The Arrest

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Matthew 26:36-56

Today, millions of Christians around the world will celebrate the brutal murder of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins. Betrayed, denied, mocked, beaten, and ultimately nailed to a Roman cross—all because of us. And by us.

Let us not make light of the seriousness of sin, particularly as the new day dawns. The cost was high to make God’s enemies His friends. May we worship with hearts filled with thanksgiving as we celebrate our suffering Savior, who cried “It is finished” (John 19:30), and put an end to the curse of death.

And may God bless you as you do.

Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 25

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
    for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies
(Psalm 25:8-10).

Humility is crucial to understanding and obeying Jesus. We cannot be obedient when we are so consumed with pride that we will not accept teaching or correction. And God will not lead the proud. Indeed, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6, 1 Pet. 5:5, emphasis mine).

Psalm 25 is a recognition of this fact. The Psalmist is crying out in repentance: “Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions” (v. 7); “For your name’s sake, pardon my guilt, for it is great” (v. 11). Read More about Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 25

What is the Gospel?

Tomorrow night our small group is beginning a short study of the equally short book of Jude, beginning with looking at what it means to contend for the faith.

In light of this, I thought I’d throw this question out to all who might be reading tonight:

What is the gospel; how would you articulate it?
Do you believe there are things that don’t need to be said?

I’m interested to read your thoughts, so please drop a note in the comments section.

Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 19

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward
(Psalm 19:7-11).

The Psalmist tells us that the Bible is perfect. It is sure. It is right. It is pure.

It is true.

He says that the rules of the Lord are more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey, profitable for those who hold fast to it.

I have to wonder, do I really believe it? Do I love the Scriptures the way that the Psalmist describes? Read More about Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 19

Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 10

For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God” (Psalm 10:3-4).

His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity” (v. 5-6)

The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.
He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it” (v. 10-11)

Psalm 10 centers around the prosperity of the wicked. This theme appears a number of times within the Psalms: Why do the wicked always seem to escape judgement? Why do they prosper when the righteous suffer?

Read More about Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 10

Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 5

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man (Psalm 5:4-6).

There is a tension that exists within the Scriptures, and in the Psalms particularly, between the love of God and the wrath of God.

The Psalmist in multiple writings exalts God as our Savior, our protector, who loves his creation deeply. And this is true. God does love His creation. He does loves mankind.

But God also hates all evildoers.

The boastful (those consumed with pride).
The deceitful (liars).
The bloodthirsty (those who murder and seek to harm others in thought or deed).

Throughout Scripture, it is made abundantly clear that God hates sin. Not only that, he hates sinners—evildoers, as this psalm says.

So what’s the problem? We are all evildoers. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, says the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:23. Because of our first parents’ sin, because we do evil continually (see Genesis 6:5), we are God’s enemies by nature and by choice.

If this is true, how can God love us?

Read More about Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 5

Blogging the Psalms: Psalms 1-4

This week I began my trek through the Psalms. I love the Psalms because they have so much to teach us about true worship of Jesus. I’m going to handle this a little differently (for now at least) than the Nehemiah series, in that I’ll be dealing primarily with the verses that struck me while reading. So while it may appear disjointed at times, I hope you find this glimpse into my personal study helpful in your own.

The Psalms:

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).

Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling (Psalm 2:11).

Salvation belongs to the Lord… (Psalm 3:8).

Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord (Psalm 4:4-5).

What do these seemingly disconnected verses have to do with each other? In their original context, and together, they teach us about right worship.

Read More about Blogging the Psalms: Psalms 1-4

Unqualified Leadership?

This article was originally written for and published by Small Group Exchange. I have republished the article here with permission.

It was our first night with our Bible Study, and I was nervous. I had facilitated discussion a couple of times at other groups I’d been a part of over the previous year, but this was different. This was the group that I started. This was my “really big show,” as they say (can you sense the pride?). I presented the vision that I had in mind for the group – I was excited, the group was excited (or at least polite enough to not say otherwise), and we were off to the races.

Over the next several weeks, we limped along, with so-so discussion and content, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves (so, that was a win, right?). We struggled to figure out how we were going to run our study… while running our study. At the same time, my gifts were just beginning to emerge, which center around teaching. And as I grew in this area, and began to figure out a style of teaching that encouraged discussion, our group really took off. People were learning, new people were joining, people were repenting of sin; it was awesome.

Then I began to wonder: Should I go to seminary? If I’m teaching the Bible, shouldn’t I have a degree of some sort?

Read More about Unqualified Leadership?

The Pursuit of Holiness

I am finally getting to the end of Jerry Bridges’ The Pursuit of Holiness, after setting it down for about three months. It is a great book—both profound and extremely convicting. I think the most convicting chapter has been related to holiness in the body (chapter 11).

I am a guy who really struggles with his weight. I have a horrible sweet tooth—an unrelenting desire for tasty things made of sugar.

And I hate it.

Back in 2004, I was 310 pounds and decided enough was enough. I started eating rigidly according to the GI diet, and even started eating on a regular schedule (going from one meal to six smaller meals per day). I worked out religiously… and the weight I’d carried most of my life came off.

I dropped 120 pounds in a little over a year. When I got married in 2006, I was just north of 190 pounds, had muscle tone for the first time in my life, and had the start of what might have become a six-pack. It was really cool.

So what happened?

Honestly, I got lazy. I became undisciplined.

I started thinking, “Oh, a sweet here and there can’t hurt. I can handle it.” Only, I couldn’t.

Working out became more difficult when our daughter was born and I cancelled my gym membership; I couldn’t make it out enough to actually get the value I needed from it. I had the skills to exercise at home. Only I didn’t.

Today, I’m somewhere north of 230 pounds. Because I became undisciplined and lazy. Because I have indulged in something which I can honestly say is a sin for me.

Here is what I am learning in the pursuit of holiness: Do not become undisciplined and lazy. When I feel conviction, I must listen to my conviction and not give in to temptation. I must remember that it is the Holy Spirit who will give me the strength to resist temptation whenever it comes, if only I will be obedient.

This morning, I’m going out for a run before anyone in the house wakes up. It might not be long, but it’ll be good. And by God’s grace, I’ll do it again the next day. And the next. I will not succumb to the temptation to indulge my sweet tooth. And while I run, and while I eat, I will remember Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 9:27: No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Book Review: Keeping the 10 Commandments


Recommended: Packer shows us why the 10 Commandments are just as important today as they were 3000 years ago.

J.I. Packer is one of modern Christianity’s greatest minds—the author of countless books, including Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, Growing in Christ, and arguably his best-known work, Knowing God. There are few men who are more influential theologically on Evangelical Christianity than Packer. So when I saw Keeping the 10 Commandments at the bookstore, I had a hunch it would be a worthwhile read.

Sufficed to say, I was not disappointed.

By many, the 10 Commandments are seen as irrelevant; as “rules” that prevent us from having any fun. In this short work, an excerpt from Growing in Christ, Packer shows us that these commandments are not rules to be followed; they are commands to be lived to bring us joy.

Packer first addresses the relevance of the commandments to our lives as Christians under the new covenant over the course of four chapters. The commandments are the way of life for all humanity, & the heart of a personal relationship with God through Christ. They teach us how we need to related both to God and to each other. Packer then delves into the meaning and implications of each of the 10 Commandments, thoroughly and thoughtfully bringing to light his understanding of these ancient writings.  Packer’s insights into the second commandment were particularly interesting to me: The command to not make a graven image is far more than simply making a statue or  a painting—it’s creating a false god with our imaginations.

I wonder, how often when we think of God, do we think of Him in all the ways Scripture does:

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands,forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation (Exodus 34:6-7).

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:24-25).

Whatever the Lord pleases, he does (Psalm 135:6).

“I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Exodus 33:19).

Packer’s point is well-taken: When we base our understanding of God on our preferences—whether it be our emotions or just that we don’t like what a verse in Scripture says—we are creating an idol, a false god that steals worship from the true God.

Scary, isn’t it?

At the end of each chapter, a Bible study questions has been included to encourage readers to not merely read the book, but think critically and biblically about its content and learn for ourselves how we can apply the truths we find in the pages of this book and Scripture.

Throughout Keeping the 10 Commandments, J.I. Packer offers brilliant insight into these essential doctrines of the Scriptures that teach us not only how we should live, but how God sees humanity—as broken, sinners in desperate need of a Savior.

It is my hope that in reading this small book, you will gain not only a greater understanding of the importance of these 3000-year-old writings, but a greater appreciation of the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Order your copy at Amazon or Chapters/Indigo.