how can you be both?

In Psalm 86, David makes two statements back-to-back that are hard at first to understand together.

Here are verses 1 & 2 of Psalm 86:

“Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you– you are my God.”

You see what David says? In verse 1, he says he is “poor and needy.” And then in verse 2, he says “I am godly.” How can you be both? Aren’t they the opposite?

No. Not the opposite. Not at all.

This is so important to understanding true life in Christ. True religion is not at all what you are doing for God, but moreover what God is doing through you!

This is exactly what Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 15:10. (“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”)

But back to David now in Psalm 86. What then is he saying? David is aware of his sins, his wrong-doings, his shortcomings, and his struggles. He knows that he is not God, and therefore he needs God. So he prays to God “answer me, for I am poor and needy.” But then He knows that God is his God and that God is his Shepherd and that God is his maker and that God is his salvation. He knows that He is one of the people of God. He knows God’s covenant to his forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So he knows that He is godly…. not because of his own life and works, but because of God’s graciousness toward him (see vv. 3, 5, 8, 11, 13, 15, 16).

So according to David’s own life, he is poor and needy. But according to God’s love and mercy toward him, his relationship with God, and his salvation in God, he is godly.

Its beautiful! Its Gospel Truth. Because of me, I am poor and needy. But Because of God, I am godly. Only by grace can this be true.

It reminds me of the first Beatitude in Matthew 5:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

No wonder people aren’t happy

Are you blessed (content and happy)?

In Luke 6, Jesus gives 4 types of people who are blessed:

  1. the poor (v.20)
  2. the hungry (v.21)
  3. those who weep (v.21)
  4. those who are hated, excluded, reviled, and spurned

What in the world is he talking about? Is Jesus crazy?

John MacArthur says “everything he taught was so utterly opposite from everything they thought.” And Matthew Henry says “It is so far from depriving you of your happiness that it will greatly add to it.”

What Jesus is teaching is that ‘a state of happiness’ can only come from God.
Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Generally speaking, when one has wealth, a full belly, laughter, and everyone likes them then that one is unlikely to be aware of their need for God. So the one who is poor and hungry and weeping and at odds with people turns to God out of their great need and trusts in Christ the Lord.

When you read this teaching from Jesus, you are left thinking… if those are the people who are blessed, no wonder people aren’t happy.

Trust in the Lord and be happy, blessed and content! Be able to say “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

the 12 apostles

Do you know who the 12 apostles are? If you were to stop right now and think, could you name them?

Surely you know Peter and Andrew, James and John, maybe Matthew, Philip and Thomas too. But do you know the rest of the 12?

The 12 apostles are important. They were the men hand-chosen by Jesus after he had prayed all night. They were the ones Jesus would invest himself in and empower to go and spread the Good News throughout the world. The 12 apostles are also the ones in Revelation21 that will have their names on the walls of the foundations of the city of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:14) in Heaven.

So who are they? Well they are listed 4 different times in the New Testament. You can find them listed in Matthew 10, Mark 3, Luke 6 and Acts 1:13.

Well according to Luke’s list, here are the 12 apostles (get to know them):

  1. Simon (whom he named Peter)
  2. Andrew (Peter’s brother)
  3. James (Son of Zebedee)
  4. John (Son of Zebedee)
  5. Philip
  6. Bartholomew (Bartholomew is a last name. Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person.)
  7. Matthew (He is also named Levi)
  8. Thomas
  9. James (Son of Alphaeus)
  10. Simon (the Zealot)
  11. Judas (Son of James; He is also named Thaddeus)
  12. Judas Iscariot

‘mystery’ in the Bible

Michael Wilcock writes this helpful paragraph on the use of the word ‘mystery’ in the New Testament:

“A very cursory study of the New Testament use of the word ‘mystery’ shows  that it does not there carry its usual modern sense of ‘puzzle’. It is indeed something hidden, but not in such a way that you can follow a series of clues and eventually find it out; rather, it is a truth which you either know or do not know, depending on whether or not it has been revealed to you. To the initiate, it will never again be a secret; but so long as he was an outsider, it could never be anything else. The ‘mysteries’ of the New Testament are open secrets to every Christian. The ‘mystery of Christ’ spoken of in Ephesians 3:3-6 is a truth which was hidden from ‘men in other generations’, but ‘has now been revealed to his holy apostles’, and Paul in turn has ‘written briefly’ of it to the Ephesians; it is, in a sentence, that ‘the Gentiles are . . . partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus’ along with God’s ancient people the Jews. To Paul and his readers this is no longer a secret.”

how do you approach a major decision?

Lots of people in our world today struggle with decision making. (Lebron’s “Decision” last summer)

It is not uncommon for you to hear someone say “I hate choices.” Or “I hate having to make decisions.” Decisions are often very hard to make. Especially when there are major ramifications to what you decide.

Well in Luke 6, we see a vivid picture as to how the God-Man approached making a big decision.

In Luke 6:13, the Bible says “he (Jesus) called his disciples and chose from them twelve.” Now we do not know how many disciples were there. Obviously it had to be more than 12, But we can assume it was quite a bit. 50, maybe 100 or 200, who knows. But the last few chapters of Luke have been showing a huge response and following to Jesus’ ministry. Regardless of how many people were there, Jesus had a huge decision to make. He was choosing from those disciples a select 12 that he would invest himself in and later commission to go and change the world through the Spirit’s power by preaching and spreading the Gospel.

Jesus’ choosing the 12 apostles was an enormous decision that was not to be taken lightly. So how did Jesus approach this big decision?

The previous verse tells us. In Luke 6:12-13a, the Word of God states “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples…”

So before Jesus makes the world-changing draft picks for who his 12 apostles would be, he spent the entire night alone on a mountain in prayer to God. Wow! Alone. On a mountain. All night. In prayer. God led Jesus to choose those 12.

Next time you are faced with a big decision… who to date, who to marry, what to buy, how much to spend, new car, new house, new job, what school, what direction, and so on and so on… approach it the right way, the humble way, the surrendered way, the depending on God way, the Jesus way! Get alone and seek God in prayer, He will lead you!

so very serious

There are some places in the Bible that are so, so very serious. So intense that they can be disturbing!

Revelation 16:4-7 is one of these passages. This is the section of the 7 Bowls of God’s Wrath. These particular verses are the Third Bowl. This third angel is praising God while he pours out a Bowl of the Wrath of God. This bowl turns the rivers and springs of water into blood. While this is happening another angel cries out at the end of verse 6:

“It is what they deserve!”

SO SERIOUS! Any human being will have a hard time with someone being punished under the wrath of God. UNLESS their view and allegiance to God is big and true.

See, the Bowls of God’s wrath are not to be taken out of context… The seven seals of chapter 6-8 and the seven trumpets of chapters 8-11 are judgments also but they are warnings too. They are not final. They were judgmental warnings that were intended to get peoples’ attention to turn to God. But “the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent…” (Rev. 9:20) Event after event was happening and should have caused people to turn to God, but they refuse to turn to God. Instead they continue cursing God.

So it is fitting in the end, when the angel of God praises God for pouring out his wrath on sinners.

Its a hard truth. But God’s Holiness is at stake.

May we followers of Jesus, redeemed only by grace, be humbled by this reality.

boys of summer

Summer Break is here and we are in the middle of our church’s VBS week. It is an awesome time and so much joy and fun for so many reasons.

My sons are growing up, and it is all so new to me. I really cannot believe where God has brought me in life. Here are two recent pictures of each of the boys. JJ is 3 and a half. Eli recently turned two. And Noah is 8 months.

the bowls of revelation

As I have been studying Revelation a lot lately, I am loving God and His word more and more.  This week I will be teaching through chapter 16 in our Men’s & Women’s Bible Studies. Chapter 16 contains the 7 Bowls of the wrath of God. One of the books I have been studying is Michael Wilcock’s book The Message of Revelation in the John Stott Series.

Here is an excerpt from Michael Wilcock’s book:

“The angels’ Bowls, moreover, are filled with the wrath of the God who lives for ever and ever, and ‘it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb. 10:31). It means that though our life may end with its bang or its whimper, his life continues unaffected. The bomb goes up, the smoke clears, the dust dies down– he is still there. Or alternatively, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done, and we look forward to peace at the last– but he is still there to be reckoned with. ‘Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell'(Luke 12:4, 5). It is the classic horror story situation, where you flee from the thing you fear, take refuge behind your barricades, and find you have locked it inside with you. It is the Hound of Heaven, only a hound of judgment, not of mercy. ‘Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?’ (Isaiah 33:14).”