It was before the Lord

Two recent Bible Journal posts have mentioned verses or themes from Matthew 5-7 (also known as the Sermon on the Mount). Stephanie’s post on 3/10 and  Lyndon’s post on 3/12 mentioned loving our enemies.

2 Samuel 6 also reminds me of the Sermon on the Mount. I wonder if Jesus had these stories of David on his mind as he gave this sermon. Jesus would have heard these stories and understood the text from being a young boy, so it seems quite possible.

David had been celebrating and worshipping God, he “danced before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14a). We witness David not holding back whatsoever, giving his all solely for the glory of God.

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b]they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

As David returns to bless his household, he is greeted rudely and angrily by his wife Michal. Why did Michal respond the way she did? 2 Samuel 6:16 says she “despised him in her heart”. Ouch, his own wife!

This chapter doesn’t tell us her reasoning for being upset. I’ve got some thoughts on this, and all relate to what I believe is the root for most of our sin: Selfishness.

  1. Was Michal jealous that David put God first in his life?
  2. Was Michal full of pride and embarrassed that David lowered himself before the people, dancing like a maniac? As though the king should behave more “kingly”.
  3. Was Michal bitter that David held greater esteem than her father (Saul)? Did she think the throne should be in her own family?

Whatever the reasoning, I see this as persecution directly related to David’s love for God and his desire to serve him first. This brings me again to the Sermon on the Mount.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

David’s response to Michal was more than fair, and he chose to keep it above board without snarling back insults at her. I loved this statement “It was before the Lord” because it reflects his priorities and that he really didn’t care what anyone thought about what he was doing – he cared about being right with God.

39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:39)

All of this once again leads me to the cross. I don’t know exactly what it feels like to be despised but Jesus does. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life yet he was despised, betrayed, beaten, spit upon and unjustly killed. He didn’t have to do any of this, but he did it anyway in direct obedience to The Father’s plan, for our sins. Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice. I choose you today. Amen.

Today’s readings: 2 Samuel 6 & Psalm 38

Extra credit reading: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)


What a fitting way to close out the year.  Psalms 150

Let Everything Praise the LORD
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!

So much of our year-end focuses on either what happened last year or what we want to happen next year.  Psalm 150 is about right now, this very moment.  Don’t miss it!  Set aside, for a minute, who he was last year and who he is going to be next year.  Let’s praise him for who He is.  He is, after-all, I AM.  He is present.  Right here, right now!  Praise him with whatever instrument you have available to you.  Clap your hands, shout with your voice, stomp your feet.  When we recognize his mighty deeds and his excellent greatness, it happens.

“He may have given us the power to be, but he is I am.  Worship is our response to all that god is” – Matt Ludwig, Eastview Christian Church

Maybe You’re the One


Good morning and happy Monday.  As we head into Easter week I hope your heart is opening to miracle of the Risen Christ! Today, I’d like to introduce my friend Amy Perschall.  Amy and I sing together on Eastview’s vocal team. A few weeks ago, I learned that her devotion to Christ and skill in sharing His word goes far beyond the music. After hearing her present a morning devotional for a group of musicians, I knew I had to share her gift here! Amy holds a B.S. in Music from ISU, a Master of Divinity, a Masters in Christian Counseling and is working on her Doctor of Ministry. She has experience as a Pastor, Chaplain, Christian Counselor and Youth Pastor.  She has worked in churches, hospitals, prisons and led missions in the name of Jesus. As she completes her doctoral work, Amy is praying for a new opportunity to share her ministry. She is in the process of ordination and I know the next chapter for her will bless so many. I’m excited to share her with our Bible Journal readers!

Today’s Reading: Acts 6

Have you ever seen a need in the church and wondered why someone wasn’t addressing it?  Maybe there are rowdy kids running around between church services and you think, “someone should give them something to do.”  Or maybe there is a concern in the community with homelessness and you wonder, “why doesn’t a church step up and attend to the needs of this population?”  Or maybe you read an article about a school whose students’ grades are failing and you question, “why doesn’t a group step up and help with tutoring or after-school programs?”

A similar questioning arose amongst the Hellenists (or Grecian Jews) and the Hebrews (or Hebraic Jews) in Acts 6.  The Hellenists were a community of believers from places other than Israel and most likely spoke Greek as their primary language.  Their social and religious practices would probably have differed from the Hebrews as well.  And when bringing two different cultures together, there will always be challenges to overcome.

The dispute between the Hellenists and the Hebrews was over the treatment of their widows.  In the Ancient Near East, widows were often unable to provide for themselves and their care was left to the community.  Israelite farmers were to leave grain unharvested so widows, orphans, and foreigners could glean the leftovers and eat (Deut. 24:17-22).  Also, the tithes given to the priests were to provide for the widows, orphans, aliens and priests every third year (Deut. 26:12-13).  So, when the Hellenists complained because, “their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution” (Acts 6:1b), it was a big deal!

Now, I imagine when the Hellenists lodged their complaint to the Twelve (think Twelve Disciples of Jesus), they were expecting one of the leadership to do something.  However, the Twelve had a different plan.  They needed to continue in the call on their lives to preach the Gospel and spread the word of God.  So, just as any good leader does, they delegated.  In developing a team of seven who are “of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3b), the Twelve involve more people in ministry and leadership.  Instead of trying to do everything themselves, the Twelve encourage those who had identified the problem to step up and serve within their giftedness and they were ready to serve!  I’m sure there were growing pains as these new leaders learned how to lead, but in spreading out the work, more people were served in the end.

So, as you notice needs within the church and your community, instead of wondering why someone else doesn’t step up, maybe God is trying to get your attention!  Maybe you are exactly the person God has in mind to spearhead a new ministry.  Are you ready to serve?

Built on The Rock

Matthew Chapter 7 completes Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. Jesus finished His teaching with this advice; a promise and a warning:

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Preparing for this entry I noticed something I must have glossed over in the past. From verse 24 the word ‘the’ really changes things; ‘like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

The Bible makes it clear that rocks or stones are very important things. Many believe they represent things that are made in God’s image, that is things that are unique, whereas bricks represent things that are man made. Bricks have been known to represent oppression from tyrants who treat their subjects as replaceable cogs rather than individuals with unique capacity. Themes of these sorts make their appearance in Genesis 11 when bricks were used as the building blocks of Nimrod’s Tower of Babel and then again in Exodus 5 amidst the oppression and slavery of God’s people by Pharaoh’s kingdom.

Some think this contrast and truth is why God makes it clear that altars are to be built of stone and never bricks (Isaiah 65). That we are to bring the first fruits of our individually unique and God given talents to worship him.

I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. 2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; 3 A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick; – Isaiah 65:1-3

We know that Jesus is The Rock, The Cornerstone (1Corinthians 10:4, Isaiah 8:14, Isaiah 28:16, 1Peter 2:8, Matthew 21:44, Daniel 2:34-35). We know that the word of God became flesh in Jesus (John 1:14). Considering these things brought me back to a fundamental place where the question of trust rushes to the forfront. Will we trust in Jesus? He promises us a foundation built on truth, designed to last, created to withstand all. His promises are unique. His way single, narrow and strait.

Worship in Spirit and Truth

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24

Whenever I come past these verses they grab me. The idea that God is seeking such people leaves me wanting to be found. Also the clear list of ingredients necessary for true worship that God desires; God is a spirit, therefore, these people He is seeking to worship Him must do so in spirit and truth. Not one or the other. Both are required.

In preparing for this post I sought teaching on “in spirit and truth.” Here are some notes from a sermon series on ‘true worship‘. 

Elements to worship in spirit:

  1. Spiritually alive: having received the Spirit and not grieved nor quenched Him through ignoring Him for nor drowning Him out with self.  
  2. Thoughts focused on God.
  3. The Word of God present as the source of discovery and truth in our lives.
  4. An undivided heart for God; A single eye for God.

Elements to worship in truth:

Worshiping in truth is all about worshiping what is true. God is truth. (John 14:6) Put another way, true worship is in an understanding of the truth. Put another way still, worshiping in truth requires understanding the truth.

Worship in truth admits the truth about everything. Including us, Him and how we relate; the past, the future, His promises. Everything as revealed in scripture. When I read Psalm 47:7 it seemed to ‘click’ for me.

For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm! (ESV)

The translation in the King James Version helped me connect to the meaning of worshiping in truth a bit easier.  

For God is the King of all the earth:
sing ye praises with understanding. (KJV)

Worship is a response to truth. Worship is a response to truth in that very same truth. Without the truth there is no true worship. False worship seems to have its formation in the imaginations of our mind and rationalizations of our heart. All of which point to a false and perverted view of God and His creation.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1:24-25


I hope these notes where helpful to you in our quest to worship in spirit and truth. Have an awesome day.  May God reveal the truth to you and may you draw neigh to Him and He to you.

Today’s reading: 2 Chronicles 16; Revelation 5; Zechariah 1; John 4

Suggestions for prayer: Admit your sinful heart to God. Like David did, confess that you are not be able to search out all of the sin in your heart. Ask God to find it and deal with it. Commit yourself to Him, trust in Him. (Psalm 139:23-24, Psalm 51:10)

Challenge: Consider getting to service early to spend time in prayer confessing your sins, humbling yourself and preparing your heart to worship in Spirit. Also consider allowing for time to reflect on the truth of who God is and who we are in relation to Him in order to enter into God’s presence to worship Him in truth.

For further study: Consider selecting a sermon from the series on ‘true worship and listening in for a while on your drive to work.

Counting Sheep

Sheep on the landscape taken in Somerset England

2 Kings 8; 1 Timothy 5; Daniel 12; Psalm 119:49–72

Sometimes I don’t sleep well.  I’m thinking that the writer of Psalm 119 didn’t either.  He says, “At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules.”  (Psalm 119:62) Now, he may very well wake up at midnight to praise God.  Hat’s off to him if he does.  On the other hand, maybe he just wakes up and can’t get back to sleep.  That’s what happens to me.  Rather than read a book, or click on the TV, I have learned to do something like the Psalmist.  In verse 55, He adds, “I remember your name in the night, O Lord.”  My goal is the same.  Remember his name in order to praise, honor and glorify Him.  If you know the alphabet, you can do it too.  Simply assign an attribute of God to each letter in the alphabet.  It goes something like this:

Almighty – Revelation 11:17
Bountiful – Deuteronomy 28:11
Consuming fire – Hebrews 12:29
Divine – Romans 1:20
Eternal – Revelation 1:8
Father – 2 John 1:3
Glory- 2 Peter 1:17
Holy – Isaiah 6:3
Immaculate – 2 Samuel 22:31
Just – John 5:30
King of kings – 1 Timothy 6:15
Lord of lords – 1 Timothy 6:15
Marvelous light – 1 Peter 2:9
Near – James 4:8
One – 1 Corinthians 12:13
Prince of peace – Isaiah 9:6
Quiet – 1 Kings 19:12
Refuge – Psalm 46:1
Slow to anger – Numbers 14:18
Teacher – John 3:2
Unchangeable – Hebrews 6:18
Victorious – 1 Corinthians 15:7
Wonderful – Psalm 139:14
eXtreme – Ok I cheated here. Read Hebrews 11 to see what I mean about God being extreme
Yahweh – 2 Chronicles 14:11
Zenith – Luke 2:14 & Mark 11:10.  Yes, I cheated here too.   “Zenith” isn’t in the Bible, but it sounds a lot like Luke 2:14 and Mark 11:10.

I find several benefits of this simple exercise.  First, I rarely make it to the end before the Lord gives me sleep.  Second, I find bigger and better descriptions for him.  Finally, I have placed his name above all others, just as he asks.  I Worship.

The Thin Places

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town…-Mark 6: 8-11

In 2007, as my wife Heather and I walked along the pilgrims trail between Florence and Rome, I was reminded of this passage from the Bible when Jesus sends out the twelve. Like the disciples, if we follow him, we need little more than our faith. Traveling light was the idea, not burdened by the things of the world. What was it about this place that tugged on my heart so strong? There was just something undeniable about the high places. They were called the thin places by the Celts, where that which separates us from God is less, where the sacred meets the secular. In these places we come closer to God.

Later we stood near the place Saint Francis of Assisi (circa 1205) had cast off his clothing, rejecting a life of wealth and power, choosing to follow Jesus and serve the sick and the weary, through hospitality and service.

Writing to you this morning from a rooftop in Paris, I can’t stop thinking about last Sunday when we traveled by train from Bern Switzerland to Mulenen, then by funicular, almost straight up the side of Niesan Mountain (I know, lazy Americans), also known as the Swiss Pyramid. imageHeather, my youngest son Cooper, my niece Chloe and I unloaded from the red mountain cable train, immediately stunned as we walked out onto this special mountain. Our breath was taken by three hundred and sixty degree unobstructed views of the Bernese Alps and the valley bellow that surrounded lake Thun.

Everywhere we turned the view was incredible. It felt as if you could reach out and touch the jagged glaciated peaks. We were suspended above the earth under a cobalt blue dome and we prayed. Each of our prayers were different and more than just words in our heads. And each heard the voice of God, overpowering and silent, in the splendor of our moment, above the earth and beneath the heavens.image

I watched my twelve year old son eagerly strike out on the switchback trail down the mountain. He had to go! There was no stopping him. imageOf course a four hour trek in tennis shoes wasn’t going to happen, but he was born again on the side of a mountain that day. Something about this place called out changing each of us forever. The magnificence of God’s creation was certain, God’s power undeniable, His calling tailored to each of us perfectly in this moment. For me it was sharing the message of hope found in Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. image

In the holy name of Jesus, I pray: please God, release us from the burdens of this world, those that separate us from you. Lead us to the thin places to see your brilliance, to hear your voice and feel your power. May our lives never be the same as we learn to walk with you, more sublime each day. Amen.

Today’s reading link: Judges 7; Acts 11; Jeremiah 20; Mark 6

Productive Faith

5920447977_f84dff5a33_o_cropped_0Joshua 9; Psalms 140–141; Jeremiah 3; Matthew 17

If only my faith were the size of a mustard seed. Then, I could move mountains. Nothing would be impossible. That is what Jesus tells us today in Matthew 17:20. This is difficult to believe, at best. My struggle with it has me questioning what faith is. Sure, I am familiar with the definition that is provided in Hebrews 11:1. It says that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” While this is a good definition of faith, it doesn’t help me believe that I can move a mountain. In fact, I can barely move the dining room table!  What gives?

Don’t you think that this is what the disciples were dealing with? They tried and tried to drive the demon from the boy but were unable. Why not? Jesus doesn’t give them a practical answer, he simply says, “Because of your little faith.” (Matthew 17:20). The secret, he tells them, is to “have more faith.” So how is it that we get more faith?

It is helpful to look at a couple of people who have exhibited true faith. One man appears in Matthew 9. Jesus restores his sight after the man confesses his faith. Jesus affirms his faith saying, “According to your faith be it done to you” (Matthew 9:29). Another story involves a woman begging for her daughter’s healing. She worshipped and pleaded with Jesus. Finally, he responds, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (Matthew 15:28). There is also the centurion. He understands authority and ascribes the same to Jesus. Jesus affirms him and says, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 1:9). How is it that these people had such faith? What is the difference? The answer is found in the object of focus.

These examples reveal three traits of faith.  First, the blind man confesses his belief, second, the woman worships and third, the centurion acknowledges Jesus’ authority. While these are separate and distinct traits, they have one commonality.   Their focus is on Jesus. According to A.W. Tozer, “faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all.” This is clear in these three examples. When we worship, confess and concede authority to God, we cease to be important. God becomes all. Tozer continues, “Faith is a redirecting of our sight, a getting out of the focus of our own vision and getting God into focus.” The result? The work we are trying to do gets done. Not on our own behalf or for our own satisfaction, but for God’s.

What have you been diligently working on that just isn’t working?  Do you have a persistent flaw that is keeping you from being the person you know God wants you to be?  Tozer says to, “Stop tinkering with your soul and look away to the perfect One.”

All A.W. Tozer quotes are taken from his excellent work The Pursuit of God.  Check out the FREE Kindle version!

Why doesn’t everyone worship Jesus like that?

Deuteronomy 15; Psalm 102; Isaiah 42; Revelation 12

My wife Amy and I recently attended a live music event with approximately 22,000 other fans. It was a sold out show so the stadium was packed. This band has enjoyed great success over the last several years represented by multiple awards as well as a large and energetic fan base. Amy and I are familiar with every one of their songs and it seemed the crowd was as familiar as we were. From the opening song through the encore, the crowd cheered, clapped, and sang with hands held high.

Amy looked at me during the show and asked “why doesn’t everyone worship Jesus like that?” I love her simple, yet insightful observations… what a great question because he is SO WORTHY of our heartfelt, relentless worship! When I IMG_7135shared the theme of this post with a peer, (thanks to Kerry Myers for your input on this) he responded: “People exhibit great passion and enthusiasm at their favorite concert because they’ve approached the event with great excitement and anticipation about who they are going to see”. Shouldn’t that be how we approach our worship, no matter where we are? Are we excited and in great anticipation as we approach our God because he alone is God, or are we going through the motions, serving him our leftovers?

Jesus did so much for us, and he has promised much more goodness to come. Today’s reading has several worship-worthy attributes of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and here are just a few:

  • Psalm 102:12 tells us that he is enthroned forever. All other earthly kings have been, or will be dethroned. Our king will never be dethroned; he will remain in authority over all things for eternity!
  • He “hears the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die” (Psalm 102:20) While this can hold true for physical prisoners which is likely the context of this verse, I cannot help but think of this metaphorically in that the prisoners are us in our sin, and that Jesus is the one who sets us free from the death of our sins.
  • Psalm 102:25 tells us that God made the earth. He made this place! Think for a second about the making a planet. He did it, and it is oh so good! Thank you God!
  • Praise God for what he says is true, that he gave prophecies that have been fulfilled through Jesus Christ. The Old Testament (before Jesus walked the earth) prophecy in Isaiah 42:1 refers to God’s servant, in whom his soul delights and that God has put his Spirit upon him. Isaiah 42:1 gives me chills because I know deep in my heart that it plays out much later in the New Testament in Matthew 3:16-17: And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
  • He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street (Isaiah 42:2). This verse is also documented in the book of Matthew as being fulfilled:  Matthew 12:14-21

Today I’m praising and thanking God for my dad, Don Harris, and wanted to say happy birthday to him. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of my dad as a lifelong trait is that he is wise. He has always taught me the importance of seeking wisdom, and has always shared his wisdom with me. In addition to his wisdom he’s an excellent businessman, humble, forgiving, kind to all, generous, and fun. My commitment to exercise comes from his example; too bad I did not follow his example in being an excellent golfer… Happy birthday dad!

Good Morning!

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

When I read that verse it reminded me of one of the questions I’ve been so intrigued by recently: What do you look forward to when you wake up each morning?

Deuteronomy 7; Psalm 90; Isaiah 35; Revelation 5

I heard a sermon a while back where the question was asked, “why wouldn’t your first morning act be to thank God for the new day?” Every breath we have, and every new day happen because he allows it. This act helps remind us of who God is, that he is in control, and it acknowledges him as first in our lives.

Think about the other things that we often look forward to when we wake up. While I’ve made progress in my first thoughts and actions in the morning I still too often fall short and make it “me first”. I’m praying over this verse right now that it will speak to all of us as we consider seeking God’s help to grow into the people he designed us to be. This is a verse to help us acknowledge our sins; he already knows our sins, we have no secrets from him.

You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence. (Psalm 90:8)

Let’s look to some of the Ten Commandments to help guide us.

“‘You shall have no other gods before me. (Deuteronomy 5:7)

What sort of habits can we develop as our first morning thoughts and acts so as to reflect there is no other god before God Almighty? What are our actions as adults saying to our children and others who observe us in the morning? How can we influence our children to develop “holy habits” in the morning without becoming legalistic and thus pushing them away?

“‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, (Deuteronomy 5:8-9)

Have our smartphones become our idols? Do our phones serve us or do we inherently serve them? While hopefully no one “bows down” to their phone, do we metaphorically bow down to social media with the amount of time we spend, with our seeking to be validated by someone else rather than our God who made us and loves us unconditionally?

but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.  (Deuteronomy 5:10)

It is refreshing that this portion of the Ten Commandments closes with a promise of love. Our God is not a god who seeks to destroy us; he is seeking relationship with us, he is seeking the best for us because he loves us.

So teach us to number our days
  that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

Time is our only limited commodity. We can earn more money, we can buy more things, but what equalizes the super wealthy and super poor is time. While we may not have an equal amount of time on this Earth, none of us can make more time, so let’s not waste it! Let’s LIVE ROBUSTLY and say no to the good things so that we can say YES to the GREAT things!

Father God, teach us to number our days; to live them robustly for your glory, to live in a way you designed us to live. Reveal to us the distractions and increase our faith to focus on you. Help us to be a light that shines for you so that our friends, families, and those who observe us notice a difference; that we may not be “of this world” but living with eternity in mind.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:17)