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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Freedom

Do you find yourself in a “hopeless” situation?  Is the pit in which you reside so deep there is not light penetrating the depths?  Have you ever wondered if there was a way out?  Psalm 107:10 – 16 gives me hope that there is.
How do we break free from difficulty; is there a pattern in Scripture?
Note the sequence here:

  • The people rebelled against the words of God and His counsel.
  • They became prisoners in misery and chains.
  • They were humbled with labor
  • They stumbled and there was none to help

This state is not very appealing.  Yet there are many who have been there and are struggling with it now.  Note that the entrance is through disobedience and refusal to follow God.  He then sets them up with labor and misery.  This is defined in verse 16 as lovingkindness.  Why?  Because of what it produces in those in the pit:

  • They cried out

God’s response to their cry:

  • He saved them from distress – emotional
  • He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death – physical
  • He broke their bonds – freedom

There was nothing they could do to get out of the mess that they had created through disobedience and self will other than call upon God.  That seems to be a fairly consistent pattern in scripture.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Another Illustration

This is a second illustration that I use to communicate the importance of our direct interaction with the Word.
We cannot replace the Word with our favorite authors, books, and messages.
We tend to put barriers or insulators between us and the Word of God.  It may be a book written by a favorite author.  It may be a Study on a DVD.  It may be watching a favorite speaker on television.  It may be loading our iPod with messages from our favorite Christian speaker.  All of those are good things.  Some of them are time redeemers.  It is a good use of an iPod to listen to a message from a good speaker when driving to work or working out or, like I do, while mowing the yard.  All of those are good.

They become not so good when they become our primary input.  When we ask the question what does my favorite author say about… or what does my favorite speaker say about…  We need to be engaged personally with the Word.  Anything our “favorites” say is filtered through their experiences and gifts.  While it may be really good, spending time studying our “favorites” is a pale reflection of our spending time with the Holy Spirit in the Word that He inspired.

It would be like settling for a picture of Everest when we could go experience the mountain ourselves.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Illustration

There is an illustration I have been using to emphasize the need for us to get into the Word for ourselves. It goes like this.  In the diagram below (yeah, I know I am not much of an artist – leave it) the guy on the left is interested in the girl on the right (you can tell it is a girl by the dress...).
We cannot get to know Christ only by listening to what others have learned about Him.
Rather than engage in talking to her directly he asks his best friend to spend 30 hours a week with her.  Each week then his friend comes back and report to him for 20 to 30 minutes what he has learned about the girl of his dreams.  The guy on the left cannot ask any questions during the 20 to 30 minutes, if he is really interested he can take some notes, and perhaps discuss what he heard with a small group of friends later in the week…

How is that relationship between the guy on the left and the girl on the right going to work out?  Everyone I have shared this with has responded identically.  He will be the best man at the wedding of his friend and the girl he wanted to get to know.

It is ridiculous for him to think he could get to know her like that.  You probably have made the connection.  There are a number of believers who are approaching their relationship the same way.  They let the pastor or the Sunday school teacher do the study and then listen to what they have learned.  It is a lot like watching a P90X DVD and expecting to get cardio and strength benefit from watching them work out.

It does not work.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Found

This afternoon I was leaving a meeting with a guy and putting my stuff in the back of the rental car, I have two cars in the shop for body work right now, long story.  On the floorboard of the back seat there I noticed a book that did not belong to me.  It was a Bible with a gold name on the front and a pen shut between Proverbs 28 & 29.  I have misplaced Bibles before with my name in gold on the front, never to be seen again.  On the way home from the meeting I wondered if I would be able to find, let’s call him, Don.
What do you do with other people's stuff that you find?
Looking more closely at the Bible back in my office there was a note from Don’s mom in the back with another name and phone number.  I started there.  The number turned out to be financial aid at some school.  So I looked up the last name in the phone book.  There were not many entries, uncommon name so I started calling.  On about the third no answer, I realized that the folks were probably at work so I quit and decided to call tonight.  Started working on another project and my office phone rang.  It was Don’s stepmom calling back with the, “Somebody just called this number,” bit.  We chatted for a bit and she told me she would have Don call me.  She sounded a bit surprised that Don had a Bible, so maybe that will start a conversation.

When we find other people’s stuff how should we react?  For me I treat it like I would want someone to treat my stuff if they found it.

PS. I have a lot of friends in Colorado Springs.  Several of them have had to evacuate.  This afternoon the fire was less than a mile from two of my friend’s houses.  Please PRAY for God’s intervention in this fire.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Conversation

Back when I started this blog there was a post or two that suggested that commentaries were not a good place to start in Bible study.  But you do go there eventually.
Commentaries, journals, and systematic theologies have a place in your study AFTER you have finished your work in the Bible.
Several times here I have mentioned a Bible study I am in with three other men on the kingdom of God.  We have been on this together for over a year.  For the most part – no for the full part – my focus has been on looking at what the Bible says about the kingdom.  As a group we share what we are learning each week with the others asking questions or making suggestions for further study.

Last week I finished a synthesis of my study.  This week I enter into a new phase.  I spent the past few days looking assembling theological journal articles, systematic theologies, and other resources that deal with the kingdom.  The task now is to scan those articles to see what they say about the kingdom.

The critical difference in this sequence is that now when I read these articles I have a year’s worth of thinking through the issues and looking at the data.  Now, at some level the authors and I are on an even footing.  We are in a conversation rather than my sitting at a lecture.  There will probably be some things I did not consider.  There will be things in the articles and books with which I do not agree.  But the dialog will enhance my study rather than dictate it.

I strongly recommend this approach.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Prayer


This morning in Psalm 86 there were some phrases that stood out:
The Father wants us to ask Him to hear us and to answer our prayer.  Do you?

  • Incline Thine ear
  • Give Ear
  • Give Head
  • Answer me x 2

The model here is for us to ask God to both hear us and to answer us.  Don’t know about you but that is not my usual process.  Typically I just dive in with what is on my mind.  But here and in other places the consistent model is to ask God to hear and to answer.  Additionally in this Psalm the psalmist details his circumstance asking God to intervene.  Again that is not my practice.  Typically, I just ask for the intervention without rehearsing the situation with God.  I mean He already knows; it is not like I am giving Him any information.  But the model here is to tell Him the details.
So today I used this model.  I was overcome with the intimacy with God that it created.  It takes longer.

Perhaps that is the point.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Remember

Judges 2:7, 10 – 11 is a passage which reminds me to journal so that I will remember what God has done.  The price of forgetting is high.  This morning the pastor of a church I visited shared another passage that reminds me of the same thing, Joshua 4:1-10.
We have to work to remember what God has done.  It takes time and interrupts our day, but it is critical.
You know the story there.  The nation has completed their exile in the wilderness.  They are on task to take possession of the land that the Lord has promised them.  They come to the Jordan and as He parted the Red Sea, He parts the Jordan so that the nation walks across to the Promised Land on dry riverbed.  Think about this for a second.  They blew it once before.  All of the people who rejected the Lord’s gift are beneath the sand in the desert.  They have just experienced God’s power in the crossing of the Jordan, and they are standing on the land for the first time with all of it before them to take.  They have a significant project ahead of them with a long do list.  But before they can take the next step, God tells them to stop, get some rocks, make a pile, so they can remember.  Stunning.

God interrupted their conquest so that they would remember what He had done for them.  It took time.  It took effort.  It interrupted what they thought God wanted them to do.  We are like them.  We are on task.  We are focused on our project.  We are busy.  We need to interrupt what we are doing to record and remember what God is doing and has done in our days.  If not we are in danger – no check that – we will forget what He has done.  Judges 2:7, 10 – 11 tells us were that leads.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Difficult Reality

In the past couple of days one of the realities of the eternal kingdom has been a source of struggle for me.  That reality is that there will be people there that right now I do not like very much; in fact they qualify as enemies.  We Christians, in this life, seem to do a fairly good job of destroying one another.  I do not remember that as one of the “one another” passages, nonetheless through experience and observation it seems to be one of the more applied principles in the Christian body.
There will be people in eternity with whom we do not now get along...  What are we to do with that?
I have mentioned before the study on the Kingdom of God that some of my friends and I are doing.  Reflecting on some of the implications of the Kingdom, it occurred to me that reconciliation and forgiveness, at some level, is and should be driven by the reality that in the Kingdom we are going to reside for eternity with those with whom we have struggles with here, now.  Last time I looked eternity is longer than I will have to endure whoever I struggle with here.  So the application seems to be – I say “seems to be” in order to give myself an out – that I need to forgive and reconcile with those with whom I struggle.  Romans 12:8 reinforces this.  The problem is I dive too quickly to the phrase “as far as it depends on you,” and take the easy way out.  This seems really hard to me.  Really hard, but really central to the way Christ would have us live.  It is a whole lot easier to write about this than to do it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Why Ask

This may be obvious.  Just spent some time working through Psalm 71.  I was taken aback by what the Psalmist asked and the basis on which he asked.  To sum up he asks:
Why do we need to ask for what God has already promised?
  • Never to be ashamed
  • To be delivered
  • To be rescued – twice
  • To be heard
  • To be saved
  • To be able to abide continually with God
The basis of the requests seem to be that the Psalmist has taken refuge in God.  It stuck me as odd that he would ask for those things since they seem to me to be givens if one takes refuge in God.  Why ask for what you have?  Thinking through this another place this sequence shows up came to mind.  We are told in Matthew 6 to ask for what we are promised later in the same chapter.  So it seems that even though God has promise to care for us and provide our needs.  He desires – commands us to ask for what He has promised.  I think it is because He wants the relationship.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Focus

Not sure that is the right title for this.  Here goes.  There seems to be a tension in investing one’s life into people.  On the one hand one needs some credibility in order to gain a hearing.  On the other hand the purpose of the investment, at least if one is to follow what the Bible says, is to focus those in whom one is investing on Christ and not on one’s credibility.
The focus on ministry is not the minister, at least it shouldn't be.
There may be some people out there who have forgotten that.

From time to time I am one of them.  There are times that I get frustrated, jealous of other’s impact.  Wishing that I would get noticed or have a greater opportunity to serve people.  When that happens, I have forgotten.  Forgotten what is important.  Forgotten what is my purpose; my assignment.  It is not about me.  It’s about people getting to know Christ.  Nothing else matters.  1 Corinthians 2 is a great reminder of this; especially the first portion of the passage.  Additionally Colossians 1:28 is a good reminder.

I need reminding.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Compromise

We all crave significance.  We all want to be accepted and to feel like we are making an impact.  That is a general truth that is especially true for the male of the species.  There have been times that I have been placed in situations or asked questions that I knew if I reacted or answered consistent with my understanding of the Bible, I would offend or at least damage the relationships involved.  The pressure, both internal and external, in those situations, was intense.  The internal arguments went something like this, “If I say what I really think, I will lose any opportunity to have an impact in this situation, so you better agree.  On the other hand if I agree I lose my integrity.  What shall I do?”  I would like to say that in all of those situations I chose the path of integrity.  That would not be the case.  Sometimes I simply chose not to respond, and in some situations that was appropriate.  Other times I chose to compromise my understanding of the Word to gain acceptance.
We cannot compromise our understanding of God's Word for the sake of the favor of men.
The problem is that choice is completely counter to the Word of God.  In Galatians 1:10 Paul tells us that to please men is to cease to be a bond servant of Christ.  The only “encouragement” in that passage is the reality that even Peter struggled with this.  Gives me some level of comfort (misery still loves company).

We are called to live a life following hard after God.  That means that we are continually measuring our behavior and attitudes against the Word of God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  We have to listen to Him.  Not doing so is quenching His ministry in our lives.  Not standing firm on what we understand to be the clear teaching of the Word of God in order to gain favor with men, is at best dishonest – no that is wrong, James 4:17 says that it is sin.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Yours

The first few words of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, are, “It’s not about you.”  If you read the book, you know that he was referring to the truth that the big story is about God.  We are here for Him not the other way around.  Rick is right.  However there are some things that are about you.
We cannot live the Christian Life on someone else's study.
In Romans 14:22 Paul is speaking to the behavior that resulted from the Roman believers faith.  It is an important passage.  Its importance has taken on greater significance, in my estimation, because of the ease of reading and “studying” books like The Purpose Driven Life, the ready availability of messages on the internet, and the proliferation of other ways people share what they are learning.
We cannot navigate the Christian life successfully on someone else’s convictions.  When I stand before God He is not going to ask me what

I did with my pastor’s beliefs.  We are going to discuss what I did.  What I believe.  I am not responsible for anyone’s faith but my own.  That is why it is critical that we are in the Word for ourselves.  We cannot walk with God on the basis of someone else’s study.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What do you think?

Going to try something a little different today and see how it works.  Take a moment and read James 1:17.  Now I have a few questions for you to ponder and to which hopefully respond in the comments.
What do you think about this?  Answer in the comments at Dads Teach the Bible...

  • What is the force of the two adjectives here, “good” and “perfect?”  
  • Do they imply that there are gifts that are not “good” and “perfect” that come from somewhere else than God?
  • How did you come up with your answer to that question?

I have always read that verse … no I will wait and see if I hear from you…

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Press On

A couple of days ago I shared some about a man I met this week, Eric.  He spoke at a local church this morning.  I mentioned earlier that he spent about 20 years in refugee camps.  This morning as he was sharing what the Lord was doing through his ministry he said, “I am not trying to redeem the 20 years in the refugee camps, I am just looking ahead.”  Immediately Philippians 3: 13 – 14 came to mind.
We must choose to move past our challenges or wallow in them.
Too often we get stuck.  We live in the challenges we have been through.  That is living in the “what if.”  If Psalm 139 is true, if Ephesians 2:10 is true, then all that we have gone through is for the purpose of preparation for what He wants us to do.  We have a choice in how we respond.  We either press on and use what He has done in our lives or we wallow in what could have been.

Eric chose to press on.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Delusion

Reading in Psalm 44 just now I was struck by a couple of thing.  Verses 1 – 8 seem to be a fairly accurate rehearsal of God’s dealing with Israel.  I have a hard time squaring 9 – 26 with the reality of Israel’s response to God; on just about every point.
Our view of how we are doing in our walk with God may not be aligned with God's view of how we are doing.
I may not have the timing right on the Psalm but it seems to me that the sons of Korah have a overly rosy view of the nation’s obedience to God.  Thinking through this I wonder if that is not the case for us as well?  We tend to view our relationship with God from our perspective.  We are doing pretty well.  But from where God sits we are not really doing all that well in following Him.  So when He disciplines us or chastises us, we are like the kid caught with our hand in the cookie jar, “Who me?”  From our perspective we are following hard after God, from his we are wandering around in the bush.

Perhaps the message here is that we need to ask Him how we are doing, and listen hard to the answer, rather than complaining that He has not appreciated our obedience.  What do you think?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Surprises

This afternoon I went for a hike. There is a "Urban Wilderness Area" here. I have hiked all over the eastern side of of the wilderness but have never ventured into the western side. Someone asked me to lead a group on a five mile hike and the trail on the western side is about five miles so I hiked it today so I would know where to lead the group tomorrow.
The wonder of finding a new trail on a hike is like the wonder of finding something new in the Word.

The trail is fairly well marked. But at one crucial point it was not. I could not find where the trail went and it took me about 45 minutes to locate the proper direction. I had a map of sorts but no compass. Parts of the trail were stunning. If it were not for the fact that from time to time I could still hear cars on the freeways that surround the area I would have forgotten I was still at home.

 Studying the Bible is much like finding a new trail. I wander through a passage with a map that is the structure of the study that I use. I look for indications in the book, trail blazes so to speak, to indicate the direction I should go. Sometimes I get bogged down or lost and it takes some time to get reoriented. More often than not I am stunned by the beauty of what I see in His Word.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Effects

The man walked through the refugee camp with a bullhorn.  He was sharing the gospel.  He did not see anyone outside of the tents through which he was walking.  He was in section F of the camp in the Republic of Guinee that housed thousands of Liberian refugees.  In one of the tents a 15 year old boy was listening.  He was not sure why this time, this man caught his attention.  But when the man shared how to receive Christ, Eric Wowoh did.  Then the man suggested that whoever prayed that prayer should seek help from Christians in the camp.  He left.  He did not know if anyone responded.  He has never met Eric.
The man sharing the gospel with the bullhorn in the refugee camp does not know the impact he had on a country through the gospel.
Fast forward 20 some years.  Through God’s work more extensive than room here allows Eric was relocated to the United States.  He viewed the opportunity afforded him here as a responsibility to help those who were in his home country.  To date he has shipped multiple containers of humanitarian aid.  He has built 5 schools, and is working on a clinic.

All that from a guy walking through a refugee camp with a bullhorn.  The guy with the bullhorn has no idea.  He has no inkling that what he said had any impact at all.  So much of what we do in our efforts to teach our kids or share with our friends will seem like vain effort.  Like walking through a refugee camp with a bullhorn and not seeing any effect.  But it is not about what we do.  It is about what God does with what we do in the hearts of the Eric’s that hear us.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Flex

My assignment today was to go to Branson, MO and lead a workshop on dealing with stress for the Branson city employees.  Just after I crossed from OK to MO there were several messages on my phone that led me to believe that Branson was expecting something else.  So when I got to city hall I tracked down my contact and asked to see the presentation they had loaded.  Sure enough it was not what I had been assigned by the people that hired me for this gig.  So I had them print it out.  I sat down in the lobby and reviewed the slides, thought through the presentation, and gave it.  It was a similar topic but I had to tweak what I knew to make it work.
We have to flex when, like Paul, we labor to present every man complete in Christ.
In Colossians 1:28 – 29 Paul declares that his purpose is to present every man complete in Christ.  The same goal should drive us as we engage with the people in our communities.  That is the purpose of the gifts that have been given to us by the Holy Spirit.  For the past 44 years I have been focused at one level or another on this task.  Some of the interaction is planned; some of it is spontaneous; all of it is prepared.  There are basic topics of the Christian life that I have worked through for the purpose of sharing with folks.  I have several ways of sharing that topic identified and prepared.  There are many times that I have intended to share one of those topics with someone and in the initial conversation it became obvious that there was another need than what I was planning to share.  In that case I switched gears and we talked about the issues that individual needed.  Usually, it is a topic that I have already prepared as well.

This afternoon in Branson, I switched gears.  That was not the first time that I have made a presentation.  I was prepared by years of standing in front of people and working through different topics.  I pulled from other experience to make the hour work.  Meeting with people is exactly the same.  To be flexible you have to be prepared.  That preparation has to greatly exceed what you expect to share.  You have to be alert to the leading of the Holy Spirit and committed to following His lead and not committed to following your plan.  But in order to do that, you have to have a very full tank.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Starting with You

In chapter two of Your Walk, their walk, I try to make the point that if we as dads are going to make a difference in our kids understanding of the Bible; we have to be in it ourselves.  That was strongly reinforced this morning during the third session of the current Dads Teach the Bible 10 week workshop.
As dads if we hope to help our children process life through the Word of God, we have to be in it for ourselves.
Part of each week’s assignment is to share with your kids something from the study.  This man shared that he was watching a movie with his kids where a series of poor decisions by a teen put them in a mistaken identity situation resulting in their death.  He shared with them the importance of character and the consequences of our actions from our study and discussion last week on 2 Peter.

He concluded by sharing with the men that if we had not been in the Word on this topic the week before, he would not have been able to so quickly connect what his kids were seeing in the movie to 2 Peter.  I asked him to repeat that statement.  Twice.  Then I repeated it.  Huge.  He hit the nail with his head.  It is virtually – no check that – it is impossible to share something from nothing.  If we are not in the Word for ourselves, for the purpose of our own growth in our relationship with Christ, just us with Him, no commentary or guide book, relying on the Holy Spirit, we cannot hope to be able to connect the Bible to our kids experience of life.

Monday, June 11, 2012

More and Distinguished

Balaam is one of the Bible’s more less distinguished characters.  Check out Numbers 22 – 23 for the complete tale and 2 Peter 2:15 – 16.  He started well though.  In Numbers 22 Balak sent the elders to Balaam to hire him to curse Israel as the nation came out of Egypt.  Balaam’s response was to check with God.  God said no and that was good enough for Balaam.
Do not let important people lead you away from following God.
Then Balak sent “leaders, more numerous and more distinguished.”  This is the world’s strategy.  The world will try to turn your head with the rich and famous.  The fact that someone who is “somebody” is paying attention to you, is flattering and can move you off of obedience to God.  The result can be a short conversation with a donkey.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pain

John 1:11 is a deeply moving verse.  It describes in just a few words the intense rejection by the nation of its King and Savior.  Think of it.  This was a people that was nurtured and protected by God for hundreds of years.  Psalm 78:5 – 8 gives the shorted capsule of what God did.  He demonstrated His faithfulness to His Word to them over and over.  He sent them leaders and prophets.  He revealed Himself through the Law, all this in preparation for them to receive His Son.  They did not.
There is no level of rejection that we can bring to Christ with which He cannot identify.
Relational issues are some of the most painful with which we have to deal.  People in whom we have invested much can hurt us more effectively and quickly than others.  That is true in our families.  It is true for our kids even when we will trivialize the depth of the relational pain.  To them it is not trivial.  Whatever relational pain we experience, Christ’s was more.  All that He invested was rejected to the point of death.  He can relate to whatever level of rejection we face as friends, family, or work associates.  That is the beauty of the truth of Hebrews 4:15 – 16.  In those situations we have a guide who can lead us out without sin.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tunnel of Love

You may have asked sometime in your Christian experience for the Lord to make you more like Christ.  If you did, you may not have been all that excited about the process.  It calls for suffering.  You can look at the book of 1 Peter to validate that the word shows up 16 times in that book.  I was thinking through this reality over the last few days.
The dark tunnels we experience as believers is evidence of God's love shaping us to be more closely like His Son.
There have been times in my life that I felt like I was in a long dark tunnel.  The light at the end I hoped was not an oncoming train.  Those times have shaped me as a believer.  They have taught me dependence on Christ.  They have instilled humility.  They have stripped me of self assurance.  They have underscored my need for the Body.

God is love.  We read that certain description in 1 John 4:8, 16.  Those dark tunnels are God’s tunnels of love as he shapes us more perfectly into the image of His Son.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Push Pull

In Peter Block’s book Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used,there is a principle that the impact that a company has on you personally, that is mentally, emotionally, etc. is data.  His point is that if you are reacting in a certain way to your exposure to the company, the probability is high that others are reacting in the same way.  His point is that this is data in your effort to understand the organization.
People are always either trying to push or pull us into some reaction to them.
In his book Soul Talk: Speaking with Power Into the Lives of Others,Larry Crabb makes a similar statement in the context of working with individuals in counseling or discipling relationships.  He says that people will either try to push or pull you into a position that validates them or their position.  You have experienced this at least at the level where you have known that someone you are talking to is “fishing for a complement,” or you know that they are attempting to get a certain reaction from you.

But Crabb’s point is that this is going on at all time.  He says that our reactions to people is data for us to understand them.  He contends that our reactions to them are going to be similar to the reactions of other people and like the organization is data for us to explore.  Why do we feel repelled?  Why are we irritated?  How is that functioning for the person with whom we are interacting?

If you are attempting to build into the life of another, awareness of this can be important for you.  I would recommend both of these books highly.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sin

From time to time I read the headlines on the website christianpost.com.  On rare occasions I will read an article that grabs my attention.  Then I will quickly scan the comments, which is a singularly frustrating endeavor.  This morning was one of those occasions.  John Piper wrote a short couple of paragraphs on election.  I like Piper.  So I read what he said and then looked at the comments.  Shouldn’t have.  Opinion does not equal truth.  Most of those who commented on Piper both missed his point, and are convinced that their opinion has the weight of Scripture.  Sad.
If we do not agree with God is that sin?
Set aside election from Piper’s work and examine his main point.  It is basically that if God has taken a position on something and you do not accept it, you are in sin.  It is simple, and he is right.  There may be some debate on what positions God has taken, but the thrust of what Piper says is correct.

God is God, we are not.  If we do not agree with Him, by definition that is sin.  We tend to confuse sin as something we do, no.  It is what, who we are.  We cannot follow the Law, the 10 commandments, because that Law is a reflection of the nature and character of God.  It was given to clearly communicate that to us and drive us to the realization that we needed transformation through faith in Christ, Galatians 3:23 – 29.  The Greek word for sin essentially means to miss the mark.  Our nature apart from Christ is different than God’s, not aligned with Him in thought, word, or deed.  Sin.  We miss the mark.  So if we disagree with Him, Piper is correct it is sin.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Review

A friend of mine, Dave Jewitt, asked me to help him train coaches for his ministry, Your One Degree (YOD has had a significant impact on many men and women it will be worth your time to check out the website).  For the past several weeks I have been working through the material, brainstorming, and bouncing ideas off of Dave and others involved in the ministry about what will be effective in equipping YOD associates or as one of the wags likes to call them, YODAs.
The Lord has completed us in His Son.
If you have been regularly reading this blog, or even have dipped into it from time to time, you will have seen the words “in Christ,” repeated more times than is practical to link to this post.  I mentioned a couple of days ago my gratefulness to one of my mentors, Larry Whitehouse.  One of the things for which I am grateful is his “beating” this concept into me.  We met for over a year, really it undergirded all of the times we met over the time I knew him.  The truth is best captured in Colossians 2:9 – 10, Ephesians 1, Colossians 1, 1 John 4 and 5, and John 15.  I have been reviewing that study today in preparation for including that in the training package for YODAs and this morning our Wednesday morning study finished our study of Colossians.

So most of the day I have been reviewing the truth of the believer’s completed position in Christ.  It is a concept that most of us do not grasp.  Rather we spend a great deal of time attempting to gain favor, or please a Father who has already completed us and delights in us.  That tends to lead us into a performance mode rather than abiding, or rest.

Take a look at the passages mentioned here, and see what you think.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Anger Again

Do you ever get angry?  I have asked you that before. I am this morning.  I know that the Word says that I should not let the sun go down on this, but according to my calculations I have about nine and a half hours before that becomes a problem.
We have to continually check ourselves and those with whom we walk that we do not drift away from the faith.
I think that there may be a quality to anger.  Christ was angry when He kicked over the tables in the temple.  Pretty sure that anger was OK.  It was Christ after all.  So there was a holy quality to Christ’s anger.  He was ticked that the money changers were trivializing the principal place for the worship of His Father.  Typically my anger is not all that pure, or holy.  Typically I get angry because my goals are continually blocked.  Today it might be a bit different.  Today I am angry that there is an organization which I have followed for some time, which seems, on the surface to be slipping their moorings.  They seem to have left their first love, so to speak; in that they seem to have become more concerned with numerical growth and marketing rather than adhering to the Word of God and their historically core mission.

Like this organization, we are continually in danger of slipping away.  In 2 Peter the apostle uses language that calls us continually to task.  He tells us that we are to be diligent in pursuing Christian growth (2 Peter 1:10; 3:14 ).  He says that he is committed to stirring up our mind to that diligence (2 Peter 1:12 -15; 3:1 -2).  He commits to continually remind us that we are to pursue that growth.  Each of us is to charge hard after God.  We are to continually check ourselves and those who are walking with us against the Word of God.  If we do not, we may also slip the moorings.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Grateful

One of my mentors was a man by the name of Larry Whitehouse.  Larry was the director of the Navigator Training Center at Michigan State University.  My wife and I joined Larry and his wife Pat about two months after we were married for a couple of years at MSU.  Then we moved to the University of Tennessee to help Larry and Pat establish the Training Center at UT.  This morning I started a project.  A few times a year Larry would pull all of the Squad Leaders, the men and women he was training together for a “Training Session.”  I taped all of them, 10, 72 cassette tapes.  I also took notes, around 500 pages.  The notes are indexed to the tapes.  Yeah, I know, a little OCD, but I wanted to be able to easily retrieve the information.
We are nothing but the total of those who have built into our lives.
Larry is the one on the left.  I will not name the others for privacy.
The project is to transfer the 72 tapes to MP3.  I started this morning.  In the process I began to look through the notes I took 34 years ago.  I was blown away by what I read.  Not the brilliance of my notes, but the brilliance of the content that Larry shared.  To a great extent my wife and my philosophy of ministry was shaped by those six years.

Larry passed away about a year ago.  He was not perfect; far from it.  There are those who have discarded what he shared; to their own detriment.  Looking back over the notes this morning, and looking at the three cases of 24 tapes I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the impact the Lord worked in my wife and I through Larry and Pat.

The truth of the matter is that each of us, if we are walking with Christ, are in debt to those who have shared with us.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Glory

In Psalm 29:1 – 2 we are commanded to “Ascribe to the Lord gory.”  Thinking through that it occurred to me that I really do not know what glory is.  I ascribe glory to things that I perceive to be beautiful.  The upper Titcomb valley leaps to mind.  Also beautiful people, my wife, my granddaughter, my kids.  Situations like my daughter expecting her first child.
What we consider glorious is really just a reflection of the glory of the creator.
I have a picture of my wife and I in the upper Titcomb valley in my office.  I was looking at this while I was thinking through this passage.  Every rock, every element of vegetation, every drop of water, solid, liquid, or gas (all three are in the picture), every molecule was placed with intentional purpose in that place.  The result in my eye, is glorious.  But reality is that created space, is a pale reflection of the glory of its creator.

The problem becomes that my concept of glory can prevent me from seeing what is really glorious.  If I settle for what I see, what I understand, what I apprehend as glory, I can miss the true glory.  That is where Christ comes in.  In John 1:14 we are told that Christ, revealed the true glory.  It is only as we gaze intentionally at Him that we will understand and know what true glory really is.  The only way we can do that now, is through His Word.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Suffer

I saw something in 2 Timothy today that I had not seen before, the theme of suffering.  The concept shows up in 2 Timothy1:8, 1:12, 2:3, 2:9 – 10, and 4:5.  The interesting thing to me here is the contrasts, especially in chapter 1.  Timothy is described as tearful, tired, timid, fearful, and possibly ashamed.  Paul deals with that by telling Timothy to join in Paul’s suffering for the gospel, 1:8.
The gospel is important, more important than our comfort.
Seems a bit harsh.  Today we would suggest perhaps a break to reevaluate one’s commitment.  Or we would suggest counseling.  Perhaps a retreat or a sabbatical.  Paul just tells Timothy to suffer.  Man up.  This is important.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Tension

We are a stressed people.  We live under what John Eldredge calls the spirit of the age, busyness.  We live by the three c’s – clock, calendar, and caffeine.  If you are reading this, somewhere along the line you have decided or determined that you need work on your relationship with Christ.  Problem is, that just becomes one more event in an already maxed out schedule.  Add that to the fact that we are a people driven by efficiency and we begin to look for ways to accelerate our relational growth with Christ.  Not a terrible goal, but it can be counterproductive.
In order to abide and rest in Christ we have to make some tough counter cultural decisions.
Speed is not our friend in relationship with Christ.  The word He uses is “abide.”  The writer of Hebrews uses “rest.”  We cannot rush through time with Him.  We have to spend time, much time, at His feet.  There are two passages that rush to mind, Romans 12:2 in the Phillips Translation, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould…” and Luke 10:38 – 42.

In order to “abide” and “rest” it takes time.  It takes choosing to not do some important things.  It takes changing the way we respond to the pressures of this world.  It takes hard decisions.