Weekend Reading: November 21, 2015

Good morning – and welcome to your weekend!  What an interesting (and sad) week it’s been in the world. In all things though, we know Who is in control, who rules the world, and holds all things in the palm of His hand. Nothing happens apart from His say-so.  I’ve been memorizing these verses with some friends of mine that reminds me of these truths:

Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2)

Now to the most interesting things I read, watched, and listened to this week…

Amazing Investigation: This is shocking, and eye-opening, ‘Terrorists Once Used Refugee Program to Settle in US.’ And along similar lines: House sets up task force on Syrian resettlement plan.

Re: immigration and the Syrian controversy, Kevin DeYoung has written a piece that should help Christians think through the situation. How do we balance compassion for others + our American heritage with the obvious danger (not to mention the unfairness) posed by allowing hundreds of thousands of refugees from Muslim lands to skip ahead of the line and get fast-tracked citizenship?

The NY Times has a Map of those settled thus far…

Best blog I didn’t get a chance to read: What Tolkein and Lewis teach us about surviving dark times. 

Article I didn’t get to read by wished I did: The End of ‘One China’

A helpful video review of the new iPad Pro from the Wall Street Journal. Once this thing actually has a way to save files/a file management system that is NOT just in the cloud, I’ll examine it a little closer.

Blog of the Week: A Call for Christian Extremists, by Tim Challies.  This is a must read.

I bet you didn’t know that the day before Parris, Beirut weathered a giant ISIS attack – you didn’t know because no one is talking about it. 

Speaking of France, their retaliation: Drop 20 bombs

Key Op-Ed: Wake up ,Mr. President. Excerpt, “The Paris massacre should mark the end of that self-deception. Jimmy Cartershed his illusions about the Soviet Union after its invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and Mr. Obama needs a comparable rendezvous with reality. This will be harder for Mr. Obama, a man of great ideological vanity, but perhaps the prospect of defeat for his party in 2016 will force him to see the world more clearly.”

New Topic…Great couple of highly relevant articles I finally got to read from John Freeman at Ligonier Ministries. First, ‘Christ and Sexual Sin‘, and second, The Gospel Remedy for Homosexuality‘. Very thoughtful articles here that are worth scrolling through.

The Presidential…What Carlos Lozada of the Washington Post learned about Donald Trump after reading all his books. More from the post: Carson’s campaign doesn’t know a lot of geography (I kid, I kid)

I discovered a new blog this week written by a guy named Joel J. Miller. Good, short writing here. Two samples:

  1. Islam is a religion of violence: Or, why abstract theology actually matters
  2. The existential crisis behind today’s Islamic violence

Over at Desiring God, Jon Bloom says, ‘You are Meant to Move Mountains’, and the heart of the blog is meant to answer this question: “How would you live differently if you really believed that nothing would be impossible for you?” Bloom is probably one of the best existential thinkers in the evangelical world right now. It’s worth reading his stuff just to learn to think more like this.

Some Interesting Stuff….

Big movies coming out this winter – obviously the Star Wars movie is going to be huge – but an interesting article from WSJ made me think more about the effects of blockbuster movies on the supply chain of that industry. 

Time Magazine is moving their offices to a new location in Lower Manhattan. So they’ve been publishing different pieces about their archives. Challies linked to this one called, ‘7 Fascinating Letters from the Time Inc. Archives’

Fascinating: World’s Second-Largest Diamond Discovered in Botswana. 

Lastly, I enjoyed this video/story over at Vox about how the internet is spread around the world…underwater!

That’s it!  Have a wonderful weekend.


Weekend Reading: November 14, 2015

Good morning and welcome to the weekened! Here are the most interesting articles, blogs, videos and more from the past week…

Over the last several hours we learned that over 100 people were killed in a massive terrorist attack in Paris, France. ISIS is taking credit for the attack, claiming that its retaliation for France’s roll in the bombing campaign in Syria. Key clip from ISIS statements, “Paris is the ‘capital of prostitution and obscenity, the carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe’ while its attackers were ‘a faithful group of the soldiers of the Caliphate.'”

The Christian response to such acts of hatred and rage and pure evil ought to be prayer for the victim’s families, and a gospel-driven love for people whose worldview is shaped by the wrong-headed views disseminated by Islam. Certainly any religion can be twisted or made militaristic, but for those who know Islam well, this is a perfectly natural outgrowth of its teaching. Deep inside I think we know its wrong and a symptom of a fallen world to think that suicide and murder combine toward redemption. Politically, it is a reminder that even the evil of ancient ideas can infiltrate into any ‘civilized’ 21st century city or country. Modernity is not a perfect form of insulation from the tide of terror.

Now back to America, and Presidential campaign’s state of play. Donald Trump took his rhetoric too far this week, comparing Dr. Ben Carson to a child molester.  I personally believe that its only a matter of time before the enthusiasm for Mr. Trump will be transferred to a more worthy candidate.

Some people may or may not know this, but Dr. Carson is a 7th Day Adventist. What exactly does that mean? An articulate and accessible video by a Masters Seminary prof explains.  And since we’re talking Carson, last week he took some hits in the media over his foreign policy, but it seemed to only help his standing in the polls. 

The GOP Debate that took place this past Tuesday was another interesting spectacle. This time the reviews seemed to favor Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, two young conservative Senators from Florida and Texas respectively.

Zooming out a little bit, Peggy Noonan penned a thoughtful column in the Wall Street Journal about the GOP field and state of play in the nominating process. Her main point was that Democrats are united because their single goal is to seek and keep power, whilst the GOP candidates are currently not united because they are having a very healthy debate of the meaning of conservatism, and what that looks like policy-wise in a host of areas. This is both a good thing and a bad thing.

In light of the controversial actions of the University of Missouri football team and some of the student protestors in said school, the Dean of the School of Journalism penned this statement (h/t Tracy L.).

I appreciated Cliff Sims’ take on the Starbucks Cup so-called-controversy. This is just one more area where Donald Trump bloviated, and though this one is a small deal, it ought to inform conservative and Christian opinion about this man’s inch-deep morality and policy convictions.

So much happened this week that caused me to shake my head, but this article about a WWII vet from my Kate’s home town was encouraging. It focuses on the ex-soldier’s bible – a bible which had survived Normandy, and more.

And in case you missed it, the US showed some strength when it flew several B-52 bombers within 12 nautical miles within the man-made Chinese islands in the South China Sea in a show of freedom which sent the following message: the Chinese do not own this Sea!

In tech news, the guys and gals at Apple released what they are calling the iPad Pro. Look pretty interesting…

To more uplifting items…

Tony Reinke wrote a short blog on Desiring God’s site titled ‘What Stops our Fighting?’ that I found to be a good and humbling reminder from James chapter four.

Tim Challies blogged about the phenom devotional ‘Jesus Calling’ and titled the post, ’10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling’.  I have to say that it is worth looking this over. I know a lot of people who read this devotional, some who are older Christians. Ought we not to have more discernment in who we read?

Challies also penned a less controversial, yet just as insightful, blog called ‘God’s Not Really that Holy, I’m Not Really that Bad.’ You might be encouraged by the reminder of God’s grace.

Speaking of good authors, Ligonier Ministries announced that both Dr. Derek Thomas and Dr. Al Mohler were joining the ministry as Teaching Fellows. That ostensibly means that they will produce content for, and speak at, Ligonier events and other Ligonier programs.

Probably my favorite Christian blog post this week was on 7 Gospel-Centered Principles for Protecting Your Marriage. 

Top two posts I didn’t get to check out but wanted to: A Quiz on the Doctrine of Scripture, by Tim Challies, and ‘Is All Worship Equally Acceptable to God?‘ by Tim Barnett.

And this hasn’t been talked a lot about in my circles yet, but I still found it interesting that a giant merger between two huge beer companies took major steps forward toward finalization this week. 

In case you missed it, thing seem to be continuing down the ‘serious’ path for Hillary Clinton’s email probe…

HOME: Kind of on the odd side, this article caught my eye from Houzz – its all about how to clean your microwave. I mean, who doesn’t see cleaning the microwave as a terrible thing?

MUSIC: Christmas is coming! Which means there will be a lot of good music being released. I have not yet heard the Chris Tomlin album, but I have purchased and am thoroughly enjoying the Sovereign Grace release ‘Prepare Him Room.’

That’s it for now, have a great weekend!


Weekend Reading: November 7, 2015

Good morning, and happy weekend!  Here is the weekend reading – the most interesting articles, movies, songs, and more from the past week.

Well there was an election this past Tuesday, and overall it was very good for Republicans. Kentucky elected a Republican Governor, and in Virginia Republicans kept control of the state senate. In Ohio, destructive issue three (legalizing pot) was soundly rejected by voters.

Speaking of KY, Denny Burk posted this video from Southern Seminary that features Guv-elect Matt Bevin speaking to the chapel about his teen daughter who died in a car accident, but had a real heart for Christian missions. I didn’t know this story, so it was pretty eye-opening.

On a sad note, Fred Thompson passed away this last week. He was a great politician, and probably an even better actor. Here’s a compilation of his best TV moments! (heads up: there’s a decent amount of southern drawl laced profanity)

While we’re on movies, the Japanese version of the latest Star Wars trailer was released this week. I was tempted to have that running side by side with this classic… 

BEST VIDEO OF THE WEEK: The read the scriptures series released their latest video on the book of Job.  These are really neat videos that combine great theology with great artistry.

This coming week there will be another GOP debate, this time with Fox Business Channel. If you missed the last one, you can read the RNC chairman’s summary in his thoughtful letter to NBC……… 

And I stumbled across this article that a friend had sent a few weeks back, and can’t recall ever sharing it. It’s titled, ‘My Journey Away from Contemporary Worship Music’. There’s some interesting points he makes here that are worth sifting through.  (h/t Mary S.)

Okay, this is just funny. Tim Challies has been putting together these ‘quizes’ for a few years now, but normally they’re titled something like ‘quiz on Biblical theology’ or ‘quiz on the Old Testament’ and stuff like that. But this one is hilarious…I scored really bad!

Okay, I’m just going to sum up some of the bad news from the week in one boring paragraph: TSA still really really sucks, the debt limit was lifted and in one day the debt jumped almost 400 BILLION DOLLARS…that’s a lot a cheddar.  You may have noticed that oil prices keep falling, but that doesn’t seem to match up in any coherent way with the price at the pump, this story tells you why. And there was a long form article in the Wall Street Journal about common core – mostly about how its implementation is very costly – and I thought it was a pretty fair, and informative piece.

You know, if you’re like me, you want to memorize more Scripture but its hard. I really struggle to remember all the right words and get everything in the right order. This guy Chris blogs about how he goes about it. His slogan might as well be ‘repetition, repetition, repetition.’ Still, I thought some of his ideas were worth thinking about implementing.

I spent most of my week in Montana (beautiful country!) and spent some time with a guy named Greg Gianforte, who is exploring a bid for Guv of that state. He has an amazing story you might want to check out. Here’s his latest book, here’s his Ted talk.

Finally, a chuckle, a new study finds ‘Controlled Washington, D.C. Wildfires Crucial For Restoring Healthy Political Environment’. 

A New Bible Reading Plan!

For the past six years (or so, give or take), several of my friends, and their friends, and their friends’ friends, have been reading the Bible every day together. We read (or listen to) about 7 chapters of the New Testament together every day and text out that we did our reading to the large group via a Google Hangout we setup.

Now, because we read the same chapters for 30 days, we’ve read the NT some 60 times in the span of about 6 years. And it’s been great! But it is also time for something new.

FEEDBACK: One piece of feedback I got over the past few years was how cool it would be if we integrated some Old Testament reading. So some in our group started reading through the OT each day (about three chap per day) in addition to the NT reading. But it was a LOT of reading to do every day, and if you missed a day or two, you found yourself having to read 9 chapters of Leviticus and another 7 of the NT to catch up!  We also heard that while the NT repetition was helpful, reading 6-7 chapters for 30 days got a little stale, and my own personal issue with this was that it didn’t allow a more devotional posture of reading, where one could spend a few minutes really thinking over a smaller section of Scripture.

So…with the help of my good friend, Pastor Dennis Lankford, and the feedback of friends Derek and Parris, we’ve created a new reading plan.

You can download the plan here: Daily NT OT Combined List

Here’s how the reading is laid out: We will read the same 1-3 chapters in the New Testament for one week, and then move on to the the next few chapters on Monday of the each new week. The same goes for the Old Testament, but the readings will be shorter. The OT passages are select passages, and not the entire OT. The idea is to be able to spend 15 or 20 minutes in the Word every day, and if you miss a day or two, you won’t fall behind. After about a year and a half you will have read through the key passages in the OT, and the whole of the NT 7 times.  Here’s an example of what the plan looks like:

Reading Example

There’s a real impact – a lasting impact – from reading the Bible frequently. Paul describes this in 2 Corinthians 3:18 when he likens the reading of the Word to being exposed to the glory of God, and how that will permanently change us:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

If you want to take part in the reading, you’ll need to join Google hangouts (it’s best to just download the App). Next, message me and I will invite you to the Hangout. Finally, start reading and letting everyone else know how its going!

Weekend Reading: October 31, 2015

Welcome to a Halloween edition of the Weekend Reading. Here are the best stories, videos, and more from the week – at least what I enjoyed most! I’m going to zoom through this a bit this AM since I’m watching the kids and the puppy without the help of Kate (which means I’m up to my ears in legos, match box cars, and poop!).

Let’s start with Ligonier’s cool deal: They are offering any edition of their Reformation Study Bible for 45% off until tonight if you use the CHALLIES code. The idea is to celebrate Reformation Day. Read more about the deal here. I really enjoy this study Bible, and think most folks of a more conservative persuasion would as well.

Were you like me and skipped watching the Dem Presidential Debate? Never fear!  Bad lip reading is here! (“she makes dynamite pinto beans”….you will laugh)

Speaking of debates, there was much public outcry over the lackluster CNBC moderators during the GOP debate this week.  Here’s a montage of moderator John Harwood’s most ill-behaved moments. And if you need a recap of the best parts, Politico has a list of the 15 most explosive moments. Lastly, here’s Roll Call’s winners/losers list. 

This week someone pointed out to me that Donald Trump handles the press like Heinz Kissvelvet (h/t you know who you are) and I’m not sure they’re too far off!

HISTORY TIME! National Journal compiled the 10 Worst Moments in Presidential Debate History. 

WaPo posted a hilarious Gif bingo of Donald Trump expressions pre-debate. Scroll down to see the game – complete with the ability to “shuffle” and “clear” the board to start over. So. Funny!

NOTE to my friends in Dublin: don’t forget to vote this Tuesday. I’m going to be supporting my friend Chris Groomes for city council. I really like what she’s been saying about “smart development” – she’s sharp!

It’s looking like over 85 percent of likely voters say the US is in bad shape (shameless promotion of my own firm’s poll)

Roundup: Trump says $1m isn’t much money, John Kasich get’s Dick Army’s endorsement, but then gets in a tussle with the Sixers and responds with a video showing off his skilz. WaPo asked if Bernie Sanders will be our first Agnostic President. And the NY Times had an interesting profile piece on Carly Fiorina’s term as CEO of HP.

In Canada this week the country elected a majority of the left leaning party up there, and it seemed discouraging to see a country slide back to the stone age with “progressive” ideas. I say stone age, because it was ancient cultures who (like the new Prime Minister up north) thought nothing of exposing their infants, and committed acts of gross immorality to please the gods (and their own licentious appetites). But reflecting on all of this, Tim Challies wrote with some great perspective. Best quote:

The temptation is not only to put my hope in politicians but to put my despair in them as well. I will be tempted not only to find too much joy in the election of the person I voted for, but also to sink too far into despair in the election of the person I did not.

Shocking new pictures from the migration into Europe (mostly Syrian refugees fleeing the tyranny of the Assad regime). Western Europe is in a crisis due to this, but the obvious solution would have been to stand up to Russia, and obliterate Assad before the problem got this far. Decades of European weakness have consequences.  You might be thinking “okay, but that is on the other side of the world, who cares?” Well, imagine a South American dictator gassing their people and terrorizing an entire nation until millions made their way north to the US/Mexico border (if such a thing exists). Imagine your entire neighborhood having to evacuate – you hurriedly pack up your laptop, cell phone, and as much food as you can fit into backpacks. You start down the street your kids once rode bikes on, and realize that there’s no turning back. No cars – you’re walking the whole way – with 2 million of your neighbors. There’s no second option – your President has been releasing gas from airplanes all week, in order to “subdue the populace”.  I can’t imagine this ever happening in America, but it doesn’t stop me from putting myself in these folks’ shoes, and praying for them as they seek out a better life.

The 80’s called and wants their headline back: Afghanistan is now seeking out the help of Russia for military equipment. 

The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan wrote a biography styled essay called ‘Peggy Noonan’s Education in News Craft‘ which was interesting (h/t Challies)

There’s a big debate about how useful Black Friday shopping really is for retailers. REI has kicked off the conversation due to their announcement that they’ll not be open that day. Instead, they are encouraging people to be out and about in nature (ya, ya…it will be cold…)

And on a funny note, Jonathan Last (a serious writer) wrote that there are 9 Reasons why the Jedi are Actually the Bad Guys in Star Wars. I can’t help but agree with pretty much everything he says here…(h/t Alex W.)

That’s it! Now go and have a wonderful day – and don’t forget to vote on Tuesday!



Weekend Reading: October 24, 2015

Good morning!  It’s another beautiful Saturday, and I have just a handful of links to share with you this morning before I get going here for the day.

First, in the Presidential race, all the talk was about how Carson had surged ahead of Trump in a few Iowa polls. This prompted an intern in Trumpland to send a nastygram out re: Carson, which caught the attention of the 24 hour news cycle, when he said Iowans must have “issues int he brain”!  The Trump candidacy is one in which all of the positive things coming from it are a result of the upending of the campaign, and not the campaign itself. It remains to be seen if a credible candidate will be able to challenge his dominance.

On the Democratic side, Joe Biden announced that he wouldn’t run for President. I began to wonder if someone on the web had chronicled all of Biden’s gaffs – and sure enough, Fox News (shocker) has a whole page devoted to it!

Separately, Politico had a story about how Carly F’s support seems to have “collapsed” – reminded me of 2011/12 and how for a few months we heard about the “9, 9, 9 plan”. Not to unfairly compare Cain with Carly, the latter is about 100x more articulate, even though they both came from the business world…that’s probably where the similarities end!

The other political stuff going on all centers on the Speaker’s gavel. Paul Ryan is working up support from a few different quarters for a run at Speaker. The main issue has been that the Freedom Caucus (the most conservative 40 or so members of the House) have certain demands that they want met ideologically, and structurally. One can hardly blame them given the way conservatives have been treated in the recent past. Ryan’s meeting with them went very well – most are in support of his candidacy, so we’ll see what happens from here…

In other more interesting news, this week the new Star Wars trailer was released.

Thanks to my buddy Parris, tickets are secured for the December 18th opening day! And if you’re really a nerd (without job, time constraints, or functioning life outside the expanded universe) you can try sit through all 7 movies in one day...in a row! (h/t Jen K.)

With the rise of Bernie Sanders on the Dem Presidential side of things, there was a really good question put to John Piper this week: how should Christians think about socialism? 

Piper also publicly posted the contents of a letter to an 11 year old boy (changed his name though) who wondered ‘if God promises to meet our needs, then why am I hungry?‘ This was a challenging post to read through.

I know that there are some strange traditions among sports fans, but this seems to cross the line into revolting. haha!

Have a great weekend! I’ll leave you with the best quote of the week, posted by Tim Challies:

The essence of God’s action in wrath is to give people what they choose, in all its implications. —J.I. Packer


How to Come to God

These are notes I wrote today for the passage Luke 18:15-30. I hope you profit by them!

Luke 18:15-30

There are two sections here that I’m going to examine, and even though they hold much of the same teaching from the last section, I’m going to look at them together on their own for the time being.

The first section we see Jesus responding to the disciples reaction of these parents who are bringing their little children to be blessed by Him. His reaction is what we’ll look closely at in a moment.

The second section has to do with a wealthy young man who presents himself before Jesus, and has a question concerning eternal life.

In both instances, we’ll examine Jesus’ reaction to them, what he says specifically, of course, as well as the mindset of how each type of person (the children and the rich man) presents themselves before Jesus.

I believe that from these passages we’re going to learn the following:

  1. Who, or more appropriately, how, can a person enter the kingdom of God. There will be two component parts to this – what God does on our behalf, and what our response to His doing looks like in our lives.
  2. In light of this, what ought our attitudes and mindset about life be? And I mean this for both for Christians and those seeking the kingdom still.

18:15-17 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. [16] But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. [17] Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

It wasn’t an uncommon practice for local Rabbis to lay their hands upon children and bless them. There’s nothing magical about the laying on of hands, rather it is a way to show love for the child, and bring them before God in humility and gratitude.

During my trip to Israel last summer, we spent our Friday evening enjoying Shabbat with a Jewish family. Eventually we came to a place in the evening when the father was supposed to bless their child. It was really neat to see the father’s hold their children close – even the teens – and speak a blessing over them. It was done with hugs and kisses and much love.

This is the scene here – it is very intimate, and very special.

Therefore when the disciples callously attempted to shoo away these parents, Jesus reacted with a rebuke. No doubt the disciples were thinking of their master, and his own well being. They didn’t want him crowded every moment of every day. But Jesus loved his children – especially the youngest of them, and he used this as a teaching moment, as he had so many other times previously.

The principle here that Jesus wants to get through is that the kingdom of heaven is populated by children. There are two parts of this. First, there is the literal part – where he says, “to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Heaven, God’s kingdom, will be populated with MANY an infant, many a child who never reached an older age in this life.

For parents who have lost children through miscarriage or abortion, or even through tragedy that comes later, this truth is extremely reassuring.

But as reassuring as this is, this is not the primary theological point that Jesus wants to make. For he continues on saying, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

You can tell he’s about to teach an important principle when he interjects the word “truly.”

Note two things. First He says, “receiving” the kingdom. The kingdom isn’t something you can earn on your own merit. It is not something that enter by your own merit, as we’ll examine here shortly.

Now secondly, what he says about receiving the kingdom is that one must be “like” a child.

What are some of the ways in which a child approaches the topic God that might differ from an adult?

Mainly, a child comes to God with very little in the way of presuppositions or assumptions. They come with the expectation of acceptance, and they come in humility. They aren’t thinking, “I deserve to be here” or “I’m going to be an extra good so I can come to God” – in fact, just saying those things aloud as if they come from a child’s mouth sounds preposterous!

They come in response to a prompting of love – with hearts that are humble and not haughty. Their faith is simple in that there are minimal outside influences vying for their affections.

They don’t overcomplicate things by adding their own ideas of the terms of this relationship into the mix, nor do they cloud their minds with priorities that would inhibit their faith.

This issue of priorities, of affections, is what gets addressed next…

18:18-19 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” [19] And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

This account is also in Mark and Matthew, so from their accounts we divine that this is a man with wealth, and that he is young. So when we put all that together, we tend to call him, “the rich young ruler.”

Some have speculated that he is the ruler of a synagogue. But whatever his specific status, he is the exact opposite of the children that were previously the subject of our reading.

His question is tending toward eternal life, but he begins by calling Jesus “good”, and it is that adjective that Jesus latches onto as a way of answering His question.

Jesus’ reaction is that no one is good except for God. Some have stated that Jesus is either implying that he is a sinner, and therefore doesn’t deserve the title of “good.” Others say that Jesus is implying here that he is God because only God is good, and he’s using this as a way of drawing out that truth. Others still say that Jesus is just rebuffing the young man’s flattery.

But I agree with Bock that what Jesus is doing here has to be kept in context of everything else he’s stating. He’s basically pointing the man to God, and God’s incomparable character. God is holy – He alone is perfect, He alone is truly “good.” All other men have variable or subjective definitions of what exactly “good” is, but God is the ultimate definite standard for what good really is.

We see this as Jesus continues on…

18:20-22 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” [21] And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” [22] When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

When the young man says, “all these I have kept from my youth” he is basically saying that HE is “good”! He is stating that he’s perfectly kept the law.

Have you ever run into someone who believes they are basically a good person, and that they really haven’t sinned recently – some say they have NEVER sinned!

This is the attitude and the mindset of this young man. And Jesus blows it up. He hits him in the heart. When he tells him to sell all that he has, what he’s doing is exposing the man as an idolater – as someone whose priorities aren’t right.

At face value this guy seemed pretty holy – he seemed like a “good” guy, right? I mean, here he is seeking out a local rabbi asking about eternal life. His head is in the game, he’s asking the right questions, he’s crossing the right boxes off, right?

No – wrong answer! What was the problem here? Let’s see…

18:23-25 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. [24] Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! [25] For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Now here we see what’s going on, if we didn’t already pick up on it.

What is the difference between this man, and the children who were coming to Jesus?

The main difference was faith and priorities. Put another way, it can all be boiled down to affections.

As I mentioned before, a young child has no affections for this world that inhibit them from hmbly coming before God and asking for eternal life. They represent one end of the life-experience scale.

On the other end of the scale is this rich man – not just rich though, he’s also a “ruler” – heck, he even had youth going for him! He had it all – he was young, and he had both power and wealth. And that’s really it, right? I mean that’s what we want out of life. Sure some might have a difference ratio on the affections meter. They might want 80% wealth and only a little power, or they might be satisfied if they could just control their circumstances and live a moderately good life, so long as they were in control and had the freedom they longed for and the power to make it happen.

Most of us probably fall somewhere in between the children and this rich ruler, with finances and freedom or power (I regard the American middle class idea of Freedom sometimes as equivalent to that of power when it comes to affections).

With that in mind, look at how the man reacts. He has so much to loose, so he walks away. The kids have nothing to loose, so they have no problem coming to God.

Right about now the dilemma might be hitting you just as it hit the disciples: anyone who has lived in this life for a decent number of years will have affections that crowd out eternal truth.

Jesus acknowledges this issue – he says its super difficult to get into heaven if you have riches – hence the saying about shoving a camel through the eye of a needle. There are some who’ve said that this is talking about how camels had to stoop to crawl on their belly to get into the “needle” entranceway of a city. But that’s erroneous. It’s not that Jesus just wants humility, when we approach God, he wants an open hand of faith – as goes the old hymn:

“Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling” (Rock of Ages)

This prompts the disciples to say the following…

18:26-27 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” [27] But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

In other words, no merit of your own, no fake humility, no false courage, no amount of good works is going to get you into heaven. What has to happen is a change in your affections. And this only happens by the grace of God. In other words, this kind of faith is the gift of God.

Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 2:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—[3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—[6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)

Therefore salvation – entry into the kingdom – is made possible by the power of God. And this is really evident in that most of us prize things that are not heavenly things until God brings us to Himself. Our lives are characterized by a love of anything and everything but God. We love football, golf, cars, shopping, and even our iPhones more than we love God!

But all of that changed for those who have been saved.

What happens next in this passage is that Peter realizes, “hey, this is me! This is our group! We have done this!”

And again, Jesus uses this as a teaching moment.

[28] And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” [29] And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, [30] who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

The natural man’s objection to all of this is, “hey, I like my life! Don’t take my fun away from me. I may not have much, but I have XYZ. So things are pretty good. What’s so great about God that I need to reorient all my priorities and affections anyway?”

This is the difference between the children and the rich man – it’s all about affections. What we care most about. And we make the (wrongful) assumption that the stuff we are aiming for, or have obtained here in our lives isn’t worth giving up.

Jesus blows this out of the water as well.

He says that when you leave all the world behind – even the things that are worthwhile like family – when you put me first in your heart, you will “receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

He is saying that not only is this a matter of eternal life, it’s a matter of living a great live NOW.

Having the right affections will bring about a life that is so much more fulfilling, so much richer, so much better. In other words – you are clinging onto a miserable existence compared to what I am prepared to give you.

For the Christian these words ought to just remind us to re-orient our minds around the truth of the Gospel. It’s so easy in the rush of life to let other priorities crowd into our heart. The way I think of this is that what your mind is occupied with, will eventually occupy your heart. Obviously from here there are physical, day-to-day implications. What you love most you’ll do most.

Jesus redeems the activities of our lives and gives them both a purpose and a perspective.

He helps us see here that by prioritizing Him first in your mind and heart, you can keep perspective over both the good and the bad in life. That’s how Paul was able to say:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. [12] I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. [13] I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)

Note who is supplying the power here – it is God. Today, be reminded and refreshed in these truths and don’t let other priorities crowd out the eternal promise that Jesus has for us here.

For those of you who are not Christians, perhaps the message of these passages has really set in sharp relief the contrast between your life and what you value most, and how Jesus has taught us to approach God.

At issue here are your priorities, and what you value most in this life. What do you think most about? What do you spend most of your time on? Do not fool yourself into thinking that you can live your life by your own dictums, your own measure of what “good” is, and then show that measuring rod to God when you die.

What will He say? What will He do? He will respond that only HE is good, and that your works are nothing comparatively. Your priorities were not His. Your heart was not His. He’ll tell you to get lost – and you’ll walk away like this young man did – only you will be walking away for eternity. Thus, you will have squandered a life of joy now, and an eternity of happiness hereafter.

What is required is a heart that recognizes your sinfulness and your low stature before God, and desires (I use that word purposefully) to be made right with Him. The way this can be done is by believing in the Gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ.

By calling upon Jesus, by believing that He is who He says He is, and by repenting of your sins, you will receive this gift of eternal life that alluded the rich young ruler. It’s really simple, but its really hard, nigh on impossible to do without the help of God. Ask Him for that help.