Monthly Archives: December 2010

Why Jumping To The End Of The Book Might Be The Best Thing For You

My daughter Allie loves to spoil of any movie or book I want to see. Even without asking, she’ll unapologetically describe the ending just as we’re entering the theater.

But sometimes, beginning with the last chapter can actually work in our favor.

Jumping to both the end of the Old Testament (Malachi) and New Testament (Revelation), brings us to the same place. First, it brings us to Jesus, but also, it brings us healing, restoration, reconciliation—and it brings us to a new creation. Even Psalm 150 offers a triumphant ending to the end of days. The correlation between Malachi 4 and Revelation 22 are astounding. In the same way, the correlation between Revelation 22 and the first 3 chapters of Genesis are equally astounding.

Most encouraging of all, we read in Revelation that “no longer will there be any curse.” The curse that Adam and Eve brought upon themselves and us in the garden of Eden will no longer apply. No more death. No more crying. No more hunger or pain or sickness or weight loss programs or insomnia or awkward moments…anything that affects us through the curse will no longer exist.

We also learn that we won’t be spending eternity in heaven. Instead, we will live on the new earth (see Revelation 21). The present earth gives us glimpses of what it will be like, but someday, we will enjoy the earth and life the way God intended at the beginning of creation. And we will live in an unhindered relationship with God.

I can’t wait!

So why is it helpful to begin with the last chapters? They gives us a glimpse of what life will be like someday. Knowing how good it will be gives us strength when we encounter the various facets of the curse that Adam and Eve handed down to us.

Someday, life will be perfect.

So what do we do while we wait?

Without a doubt, Jesus knew we’d be asking that question. Three times in the final chapter, Jesus says “I am coming soon.” Obviously, “soon” according to Jesus’ definition is different than ours because 1900 years after he gave this promise, he still hasn’t come. But perhaps he gave us this promise because he wanted us to live as if he were coming soon. It means living with the end in mind. Better yet, living with eternity in mind.

That is the life God has called us to.

Sounds like a good way to begin the new year!

*As you probably already know, the format for A Daily Bible Conversation will change in the new year. However, if you’d still like to read through the Bible using last year’s posts (as some of you have already request), you’ll be happy to know that we’re going to keep them online.

Also, I invite you to read my few parting words a little further below in “The Final Word.”


Malachi 3:1-4:6
Revelation 22:1-21
Psalm 150:1-6
Proverbs 31:25-31


Malachi 3:1-4:6. In the beginning of Malachi 3, God tells the people to return to him. And what does that “returning” look like? Returning to God what rightfully belongs to him in the form of tithes and offerings. While the concept of tithing is scarcely supported in the New Testament, we can look at this as generosity toward God. And really, our generosity often reflects the state of our heart. That’s why Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34).

Amazingly enough, the book ends with a smooth transition to the Gospels as we read about the prophet Elijah who “will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). This prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist (Matthew 11:10-14 et al). Luke 1:17 describes John the Baptist this way:

And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children…to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.



Over the last 13 years, God has allowed me to write 14 books for other people or myself. When people ask me what it’s like to write a book, I tell them, “Writing a book is the second hardest thing I’ve ever done.” When they ask me, “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?” I tell them, “Being married.” Marriage is a great deal of work.

But now, with daughters #2 and #3 in their teenage years, I’d have to say that parenting teenagers is the second hardest thing (although it’s vying for number 1!), pushing book-writing to number 3.

But on a consistent basis, blogging ranks up there with writing books. In fact, the amount of writing between Eugene and me is equivalent to about one book every month.

A year ago, I launched A Daily Bible Conversation by writing a post every day of the week. Every day of the week! Initially, friends would tell me, “Mike, I really enjoy your blog—but I can’t believe you’re writing every day. That must be a lot of work!”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” I would reply.

But it was.

And by the beginning of the summer, I was wearing out. In fact, I planned to shut everything down by the end of June because it was not only consuming too much of my time (15-20 hours a week), but it was also draining me emotionally and creatively. All this without any compensation.

The excellent movie Julie and Julia (which began as a book), comes to mind. In the movie, Julie Powell decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s famous cookbook Mastering The Art Of French Cooking in one year’s time—and blog about it. In order to accomplish her goal, she would need to cook at least one recipe every day. She begins strong, but midway through her pilgrimage, she wears down and nearly loses her marriage. Somehow, she crawls to December 31 and achieves her goal.

Although my life didn’t reach the low ebb of Julie Powell’s, I could certainly identify with the movie.

So, in the effort to save the A Daily Bible Conversation, I decided to ask my co-pastor and aspiring writer Eugene Scott to contribute. Interestingly enough, the same day I was planning to extend him an invitation, he offered to jump in and contribute. I feel incredibly blessed to work beside him. Eugene, thank you.

At various times, Mike Mullin, Mark Benish, Jeff McQuilkin, and my wife Kelley contributed as well. Please accept my sincerest thanks.

But I also want to thank all of you for the last year. A Daily Bible Conversation has grown significantly since last January 1, 2010. As of the end of this year, our posts are now read over 4,000 times in a month by people in North America, Australia, and Africa (if other countries and continents are represented, please let me know!). I’m also thankful for the many people who have offered the nearly 600 comments. Elna Dreyer, who lives near Cape Town in South Africa, has been our champion comment-er. Thank you Elna—and the many others—who have made this a Bible conversation.

So for the first time in a year, this blog will be silent over the weekend. Then Monday, we will begin The Neighborhood Café: A Faithblog Community, an extension of A Daily Bible Conversation. You don’t need to find us on the Internet because we’ll remain at the same web address. Eugene and I will offer posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—along with our friend Jadell Foreman. The format will look slightly different, but you’ll still read stories and reflections about where our faith intersects with life, all firmly grounded in God’s word. We hope you’ll like it!

Well, that about concludes this final post of the year.

May God bless you richly in the New Year in unexpected ways—as he has in the past and as he will in the future. This is our hope.

Michael J. Klassen


  1. How has God spoken to you or changed you over the last year by reading his word?
  2. What insights stand out to you?
  3. What does “living with eternity in mind” look like in your life? Do you live that way right now? Why or why not?
  4. How can you live with eternity in mind in the new year?

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

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


Filed under Uncategorized

Is God Boring?

The words “adventure” and “worship” are not often used in the same sentence except when modified by the word “not.” Most people view worship as a passive activity at best, unless you belong to one of those congregations that stands up and sits down a lot or allows dancing and rolling around the aisles.

No, words that come to mind in terms of worship are silent, safe, sedate, and unfortunately boring. The greatest Sunday morning adventures may be in getting your reluctant kids to worship or in gulping down enough caffeine to make it through the sermon.

What is worship really about?

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)

Malachi 1:1-2:17

Revelation 21:1-27

Psalm 149:1-9

Proverbs 31:10-24

Thank you again for the honor of making this journey with you. I hope you join us right here for The Neighborhood Cafe: A Faithblog Community after the first of the year.

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:


We don’t get worship. Most of the time we think worship is about singing our favorite hymns or songs or hearing a good sermon or practicing meaningful traditions. We feel good about going to church if we “get something out of it.” We often treat going to church like a trip to some kind of self-service spiritual filling station.

But Psalm 149 draws a very different picture of worship. Not only does the psalmist surprise by using fun words such as “rejoice,” “glad,” “joy,” and “delight,” to describe corporate worship but  he seems to believe worship is not about getting something out of God but rather connecting with God.

In worship we are to rejoice in our maker and be glad in our king. And God in turn delights in us, his people. Worship is not about perfect music and polished sermons. Worship is a relationship. God thinks it’s fun to be with us.

Annie Dillard writes about this kind of worship in her book Teaching a Stone to Talk: “A high school stage play is more polished than this service we have been rehearsing since the year one. In 2,000 years, we have not worked out the kinks. We positively glorify them. Week after week we witness the same miracle: that God is so mighty He can stifle His own laughter. Week after week, we witness the same miracle: that God, for reasons unfathomable, refrains from blowing our dancing bear act to smithereens. Week after week, Christ washes the disciples’ dirty feet, handles their very toes, and repeats, ‘It is alright—believe it or not—to be people.’”

This is not such a strange concept. There are many times where we simply enjoy being with family or friends. We may be playing cards or taking a walk or sipping tea. The activity is not important; being together is. And trying to get something out of being together is often counter-productive.

In a world of a thousand demands and distractions, God calls us into a time and place of focus. “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Bask in God’s presence. Worship. It may seem to some a waste of time, boring, irrelevant, outdated. But in reality what greater adventure could there be than being with God?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Reflections on Reading through the Bible in a Year

Just about a year ago my friend and co-pastor Mike Klassen launched a plan to ask our church (The Neighborhood Church) and an on-line community to read through the Bible in a year and augment that reading with a daily devotional blog. I joined him as a co-writer in the spring and only then realized what a crazy commitment Mike had made. It has been an honor to participate and I am thankful for the opportunity.

Four things I’ve learned:

1. I am a slug.

Though I will limp across the finish line with all of you on December 31, I missed too many readings to actually have anyone hang a ribbon on me. As Paul admitted in Romans 7, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

I admire and applaud those of you who ran the complete race.

I also realized my ineptness when trying to communicate what I thought I heard God saying in the readings I did complete. Writing anything daily is difficult, much less trying to accurately plumb the depths of God’s interaction with us as recorded in Scripture. I am glad God is a God of grace and that his love covers the multitude of my sins.

2. God is often inscrutable.

Try as I might, there were many passages of Scripture that were beyond me. From beginning to end, difficult passages abound. Who were Adam and Eve? Why does Cain kill Able and why does God respond the way he does? And how can a book titled Revelation reveal so little?

Overall, however, throughout the year, I became more comfortable with my limits and God’s limitlessness. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8 I like knowing God is bigger and smarter than I am.

What continues to confound, though, is why God puts up with us. There seems no end to our ignorance and cruelty. No one and nothing escapes. The best biblical characters are deeply flawed (David).  And we are so filled with fear we crucify him of perfect fearless love. Fortunately, we were not able to kill that love.

3. God rarely remains mute.

Some days I wrestled with apathy. I skimmed the surface of the Scripture reading. What does one more intricate description of the size of the tabernacle have to do with my life?

This is supposed to be the most important and powerful book ever written. I expected it to turn my life upside down not lull me to sleep.

After all “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work,” Paul tells Timothy. But does that mean the Bible is magical?

Not for me. The Bible functioned more like a year’s worth of meals, some spicy, spectacular, and memorable others bland, forgettable but nutritious. God spoke daily, sometimes quietly, sometimes in a language I did not know. But I look in the mirror and I am not the same as this time last year, especially on the inside.

4. God will finish the story.

Maybe that was the biggest lesson for me. Every biblical story connects to the next and through them God moves through history right into 2010, right into my life. We may not understand each twist and turn of the plot but we can hear the Narrator’s voice in each chapter. God uses the conflicts and disappointments of the story to change us, the characters. The story is not finished but God will finish it. Paul reminds his friends the Philippians, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

May that be true for each of us.

Thanks for growing with us.

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)

Zechariah 14:1-21

Revelation 20:1-15

Psalm 148:1-14

Proverbs 31:8-9

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO.


Filed under Uncategorized

Marriage: What’s The Big Deal?

Divorce is on the decline in the U.S.—but before anyone out there starts declaring the beginning of a national spiritual transformation, it’s important to note that marriage is on the decline as well.

In a recent study by the Marriage Project in association with the University of Virginia, the annual number of marriages per 1,000 unmarried women has declined by about 50 percent since 1970. Delaying the age of getting married contributes to this number, to be sure, but frankly, people are choosing cohabitation over wedded bliss.

No one needs to wave some statistics in front of me that bear out these numbers. I see it all around.

Rather than criticize people who make these choices, I’d like to take a moment to examine if it’s really that big of a deal.

Please join me as we explore this in our daily Bible Conversation.


At the end of this week we begin the new year—which also means we’ll inaugurate a slight change in format. This Friday we’ll conclude our Daily Bible Conversation and then Monday morning you’ll be welcomed to The Neighborhood Café: A Faithblog Community. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday you’ll be invited to join us for a cup of coffee and conversation.

Don’t concern yourself with finding us on a new website because you’ll still be able to find us at You’ll also meet Jadell Foreman who will contribute to our blog along with Eugene and me.

Thank you for joining us in the conversation.


Zechariah 12:1-13:9
Revelation 19:1-21
Psalm 147:1-20
Proverbs 31:1-7


Zechariah 12:1-13:9. The crucifixion of Jesus is foretold in 12:10-14. Zechariah prophesies that the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will “look on me, the one they have pierced.”  Since God is speaking, this is a reference to killing God. Yet after committing this deed, they will repent for what they have done.

It’s interesting that this verse is prefaced by the words, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.” In the midst of Israel’s judgment, God gives them a spirit of grace and supplication, which means “a willingness to show kindness to others and to ask pardon from God.” So, in order to reach the people’s hearts, God allowed his only son to die for us. What great love.

Proverbs 31:1-7. This last chapter in Proverbs was written by King Lemuel. We know virtually nothing about him—except that he wasn’t a king of Israel. Because the name means “spoken by God,” it’s possible that it is a pseudonym, perhaps for King Solomon.

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:


In Revelation 19, we’re given an astonishing visual: the marriage supper of the Lamb…

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
Revelation 19:7

To be honest, a wedding ceremony comprising a lamb (an underage sheep!) and a human being sounds a bit strange. But of course, prophecy is saturated with symbolism, so we don’t need to take this literally.

The lamb, of course, points to Jesus. John the Baptist called Jesus “the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The sacrificial lamb symbolized the closest picture of innocence to sullied people in need of forgiveness.

And who is betrothed to Jesus? Everyone who seeks his forgiveness for their sin. The bride isn’t defined by individuals who seek to find their own way, but rather, it is defined as the church of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul understood this as well. He instructed husbands to love their wives (a reference to marriage) saying:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Ephesians 5:25–28

Again, the reference to marriage is unmistakable.

Imagine how the above reference would sound if we substituted “boyfriends” and “girlfriends”. “Boyfriends, love your girlfriends, just as Christ loved the church…” Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Or how about this: “People in a committed relationship, love each other as Christ loved the church…” It just doesn’t “ring” true (I couldn’t resist the pun!).

Something is missing here. What is it? A love that never gives up. We all know that something changes when a couple makes a marital commitment. The “easy out” no longer exists. For thousands of years, couples have entered into the covenant of marriage. Every covenant ceremony included an exchange of gifts and the understanding that the covenant would remain in force as long as both parties were alive. Once the husband or wife died, the covenant no longer existed.

But in the marriage supper of the Lamb, both parties will live forever. Jesus is eternal (Hebrews 13:8), but because the lamb was slain for us, everyone who receives him is given eternal life as well. The covenant will never come to an end!

So what does this share in common with marriage in this mortal life? A great deal. The marriage supper of the lamb is the reality (see Isaiah 25:6-8). Marriage in this life is the shadow, pointing to ultimate reality. God has given us the covenant of marriage to whet our taste for the real thing. Committed relationships that act like marriage are a poor example of reality.

Call it old-fashioned, outdated, or irrelevant, I believe in marriage because I believe in God’s covenant love for us.

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

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

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The End Of The World As We Know It

I walked outside our Pasadena apartment to witness billowing smoke rising above the Los Angeles skyline. This can’t be real, I said to myself. We live in America. This doesn’t happen in America.

Moments before, a jury acquitted four white Los Angeles police officers of beating an African-American man named Rodney King—despite capturing the pummeling on video. The African-American community was incensed and began ravaging their neighborhoods, breaking into stores and burning buildings. Not long after that, the color demarcation no longer mattered as people regardless of race began rioting.

Concerned about the safety of my family, we holed ourselves in our apartment and kept the doors locked for several days.

Finally, the disturbance seemed to calm down. I was scheduled to work as a valet in Beverly Hills, which meant I could take one of two routes to get there—through the safer suburban area or through the flashpoint of the riots. I drove to work via the safe route, but curiosity won out on my way home.

I was nearly killed twice.

First, a gang of people who mistakenly assumed I was an off-duty police officer challenged me to arrest them. Then, the front bumper of my Hyundai was torn off by a car that ran a four-way stop.

I drove straight home as quickly as I could.

Reflecting on the events of the riots, I realized the fragile nature of democracy. No matter how safe we feel, nothing is completely secure. The World Trade Center tragedy on September 11, 2001 confirmed this.

If you knew you were going to encounter a lifestyle-altering, culturally devastating tragedy in 2011, how would you live?


Zechariah 10:1-11:17
Revelation 18:1-24
Psalm 146:1-10
Proverbs 30:33


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:


“Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!”
Revelation 18:10

As we inch closer to the end of Revelation, we read about the destruction of Babylon. Scholars agree that Babylon is a veiled reference to Rome (see Revelation 7:18). At the time of John’s apocalyptic vision, the thought of Rome being destroyed seemed like an impossibility. No one could envision the greatest empire in the world being brought to its knees. But it happened.

While we could take time to explore the various prophetic interpretations of Revelation 18, I suggest we read the chapter as if it were written into our context.

Are you content with life as you know it? Do you consider your lifestyle to be secure? Deeper still, to what extent do you enjoy the standard of living your country offers you?

It all could change. Actually, the chances are pretty good that it will change.

Safety and security—they’re the American way. Perhaps our readers in South Africa and Australia feel the same way. We relish our lives of privilege. Participating in our society isn’t a sin, but far too often I think their importance is overemphasized.

Ironically, the most predominant Christian music station in our country promises their listeners that they are “safe for the whole family.” But is safety the most important value?

The original Babylon met its destruction, as did Rome, and as it will the United States (hopefully not in my lifetime!).

If you knew that civilization as you know it would one day come to an end, would you live differently? I would, I think. Possessions wouldn’t seem as important. Safety and security wouldn’t, either.

End of the world-themed movies wrestle with this question. One lesson they teach us: looking face-to-face at our eventual destruction changes our priorities. Offenses and possessions become less and less important while relationships become increasingly important. They also motivate us to keep our accounts short with God.

Perhaps wrestling with this question isn’t such a bad idea.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. If the end of the world was going to take place in 2011, how would it affect the way you live?

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Starling, A Snowstorm, And Our Salvation

Snow began falling late that night, so the farmer walked the perimeter of the compound to ensure that all the gates were closed and the barn doors shut. The weather forecast promised plummeting temperatures to mimic the falling snow. Walking inside the farmhouse while the family slept, he looked up and breathed a prayer, thanking whoever was there for the invention of the furnace.

Sipping a cup of decaf, he watched as the tempo of the snowfall increased. All of his life, the reality of God and the existence of Jesus gnawed in his gut. Although he grew up in church, it never made sense to him. He didn’t wrestle with believing in a Supreme Being—but why the God of the Bible? Why the need for a son? Why Christmas? The whole notion of God coming to earth as a man seemed implausible and unnecessary.


It sounded like someone had just thrown a ball at the sliding glass door. He walked to the back of the house to see a flock of starlings huddled against the glass. One by one, the birds flew into the window, seeking shelter from the storm. They couldn’t comprehend the existence of a translucent barrier that would prevent them from being warm.

At first he chuckled at the birds’ vain attempts at seeking shelter, but soon he began feeling sorry for them. Without a warm refuge, the whole flock would freeze to death. For a moment, he considered opening the sliding glass door and letting them inside, but he knew an impulsive decision like that would create a mess and utter chaos.

All the while, the snowfall grew heavier as the temperatures continued their downward descent.

Reaching for his jacket, the farmer realized what he needed to do. If he just opened the door to the nearest barn and turned on the light, surely the birds would find their salvation. So out the front door he walked. After opening the barn door and turning on the light, he returned to the side of the house.

Hmmm, he thought to himself. Now how do I tell the birds that the barn is only 50 yards away.

“Hey!” he yelled at the birds. “Follow me! The barn’s right over there.” He felt silly talking to the birds, but he didn’t know what else to do. He ran around the corner of the house and toward the barn expecting the birds to follow him, but of course, they didn’t cooperate.

Next, he tried chasing the birds in their haven-ward direction, but they only scattered and returned to the sliding glass door.

Over and over in vain he tried leading them to safety, and with each successive attempt, his determination grew stronger.

After 30 minutes had passed, the evening snow had turned into a blizzard and the farmer was frantic. He desperately wanted to save the birds’ lives, but he didn’t know how. Finally, he fell to his knees and pleaded with tears in his eyes. “Please, follow me. I know how to save you from the blizzard. If you don’t follow me right now, you’ll die.” The starlings, however, seemed completely inattentive to his cries.

“Pleeeaase! Don’t you understand??” By now he was sobbing uncontrollably. “If only I could become a bird and tell you where to go, you would understand.”

Suddenly he stopped and thought about what had just come out of his mouth. He repeated his words, only this time he said it much slower. “If only I could become a bird and tell you where to go, you would understand.”

His cries changed direction. “God, I understand, I understand! You sent Jesus to earth to show us the way to safety.” His wails turned to laughter as his heart made the connection. “I believe! God, I believe! I love you Jesus!”

Then he opened the sliding glass door. “And I love you all, too.” The birds made a mess in his house that night but he didn’t care.

Jesus was born that night–and the manger took the form of an old farmer’s heart.

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
Matthew 1:23

Merry Christmas.


Zechariah 8:1-9:17
Revelation 16:1-17:18
Psalm 144:1-145:21
Proverbs 30:29-32

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Birthday Of A King

The esteemed hospital is the birthplace of Roger Bannister (the first runner to break the 4-minute mile barrier), musician Elvis Costello, actor Kiefer Sutherland, and Nobel Prize winner Rodney Porter. Penicillin, the antibiotic which has saved millions of lives, was also discovered there.

What better place to be born than a hospital as prestigious as this?

So, in order to ensure that the future king of England would be given the best medical care possible, Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales, the son of Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales was born on June 21, 1982 at St. Mary’s Hospital. With a birth as important as this, you wouldn’t want to take any chances.

How different was the birth of Jesus.

Contrary to many sentimental Christmas songs of our day, Jesus was likely born in a cave, not a stable. Back in the day, people didn’t understand the danger of germs and bacteria, so no one made any precautions to wash their hands before handling a newborn. Under modern conditions, the health department would shutter the dusty, grimy cave. Then, Jesus was placed in a manger—a feeding trough for sheep and cattle.

Quite in inauspicious beginning for a king! Imagine the vulnerability of a little baby lying in a manger in a cave.

Interestingly enough, the prophet Zechariah not only foretold the coming king, but even called him by name.

Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak. Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.”
Zechariah 6:11–13 (italics added)

If you’re a little rusty on your Hebrew like me, the Hebrew name Joshua is translated Jesu in Greek and Jesus in English.

Two thousand years ago, the king of the universe ruled the earth from a manger for his throne and a cave for his palace. His royal robe consisted of strips of cloth.

As I envision that night, the old song “Birthday Of A King” comes to mind. The rendition of the song in the video above is sung by the late Judy Garland. The lyrics are given below:

In the little village of Bethlehem,
There lay a child one day,
And the sky was bright,
With a holy light,
O’er the place where Jesus lay.

O how the angels sang!
How it rang!
And the sky was bright,
With a holy light,
‘Twas the birthday of a King.

Humble birthplace,
But O! How much God gave to us that day!
From the manger bed what a path has led,
What a perfect holy way.

O how the angels sang!
How it rang!
And the sky was bright,
With a Holy light,
‘Twas the birthday of a King.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

If you don’t have plans for Christmas Eve and you live in the Denver, Colorado area, please join Michael and Eugene at The Neighborhood Church. For more information click here.


Zechariah 6:1-7:14
Revelation 15:1-8
Psalm 143:1-12
Proverbs 30:24-28

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

This Christmas Don’t Mutiny From God’s Bounty

“Daddy, I don’t want to open any more Christmas presents,” whined one of our children after several hours of non-stop gift unwrapping. The adults, all too willing to leave the remaining heap of presents unopened, breathed a collective sigh of relief. We had already lost one child in the pile of crumpled paper.

Okay, so I’m exagerating-but not much. Christmas 1988 at my wife Dee Dee’s parents’ home was so bountiful the kids grew weary of receiving and mutinied. They simply stood and walked out of the room, forcing us to set the rest of the gifts aside for spring birthdays. Dee Dee’s parents had always been generous. Every year around the first of November, Grandma Dori would ask the grand kids to write out their gift lists. Being obedient grandchildren they would sit down and compile personal catalogs, each complete with its own table of contents. Grandma Dori would then collect the catalogs, translate them and select a few choice items to purchase.

The year of the mutiny, however, nearly every gift asked for had been purchased, wrapped and placed with love under the tree, because Grandpa had done the shopping. Unfortunately, shortly after receiving the grand kids’ 1988 Christmas catalogs, Grandma Dori became too ill with cancer to pare down the lists and shop. So out into the wild unknown went Grandpa Jim. How was he to know he should pick and choose from the many wished for items? Owning a generous heart and never having done the Christmas shopping before, Grandpa Jim saw nothing wrong with giving what was asked for.

Neither does God, because God by his very nature is a giver. Look back to the very beginning of human/Divine interaction. God opened his hands and heart providing for Adam and Eve until they decided to seek wisdom and sustenance elsewhere. From that dark moment on, each of us has turned our backs on God’s open hands. We, like my children that long ago Christmas, have mutinied from God’s bounty. We continually walk out of a room filled with blessings. Why do we do this? For vast numbers of us the reason is the same Adam and Eve conjured up. “We want to do it ourselves.” Independence. These orphans mistake God’s open hands for fists ready to pummel them. They see each package under the tree as a trick with some spidery string attached. To them love wears a mask hiding a desire to control. Therefore, God’s unfathomable gifts of forgiveness, freedom and eternity remain unopened.

Some of us mutiny because we don’t believe anyone could love us that much. These urchins stand in the corner, eyes to the floor, wishing they deserved such grand gifts. Here God’s open hands are seen with fingers pointing out guilt and shame. They are correct, of course. We do not deserve even the air we breath. Fortunately, however, God’s love flows through mercy not merit. Jesus’ hands had to be open in a magnificent gesture of love in order to receive the nails pinning him to the cross.

In comparing human givers with the Ultimate Giver, Jesus places the spotlight on the Giver not the receiver or even the gift. “If you, then, though you are imperfect, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him,” he says.

The love behind Grandpa Jim’s bounty was the greatest gift of all and no one left that package unopened. The Bible tells us that God so loved he gave . . . . That bountiful Christmas of 1988 my father-in-law, Jim gave with no strings attached and without considering who deserved what or needed or wanted what. He gave from the bounty of an open heart and with open hands. In that Jim was like God. There is no reason to mutiny from God’s bounty. This Christmas don’t leave God’s gift of love unopened.

In memory of James L. Warden, October 22, 1921-March 27, 2002, and Doris K. Warden, November 20, 1922-November 19, 1989.

May you have a happy and holy Christmas and may you see God for who he truly is: the giver of all good gifts. Eugene

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)

Zechariah 4:1-5:11

Revelation 14:1-20

Psalm 142:1-7

Proverbs 30:21-23

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: If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Joy to the World: Jesus is More than a Higher Power

My father was a man of many fascinating tools, and though he did his best to protect them from us, he did occasionally leave the house for work or bowling and abandon his precious tools to us kids. Accordingly, my siblings and I took full advantage of his lapse in judgment and often played games with some of his more tempting tools. One of our favorite and more sadistic games included my dad’s electric fence charger. This intriguing tool consisted of a rectangular, round-cornered wooden block with a crank handle on one side and two small, cone-shaped wire coils on top. I’m not really sure how the contraption functioned besides that when we cranked the handle it made a mellow grinding sound, and if you grabbed the wires attached to the two coils while someone cranked the handle, the machine delivered a shock sharp enough to knock you over. Our game was to dare each other to grab the wires while someone furiously charged the thing and then count how long we could hold on. None of us made it beyond two or three.

Is that what God’s power is like?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week. And after the first of the year join us for our new blog The Neighborhood Cafe: A Faithblog Community.

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

Zechariah 2:1-3:10

Revelation 13:1-18

Psalm 141:1-10

Proverbs 30:18-20


Zechariah 2:1-3:10: There is a Christmas message even in Zechariah. “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.” The birth of Christ was the beginning of the fulfillment of this promise. Since that day, God has lived among us in a way never before imagined. And this Christmas people of every tongue and in every nation will be united in celebrating the birth of Immanuel.

Revelation 13:1-18: Notice that the Beast and his offspring rule through coercion and validate their power through signs and wonders and shallow miracles. What is missing? Love. Read this section and then read Luke 1-3 and compare how God and his only begotten Son begin God’s rule through love and validate it through transforming lives.

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:


Somehow I think of that crazy game whenever I hear someone talk about God in terms of a Higher Power. It makes me wonder if calling out to God is similar to grabbing those old wires, and if I really made a connection, God would shock the hell out of me. Not that God is sadistic; but God can be quite shocking.

I say this because I don’t believe any of us knows what we are playing with in God. In truth, when grappling with God, we are not dealing with Clark Kent—impotent and bespectacled.

I mean, really, even calling God a Higher Power is mild when describing the Being who holds the very fabric of the universe together. When we puny humans discovered how to split the atom, the explosion that ensued was beyond any power we had ever seen or imagined. Tragically, lives, families—whole cities vaporized. Imagine if God let slip just a few of the billions of atoms held together in His tireless grip. Higher Power indeed!

No matter the IQ, can any human, with a mere three pounds of gray matter, fathom the vast intelligence of God coursing through the cosmos? I don’t know about you but I struggle to make sense of algebra much less Einstein’s theory of relativity. Much less God.

Totally Other is how some have described God. Compare: The purest of human love—a teenage crush. The greatest sculpture—a stick figure. The most ingenious machine—a toy. So beyond us God is, we could never hope to leap that far.

Holy, or set apart, and different, is how much of Scripture portrays God from us. One of my seminary professors loves to point out that even Moses only glimpsed the backside (derrière) of God because God’s “face must not be seen.” (Exodus 35:23) When I am honest about how puny I am and how powerful God is, I picture myself approaching God in one of those hazardous material suits. There I am draped in some heavy, white, canvas-like suit (boots, gloves, the whole deal) shaking like Jell-O, peering out of a protective helmet, fumbling with robotic arms on the other side of thick glass, and attempting to touch God. Who dare approach God? Who is able to?

Not me! The reality is, however, that despite God’s fearful omnipotence, we need not wrap ourselves in literal or emotional protective suits when attempting to touch God. God took care of the problem Himself. Once upon a time God took His immense power and cloaked it in mere human flesh, the soft, smooth skin of an impoverished Jewish baby. This God did so that we could come close, just as Joseph and Mary, and the shepherds, and the wise men in fact did. Bruce Cockburn sings about this miracle of Immanuel, God Almighty with us in his song “Cry of a Tiny Babe”:

Singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn

“It’s a Christmas gift that you don’t have to buy

There’s a future shining in a baby’s eye

Like a stone on the surface of a still river

Driving the ripples on forever

Redemption rips through the surface of time

Through the cry of a tiny babe”

So, come on, come close. Shed that ridiculous hazardous material suit; it’s of no use anyway. God won’t hurt you. Love you, forgive you, redeem you, transform you, mess up your hair, and turn your world upside down, yes. But harm you, never!

If you live in the Denver area and have no faith community to celebrate the birth of Christ with, consider joining us at The Neighborhood Church for “Christmas at the Movies: Grace Unexpected” featuring “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  We will worship at 5:30 and 7.  See our website for details.

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

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Don’t Believe In Satan? Neither Does He!

In a 2009 survey by the Barna group, Americans were asked about their belief in a higher power. All 1,871 self-described Christians were asked about their perception of God.

78% indicated they believed that God is the “all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of the universe who rules the world today”

23% gave varying answers that are inconsistent with biblical teaching (e.g., everyone is god, god refers to the realization of human potential, etc.).

But their answers regarding Satan were not as clear. In answer to the statement that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil”:

40% agreed

19% agreed somewhat

26% disagreed strongly

9% disagreed somewhat; and

8% weren’t sure what they believed about Satan

At the same time, the respondents shared their beliefs about the influence of evil spiritual forces. In answer to the statement their evil spiritual influences are real:

39% agreed strongly

25% agreed somewhat

18% disagreed strongly

10% agreed somewhat

8% were undecided

In other words, 78% of all professed Christians believe in the biblical view of God while 38% don’t believe in Satan and 28% don’t believe in demonic forces.

The Barna group also discovered that about half (47%) of the Christians who believed that Satan is merely a symbol of evil nevertheless agreed that a person can be under the influence of spiritual forces such as demons.

Something here doesn’t make sense.

Please join us in our daily Bible conversation as we try to sort things out.


Don’t forget that beginning January 1, the format of A Daily Bible Conversation is changing. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you’re invited to join us for a cup of coffee and conversation at The Neighborhood Café: A Faithblog Community. The focus will be to explore, in creative ways, where faith meets life. Although every post will be a little different, they will all be undergirded by Scripture.

If you receive this as an email and you choose to opt out of this continuation of A Daily Bible Conversation, be sure to click unsubscribe at the bottom of your email.


Zechariah 1:1-21
Revelation 12:1-17
Psalm 140:1-13
Proverbs 30:17


Zechariah 1:1-21. Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Zechariah was not only a prophet but also a member of a priestly family. He was born in Babylonia and returned to Judah around 538 B.C. making him a contemporary of Haggai the prophet. He and Haggai shared the same message: finish rebuilding the temple.

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:


In Revelation 12, we read about a confrontation between the archangel and the dragon and his angels. The vision declares the identify of the dragon:

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Revelation 12:9

In fact, the chapter offers us various descriptions of the enemy of heaven: dragon, Satan, accuser of our brothers, devil, serpent. All of these descriptions are consistent with other references to him throughout Scripture.

We also witness the “normal” behavior of the devil: devourer, accuser, filled with fury.

All that to say, we have plenty of evidence in Scripture of the existence of God. I guess I find it interesting that so many people doubt Satan’s existence while still believing in God.

We also find plenty of evidence that evil exits—and if evil exists, then an author of evil must exist, too.

Years ago when I was a youth pastor, I brought a team of teenagers to Germany for a mission trip—just four months before the Berlin wall came down. We practiced a street drama that we performed on the streets of Berlin.

On one side of the street stood a single person and on the other side stood a group of teenagers doing different things. The single person circled the group, tying an imaginary rope around them.

“Who are you?” they asked.

“I’m Satan,” he replied.

“We don’t believe in Satan,” they answered.

“Neither do I,” he said with a devilish laugh.

He circled a second time.

“What are you doing?” they asked.

“I’m wrapping you in your sins.”

“We don’t believe in sin.”

“Neither do I,” he said again with a devilish laugh.

Then the person began dragging them away.

“What are you doing?” they asked.

“I’m dragging you to hell.”

“We don’t believe in hell,” they cried out.

“Neither do I,” he laughed as the people screamed.

Fortunately, we don’t need to live in the fear of Satan. Revelation 12:11 tells us how the angels defeated their enemy:

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

Although Satan is alive and well, we don’t need to live in fear of him. The blood of the lamb—the blood of Jesus had already defeated him. As long as you have given your life to Jesus, he can’t steal your soul. But if you encounter conflicts against him, you can be confident because you have three weapons at your disposal:

  • The blood of the lamb (you can say it literally when you pray—“I come against you with the blood of Jesus”)
  • The word of your testimony (proclaiming the word of God)
  • Not loving your life so much that you’re afraid of death (being unafraid of dying for the cause of Christ)

I don’t live my life with Satan on my mind, but I’ve seen evil enough to know that it exists and that it’s author trembles at the name of Jesus. So, if and when you confront demonic influences, you can be confident that you’re on the winning side.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Do you believe in Satan? Why or why not?
  3. Do you live in the fear of Satan? Why or why not?

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

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


Filed under Uncategorized