Monday, March 15, 2021


Jesus was in Jerusalem and got into a heated argument with the Pharisees about hand washing. The Pharisees emphasized a ritual of hand washing to a priority place in their traditions that if you did not follow procedure they would call you out on it.  And so they asked Jesus why his disciples did not ceremonially wash their hands before they ate.  Jesus goes right after the Pharisees traditions that had become more important than the heart of the Law of God. The disciples are concerned that Jesus offended the Pharisees and ask him to explain his reasoning. 

Matthew 15:  16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”

Jesus goes to the heart of the issue which is the heart.  You can clean up the outside all you want for outward appearances but our hearts are the key.  So think with me today what traditions Jesus might confront in our American church culture: 

1. We are very offended by the language of our culture and we say we would never us certain profanities in the church.  But Christians are some of the worst people about talking about other people in ways that are slanderous and hateful but we seldom object. 

2. We are often offended by the inappropriate clothing people wear and we might say I would never wear that in public.  But then we turn around and spend an extraordinary amount of money on clothing that is meant to impress other people.  

3.  Do not even get me started on our Christmas and Easter Traditions...

4. What do you recognize is tradition over heart in our American Christian Culture? 

Guys hear me - I do not want you to wear your Speedo bikini swimming suit to church next Sunday or to come in dropping the F-bomb.  Just like Jesus was not saying washing your hands before you eat was a terrible thing.  Jesus just wants us to look at the heart of what we are doing and why we are doing what we do. The heart is really the battle ground for the enemy to trip us up and defeat us.  

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Lent 21- Pure Hearts

I remember the school days when teachers would grade on a scale.  So if there were some students in the class who did not really care about the class they would always drop the scale and help me out.  It was not something that motivated me to improve, but rather it made me a bit lazy.  When I think about the concept of having a pure heart I seem to always have the temptation to think of it as a grade on a scale.  There are always people below me and so I must be okay.  

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.  (Matthew 6:8 NLT) 

Maybe of all the "blessing statements" of Jesus, this one is the one that is so far out of reach that we tend to only be able to manage it with comparison.  I mean I know my heart at times is really good and then there are times when jealousy, prejudice, unforgiveness, impurity, and... well you get the idea.  It makes me feel like I can not live up to a pure heart standard.  

One thing I have learned is to discern where my thoughts are coming from.  The devil is a master of sending temptations our way.  These temptations are often in the form of thoughts to distract us from God and His way.  Just because I have an impure thought does not mean it came from my heart.  I just have to decide what I am going to do with that thought.  Dwell on it?  Act on it?  Tell the devil to get away from me. 

Another thing I have learned is that God does not expect me to not be human.  He loves me in my human form and understands my humanity.  He understands all the brokenness of humanity.  A pure heart is not a desire by God for me to quit being human, but rather to learn to depend more and more on the Holy Spirit of God.  My only shot at a pure heart is the heart of Jesus in me.  Jesus must increase in me as I decrease and that is a daily process of surrender.  Then it is clear, the more Jesus is my pure heart the more clearly I see Him.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Lent 21 - Mercy

As a sports fan I find myself conflicted sometimes in my own opinions.  One thing I struggle with is the concept of "prevent defense" in sports.  When your team is winning and they are doing great and then because they have the lead they change to a "hang on the the lead" mindset.  This so often lets the other team back into the game and I do not want that to happen.  I want my team to win! 

On the other hand I have experience some things in sports that cause me to shake my head in shame.  I was at a basketball tournament and the game was down to the last minute or so and one team was up by 10 points.  The game was essentially over.  The team that was behind had conceeded the game in all reality and was no longer fouling to try and stop the clock.  Then all of a sudden the winning team started pressing and became very active.  They ended up shooting and making a 3 pointer and the end of the game to extent the point differencial.  Come to find out the team's coach figured out that the tournament was going to be decided by points and so they needed to beat the team by more points.  I became pretty judgemental at that moment about the need to rub it in for the cause of a trophey.  

We live in a culture that is competitive. We love to compete and just about everything in life is a competition.  I have taught a leadership development course for 6th graders and in that course we played a game called "Shoulder Tap."  The instructions of the game were to have a partner who you grasped hands like an arm wrestle.  We than told the students that the goal was to count how many times you could tap your united hands on the other person's shoulder.  As soon as we started the minute countdown the struggle and competition was on and most kids only got a tap or two in the minute.  We than told the students that we did not say it was a competition and demonstrated that if the two people worked together that they could get 50 to 100 sholder taps.  We are so much better when we work together.  

Jesus said, "God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy." 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Lent 21 - Thirst

One of my great memories from childhood was backpacking in the mountains of Idaho in the summer.  I can remember having to stay home a few summers as my dad and brother made the trip and came back with great stories of their adventures.  Then I was finally old enough to go on my first trip.  It was so amazing and wonderful - and then came the actually hike the first day.  It was not long before my light backpack started to feel like hundreds of pounds on me.  The beautiful summer day that was beaming with life started to feel like a hot Phoenix, AZ summer day.  My cantina full of water was soon empty and I was soon in complain and dying of thirst mode.  Finally my dad reached his limit and pulled me aside and gave me a little scolding that probably had something to do with "I thought you were grown up enough make this trip!"  He picked up a little rock from the ground and put it in my mouth and told me if I sucked in the rock it would keep my mouth from being dry.  I do not know if it was the talk or the rock that motivated me but I kept going and completed the hike.  

I remember that moment of complete thirst and the feeling of despair when my water supply had been drained.  When I hit that point my mind became fixed on getting a drink. The more I thought about it the more I needed a drink. 

Jesus said - God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice (righteousness), for they will be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)

God created us and therefore understands our desires and our wants in life.  He also knows that one of the best things for us is to desire justice and righteousness.  To want it bad enough that we hunger and thirst for it.  What is it that you hunger and thirst for today?  What is consuming your energy and your desires? Wealth? Safety? Security? Acceptance? Until we desire the righteousness and justice of God we will never be satisfied.

If Jesus is our King we will start to pursue the desires of His heart and His Kingdom.  We will start to pursue justice and righteousness.  

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Lent 21 - Humble

As Julie and I were watching some TV last night the question of Journey's band members came up - one of those, "I didn't know Randy Jackson was in Journey." moments.  So as I was looking through Journey members I started to read how Robert Flieschman was the part of band for 6 months or so in 1977 and helped write the song "Wheel in the Sky."  (A personal favorite) As I read about his departure from the band he made the comment that the manager for the band did not really like Robert because he was too cocky.  Robert stated he did not know any lead singers for bands that wasn't at least a little cocky.  Now I am glad Journey went with lead singer Steve Perry but history tells us that he might have been a little cocky also.  

There is a reality that we tend to follow people who have an edge of confidence about them.  I guess we all want to have a leader we believe knows where he/she is going.  So sometimes in our upside down world it seems like the humble are always last in line.  There seems to be no real advantage of being humble. 

Then Jesus says - you are blessed when you are humble.  In God's economy and for God's favor we need to understand that God blesses the humble.  Our inheritance for being humble is the Kingdom.  That is not a suffer now so you can latter go to heaven inheritance, but also a recognition of the power and authority that is available to those who are deeply involved in the Kingdom of God today.  

P.S.  Just a funny story - so we were watching the Super Bowl with some friends and the Weeknd was singing at the halftime show.  And the people at the party my age were having a hard time understanding the words of the Weeknd songs.  I was completely included in not understanding most of the words but I was just trying to act like I understood everything... This took me back to a moment in time when my father was asking my brother and I what in the world was the band Journey was saying in the song Wheel in the Sky.  So we tried to sing it to him thinking that would help... It didn't.  We just had to say the words to him.

The wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'

I don't know where I'll be tomorrow 

Oh, the wheel in the sky keeps on turnin' 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Lent 21 Blessed when you Mourn

I can remember the Sunday afternoon vividly when so many things I tend to forget.  I was driving south toward Joplin to get ready for a week that I loved to be a part of: Teen Camp.  I was just about to Joplin on the back roads when my phone rang.  I got the news that my brother had been stung by a yellow jacket and had an allergic reaction to the sting.  The doctors were not sure if he would make it.  I remember turning around and heading for home in a daze.  I started to think through the details of how to get to Washington, who would go, what to bring, details, details, details... Then I got this impression that I needed to take a suit.  At that moment I burst into tears knowing that I was going to Washington for a funeral.  

My brother was physically revived after he had not breathed for quite some time and it was determined that he did not have any brain activity-  we had to let him go.  Julie and I stayed in Washington through the funeral.  This was my deepest time of mourning that I had experienced in my life.  A loss that I could not just work through in a funeral service time frame.  A loss that took me deep down the path of mourning.  I was deeply angry with God for leaving my brother's kids without a father.  They were 11 years old and I knew this would be a difficult road for them to manage.  When the moment came and my brother took his last breath,  I read from the Psalms about God being the father to the fatherless.  I read this because I was so angry with God for leaving those two kids without a dad.  I worked through the stages of grief in many ways the following days and mostly deep inside so no one would see my pain.

I know two things clearly about mourning.  One, the temptation of mourning is always to push us away from God and to blame God for all the bad things that have happened to us.  The voice of temptation is casting blame on God and causing us to doubt if God really cares about us and whether God is even good at all.  The second thing I know about grieving is God is present.  In the midst of the pain He is always there.  Sometimes we might not be able to feel His love and comfort but He is there. 

So Jesus says "You are blessed when you mourn."  When you are in mourning you can know that you are not going through these dark days because God no longer favors you or that God has abandoned you.  And when we are in our darkest days we can look to God and find joy and comfort.  Maybe even happiness. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Lent 21 - Blessed

 Jesus most famous sermon is recorded for us in Matthew 5-7.  Jesus introduction to the sermon is a series of statements about what it means to be blessed.  The concept of Jesus' day is often found in our thinking today that if God blesses me I will have money, power and influence.  The wealthy Jewish leaders beleived they were blessed by God with their positions of authority and wealth. Jesus turns that concept upside down with his statements about blessing.  Blessing has the meaning of "favored" or "happy." God looks at us as favored in His eyes and we can therefore have a since of happiness and joy. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit - (NIV) 

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him (NLT)

Humble men are very fortunate (Living Bible) 

You're blessed when you are at the end of your rope...with less of you there is more of God and His rule. (The Message) 

Being poor is not a sign of godlessness.  In fact you can be blessed by God and be poor. When we are financially poor we have limited options and we have to focus on what is essential. There are many warnings in the Bible about what being wealthy can do to your soul.  

Understanding that our spirit is poor without God leads us to a place of depending more and more on God and less and less on all the stuff that isn't God.  If we want to receive all of God's blessings we need to allow ourselves to decrease as we allow Jesus to increase within us.  We learn to die daily to ourselves and become more and more alive in Christ.  If Jesus is the King of our hearts, the Messiah of the World than He can be trusted to rule our hearts and bless our lives as He sees fit. 

What do we gain if we are poor in spirit and trust in God daily?  

- For theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. (NIV, NLT, Living Translation) 

Keys to the Kingdom today and for all eternity.  Pretty good inheritance offer.  Our loving Father gives us all we need for our spiritual journey today and everyday.  Treasure beyond compare and beyond our understanding. 

Don't waste your life chasing treasure that will fade away when Jesus is offering us His blessing and His Kingdom. 


Jesus was in Jerusalem and got into a heated argument with the Pharisees about hand washing. The Pharisees emphasized a ritual of hand washi...