The Best Commentary On The Old Testament

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Frequently, people will ask me what commentaries I consult when I’m studying for a sermon. Occasionally, I will consult a commentary—but only after I feel I’ve exhausted my own biblical studies. I discussed some thoughts from Charles Spurgeon on the use of commentaries in a previous post. 

But let’s look at this from another angle: Before there was an Old Testament and a New Testament, what did those who lived in the days of Jesus call what we now refer to as “the Old Testament”? They called it Scripture. 

Here’s a clip from a recent sermon where I discuss more in-depth why our New Testament is really the best commentary we have on the Old Testament:

I invite you to check out a couple of other resources: 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

More Than A Legend

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Many in-the-public-spotlight people will hire a publicist to make them look good. Although this publicist can try to direct the public’s opinion, they cannot control the actual word on the street about their client. What people are talking about in their private conversations is closer to the truth than the publicist’s spin. 

Some skeptics of the claims of Christianity have tried to claim that the New Testament is really a publicity stunt: That the New Testament authors wrote their documents to try to control the narrative of the story of Jesus. But I find it fascinating what people were saying about Jesus from His birth—before He ever preached a sermon or performed a miracle. 

Skeptics may want to claim that what Jesus said or did is a myth. But we need to ask, “Where do myths originate?” Myths come from legends, and legends come from historical facts. J.R.R. Tolkien says in the opening of the Fellowship Of The Ring, “And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge.” 

There are those that steadfastly cling to Fact long after others have gotten tired of the Legends, and now only see a Myth. Throughout history those that cling to something others think are out-dated have often been able to bring clarity to confusing things that the modern science of the day couldn’t do. Sometimes these Fact-clingers have been called seers or sorcerers or magicians.  

Some of these magicians show up shortly after the birth of Jesus: 

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-11) 

Some English translations of the Bible translate Magi as “wise men.” This is pretty accurate, but magi can also mean teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, interpreters of dreams, or magicians. These Babylonian Persians had seen some sort of astronomical occurrence that led them to make a nearly 900-mile journey to Jerusalem. 

For over 500 years these magicians had been clinging to a Fact taught to them by the chief magician of Babylon. Not a fellow Babylonian, but a Hebrew given the name Belteshazzar. He was one who could…

  • …tell someone what they had dreamed about and then interpret it 
  • …solve the deepest riddles 
  • …read and translate an unknown language 
  • …call on supernatural powers to shut the mouths of lions 
  • …foretell future world events 

Belteshazzar the Magician also saw a vision of the pre-incarnate Jesus before Time even began, One whom he called “the Ancient of Days.” And he even saw all the way to the end of Time when this King of kings would judge the entire world.  

These Persian magicians didn’t make an arduous 900-mile journey for a Myth. They didn’t bring gifts fit for a king to honor a Legend. They did all of this because of a Fact: Jesus is Fact. 

We meet another magician on Barnabas and Paul’s first missionary journey. He was a man named Elymas. The English version of the Bible calls him a sorcerer, but in Greek the word is magos, the singular of the word magi. 

He’s called a sorcerer because he tried to make Jesus a Myth. He worked for the Roman proconsul, a man called Sergius Paulus, whom Luke describes as “an intelligent man.” Elymas in essence said, “Sergius, use your intellect. There may have been someone called Jesus (in fact, my own father had that same name), but the stories about His miracles, death, and resurrection have to be mythical!” Sergius Paulus was convinced that the accounts of Jesus were myth until he heard the words of fact spoken by Barnabas and Paul. 

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, 

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great man or a moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool… or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.” 

So who do you say Jesus is? Is He a Myth? A Legend? A liar? A lunatic? Or is He the Ancient of Days, the Light of the world, the Lord of all Creation? 

Christians, we must have this Fact clear in our own minds, and then—just as the Persian Magi did and as Barnabas and Paul did—let’s clearly tell about this Fact to the world’s skeptics, especially as the world’s modern telling of Christmas seems to be becoming more and more mythical. 

Don’t rail on the Myths and Legends, but use them to show others the Fact of Jesus Christ—the Ancient of Days, Savior, and King! 

(Watch the full message More Than A Legend by clicking on the link below.)

To catch up on all of the messages in our Advent series People Will Talk, please click here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

What If My Organization’s “Numbers” Aren’t Growing?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

At a recent Q&A, I was asked how leaders in smaller markets or communities can avoid becoming discouraged if their measurable metrics aren’t continually rising. 

I answered this by pointing to a simple three-word phrase that God laid on my heart a number of years ago.

This is an idea that I unpack throughout my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. Please pick up a copy for yourself or as a gift for your friends who are in leadership positions. My book is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Podcast: Why Leaders Must Stop Complaining

Listen to the audio-only version of this podcast by clicking on the player below, or scroll down to watch the video.

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • [0:26] Craig gives Greg a special gift
  • [1:27] what leaders do that will undermine their leadership 
  • [2:48] why it’s more fun to be around grateful people 
  • [4:12] Craig shared about the impact grateful teammates have had on him 
  • [4:52] why is it so easy to complain? 
  • [6:28] leaders need to speak positive things into this around them 
  • [7:42] leaders need to shut down complaining teammates quickly 
  • [8:39] Greg challenges leaders to confront their own negative attitude 
  • [10:00] leaders need to create a place of safety to help others to develop to their full potential 
  • [12:08] Greg reminds leaders that busyness can restrict gratitude 
  • [13:29] criticism is both a mindset and a “heartset”
  • [13:59] how many of our criticism come from our assumptions about others? 
  • [15:06] poor leaders have a misunderstanding of what gratitude does 
  • [15:55] some ways leaders can express gratitude to their teammates 
  • [17:57] another look at the problem of assumptions 
  • [19:08] a grateful person attracts others to them 
  • [21:00] Craig gives leaders a challenge to help bolster their attitude of gratitude

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

Unburdened

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Let’s get on the same page with a few facts: 

  • Nearly 1-of-5 adults in the United States age 18 and older battle some form of anxiety disorder. 
  • Being anxious is not a sin but we can grieve God’s heart if we don’t train ourselves to turn to Him as our First Source. Notice that David said, “When [not “if”] I am afraid, I put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3). 

We’ve been looking at both the dictionary definitions and biblical definitions of anxiety. One definition is being disquieted, but we saw that coming close to Jesus Xs out the “dis-” and takes us to a place of quiet. A second definition is being insecure because we are so full of cares. Clinging to Jesus Xs out the “in-” and makes us secure when His strong arms are around us. 

A third definition of anxiety is found here: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). This word for cares or anxieties is the only time this Hebrew word is used in the Bible. The idea is a heavy burden, which the Amplified Bible captures like this: “Cast your burden on the Lord—releasing the weight of it—and He will sustain you….”

We can be burdened because we pick up and carry things on our own. But the word for cares or burdens in Psalm 55:22 can mean not only things we pick up, but things given to us by God or allowed by God. You might ask, “Why would God give me a burden?” 

  • Sometimes it’s allowed—God allowed satan to afflict Job within limits, and He allowed Joseph’s brothers to ambush him (Job 1:8-12; 2:3-7; Genesis 50:20).  
  • Sometimes it’s given—God gave Jesus a bitter cup to drink, and He gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh” (Matthew 26:39-42; 2 Corinthians 12:7). 
  • In every instance, the limits are perfectly measured to accomplish what God wants to do. The way we respond glorifies Him and keeps us dependent on Him (Job 1:20; 2:10; Genesis 50:20; 2 Corinthians 12:8-10; Hebrews 10:10). 

(Check out all of the above biblical passages by clicking here.)

Still in the middle of this, the burdens can seem overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. That’s why God tells us what to do with these burdens: Cast them off! 

In Psalm 55:22, David gives us the word “cast” in the imperative mood, which means it’s a command. Literally, the word means to throw away or shed the burden. 

How often do we do this? David said he prayed “evening, morning, and noon” for God’s help (Psalm 55:16-17). 

What does God do when we cast off these burdens? He sustains and supports us—“He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.” 

The apostle Peter quotes the opening words of this verse when he writes, “Cast all your anxiety on Him,” and then he tells us why we can do this: “Because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Just like David said he prayed for his burdens to be released “evening, morning, and noon,” the verb tense Peter uses implies the same thing. We don’t just release our burdens once, but we continue to do it again and again and again! 

The word Peter uses for “cast” is only used twice in all the New Testament. The word means not just to drop our burdens at our feet—where we may trip over them or be tempted to pick them up again—but to throw our burdens on someone else. The only other place this word is used is when on the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem the disciples “threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it” (Luke 19:35). 

Peter tells us that this casting off of our burdens requires us to humble ourselves before God. Pride makes us think we can handle it on our own, and that same pride robs God of the glory He would receive when He provides relief from our heavy load. We cast these burdens onto Jesus so that we can be alert to the enemy’s sneaky tactics, and help others who are also being attacked. And just as David said God supported and sustained him, Peter said the same thing (1 Peter 5:6-10). I especially like the wording from the King James Version—

But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1 Peter 5:10 KJV) 

Jesus can X-out the instability that comes with carrying heavy burdens and make us stablished, strengthened, and settled in Him. 

Don’t try to carry these anxiety-inducing burdens on your own, but cast them on Jesus every evening, morning, and noon. Let Him carry those burdens so you can live in a way that glorifies Him every single day. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series X-ing Out Anxiety, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Honk Your Thanks

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

If anxiety kills joy, what kills anxiety? Anxiety—the joy-killer—is itself killed when joy is expressed.

Being grateful for what you have kills the anxiety of what you don’t have.

Being thankful for what you have kills the fear of what you may be missing.

Being grateful for what you have kills the anxiety of the bad stuff that may never even happen.

If joy kills anxiety, how can we develop more of it? Most people would say, “If you’re happy, give thanks” or “If you’re happy, honk.” But really it’s the other way around: “If you want to be happy, honk!”

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Honking your thanks is not only good for you, but it’s good for everyone around you who hears your “honk! honk!” of gratitude. David experienced this in Psalm 34:1-3. Even when he was at a low point, when he started praising God other anxious people began to experience joy as well.

This is a snippet from a longer message, which you can find by clicking here.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Clinging To Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Previously I shared with you that according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, nearly 1-of-5 adults in the United States age 18 and older battle some form of anxiety disorder. That means there’s a good chance that either you or someone close to you will be in this battle sometime during their life. 

We also learned from David that being anxious or afraid is not a sin. He said, “When [not ‘if’] I am afraid, I put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3). But we can grieve God’s heart if we don’t train ourselves to turn to Him as our trustworthy First Source of help. 

We also saw in Mark 4:35-39 how the disciples of Jesus were caught in a raging storm, trying everything in their own power to rescue themselves, and yet Jesus was right there with them. He arose and said, “Quiet. Be still,” and “THEN the wind died down and it was completely calm.” From this we learned that only His peace can X-out the noise of the storm and bring us to a place of quiet rest. 

We see another aspect of anxiety here: “Anxiety weighs down the heart” (Proverbs 12:25). That word for “anxiety” means carefulness, but not in the idea of being cautious. It literally means someone who is full of cares. This state leads to a heaviness of heart, as the KJV of that same verse says, “Heaviness in the heart of a man maketh it stoop.”  

I don’t think anyone wakes up one day and says, “I’m going to take all of the cares of the world on my shoulders today.” Instead, we pick up just one thing. “This is just a small thing,” we tell ourselves. Then we wake up the next morning with just that one little thing, and we pick up one more little thing. And then we do it again the next day, and the next day, and the next day. Until before we know it we are bowed down because we are full of cares. This heaviness makes us stoop, makes us unsteady on our feet, and magnifies even the smallest of concerns into a huge crisis. 

We are clinging to our load of cares—our care-fullness—but our loving Heavenly Father desires us to cling to something else. He wants us to cling to Him!

  • Moses told the Israelites: Serve only the Lord your God and fear Him alone. Obey His commands, listen to His voice, and cling to Him. (Deuteronomy 13:4 NLT) 
  • David declared: I cling to You; Your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:8) 

We see a beautiful example of Paul clinging to the promises of God during his multiple trials in and around Jerusalem and then during his journey to Rome to stand trial yet again. While he was still in prison in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to him and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11). 

Paul knew he was going to arrive in Rome. But during the horrendous storm at sea on his way there, Paul received an added assurance. He told his shipmates—

“But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.” (Acts 27:22-25) 

Jesus tells all of us to cling to Him and His secure promises (Matthew 11:28-30). When we cling to Him, we no longer cling to the cares of this world. We move from from full-of-cares to care-less. We go from insecurity over our future to the security that only Jesus can give us! 

Paul clung to those promises of Jesus: I will rescue you … You must testify about Me in Rome … I have given you all who sail with you. Likewise, we need to arm ourselves with the promises of God and tenaciously cling to them. I’ve shared just a few promises in the comments below, but feel free to reach out to me if I can help you find a promise in the Bible that you can cling to through your stormy times. 

If you’ve missed any message in our series about X-ing our anxieties, please click here to find the full list. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Wholly Healthy Leaders

Have you ever heard someone describe Jesus as “healthy”? 

Dr. Luke noticed how completely healthy Jesus was—mentally, physically, spiritually, and relationally—and then told us how we, too, can be wholly healthy. 

Leaders, you cannot give to others what you do not possess yourself. If you want the people around you to be healthy, you must first get healthy yourself. 

I have five chapters in Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter where I talk about a leader’s health.

Podcast: What Leaders Can Learn From Veterans

Listen to the audio-only version of this podcast by clicking on the player below, or scroll down to watch the video.

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • [0:36] One thing I have learned about veterans that I have appreciated. 
  • [1:35] Giving a shout-out to our favorite veterans. 
  • [2:35] We wonder how many current leaders would agree to step into tough roles if they weren’t getting paid to do so. 
  • [3:35] What intrigues us about volunteers. 
  • [5:15] What else motivates people beside getting a paycheck?  
  • [6:35] Leaders help their people get involved in a bigger cause—they help them see beyond the organization’s “bottom line” as a way to energize their team. 
  • [8:29] Some leadership examples from our military personnel. 
  • [9:18] What any leader should be able to learn from veterans: respect, understanding of the chain of command, innovation while follow the mission plan. 
  • [11:13] How having veterans on your team can benefit your organization. 
  • [13:41] What we can learn from our veterans about defending our values. 
  • [14:00] Greg shares a great quote on defining true heroes. 
  • [15:20] Find a way to invest in your people and unleash their potential.

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

Quieting The Storms

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

“Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” —Anxiety & Depression Association of America 

A multitude of factors go into someone’s anxiety: genetics, temperament, brain chemistry, life experiences. In addition to those factors, we have to keep in mind that humans are a three-part being—with a body, mind, and spirit—and a disease in one area does affect the other two areas. 

All of this means that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for anxiety. But there is one Healer: 

  • He may supernaturally heal your body, mind, or spirit 
  • He may direct you to a medical doctor, a mental health professional, or a spiritual counselor 
  • But always, He will walk through the challenges with you, strengthening you, and preparing you to minister to others going through a similar struggle (Psalm 23:1-6; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4) 

David wrote, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3). Notice that he said “when” not “if.” David knows what you probably know too: we can be easily consumed by our anxiety, doubts, and fears. But David also knows (and I hope you do too) that at those moments, we can go to God as our trustworthy First Source. 

One of the dictionary definitions of anxiety is a feeling of disquiet. All of the conflicting thoughts make it hard to concentrate, the abundance of noise makes it difficult to talk to yourself, let alone talk to God. 

I’d like you to consider another psalmist’s words. Look at the first half of Psalm 94:19—

  • When anxiety was great within me… (NIV) 
  • In the multitude of my anxious thoughts… (AMP)
  • When doubts filled my mind… (NLT) 

The setting of this psalm is one of lots of disquieting voices: a desire to see the wrongdoers punished, listening to arrogant words, getting fed up with boasting words, seeing good people being trampled, hearing foolish words uttered about God (vv. 1-8). 

Experiencing anxiety is not sinful, but I do think that we grieve God’s heart when we immediately run to other sources for relief instead of going to our loving Heavenly Father first. After dealing with the disquiet in the opening verses of Psalm 94, the psalmist says, “My anxiety level was sky high!” But then notice how that verse concludes—

  • Your consolation brought me joy (NIV) 
  • Your comforts cheer and and delight my soul (AMP)
  • Your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer (NLT)

Jesus told us about our Comforter who would always be with us (John 14:1, 16-17). A little further on in these same remarks Jesus also said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NKJV). 

I like that phrase, “Be of good cheer.” That phrase is just one word in Greek, and sometimes it’s translated “be of good courage.” In every single instance, it’s only used by Jesus and it’s only used when He comes close to anxious people (Matthew 9:2, 9:22, 14:27; Mark 6:50, 10:49; Luke 8:48; John 16:33; Acts 23:11). 

A furious squall battered the boat, almost swamping it. The disciples were—to say the least—disquieted! In their anxious state they notice Jesus peacefully sleeping. They wake Him up with, “Don’t You care that we’re drowning?!” Jesus stands up and says to the storm, “Quiet. Be still.” 

Recall that one of the descriptions of anxiety was being disquieted. That prefix dis- means to be separated: our anxiety would seek to distance us from God’s presence, to make us feel like His help is too far away. But when we go to Jesus, He alone can say, “Quiet” to our disquieting thoughts. He can remove the “dis-” and bring us close to Him. Only His peace can X-out the noise of the storm and bring you to a place of quiet rest. 

After Jesus said, “Quiet. Be still,” notice this: “THEN the wind died down and it was completely calm” (Mark 4:39). And the great thing is this: Even if another storm begins disquieting us just a few minutes after the calm, we can go to Him again. There is no limit: We can continually go to the Eternal Source of peace, to the only One who can speak, “Quiet” to our anxious thoughts. 

Please follow along with us as we learn more about X-ing out our anxieties. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

%d bloggers like this: