and died). Since the nameless man was a resident alien in Israel, his act would have been perceived as insurrection. Had David allowed the man to live, it could have been perceived by the rest of Israel as support for the assassination.

After Saul’s death, David was named king…of Judah. That was the tribe he came from, which explains why they were the only ones to follow him.

David’s special message to the city of Jabesh Gilead is mentioned because the city had strong links to Saul (1 Samuel 11; 31:11-13).

In chapter 3, we read about David demanding that King Ish-Bosheth of Israel return Michal to him. If you remember, she was the prize King Saul awarded David (but never married) for defeating Goliath. However, in a fit of anger, Saul gave her to Paltiel (1 Samuel 25:44). But in order to have her returned, she had to be taken away from her husband. This is an extremely sad story because Paltiel truly loved his wife.

So why would David want Michal? It was a link to Saul’s family, giving him a right as Saul’s successor to the throne. What I can’t understand is, why would Ish-Bosheth cooperate?

John 12:20-13:30. Jesus makes clear his reason for coming to earth: to glorify his father. Although the word is bantered around quite a bit in Christian circles, I think it’s beneficial to look at what the word means. According to my various Greek dictionaries, “glorify” means “to honor, bestow honor upon, exalt in dignity, render glorious.”

In the midst of this, we read an interesting statement in John 12:42-43:

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in [Jesus]. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

Here is where knowing a little Greek can be more than a little fun. The word “praise” in this passage is basically the same Greek word as “glorify.” So, John is saying that Jesus came to glorify God, and in the same way, our calling as followers of Jesus is to live in the pursuit of God glorifying us.

Sounds almost heretical, doesn’t it? But it’s true.

Psalm 118:19-119:16. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It’s an acrostic poem, meaning every stanza begins with a successive letter from the Hebrew alphabet. In this case, the psalm is broken into 23 sections (the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet). Each stanza or verse within the section begins with its representative letter.

While reading through this psalm, it quickly becomes apparent that the psalmist loves the word of God and the laws of God. Rather than ink on a scroll or meaningless actions, life in the word is full of life.

If anything, this psalm gives meaning to our daily Bible conversation.

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I was a little nervous. For the first time in my life, I was participating in a foot-washing service. Everyone at church showed up and said very little. Then the men and women formed separate groups and proceeded to their separate rooms. What’s the big deal about separating the men from the women? I asked myself. I soon discovered why.

From our group of 12-14 men, we divided into pairs and grabbed a pail of lukewarm water and a chair. My partner offered to wash my feet first.

Taking off my shoes I realized the deep intimacy of this experience. Adding to the awkwardness of the moment, I found out that everyone else had washed their feet before arriving to prevent their fellow foot washers from being overwhelmed by the experience. Unfortunately, no one had informed me of the practice.

So there I sat in my chair while this gracious man began washing the pungent odor from my feet. He didn’t lightly touch them—he held them in his hands and washed them! No wonder Peter didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet. The experience is equally humbling for both the wash-er and the wash-ee.

After the man finished, he gently wiped my feet with a cloth and then traded places with me.

I was thankful that I went second, because had I gone first, I would have barely touched the man’s feet. Instead, I knelt on my knees, grabbed his feet with both hands and washed them better than I had ever washed my own. We still weren’t saying a word, but by now the awkwardness was gone. When I finished, I wiped the man’s feet with a cloth, which naturally led to a hug.

This man’s initial act of humility broke down a barrier between the two of us. Although we hadn’t seen eye-to-eye on certain things before our foot washing ceremony, I began seeing him with new eyes.

When Jesus knelt down and washed his disciple’s feet and told them to do likewise, he gave them a secret to winning the hearts of the whole world.

By entering the world of the people around us and serving them, we show them the full extent of our love—and the love of God.

And isn’t that what Jesus did for us?


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. From your reading, what is your impression of Abner? What can you learn from him?
  3. Have you ever literally washed a person’s feet? Has anyone ever washed your feet? What thoughts, impressions, and insights did the experience give you?

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


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Your Happy Place

A few years ago, a billboard greeted travelers on their way into the Colorado Rocky Mountains with the adage: “Go To Your Happy Place.” It was an advertisement for Winter Park, a well-known ski area.

All of us have a “happy place.” It’s the place we go to escape our worries and cares. It’s the place we go to fill up our souls.

Some happy places truly fill us up, and others slowly siphon away our life.

Please join me today as we explore the happiest of all places.


1 Samuel 29:1-31:13
John 11:55-12:19
Psalm 118:1-18
Proverbs 15:24-26


1 Samuel 29:1-31:13. We’ll look at this closer in The Word Made Flesh, but notice that after regaining his possessions from the Amalekites, David sent some of the plunder to his fellow Israelites back in Israel—just to remind them that although he was temporarily living among the Philistines, he was still an Israelite at heart.

In chapter 31, we read that Saul and his sons were killed in battle. This left little doubt who should fill the leadership vacuum for Israel.

Like a well-written novel, the book of 1 Samuel concludes with the reader wondering what will happen to David and the rest of Israel.

John 11:55-12:19. Chapter 12 begins with “Six days before the Passover,” which tells us that we have now entered the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. That means the last 9 chapters of John cover the last six days of Jesus’ earthly life and its aftermath. Obviously, John wants to make this a significant focus of his gospel.

John sets up this scene in chapter 12 with a celebration in honor of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. At one point, Mary  anoints Jesus feet with an expensive perfume and then wipes it with her hair. Like today, this would have been an extremely intimate act, which likely made everyone uncomfortable—except Jesus and Mary. The Bible Background Commentary explains that, “It was customary to anoint the heads of important guests, but a host would provide only water for their feet.”

A little later in our reading, we see Jesus washing his disciple’s feet. In this case, Mary washed Jesus’ feet not with water but with expensive perfume.

Psalm 118:1-18. This psalm was written as a procession that the people sang on their way to the temple. It begins and concludes with the same words: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 136 shares this same theme.

Although we aren’t sure who wrote it, this psalm fits in well with our reading in 1 Samuel.

In today’s reading, the people speak about the Lord. In tomorrow’s reading, the people speak to the Lord. This gives us an overview of intimacy with God (see The Word Made Flesh below). Speaking about God leads to speaking to God. Speaking about God prepares us to speak to him.

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The tension builds as the Philistine and Israelite armies begin fighting. What will David do? By marching at the rear of the Philistine brigade, it’s apparent that David and his men are reluctant to enter the fight. At this point, the Philistine commanders demonstrate more wisdom than their king, and convince him to send David away.

But God’s hand was in this. If David had fought for the Philistines when Saul and Jonathan were killed, he could have been accused by the Israelites of being an accessory to the crime.

So David and his men return home to find their houses burned down, their possessions stolen, and their wives and children kidnapped. All this, compliments of the Amalekites. His own men are so upset with him that they begin talking about stoning him. This was the low ebb of David’s life.

Warren Wiersbe, in his book Be Successful speculates that this was “perhaps a message from the Lord that it was time for David to think about returning to Judah.”

With his family gone and his men turning on him, we read these words: But David found strength in the Lord his God.” Literally, it reads, “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”

While reading, I couldn’t move beyond this phrase. When I’m in distress, when I’m stressed out, I can respond in a variety of ways:

  • Be defensive.
  • Take out my frustrations on my wife or my kids. This is what the David’s men wanted to do to him.
  • Fight.
  • Run away.
  • Disengage from reality.
  • Resort to some sort of numbing agent like alcohol, drugs, or masturbation.
  • Isolate and fall into a deep depression.

But we read that “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”

Earlier in 23:16 we read that in a moment of distress, “Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.”

Remember that entering this same battle, Saul was in distress and he responded by seeking help from the witch of Endor.

But before moving ahead, David entered the sanctuary of the Lord his God (see Psalm 73:17) and then sought spiritual direction through Abiathar the priest.

Bringing our stress, anguish, and brokenness to God isn’t always our first response. Yet, as we read today in Psalm 118, only the love of God endures forever. Only he can sustain us. Only he can bring us the perspective we need to move forward. Only he can give us the strength to persevere.

It’s the happy place that God invites all of us to enter.

It’s his life-giving presence.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How you have found strength in the Lord your God during a time of stress?
  3. How do your words prepare your heart to grow in intimacy with God?

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

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Put…the gun…down.

On Monday of this week, a disgruntled man in my city shot and killed his employers–a husband and wife–before taking his life. Apparently, he was upset over the changes in the way monthly bonuses were distributed.

Now there’s a constructive way to express your feelings and a destructive way. Unfortunately, Robert Montgomery chose the destructive way.

But on a lesser scale, at various times in our lives all of us have worked for an employer who has caused us a great deal of grief or pain. And at times, most of us have had an opportunity to get back at the person.

How do we respond?

Please join me today as we read about one man’s response.


1 Samuel 26:1-28:25
John 11:1-54
Psalm 117:1-2
Proverbs 15:22-23


1 Samuel 26:1-28:25. It’s déjà vu all over again. For a second time, David is given an opportunity to slay his pursuer…and he refuses. While Saul admits his fault in expending so much energy to kill David, the next king of Israel realizes that he needs to move out of the country to preserve his life. Ironically, David moves to Gath—the home of his former opponent Goliath.

Moving to Philistia—Israel’s most ardent enemy—must have been the death of a dream for David. Living in exile, he knew he had no guarantees that he would ever return. Achish, the king of Gath certainly thought so.

And how do we explain David’s ruthless killing? The New Bible Commentary explains, “Basically, it is showing how desperate David’s situation was—a situation which had been created by Saul.”

Eventually, Achish tells (not asks) David that they will be fighting Israel together. This places David in a quandary. He doesn’t want to hurt the people he loves—but also, if he fights for Philistia, he may be alienating himself from the people he desired to someday rule. If he refused to fight for Achish, he could be accused of being a traitor.

John 11:1-54. Although Jesus loved Lazarus, he stayed where he was for two more days before visiting his dear friend. The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead reminds me that while God procrastinates, he’s still always on time.

Every time I read this story, I’m struck by how clued out his disciples were. They failed to understand Jesus (see verses 12-14), and then our friend doubting Thomas made a fatalistic comment that all of them were about to die.

Then, Martha told Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

After that, Mary told him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

No wonder Jesus wept.

This whole story definitely foreshadows Jesus resurrection from the dead (it even includes a cave with a stone rolled in front of it). Caiaphas also comments, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

And Jesus did die, so we wouldn’t perish.

Psalm 117:1-2. The is the shortest psalm in the whole book. But by no means is it insignificant.

By encouraging all the nations and all the peoples to praise the Lord, it implied that someday their faith would move beyond the bounds of Israel. In fact, Paul quoted this passage in Romans 15:11 to show that Jesus is the messiah of the whole world.

Proverbs 15:22. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” This proverb offers us advice that is often left unheeded. Probably the worst decisions I’ve ever made were done in haste…and by myself. “Counsel” doesn’t mean allowing people to say their peace before doing what you were going to do anyway. It means listening.

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Imagine being pursued by 3,000 soldiers. How would you escape? Then imagine hiking into the middle of your pursuers’ camp while they’re sleeping. If you’re discovered, you’re toast! But that’s what David did.

He tiptoes into the camp with Abishai and once again, sees Saul in a vulnerable position. The king is asleep on the ground with his sword stuck in the ground next to his head. Both men could quickly kill the king and run out of the camp before they’re discovered.

What would you do?

Here’s what David said,

But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”

At different times in my life, I’ve had the opportunity to pick up a spear (figuratively) and thrust it into the side of a less-than-honorable superior. David faced the opportunity—twice—yet refused.

If David had killed Saul, he could have brought his endless running to an end.

He would have been able to sleep at night without jumping out of his bed whenever he heard a noise outside.

He could have quickly become king of Israel.

Today’s reading is a window into a man after God’s heart.

What strikes me (pardon the pun) about David, is that he understood God is bigger than his problem. If God had wanted Saul’s reign to end, he would have to end it himself. And he did.

It seems to me the issue here involves authority and rebellion. Since Adam and Eve’s decision to eat the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, God has worked to establish order in his creation. We read in 1 Samuel 15:23 that rebellion is like the sin of divination.

If we truly believe God is sovereign, then we’ll trust that he appoints the people who rule over us. Of course, that doesn’t mean we should live fatalistically nor does it mean that we shouldn’t protest decisions that violate our beliefs or our conscience. But undermining the people in authority over us isn’t our job–it’s God’s.

And you know, there’s an element of comfort in knowing that God is in control. We don’t need to pick up a spear–or a gun–in order to take matters into our hands.

The matter’s already in God’s.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Describe a time when a dream died, and Jesus brought it back to life.
  3. How have you experienced Jesus as the resurrection and the life?
  4. How do you need Jesus to be your resurrection and life?
  5. If you were in David’s shoes, what would you have done? Why?

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


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