An Introduction to the Gospel of Matthew
An Introduction to the Gospel of Mark
An Introduction to the Gospel of Luke
Each of these introductions of the first three Gospels are an attempt to help you read each
of these books with the greatest benefit.

Barney's Best Message
I'm not really that arrogant. It's a play on words. Listen and you'll know what I mean.

Being More or Less Like Jesus
I am trying to be more, more like Jesus. My guess is that you are too. So, what does that
look like? How would we know if we’re very much or very little like him? Would we know
by how seldom we cuss or drink too much or how many Sundays of the month we go to
church? Maybe, but if you ask me, there are more reliable criteria by which we can assess
our Christlikeness.

Remember the guy, who, in an attempt to trap Jesus, asked him how he could get eternal
life?  As he often did Jesus turned the question back on the so-called expert in biblical law,
“What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The man knew the standard distillation –
love God more than anything else and neighbors as much as yourself – but like many
believers well versed in the Bible’s essentials he wondered where he might locate a
loophole of some kind. With wry smile he replied, “Yeah, but who exactly are these
neighbors I have to love?” In other words, how can I do as little as possible to clear the
Limbo bar?

So Jesus the storyteller responded with a with one of his most well-known parables. I’ve
never been entirely convinced it wasn’t an actual account of real people, the cast of which
consists of a mugging victim, a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. Whether fiction or
factual, Jesus wanted to illustrate how he showed his love for God and people. “If you
really want to know how to love, this is how I do it. I advise you to do likewise.”

Defeating Defensiveness and Overcoming Offenses
We've all been offended and have been defensive at one time or another. It's simply part
of living in this world as sinners among other sinners. This might help minimize the damage.

Do you have any idea how gifted you are?
The Church is not a "spiritual restaurant" where a few people do all the cooking of the food
and a few wear themselves to the bone serving the food, but most just eat, put on weight,
and tip the help on the way out! It should be more like a potluck - everyone brings
something to the table. This paper is about what God has given you to bring to the table.
He’s given you a gift, maybe more than one.

Foundations 101
Foundations 101 is designed for people in one of three different life situations:  
Someone who as recently received Jesus as their Savior; someone who has
known the Lord for a while, but hasn't studied the basics of the faith; or someone
looking for a succinct way to teach new believers the foundations of the faith.

This series is all about digging down deep and laying a foundation so that you'll be
able to develop a solid and successful walk with Jesus. Throughout these chapters
we'll look at six fundamentals of the Christian life, six key sections of our faith's

1.   THE CROSS - (on being forgiven by God)
2.   THE INNER-CHANGE - (on being changed by Jesus)
3.   THE CONVERSATION - (on being a person who prays)
4.   THE CHURCH - (on having fellowship with other believers)
5.   THE SPIRIT - (on being empowered to reach out to other people)
6.   THE WORD - (on being a student of the Bible)

Foundations 201
This a follow-up to "Foundations 101." In 101 we introduced six topics necessary
for new Jesus followers to study and understand in order to be strong in their faith.
These same themes will now be discussed here on a bit more advanced level for
those who have been born again for a while.

1. THE CROSS - (on being forgiven by God)
2. THE INNER-CHANGE - (on being changed by Jesus)
3. THE INTERACTION - (on having conversations with God)
4. THE CHURCH - (on having fellowship with other believers)
5. THE SPIRIT - (on being empowered to reach out to others)
6. THE WORD - (on being a student of the Bible)
7. THE KINGDOM OF GOD - Foretaste to Fulfillment

In 101 you learned how to get started as a Christian; in 201 you'll learn how to keep
going. The approach taken here is still very much foundational and fundamental, but
on a somewhat more mature and challenging level.

Funny Stuff That Happened To Me As A Pastor
Not all of ministry and church life is serious and hardship. Over the 30 years of pastoring,
some pretty weird things happened to me. Here are some of them.

God's Passionate Pursuit of People
Some things have been changing in my thinking about God. For instance, I’m noticing his
presence and influence in more places than I used to. I’m used to seeing him in the Bible,
in other people (mostly Christians), in my experiences in the Spirit, in the Church, in
sunsets, and such places. But I'm starting to think he plants ideas about himself in more
fields than I had previously thought. I’m also becoming more aware of his passionate
pursuit of people through those ideas that he’s sowing throughout the world. I just don’t
believe that God is sitting on his hands, waiting for people to come to him or for volunteers
for his sales team! I’m pretty sure that he’s already at work in every heart in every place
before anyone ever goes there to tell them about Jesus. Yeah, he’s patient but I don’t think
he’s at all passive. God is the ultimate missionary. He’s more obsessed about bringing his
children back home than we are in trying to convince them to do so; and he does
something about his obsession.

Greater Than Our Hearts
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his
presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he
knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence
before God... 1 John 3:19-22

My heart has terribly limited peripheral vision. Without the help of the Spirit my heart either
focuses on my flaws or my future, but not both in the same frame. I either feel shame
about the past or wishful thinking about the future, but unaided, I can’t see how one could
possibly lead to the other. Fortunately God can see more than one frame at a time. He’s
greater than my heart and knows everything.

Help Is On The Way
I believe that Jesus is coming back. Here's my meager stab at how it happens.

How God Guides
… he will be our guide even to the end.   Psalm 48:14
Along with what I’ve found in the Bible about how God guides, I’m going to share a lot of
my own stories. This topic isn’t theoretical for me. I’ve been trying to follow his lead since I
met him on August 20, 1972. I’ve seen the Lord do some very cool things as I’ve tried to
hear his voice and have made tons of mistakes in the process. It’s been quite a wild ride,
and I’ll share what I’ve learned along the way. I hope that my stories are an
encouragement to you (both my successes and failures). I’m not implying that my
experiences are necessarily a precedent for anyone else. You’ll have your own stories,
some of which you might not have thought about as “divine guidance.”

How The Bible Sustained Me In The Dark

How To Get Integrated
This is a study on Romans 6 through 8. Those chapters are, in my opinion, the most
cogent in all the Bible regarding the power we have to live like Jesus.

How To Get More Out Of Your Bible
The Bible is a wonderful book! Here I share how to study and understand it better.

I’m an “Amateur Christian.”

“Amateur” – 1. A person who engages in a pursuit on an unpaid basis. 2. Someone
considered contemptibly inept or unskillful at a particular activity. Origin: from amare 'to

Amateurs do what they do, not for pay but for the love of it. They’re not experts, but they
do their thing out of sheer enjoyment. That pretty much describes the kind of Jesus
followers I prefer to hang around.

Jesus – A Middle-Class Messiah?
I propose that Jesus was / is not the exclusive possession of the middle-class. In fact, if
he leaned one way or the other it was in the direction of the most marginalized. It was the
poor, the outcast, the people at the end of their rope that Jesus typically rescued. He
came to change society, and instead of at the top, he began at the bottom. He spent his
days on the street rescuing powerless lepers, prostituted women, and disabled pariahs.
You wouldn’t have found him in the boardrooms of the rich and powerful or in Herod’s face
lobbying for the release of the Jews. He did his best work among those on the margins.

(Just) Enough Time
When I was first diagnosed with cancer I worried about dying before my story was
finished. I had, and still have, a number of things to achieve, people to reach, chapters to
live and to tell. It wasn’t the dying part that bothered me so much as living long enough
(and well enough) to complete my story (and complete it well). A number of things have
comforted me since then, not the least of which is the assortment of passages strewn
throughout the pages of my Bible – a selection of which come from John’s Gospel.

Learning Leadership Lessons from 2 Corinthians
Why 2 Corinthians?
To put it bluntly, 2 Corinthians saved my ministry. I’ve always said that there are two kinds
of spiritual leaders:  Aspiring and Perspiring ones, and in the mid-1990’s I was one of the
Perspiring ones! There are some people who want to be leaders, and then there are
some, who at times, wonder why they ever became leaders in the first place! I was in one
of those dark-night-of-the-pastor’s-soul seasons (I’ve had several of these over the years)
when the Lord led me to take 2 Corinthians as a kind of prescription for what ailed me. I
had planted three churches and was leading two of them at the same time (don’t ask me
about the sanity of this!). I was in the throes of dealing with a bunch of my own
inadequacies, some significant disappointments that I had with the churches, and a whole
bag-full of hurt feelings. Not only did I feel like a failure, I couldn’t seem to get either God
or people to do what I wanted them to do. I went away for a few days to seek the Lord
and try to get my head together. I was pretty bummed out about how things were going,
when I found myself reading this letter over and over. I began to feel as though I was
attending a leadership class taught by Paul himself. While I’ll never be the leader he was,
from his letter and his example, I’ve gleaned (and continue to do so) many valuable
lessons about spiritual leadership.

Lessons of a Loser
I’m a huge loser. I’ve lost huge amounts of stuff, and I’m not talking about stuff like car
keys or socks (always just one per pair) in the dryer. I’m not whining or looking for
sympathy, I’m just setting the scene so you have some context for what I’ll share about
some of the lessons I learned through the losses I experienced. I’m not the only loser
around. Everyone’s lost something – a parent, a childhood, a friendship, a mind. What was
I saying? Oh yeah, I hope that something among these simple thoughts will help you in
some way as you process your own losses.

Loving An Unpredictable God
Over Chinese food my friend Joe asked me if my faith in God was in tact. I was getting
divorced, broke my neck, and was just diagnosed with cancer. He was concerned for me
and wanted to know how to best be a support to me in my dark night of the soul. I’d loved
Jesus for nearly forty years and had no intention of breaking up with him now. But I told
him that though I didn’t question God’s character, I wondered if he had very “good
judgment.” I’d been Joe’s friend and pastor for many years, and he wasn’t used to hearing
me talk quite that way, but since he asked, I thought it best to answer honestly. With
flushed face he promised to pray for me, which I obviously needed and gratefully
welcomed. That horrific season of my life did alter a lot of my thinking about God – and as
far as I can tell – for the better. You can be the judge of that yourself if you decide to read

Making Adjustments
You can’t really plan for the unexpected, since by definition, you don’t expect it. We make
our plans, try to live as responsibly as we can, and trust God to do what he does.
Nevertheless, stuff happens in our fallen world inside and around our flawed selves that we
couldn’t have predicted. There’s the matter of the free-will experiment in which we’re
engaged (where we’re permitted to hurt ourselves and one another if we choose to). And
then there’s the factor of the clear and present danger of the dark spiritual world,
relentless in its hate for us and the God who loves us.  We make plans, some of which are
thwarted, others were foolish and were thus doomed from the start. Regardless of the
cause, we have to learn to make adjustments on the fly. Life isn’t nearly as predictable as
we would wish, so detours are a more regular occurrence than we planned when we
embarked on the trip. So we have to learn to expect the unexpected, bring our fears about
them to God and adapt to what happens.

Manna, Meat, & Money
An appeal for a less self-indulged and more Christ-centered Christianity.

Once Saved, Always Saved. Is It True?
Here is my humble attempt to address the "Eternal Security" issue.

Outer Circle Christians
The Spirit of Jesus compels us toward the outer edge of our spinning earth and away from
the center of our own little world. He invites us to join him on his quest to heal a sick world.
But we tend to isolate and insulate ourselves by moving closer to the center – into suburbs
and other safe communities. As we fight his push outward, eventually the centrifugal force
becomes imperceptible. In our cozy churches we tend to lose touch with the reality of the
wider world and our sense of God’s compelling call outward. It leaves us deaf to the voice
of God, insensitive to his impetus, and feeling sick to our stomachs.

Outer Circle Churches
The Church is at her best when she specializes in outcasts – the more outrageous brand
of outcasts the better. Jesus is not so much looking for Inner Circle favorites but Outer
Circle followers who are willing to collaborate with him in loving and serving the least and
the left out. His not-very-messiah-like-looking mission disgusted the favorite spiritual sons
of the day prompting him to challenge them to rethink their sequestration away from
undesirables and follow his example to engage with the cast offs of their society.

The Antiphonal Song
God sings his beautiful anthem, a love song that he relentlessly croons to all his humans.
His song brings pleasure to all who stop and listen, is intended to elicit an antiphonal
response, wherein singers find other singers and sing in harmony with them in such a way
that non-singers are enticed to join the song.

The Conversation
Let’s talk about “The Conversation” between us and the Lord. Call it prayer, devotions, or
quiet time (not my favorite terms). I’m partial to the term “Conversation” since it depicts a
back-and-forth, an exchange, an interchange between heaven and earth. I think praying is
more of a dialogue than we probably know. It’s not just us talking and him listening. When
we pray, something is coming from him, and then there’s something going back up to him
from us. Then he sometimes sends something back to us in the form of a response to our
prayer. What we have with God is a relationship, a fellowship with him that makes “The
Conversation” possible.

The Day I Got My Whatever Back
The core issue of my lost “whatever” was really a loss of trust. I simply didn’t trust God
like I had before. He’d let me down (at least from my vantage point at the time) and I
wasn't willing to expose myself unreservedly to him again. “Whatever you want, Lord” was
not going to proceed out of my mouth again until at least we got some things straightened
out between us.

The Judgment Seat of Christ
This is a paper on a not-very-often-addressed topic of the review and reward of all

The Kingdom of God
Here, in a very brief study, I give my understanding of the Kingdom of God - past, present,
and future.

The Lord, His Law, and Those Who Love Him
  • What’s the deal with the “Old Testament” versus the “New?”
  • Does “Old” imply antique and outdated?
  • Do we still go by the Ten Commandments?
  • Does “The Law” have any relevance to us as New Testament followers of Jesus?
  • If Jesus lives in us, do we even need laws?
  • Did God have two different ways to save people in history – Law and then Grace?
  • Should we be following the Jewish food laws clearly defined in the Old Testament?
  • Are we supposed to be stoning blasphemers and adulterers?
  • What are the purposes and parameters of the Law in the Old Testament?
For a sincere stab at answers to those questions read more.

The Spirit-Filled Christian
We're told as Christians to, "Be filled with the Spirit." This paper is about how we go about
that and what we might expect as a result of that fullness.

Treating Timidity
Not to be harsh, but it’s my observation that a disproportionate percentage of American
believers in Jesus are timid in the expression of their faith. There are "don't-dare-miss-it"
people and then there are “don't-dare-try-it" ones. I think Christians should be more
courageous, not only out in the big bad world, but even among themselves in their
comfortable churches. Jesus has too many frail followers here – afraid to take any risks or
do anything for the first time. There’s something about our middle class suburban
spirituality that lulls us toward a tentative, rather than a forward form of faith.

What God is Like (Musings on the character of God)
So, I’m going to tell you “What God is like.” Sounds pretentious, right? I can only draw as
clear a picture of God as I have to date; and I have no illusion that I contain in my puny
mind a particularly large percentage of what can be known of the God of the Bible. We’re
pretty much like tadpoles swapping stories of blue whales, ants discussing the elephant, or
pots pondering the potter!

What Jesus Thought About Universal Victim Blaming
Bad people have bad things happen to them. That’s the way it works. If you’re good, God
always protects you from disasters. There’s obviously something wrong with you if God
brings or allows these kinds of judgments into your life. What goes around comes around.
It’s Karma, a Christian version of it of course. Right?

When God Says Wait
In a time of profound suffering I discovered some things I hadn't seen before in the well-
known Philippians 4:6-7. This is a brief study on this passage.

Why I'm Still Following Jesus (An Encouragement to Endure)
Quite a few people have expressed to me their surprise, that I’m still following Jesus after
losing my marriage, my ministry, and my health. I’m just as surprised as they are that they
are so surprised! It’s almost like they expect me to give up on the Lord because he hasn’t
given me what I want. Yeah, I’m way grieved about my circumstances, pretty scared, and
have had my moments of being ticked off with him, but to stop following Jesus would be
the height of stupidity. He’s my only constant. I have no other hub around which to revolve.
I may have very little idea about what he’s doing, and why he allows what he does, but I
know he’s with me and loves me extravagantly. Why in the world would I leave the only
purpose of my life now? I’m still following Jesus because he’s real and he’s still real
important to me.

I make up words and definitions to things. It's just something I do. It might amuse, and
even edify you to read this.

Y 4 Gospels?
Have you ever thought about why the Bible has four biographies of Jesus? While they have
many similarities, they are also quite different from each other. This should help you read
the gospels for all they're worth.
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