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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Starving at the Banquet

In April I wrote about the famine that we may experience in the Word of God.  This morning I was reminded during a conversation that we have people starving for the Word of God while sitting at the banquet table.  Why?  They do not know how to use their eating utensils.
If we do not know how to feed ourselves we are left with the scraps from other's meals.
We have messages on the internet, bookstores full of books, commentaries, study Bibles, magazines, journals, cable channels, radio stations.  We have a population in the Church that immerses themselves in these things.  These things are good.  But these things are not the Word of God.  What someone has written, shares in a message, sings in a song, can be inspiring, but it is not the Word of God.  The notes in your study bible or what is written in your commentary can help, but it is not the Word of God.

When our diet consists of those things, it is like we are sitting at the banquet, but just eating the leftovers, cleaning off of their plates, or eating what our neighbors dropped on the floor.  We have to eat from the Book ourselves.  We have to learn to dig in.  To study with just the help of the Holy Spirit.  That is what our Churches need to be about, equipping the saints to dig.  Otherwise, people will continue to starve at the banquet.

As Francis Chan asks, “Have you studied this book yourself?”  I ask, “Do you know how?”  Do you want some help to learn?  If so let me know.  I will be glad to give you a knife, fork, and spoon, and show you how to use them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Clear

In the last few days we have shared some thoughts on the “E” word, Evangelism.  This morning a group of us were working through Colossians 4.  In verses 3 – 6 Paul gives a lot of instruction on this topic from two perspectives.
Paul asks for prayer to have an open door and be clear in the midst of the noise that was obscuring the gospel.  Good advice.
First in 3 – 4 he asks the Colossian believers to pray for his efforts in evangelism.  Note what he asks for
  • An open door for the gospel – an opportunity to share
  • That he may make the gospel clear.
What is the context here?  Remember in Chapter 2 Paul outlines the pressures that were engaged in the culture in competition with the gospel
  • 8 – Philosophy, deception, men’s traditions, elementary principles of the world
  • 16 – Ritualistic worship
  • 18 – Self-abasement, worship of angels, visions, intellectualism
It is a good thing that we do not have to deal with those things today, right?

With those things pressing in on him and competing for the attention of his audience he asks for a door and clarity.

Then he exhorts the Colossian believers to engage with those who are not of the faith and who are like Paul’s audience listening to the same messages.  He tells them to
  • 5 – conduct themselves with wisdom, to make the most of each opportunity
  • 6 – speak with grace, and respond to each person individually
There is a lot in these verses that guide us.  But the echo much that Paul says elsewhere.  We need to be about doing all that we do for the sake of the gospel, 1 Corinthians 9:19 – 21.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Reproduction

I am sitting in the ultrasound clinic.  My daughter is about to find out the gender of the child she is carrying.  It is a fairly exciting time.  It is something that happens several times a day in this office and in offices like it all over.  There are about six women in here today involved in the process.  By the way all of them, in fact everyone in here, is texting, weird.
We are eager to find out about our physical babies, how about the spiritual ones?
It is the normal thing for us to have children, we get excited about it, at some level, our lives revolve around it.  We choose where we live, how we live, and how we set up our houses based on having children.  For at least 18 years, really about 26, and really for the rest of our lives we are parents.

John 15:16 tells us that Christ chose us to bear fruit that remains.  In John 17:20 Christ prays for those who will believe in Him through the word of the disciples.  In Matthew 28:18 - 20, the command we have from Christ is to make disciples.  The expectation seems to be that as in our physical lives it is normal to reproduce, so it is in our spiritual lives.  There is an industry built on our desire to do that which causes physical reproduction.  That does not seem to be the case spiritually.  Wonder why that is?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial

What is the inscription on the Memorial Student Center? "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13
Freedom is not free, give thanks for what freedom you have.
With that bit of Texas A&M “campusology,” I intentionally memorized my first Bible verse. John 3:16 came by osmosis. Every time we entered the MSC we removed our hats. We did not walk on the grass of the MSC, it was there as a memorial. From the time we entered A&M we were immersed in respect and reverence for those who served us and gave our lives so that we could be free. Free to worship. Free to acknowledge what the politically incorrect Declaration of Independence states, that we were created.

In the United States if you attended church yesterday, you did not worry about being arrested for being there. If you have a Bible in your house you are not concerned about being apprehended for owning it. If you go to a Bible study you are not careful to make sure you are not being followed or wonder if there is an informant in your midst. You are free to worship.

That freedom is not free. If you are blessed to live in the United States, there are those who have paid a steep price since 1776 to provide you that freedom. Thank God for them today. Remember them every day, there are those who would deny you what their blood has bought.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Control

If you have ever shared the gospel with someone, you may have felt like I felt.  Knot in my stomach, elevated pulse, sweaty palms.  Why is that?  For me there are several reasons.  First, I feel a responsibility to get it right.  Especially if it is someone I know well.  I want to make sure that I say all of the right things and make it really clear.  That is what Paul asked the Colossian church to pray for him is it not?  In 4:3 – 4 he asked them to pray that he should make it clear.  I feel pressure to do that.
My fear in evangelism is from thinking I have anything to do with someone coming to Christ.
Second, I really do not like rejection or, at some level, conflict.  I am always fearful that those with whom I would share Christ will be offended or get angry with me.  I realize that is selfish, but there it is.  I am more concerned about what they think of me than their eternal state.  Sick.

But neither of those reasons holds any water.  In John 16:8 – 11, Christ tells me that it is not my responsibility to convince people, that is the Holy Spirit’s job.  Mine is simply to beg them to be reconciled to God, 2 Corinthians 5:20.  Further if they do not respond, it is not because I have not been clear.  The Spirit can take my fumbling and turn it into clarity in the ears of the one with whom I am sharing.  If you need some proof, today is Pentecost, check out what the Spirit did in Jerusalem in Acts 2.  If they do not respond Paul tells me that it is because there are other forces at work, 2 Corinthians 4:3 – 4.  I have no control over whether anyone I share with comes to Christ.  It does not depend on what I say.  It does not depend on how well I say it.  It depends on God.

The only control I have is to speak.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Proud

I am sitting in the Oklahoma City Civic Center.  Today my son Jeff graduates from Medical School.  It is a great accomplishment.  It is amplified because of the road he has had to travel to get here.  To get into the program he took the MCAT 4 times.  While he did not date much through high school - by not much I can count on one hand the number of dates he had in high school, and on one finger the girl he dated in college.  During medical school he met and fell in love with one of his high school classmates who was a year ahead in med school.  Last June they were married.
Tough choices are part of walking with Christ.
During this fourth year Jeff spent 16 weeks doing away rotations.  He did that because he is committed to being married.  He wants to be an orthopedic surgeon.  Usually that requires applications to 30 residency programs.  Jeff applied to 3.  Because his wife had already been accepted into an anesthesiology residency in Pittsburgh, and he wanted to stay with her.  This was against the counsel of most of the medical community, and the practice of some of his fellow students.  They are spending the next 3 – 4 years separated from their wives.  Jeff chose not to do that.  So this next year he will be doing research at the hospital where he hopes to be accepted into the orthopedic program next year.  This is essentially a volunteer position.
I am proud of the tough choices my son has made to get here.
I am proud of the choices he has made.  He is standing firm on his conviction that he has to honor his marriage.  That conviction came from time in the Word.  The foundation for the conviction was laid long before he had to act on those beliefs.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Yesterday

Yesterday John was standing on the driveway in Knoxville while I was washing the car leaning over the bucket and splashing in the water.

Yesterday Ranae was fishing on the pier in Alabama.  She took the pole and stuck it smartly in the water, immediately pulled it up, and there was a fish on the end of the line.

Yesterday Jeff flushed the commode and bounced a tennis ball on the rim to see how many times he could do that before the cycle ended.  Oops, the ball went down the toilet…

Yesterday Brian was standing on a chair in front of the kitchen sink in Garland playing with the bubbles.
Tomorrow comes really quickly, do not miss today, you will not get the opportunity again.
Today John is married with a 21 month old daughter, serving as the CFO for a growing company.

Today Ranae is expecting her first child while working for an insurance company.

Today Jeff graduates from Medical School.

Today Brian is one of the directors of a Christian Day Camp.

Today comes with lighting speed after yesterday.  Do not miss the space in between by spending time on the wrong things.  Psalm 115:4 – 11.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tom Clancy on Bible Study

Huh?

I am a Clancy fan, re-reading all of the Ryan books right now in sequence a paragraph at a time during “breaks.”  I have noticed that he has said some things in his books that apply to Bible study, probably not on purpose.
“…I want you to sweep through all of your notes and do us a position paper, a good one.”  Ryan tapped his desk.  “I want it here Monday morning.”
“Why?”
“Because you are intellectually honest, Ben.  When you look at something you really look.”
“But you never agree with my conclusions!” Goodly objected.
“Not very often, but your supporting data is first rate.  Nobody’s right all of the time.  Nobody’s wrong all of the time, either.  The process is important, the intellectual discipline, and you have that locked down pretty tight, Dr. Goodley.”
The Sum of All Fears, p 563.
“You have to know the things you don’t know.  You have to figure out what the questions are before you can start looking for the answers.”
Debt of Honor, p 414.
Observation, intellectual honesty, and process, key elements of any inquiry, and the bedrock of good Bible study.  Reinforced by Tom Clancy.  Sherlock Holmes is another good source…

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Editing

There are parts of the Bible that I do not like very much.  Matter of fact I would like to edit them out.  It would make life a lot easier.
I would much rather cut some things out of the Bible than have to deal with what it says, not an option.
I found more this morning.  I think I would like to remove Hebrews 5:2, 2 Timothy 2:24 – 25; and Galatians 6:1.  Really!  You have to deal gently with the ignorant and misguided?  2:24 would not be so bad if the command was to, “be kind to some.”  And if we could toughen up that kind, patient, and gentle stuff, I could live with that.  Galatians 6:1, I am supposed to restore with gentleness, I would rather knock around with some focus.

It would be much easier to just cut these out…  Unfortunately, that is not an option.  So that leaves me with the reality that I have to change.  But I have tried that.  Looks like Christ is going to have to change me.  The only way that is going to be done is if I get to know Him better.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Astonished

In Acts 13:22 Luke tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart.  Luke is combining thoughts from 1 Samuel 13:14 and Psalm 89:20.  That notion has always been bewildering to me.  An adulterous murderer is the man after God’s own heart.  Then I hit a passage like 2 Samuel 7:18 and it becomes clearer.
I am astonished at my pettiness.
David’s reaction to being king is just about 180 degrees out of phase with mine.  Instead of David’s reaction mine is more like, “Look who I am, why have you not brought me far?”  Instead of being overwhelmed by God’s grace toward me I tend to act like an out of control toddler screaming, “give me more!”  My self-serving, demanding heart is astonishing.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Haughty

Psalm 2 this morning, specifically verse 2.  Does that not describe our attitude about God so well?
People think this happened by accident?  Really?
My desktop picture is the upper Titcomb Lake in the Bridger National Wilderness.  When I look at that picture, it amazes me that man haughtily maintains that happened without a designer.  Just the systems that are in evidence in that picture are mind boggling.  Think about how many snowflakes it took to form those snow fields, each one different, unique, why go to that much trouble?

The lake, created by the melt from the snow fields, feeds the river that supplies water to the fields hundreds of miles away.  The lake is full of life, trout, bacteria, small animals.  On its shores are moss and growth of mountain laurel.  Wild flowers adorn its banks.  Marmots and pika drink at its shores.  The valley formed by the 13,000 foot mountains cradle it.  It is amazing.  It is an accident?

Psalm 2:4.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Knowing

This morning our Pastor ended a series of sermons on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.  He was in Matthew 7:13 – 29.  There are four significant segments in this section.  I have marked in the margin of my Bible, “gate,” “tree,” “Lord, Lord,” and “houses.”  The points the pastor made align with the purpose of this blog exactly.  The way I interact with sermons, it is hard to tell whether the idea was the pastor’s or mine.  I tend to listen and then start taking notes on what I am thinking about what he said, not necessarily what he said.
In Christianity it is not what we do, it is who we know.
Gate
The point here is that salvation is binary.  That means that you either know Christ or you are lost.  The point the pastor made was that Christ does not allow theological tolerance.  It is His way only.

Tree
The world is full of false teaching.  Christ here tells you that you can tell the quality of the teaching by the fruit it produces.  This is echoed in Colossians 2 and 2 Peter 2.

Lord, Lord
This one is central.  Here people were theologically correct, engaged in prophecy, and working miracles.  Yet Christ says they were workers of wickedness and never knew them.  One can know the right doctrine, be engaged in spiritual and Christian service and not be known by Christ.

Houses
That brings us to the last section.  The foundation has to be right.  That is a personal relationship with Christ.  Nothing else matters.  That is the 1 of the binary.  Knowing Christ is all that matters.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Immediacy

I was born in 1950.  Around the time the Korean War started.  In that year Harry Truman was the president.  It was the beginning of the nuclear arms race.  The first credit card, a Diners Club card was used for the first time.  The French part of the Viet Nam war started.  Cinderella was released by Disney.  “All the King’s Men” won the academy award for the best picture.  The first 500 mile NASCAR race was run.  Peanuts by Charles Shultz was first published.  What’s the point…
The last book in the Bible was written in 95 AD 62 years after Christ's death, that translates to 1950 from 2012.
Revelation, the last book in our New Testament was written around 95 – 96 AD, Christ was crucified in about 33 AD which was about 62 – 63 years earlier.  The same distance in time that we are now from 1950.  The authors wrote the 27 books we have in our canon, starting in about 40 through 95 or 96, using the 1950 illustration, from 1957 through 2012.  Those men were deeply engaged in a world changing movement that was resisted by all of the governments of the countries in which they lived and ministered.  The details were deeply etched in their psyches.

On top of that, the Holy Spirit guided their hand, 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17; 2 Peter 1:20 – 21; 3:15 – 16.  Our Bible has the advantage of being written by men not only contemporary with the times but intimately engaged in the events.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Orthodox

There have been two similar conversations in the past year with different men that have been echoes of conversations that have repeated over the years.  One was a direct conversation and the other was a report of one.  The core of the dialog was the notion that one did not need to read or study the Bible because some ecclesiastical body is responsible to tell us what we are to believe and understand about the Bible.  In fact we are not equipped, without the help of professionals, to understand the Bible on our own.
You get married to live with your spouse, not to have the pastor do so and tell you about it.
Other than that position is counter to what both the Old and New Testament requires of believers (I recognize that is a huge statement that requires validation, if you wish I will validate it but there is not space here, ask and you will receive), It makes no sense logically.  Now I realize that in order to understand the example I am fixin’ to use one has to have read some part of the Bible specifically Ephesians 5:32.  Paul uses the marriage analogy to describe our union with Christ…

So the argument above would be something like your getting married and then the pastor moving in with your wife and reporting to you what it is like to be a husband to her, once a week.  That does not describe the sort of marriage in which I would be interested.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Questions from Structure

Yesterday I shared how structure has helped me come up with a better set of questions with which to pepper the text (by the way I forgot to include the link to the list of structural markers, I fixed that it is in the post now.)
You can use the structure of the text to come up with questions that will help you go deeper.
Let me give you an example of how that works.  Look at Romans 12:3.  First I note the structural markers and what they indicate, in this case:
  • For – reason or substantiation, Paul is using this thought to substantiate, or expand a previous thought.
  • Through – agency (this category is not on the list but one that I have seen more and more in the past few years) how is Paul making this statement, what is driving it.
  • Not, but – contrast
  • As – comparison usually but in this case used more like “because” or “for” which is offered as a substantiation of what has just been offered.
Then one can take each of these and begin to ask questions that will help you with further observation and understanding.  For example let’s look at the contrast, questions you could ask are;
  • What is being contrasted?
  • What is the meaning of each of the elements being contrasted?
  • How are they similar?
  • How are they different?
  • Why is the contrast used here?
  • How does this contrast move Paul’s argument further?
  • Why use the contrast at this point in the development of the argument?
You can probably come up with more.  You may not answer every question, but through the process of developing these questions you are essentially thinking through the implications of what the Holy Spirit through Paul has chosen to say in this section of scripture.  As you do that you will begin to notice other relationships and the process continues.

Admittedly, at some point you have to move on.  This will help you make the most of the time you have to get the most out of the passage you are studying.

If you have questions or a comment leave a comment and I will respond.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Structure

Just finished a lunch appointment with my pastor.  Great time, great guy.  We were sharing different things that are going on in our lives and essentially encouraging one another.  The conversation veered into our mutual amazement with the Word of God.  He is working through a series on the sermon on the mount currently, he shared that he was really helped in understanding what the text was saying by noticing the structure.
To do good observation yo have to pepper the text with questions; but where do you get the questions?
That has been my experience as well.  What he meant by structure was noticing the structural markers in the text.  For instance, you may have heard that when you see a "therefore," in the Bible, you need to stop and see what it is there for.  The reason, "therefore" is a structural marker, it indicates that what comes after it was somehow impacted or the result of what came before.  That is just one of many words that indicate that type of relationship.  You can find a more complete list here.

When I was learning to go deeper in my Bible study, the men who were leading me and all of the references I used told me that in order to really dig in I needed to pepper the text with questions.  Really?  What questions?  For years I struggled with that.  Then I found structure.  We had a week with Robert Traina at Asbury Seminary.  He schooled  a group of us on how to use structure to make better observations.  Then to use those markers to understand the literary relationships that unearthed a whole passle of questions that I could ask.  The more I use that method, the more I am able to observe, the richer and more overwhelming the text becomes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stunning

Are you ever just stunned by something you read in the Bible?  A couple of days ago I was reading in Psalm149, when I got to verse 4, it brought me up short.
What the Lord does for us is stunning.
Do you think about the notion that the creator of the universe takes pleasure in you?  That He beautified you by choosing to die for you?  Stunning.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Legalism

A close second to the assertion that one is being judgmental if one questions a person’s behavior, is its close cousin that one is being legalistic if it is suggested that Bible study, scripture memory, or some other spiritual discipline is a good idea if one wishes to know Christ.  I have heard that many times.
The need to exercise spiritual discipline is not legalism, it is relationship.
Not sure where that comes from, but I suspect that it flows naturally from our desire as fallen humans to live unfettered and self absorbed lives.  If I must engage with the Lord through reading, studying, and memorizing an old book, that can take a major bite out of my schedule.  That time that I could put to much better use, like sleeping, watching uplifting television shows, going to the movies (I know this because I struggle with all of these things… and others).

Problem is that is what the Lord has set up.  He gave us the Word, the Holy Spirit, and tells us multiple times how important it is that we are to spend time with Him in His Word.  To call that legalism is like calling living with your wife after you say, “I do,” legalism.  I mean you are married, you have told her you are committed to her for the rest of your life?  Why should you have to talk to her, or live with her again?  Can’t you just know her without that interaction?  You should not have to remember her birthday, your anniversary, her parent’s names, any of that stuff; you have committed, shoot, you don’t really ever have to think about her again.

Does not sound like much of a marriage, much less a relationship.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

No Need For Bible

A couple of days ago I met a guy for breakfast.  We were talking about ways to help a couple of groups of men in which he is involved.  During the discussion, he mentioned a couple of men who had objections I have heard from other men and women.
The primary way, and the way that Jesus commanded, for us to get to know Him is by abiding in His Word.
One guy is continually taking the position that it is not necessary for us to be in the Bible to know Christ.  The argument is couched in the terms of freedom and if one challenges him, he responds that what is being suggested is legalistic and that guilt is being laid on him.  I have heard that many times before in various incarnations.  It sounds noble.  It sounds like the person that is making the statement has taken the high ground and to question them is to judge them and as we all know we are not supposed to judge (really?  See the blog entry Kinda Obey).

There is only one problem with this approach to the Christian life.  It is in direct disobedience to what Christ said in John 15:7, what Peter said in 1Peter 2:2, and what Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17.  There are so many other places this is dealt with that it would take several pages of this blog to list.  Of course if one does not read the Bible one is not aware of any of that.  So does that mean that one is excused because they are unaware?  See Leviticus 5:17 for a possible answer.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Truth Again

This morning I was thinking through the responses to my daughters status post on facebook from a couple of days ago.  A couple of verses came to mind.
Truth is found in knowing Christ through abiding in His Word.
  • John 8:31 – 32
  • John 14:6
The combination of those two verses creates a syllogism.
  • Knowing Truth = Freedom
  • Christ = Truth
  • Knowing Christ = Knowing Truth
  • Knowing Christ = Freedom
The other thing that is apparent from two verses is how to know Christ and the Truth, through continuing in His Word.  If you have studied John 15, you know that the word “abide” is prominent in that chapter, appearing 11 times in 1 – 16.  That same Greek word, meno, is the word that is translated “continue,” “abide,” or “hold to my teaching” in your Bible.  That word shows up 40 times in John’s Gospel.  It would be a profitable study to track down how John uses meno, especially since doing that leads to knowing Christ.

There are those who will say that this is only a Christian view of truth.  Truth is truth.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Redeeming Time

Today did not go as planned.  Ever happen to you?  Scheduled to teach Sunday school this week and I need several hours to get ready, I had planned on getting a lot of that done yesterday, but another project expanded and crashed.  So the plan was to focus this morning on getting prepped for Sunday because from 3 PM today I am booked fairly solid until the class starts Sunday.
As time is running out, what do you do?  We have to make the most of what we have.
Didn’t happen.

My wife asked me to do a couple of things for her and I was glad to.  They took longer than I expected.  Two or three other things came up and soon the morning was flying by.  When that happens I have in the past gotten really frustrated and that frustration has prevented me from getting anything done.  This morning as the window I had to work with was rapidly closing, I chose to take whatever time I had left, about 40 minutes, and get as much done as I could.  In that time I was able to get a sense of what I needed to do, get a small start on the work, but more importantly get a good handle on what needs to be done and how I can make it work in the time I have left before Sunday.

Other times I have just been fossilized by frustration.  The closing window created a despair that kept me from getting anything done.  Ephesians 5:15 – 16, tells us that is not a great way to live.  We are to make every second count.  It is not easy for me to do.  Today by God’s grace I did better.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Truth

Passionate opinion, deep conviction, citing of supporting “experts” or “data” does not equal truth.
Your opinion is not • necessarily true, no matter how loud you state it.
 My daughter posted a status on facebook yesterday that was, in part, a response to the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  At the moment she has 29 likes and 50 comments.  I have not read them all, but I did scan them yesterday.  Most of the comments are deeply held opinions.  Most of the comments reflect a world view that is colored by those opinions.  Some even refer to the Bible to support their positions, but it is obvious that they are unaware of what the Bible actually says.

Truth is truth.  We may not like it, but it is.  I have faced truths in my life which frankly I did not like and did not want to accept.  They were still true.  I worked hard at making them not true, in some cases coming up with elaborate constructs to alter the reality.  Did not work, they were still true.

As believers we are bound by what God says is true.  We may argue with Him; we will lose.  In order to find truth we have to first acknowledge that we have a preconceived idea of what it should be.  Then we have to check the data, in most cases for us, the Bible to see what it says.  If it does not align with what we think is true, we probably need to adjust.  The problem is that we can find “experts” who will just about validate any position we want to take.  So we cannot rely on experts.  We have to rely on the Word of God and the Helper He sent to lead us into all truth, John 16:13.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Listen Two Times

There was a conversation yesterday with some friends.  One of them has been in a difficult situation for some time.  This individual was sharing with the rest of us where they were in the process of dealing with the issues they were facing.  The group was actually meeting for another reason, but this person’s struggles were more important than what we planned to discuss.  The individual shared essentially uninterrupted for about 40 minutes; ok, the rest of us asked a couple of clarifying questions, but for the most part we just listened.
When our friends are sharing their struggles, we have to listen to them and to the Holy Spirit on how or if we should respond.
That has not always been my experience or my practice.  There have been times when I have shared some struggles and before I got the second sentence out I was being “fixed” by those with whom I was sharing.  I have been guilty of the same thing towards others who were sharing their struggles.  By God’s grace this time we listened to our friend.

Prof Hendricks has said over and over that God gave us an Audio Visual presentation when He gave us two ears and one mouth.  Think of the problems if that were reversed.  Perhaps we should listen twice as much as we speak?  James 1:19 reinforces that, quick to listen, slow to speak.  Proverbs 18:13 reinforces that concept strongly.  It seems to me that we have to listen at two levels.  We listen not only to what is being said by our friend, but we also need to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us about what is being shared.  He should guide our response if any.  Otherwise, we are just flapping our yap, in the flesh…

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gifts or Presence

Awhile ago I listened to a Christian speaker (Note: this is not a person that I know personally or that knows me) speak on a passage of scripture.  He (generic use of the term) read the passage in full and then began to share stories from his life and experience that were, I suppose in his view, related to the passage he had read.  This man was a gifted speaker; a good communicator.  He was not much constrained by the text.  He spoke for about 30 minutes and other than reading the passage after his introduction did not connect much of what he said to the text.
Is it our gifts that make us effective?
It seemed to me that he was relying on his giftedness and skill in speaking rather than having that giftedness and skill driven by his time before Christ in His Word.  He did not unfold the text or invite us to engage with it in any meaningful way, rather he used the text to amplify vignettes from his experience.  While interesting, his audience needed to be drawn to Christ not the speaker.

There is a challenge with gifts, skills, strengths, and drivers.  It is the case that God sovereignly distributes gifts and creates us with innate abilities; they are not for our edification, but for His.  It is easy to rely on those gifts and abilities when we come to serve in any capacity.  When we do we are abusing the gifts and those with whom we are sharing them.  Colossians 3:1 – 4 tells us that our life is in Christ.  Our gifts and abilities are only in full effect when they are the means that express our utter astonishment at what we have experienced of Christ in His Word as we have sought Him and partaken of His nature (2 Peter 1:3 -4)through the guidance of the Helper He has sent us.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Re-Entry

For the past several days we have been looking at Paul's use of athletic pursuits as a metaphor for the Christian life.  One of the reasons we looking so closely at this, is the challenges we have to finish well in this race.  Why is this important?  Look around.  How many people do you see really charging hard after the Lord in the later stages of life?  Or how many accounts have you read of well known Christian leaders falling into sin and disgrace for one reason or another?  It is a tough race to run.  Christ tells us that many who think they are doing well, in reality are not, Matthew 7:20 -23.  Paul tells us that we need to examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith, 2 Corinthians 13:5.  John tells us that people will leave the faith who were never really a part of it, 1 John 2:19.  Further, Christ told us that the kingdom will have people in it who are not really believers but are there from the evil one, Matthew 13:24 - 30.  So this is important.
We have to re-enter the race to finish strong.
We have looked at what happens when we are injured.  That will happen in this race.  We have said that we need help to be healed and rehab from the injuries.  But then we have to get back into the race.  We need more men and women who finish strong.  Those who fight through the pain of injury, who rehab and recharge their walk with God, and who re-enter the race, to finish strong.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Rehab

Physically after our injuries have healed we have to rebuild our muscles in order to function well again.  It takes time.  It takes work.  Those of us who have done it know that it hurts.  Is there a similar experience in recovering from healed spiritual injuries?  I think so.
If you have fallen into sin and you have asked for forgiveness, yes you are forgiven immediately.  The sin is washed away with and under the shed blood of Christ.  However, the consequences of a sin may remain.  The clearest example is that of a pregnancy that is the result of fornication or adultery.  You will be forgiven for the adultery or fornication, washed clean.  However, you will still be a father or a mother of the resulting child.  Trust is another that can take some time to regain.  In the past few years I have consulted companies that have experienced embezzlements.  While one can forgive the embezzler, one would not quickly place that person back into a position to manage one's finances.  

When our kids were younger we read a lot to them.  One of the books we read was The Berenstain Bears and the Truth.  In it the kids learn that a broken trust takes time to regain.  One who betrays your trust spiritually, either by lying to you, or even by teaching false doctrine, can and should be forgiven, but there may be some time and counsel needed, some rehab, prior to re-entry into the race.  This is what Paul was talking about in Galatians 6:1.  We have to restore, rehab, ourselves and those who have fallen.  It is our responsibility as believers.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Healing

For the past several days we have been looking at Paul’s metaphor of a race to describe the Christian life.  Yesterday we looked at the reality that in this race there will be times that we are injured.  It probably goes without saying, but injuries require healing, and healing takes time.
Spiritual injuries like physical injuries require healing.
If you are like me, not patient, you do not tolerate the healing process well.  After my last knee surgery I rode my bike 20 miles the next day.  Not the best.  The reality is our bodies take some time to adjust and heal after a surgery.  The same is true spiritually.  Yes, the effects and the process of recovery are different.  But they can take time and like physical injuries, if we do not embrace the healing process there can be further injury.  In the case of spiritual injury, that injury can be inflicted on others.

Spiritual healing requires the Holy Spirit, the grace of God, and the blood of Christ.  We may have to forgive, reconcile relationships.  That can be hard and painful work, much harder than the physical rehab after a knee surgery, for that pain is deep in the soul.  Problem is, like a knee, if we do not go through the process, neither the knee nor our Christian life will function well again.  The knee will not flex.  Spiritually we will be beset with bitterness, lack of trust, self protection, anger, to name a few.

It is not a good way to live.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Injured

Walking across campus at the University of Tennessee one afternoon my right leg locked. Would not bend. Did not hurt; just would not work. I felt around my knee and there was bump on the back of the knee. I pushed the bump and my knee started working again. Took about four more steps and my knee locked up again. This time the bump was in the front. I pushed it and my knee started working again. I was training for a marathon at the time. I thought to myself, "I probably should not run my 14 miles this evening."
At some point in our race as believers we will be injured.
A few weeks later I was recovering from knee surgery. The doctor came in and told me that I was through running. In exercise and athletics injuries happen. You may have read about the impact of multiple concussions on NFL and NHL players. Injury happens. Paul uses athletic imagery as a metaphor for the Christian life in 2 Timothy 2:5; 1 Corinthians 9:24 - 27; and the writer of Hebrews in, 12:1 - 2. It follows that their are injuries in the Christian life as there are in sports, but there is a difference. The injuries are spiritual, not physical.

Spiritual abuse, false teaching, legalism, sin against you by a brother or sister, can cause great pain and take you out of the race for a time. As with injuries in sports, these types of injuries have to be dealt with. If a sports injury is ignored, it can become permanently disabling. That is the case as well with spiritual injury; that injury has to be treated. If not as with the sports injury the spiritual injury can become disabling, in the form of bitterness, and shipwrecked faith.

We need Doctors to treat our sports injuries. We need spiritual brothers and sisters to deal with spiritual injuries.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Falling

If you have run very much, you have fallen.  I was on a trip in Indonesia back when I still had knees and was running in the evening essentially to clear my mind from a bad day and to avoid further conflict.  On the way back I tripped on a crack in the pavement and went down hard.  I remember that fall primarily because of where it happened.  There are many more that I do not remember.
If you run this race, at some point you will fall; what then?
Some friends of mine ran a half marathon last weekend.  They told me that toward the middle of the race a lady in front of them went down.  She was dehydrated and her body quit.  Same thing happened to a friend of ours in the Tulsa Run a few years ago.  Less than 100 yards from the finish she collapsed and was not able to finish the race.
Falling is part of this race.  Proverbs 24:16 tells us that we have to keep getting up.  Ecclesiastes 4:9 – 10 reminds us that it is good not to be running alone.  My friends in the half marathon stopped to help the lady who fell, in the process applying well Galatians 6:1.  We will fall, fail, in this race we in which we are engaged.  So will our kids.  So will our friends who are also in the race.  When we fall we have to get up and we may need help to do that.  When our kids fall we have to encourage them to continue.  Same with our friends.  We may need to help them.

Falling is part of the race.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Running

Yesterday and the day before I wrote about Finishing and Starting this race in which we find ourselves.  We also have to run it.  Hebrews 12:1 – 2, likens this endeavor to a marathon, with a cheering crowd massed along the route.  The crowd consists of those who have already finished well.
This race we run is much like the Tough Mudder my kids just completed.
My sons and some of their friends and in-laws recently completed a Tough Mudder.  If you do not know what that is, not surprised, it has only been around for 2 years.  It is a 12 mile obstacle course run with 20 – 30 military style obstacles essentially run through mud.  The last few obstacles are electrified delivering near paralyzing shocks to those who touch the dangling wires hanging over the mud pit.

There is a pledge that the participants take before the run:
  • I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
  • I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time.
  • I do not whine – kids whine.
  • I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.
  • I overcome all fears.
I can pretty much put a Bible verse next to each one of those.

This Christian race is much like a Tough Mudder.  The obstacles are put there either by the enemy, our bad choices, or the Lord.  We cannot get through alone.  We are not to complain but trust.

We are to daily run our course well.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Starting

Yesterday I shared that it was important to finish well and that required finishing each day well.  This morning as a group of us were talking through John 16 – 21, it occurred to me that to finish each day well one has to start.
In order to finish, I have to start.
Each day when I arise I need to renew my relationship with Christ.  If I do not start, finishing is not much of an option.  Lamentations 3:22 – 23, came to mind as I was thinking through this.  Each morning I have to engage in the Lord’s lovingkindness.

There have been periods of time that I have not done well with this.  Busyness or planning things early in the morning that seem to have greater importance at the time, or simply just choosing to not do what I know I need to do.  Those days I do not start, I do not finish.