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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Overflowing

Yesterday I shared I was reading through Colossians and saw a whole lot more places in the book that dealt with the richness of our completed position in Christ.  Reading through it again today, I found nine more times the idea of our fullness in Christ, our completeness, our perfection in Him was mentioned, if not directly, buy allusion, or word play.
Christ is all of the wealth of the Christian life, in fact knowing Him overflows us with spiritual wealth.
One passage in particular jarred me to a halt.  Colossians 2:2.  The richness (pun intended) of the passage is nearly overwhelming.  The word play of Paul in describing the wealth that we have in the knowledge of the mystery of God is stunning.  The original that is translated wealth and full assurance have similar root meanings, and the result of that wealth is true knowledge, which one could argue has a similar weight.

But the real punch comes at the end of the verse.  All of our English translations have to add words to make the verse read well.  It is a shame.  The literal translation of the last part of the verse is, “…the mystery of God, Christ.”  The unadorned mention of the savior receives the full force of all that comes before.  Paul is telling us, emphatically, that the wealth, the fullness of the life he is describing to this church is Christ.

There is nothing more.  We need nothing more.  He is the wealth.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Full

This week our Sunday school class will be launching into a six week study of Colossians.  In preparation for that class I suggested that everyone read the book several times before Sunday.  I just finished reading it through for the first time.  I chose to do that in a version of the New Testament that I do not normally read for this type of exercise.  I was reminded again of how familiarity with a passage can lead one to overlook significant things in the text.
The Bible is full to overflowing, one sees new truth each time one engages with the text.
Colossians 2:9 – 10 is a passage to which I direct men when we are meeting.  It is a key text on the believer’s position in Christ.  Reading through Colossians as a whole this time I found that concept, fullness, completeness six other times in the book (Colossians 1:9; 1:24; 1:25; 2:2; 2:10; 4:12; 4:17).  Several of the references are plays on words that seem to hearken back to the key passage 2:9 – 10.

I have read and studied this book more times than I can count.  But here, just by changing the version I read I saw things that I had not picked up the other times.  This Book continually amazes me.  It is a source of infinite wonder.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Group or One on One?

During the Tuesday morning meeting this week one of the things we kicked around was how to best engage men in moving forward in the Word.  There are three options, a workshop like we are about to finish, small groups, or meet one on one.
Is meeting one on one or in a group the better way to engage men in spiritual growth?
The Workshop is  great for quickly exposing the men and giving them practice with the tools but the problem is how to sustain the learning after the workshop is done.  Small groups can do that.  The benefit of a small group is that there are multiple gifts and experiences engaged in the pursuit of the Bible.  The men in the group will benefit from that interaction.  The downside of a group is that as the group exceeds 7 and approaches the practical limit of 15, it becomes easier for men to hide.  That is to not do the work in preparation and still attend.  Sure there will be some value through osmosis, but there will not be much life change for the one hiding.

That is the advantage of meeting one on one.  One cannot hide.  It becomes rapidly apparent if one of you is not prepared.  The conversation can be more direct since there is just two.  Strong bonds will form.  The disadvantage is that the weaknesses of the leader will not be countered by the multiple gifts of other men.

It seems to me that the answer may be a combination of both, meeting in groups with the leader also meeting one on one with the group members.  What do you think?  Why?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

S'More Pastors

Yesterday I shared the idea that at a significant level we are all pastors; first of our families and then of those in our increasing circle of influence.  The comments were driven by my conversation with a pastor of a church with which I have had the privilege to be involved.
Since we are all pastors the Pastoral Epistles are not closed to us.
As I have continued to reflect on this there is a much more important reality that emerges from our roles as pastors, our relationship to the Pastoral Epistles, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus.  I have heard Bible teachers and some pastors emphasize the pastoral audience of these books to the extent that it calls into question their applicability to “lay people.”  While I believe that reflects a defective view of the Church as well as a deficient system of Biblical interpretation, for our purposes here let’s allow the argument.  Since we all function as pastors at some level, the epistles apply.

Do not let anyone tell you differentially.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pastors

Yesterday afternoon I was setting up for this morning’s workshop.  Typically, unless I forget – which I have twice, I set up with the associate pastor at around 1:30PM.  As we were working on the room he started talking about his reaction to this blog.  He told me that in a lot of cases the things covered here put into words things that he was thinking.  He gave me a couple of specific examples of posts that were helpful to him.
All of us are pastors, at least to our families.
That interaction was both encouraging and a concern; for most the rest of the day what he said simmered on the back burner of my thoughts.  Great that he is encouraged by what he reads here.  He is a pastor.  Does that mean that only those who are in full time ministry are going to benefit from this?  It was distracting, and I found myself waking up during the night thinking about that.

Sometime this morning the light came on.  We are all pastors; or at least we all should be engaged in pastoral work.  Our flock is first our family.  Then it is our expanding sphere of influence.  If we are engaged in giving our lives to others as Christ directed, then the things that encouraged my pastor friend should also encourage us.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tempus Fugit

You may not live to finish reading this post; I may not live to finish writing it – we’ll see.  I am not sure what got me thinking about it this morning.  Maybe it was the reports of the homicides and traffic fatalities I heard on the radio on the way to ride my bike this morning; perhaps it was the muscle twinge that I felt in my chest when I was reading Psalm 119:1 – 16 this morning.  But somehow it got me thinking that we are not guaranteed our next breath.  The majority of people who have ever lived have lived their last second.
We cannot hold back the sands of time, we can only control what we do while they are flowing.
Each of us – if the Lord does not return first – is heading toward a certain end.  That end is fixed, Psalm 139:16.  After that end we will stand before God to face judgment, Hebrews 9:27 – 28.  That judgment will include an evaluation by fire of how we have employed the gifts and abilities with which we have been entrusted, I Corinthians 3:10 – 15.  Psalm 90:12 tell us that we are to live with this reality firmly in mind.  Ephesians 5:15 – 16 reminds us that we are to make the most of that time.

What we choose to invest that time in is important.  There are only two things that the Bible says will last forever.  The Word of God, Isaiah 40:8; and the souls of men, 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and 2 Thessalonians 1:9.  So in what are you investing your time?  Will it last?

Made it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Group Processing

This morning we had a Sunday school class where we were investigating the notion of “encouragement.”  I have shared in an earlier post the importance of questions to help people process information.  That was validated this morning again, in a big way.
Asking questions in a group rather than sharing what you know, engages both the group's minds and gifts.
If you have an assignment to lead a Sunday school class the pull is to have to perform, to really nail the subject, especially if you have any shade of the gift of teaching.  The pull is to talk about %75 - %100 of the time.  In some cases that is required, especially if the topic is incredibly technical (one might ask if it is that technical – why cover it in Sunday school, but I won’t).  If you follow the pull that means that for the most part the only gifts that will be engaged in the class are yours.  While that may be the most efficient use of the time, it may not be the best way to transfer information.

This morning we looked at four verses and I asked the group in each case what they observed.  That meant that they had to think through the verse and then tell the group what they saw.  That process engaged them both in thinking through the texts and it also engaged their gifts.  Each person will view the scripture through the lenses of their experience and their gifts.  In every case that I have used this approach, every case, people have seen things that I have not, every case, every time.  Additionally, the verbal processing, the interaction between the people in the class, requires engagement that will increase the retention of the information.  Try it.  You will have to prepare more, and you will not be in as much control, but it is well worth the effort and the risk.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Think Resisted

The hornets are swarming.  There is not a way of which I am aware to share with you what has happened.  When my facebook “friend” posted the quote by Nye (see yesterday and the day before) I suggested in a reply that Nye had denied the science he was promoting.  My “friend” asked how.  Yesterday morning I replied with much of the same content that was in yesterday’s post.  Late yesterday afternoon facebook notified me that there was a response to my reply.  Boy was there.  Three people wrote about 10 times more than I in response; mine was long.
Truth is resisted, strongly.
The interesting thing here is that the responses did not address what I said.  Like Nye’s original statement, they were logically fallacious; primarily full of red herrings.  They responded passionately addressing me on positions that I had neither taken nor mentioned in my reply.  Sound familiar?

A cursory read of the Gospels and Acts reveals the same response to Christ and the apostles.  Obviously I am neither.  The point is that when one ventures to say something in defense of the Gospel, there will be resistance.  Paul was stoned, left for dead, lashed, beaten with rods for sharing his faith (1 Corinthians 11:21 – 12:13).  When we or our kids take a stand for Christ, no matter how small, there will be a response.  The world does not like to hear that they need to come to Christ.  They do not like to hear that they are not in control.  They tend to attack the messenger.  That does not relieve us of the privilege of sharing our faith.  It is incumbent on us to equip our children to stand firm.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Think Applied

Yesterday I asked you to think about Bill Nye’s comments on science.  The question was how do we arm our kids to stand against the continual onslaught of these types of “reasonable” statements that are prevalent in our culture.  Before we launch into that a couple of things, first, I really like Bill Nye.  I like that he is peaking the interest of children in science, he reminds me of – dating myself – Mr. Wizard.  Second, I made a comment about this quote on my “friend’s” facebook page and was asked to clarify what I meant.  I responded that I would do that this morning.  Since then another person has responded to what I will say – only problem he assumed incorrectly.  You are not allowed to question or make comments about this topic by those who are tolerant.
Just because someone well known states something, it does not mean that it is correct.
Back to Nye. My first reaction to his comment is that he is denying the science he purports.  How?  The basis of science is curiosity.  Through scientific inquiry I seek to understand how things work or if the explanation of how things work is actually how they work.  It is an attempt to expand understanding and then to apply that understanding to see if it is, in fact, understanding.  Nye’s statement removes the discussion from the realm of scientific inquiry by the means of several logical fallacies:

  • He uses a false analogy by equating science with evolution.  Not all science is dependent on evolution.  To say that I cannot examine and or question the base tenets of evolution is to say that I cannot engage in science.
  • He begs the question - to question the veracity of evolution is absurd therefore it should not be questioned - which is also circular reasoning.
  • He attacks any individual on the basis of their curiosity about evolution – ad hominem.
  • There are many others he commits here - read through the list and see if you can pick them out.

Perhaps the most striking thing about this statement is how closely it echoes the arguments that were thrown at Darwin back in the day.  He could not question God.  Now we cannot question Darwin.  Really?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Think

You may have never seen it; “Joe versus the Volcano” is one of our family favorites.  In our family many conversations are garnished with quotes from favorite movies, like “Joe,” “Princes Bride,” and others.  In the movie Meg Ryan plays three parts DeDe, Angelica, and Patricia.  All three interact with Tom Hank’s Joe.  In one of the pivotal scenes Patricia and Joe are eating on her yacht.  During the conversation Patricia observes:
My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.
Are you awake?  Amazed at the thoughts the world is throwing at your kids?
My experience is similar.  But I might suggest that sleep is a metaphor those who do not think and awake is for those who do.  This is reinforced pretty much every time I read comments on a controversial article or picture on the internet.  Do not do that much it can lead to despair about the human condition – on second thought it will simply validate what the Scripture says about man – but not sure it is worth much of your time.

This morning one of my facebook “friends” posted a quote from Bill Nye the Science Guy:
Science is the key to our future, and if you don't believe in science, then you're holding everybody back. And it's fine if you as an adult want to run around pretending or claiming that you don't believe in evolution, but if we educate a generation of people who don't believe in science, that's a recipe for disaster. We talk about the Internet. That comes from science. Weather forecasting. That comes from science. The main idea in all of biology is evolution. To not teach it to our young people is wrong.
Ok, tangentially, applying Ephesians 5:14, here is your assignment.  Your kids are getting hammered on a daily basis with this type of thought in school, in games that they play, the movies they watch, in the conversations they have with their friends.  How would you as an awake thinker, respond to Mr. Nye?  How would you equip your kids to think critically about what he has said here?

I will respond tomorrow…

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Busy

This has been a day.  I have been in meetings most all day from 6:30 this morning until now at 8:43 PM.  I have had some time between them but mostly just chunks of 30 minutes or so.  I also had this blog to write and handouts to prepare for next week’s workshop on Tuesday.  During the day I got another significant assignment that will take several hours to complete and my schedule until Monday evening does not let up.  I also need to finish my taxes this week to get to my CPA so I can file on time.  You have had weeks like that I am sure.
Are our schedules so full that we squeeze out our time with God?
That is the spirit of this age, busyness, your calendar, I know you have one, probably looks like the one in the picture; full, even color coded, mine is.  Note something on this.  In the picture on Sunday the 7th at 9:00 AM this individual has “Church.”  Great.  Now look at Tuesday the 9th at 6:30 PM, the entry is Bible study.  Another great.  Now find on the schedule where this individual does prep for Bible study or has a time alone with God.  It ain’t there.  Returning books to the library is, tennis is, ballet, soccer, but no time with God.

My experience has been if I do not schedule it.  It does not get done.  If I do not block out the time to do what I need to do, Bible study, prayer, etc. someone else will claim that time for their objectives.  Ephesians 5:15 – 16 tells us that we have to be careful, wise, making the most of the time.  This is one of the verses that I really like the way the King James handles verse 16 – “redeeming the time” is a much richer way to put it.  We have to fight, hard, to make sure that we are doing what is important, critical, first – first.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dialog

If you are not engaged in digging into the Word of God with a community of warriors, you have committed yourself to terminal mediocrity.  You, we, need others with which to interact.  We need to dig deep in the rich mine of the Scripture on our own, then produce what we have found to those men with whom we are fighting through the reality of what it means to live life as an apprentice of Christ in this world while we shoulder the roles of man, kingdom warrior, husband, father, friend, and provider.  I covet that for you.  We need each other.  Not just for encouragement but to challenge and validate our knowledge and practice of following our Savior.
It is essential to be in dialog with other warriors about what we have discovered in the Word of God.
I have written of this before, but it bears repeating and expanding.  I just got off of a Skype session with two of the three men with whom I have been studying the Kingdom of God since last June.  We meet almost weekly subject to travel, etc.  We are different in gifts and temperament.  We are engaged in different ways in working with men and women in furthering their intimacy with our Savior.  To say that the different gifts and similar but different experiences we bring to the conversation deepen the impact would be like saying that Mt. Everest is an impressive hill.  Our different perspectives challenge and enrich each other’s understanding of the work we have done individually.  We do not always agree.  But we always respect and listen intently to each other’s input both measuring what is shared against what we have found while evaluating our findings in light of the other man’s work.  It is a rich time.  It is a stretching time.  It is a challenging time.  It flies by.

You are not limited to your geographic area for this.  We are in four different state and three time zones.  It is not trivial to coordinate the time together.  It is essential.  Fight for this level of dialog.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Writing

Judges 2:7; 10 – 11, is a passage to which I return time after time to encourage people to write.  To journal on what the Lord is doing in their lives.  There are at least two reasons for this the first I wrote about last December, as we are believers we are prone to forget, quickly, what God has done for us.  Journaling helps us remember.
Writing helps us both remember what God has done in our lives and helps us think through issues we face.
The second reason is that writing helps us to clarify our thinking.  I will admit that it is hard.  It is hard to write down what you are thinking in a way that will anticipate all of the questions that someone may ask you.  It is hard to know if what you are writing is any good.  But you are not writing for anyone else.  You are writing to slow down and think thoroughly through the issues about which you are writing.  Most of us do not think well.  We have been conditioned by the consumer culture to be told what to believe, what to think.  For the most part we have abandoned the discipline of thinking, reasoning, evaluating what we have been told.  It is critical that we regain it.  One of the major reasons we are facing most of the challenges we are facing as a culture today both in our cultures and our churches is that people have accepted what they have been told uncritically, unthinking.  Writing out your response to what is going on in your culture and in your study of the Word, will help you to think clearly through these issues.  At the very least the process will uncover holes in your understanding and indicate where you need more information or study.

John Piper talks about the importance of this discipline in his message on David Brainerd.  I highly recommend you investing the 40 minutes or so that it will take you to listen to this.  It will be well worth your time.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Adequate

Humility was what was on my mind today as I have been working toward this post, but reading in 2 Corinthians 3:1 – 6 led me to change directions.  The sequence of events here is striking.  Paul is writing to arrogant people, people whom he worked to establish in the faith.  These folks should be beating the proverbial path to Paul’s proverbial door to find out what they should be doing to further their relationship with Christ.  But here Paul is having to, at some level, defend his right to speak to their behavior.
Counter the arrogant with the adequacy that come from your position in Christ.
The contrast to me is stark and the application is clear if not easy.  Paul countered arrogance with adequacy.  He exhorted the arrogant Corinthian church with boldness sourced not in an overblown sense of importance – remember that yesterday we saw that he considered himself “a nobody” – rather he had confidence in the adequacy of Christ’s work in his life.  That gave him hope, and from that hope he spoke boldly (3:12).

So the application – and this is easier to write than it is to do – is to confront arrogant by being adequate, adequate in Christ.  That is one does not demand audience rather one speaks boldly from what Christ has wrought in their lives.  The tension I usually feel is that people may not respond to what I say.  That does not matter.  What matters is that I engage – not from any sense of greatness or privilege but from the adequacy that Christ has given me through the Spirit.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Arrogance

I struggle with arrogant people who do not realize how important I am…
Arrogant people are more interested in telling you what they think than understanding - no wait Proverbs 18:2 says that is a fool.
All day I have been struggling with how to write this post.  It has become apparent that one cannot write about arrogance without feeling a bit arrogant.  Paul seemed to do it well in 2 Corinthians 12:11 -13 when he was taking on the arrogance of the Corinthian believer’s head on.

I have been noticing arrogance more and more lately.  I see it in folks who are more interested in sharing their own thoughts than understanding, when they are around wisdom rather than ask questions they lecture.  I have seen that happen more times than I can count, and it always baffles me.  It is the type of person who purports to know essentially everything.  There is no topic on which they are not experts; questions are not a part of their repertoire.  I have seen people like this talk incessantly in front of experts “informing” the expert on the expert’s specialty.  Writing this Proverbs 18:2 came to mind.

The problem is I tend to do this myself.  There have been too many times I have found myself speaking when I should have been listening.  Reality is I do not know what I do not know.  I am learning to ask more questions.  I am learning that the gifts stuff in the Bible is real.  There are people that I need to instruct me.  I need to learn from them.  That takes listening more than talking.  It means questions rather than statements.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hearing God

I was reading this morning in Psalm 95.  I was struck by 7b – 8.  That led me to Hebrews 3:7 – 4:16 and finally to John 10:27 – 28 (I share that first in case you want to read these before you read what I have to say about all of these.)  There is a lot in this section of Scripture.
What keeps us from hearing God?
In the past few years I have been interested in being more intentional with listening prayer.  That is why this group of passages got my attention.  I have read on this subject and developed a study on the topic for our small group (I would recommend Dallas Willard’s book, Hearing God on this topic – I can’t find my copy, I must have loaned it to someone).

I noticed several things as I worked through these verses this morning.  I do not have room here to unfold all of this but if you are reading through it look at all that is covered here:

  • The Holy Spirit’s role in our hearing God
  • The barriers to hearing God
    • Hardening our Hearts
    • Testing God
    • Disobedience
  • The role of the community in hearing God
  • The relationship between hearing God and the rest
  • The role of the Word of God in hearing God
  • The role of Christ in hearing God
The Holy Spirit through the Word under the ministry of Christ enables us to hear God.
I drew a diagram in my journal to help me understand what was going on.  It seems that the Holy Spirit through the Word of God under the ministry of the High Priest, Jesus, with the encouragement of the community helps me to not harden my heart in disobedience so that I can hear God’s voice and enter into His rest.  For me that seems like a fairly succinct description of how I have experienced my walk with God.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Distracted

For the past eight months I have been in a study with three men whom I have known collectively for about 108 years.  One is in Colorado, one in North Carolina, and one in Florida.  We have been doing a topical study on the Kingdom of God.  After eight months of looking at about every passage we can find or think of on the topic in the Bible we are beginning to summarize our findings.  At some level I think we have just scratched the surface.
I fight distraction every time I open the Word of God.
This morning I got up early to work on the study.  I do Bible study on my computer.  I rarely shut my computer down.  I work off two monitors a large one connected to my laptop as well as the laptop screen.  My browser is always open to Pandora, a site that plays music; Fox News; facebook; and Drudge.  My email program is always running.  I have learned that I have to minimize all of that if I am going to get anything done.

So I sat down at the desk and opened the study.  Started working through a passage in Exodus and ran across a topic that I wanted to explore.  I use two versions of the same Bible study program, Logos 3 and Logos 4.  I did a search in 3 that did not return the answer I wanted, so I repeated the search in 4 and got about 5,000 results, there are a lot more resources in 4.  So I spent the next 30 minutes figuring out how to limit the search parameters.  Along the way I thought of something else that I was curious about and did a couple of Google searches on that – totally unrelated to my study.  When I opened the browser of course there was an article or two that caught my eye that “had” to be read on either Drudge or Fox, they were critical bits of knowledge, really earth shaking, life changing stuff – I can’t remember what they were about.  So in the 4 hours I “studied” this morning - those important things plus countless other important thoughts that occupied my otherwise focused synapses, reduced my focus on the Kingdom to some percentage south of 50%.

It is not always like that.  But it is always a battle.  The enemy knows what will divert my attention from the Word and he is faithful to throw it at me.  Sometimes I am better at fighting that battle than others.  This morning, not so much.  Someone once said that the good is the enemy of the best.  This morning the best was bested by stuff that did not rise to that level.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Magnet

You may remember that a few days ago in the post “Whew,” I shared my struggle with part of the assignment that I gave the men in the Tuesday morning workshop.  What I did not tell you then is that struggle caused me a great deal of despair.  My core passion is engaging, establishing, and equipping men in personal first hand study of God’s Word.  The despair was rooted in that core passion.  I was concerned that the difficulty of the assignment would discourage the men from using the tool that was introduced that week. The concern was that prescribed step was too large a jump from where we had been.  The fear was that the men would throw their hands up and quit on the process.
The Word is a magnet that draws men's hearts irresistibly.
I was wrong at a number of levels.

First – and I know this – I teach it – I have written about it here – I discounted the reality of Hebrews 4:12 and Isaiah 55:11 which I just wrote about, two days ago.  I am learning in crystal clear terms that if you give a man a Bible (not a study Bible just the text), a blank sheet of paper, a pen, and a few tools in the form of process to follow, the promise that Jesus made to us is validated in spades.  The Holy Spirit does His thing, John 16:13, he leads those men into truth – in spite of any dumb facilitator’s (who will remain me) giving an assignment that may be too hard.

Second I underestimated the hunger of the men in the group.  That hunger caused by personal encounter with the Word.  Proverbs 27:7, Jeremiah 15:16; Ezekiel 3:1 – 3; and Revelation 10:9 talk about the sweetness of the Word of God when we begin to eat it.

The Word is a magnet to our hearts.  The closer we get to it, the less we allow between us and the Word, the stronger the draw.  Not even a hard assignment from a misguided facilitator can thwart that pull.  I forgot that.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mind Blowing

For the last couple of days I have been stuck on a verse, concept that has been hard to accept.  At some level I have always known this, but have really been considering the truth of Psalm 68:19.  The Lord daily bears my burdens?  Really?  This is not the only place I have seen this thought check out Psalm 55:22; Psalm 37:4 – 5; Isaiah 46:4; Proverbs 16:3; 1 Peter 5:7; and Philippians 4:6 – 7.
The fact that my creator is intimately engaged in bearing my puny burdens blows my mind.

So think through this with me.  The creator of the universe (Genesis 1 and 2), who holds all things together (Col 1:17), who fills the heavens and the earth (Jeremiah 23:24), who is all knowing, who is all powerful, who created me in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139) engaging in that process cell by cell for nine months, for a purpose which He ordained before the beginning of the world (Ephesians 2:10), whose kingdom has no beginning and no end – this One bears my burden?

The God who holds the Eagle Nebula in place is concerned and invites me to ask Him to bear my daily burdens.
The God who holds the Eagle Nebula in place is also absorbed with my burdens, overwhelming.
I am overwhelmed.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Question Redux

Yesterday I asked why the Church changes positions on issues when they follow a God who does not change.  I wonder if Romans 12:2 is the answer.  I wonder if we are allowing ourselves as believers to be conformed to the world.  Are we as believers, apprentices of Christ, focused on what He thinks is important or what the world thinks is important.
Is it because we place our thoughts above God's that the Church that follows an unchangeable God changes?

1 John 2:15 – 17 tells us that the things that drive the world, the “critical” ideas and needs are going to pass away.  As we looked at yesterday God does not change; further His Word does not change Isaiah 40:8 tell us the Word of God stands forever.  In Isaiah 55:11 we read that God’s Word accomplishes what God intends.  There are more passages on the Word in the Bible; a whole lot more.  They pretty much say the same thing it is authoritative and should be followed.

Perhaps we forget that.  Perhaps we forget whose story this is.  Perhaps we have confused who created who.  Maybe we think that the pressures of this world’s culture should somehow inform and change the way that we understand God’s Word.  We are so much smarter now.  We know so much more than when the Bible was written.  Surely, that should count for something.  Surely, the things we think the Bible should say are more important than what it says.  Or maybe we can just explain it away by relegating the Bible to a past irrelevant culture or one that is different that did not understand all that we know now.  Yeah, that will work.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Question

Hebrews 13:8 tells us along with a bunch of other passages (Psalm 102:4 – 27; Isaiah 46:9 – 10; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Numbers 23:19; to name a few) that God does not change.  As a Church we sure seem to want Him to.  Over the years the Church has redefined its stance on any number of things, from the ordination of women, to what constitutes a “legal” divorce, to the current debate on whether homosexuals should be ordained.
If God has not changed, why has the Church?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Always Fresh

On March 3rd's post "Why," I shared some thoughts that came from some time I spent in 2 Timothy 2:10.  One of the things that made that remarkable for me is the number times I have studied that passage; beyond count.  Yet here is something that I had never seen before.  That is the amazing thing about the Word.  No matter how many time we come back to its pages we still find fresh insights.  It is one of the clear evidences of divine authorship.
Every time we come to the Bible we will unpack something new.
Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
During the workshops I facilitate with men, we use 2 Peter.  There are a number of reasons why; one is that it is only 61 verses.  We can outline and practice skills in a short amount of time.  But the content is deep.  There is much in the book about the value, veracity, and vigor of the Word in our lives.  I have lost count on the number of times I have been through the book.  I have seen hundreds of outlines of 2 Peter.  I have the book memorized.  But more often than not, when going through the book with the men, I will see some connection, or some way Peter has framed the argument that I have not seen before.

It does not matter, how much I think I know about this Book, there is always more there.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Edumacation

A while back my youngest son and I were talking about his college experience.  He was sharing some about his classes at Oklahoma State.  One of the classes he was taking then was Spanish.  He told me that on the first day of class the professor walked in and spoke nothing but Spanish for the first few minutes of class.  She then asked the class in English if anyone understood anything she said.  My son was one of the ones that raised his hand.  Now he has not studied Spanish, which he told the professor when she asked.  After a short conversation she realized that he had studied Latin.  It was from this foundation that he was able to understand what she was saying.  Latin was not high on the list of things that our son wanted to take in school.  He did that at our insistence.
We are responsible; we have to engage in our kids education.
My wife is a teacher.  At some level, I am as well.  We have been involved in the school district as volunteers in a couple of booster clubs, I have attended a lot of school board meetings, served on a couple of standing committees, and have been active in school board and bond elections.  The principals of the schools my kids attended and the superintendent of the district, as well as a lot of his staff, know my wife and I, not from complaints but service.  Our other children were also pushed in their education.  Not all in the same way.  They are all different with different gifts and abilities.

The point of all of this is that preparing our children to follow Christ, involves more than teaching them the Bible.  We have to be engaged in all that they are doing.  We need to know their teachers, not just the ones at church.  We need to be aware of what they are learning and what they are being taught, and how.  We have to shepherd them through that process.  They are going to have to live in this world.  They will daily be inundated with information that is not aligned with a Christian world view, even if they are in “Christian” schools.  It is our responsibility to engage, we cannot delegate the development of our kids minds and world view to others.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Death Crawl

We need to push ourselves in the pursuit of God.
If you saw the movie “Facing the Giants,” you will remember the scene with the death crawl.  If you have not seen it, or want to watch it again do that now by clicking the image below.
As believers we typically do not fight very hard, at least in this culture, the United States.  For those of you reading this from outside our borders, this will apply in a different way.  Here we do not have to work very hard to get “fed.”  We cannot drive very far in any city without passing a church.  There are multiple radio and television stations broadcasting “Christian” content of various degrees of value 24/7/365.  There are multiple Christian bookstores and magazines.  We suffer from an embarrassment of riches when it comes to content.  That is not necessarily a good thing; in fact I do not believe it is.  It makes us lazy.  It makes us dependent.  It means that we do not exercise our minds, our spiritual gifts, in the hard original study of God’s Word.  We do not have to.  There is a myriad of Christian authors and speakers who are more than willing to do that for us, for a small or substantial fee.

So when we are given a task that is hard.  We will often look for an easy way out.  We hit a difficult passage or study, and will quickly move to go to a commentary or a study Bible, or a book on the subject.  We do not push ourselves to “death crawl,” through the text.  That means that our skills lie dormant or atrophy.  What happens then, when, like our brothers and sisters in China, Iran, Jordan, or Syria we do not have access to that embarrassing wealth of content?

Push yourself.  Do not take the easy way in study.  Stretch.  Learn new skills.  Do not rest on what you know.  Philippians 3:12 – 14 and 1 Corinthians 9:25 – 27, tell us that we are to push ourselves.  To borrow a phrase, “Just Do It.”

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Whew

I just finished part of the assignment that I gave to my Tuesday morning group.  We are doing a new Bible study skill each week; we are five weeks in.  This week we are on verse analysis which I shared in the blog entry “Unknown,” back in November.  One part of the study, the 6th step, is to outline or diagram the sentence.  Some of the sentences in the Bible are a bit complicated.  The assignment for this week was 2 Peter 3:14 – 16.  In the NASB it is one sentence, which follows the Greek text.  In some of the other versions the committees broke the text into three sentences.  I just finished diagramming the sentence; it took me about three hours to work through this part of the study.  I have two books that give instructions on diagramming, and I did about five Google searches to figure out how to handle one part of the sentence.
Doing things that slow you down helps you observe more in passages you know well.
Why in the world inflict this level of brain damage on myself?  I have already been asked that by one of the guys in the group.  Essentially, I just spent three hours meditating on one sentence in 2 Peter.  I had to think through how each word was related to the whole.  I saw relationships in what Peter said that I had not seen before, and I have this passage memorized.  I have studied this book at least 20 times.  Familiarity breeds complacency.  Doing this exercise in this way forced me to look at the passage in a new way.  It slowed me way down and kept me from assuming I knew what the passage said.

Do I do this every time?  No.  Do I expect the men in the Tuesday group to do what I did?  Nope (If you are in the group and reading this that does not let you off the hook ;-)).  If they did would they benefit?  Yep.  It was a whole lot like work.  It was a real struggle for me to complete this; I wanted to bail.  I fought that desire.  As believers we have a lot of resources on which we can draw; so a lot of us will not do the work.  We let others do it for us.  They get the benefit.  The next time I work on a sentence this complicated I will have this one under my belt.  It will go quicker, but I will still see things that I would otherwise miss.

I have to go do the rest of the study now…

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Kinda Obey

This morning during a discussion on 2 Peter 2:20 – 21 one of the men shared a situation that is all too common in our churches.  A man had abandoned his family.  He had done that on the basis that his needs were not getting met.  He is still attending church and claims to be a Christian, and that even though he knows that what he is doing is sin, God will forgive him.  So here is one who is flagrantly disobeying scripture and “hiding” behind the forgiveness of God to do so.  What does one do with that?
Is it OK to disobey if we can explain why?
As a body we are not handling these types of situations very well, at all.  The mantra heard over and over is that we are not supposed to judge… really?  In 1 Corinthians 5:11 – 13 Paul gives explicit instruction to remove a “believer” from the assembly for immorality.  Jesus, in Matthew 18:15 – 17, precedes Paul with the same exhortation and process.  As believers we are to hold each other to a higher standard.  Why?  Because we are supposed to be different.  We are supposed to take seriously what God says.  We are supposed to be different from the world around us, not seeking to explain away our disobedience but to confess it and repent from that action.

Is it any wonder that those outside the Church deride us when our lives mirror the world exactly?  What is the difference?  When we can abandon our families, in the name of our needs – it is nothing more than self centeredness, not the self sacrifice to which Christ calls us.  Kinda obeying Christ, or explaining away disobedience for theological or cultural reasons is simply disobedience.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Jams

You probably do not, but from time to time I do stupid things.  I get myself into jams, you may know someone like me.  I have often wondered if it was legitimate to ask God to get me out of self created difficulty.  Foolishness.  One of my kids is considering a career in orthopedic trauma – I am told that the medical community describe those patients as those who say, “Hold my beer, watch this!”
Will God rescue us from self inflicted jams?
Psalm 107:17 – 22 gives me hope.  17 could be my life verse.  The joy is that God has committed Himself to save fools.  The more I think about this, the more it becomes clear that all of the things from which I need to be saved are my fault.  They are a product of my going after what my flesh wants rather than what the Spirit desires.

I am grateful there is a God of lovingkindess who will save me from myself when I say, “Hold my walk with God, watch this!”

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Empty

One of the things our kids face – actually we do as well – is the continual pressure of how others perceive us.  We face it every day.  Our motives, actions, dress, speech, thoughts, and physique are scrutinized and measured against some standard that we may or may – check that – do not understand.  It may be a simple as somebody somewhere has decided that a word has become offensive to somebody and should no longer be used in polite company.  No matter that the word in question has been used for 1000’s of years and has meaning defined by that usage.  Or suddenly some color of clothes has meaning of which one now has to be aware.  For me it is impossible to keep up with all of this, even if I wanted to, which I do not.
We are not supposed to seek our on way; we are to empty ourselves for others.
There is only one person whom I need to please.  Galatians 1:10 says it best.  I am a bond servant of Christ not of man, and that includes me.  I do not need to please myself.  It occurs to me that most of the challenges we face in relationships stem from the parties working hard to please themselves.  It is what Larry Crabb describes as two tics on no dog.  Working to please others is futile, impossible.  Working to please Christ in any relationship is a more attainable if not a simple goal.

In Philippians 2:5 – 8 Paul outlines what that should be for us.  Romans 5:6 – 10 tells us that Christ did this for people who were helpless, ungodly, sinners, who were committed enemies.  He was not trying to please them or fit into their ideas of politically correct, He served them for His Father’s purposes by emptying Himself and dying on their, our behalf.

The only way we can serve those around us, in our families, schools, and work place is to do the same.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Why?

When I was very young I remember pestering my mother by incessantly asking, “Why?”  I figured out really early that question has kind of a perpetual motion effect; there is no end to the cycle – murder maybe.  Lately, and as recent as this morning, I have turned that unending question on myself.  Why do I do what I do?  I was challenged in that regard this morning by 2 Timothy 2:10.
Why am I doing what I am doing?
Paul says here that he is enduring suffering so that the chosen can obtain salvation and eternal glory.  Not for Paul’s glory, but that those whom he is serving would gain glory.  That brought to mind a few of other places that Paul said some hard things.

  • Philippians 2 – we are to empty ourselves.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:16 – 23 – make myself a slave to all men doing all that I do for the sake of the gospel.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14 – 21 – be controlled by the love of Christ and beg people to be reconciled to God.
  • Philippians 3 – take no credit for anything I have done or accomplish but know that I need to continually press on to know Christ.

And lest I think that this applies to other who are more lofty in their walk with God than I, Paul kills that notion in 1 Corinthians 4:16 and 11:1.

So my application this morning was to begin to pray over these and to continually ask myself, “Why?”

Friday, March 2, 2012

Still Running Against the Wind

I submitted for your consideration yesterday that the weighty topics of foreknowledge, predestination, election, calling, and the choice of God that Paul presents in Romans 8 – 11 serve as anchors for us as we face the continual onslaught of the winds of the culture that are attempting to push us into its mould.  How does that work?
The Sovereign rule of God is our anchor against the winds of difficult times.
Those words, with which there are so many struggles, are descriptive of God’s sovereignty as it is exercised in justification by faith.  The essence of the argument is that it is God who is in control of all aspects of the universe, not us.  On the heels of that section we hit the huge structural marker and pivot in Romans 12:1, “Therefore.”  Because of all that Paul has said in 1 – 11, the result, the effect, the “therefore” follows.  As I read through how Paul begins to unfold what it means to live life as a living sacrifice in Romans 12, I am struck by what an incredible risky proposition he is making, especially in verses 9 – 21.  He is describing a lifestyle that takes no thought of self protection and is completely sold out to the good of others.  There is no safety net.  No fallback position.  It is a life all in.  It flies in the face of all cultural wisdom.

This is exactly what Christ asked the 12 to do.  He asked them to leave everything, take nothing, follow Him, and then go share what they had learned in His presence.  That is scary stuff.  The only way that makes any kind of sense is there is a sovereign God who has called me to do that.  If He is not in control, if He is not about bringing people into His kingdom through sending me to get them with no thought of self protection; I am insane to engage.  On the other hand if God is sovereign and I can trust in His control of the situations and culture, I can boldly engage knowing that my “living sacrifice” serves His purpose.  This seems to me yet another reflection of Hebrews 11:6, we have to believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder, a protector, of those who seek Him.

Thoughts?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Against the Wind

If you are like me, seasoned, you may remember a song Bob Seger sang in the 80’s, “Against the Wind.”  The content of that is a bit different than what I have been thinking about this morning but the concept is the same.  Romans 12:2 in the Phillips translation reads in part “Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould…”  If we are going to follow Christ and lead our families in that same journey we are going to be continually going “against the wind.”
As believers how do we stand against the wind of our culture?
That is not easy.  If you are a sailor, you know that it takes skill to sail against the wind.  Do a quick search on the net and you will find multiple courses and videos on how to accomplish this.  What are the keys to standing, running against the wind for the believer?

The Wednesday morning Bible study I am in has been looking at Romans this year.  It seems to me that there are some significant clues to successfully navigating this challenge in the structure and content of that paragon of Paul’s epistles.  You are aware, no doubt, that Paul will typically present doctrine in the first part of his letters and then apply that doctrine practically in the second half of the book, Romans is no different.  1 – 11 is intensely and in some cases maddingly doctrinal; 12 – 16 is the practical application.  Depending on the theological tradition in which you are most comfortable, you will have varying levels of struggles with the heart of Paul’s arguments in 8 – 11; for it is there that we encounter foreknowledge, election, predestination, calling, and the choice of God in the context of Paul’s presentation of justification by faith.

Let me submit for your consideration that it is in this densely difficult section of Romans that the anchors for you and your children being able to stand firm against the winds of the current age attempting to force you into its mould.

What do you think?  I will expand this some tomorrow…