Monthly Archives: August 2010

Making Peace With The Unanswered Questions

“I think what’s best for you right now is to be quiet about the accusations,” I told the man. “If word about it spreads around the community, it might ruin your business.”

A very serious accusation had been leveled against an upstanding man in the small town where I served as the pastor. Because the man owned a local business in town, I knew that any negative gossip could drive him into bankruptcy.

Instead, the man called all of his friends and told them about the accusation and then claimed that I had threatened to drive him out of business.

Well, the town gossip train picked up steam which in turn drove him out of business. Then some of the people blamed me for what happened.

I won’t go into the details, but I found myself caught in the middle of a very divisive conflict. I was privy to some very sensitive information which I couldn’t disclose to the townspeople. Yet because they didn’t have all the information, they assumed I was to blame.

Seeing things from one perspective can lead us to faulty conclusions…unless we’ve made peace with the unanswered questions.

Please join us in today’s daily Bible conversation.


Job 37:1-39:30
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:10
Psalm 44:9-26
Proverbs 22:13


Job 37:1-39:30. Elihu’s words set the stage for God to answer everyone’s questions. God answers out of a whirlwind, which was an old symbol of divine revelation. His response can be misunderstood as an angry defense, but the nuances in the text tell us that it isn’t. Although written as a poem, the book of Job is organized like a legal proceeding. So, the judge—God—finally answers.

Proverbs 22:13. “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside!’ or, ‘I will be murdered in the streets!’” The point of this proverb is that lazy people manufacture excuses for laziness. Not that I’m advocating workaholism, but hard work and responsibility are definitely virtues of the Christian walk.

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Job, his three friends, and Elihu have debated God’s role in Job’s suffering. Job has been accused of bringing judgment upon himself while the accused has claimed that he was beyond reproach. But really, Job wasn’t on trial, God was. The five characters in this court proceeding of sorts were really trying to explain God’s role in pain and suffering. They were attempting to answer the unanswered questions.

So God finally appears and answers them…by asking more questions.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” Job 38:4–5

As God rattles off a series of rapid-fire questions about animal life and the mystery of creation, it quickly becomes obvious that they can answer none of them. In the end, God never answers their questions. He only answers them with more questions (which continues into tomorrow’s reading).

Does that feel a little unsettling?

It does to me. Earlier in my life, this realization would have sent my world spinning. But I’m beginning to make peace with living with the unanswered questions: God is God and I am not. He understands the big picture of my life and where they fit into his eternal plans.

When I was on the inside of some very sensitive information at my former church, I knew it was in the best interests of everyone involved that I keep my mouth shut—even if it meant attracting further criticism. I can imagine that God encounters similar situations. Many of them.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. ” Isaiah 55:8–9

Modernism taught us that we are entitled to an explanation for everything. We must understand the inner workings of the atom and demand proof for the existence of God. Yet in the process we have robbed ourselves of mystery. In fact, mystery plays a minimal role in our everyday lives. While some mysteries can be solved, God exists in a realm beyond our explanation.

Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians seem particularly apropos here:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ”2 Corinthians 4:17–18

If anything, our pain and suffering remind us that God has prepared a better place for us, which Paul explains in today’s reading.

The unanswered questions ultimately lead to the most important question: Do you trust him? When I reflect on the deep love God shows us by sending his only son to die for us, when I reflect on his invitation to enter into a relationship with him and join him in his work, I must answer, “Yes, I trust you.”


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. To what extent do you feel comfortable with mystery?
  3. What are some of the unanswered questions in your life? How do you handle them?
  4. Do you trust him? How? Why?

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


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Are You Sure You Want To Be Cool?

The Cool Church meets in Tucson, Arizona. Really. Although their official name is Tucson Community Church, their approach to ministry inspired people to give it the new moniker—and Teaching Pastor David McAllister loves it.

McAllister’s welcome video gives the viewer a better idea of the “cool” mindset of the church. In the video, McAllister explains why they’re cool:

  • He says, “We really believe that God is cool…and that people’s lives are changed when they apply his principles.”
  • They’re one of the fastest growing churches in the country.
  • They never pass an offering plate.
  • They only sing music that they have written.
  • Weekly worship services last only one hour.

To watch the video—and I recommend that you do—click here.

Strangely enough, the senior pastor talks about applying God’s principles three times in the welcome video, yet only mentions “Jesus” in passing once.

Is God cool? Do he need our help to make him more palatable to skeptics?

Please join us for our daily Bible conversation.


Job 34:1-36:33
2 Corinthians 4:1-12
Psalm 44:1-8
Proverbs 22:10-12


Job 34:1-36:33. Elihu’s point is that since God is just (34:10), any criticism by Job of what God does or fails to do is unjust. His address is a little harsh considering Job’s suffering, but his point is well taken. God can only do what is just (34:10-12), even in the face of pain. For this reason, Elihu says, Job’s demand for vindication is sin because it puts God in the wrong (34:37). Elihu strikes me as one of those people who is usually right, but their lack of compassion and arrogance (36:3!) make it hard to receive what they are saying. To Elihu, suffering is God’s discipline. When we stop sinning, then God will stop punishing us. Like Job’s friends, he fails to give God room to act beyond our understanding.

Psalm 44:1-8. Many scholars believe this psalm was composed for a national day of prayer.

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All too often I believe the lie that God needs my help. He needs me to help him look cool. Instead of focusing on Jesus, I focus on biblical principles of success, vague generalities concerning God, or applying Jesus’ moral teachings to our lives. But in the process I offer a palatable gospel that fails to insist that it is Jesus—and not his teachings—that saves us.

One of the most well-known pastors in America says that talking about Jesus “isn’t our ministry.” Instead, he feels called to teach people how to apply the teachings of the Bible so they can live a better life.

How would the apostle Paul respond to this? I think he would say, “HELL NO!”

Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 2 Corinthians 4:2

Here’s the Klassen paraphrase of Paul’s words: God doesn’t need our help to make him look good. We don’t need to ignore or alter truth in order to convince people to accept the gospel. All we need to do is present the truth plainly. “Setting forth the truth plainly” can also be translated “an open declaration of the truth.”

And what is the truth that should be set forth plainly?

But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:23–24

Did you catch that? Paul understood that the true gospel—which focuses on Christ crucified—might also be a stumbling block for people or perceived as foolishness.

How cool is that? Not very.

Preaching “Christ crucified” means stressing the importance that Jesus isn’t a principle to be applied. Jesus died on the cross for our sins because we can do nothing to save us. We can’t be good enough nor can we give enough to win his love and acceptance. We already have it—but we must accept his free gift in order to be saved. Reducing God to a principle demeans the gift that, although free, isn’t cheap.

By all means we should avoid sharing the gospel like Elihu, who addressed Job and beat him up in the process.

But the gospel is brimming with life. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

This gospel isn’t the caricature a cool God who offers us principles of success. That’s called deism. The gospel is the story of a loving God who sent his only son Jesus into the world to save us from ourselves and who gives us the Holy Spirit in order to help us live for him. Best of all, they invite us into a relationship with them.

Now that’s beyond cool. That’s the gospel!


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Watch The Cool Church’s welcome video. What were your impressions? What do you think Paul would say about the video? What do you think Jesus would say?
  3. Describe the God of Elihu in comparison to Job and his friends.

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

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The Gospel According To Weight Watchers

Six years ago I decided it was time to finally get my health in order (read: I was entering my 40s and I recognized it was time to shed some pounds). Previously, I had tried the Atkins diet but failed miserably. While I love eating protein, the requirement that I completely eliminate carbohydrates drove me nuts (sorry for the pun!). I realized that being told NOT to eat something made me want to eat it even more. When Dr. Atkins told me I couldn’t eat any salad, well, that made me crave leafy vegetables, succulent cucumbers and juicy tomatoes–even if I wasn’t a salad eater!

Then a friend introduced me to Weight Watchers (and no, I’m not getting any royalties by talking about them). At my first meeting, they explained that if I wanted to lose weight, I needed to stay within a certain point total each day. They emphasized that Weight Watchers wasn’t a diet because I was free to eat anything—every food and drink was assigned a certain point total based on calories, fat grams, dietary fiber, and volume. If I ate something loaded with calories, I would need to compensate that same day in other areas of my diet.

Within five months I lost 40 pounds!

After my first meeting, I experienced one of those “Aha!” moments. Weight Watchers is based on the New Testament teaching of the new covenant!

Curious? Then join us in our daily Bible conversation.


Job 28:1-33:33
2 Corinthians 2:12-3:18
Psalm 42:1-43:5
Proverbs 22:7-9


Job 28:1-33:33. Job may appear to be droning on and on about his righteousness, but remember that his friends have accused him of evil. So in this section, he’s saying, “If I’ve done evil, then let my suffering become even worse.”

In chapter 32, Elihu enters the stage. He isn’t considered one of Job’s three “friends,” but he’s listened to the exchange and finally can’t stand it any longer. He’s angry at Job and his friends. He’s angry at Job because the man sees himself as “in the right” while God is “in the wrong.” None of us get what we deserve (Job 33:27). He’s angry at Job’s friends because they keep leveling wrongful accusations. In Elihu’s estimation, God allows suffering to prevent us from not just sinning, but making choices that bring death to our souls.
Psalm 42:1-43:5. In some manuscripts, both of these psalms constitute one psalm, which is apparent due to the recurring chorus. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” In the midst of his stress and sorrow, the psalmist speaks these hope-filled words to himself.
Proverbs 22:7. “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” This is a painful but true proverb—especially in light of our sour economy. If you need help getting out of debt, check out Dave Ramsey’s website. I can’t recommend him highly enough.

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In 2 Corinthians 3:7-18, Paul compares the differences between the old covenant and the new covenant. The old covenant was instituted when God gave Moses the 10 Commandments. Basically, it was a list of dos and don’ts—all of them are good and serve as the foundation of law and order in western civilization. Paul doesn’t criticize the old covenant, but he points out that we’ve been given a new and better covenant:

  • the ministry of the Spirit is superior to the ministry that brought death (verses 7–8)
  • the ministry that brings righteousness is better than the ministry that condemns (verse 9)
  • the ministry which lasts is better than that which was fading away (verse 11)

The old covenant was based on rules the govern us from outside ourselves, but the new covenant is based on freedom that guides us from the inside! The new covenant doesn’t eliminate all restraints—just like Weight Watchers gives their adherents a daily point total. But like Weight Watchers, it isn’t based on those restrictions, it’s based on freedom.

All are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God,” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:22–23 (italics added).

Contrary to popular belief, our faith isn’t based on restrictions but on freedom. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Because of Pentecost (Acts 2), the Holy Spirit now lives in us (1 Corinthians 3:16), convicting us and transforming us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:18). If you have given your life to Jesus, the deepest part of you isn’t even you—it’s Jesus, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

What does this mean for us?

As we reflect the heart of the psalmist in today’s reading (Psalm 42:1-2) and live according to the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), we don’t need rules to guide us because the Holy Spirit is guiding us.

That is freedom!


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does a list of rules do to you?
  3. Describe a time when a list of rules inspired you to break them.
  4. What affect does freedom have on you?
  5. What does  walking in new covenant look like in your everyday life?

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

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A Quick End To The Slow Black Death

In the 14th century, as many as 200 million people died as a result of the bubonic plague. The death toll included:

  • 33% of the Middle East population
  • 40% of Egypt’s population
  • 50% of the inhabitants of Paris
  • And the population of Germany was reduced from 170,000 to 40,000.

Wikipedia reports:

The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe’s population, reducing the world’s population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in 1400. This has been seen as creating a series of religious, social and economic upheavals which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europe’s population to recover.

Although the Black Death has ceased ravaging the world’s population, we fight an equally insidious plague that all of us must resist.

Please join us as we discuss this in our daily Bible conversation.


Job 23:1-27:23
2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11
Psalm 41:1-13
Proverbs 22:5-6


Job 23:1-27:23. After listening to his friends continually beat him down, Job has now reached the low ebb of his suffering. He sees God as good, but uncaring. Beyond his suffering, he recounts the suffering he has witnessed in the lives of others. And Job is correct—untold suffering continues to this day without any apparent intervention from God to make things right.

Many scholars believe that in verses 18-25 in chapter 24, Job is quoting his friends or his friends are speaking.

Scholars also believe verses 5-14 in chapter 26 are really a continuation of Bildad’s speech in chapter 25 because they follow the same theme. Remember, this is the oldest book of the Bible, so it’s possible that sections might have been mixed up.

Finally, in chapter 27, Job reaffirms his integrity and his commitment to God. He will not give up nor will he abandon his faith in God.

2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11. Paul’s accusers had claimed Paul was indecisive because he had made a change in plans regarding his visit to them. So, Paul explains himself. Again, Paul didn’t do this to defend himself, he did this to salvage his credibility so his message wouldn’t be undermined.

Psalm 41:1-13. In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever” (verse 12). This is a hard verse to read in light of Job’s suffering. In fact, Job’s integrity is defended three times in the book of Job (Job 2:3; 2:9; 27:5). The word “uphold” means to grasp securely. So did God uphold Job in his integrity? Absolutely. What—or who—was Job’s source of strength in the middle of his suffering? None other than God.

Proverbs 22:6. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” I try to resist the urge to develop formulas, but this is a verse that gives me hope when I struggle to stay positive about my kids. When my oldest daughter was straying far from the faith, my wife continually reassured me, “Honey, seeds have been planted in Anna’s life. She’ll come back.” And she did. Now I offer the same reassurance to other parents.

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A man had sinned. We don’t know the nature of his transgression, but the Christian community in Corinth felt the necessity to punish him. But now, Paul advised, they needed to forgive and comfort the recovering offender. Then Paul concludes his discussion on the topic with these words:

I have forgiven [him] in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:11-12 (italics added)

Paul encouraged the people to forgive the man not only to alleviate his grief, but also fend off Satan and his schemes. What does Satan have to do with forgiveness?


Reading between the lines, it appears that Paul identified Satan’s scheme as the attempt to separate the man from the community. And what specifically was the scheme Satan used? Unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness separates people—in their marriages, friendships and churches. The inability to move forward in a relationship eventually acts like a form of gangrene that slowly eats away the live tissue. The slow black death.

All of us are susceptible to this malady. In fact, every day we’re exposed to opportunities for unforgiveness to take root.

In my past, a supervisor treated me terribly. He undermined me and forced me out of my position, which affected me financially and separated me from many people in my community. Despite my efforts to reconcile our relationship, he refused to cooperate. To this day, my experience with him reminds me of the importance of forgiveness.

When I refuse to forgive, I cooperate with Satan’s schemes. But when I choose to forgive, I work toward Satan’s defeat.

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean the other person’s actions were justified. It means letting go of the offense and giving the slow black death zero opportunity to flourish. Because if you do, it eventually spreads to your heart.

But when we choose to forgive, it brings a quick end to the slow, black death.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How have you seen Satan work through unforgiveness?
  3. How has God used forgiveness to bring you life?

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

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Why Maria Von Trapp Was Wrong

In the movie The Sound Of Music, Maria Von Trapp (played by Julie Andrews) finally comes face to face with Captain Georg Von Trapp (played by Christopher Plummer) and they realize they’re in love. Julie then breaks into song with these words:

Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth
For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

While acknowledging her dark side, Maria Von Trapp tried to explain why something so good could happen to her.

Did Maria do something good in her past to deserve something good in the present? Is there a correlation between our good deeds or evil deeds that come back to help us or haunt us?

Please join us as we delve into this topic in our daily Bible conversation


Job 20:1-22:30
2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Psalm 40:11-17
Proverbs 22:2-4


Job 20:1-22:30. Zophar explains the fate of the wicked to Job. Basically, he tells him that the wicked always eventually get paid back in this life for their deeds. In light of Job’s suffering, Zophar implies Job did something wicked to deserve his pain. Contemporary society (and many Christians) believe that wickedness in this life always brings some sort of payback in this life. While this is true at times, Job’s life proves that we can’t make it a formula. Sometimes people suffer for no apparent reason and sometimes the wicked get away with their wickedness in this life. Job takes the opposite view. In his suffering, he points to the wicked and comments, “They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace” (Job 21:13).

Neither view is correct.

Eliphaz then kicks Job in the gut. He continues Zophar’s argument, nailing Job for his wickedness. Since Job hasn’t done anything overtly wicked, Eliphaz nails Job for what he didn’t do. He withheld food and water from the weary and hungry and rejected the pleas of the widows and the fatherless (Job 22:7). Job’s “friends” were looking for some explanation for his suffering.

2 Corinthians 1:1-11. Second Corinthians was written later in the same year as 1st Corinthians. However, scholars believe Paul wrote four letters to the church in Corinth: the letter referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:9; 1 Corinthians; a severe letter (see 2 Corinthians 2:3-4); and 2 Corinthians. This last letter was written because some men had shown up who claimed to be apostles, but were really false teachers who contradicted Paul’s teaching. They questioned Paul’s authority and integrity. In order to prevent the church from imploding or straying away from the faith, Paul needed to write this letter. He defends himself not because he was being defensive, but in order to prove that his message was credible.

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Eliphaz and Zophar did little to comfort Job because they insisted on finding an explanation for his pain. “You must have done something wicked or you must have failed to do something good,” they seem to tell him. Sounds like Maria Von Trapp.

This tells us that Job’s friends were uncomfortable living with mystery. Pain to them required an explanation. As a result, their accusations made Job’s suffering even more unbearable.

I mentioned two days ago that a friend of mine died suddenly last Sunday. The wife of my roommate from college died 11 years ago on Labor Day weekend (in the beginning of September) leaving behind two young sons.

Is God cruel? What did these people do to deserve it?

Really, if we suffered the true consequences of our actions, we’d all be bound to hell. No one can be good enough to deserve a pain-free life. In fact, it’s a wonder to me that we don’t experience more pain. I realize this sounds awfully negative, especially in an age where people want to believe they’re okay, but our natural default setting is pointed toward sin. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t need Jesus to save us from ourselves.

So rather than offer an easy explanation for pain, I think we would do well to sit in the mystery. We may never understand it, but we can trust God’s heart.

And although we can’t explain its purpose, in today’s reading Paul offers a way to redeem it:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3–4

We may not be able to understand our pain, but God can certainly use it in our lives. Unlike  Job’s “friends”, our pain allows us to feel other people’s pain and comfort them.

For this reason, our pain need not be futile. Like a friend of mine once said, “God doesn’t waste pain.”

And he doesn’t waste yours.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Describe a time in your life when someone behaved like Job’s friends and tried to explain the purpose behind your pain. How did that feel? How did you respond?
  3. When has someone comforted you in your pain? How did that affect you?
  4. When have you comforted someone in their pain? What did it show you about God?
  5. Who can you comfort right now? What does that look like?

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

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The Wisdom of Harry Harlow’s Monkeys

How many people can you name whom God has used in your life?

For thirty-some years my wife Dee Dee has modeled grace, honesty, hospitality, and loyalty for me. My children, Katie, Michael (son-in-law), Brendan, and Emmy have each shared with me important individual lessons. But as a group they have shown me the value of hope and trust and–at very important times–childlike faith. My hunting partner Jay has modeled for me balance, strength, and godly manhood.

These are only a few of the many people I could name whom God has used to change me. I am fortunate.

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)

Job 16:1-19:29

1 Corinthians 16:1-24

Psalm 40:1-10

Proverbs 22:1


If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website:


I find it interesting in the closing, as in the beginning, of his letter that Paul does not address a church by an institutional name: First Christian Church of Corinth for example. In his greeting he speaks to them as people but not an institution. In his closing Paul, waxes even more personal, mentioning six different people, friends, and co-workers.

Several of them we have read of elsewhere. Likely they have travelled many rugged miles and often suffered and triumphed together. We know Paul was instrumental in Timothy joining the family of Christ and Paul considered Timothy as a son. Paul speaks with respect for Apollos. Pricilla and Aquila were close friends. Paul probably often lived in their home. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this expression of church “Life Together.”

Bonhoeffer was right. These people were not simply people who belonged to the same organization or club. They were Paul’s friends and coworkers, his essential spiritual community. Their hearts were strung together with a cord that ran directly through the heart of Christ and wove them into a community that worked, suffered, traveled, preached, served, and lived together.

Listen to his language: he is collecting funds for “God’s people.” He speaks of “the men” and the personal pronoun “you” is prominent. He talks of staying not just visiting. They greet one another with a “holy kiss.” Never does he refer to the church as an “it.”

How different is this from how we talk about and think about church today? We talk of going to such-and-such church, or learning from so-and-so pastor, or reading this-or-that Christian book. Ours is often an institutional, impersonal expression of faith that was foreign to Paul and his friends. Paul’s idea of the church was highly relational. Later, in what we call his pastoral letters, he sets out organizational principles for the people of the church: how we may best relate to one another. But he never speaks of the body of Christ as an organization alone. Yet that is our primary lens for viewing the Church.

Is this part of the reason so many modern followers of Christ are frustrated and departing the institutional church? I believe so. Organizations can only function as conduits for people to meet (or attempt to meet) one another’s real, flesh and blood needs. Soon the system clogs up and relationships break down or are no longer the primary purpose. Like psychologist Harry Harlow’s famous wire monkeys, a brick and mortar institution can never nurture real living, breathing faith. Many of us are jumping off and looking for softer connections.

Yet most of us, like Paul, can name several people God has used to nurture in us a living, loving faith. What if these people, the ones you work, love, and live with are your church?  Or even the people you sit next to in the pew? How would seeing them as the church make church different? Then what if those you and those people began to worship, fellowship, and serve in relationship together? That is what people in Paul’s time and for hundreds of years after did. And God used them, a people not an institution, to change the world.

Did seeing the church as a people and not a steeple solve all their problems? Hardly. Read the previous fourteen chapters of Paul’s letter. But it did give them a foundation from which to work out their problems. Ultimately it is more difficult to walk away from people–imperfect though they may be–than an impersonal entity.

Pollsters, such as George Gallup, ask people how often they attend church. Paul, if he were around today, might ask how often people were with their church and how those relationships with their church had made a difference.      

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. If you were to give your institutional church a non institutional name, what would it be?

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

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Avoiding Woody Allen’s Greatest Fear

Woody Allen once said, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Unfortunately, we’ll all be “there” when we die because the last I checked, the mortality rate has remained steady at 100%. Every person eventually dies. While we can’t stop it, people generally do everything in their power to avoid it.

I do, too. Every day I take a multivitamin to fend off sickness and I do my best to stay in shape. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars every year developing drugs that will help us push back our appointment with death. Cars are equipped with seat belts that have prolonged untold lives.

What fuels our fear of death? The unknown. The possibility of a surprise after we die. Payback for past transgressions. Finality.

But if you knew more about death—and how to avoid it—would it make you feel better? Of course.

Confused? Then please join us in today’s daily Bible conversation.


Job 12:1-15:35
1 Corinthians 15:29-58
Psalm 39:1-13
Proverbs 21:30-31


Job 12:1-15:35. Job’s contempt for his friends becomes apparent after listening to their insensitive platitudes. Rather than enter his pain, they offered advice from a distance. Trying to fix people who are suffering never works. What they need is someone who will offer empathy and a listening ear.

In the middle of his pain, Job didn’t need to hear that his actions had brought suffering upon himself. Previously, he acknowledged that he wasn’t perfect—yet he wasn’t evil either.

Job’s life teaches us that suffering happens, often without any apparent reason behind it. And, it occurs under God’s watchful eye. The reason behind our suffering is a mystery.

1 Corinthians 15:29-58. Verse 29 has served as a subject of debate for centuries and actually serves as a central belief in the Mormon church. Paul writes in verse 29, “Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?”

Scholars aren’t sure what Paul means here, especially since this is the only place in Scripture where it is mentioned. Additionally, no archeological evidence exists that people were baptized for the dead.

My favorite living New Testament scholar, Gordon Fee, affirms that it refers to some form of vicarious baptism. But he adds that if a person could be saved through baptism after they die, then it defeats the idea of justification by faith—because it would become a work someone does to earn eternal life. He concludes this puzzling passage by writing:

Whatever they were doing and for whatever reason, Paul saw it as a clear contradiction to the present stance of the community at large that “there is no resurrection of the dead.” If so, Paul argues, then this other action by some of their number is the highest expression of the absurdity. From his point of view, Christ’s resurrection makes any other form of spiritual existence beyond the grave a non sequitur [a conclusion that does not follow from the premises].

Proverbs 21:30. “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.” This is a great Scripture passage to make the focus of your prayer and meditation when you begin to worry about things like your future or the degradation of society.

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Despite the intimacy he shared with God, even David was concerned about the end of his life: “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life” (Psalm 39:4).

While none of us know how or when we will die, we can know what happens after we die.

When our natural bodies die, those who follow Jesus will be given spiritual bodies. This means that we aren’t regenerated as angels or reincarnated as humans in another life. Our new spiritual bodies will be truly spiritual—in other words we won’t feel the compulsion to sin. Hallelujah!!

The only way we can be transformed into truly spiritual people is through the death of the second Adam, Jesus Christ. And when Christ returns to earth, our transformation will be complete. Since sin was the cause of our physical death, Jesus’ defeat of the effects of sin on the cross enable us to live forever.

So what does this mean to us? When we place our trust in Jesus to cleanse us of our “first Adam” behaviors and compulsions (read: sin), Jesus clothes us with himself. For this reason, Paul can quote Hosea 13:14:

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Physical death is no longer our end. We no longer need to fear death because we have nothing to fear. Death is not our end nor do we need to fear hell.

When you give your life to Jesus, you’ll live forever with him.

Last night, an former mentor of mine died. Dennis Whaley invited me to be a youth group leader when I was still in college. Ironically, I later served in his same position at the church three years later. But while his death is sad–especially for his family–the reflections of the people who knew and loved Dennis is overwhelmingly joyous. Death has been defeated and while Dennis is no longer present, he will live forever.

And if you follow Jesus, you may meet Dennis someday in heaven.

Rest in peace, Dennis.


What spoke to you in today’s reading?

Do you fear death? Why or why not?

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


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How the Blame Game Makes Natural Disasters and Suffering Worse

Natural disasters are nothing new. Unfortunately.

In 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried two cities, Pompeii and Herculaneum. In the late 1800s and early 1900s the Yellow River in China flooded several times killing 3-5 million people. More recently we have seen Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Tsunami, and this year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti cause unimaginable suffering.

It has been heartening to see the world respond to these latest disasters with aid, prayers, workers, and money.

Disheartening, though, has been our need to blame someone or something for these disasters, as if affixing blame will ease the suffering, or even–realistically–prevent another disaster.

This blame game is nothing new either.

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)

Job 8:1-11:20

1 Corinthians 15:1-28

Psalm 38:1-22

Proverbs 21:28-29

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Blame. Some Democrats blamed George W. Bush for Hurricane Katrina. Some Republicans in turn blamed Democrats. Pat Robertson moved up the food chain and fingered God, saying God possibly allowed the disaster in response to America’s abortion policy. Meanwhile people suffered. And none of this blaming deterred the hurricane that wrecked Haiti.

As I said above, this blame game is not new. And God receives most of it. Or rather, we blame bad people–so called (such as George Bush or Democrats or whomever the blamer sees as sinful) for making God (or the gods, or the scientific equivalent) angry.

Pliny, a seventeen or eighteen year-old Roman citizen, who witnessed Mount Vesuvius explode and devour Pompeii and all her people, including his uncle, wrote, “Many raised their hands to the gods, and even more believed that there were no gods any longer and that this was the one last unending night for the world.”

This assigning of guilt was the response Job’s three friends had to his suffering as well.

Bildad actually has the gall to say, “When your children sinned against him [God], he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.”

Can you imagine saying such a calloused thing to a man who just had lost seven of his children to murder? Unfortunately people often do, maybe not so boldly. Our propensity for blame is as calloused and continues the destruction of the disaster . Because what blame really does is distance us from the suffering. If we can assign fault, maybe we will escape the next go round of disaster or at least we don’t have to feel what those suffering are feeling.

But Job does not flinch or fire back: “Indeed, I know that this is true,” he replies. Humans are sinful and we cause a great deal of our own suffering. We are greedy and rob and steal and lie. There is plenty of guilt to go round.

“But how can a mortal be righteous before God?” Job counters. “He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble.”

This is not Job blaming, but rather admitting that we often deserve disaster and God has the right to visit it on us.

Somehow, however, Job knows there is more to his suffering, and suffering in general, than simple cause and effect. Job has seen good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. He understands that sometimes the good things that happen to bad people may not really turn out to be that good. And likewise the bad things that happen to good people may not end bad.

Job realizes better than the blamers that there is a mystery in suffering: the holy and beautiful and the terrible and painful twisting and turning together like a fine rope. Job doesn’t want to blame God, or himself, for his suffering. Nor does he even seem to want to end it. Job simply wants to talk to God about it.

This is honesty, authenticity, and it opens the doors to heaven. Blame is dishonest, even if someone appears responsible. I am not arguing against taking personal or corporate responsibility for our faults. Rather finding fault in others is a dodge that we hope lets us, the blamers, off the hook to find and give real hope in suffering.

In the end, God gives Job his audience because Job has looked beneath the surface and is willing to go deeper for answers, including accepting responsibility.

“My ears have heard you but now my eyes have seen you,” Job tells God. Here Job may be describing that illusive movement of truth from the head to the heart. He gets it, we might say. Whatever this phrase means, Job seems to have moved to a profound understanding of God, himself, and life. Had he stayed in the shallow waters of blame I believe he would have never drowned in the deep truth and beauty of God’s purpose for his unimaginable suffering. And neither will we.

  1. What did these reading say to you?
  2. Have you ever asked for an audience with God the way Job did?

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


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Why Does The Devil Have All The Good Music?

After sitting in a local pub and comparing the music in church with that sung by the minstrels, Martin Luther posed a great question: “Why does the devil have all the good music?” This is a paraphrase, but it’s the gist of what he said.

Five hundred years later, legendary Christian music pioneer Larry Norman put Luther’s words to music, which you can watch in the above video.

But Martin Luther understood the power of music and more importantly, the power behind the music.

Please join us as we discuss this in our daily Bible conversation.


Job 1:1-7:21
1 Corinthians 14:1-40
Psalm 37:12-40
Proverbs 21:25-27


Job 1:1-7:21. The book of Job is one of the Bible’s most mysterious books. We don’t know who wrote it or when it was written. Most scholars date it to the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (1800-2000 B.C.). If the Pentateuch was penned by Moses, then Job predates the second oldest book(s) by approximately 500 years.

Except for the first two chapters and the epilogue at the end, everything in Job is written as poetry.

Job has also been heretically misinterpreted by certain teachers who believe that pain and godly living are mutually exclusive. They can’t explain how God can allow “bad” things to happen to good people. But he does—which is why Job is such a helpful book. “Job was the biggest fool in the Bible,” I heard one well-known television preacher say.

But the bigger fool is the one who believes Job was a fool. From the outset we read that Job was “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Furthermore, no one on earth was like him (Job 1:8).

Most amazing about him is his response to deep tragedy, which included the loss of his children, servants, and possessions: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

These aren’t the words of a fool, but rather a man terribly out of touch with reality, or perhaps, incredibly in touch with reality. I believe the latter.

The bigger fools were Job’s three friends. We’re first introduced to Eliphaz. He can’t believe that bad things happen to good people. “You must need a little discipline to fix some problems in your life” he seems to be saying (Job 5:17). “Just be patient and everything will work out.”

Eliphaz represents the people who cannot enter our pain because they have never experienced it. They look at us and say, “Just hang in there and everything will be okay. Just learn what you need to learn and then the pain will stop.”

Sometimes—oftentimes—pain and loss happen without any good explanation. Rather than sit with Job in his pain, Eliphaz stood at a distance and offered shallow platitudes.

For good reason, Job refused to accept it. After responding to Eliphaz, Job then directs himself to God. The New Bible Commentary makes an excellent observation here:

For the moment, [Job] asks of God nothing except that he should leave him alone so that he can live out his remaining days free from pain. But of course there is more to this than meets the eye; for in the very act of begging God to desert him he is in fact approaching him.

1 Corinthians 14:1-40. Over the last hundred years, countless churches have gotten hung up on the subject of speaking in tongues. At the risk of continuing this practice, I will admit that I see no evidence that proves the gift of tongues has ceased. Yet the point Paul is making is this: tongues aren’t the point. Love is the point (see Eugene’s excellent post from yesterday) and after that, we need prophecy.

According to Paul’s definition in verse 3, prophecy is a word spoken from God for our “strengthening, encouragement and comfort.”

This doesn’t mean that tongues should be ignored over more “important” gifts. All the spiritual gifts are equally important, but they all play different roles. In a corporate worship setting, prophecy is most important.

Paul concludes this discussion with these helpful words: “Be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39). Good advice!

Psalm 37:12-40. I won’t expound on this passage because this blog post is on the long side, but it offers some great insights into Job’s suffering.

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Zoroastrianism purports that God and Satan are equal adversaries, engaged in a cosmic battle. Taking their cues from this ancient Persian religion, many well-intentioned believers believe that Christianity works the same way. God and Satan are engaged in a cosmic battle, with the deciding factor boiling down to the actions of Christians around the world. If the Christians could just get their act together and pray and legislate righteousness around the world, then God will win.

“Christianity is one generation from extinction,” I’ve heard many preachers say.


At the beginning of Job, we read that Satan enters the presence of God along with the angels.

The word “Satan” means “adversary” or “accuser.” In fact, the literal translation in the first two chapters of Job refers to Satan as “the accuser.” Revelation 12:10 tells us that the accuser stands before God day and night, charging us with any and every sin. His intent? To disarm us. To prevent us from understanding the authority and power that God has over him.

Yet today’s reading clearly shows us that God is greater than any power in heaven and on earth.

Like Job, we may experience pain and loss or unfair accusations. But God is still stronger, still greater, still wiser. This is the message of Job.

Martin Luther once wrote, “The devil is God’s devil.” Like we read today in the book of Job, Luther knew that Satan’s power was no equal to God’s. He found that music was an effective vehicle to not only teach about the power of God over the devil, but also to mobilize people in their resistance to him.

“Music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful…The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God.”

In addition to appreciating music, he also wrote perhaps the most well-known Protestant hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. The first verse of his hymn is familiar among many, but I’d like to take a moment to highlight the third and fourth verses, which accentuate our reading in Job:

Verse 3:

And tho’ this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph thro’ us;
The prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

Verse 4:

That word above all earthly pow’rs,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Thro’
Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Our world is filled with evil and the influence of the Accuser. But even in the midst of pain and loss, God is still in control. Satan may buffet us, but God will win because he’s God.

So why did God allow Job to suffer? We’ll discuss that as we work our way through Job.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does your reading in Job tell you about God and Satan?
  3. How might our reading in Psalm 37 inform your understanding of the righteous who suffer?
  4. What has been your experience with prophecy and tongues? Why do you think these two gifts have been particularly divisive in the church? Is that a valid reason to avoid them? Why or why not?

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

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What Do Paul McCartney, the Black Eyed Peas, and the Apostle Paul Have in Common?

Have you ever noticed how many songs on the radio are love songs? Every other song seems to be about finding, losing, wanting, giving, taking, misunderstanding, and needing love.

As I read through 1 Corinthians 13, I began wondering how well modern love songs match up with Paul’s ancient and poignant love poem. What do you think? Does anything sung on the radio echo the kind of love that comes from God’s heart?

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)

Esther 8:1-10:3

1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13

Psalm 37:1-11

Proverbs 21:23-24


Psalm 37:1-11: This psalm asks us to take God’s perspective on life, suffering, and evil. Despite that evil sometimes wins, the psalmist reminds us to keep our mind on the good, on God. We can trust and delight in God and commit the course of our lives to him. This sounds more productive than fretting and worrying, which only adds power to the evil we are concerned about.

Proverbs 21:23-24: I can’t count the times I’ve opened my mouth and inserted calamity. Being verbal, I know too well the truth that this proverb drives home. Words misspoken can be much more dangerous than sticks and stones. And a zipped lip, for me, is often a hard fought for victory.

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Paul McCartney sang, “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs” (“Silly Love Songs”). McCartney apparently wrote that song in response to criticism he received from John Lennon and others about writing what they called lightweight love songs. I know how McCartney must have felt.

I once had a church elder criticize me saying, “Eugene, you preach on love too much.”

He was serious. Apparently it was lost on him that we were in the middle of a series on 1 Corinthians 13. That’s the “love chapter.” Paul uses the word love nine times in that chapter alone.

But it’s an honest concern. Shouldn’t we spend our energy on more weighty topics? It seems Paul McCartney and the Apostle Paul didn’t think so. McCartney wrote,

“Love doesn’t come in a minute

Sometimes it doesn’t come at all

I only know that when I’m in it

It isn’t silly, no, it isn’t silly, love isn’t silly at all.”

Likewise, Paul–the apostle not the Beatle–wrote, if we don’t have love, we are only a “resounding gong or clanging cymbal.” So much empty music. Love is not silly; it is a foundation for life. Life is mean and ugly and purposeless without love.

I wish I would have told that elder, “What? Are you crazy? One thing there is not too much of in our world is love!”

In fact even modern music reminds us, “What the world needs now is love.” Always has, always will. Or so sang Jackie DeShannon, Wynonna Judd, and many others. Again Paul would agree.

Of intelligence, of sacrifice, of mysterious gifts from God, of faith, of hope, of all human abilities and actions, “the greatest of these is love,” Paul penned. We cannot talk, sing, or think about love too much.

“Love always protects, always trusts, always perseveres.”

But as McCartney tried to say, it’s not all sweetness and light. Love may be beautiful, romantic, poetic; but it’s not silly. Love, God’s love, is the most powerful force in the universe.

Further the Apostle Paul’s lyrical poem about love also points out a hard truth. You say you know God, have been gifted by God, follow God, serve God, and love God, but where is the love?

What do the Black Eyed Peas and the Apostle Paul have in common? They asked the same question:

People killin’, people dyin’

Children hurt and you hear them cryin’

Can you practice what you preach

And would you turn the other cheek

Father, Father, Father help us

Send some guidance from above

‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’

Where is the love?

Where is the love? It’s in Jesus in us and all around us in God’s creation. Though our lives, our songs, our poetry may but be “a poor reflection as in a mirror” of that love. Paul reminds us that God loves us so deeply, that as he poured love out on our world, it has spilled over even into silly songs. Where is the love? Look into God’s eyes, you’ll see it. Dig deep inside God’s people, you’ll find it. Even listen to the radio, you’ll hear it.

What do Paul McCartney, the Black Eyed Peas, and the Apostle Paul have in common? They have all seen and experienced enough of God’s love, they want us to do so as well.

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. Where have you found God’s love?

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


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