What Are You Living On?

Matthew 4:4 – Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

I thought about calling today’s devotional What Are You Living For, but decided that it would be more aptly named, What Are You Living On, because as Jesus’ answered Satan, in Matthew 4:4, He addressed a timeless truth.

What is it that sustains you? Is it the bread that you eat? Sure, food is important, and if we don’t eat, we die. But, Jesus rebukes Satan’s first attempt at tempting Him by saying that man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

The theological imperative is that we cannot live apart from God’s will. It is because of God that we have our breath. It is because of God that we have any food. It is because of God that we hope for today and strength for tomorrow. What are you living on? You are living on the words of God. The life giving, life transforming, life sustaining and precious words of God.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written on here. I decided that it was important for me to take a little break from blogging. The last post indicate that I would be blogging on the words of Christ as found throughout the Bible. In these words I find something else interesting too. It’s not so much the words as it is in who the words address. Jesus’ audience in this verse is Satan. Satan’s relationship with Christ goes way back. He was an angel that existed before the creation of man. Did you notice who heard the first words in the book of Matthew that Jesus spoke? Yes, it was John the Baptist, and those gathered at the Lake, but it was also God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. So, in these first two statements that Jesus makes in the New Testament you have present The Father, the Holy Spirit, Satan, Jesus’ earthly cousin. In other words, those who knew Christ best, were there. Take away John, and you have those who existed before the creation of man. Take away John and Satan and you have the triune God; the eternally existent Trinity. And that Trinity sustains you. What are you living on? You are living on God. Now, glorify Him with your life.

Dear God,

Our lives are about You. We exist to glorify You. Help us to honor You with our lives. Thank You for allowing us to live another day. May our words bring glory to You.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Jesus’ First Words in Matthew

Matthew 3:13-17 – “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'”

Yesterday was the first day that I had not blogged in quite a while. It was kind of nice. My regular blog readers know that for a period of 176 days (I think it was more like 180 due to some time in Guatemala), I blogged through Psalm 119. Those 176 days were sweet times with the Lord. He taught me much about His law and His word. He put within me a desire to read His Word more than I ever have. As I thought what my days might look like after 176 days in one Psalm, I thought, “I’d like to read and blog on each of the recoreded Words that we have that Jesus spoke.”

I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about how to accomplish this task. In the end, I’ve decided to read the words of Christ from Matthew-Acts, and then take a look at the few other places we see the words of Jesus of Scripture (Revelation and the Old Testament Christophanies, for example).

Unlike my journey through Psalm 119, these devotional readings will not be commented on verse by verse. Rather, I will try to comment on them in the context of the teaching, many times paragraph by paragraph or story by story.

I’m excited about this next step in my devotional journey, and I’m happy to have so many of you that want to take this journey with me. I thought about trying to make this a chronilogical journey through the teachings of Christ, but there is much dispute about if this is even possible. Those who have tried to figure out the chronology of Jesus’ words cannot agree as to when Jesus said all the things that He said. So, I am just going to do this in the order in which they appear in Scripture (saving the Old Testament accounts for last).

So, here we go!

The book of Matthew is a special book. The first Gospel in the New Testament, it was not the first Gospel written. That distincition belongs to the Gospel of Mark, which could also be called the Gospel of Peter, for it was written based upon the Apostle Peter’s memories of his time with Christ. Matthew was written to a distinct group of people; the nation of Israel. And, as such, it begins with the genealogy of Jesus through the line of Joseph. Luke’s Gospel records the genealogy of Jesus through the line of Mary.

It takes almost three entire chapters before we read the first words of Jesus spoken in this book. Jesus’ words as a 12-year-old boy are recorded in Luke 2, so if we were doing a strictly chronilogical approach to this study, Matthew’s words would not be the first words that we would choose.

So, what are the words that Matthew records? “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”

Curious words! The setting? John the Baptist is baptizing in the Jordan River. Large crowds have been following John and listening to his preaching for some time now. John’s call? To prepare the way for Jesus. Now, Jesus and John are face-to-face. Jesus had obviously made it known that He wanted to be baptized by John, and John feels unworthy to baptize Jesus, and even suggests that Jesus should baptize him. That’s when Jesus responds with the first words of Christ that we see in the New Testament: “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”

Jesus shows us with His first words that He was about doing that which was proper and right in the eyes of God, the Father. His life brought glory to the Father.

Steve Shepherd, in his message entitled, Why Jesus Came, wrote the following words about this passage:

Obviously, Jesus was not baptized for the same reason we might do it. At Pentecost, Peter told the multitude in Acts 2:38, “”Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus had no sins for which to be forgiven.

I Pet. 2:22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

Why was Jesus baptized? Jesus answered this question for us.

Matt. 3:15 “Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.”

Jesus wanted to do everything that was righteous or right in His Father’s eyes. God ordained or authorized John’s baptism so Jesus humbled Himself and submitted to John’s baptism.

Jesus’ first recorded words have many implications for us.

1) We need to submit to the will of the Father.
2) Baptism is a good and proper thing for the follower of Chirst.
3) Pursuing the righteousness of God is not just and Old Testament thing. God wants us to continually pursue Him.

If Jesus was about pursuing the will of the Father, so should we. May we learn much from His words.

Dear God,

You amaze me! Sometimes I feel like John. I wonder why You needed to be baptized. You are perfect, without sin, and yet You wanted to be baptized. Help us to understand. Help us to learn. Help us to live, for Your glory!

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Quality Posts

Richard Mouw, the President of Fuller Theological Seminary posts on the quality of preaching. It is worth a read. You can find Mouw’s unique insight HERE.

Chris Brooks posts on the sad story of 90 Day Jane, a woman planning her own suicide in 90 days. You can read Chris’ excellent insight HERE.

There are a couple of nice articles on my new book,
What’s The Deal With. . . available HERE and HERE.

Jennifer Schulenburg, my much wiser and smarter younger sister shares her insight on ministry and the high calling of drawing people to the foot of the cross HERE.

Youthworkers can receive a free promo package for the new Naria film, Prince Caspian HERE.

Greg Stier posts on what is worth fighting over in his post, Fight Club For Christians located HERE.

A review of Frank Viola and Geoge Barna’s new book, Pagan Christianity, may be found right HERE. The book is a disturbing one, and the review raises some great questions.

So, just what is it that makes a church healthy? Find out many different views HERE.

Oh, and just for fun — I love baseball, and pitchers and catchers reported earlier this week (at least for my beloved Cubs). So, check out ESPN’s Jayson Stark’s summary of the offseason that was HERE.

Happy reading!

Instructions for a Sheep

Psalm 119:176 – “I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.”

It’s amazing how easy it is for us to stray from that which we know is right. There is not a person who has ever lived, who has not strayed. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

As David ends this incredible Psalm, and this 176 day experiment in spiritual renewal comes to an end, we are given hope. Hope that, like a shepherd, God will seek after his lost sheep. God will remember us, as we remember His commands. He loves us. And, like David has reminded us throughout this Psalm, God wants our love. He wants our worship. He wants us to follow His law. He is a jealous God, and his jealousy is a holy jealousy that does not want Satan to win.

So, we’ve done it. We’ve come through 176 days of Psalm 119. Have we learned the lessons of this Psalm? Are we willing to live for God? Are we willing to learn His desire for our lives and chase after it? Are we willing to have one pure and holy passion? I hope so. How awesome would it be to see a generation of people rise up and live the life that God has called them to live? How awesome would it be to be a part of the few, the called, the redeemed? Follow the call, and live!

Dear God,

Thank You for Your holy call on our lives to follow You. Help us to continue to walk in Your ways. Thank You for Your patience. Thank You that You choose to use us. You are good and Your love endures forever!

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

A Life of Praise

Psalm 119:175 – “Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.”

Casting Crowns has got to be one of my favorite Christian bands. One of the reasons is because the lead singer is a youth pastor. The band is basically the band that plays for the youth ministry at their church. Their music became so popular, that they began to tour all over the country. One of my favorite songs that Casting Crowns sings is off of their Lifesong album. It’s the song, And Now My Lifesong Sings. The lyrics go like this:

I once was lost, but now I’m found
I once was lost, but now I’m found
So far away, but I’m home now
I once was lost, but now I’m found
And now my lifesong sings

I once was blind, but now I see
I once was blind, but now I see
I don’t know how, but when He touched me
I once was blind, but now I see

And now my lifesong sings
And now my lifesong sings
And now my lifesong sings

I once was dead, but now I live
I once was dead, but now I live
Now my life to You I give
Now my life to You I give
Now my life to You I give

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Let my lifesong sing to You

I think that King David could have easily written that song. He wanted his life to be a praise offering to God. Every breath that he took, every word that he said, and every deed that he did, he wanted to be pleasing to God. Was he always successful? No. But, he tried. And, I think God loved it. Remember, David was called a man after God’s own heart. Want to be a man or woman like that? Then seek to live out Psalm 119:175 in your life. Let God know that you want your life to be a praise offering to Him. And, then ask Him to help you be that. Take a notebook with you and jot down when you have the opportunity to be Christ’s hands and feet to the world around you. It will become a visible reminder to you of God’s desire for your life. Now, go! Praise Him! He is worthy!

Dear God,

We want our lives to reflect You. Let our actions, our words, our thoughts, our very lives bring You glory. We want to be men and women cut in Your mold. We want to be men and women who You would call men and women after Your own heart.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Longing for God

Psalm 119:174 – “I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.”

There are only three more days left in our precious journey through Psalm 119. These 174 days have changed my life. At the beginning of this journey, I took a look at Charles Spurgeon’s insights into Psalm 119. As we reach the end of the study, I take another look at Spurgeon’s take on Psalm 119. There were many simple things that Spurgeon gleaned from verse 174. The one that struck me the most was how Spurgeon handled the beginning of the verse. Speaking of David’s longing for God’s salvation, Spurgeon wrote,

“This longing arises, 1. From a painful consciousness of the need of salvation. 2. From a perception of the glories of God’s salvation. 3. From the promises which gave assurance of the possibility of obtaining this salvation. 4. From the gracious promptings of the Holy Ghost.”

I love that! All four of Spurgeon’s insights reveal the depth of David’s longing. We, like David, can understand the painful consciousness of the need of salvation. We need God’s salvation. He knows that. We know that. And, some of us are just stubborn enough to ignore it. May we not be so!

If you have experienced God’s salvation today, thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thank Him for His Spirit’s prompting on your heart. Thank Him for His mercy in drawing you to Him. Rejoice! You are His!

Dear God,

How good it is to be Your child! We have truly been blessed. Help us to remember why it is that we long for You, and help us to drink at Your well, which brings satisfaction.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Help!

Psalm 119:173 – “May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.”

Things haven’t worked out exactly like you planned them. You find yourself at a breaking point. You’ve burned bridges with those who have helped you before. Where do you turn for help?

Your marriage is in crisis. If you don’t act quickly it could be too late. You are afraid. Where do you turn for help?

You child is rebelling. You have done everything humanly possible to raise your child in a way that pleases God. You’ve asked others for help, but nothing seems to work. Where do you turn for help?

The bills pile up quicker than they used to. They are more expensive too. You no longer have enough money to make even the minimum payments. The creditors are breathing down your neck. Where do you turn for help?

It’s amazing how God is often times the last place that we turn to for help. We exhaust all of our human relationships, hoping to find the answer on our own. God knows what we are going through. It’s no mystery to Him. He wants to be the place that we turn to for help first. May we, like David, cry out to God for His help. I love the rationale that David gives for beseeching Almighty God for help. He says that he has followed God’s precepts. I wonder what kind of help we would need if we followed all of God’s laws. Probably a lot less than most of us do right now. Our human solutions to problems are often the antithesis of what God would call us to do. And, after following our solutions we end up screaming out, “Help!” Maybe if we had lived the way that God had commanded in the first place, “Help!” would have never been yelled.

That isn’t to say that those who follow God’s commands don’t ask for help. David is insinuating in this verse that he had done just that. He had followed God’s commands and he still needed heavenly intervention. God loves to help those who have lived the way that He has commanded. Know that God was ready to answer David in a favorable way. He’ll do the same for you. Put Him first, and He will bless you. Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Sounds like a great way to live!

Dear God,

Help! Help us with the issues that we are facing today. Help us to remember to come to You before running elsewhere for help. Help us to remember to live life with a kingdom perspective. And, help us to please You with our lives.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.