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Friday, August 31, 2012

Strengthened 2

Yesterday we started looking at Psalm 138:1 – 3.  We pick up to day on the second half of verse 1, “I will sing praises to Thee before the Gods.
To prevent destruction we have to place our worship of God before family, job, and recreation.
This can be taken at least two ways; first, in the sight of other gods; second, priority, that is I place my singing praise to God before singing praise to other gods.

My first response was that it is the second.  One of my friends sent me an email yesterday expressing the same idea.  We need to place our worship of the Lord before our jobs, our recreation, our families, all of the things that vie for our attention.  But, as I think about this, perhaps there is an element of the first in there as well.  The other “gods” need to see me placing the Lord before them.

I got an email yesterday reporting from recent Barna survey that five times more women chose, “being a mother or parent” than chose “being a follower of Christ,” as their most important role in life.  In Numbers 14:3, the men of Israel placed the welfare of their families before trusting God.  We know how well that turned out for them.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Strengthened

Not sure where to start.  This may have to be more than one day.  Look at Psalm 138:1 – 3.  Get a sheet of paper or better your journal, take a few minutes, and write down what you see, then get back to me.
One of the prerequisites to having my soul strengthened - pour my heart out in thankfulness to God.
I do not know which of those three verses grabbed you first, but for me it was verse 3.  I was immediately drawn to the idea that God would strengthen my soul – I am in desperate need of a strengthened soul.  That verse 3 is what grabbed at me is somewhat odd – for my passion is in verse 2 – more on that later.

Notice here what we do:
  • Give thanks
  • Sing praises
  • Bow down
  • Give thanks
Take those one at a time – yeah this is going to spill over for at least a couple of days.

The Psalmist said here that we are to give thanks with all of our heart.  That brings to mind Romans 12:1.  We are to come to the Lord not with a simple thank you, but as to one who has not only given us life, but then saved that life by intervening when we put ourselves in danger.  No, we did not just put ourselves in danger, we chose a path that resulted in our death.  He gave us life again.  Through the death of His son.  That requires more than a simple thanks.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Overwhelming Grace

Are you ever blown away by the magnitude and depth of God’s grace?  Consider for a moment Psalm 125:5, on the surface not so encouraging.  Yet look at God’s action in this verse.  Those who turn away are led…  God stays with them even as they are turning away.
Even an overwhelming ocean of sin is no match for God's overwhelming grace.
Now look at Psalm 130:3 -4.  I totally get verse 3.  If He were to keep track of all my sin, the garbage that goes through my mind, my bad attitudes, there would be no hope.  But there is hope, verse 4 is stunning.  There is forgiveness with Him.  The last part just floors me.  The fact that there is forgiveness sets the table for our fear of Him.  Fear here must have the force of awe, reverence essentially worship.

When we come to grips with the depth of our iniquity our utter hopeless condemned state and realize that with Him there is absolution for the asking, Luke 23:39 – 43, the only rational response is worship.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Grace

One of the things we talk about much is the grace of God.  I was reminded again of the extent of that grace yesterday in Psalm 107:4 (I have written about this Psalm earlier).
Even when He is disciplining us He does not abandon us, rather is present leading us through the discipline.
The nation of Israel had rebelled against God with the result that He caused them to wander.  The amazing thing to me here is that He led them through the wanderings.

Even when we disobey and are wandering around through the Lord’s discipline, He has not withdrawn His love or grace.  He is still engaged with us.  Leading us through the waste.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Process

You probably know the story in 2 Samuel 6:6 – 11.  The Ark is not in Jerusalem and David, rightly I think, sets about to move it there.  However, during the move, the Ark becomes unstable and one of the men, Uzzah, reaches out to keep it from falling, and is zapped by the Lord for his troubles.  David becomes angry with God.
There is not a good result when we try to shortcut our relationship with God.
People struggle with this.  Here both David and Uzzah are trying to do something that they think will honor God and the outcome is not what they expected, especially for Uzzah.  What is going on here?  Was David’s anger with God justified?  Not so much.

David was trying to do the right thing the wrong way.

God gave specific directions on how the ark was to be moved, Exodus 25:14, 37:5; Deuteronomy 10:8.  David did not remotely follow those directions.  His disregard of the Lord’s specific instructions resulted in the death of Uzzah.  Uzzah's death was a direct result of a failure of David’s leadership.

Doing the right thing the wrong way, taking short cuts when God has directed another path, does not have a good result.  God wants each of us to have a personal relationship with Him through His Word and prayer.  If we try to shortcut that by only allowing others to tell us what they get out of the Word, attempting to live on their time with the Lord, we will not have a good result.  The how is as important as the what.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Meetings

Most of us, if we have been around awhile, avoid meetings.  In a lot cases they are wasteful uses of precious time at best.  Hebrews 10:24 – 25 exhorts us as believers to gather regularly.  That can take different forms worship service, Sunday school, small group, one on one, or a committee meeting.  I have been to all of those, just left one in fact.  How do you engage with those types of meetings?  How do you experience the leadership of those meetings?
What do we do with all of the meetings that we are scheduled to attend?  Are they really all that important?
The first verb in Hebrews 10:24 is consider, in the original it is katanoeo the root word is noeo which means to direct one’s mind to a subject.  The force of this word here is to place importance on through engaging in thinking through, or planning.  It is not a casual word.  It suggests diligent purposeful thought that produces like action.

Is that how you experience or participate in the meetings that I listed above?  If the Bible is right the great majority of the stuff we are concerned with on a daily basis is kindling.  The meetings that focus on how to build people up in Christ or in the Word of God deal with the only two things that are eternal, men’s souls and God’s Word.  When the pastor gets up on that stage, when the teacher gets in front of the class, when the leader of the small group opens in prayer, when you sit down at the coffee shop with your friend to talk about the Bible, eternal issues that have eternal consequences are in play.

I have been guilty of taking some of those meetings lightly.  I have mailed in some of my participation.  That is sin.  I was guilty of not considering how to make the most of that time.  These meetings are not just important.  They are meetings in which God has directed us to participate.  Seems to me we should view that as somehow more important than what we do in the meetings at work.  Consider.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Strength

It is difficult to navigate the Christian life without relational pain.  People whom you trust, people in whom you have invested much may turn on you for reasons that you do not understand.  They may behave in ways that breaks your heart.  How do we as believers walk through those tough times?  Perhaps the best way is to look at Christ.  All of this happened to Him.
When we are faced with a deep challenge it is not the time to start abiding in Christ, or walking in the Spirit.  We need to be in that posture before we are challenged.
Luke 22:54 – 61 relates the events surrounding Peter’s denial of Christ.  You know the story well.  Here is the man who declares Christ to be the Messiah at Caesarea Philippi, in the inner circle of the disciples, and the one who declares 30 verses earlier that he is willing to die for Christ denying that he even knows Him.  This would be like your closest ally abandoning you at the most critical time in your life.  How does Christ get through this?  He did this without sin, Hebrews 4:15, but when it happens to me, I am not so noble.  2 Peter 2:21 says that He left us an example to follow in His steps.  What is that example?

Thinking through this several passages came to mind.  1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that in any situation there is a way of escape.  That leads me to believe that in each situation I have a choice not to sin, but how?  Philippians 4:13 tells me I can do all things through Christ.  Similarly, John 15:5 tells us that apart from Him we can do nothing.  Lastly Galatians 5:16 tells us that if we walk by the Spirit we will not do the normal thing and follow our flesh.  That is the struggle that Paul shares in Romans 7.  So it seems that the way to follow Christ’s example when people He loved turned against Him is to abide in Him, deal with the situation in His strength, through the power of the Holy Spirit, while looking for the way not to sin.

That seems like a cliché formula.  It doesn’t seem to work.  There are vast differences between Christ and me – I know that is a shock.  One of the differences it that He was always plugged into His Father.  He only did what His Father was doing, John 5:19.  I am not that plugged in.  Stuff hits me when I am less than ready.  It seems that I want to be like Christ and respond the way He did, without doing what He said is necessary.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Breadth

Yesterday I wrote about the infinity of God’s knowledge and wisdom and the impossibility of knowing Him fully here.  There is another, probably obvious, truth associated with this fact.  No one, including you and me, has it all figured out.  That means that theologians, writers of commentaries, writers of the notes in your study Bible, pastors, teachers, mentors, people who write blogs, Wikipedia, and all of the experts who comment on articles on the internet – none of them have a corner on the truth, all of us are still learning and will continue to learn.
The goal of knowing God is so broad we need each other's gifts to help us as we pursue Him.
The corollary to this is that we need each other.  Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that we have been given gifts by the Holy Spirit, Christ, and the Father for the purpose of building each other up.  One of the ways that occurs is that because of the differences in the way we have been gifted, we process the Word, our interaction with the Lord, and our interaction with the world differently.  For that reason, we need to listen to each other.  We need to learn from each other.  The most seasoned professor at a seminary can learn from the new believer.  Because of the immenseness of the task, to know God, each of us needs to know what our brothers and sisters have seen.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Depth

This morning Psalm 92:5 is the passage that spun me out.  By that I mean from that passage I started chasing the truth that God’s knowledge and thought is deeper that we can understand.  That journey took me to Psalm 36:6, Romans 11:33, Colossians 2:3, Isaiah 55:8 – 9, Job 11:7 – 12, and Isaiah 65:1 – 7.  If you spend any time at all in the Word looking at the person of God you are rapidly confronted by His infinite majesty.  In this case the infinite nature of His knowledge and wisdom.  When you consider that He thought it all up and holds it all together, it is not so much of a stretch.
God's knowledge and wisdom is so vast, infinite, we cannot hope to know Him completely.  So do we just give up?
As I thought through that this morning it brought me close to despair.  For the reality is if I pursue Him hard all of my life I will not scratch the surface in getting to know Him.  That is because – and I know this will be a shock – I am not infinite.

There are at least two possible reactions to this.  First, I can just throw up my hands and give up in despair.  After all there is no way I will ever get to know Him completely, it is futile, so why try?  The other is to accept what Christ promised in John 16:13 that we will be led in this process into all truth.

The mind blowing thing is that He has chosen to reveal Himself at any level and that He leads us through the process.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Self Promotion

A couple of years ago I went to an event to listen to a popular Christian speaker and author.  I have had a great deal of exposure to this person.  I have benefited greatly from both their speaking and writing.  I was also aware, through other relationships of some issues with the ministry; all ministries have issues because they are populated with people.
When we have a message to share for Christ there is a thin line in seeking and audience for Him and praise for ourselves.
The presentation was great.  Good material presented extremely well.  During the question and answer portion of the event the questions that were asked were the ones that in my experience with this individual are the questions that are typically asked of them.  Every time I had heard this person respond to these questions before either in person or in a recorded session, they were answered similarly giving concise answers and suggesting resources from which this person had benefited.  I have read and had interaction with many of the books and people that have influenced this person so I was aware of the richness of those veins.  This time when they answered the questions, those rich veins were not referenced, rather the individual promoted their own work which was derived from those veins.

I was deeply saddened by this.  For two reasons, first it validated the depth of the issues of which I was aware.  Second, it scared me.  As one who is seeking to exhort others to a more intimate engagement with the Lord, I write here and in the book and workbook, I lead workshops, and from time to time am asked to speak.  The challenge is to get the word out about what one is doing.  There is a fine line between serving the Lord and serving self.  It is a battle I fight every time I open the word processor to write this.  It is a battle I fight when I talk to people about a workshop for their group, and it is especially a battle when I talk to people about supporting this ministry.

I wrote in my journal while listening to this person, “Lord, deliver me from self promotion.”  Psalm 75:6 – 7, and Colossians 3:24 came to mind.  Lord, deliver me…

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Beast

Psalm 73 is a passage the Lord seems to be continually bringing to mind.  This morning as I started reading it – has this ever happened to you?  You find yourself looking at the words; even noticing what they are but the content is not penetrating?  You are thinking about something else.  That happens with me in really familiar passages.  It is how I started this morning in Psalm 73.  Back on track – I fought through the fog by starting over and praying that the Lord would help me focus…
When we are mad at God Asaph tells us in Psalm 73 that we are beasts.
I noticed in 21 – 24 the result of my attitude toward God.  Asaph said that when he was angry, bitter with God he was like a beast.  Beasts are portrayed in scripture as unreasoning (1 Peter 2:12).  They wander around, simply focused on survival and procreation.  Asaph describes the condition as senseless.

If I am honest, I have been like that in my relationship with God.  There are times when I am embittered against Him.  I figure that He has done things wrong.  He sure doesn’t do things like I would.  The grace here is that in those times He takes me by the right hand and guides me into truth.  Amazing.

Here I am a pipsqueak of a beast and the Lord, the majestic creator of the universe deigns to engage in my senselessness and lead me through it into truth.  What an overwhelmingly loving God we follow.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Follow Through

Today, actually the next couple of weeks are really full.  The prep for some training I am conducting is taking a lot of my time and energy.  The schedule is tight.  A few weeks back a friend of mine asked me to review a book he and another friend had co-authored with a third person.  I agreed and he sent me the text and an evaluation form.  As of yesterday I had not completed the task.
When we commit we have to follow through.
Psalm 15 is one of those passages that I would rather not be in the Word, especially the last phrase in verse 4.  One cannot duck the integrity requirement.  So as I was struggling through my schedule this AM I realized that I had not followed through as promised.  Rats.

I cannot and will not claim that I always do follow through on what I promise.  There have been times that I have failed and those times eat at me.  But this time I chose well.  I stopped what I was doing and honored the commitment I had made to my friends.

There are at least two lessons here for me.  First, as it says in Psalm 15:4, do what I say I will do even if it hurts.  Second, do not always say yes.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Truth Unassailable

John 14:6 is a very familiar passage.  As you know Christ declares three things for Himself.  I would like to take a moment and look at the second, “the Truth,” and some of the implications of that declaration for us.
Truth will stand up to any examination.  There is no need to fear questions.

There are people I know who hold onto Christ in fear.  By that I mean that they refuse to consider or talk to people who disagree with them for fear that somehow their faith or their view of Christ and His work will be shaken and they will leave the faith.

That is not faith.  What they hold as truth may in fact not be.

Our passage tells us Christ is truth.  If that is true, I am convinced that it is, no manner of question, assault, or examination can change that.  Bring it on.  If my faith is challenged and reveals some aspect of my understanding of Christ that is deficient, that is a gift.  For the reality is my understanding of Christ is deficient, by definition.  Isaiah 55:9 -10 promises me that I will not understand Him fully, ever.  That does not diminish the fact that He is truth.  But it does demand that I continue to pursue that truth.  If I do not continue to stretch my understanding of both Him and how He is working in this world, I am at best stagnant and at worst choosing to worship a false God.  As one of my friends put it, the Christian life is a continual journey out of idolatry into true worship.

Welcome challenges to your faith as opportunities to dive deeper into the Truth that is Christ.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Much Required

For the past several years I have been using the daily readings in the old Book of Common Prayer for my time with the Lord most days.  Often I will start reading in a passage and a flood of cross references come to mind.  What ends up happening is the Lord strings together some things that He wants me to consider.  Happened again today.
Each of us have been given much in Christ.  Of each of us much is required.  It is not reasonable that we sit in the bleachers cheering on those in the arena.  It is reasonable that we join the fray.
Started in Psalm 66:10 – 12, that led me to James 1:2 – 4, Romans 5:3 – 5, 1 Peter 1:6, 4:12 and 2 Peter 2:9.  The message to me was that the Lord is about shaping us for the work for which He created us.  In Psalm 139:1 – 16, David describes how the Lord has shaped us and set us on a path of His making for work that He wants us to do.  Paul picks this theme up in Ephesians 2:10 echoing David’s thought.  There are many difficulties which my wife and I have experienced.  For most of my career I have been a square peg in a succession of round holes.  Reflecting on this, assuming that God is sovereign – last time I checked He seemed to be – then it follows that all of those trials, those experiences in the round holes had purpose.  They were to shape us into more effective instruments for the work that He wants us to do.  Reflecting on that history, it becomes clear that all of the skills and knowledge I use today came from those experiences.

Looking back over the years He has given us much.  That leads me to the second passage, 1 Samuel 28:6.  It is Saul realizing in despair that the Lord has abandoned him because after the Lord anointed him king, Saul betrayed that trust.  That led me to Luke 12:48.  The fact is that the Lord has invested a lot in us.  Therefore, we are required to give a lot back.

That is really true for all of us.  The price paid for our redemption was staggeringly, infinitely high.  God died in our place.  Much is required in response.  Paul said to us in Romans 12:1 that living life as a sacrifice was the only rational response.  While that makes perfect sense it does not make it easy.  In fact I find that it is only through grace that I come stumbling anywhere near, and that not often.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Errata

NOTE: Have you ever had a day when everything you touched fell apart or took longer than it should?  Yesterday was like that.  It started early in the morning.  I knocked stuff over, spilled stuff, my computer ran slower than dirt, nothing worked… part of the evidence is that I quoted two verses incorrectly in the first paragraph of yesterday’s post.  It was supposed to be Psalm 49:12 and Job 27:8 rather than Psalm 49:13 and Job 27:28 there isn’t a Job 27:28… sigh.  I changed the post, hopefully now it makes more sense.
We all make errors, well at least I do, our character is revealed by how we handle them.
I was going to write about something else but telling you about my mistake yesterday brought something else to mind.  We all make errors, mistakes, goofs – call them what you will.  When I wrote Your Walk, their walk in 2010, I cannot tell you how many times I read and re-read the text.  The manuscript went through several edits and revisions with multiple people reading the text.  Still there were typos.  One verse was mis-labeled.  There was an error on the back cover.  That is just the two I know about.

This morning Seth Godin mentioned an error that a company made in his blog.  We are all human.  We all make mistakes.  When we have groups of people, the mistakes tend to be bigger – I guess the errors are multiplied by our tendency to habitually goof.  There is a law in there somewhere.

How we handle the errors makes the difference.  It seems to me that there are two basic approaches.  Admit the error and attempt to fix it.  Deny the error, cover it up or fight to make it look like it is not an error.  I have done both.  There was a time in my life where the second approach was my predominant MO.  By God’s grace, that has changed, probably not completely, but it is much less my choice these days.

A couple of days ago we contrasted Saul and David.  Saul chose the second approach to problems; David the first.  When we cover up our errors, they destroy us, partially because it takes so much effort to live a lie.  Each of us must choose.  We will blow it.  I recommend David’s approach.  Saul’s is too costly.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wrong Wall

You have probably heard the old warning about climbing the ladder of success only to find it leaning against the wrong wall.  There are a number of passages in the Bible that seem to validate that thought: Psalm 49:12, 20 (read the whole thing); Psalm 90:12; Job 27:8; Luke 12:16 – 21, 22 – 34; Ecclesiastes 9:10 – 11; 11:9; are just a few.
Is your ladder leaning against the wrong wall, or against no wall?  What do you do now?
Daily, we are assaulted with “good” things to do.  We sift through them; create structured do lists; read time management books or go to time management classes; we have smart phones, iPads, computer schedules with alarms.  To what end?  If we accomplish all that we have on the list (good luck with that), so what?  If we do all that and sacrifice, family, eternal life, relationship with people, what have we gained?  Matthew 6:19 – 21 and Mark 8:36 tell us that the treasure should be laid up in heaven and that if we squander our time here to gain what we will ultimately loose we are much to be pitied.

Eternity is a long time.  We need to invest our time here wisely, Ephesians 5:15 - 16.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Saul and David

In 1 Samuel 9:21 when Samuel is about to anoint Saul as the first king of Israel, Saul’s response is telling.  It is a focus on his station, his family, his standing.  In that attitude, that focus, we see the seeds of his ultimate failure.  Saul is concerned with appearances, he is afraid of what people think of him and that is born out quickly by his defense of his disobedience in 1 Samuel 13:11 - 14.
What can we learn from the differences between Saul and David?
Contrast Saul’s heart with his successor, David.  David was also self effacing.  In 1 Samuel 18:18 he used similar language to Saul’s in 9:21 when Saul offered his older daughter to be David’s wife.  The difference, based on the trajectory of David’s life, is that David’s humility was based on his knowledge of God rather than his fear of what men thought of him.  David’s focus, even when he blew it, was on his relationship with God and David’s concern was with what God thought of him, Psalm 51.

Paul, in Galatians 1:10, reinforces this attitude for us.  As David and Paul, our concern should be on what God thinks about what we are doing.  Men will disagree, men will resist, men will deride, men will abandon.  We cannot please men, we should not try.  We serve God.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

David and Goliath 4

For the last three days we have been looking at the story of David and Goliath making some observations about the encounter that we can share with our kids to better prepare them to face the challenges they will face in this world.
David and Goliath came at each other with vastly different approaches to the battle.  What can we learn from the contrast?
In 1 Samuel 17:41 – 49 David has run the gauntlet of derision by his older brother, disdain of the king, and being outfitted with armor that did not fit.  He is now in front of his adversary.  Note the contrast in David and Goliath’s approach to the battle:
Goliath’s Approach David’s Approach
Disdain for David’s age Stood up to the giant
Cursed David by his gods Told Goliath he had taunted God
Relied on his great strength Relied on God’s strength
Arrogant Confident
Lost Won

The contrast is striking.  The key here, in my mind, is even though David had experience in dealing with difficult situations, he did not rely on that experience, other than that he knew that the Lord was faithful.  His confidence then was not in the positive outcomes of his encounters with the bear and the lion, but rather in the Lord that enabled those encounters to succeed.

While that is a subtle difference it is a crucial one.  When we move from trusting in the Lord to trusting in the outcomes the Lord has wrought.  We move from worship to idolatry.

Monday, August 13, 2012

David and Goliath 3

Yesterday and the day before I shared some observations on David's encounter with Goliath with the idea that this is a story from which we can draw many lessons to equip ourselves and our kids to deal with adversity in God's strength.
David refused to go to battle with untested weapons, so should we.
Today we focus on 1 Samuel 17:38 - 40.  Here, after Saul has agreed to let David confront Goliath - by the way, as you probably have observed, it is Saul, as King, who should have gone before Goliath rather than hiding as a coward behind whoever chose to take his offer.  At any rate after Saul accepted David's offer he clothed him in his personal armor and sword.  It did not work.  David was not accustomed to Saul's armor.  He had not, in the words of the text, tested it.  He refused to go to battle with another's armor and weapons, rather he took with him what he knew, what he had used in the battles he had had to defend the flocks against the bear and the lion.  He took those not in his own strength, but in the strength of the Lord.

There is more in this sequence than we have room in which to dwell.  Focus on the issue of not going to battle with untested gear.  That happens more than we would care to admit.  Ephesians 6:10 - 20 reminds us that we are to take up the full armor of God, daily.  It is not just when we think we need to deal with difficult issues, giants.  Like David with his sling, we are to be intimately familiar with the armor because of consistent, daily use.  All of it is important, but the offensive weapon, the one with which we attack the enemy is the Word of God.  We cannot expect to deal well with the challenges we face in life if we are not intimately engaged in and with the Word daily.  Not just reading or hearing good messages.  Wrestling with the text.  Struggling with the difficult passages.  Learning to wield it effectively in conversation with both believers and non believers.

I have seen far too many well meaning believers launch into the fray, not knowing how to wield the Sword of the Spirit.  The results are not good.  Do not be one of them.  Engage.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

David and Goliath 2

Yesterday I shared some observations on 1 Samuel 17:28 - 30, we are going to concentrate on 31 - 37 today.  In this section David is presented to Saul as one who has accepted the challenge of confronting Goliath.
When people disdain us because of our youth or time in grade, how do we respond?
Saul responds to David pretty much as his oldest brother Eliab did he views David as unqualified due to his youth.  David responds by sharing his defense of his dad’s flocks against bears and lions. Note the language used.  David tells Saul that he killed the lion and the bear, but in 37 he states it was the Lord who delivered him.  David is offering to engage in fighting Goliath not on the basis of his strength, but on the basis of the fact that he has depended and seen the Lord faithful to sustain him in battle before.

This is a huge lesson for both us and our kids.  It is not age or time in the faith that makes one powerful for the Lord it is about trust and dependence on the Lord.  1 Timothy 4:12 and Hebrews 5:11 – 14 reinforce this.  It is not about how gifted we are, or how strong we are, or our experience, it is about how we trust Him that matters in tough situations.  That is important to pass on to our kids and this is a great place to do just that.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

David and Goliath

For the past several days 1 Samuel 17 has been part of my time with the Lord.  For the next few days I wanted to share some observations about that story that you may want to share with your kids.  Before I start you may want to take a few minutes to read through the chapter and write down your own observations so we can compare notes… I will be here when you get back?
What can we learn about following Christ from David's encounter with Goliath?
What did you see?  You can tell me in the comment section.  I really hope you will.  One of the disadvantages of this for me is that I do not get to hear what you saw unless you choose to comment.  Please do.

Ok, let’s launch into this.  You know the context, David has been anointed king to replace the failed Saul.  His brothers are off at “war” with the Philistines.  Jessie asks David to take some provisions to his brothers and bring back a report on how they are doing.  We will pick up with the observations there…

In 1 Samuel 17:28 – 30 David’s oldest brother, Eliab, misconstrues David’s actions and rebukes him.  David was on a mission from his father his brother tried to get him to quit.  If something like this has not happened to you, it will.  It will also happen to your kids.  You will be on task, being obedient to your Father, and others, even those who are close to you will misunderstand your purpose.  What got David through this, what will equip you and your children to endure misunderstanding, is to be clear on your purpose and to whom you report.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Aimless 2

Yesterday I shared the start of some time with the Lord and suggested you look at Psalm 127 and 1 Corinthians 15 before I shared the way the issues resolved for me.
How do we resolve the exhortation to be diligent in following the Lord and doing the work of the Kingdom with the truth of Psalm 127, that if the Lord does not build it, it is vain?
As I mentioned yesterday the word “vain” captured most of my attention.  “Vain” shows up three times in Psalm 127:1 – 2.  The word is also in 1 Corinthians 15:10.  On the surface there seems to be tension between the two passages.  In Psalm 127 the clear message is that if we do not depend on the Lord to build our “house” or guard our “city” it is vain.  However, in 1 Corinthians 15:10 vain is joined at the hip with Paul’s declaration that he worked harder than all of the other apostles.  What gives?

I spent some time looking at the words in the original languages that are translated “vain.”  In the Old Testament the word has the sense of aimlessness, useless activity.  In the New Testament similarly the meaning is empty or ineffective.  The email that included the reference to Proverbs 4:23, reminded me of the charge to be diligent, which charge Peter reminds of us multiple times; 2 Peter 1:5, 10, 15; 3:14.

How do we resolve all this?  It seems to me that we have to be diligent to trust in the Lord alone in all that we do.  Not in our gifts, not in our abilities, but in Him.  As Paul said in 15:10, it is the grace of God that allowed him to work harder.  Our capacity to serve is a product of our rest and trust in Him.  It is stunningly counter intuitive.

To just work harder, to launch into the fray, is like shooting without aiming.  Aimless, empty, useless pursuit.  This idea shows up multiple times – can you think of other places or stories that reinforce or repeat this idea?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Aimless

If you are like me you have a plan for your devotional time with the Lord.  If you are like me sometimes the Lord changes the plan.  This morning I was restless.  The words in the Bible were blurred by the fog of urgency that was rising from all of the “important” projects in which I am engaged at the moment.  This has happened before, no, often, so I recognize the symptoms.  Usually, stopping, praying, journaling, will clear the fog.  No so much this morning.  It was a battle, multiple starts and stops.
Attempting to gain God's favor by performance is about as effective as wandering in the desert without knowing where you are or where you are going and expecting to get there.
There was a list of all of these projects in my journal, I prayed and released them all to Christ – the struggle I continually face is in gaining my value from what I am doing rather than the fact that Christ has drawn me to and completed me in Himself.  Somehow I still hold onto the vain notion that I can gain favor and approval by my enormous contributions to His Kingdom – yeah.  It was about at this point He gently changed the direction of our time together.  He does that with me by bringing passages to mind in this case, Colossians 2:9 – 10; Psalm 127:1 – 2; 1 Corinthians 15:8 -10; Colossians 3:17, 23, and then as I was finishing up I got an email from a friend that referenced Proverbs 4:23.  If you read through all of those you may struggle with the tension between rest and completeness in Christ and laboring hard on His behalf.

It resolved for me as I took some time to look at the word “vain”. You probably noticed that it shows up in both the Psalm 127 and 1 Corinthians 15 passages.  Rather than share my thoughts now, take some time and think through how these relate.  I will share my thoughts tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Self Defeating

In 1985 I was privileged to attend Larry Crabb’s Institute in Biblical Counseling at Glen Eyrie.  It was a life altering experience, profoundly impacting not only my approach to ministry, but also life.  It impacted my relationships with my wife and all of the people with whom I was in contact then and now.  My continued exposure to Crabb and those who studied with him ultimately changing the trajectory of our life and ministry.
Strategies to make life work rather than trusting Christ is like trying to store water in broken jugs.
One morning of the Institute at the Glen, Larry shared a devotional from Jeremiah 2:12 – 13.  His point was that we all tend to abandon trusting God to create for ourselves systems to deal with life that are self protective to allow us to deal with the brokenness that is life in this world, broken cisterns.

In Psalm 9:15, 20 and Psalm 7:15 - 16, I encountered thoughts that brought this devotional vividly back to mind.  In 9, David is extolling the excellence of God over and against that of the world.  David’s thought here is that the nations fall into the pits and get caught in the nets of their own devices.  He extends Jeremiah’s thought.  Not only do the cisterns not hold water, they are a trap for those who have built them.  David said nearly the same thing in Psalm 7.  The context there is when one refuses to repent from trusting in self, again the schemes constructed to make life work become a trap.

For me this has been neither easy nor a onetime decision.  I have to continually be aware of when I am moving back into strategies to make life work, to control things, rather than trusting the one who has paid such a heavy price for my freedom from having to construct leaky cisterns.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Power of Small

Yesterday I shared with you that “Bob,” after years of being spoon fed the Word did not have the capacity to interact with the Word on his own.  But there is more to the story.
Placing a small card on a pillow in a VA hospital has impact in the life it touched and the people with whom the story is shared over 50 years later.
My friend and I met with Bob for several months.  One night we were engaged in a topical study on prayer.  During the conversation I shared a cross reference, James 5:16, as I started to read the verse, Bob nearly came out of his wheelchair with excitement.  He quoted the verse and then with great passion told us that when he was in the VA hospital in Louisville, one night after dinner he came back to his bed and someone had put a card on his pillow printed with James 5:16.  As he told the story he was lit up with joy.  He shared how much that meant to him and how that verse had sustained him over the years.

That event was over 50 years ago.  Yet it still moved Bob nearly to tears.  Think of it.  Some unknown person waking through a ward in a VA hospital puts a card on the pillow of a person they did not know.  They had no idea if the person would read the card or simply throw it away.  They still don’t.  Bob does not know who put the card there, only that the verse has sustained him for over 50 years.

That small act has borne fruit in Bob’s life, in my friend and my life as Bob shared it, and with others with whom I have shared the power of a simple act of reaching out in and through the Word of God.

Isaiah 55:11 and Hebrews 4:12 – 13 tell us that we should not be surprised at small acts of faith based on and in His Word.  However, it is still amazing to have that validated so powerfully.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Atrophy

A couple of years ago I had the privilege to be in a Bible study with an older war veteran, lets call him Bob.  He was a resident in a retirement complex in the city in which I live.  We had completed an investigative study in John and had moved on to a study that required some prep, which involved reading some verses and answering some questions on that verse.  During the discussion on the study we followed my typical process, which consists of asking questions to expand the observations and understanding of those in the study.
If we do not stop spoon feeding people, they will never grow, in fact they loose the ability to do so.
After two or three weeks of this Bob stopped me in mid question one evening and said, "You are the teacher.  You need to stop asking questions and just tell me what I am supposed to get out of this."  After I climbed back into my chair we talked about the role of the Holy Spirit and our responsibility to interact with the Word ourselves.

In the weeks that followed I could not get that event out of my mind, still can't.  Bob has been a believer, involved in churches both in worship and in Sunday schools for somewhere around 60 - 70 years.  He has set under multiple pastors, teachers, and is currently watching several "teachers" on television.  His experience with all of those teachers and preachers was to be told what he was supposed to think about the passages they were sharing.  In his experience I was the only one that had asked him to interact with the passage and to think and exercise his gifts and to have the Spirit show him what the Word said.  When I did that, he did not know how to respond.  He had been trained over 60 - 70 years that he was supposed to be told what to believe.

Since he had not been asked to use either the gifts or leading of the Holy Spirit in his pursuit of truth, his ability to do that had atrophied.  Made me mad.  Still makes me mad.  It is spiritual malpractice, bordering on abuse to not engage people in learning to dig into the Word for themselves.  If we raised our children continually feeding them and not teaching them to feed themselves, we may have to answer to DHS, at least we would stunt their development as adults.  Equipping our kids and others that God has brought into our orbit is the role that the Spirit lays out for pastors and teachers in Ephesians 4:11 - 16, among many other places.  We are also told in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 that the purpose of the gifts we are given is to build up the body.  We will not have to answer to DHS for this but to God.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bassackwards

Acts 11:26 tells us that those who were first called Christians were first disciples.  The Great Commission, Matthew 28:18 – 20, tells us that as believers we are supposed to go and make disciples.  So that connection between Matthew 28:18 – 20 and Acts 11:26 seems to make sense, the early church was doing what Christ commanded, making disciples.  I will not repeat the series on discipleship, but it seems that some time between Acts 11 and last week, we may have gotten a bit confused on what we are supposed to be doing.
If the disciples were called Christians, shouldn't we be interested in making disciples if we want more Christians?
The Church seems to be counting converts, teaching them to be consumers of “Christian” stuff, and then at some point in the process attempting to take them through a program that may turn some of them into disciples.  But according to Rainer in Breakout Churches, not many churches have defined what a disciple is and therefore are validating the old adage, “when you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

Matthew 28:18 – 20 does not say we are supposed to make converts – I checked the Greek.  It does say we are supposed to make disciples.  That raises a number of questions for which I do not have good answers.
  • Is it right to expect people who are not disciples to respond as disciples when you share what Christ said to His disciples with them?
  • Should we be more interested in making disciples in our churches rather than making converts?
  • Is it right to expect Christ to treat us as a disciple, when we aren’t?
  • Do the things that Christ said and promised to His disciples apply to those who are not His disciples?
It seems to me that we may have some things backwards.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Personal Again

A while back I wrote about Peter's answer to Christ's question at Caesarea Philippi.  I made the point that Peter's declaration was to name Jesus' office, He was THE Christ, and that the declaration was not personal, you are MY Christ.  I found this same pattern again.
With God all distances are intimate.
Read through 1 Samuel 15:20- 31, This is where Saul has disobeyed Samuel's clear direction from the Lord.  In the dialog that follows Saul's disobedience, note how he refers to the Lord.

Like Peter, Saul refers to the Lord as THE Lord and YOUR Lord, he never says that I have disobeyed MY Lord.  The telling thing to me is in verse 30, when Saul pleads with Samuel after he has been told that the kingdom has been torn from him.  At that point he still does not personalize his relationship with God.  His request is to be allowed to worship Samuel's God.

Our triune God is not some abstract, distant, esoteric concept.  He is intensely and personally engaged in our lives as we saw yesterday in Psalm 139.  When we disobey, He is personally offended, this is not like breaking some impersonal law, like speeding, it is a personal affront.  Saul's replacement, David, got that.  Contrast David's response to his sin in Psalm 51 with Saul's response here.

When we disobey God, it is personal.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Examined

Plato, quoted Socrates in the Apology, ascribing to his teacher these words, “…the unexamined life is not worth living…” [38a].  That quote has been used by John Eldredge, Gary Barkalow, me, and others to reinforce the need to reflect on what we are doing with our lives, to make sure that what we do, how we steward the life that God has given us is invested most fully in the service of the One who gave life.  Psalm 139, says the same thing, but amps up the notion exponentially.
If we examine our lives and find that we have been using our gifts and abilities incorrectly.  How doe we deal with that as believers?
For the past decade I have been associated with Dave Jewitt and his ministry Your One Degree.  The purpose of YOD is to examine your life to find out how God has uniquely designed you, so that you can steward that design most effectively for His glory.  Dave has taken me through this process kicking and screaming over several years, long, long story.  We have worked together in and through this and in the past few months he asked me to help him train One Degree coaches.  Working on that project was the context for reviewing Daloz’s book that I mentioned a few days ago.  In reading through chapter 3 on developmental models, several lights came on for me.  First, it became crystal clear why a ministry in which I was involved for nearly a decade pushed my wife and me away.  Second, as I thought through all of the roles I have filled since then, it dawned on me that none of those roles fit my design.  Essentially, I have lived my life as a square peg in a round hole.

On the surface, that could be somewhat discouraging.  But that is where Psalm 139 kicks in with all of its power and glory.  Verses 1 – 6 are especially comforting.  The Psalm tells me in no uncertain terms that God has been intimately engaged in not only my design but in all of the ways in which He has honed that design, including having the square peg in the round hole.  As I think through all of those experiences a pattern emerges of skills and experiences that I have processed through the way God has designed me and am not using in all that I do.

The bottom line here is that although I am a steward of the life He has given me, the stewardship is not primarily to maximize my impact.  Rather it is to maximize the glory of the One who created, honed, and employs that design.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mind or Spirit

One of the men with which I meet regularly shared some observations on Romans 12:1 – 2 with me yesterday.  In the context of the events and conversations I have had with people this week some of his observations were helpful and re-centering.  I live in a place that places much emphasis on the Holy Spirit.  The Word of faith movement has strong, deep roots here.  While I reject the majority of the underlying theology of that movement, the acknowledgement of the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer was and is a needed emphasis.  With that as a bit of context…
If we are to grow in our relationship with Christ do we focus on our mind or the Spirit?
If someone were to challenge you to grow more deeply in your spiritual life, what would you expect them to emphasize, the renewal of your mind or the renewal of your spirit?  Paul consistently lands on the mind.  Look at Romans 12:1 – 2.  Jarringly in the midst of his treatise on spiritual gifts he warns that it is important to engage one’s mind, 1 Corinthians 14:14 – 15 (I would encourage you to work through chapters 11 – 15 as a whole).  Further in the parallel passage on gifts in Romans 12, Paul challenges us to think with sound judgment, Romans 12:3.  Paul is joined in this by Peter, which is at some level shocking since before Acts 2, Peter was known for opening his mouth without engaging his mind.  I wrote about this in an earlier post, but it bears repeating.  Peter is committed to stirring up the minds of his readers (2 Peter 1:12 -15; 3:1 -2).

The Holy Spirit inspired these words.  We ignore them to our peril.  The clear message of the Holy Spirit is that as believers we are to engage our minds in the pursuit of Christ.  We cannot do that without the ministry of the Holy Spirit, John 16:13, but it is imperative that we think well and train our kids to do the same.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

HIjacked

At 1130 I drove over to one of the local Chick-fil-As to grab a sandwich in support of Dan Cathy’s right to free speech and free exercise of faith.  I never made it in the door.  The line of cars to get into the drive through congested traffic for a half mile in all directions of the restaurant.  The line to get into the front door wrapped around two sides of the building.  I stood in line for nearly an hour and did not get near the door.  The temperature was 108.  That is context.
If I disagree with you does that mean I hate you?  Does that mean I fear you?  Does that make homosexuals haters of straight people and hetrophobes?  Just wondering.
About 30 minutes before I had to leave the line to get to an appointment, a homosexual male, walked to the door and loudly proclaimed, “Everyone, I just wanted you to see who you hate.  I am just going to stand here and not say anything.”  Several people attempted to engage him in polite conversation, to explain that no one in line “hated” him, it was a waste of breath.

One of the challenges we face is the hijacking of language and symbols.  Gay and rainbow leap to mind.  The rainbow has been transformed by the culture to represent homosexual rights rather than the promise that God will never again destroy the world with a flood, Genesis 9:15.  Gay used to mean carefree and happy, festive, joyful it is now used to describe perversion.  Ken Hutcherson has refused to allow this to define his use of the word, recently declaring that he was the gayest man he knew.

The individual at Chick-fil-A did the same thing this noon.  He declared that everyone there hated him because they were in line to support Cathy.  In so doing he misused the language and intentionally attempted to put everyone there on the defensive, changing the ground of the conversation and diminishing any chance of rational dialog.  But then again he was not there to engage in rational dialog.

This is happening daily in politics, culture, and yes, in churches.  Too often we, and I include myself in this, are too quick to re-define terms in ways that support our prejudices and minimize the ability of others to challenge our positions.  This happened to me yesterday, as I shared.  It happens with “theological scholars” all of the time.  There is one controversial issue in the Church now that has liberal scholar doing interpretive and definition gymnastics to change the clear meaning of the simple words of the Bible.  That is why it is so important for us as believers to continually challenge ourselves to stay true to what the Bible says, not what we think it says, or what we want it to say.  We need to allow the Word of God to renew our minds and our language and not hijack it for our purposes.