Category Archives: Commentary

Comments on Scripture. There is no book that has the quality of the Bible. No book is more worthy of our study, esteem or sense of wonder.

“I’m Not Over It…” — GOD

When I married Kristy in 2004, we gave each other beautiful wedding bands. I still remember going to Benny’s Jewelers in Atlanta and selecting her engagement ring just prior to Thanksgiving 2003 and then going back with her a few months later so that we could pick out our bands. Mine was a beautiful eternity band with seven diamonds around it. I wore it each day so proudly! I was thrilled to be married and I imagined many happy years wearing the ring that my sweet wife gave me on the unforgettable day of our wedding. I loved the diamonds encircling the wedding band as it communicated the unending, continual love I had pledged to Kristy.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2010. Our house had been burglarized the day before Thanksgiving and the weekend after Thanksgiving I lost my treasured wedding ring. I just couldn’t find it anywhere. I turned our house upside down. I went back to every store and restaurant I had been to that weekend. I was determined to recover my ring. For weeks, I didn’t wear anything on my hand because I just knew that I would find my ring. I never did. But, my desire to find my ring has never diminished. Each day I think about it when I put on my “replacement ring”—a very simple band that has no sentimental value for me. In fact, while cleaning out the car last weekend, I secretly hoped that I would find it lodged underneath a long lost chicken nugget in the back seat! Truth is—I’m still not over it!

Can you relate?
Have you ever lost something or someone before you were ready to?
Have you ever had to say goodbye to a good season in life before you wanted to?

If you have, then I believe you have known—in an infinitely diluted way—the way God feels about the relationship He once had and lost with mankind. Adam and Eve and God enjoyed unhindered intimacy and fellowship in the Garden of Eden. Those were the happiest of times for Adam and Eve and God greatly delighted in them as well. When His enemy deceived Eve and when Adam sat passively by and disobeyed God, Adam and Eve not only broke God’s law—in a sense they also broke God’s heart.

From that fateful conversation recorded in Genesis 3 all the way through the last page of the book of the Revelation, there is a crimson thread of redemption. It’s God’s way of saying, “I’m not over it!”

And I’m so glad that He’s not! Salvation is possible because God longs for it. What was best in us died when our representative and first father, Adam ate of the tree and so declared independence from God. We don’t want God apart from God giving us the grace to want Him. So then, how great must He be that He would overlook our many offenses to show us the kindness of the cross.

Exodus 25-26 describes God’s outline of the Tabernacle and its furnishings to Moses. While looking at that this week, I learned that many of the symbols of the tabernacle are a token or reminder of the Garden of Eden (more on that here).

As I read that, I thought to myself, “God never got over what happened in the Garden.” Now, I don’t mean to say that God is somehow emotionally weak or incapable of moving on. Quite the contrary, He, unlike us, has complete control over what He will or will not remember. For God to “not get over it” is a great benefit to mankind because it paved the way for us to be reconciled to Him. As the psalmist said in Psalm 8:4, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Relationally, I thought about how quickly we like to move on when someone crosses us. Do we seek reconciliation before we cut people off? Are we willing to love them through their weaknesses and shortcomings? Or, do we just say, “You crossed me. I’m through with you. I’m over it.”

Thankfully God said, “I’m not over it.”

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Jesus Came Preaching!

One of my favorite book titles about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is “King Came Preaching.” It reminds me that at the heart of the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a gospel preacher who felt a just calling from God to fight against the racism and segregation he saw in the world.

It is easy for the world to make God’s people into merely good people. What I mean is that God’s people often do good works motivated by a desire to advance the Kingdom and display the glory and kindness of God in creation but our world commonly ascribes these good works to some altruistic goodness that must be common to all people. This undermines the conviction and connection of Christian good works.

Even when it comes to Jesus, many people would like to make him just a symbol of goodness or a good teacher who taught things that everyone can embrace. This undermines the truth about who Jesus is, why he came and what motivated his actions and teachings.

Jesus did not come to earth just to feed the hungry.
Jesus did not come to earth just to bring sight to the blind.
Jesus did not come to earth just to help people learn how to treat one another.

Jesus came preaching! Jesus came preaching a message of repentance, faith and forgiveness. All of his good works and the miracles he taught were there to confirm the authority of his teaching. If we don’t make the connection between Jesus preaching/teaching ministry with his good works, then we will fail to properly understand how we, His followers, should prioritize preaching/teaching and serving our world.

I’ve heard well-meaning Christians suggest that good works should be done by Christians with no strings attached. “Why not just give out water on a hot summer day without preaching at people?” “Why not give out food at Thanksgiving without trying to convert someone?” While I appreciate the sad reality that some Christians have gone over the top to present the gospel at the expense of being loving (which really isn’t presenting the gospel at all), I still think the declaration of the gospel in word and deed must be primary for Christians. If God, in all of His wisdom has chosen the preaching of the gospel as the means by which faith is to come, then who are we to decide that we’ve got some better, more modern, more effective way to do outreach than the one Jesus has promised to anoint?

Jesus came and did lots of things but most of all, Jesus came preaching so we should too.

Don’t Hold Back! Ambition & Father Abraham

Don't Hold Back1After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 2He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. 9When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 12He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” 15And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”  — Genesis 22:1-18

I love how sudden and urgent God’s call is to Abraham (v. 1). I can imagine God in Heaven sitting, thinking about the reality of what will have to happen to Jesus—that his one and only, beloved Son will have to come to earth to die a horrible, substitutionary death for mankind and in the emotion of it calling Abraham—maybe louder than usual and in a tone that communicated His anguish concerning the pending murder of his Son. The tone of it comforts me because it gives me the impression that God may be more like me than I think. I have things that happen that I don’t particularly look forward to. I have times when I am emotionally engaged. I yell sometimes! 🙂

When God said that He made us in His image and likeness, I’m not sure we believe Him because we act like He must be so different from us that we can’t relate to Him. To be sure, God is “holy” — which is to be “other than” or “different from”. He is holy and that is the quality and trait of his that we most lack. But, in that we have a personality and can think and feel and reason and choose, we are very much like God. God has built us to be able to engage with Him as His children and as friends. It would shock you very much if my two kids had as much in common with me as dogs or plants or chairs. It’s ridiculous to imagine. So, I wonder why we have such a hard time thinking that, just as I can relate to my young children and they can relate to me, and just as they can look at me to imagine their future selves, so we can look to God in the face of Christ to imagine what we are growing up to be. Christ is our big brother and God is our Father. But I digress…

At that time on earth, Abraham was probably God’s closest human friend. When God thought of the human race, he no doubt thought of His friend Abraham. So, in considering the future sacrifice of Jesus, I believe God arranged for His friend Abraham to taste in some small way the cup of anguish that God would drink completely. Thus, the “test” of Genesis 22 which in many ways foreshadows the crucifixion of Jesus.

Abraham & Isaac God & Jesus
Ishmael had been sent away so Isaac was the only hope for a son that would fulfill the promise. Adam had been sent away so Jesus was the only hope for a way to restore right relationship between God and man.
Isaac was to be totally consumed as an offering for sin (a burnt offering) on a mountain Jesus was totally given as a sacrifice for sin on a mountain (Calvary)
On the third day, Abraham saw the mountain where Isaac would be offered, ending that part of the journey and bringing them to the place where the ultimate climax of this story would take place. On the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus walked out of a rocky tomb. The empty grave then became the place where the climax of this part of Jesus’ story would take place.
Though two others are present, there is a very personal feel to Abraham leading Isaac up the mountain, and tying him up and holding in his hand the knife and fire. Though others are present (Pilate, Sadducees, Pharisees, the angry mob), there is a very personal feel to Jesus saying, “My God, My God, why have YOU forsaken me.”
Others carry the wood to the sacrifice but Isaac carries the wood the final leg of the journey up the hill to the place of sacrifice. Simon of Cyrene carries the wood (the cross) to the point of sacrifice but Jesus carries the wood the final leg of the journey to the hill of sacrifice.

But as similar as these two stories are, there is a crucial difference between the journey of Abraham with his son and the journey of God with His Son—God allowed Abraham to hold back but He would not allow Himself the same restraint.

[How great is the love our God has lavished on us at His own pain and expense!]

What I love about Abraham is that he did not hold back! He could have decided not to take his son to the sacrifice. He could have chosen not to obey the voice of God but he did. Graciously, God allowed Him to hold back but Abraham was willing to go all the way.

What about me? What about you? Will you go hard for the cause of Christ? Will you demonstrate the same commitment to the cause as God demonstrated? Will you give that which is most precious to you as Abraham did?

I should. You should. The fruit of Abraham’s obedience is recorded in verses 15-18 and because it was spoken aloud, I believe Isaac was able to hear it. Later in life, I’m sure Isaac reflected on the example of faith his father had demonstrated and I’m sure it was a motivating and guiding moment in his life.

The fruit of God’s all-out sacrifice is that billions of people have been brought into a loving relationship with their heavenly Dad who loves them and missed them.

God is good. His cause is a worthy one. You and I have a part to play. Don’t hold back!

Thoughts on Psalm 32

psalm-32-esv-word cloud1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,  Whose sin is covered! 2 How blessed is the man to whom the Lord  does not impute iniquity,  And in whose spirit there is no deceit! 3 When I kept silent  about my sin,  my body wasted away  Through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;  My vitality was drained away  as  with the fever heat of summer. Selah. 5 I acknowledged my sin to You,  And my iniquity I did not hide;  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord “;  And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. 6 Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;  Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him. 7 You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;  You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;  I will counsel you with My eye upon you. 9 Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,  Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,  Otherwise  they will not come near to you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,  But he who trusts in the Lord , lovingkindness shall surround him. 11 Be glad in the Lord  and rejoice, you righteous ones;  And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

V. 1-2: Is there any more blessed state to be in than forgiven? Without it, nothing matters and with it, our relationship with God is unhindered.

Secrets in a BoxV. 3-4: Secrets never pay. Confess sin quickly and with a heart to change.

V. 5: God wants to forgive our sin, not accuse and condemn us with our sin.

V. 6-7: “The rush of great waters”  – Times of unexpected trouble and calamity hit like a flood. You’re never sure if and when a flood is coming nor just how much damage it will do. Surely “flood times” come but the Lord is a “hiding place for me” who will “preserve me from trouble” and surround me with “shouts of deliverance.”

V. 8-9: The Lord is your teacher and His eye is on you as a good dad who is helping his child learn a new skill. He is rooting for you and telling you those things that are in your best interest. You have the best teacher you could ever need. If there is a problem it is one of stubbornness. DON’T be like the chaff that does not bend when the wind blows; BE like the wheat that yields to the wind. DON’T be stiff-necked and arrogant; BE teachable and obedient.

V. 10: Don’t envy the wicked when it seems like they are prospering. Most of the time, you only see what they want you to see—not their reality. And later, when eternal rewards are passed out, you will rejoice in knowing that you lived a life of obedience and so glorified God. You will be rewarded by your Father.

V. 11: So, once you’ve left sin and delighted in God, you can REJOICE! “Be glad in the Lord.” Any other source of gladness and joy is sure to fail. People falter. Money is hear then gone. Health and beauty fade. BUT, the Lord is constant. Your joy is safely placed in the sure bedrock of his unchanging nature and character. Hallelujah!!! Rejoice because, by the sacrifice of Jesus’ life, you have the opportunity to be called, “the upright in heart.”

The Question is Never “IF” You Are Using Your Influence but “HOW”


Each of us wields a certain measure of influence. Influence is sway. Its the ability to turn heads and minds and hearts and hands in a direction. Your influence can grow and it can shrink. It can be used for good or for evil. But whatever you do, your influence should not go ignored, especially not by you.

There is a story in 1 Kings 13 of a young prophet who was wrongly influenced by an older prophet. The young prophet was given a message of judgment to deliver and then to get out of there.

And the man of God said to the king,  “If you give me half your house,  I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place,  for so was it commanded me by the word of the  Lord , saying, “You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came.”  So he went another way and did not return by the way that he came to Bethel.

The young prophet did as he was supposed to and departed another way. However, the sons of the old prophet heard what the young prophet had done and when they told it to their father, the old man instructed them to saddle up the donkey. He rode the beast as quickly as he could in the direction that the young prophet had set out in until he found him sitting under a tree. There he gave him this contrary instruction:

Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.”

The young prophet knowing the voice of the Lord responded quickly:

And he said,  “I may not return with you, or go in with you, neither will I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place,  for it was said to me  by the word of the  Lord , “You shall neither eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by the way that you came.”

But, here comes the moment where the old prophet leveraged his influence in a wrongful and irresponsible way:

And he said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the  Lord , saying, “Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.” But he lied to him.  So he went back with him and ate bread in his house and drank water.

The rest of the story records that, as the young prophet and the old prophet sat together at the dinner table, the Word of the Lord came to the old prophet who in lament cried out:

And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, “Thus says the  Lord , “Because you have disobeyed the word of the  Lord  and have not kept the command that the  Lord  your God commanded you,  but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.”

The young prophet got on a donkey headed home the next morning. While on the road, he met his demise when a lion tore him to pieces in the middle of the road. For hours, the lion stood right beside the mangled but uneaten carcass and so did the donkey. The lion never struck the donkey or ate the man’s flesh. The young prophet was made an object lesson that day.

The regret-filled old prophet got word of the tragic state of affairs and collected himself to go recover the body. By the time he arrived at the homicide scene, the lion and the donkey were still just standing beside the young prophet’s carcass. The old prophet must have been somewhat nervous as he walked between the two beasts and dragged the lion’s kill onto the waiting donkey but at the same time, he knew that he was to blame.

He had misused his influence and now a young, innocent prophet who had so much potential lay dead in the street. Here’s my question: How are you using or misusing your influence?

What Happens When We Get “Ahead” of God?

In Genesis 16, Hagar, an Egyptian servant of Sarai, is drafted into Sarai’s plan to marry Abram, Sarai’s husband so that she can birth the child Abram has been promised. Sounds like a horrible episode of a reality TV show, right?

As can be expected, things do not go well for Hagar, Sarai or Abram. The repercussions of their arrangement are still felt today.

Hagar was used, not loved, by her husband. In fact, verse 6 records:
But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.

Abram referred to his second wife as his first wife’s servant instead of owning the consequences of his own poor decision. This put Hagar in such a bad position that she eventually ran away. Abram’s unwillingness to shield her from the wrath of Sarai left Hagar vulnerable and unprotected. Things were so bad that she went pregnant and alone into the wilderness. How desperate must this pregnant woman have been to have taken such a drastic course of action?

Sarai suffered as well. She now felt that she had to contend for the affections of her longtime husband. She now felt inferior to the younger, fertile Hagar. She now questioned what role she would have in Abram’s life now that Hagar had become pregnant with the promised child. All of these extra concerns because of a poor choice.

I can imagine that Sarai also lost a friend. I imagine that she had become quite cordial with Hagar prior to this situation. After all, she recommended her, of all their many servants, to be the mother for Abram’s child. But, when Sarai felt uncomfortable about the arrangement, all of the former niceties went out the door and she subjugated Hagar as a slave rather than a concubine. The Ryrie Commentary says that this was a common practice of that day, “as attested in legal codes and marriage contracts of that time,” and that Sarai’s demotion of Hagar “was Sarah’s legal right.”

NOTE: If you have a relationship that functions solely based on contractual rights and terms, you can expect the tenor and temperature of the relationship to be cool.

Abram suffered in the arrangement too. He was now the man caught in a power struggle between his wife of many years and his concubine. Any sign of tenderness or concern for Hagar was likely taken as a sign of disloyalty by Sarai. Hagar probably grew attached to Abram as well. After all, they had married and engaged in the very intimate marital act of sex. Abram also had a divided lineage from this point on. Abram was a loving father but the day came when the toxic, combustible environment created by Abram’s decisions and tenuously held together with careful pretenses could no longer hold up against the reality of the situation.

But Sarah  saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham,  laughing.    So she said to Abraham,  “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.”  And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son.  But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for  through Isaac shall your offspring be named.

The story of Genesis 16 is a rather sad one that made the lives of three people very hard, not to mention the lives of their progeny. It makes me think about how important it is that we not “get ahead of God.” In truth, we are never ahead of God but sometimes we think we can use our own ingenuity and creativity to help us get what we know God wants us to have. This is a misstake.

If we get to points where we are unsure of what direction to take, it would be better that we stay on the course God placed us on than to try some half-baked idea that we haven’t run past Him. It doesn’t matter that it’s what “everyone else is doing.” It may not be right for you. Instead, position yourself for success by 1. deciding up front that you will do things God’s way and 2. positioning yourself to hear from Him by seeking Him out—through His Word, through worship, through prayer, through wise counsel.

God has no problems getting you to a certain destination. In fact, the older I get, the more I believe that life is not really about the destination, but about the person you are becoming along the journey.

Joshua 1: Called & Equipped

Some of the stories in the Old Testament are just astouding. They make you take a second look like, “Did that really happen?!” Yes, it did!!

Joshua 1 is one of those passages. Imagine it—Moses, the revered, grand and great leader of Israel, the Deliverer, the Friend of God,  has passed on and no one knows where he’s buried. The younger apprentice Joshua is thrust into the forefront with great challenges ahead of the nation of Israel and few allies. What to do!?

I can imagine Joshua was nervous and insecure. He had experienced victories before but never as the man. There’s something different about performing under a new set of expectations. There’s something different about being the guy in charge. All of a sudden there are unspoken expectations about how you’re supposed to behave and what you’re supposed to know and who you’re supposed to be. People relate to you differently and it’s not all honor for your position—some folks think you can give them something they want.

Joshua’s transition also had several positives. His predecessor Moses had also been his mentor. Joshua had served alongside Moses for many years and been battle-tested and affirmed by Moses in front of all the people. Moses had left a clear plan of succession such that the people expected him to take over the leadership role from Moses. But perhaps the most important aspect of his succession was that the Lord had called and equipped him for the context that the Lord put him in.

Called — Taking a leadership post in service to the Lord is such a holy and difficult task that no one should do it presumptuously. That is to say, you shouldn’t appoint yourself where God has not appointed you. Desiring a leadership position is a good thing but the path to fulfilling that desire should be one paved by God. It may turn out that God has an altogether different path in mind for you anyway? Be open to his calling in your life.

How do you know what God is calling you to? Well, like Elijah, it probably won’t come in a violent windstorm, earthquake or fire, it may not come in a dream in the night or a vision by day, but it will come.

Listen.

Be still inside. Let your anxious thoughts be ceased in the wonder of God and His presence. As you lose yourself in worship (not just the congregational singing kind, but the lifestyle characterized by a conscious focus on God), you will find your identity (you are a son of God) and your purpose (to know God and to make Him known) and your calling (this is your specific way of expressing the identity and purpose God has for you).

Equipped — Like a good leader, God equips us with what we need for the journey and assignment he has for us. Consider these passages that reveal just what Joshua needed most:

Friend, if God has called you, He has equipped you. Take comfort in this fact and put your confidence in Him.

A PRAYER: Lord, I thank You that You have given me everything I need to fulfill the assignment before me. The giants are opposing me. Those who should have my back question my ability to lead. There are so many missing pieces between where I am now and where I believe you want to take me. Yet, you have called me and I am equipped. Lead me. Stay with me. Help me. Father, I know that You love me and work in all things for my good. Jesus, all authority is Your’s and I thank You that You lead me in triumph. Holy Spirit, you comfort me in every distress and are ever-present with me. Therefore, my heart will trust in the Lord..

Numbers 16: Why Rebellion Against God’s Leader’s is Rebellion Against GOD

The rebellion was against God not Moses and Aaron and the seeds of the rebellion were planted long before Numbers 16. It’s likely that there was not unity and uniformity in the contentions held by the 250 leaders; no doubt some took issue with one thing whilst others took issue with another and certainly there were varying degrees of disdain for Moses, Aaron and the choices that had been made. However, all of these “leaders” were sucked in to this damnable plot to overthrow what, in their minds, was the rule of Moses and Aaron, even though it was really the LORD God they were revolting against.

How careful we must be in choosing what and with whom we align ourselves! You and I may not be completely with the way things are but we must be particular in the stances we take.

Lord, please help me to make wise choices and to deal effectively with my disgruntlement and to perceive Your will in each situation. Thank you Father.