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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Busy

In Mark 1, if you look at the NASB, the word, εὐθὺς, which is translated “immediately,” is repeated about 14 times of the 44 times the word appears in the gospel.  The chapter depicts a rather busy day.  I wrote about this back in February but it bears repeating.
In the midst of a busy, hectic life we need to pull aside and spend time with the one who should be guiding us.
We are a busy culture.  As I have said before John Eldredge calls busyness the spirit of the age – that is not a positive statement by the way.  We pack our days full, we over commit, we run from meeting to meeting like lemmings racing over the cultural cliff.  Mark 1 shows a compressed period of time in which Christ was extremely busy.  The alarm on His iPhone was constantly going off moving Him to the next event.  He was mobbed by people wanting His care and healing.  He healed a lot of them – the whole city showed up…

His response to that press, that success, that overwhelming popularity is counter intuitive.  Look at Mark 1:35, He did not stay engaged with them.  Where I would have slept in after at time like that, He rose very early and went out to pray, to spend time with the one who was directing His activities.

In the midst of the onslaught of the daily grind, we would do well to follow His example.  To pull away, early, when it is quiet, and seek Him.  There may be something to which He wishes us to say no.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

More Loopholes

Yesterday I shared that I struggle with Philippians 2 and have been engaging in looking for ways out, loopholes.  The current argument is that since Paul was a special case, an apostle personally appointed by the post-resurrection Christ, I cannot possibly be expected to behave like he would…
Paul closes all of the loopholes - we are expected to do what Christ did...
And then Paul shares that he is sending Timothy to the Philippians.  That is OK but the reason blows another loophole out of the water.  Paul says in 2:20 – 21 that Timothy lives and models 2:3 – 4.  Shoot.  Timothy was not all that special – but he was around Paul a lot – hmm, maybe because he spent so much time around the apostle that is why he can do this, and I certainly have not been around an apostle, so perhaps I can slide by that way…

Then Paul cuts off all of my arguments, he closes all of the loopholes.  In 2:8 Paul describes Christ as being obedient to the point of death.  That is the big one in the chapter.  But it is Epaphroditus who is the one who served to the point of death, 2:25 - 27 not Paul, not Timothy, not the “special” people, a virtual nobody with a hard name to spell.

There is no escape.  Paul expects me to be able to follow Christ’s example.  It is not the domain of the special Christians.  It is mine.  No loopholes…

Friday, September 28, 2012

Loopholes

I am not a big fan of Philippians 2.  Especially not fond of 2:14.  I mean "some things" OK, but "all things," really?  I keep looking in that chapter for loopholes.  Can’t find any.  One approach I took was to suggest that Paul was using hyperbole; you know making an exaggeration to make a point like a lot of preachers do...  that did not work either.
When you find a passage of Scripture that you do not like, what do you do?  Look for loopholes?  Try to make it not apply because it is cultural?
Another argument I tried was that he was talking about Christ and the assignment to think like Christ was just too much.  After all Isaiah 55:8 - 9 tells me that His thoughts are above mine so how can I possibly have the same mindset that He had.  If I had stopped there I would have been OK, escaped the command, proved the hyperbole, but silly me I kept reading.

I noticed that in 1:24 - 25 that Paul put the Philippians' interests ahead of his in that though he wanted to go on to be with Christ, since it was better for his readers for him to stay, he knew he was going to do that.  Then after describing Christ emptying Himself in 2:7, he describes himself as being poured out as an offering in 2:17.  Sounds a lot like emptying himself.  So my argument became, “Well, Paul is special, I cannot be expected to do what he did after all he is an apostle who was appointed directly by Christ post-resurrection.”  That didn't work either…

More on that tomorrow...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Naked Bible Study

One of the purposes of this blog is to promote personal, independent Bible Study.  Personal means that one is engaged with the text themselves.  Independent means that one is not using aids like commentaries, the notes in study Bibles, or study guides rather the individual is engaging with the scripture with a blank sheet of paper and the Holy Spirit.  One of the men with whom I meet refers to this as “Naked Bible Study,” I am going to have t-shirts made.
Naked study means that you are doing it yourself without the help of aids...
While passionate about “Naked” study, it cannot be done in isolation – all of a sudden I am getting images of nudist camps this illustration may need some work…I digress…  Once one has finished one’s study there needs to be a forum to share what one learned for at least a couple of reasons.  First, sharing verbally what you have learned from your study you to process the information at a different level.  Second, and this is really ancillary to the first, those in that forum will either challenge your positions or else ask questions that will help you clarify your thinking.  Their value to you, and here the assumption is that they are working on the same study, is that because of their differing gifts and experiences they will approach the Word differently than you.  The interaction will be of great benefit for all of you.

Then, by the way, it is time to check the secondary sources.  They then become part of the community and you are in dialog with them rather than sitting at their feet as a pupil…

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Technical Difficulties

This morning a group of us launched into 2 Corinthians 1.  The group is a rich mix of opinion and interaction.  I facilitate the group and had prepared a powerpoint set of slides with the text of the chapter for us to work through together.
You do not need a flashy presentation to be effective.  You just need the Word.
I do most, probably 98% of my study on my laptop.  It is past due for replacement and I have kept it going for the past year with an external drive to take the pressure off of the internal drive.  I beat it hard every day because I will typically have 5 – 10 programs running simultaneously, the word processor, the program used to chart sections of scripture, a couple of Bible programs, background music – Mozart, and the browser with at least five tabs open.  Point is I work it hard.

So this morning it would not start at the church.  I got a screen that I had never seen before telling me the computer would not start and it was trying to repair itself…  So this is going on as I am gathering prayer requests.  While writing down the requests in the back of my mind I am coming up with alternatives to work through the text together…

The time this morning was not as effective as I hoped it would have been.  The reason, partially, I was distracted by the challenges with the computer.  I use technology in all of my presentations, DVDs, MP3s, projectors.  I have to get back to the place that if things do not work, and they don’t all of the time, I have to be able to communicate without those aids.  As a culture we have become dependent to an extreme on being entertained as we learn.  I have fallen into that trap because it is effective.  But in doing so I have to remember that God’s Word is what is living and active, not the presentation.  I have to trust in His desire to engage in people’s lives not my presentation.

All this to say you do not need a flowery all put together schtik to engage your kids, just read ‘em the Bible.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Leadership


Working through Philippians 2 this morning – I do not like this chapter much, I think I have said that before – it is too easy to understand – you know the whole put others above yourself stuff, I digress.
Leadership seems to be doing what needs to be done whether one likes to do that or not.
The exhortations in chapter two really start in chapter 1.  Paul models what he demands in putting the needs of the Philippian believers ahead of his desire to be with Christ.  Then he models emptying himself for them and uses the example of Timothy and Ephaphroditus to fill out all of the things he said Christ did in 5 – 10.

So we are to put other’s needs above ours, and do that without grumbling or complaining.  And while we are at it do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit.  Rather large order for some of us.

Then I begin to think through some of the other books Paul wrote.  In Galatians 1, Paul skips all the incites and launches into rather harsh rebuke of their desertion of the gospel.  In 2 Corinthians Paul is defending his ministry to a church to which he sustained significant ministry.  In 1 Corinthians he catalogs and challenges multiple issues that are being handled improperly in the body.  Do all of those mesh?  Are they in conflict?

I do not think so.  Consistently, Paul is engaging at the level and force of the need of the individuals.  There is not a generic commitment to be a doormat in Paul, as I have seen some apply Philippians 2.  Sometimes the need is for confrontation when we do not want to confront, when it would be easier to let things go.  But in that case it is putting our desires to avoid conflict above the needs of the people whom we are called to serve.

This is not an easy assignment.  Galatians 6:1 – 5 is an echo of Philippians 2 (Well I guess really Philippians 2 is an echo of Galatians 6:1 - 5 since Galatians was written first...) and gives some good advice.  We need to walk closely with Christ, listen to what He wants us to do in each situation, and then do it.

That seems to be the essence of leadership.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Prosperity?

A few days back I was reading in Psalm 77.  I was struck by 7 – 10, primarily because there are so many times that passage describes the way I feel.

As I thought through this passage it occurs to me that perhaps all that go through difficult times entertain these questions.  I wonder if it is not true that most of us think that if we are following Christ pretty much all of life should work out fairly well.  So if something is not going well, if there is a season of suffering or difficulty we wonder if we are really walking with God.  Further, there are those in the evangelical community that will help you ask that question if it has not occurred to you as yet.
If we are struggling, is that a reflection on our faith?
I mentioned earlier that I am working through Mark and 2 Corinthians.  One of the things that I have observed thus far is that affliction and suffering are promised to those who choose to follow Christ.  (I did a quick search at Bible Gateway for you to validate the point click on the words in the previous sentence to see the results in the ESV, you could also look at tribulation.)

It is the case that if we are attempting to follow Christ in the midst of enemy territory, which at this moment is the condition of this world.  It stands to reason that the one who prowls about like a roaring lion seeking to devour and all of his legions might just find our existence offensive and put up some resistance.

That does not mean that all of the hardships we are facing are from the enemy, but it does beg the question.  Perhaps it is something that we should ask the Lord about.  It is His answer that matters not the opinion of the accusers be they well meaning members of the community or the enemy.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Demonic Relationships

Yesterday I posed the question, “What are the implications of the fact that the demons knew who Christ is and the religious leaders did not?”  Been thinking about that for most of the past day and a half and heard a sermon that touched on that this morning.  Not sure what you came up with but my conclusions have changed somewhat.
The demons knew Christ.  Was that a relationship?  Does not one have to have a relationship with Christ to be saved?
My first response was and still is that the religious leaders, the scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees, were just that, religious leaders.  They were committed to reaching God through rules, regulations, tips, and techniques.  They were not only committed to reaching God through that system but were committed to propagate, protect, and enforce that system as well.  Religion’s fail, always, and completely.  Religion is an attempt by man to reach God.  These men were face to face with God and missed it.  Why?  Because He was there seeking relationship and they were there seeking to follow a system.

My second response has generated a few more questions.  The demons, unclean spirits in the text, had a relationship with Christ.  They knew Him, from a distance, in the case of the Gerasene, Christ asked who the spirits were, He did not know specifically who they were, they knew specifically who He was.  So they were closer than the leaders to Christ in the sense that they had a “right” understanding of who He was.  But that knowledge did not save them.

It seems it is not enough to know Christ is God, or to acknowledge His lordship, the demons do that, James 2:19, and shudder.  Relationship seems to indicate more than knowledge about.  It seems to hint at following, loving, pursuing, thirsting for time with, being able to discern His voice.  A close friend yet more, not a religion.

I detest the question, “Religion?”  That is why on my facebook status the answer is, “In a relationship.”

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Demons

Repetition in the Scripture, either of specific words, themes, or similar events is one of the things we look for as we observe the text.  If it is the case that the Holy Spirit is behind the authors of the original manuscripts, as asserted by both Paul (2 Timothy 3:14 – 17) and Peter (2 Peter 1:20 - 21), then the repletion has purpose and we need to see if we can determine that purpose.
The demons knew and obeyed Christ and the religious leaders did not?  What is that about?
I have been reading in Mark and noticed a couple of similar scenes.  Look at Mark 1:21 – 28 and Mark 5:1 – 20.  In both cases Jesus confronts unclean spirits, demons, who acknowledge His identity, His authority over them even to destroy them, and thus obey His commands to them.  In both of these scenes there is dialog between the demons and Christ.  They beg Him not to torment them.

The religious leaders at that time, the scribes, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees, did not acknowledge His identity, His authority over them even to destroy them, nor did they obey Him.  Unlike the demons, the religious leaders resisted Christ and plotted to kill Him.

In this case the demons were right and the religious leaders were wrong.  What, I wonder, are the implications of this contrast?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hear or Do?

Reading this morning in Psalm 85:8 I was struck by the third phrase, “But let them not turn back to folly.”  This is significant because the admonition comes on the heels of God’s people hearing from God.  The implication seems to be that hearing from God directly prevents neither foolishness nor sin.
Does hearing God insure we will walk closer to Him?  Does it prevent foolishness and sin?
There has been a lot of ink applied to paper on this subject in the past few years.  Books, articles, blog posts, about hearing God, listening prayer, visions, but this passage seems to indicate that those experiences do not guarantee following God.

Reflecting on this Peter leapt to mind.  In 2 Peter 1:19 – 21, he recounts his experience at Christ’s transfiguration (Mark 9:2 – 8; Matthew 17:1 – 8; Luke 9:28 - 36).  There Peter not only saw a vision, he also heard the voice of God commanding Peter to listen to Christ.  That did not prevent Peter from boasting of his loyalty at the last supper, attacking the soldiers at Gethsemane, and then subsequently denying he even knew Christ three times.  This was one who not only saw the vision and heard the voice but walked daily with the physically present Lord for around three years.  Clearly, he was a slow learner… so am I.

The extraordinary experiences we crave to validate our faith are a bit like fireworks.  They are overwhelmingly beautiful but quickly fade in the darkness of our trudge through the domain of the ruler of this world.  It seems that the real fuel for this journey may not be the extraordinary but rather the continual practice of daily acknowledging Christ’s Lordship, meeting Him in prayerful consideration of His Word, and, as is says in Philippians 2:12, working out our salvation by being doers of His Word (James 1:22ff).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Basis

You probably have Philippians 1:6 memorized, I do.  It is an encouraging verse.  It has a context.  It is smack dab in the middle of Paul’s sharing with the Philippian church that, why, and what he is praying for them.  This is part of the why and it is a challenge to my anemic prayer life.
Paul's basis for praying for his co-laborers was his conviction that Christ would complete the work He started in them.  How should that affect our prayer for others?
The structural marker “for,” indicates that Paul is giving a reason or basis for why he is thankful, joyful, and praying for the Philippian believers.  The reason jars me.  He says he is praying because he knows that Christ will perfect the one’s for whom he is praying.  That is generally the content of my prayer not the basis, but for Paul it is the assumed foundation.

Paul knows that once begun with Christ, Christ will finish with you, and finish perfectly.  He is praying standing on the believer’s completed position in Christ, Colossians 2:9 – 10.  That significantly alters one’s prayer life, at least it does mine.  Rather than pray for perseverance through suffering, the prayer becomes that one will stand strong in their completed state worthy of the Gospel in order to bring others and glory and honor to Christ.

Sure we still pray for healing, but more than that we pray that the one who is struggling to stand firm in praise and joy in Christ.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Abundance

2 Corinthians 1:5 can be at the same time discouraging and incredibly encouraging.  One of the things I stress in the workshops is the importance of observation.  One of the aids I share is the importance of observing the structure of the text.  Observing structural markers is a way to note that structure.
How can Paul tell us that we can comfort those in any affliction?
In most of the versions verse 5 starts with the word “for.”  This structural marker signals that Paul substantiating or giving the reason he could state what he did in 3 – 4 (I wrote about these verses a few days ago).  How could he say that we are comforted and can comfort any affliction?  He answers that here.

In Romans 6:1 – 7, Paul shares that when we are joined with Christ we are joined into both His death and resurrection.  Paul is echoing that here.  We are joined in the abundance of Christ’s suffering.  That is the not so good news.  The good news is that we are also afforded in Him the abundance of His comfort.  It is from that abundance that we are able to comfort others.

In this culture we tend to be encouraged to be independent, loners, mavericks.  This passage, Philippians 2, and others speak against that aspect of our culture.  We are to aggressively engage with people that are afflicted to comfort them even ahead of our needs.  That seems to be the direction of the message and the example of Paul’s life…

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Equipped

Psalm 78:9 is one of those verses that bother me.  A core passion for me is to equip men to handle the sword of the Spirit.  The challenge is that giving someone the tools to engage independently in the scripture does not insure that they will.
What makes a equipped soldier engage in battle?  What makes a man equipped to engage in the Christian life do so?
The sons of Ephraim are described here as those who were equipped for battle but would not engage.  The number is in dispute, but it is known that in war a significant number of combatants do not fire their weapons.  Why?  Why do those people who have been trained to fight, or shown how to engage with the Lord through study, refuse to do so.

In 2 Samuel 24:8 – 39 one finds a list of David’s mighty men.  These did not shrink back in battle.  What makes the difference?  My first thought was that they were engaged in battle therefore they had to fight.  But the research does not seem to bear that out.  I wonder if the difference is David?  These mighty men had a mighty leader.  Perhaps that is the difference.

Monday, September 17, 2012

News

There is a lot happening now. The world is in a bit of turmoil. The United States is under attack throughout the middle east, the Mediterranean, and in parts of Europe. If you have young kids they will be mostly unaware, but if your kids are in school, they will be increasingly aware of what is going on and, depending on their personality, will possibly respond in fear, I know I did.
With the world in seeming turmoil, how do we equip our kids to deal with what is happening?
In the late 50's and early 60's the cold war was extremely hot. The Cuban missile crisis was all over the news, Sputnik was pinging away reminding us of our inferiority to the USSR. There was talk of the need to build bomb and fallout shelters in our back yards and we had drills at school so we would know what to do in case of a nuclear attack, it would not have helped much.

I remember a conversation with my parents in the kitchen about the need to have a fallout shelter so we could live. Dad and mom said we did not need one. I was convinced we did and was sure that I was going to die in a nuclear explosion.

At that time we were going to church, but that church had no Biblical foundation. Our family, while engaged in that community, did not have the benefit of strong Christian leadership. The result was that I was not processing what was happening in the world through anything like what one would consider a Biblical world view. I had no conception of a God that was involved in what I was hearing daily, no notion of a way to trust in His ability or desire to engage in the mess that was the World then. My dad was less than ten years removed from coming back from the war to end all wars, he was focused on trying to insulate our family from the financial challenges he had experienced growing up through the depression. He was doing what he knew to be right, engaging in a church, the problem was the church.

My suspicion is that some of your kids are worried and scared like I was then. They need to know that even though it looks messy, God is still engaged. Psalm 75:3 says that though the world is tottering (that is the alternate translation of melt), God is the one who set and is tending the foundation. Our kids, we, need to know and process all that is going on right now through the lens of the reality that it is God's story. He is in control and we can trust and rest in Him during all of this turmoil.  Do not delegate that message to your kids to someone else.  They need to hear it from you and see it working in your life.

Encourage yourself and your kids in the Lord.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Comfort

Reading in 2 Corinthians 1 this week I was struck by verses 3 – 4.  You probably have those memorized, I noticed something that I had seen before but the implications came home more forcefully this time through.  Specifically the way affliction is modified in verse 4.
Can we comfort people who are going through pain we have not experienced?
The first time affliction is modified by “all our,” the second time, “any.”  The first instance is specific the second is general.  I have usually taken this verse to say that God uses the things through which I struggle to prepare me to comfort or encourage those who are experiencing the same difficulties.  While that is certainly true, that is not what verse 4 says.

It says that my struggles, my affliction – the word can also be translated “suffering” – prepare me to comfort those regardless of what struggles they are experiencing.  Sometimes I hesitate to engage with people going through stuff I have not navigated myself.  My thought is that I cannot understand and therefore cannot effectively support them.  Paul – actually the Holy Spirit here – says that is not true.  We are able and in fact required to enter into the affliction of those in our community to comfort them in “any” affliction whether we have experienced it or not.

Galatians 6:1 – 2, may be a correlating help here.  While the focus of 6:1 is on those who are in trespass, the exhortation remains sound.  When we engage in comfort we need to be drawing on our own experience of pain and the leading of the Holy Spirit so that we can bear one another’s burdens, 6:2.

It is not an easy assignment, but it is ours nonetheless.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mimic

Right now I am involved in studies of Philippians, Mark, and 2 Corinthians, as well as an ongoing topical study on the Kingdom of God.  So it may be that a lot of the next few months’ blog posts will come from those efforts.  That being said…
Our kids will mimic that which they see.  If they see godliness, they will mimic that.  Ungodliness will also be mimicked.
Reading through Philippians recently 4:9 virtually leaped off of the page.  As you are aware, the focus of this blog and Entrusting Truth is to equip fathers to lead their families in the Word of God.  We do that through workshops, small groups, and one on one meetings.  In all of those formats one truth is emphasized over and over, one cannot lead something in which one is not engaged.  One can comment or criticize ignorantly (and many do), but one cannot lead.

Philippians 4:9 is a jarring reminder of this.  The first half of the verse is universally true, those who are around us, especially our kids, will learn, receive, hear, and see what we do and will mimic.  The second half of the verse is partially dependent on what we model.  If we model following hard after God, our kids and the people around us have that model to follow.  However, if I model following hard after the world that becomes the model they will follow.  I said partially dependent, because God is the one who uses our modeling in the lives of others.  Often He has, in His grace, redeemed and shaped those who had no good model to follow hard after Him.  This probably does not need to be said, but that God can clean up our messes is no reason to create them (Romans 6:1ff).

Friday, September 14, 2012

Yesterday

There was a bit of hesitation yesterday before I posted “Incest.”  The reason, is probably obvious, it is a delicate topic.  There was no appropriate image thus the “No.”
The world is continually pressuring us to accept its standards.  We have to be continually in the Word to both resist that pressure and train our kids to do the same.
It is important that we process life with and for our kids through a Biblical world view.  Not the Biblical world view that has the blessing of the evangelical majority, rather what the Bible says.  The evangelical community is under continual pressure to conform to the current secular world view as are we; Romans 12:2 is a constant reminder of that reality.  Unfortunately, in some cases the evangelical community or our individual churches have not resisted well.

That is why we must continually return to the Word ourselves.  We cannot allow others to tell us what the Bible says without critically checking them against the Word of God.  My opinion, your opinion, your pastor’s opinion, your small group leader’s opinion is irrelevant.  What matters is God’s opinion.  Fortunately He has given it.

This requires that we are in the word for ourselves and have developed the skills necessary to study on our own.  The scripture calls this “Noble minded,” Acts 17:11.

Push the world back from your thoughts and train your kids to do the same.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Incest

Yesterday I read a review and opinion piece on Fox of a new movie, “Yellow.”  A central premise of the movie is a love affair between an adult woman and her brother.  The reviewer was not positive in either his review or his opinion of the movie.  Neither do I agree that incest is normal or acceptable, however…
If we abandon and or deny the reality of God there is no rational reason for boundaries...
I do not know much about the director, Nick Cassavetes, but if I were going to make a cultural point that we were off the rails in the area of appropriate boundaries, I might make the statement and the movie that he did.  His response to a query about the incest in the movie was:
“I have no experience with incest…We had heard a few stories where brothers and sisters were completely, absolutely in love with one another.  You know what?  This whole movie is about judgment, and lack of it, and doing what you want.  Who gives a [redacted] if people judge you?  I’m not saying this is an absolute but in a way, if you’re not having kids — who gives a [redacted]?  Love who you want.  Isn’t that what we say?  Gay marriage — love who you want?  If it’s your brother or sister it’s super-weird, but if you look at it, you’re not hurting anybody except every single person who freaks out because you’re in love with one another.”
The sad thing is that he makes sense.  If we accept as normal homosexuality and homosexual marriage, there is no reason to deny relationships between siblings or for that matter their pets.  Romans 1:24 – 31 supports this.  It is a natural progression, a slippery slope, once you abandon God and His standards, there is no rational reason not to descend to the depths Paul describes.

Cassavetes movie and attitude should be regarded as a wakeup call.  We must prep our children for the onslaught of depravity that will come from our culture’s ride down this slippery slope.  Further, we have to be about rescuing those whom we can from the fall.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Thwarted

Have you ever been in a situation where you gave good counsel – make that excellent counsel, and were ignored?  I have.  The feeling, at least for me is that of confusion, despair, questioning of my abilities and worth.
If I give really good advice and it is not followed, God may intentionally be going in a different direction...
Ahithophel, Absalom’s chief counselor, faced that very challenge.  He was right.  His counsel was described in 2 Samuel 16:23, “as if one inquired of the word of God.”  He nailed everything.  But when it came to a critical junction in the conflict between Absalom and David, Ahithophel’s counsel was thwarted.  Hushai’s counsel, which was not right in that it was crafted to lead Absalom in a direction to give David an advantage, was accepted over that of Ahithophel.

Now look at 2 Samuel 17:14.  The key thing here and the reality in which we live is that this is not our story.  The second half of the verse is the kicker, “For the Lord had ordained to thwart the good counsel of Ahithophel, in order that the Lord might bring calamity on Absalom.”  Note that the Holy Spirit called Ahithophel’s counsel good.  He was right.  His advice was not followed, because God did not want it followed.  The reason, God had other plans.

When you give good counsel, or share your good opinion, those receiving that good advice may not follow it.  That may be because God has plans to bring calamity on those you are serving.  We need to make sure that our counsel is “good.”  But we have to release the result of the counsel.  If we do not we may follow in the footsteps of Ahithophel, 2 Samuel 17:23, which is not a recommended response to thwarted counsel.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hope

Eleven years ago my parents were about to leave for their home after a visit.  We were stopped from their exit by the news on Fox that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  Then as we watched the coverage in shock we were stunned as we saw the second plane hit the second tower.  Our world, as well as yours changed.
In the midst of a life that does not make a lot of sense, where do we find hope?
There has been a lot of talk about hope in the past few years.  In Psalm 39 David is thinking about the transient nature of his life.  If you are familiar with his story you know that his life was filled with terror and turmoil.  In verse 7 he declares that in the midst of all that his life was, his hope was in the Lord.

When I think about my life I cannot make the same claim.  My hope is to have a increasingly better relationship with my wife.  My hope is for my children and their children to prosper and love one another.  My hope is for the next election to end with the result I want.  My hope is for our ministry to increase in influence and effectiveness.  My hope is for financial relief.  My hope is for all of the strife in the world to end, selfishly, so I can travel more easily.

But David said, and mine should be, that his hope was in the Lord.  For the last couple of days we looked at wait in Psalm 25:1 – 3.  You will note that in Psalm 39:7 David parallels wait with hope.  Waiting on God results in hope.  All of the other avenues I pursue for hope are treacherous dead ends.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Treacherous

Yesterday we looked together at Psalm 25:1 - 3 and the need to wait on the Lord.  I observed that there was a significant contrast in verse three:

Wait vs. deal treacherously.
Not waiting on God, running ahead of Him is treacherous on at least two levels.  It puts you in danger, and it betrays God's trust and gift.
David contrasts waiting not with not waiting rather with dealing treacherously.  That seems a bit harsh.  I looked up treacherous in a dictionary that was handy it is defined as:
  1. Not loyal, or faithful, betraying or likely to betray.
  2. Seeming safe, reliable, etc. but not really so.
I do not much like this.  I am ok with David labeling me as impatient, treacherous, not so much.

But when I consider this further, it begins to make sense.  The Creator of the Universe has sacrificed His son in order to allow me to have a relationship with Him (John 3:16).  He has invited me into the same relationship He enjoys with His Son (John 17:20 - 24).  Through His Spirit, He has promised to lead me as I navigate life (Psalm 32:8; Isaiah 30:21).  Further, His Spirit leads me into clear understanding of truth (John 16:13).  In light of that, not to wait for Him, not to follow His lead, begins to look a lot like betrayal, faithlessness, unreliable - ok, treachery.

Looks like I need to learn to wait.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Wait

If you have read much of this blog you will remember that I have pointed out that repetition of words and phrases are significant observational cues for understanding what the author is communicating.  In Psalm 25:1 – 3 there are significant words repeated and a significant contrast.
We are told to wait on the Lord. Ok. What does that mean?  What does that look like in daily practice?
The words and phrases repeated:
  • Do not let
  • Be ashamed and will be ashamed
The contrast:
  • Wait vs deal treacherously
David is asking not to be shamed.  In course of that request he makes the emphatic statement (the structural marker “indeed,” emphasizes his statement) that those who wait for God will not be ashamed.

Give some thought to that.  In what ways can we wait on God?
  • In my relationships
  • In my work
  • In all of the choices I make daily
If I were to wait on Him for all of these, my sense and David’s emphatic declaration is that I will not be ashamed in any of those arenas.

I do not do that very well.  Like many type A personalities I have a bias for action.  Do not stand there – do something.  That has gotten me in trouble – shame.  If I were to wait, on God’s direction in all that I do, the word here is that shame would be avoided.

My initial reaction is that this sounds fine in theory but there is no way that it would work in practice.  But then I realize that I have not really tried.  Perhaps by waiting I will sense God’s direction more quickly and more clearly.

The significant contrast tomorrow.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Warfare

If you have read much of John Eldredge’s work you have been reawakened, possibly, to the reality of spiritual warfare.  By that I mean the activity of Satan and his cadre of demons.  Most of my Christian life I was in a fog about this.  Sure, I knew and memorized 1 Peter 5:8 and James 4:7 – 8, but somehow the notion that I really had to engage in this was at best misunderstood and a worse relegated to “fringe” groups of really off the wall believers.  That is an untenable position.  If there is a Christ, there is a Satan.  If I believe the Bible, and I do, it shows both Christ and Satan active up to Revelation 19 - 20 where Satan is finally defeated and banished.
1 Peter 5:8 tells us we have an active enemy and how to resist him, most of us do not do a very good job of that.  Why?
So that means that I have to take 1 Peter 5:8 and James 4:7 – 8 seriously.  Reading in Psalm 118:10 the other day I was impressed by the psalmist’s approach to war.  Look at the last phrase of that verse, “In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off.”  The psalmist engages his enemy but does so in the name of the Lord.  He recognizes he has no strength in himself, only in the Lord.  This concept shows up again in Jude 9 and Zechariah 3:2.  In both cases those who had great authority and power did not confront Satan directly but appealed to the Lord to rebuke the master deceiver.

It seems a good model for us.  James4:7 outlines the approach to resisting the devil.  First submit to God.  Second resist.  The model in Zechariah 3:2 and Jude 9 seems to follow James’ exhortation.  So probably should we.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Repent

A few weeks ago I wrote about Psalm 7:12 – 16, the point was that living a life in rebellion to God is like falling in a pit you have dug.  What starts this is the entrenched commitment to stand one’s ground against God’s rebuke, the refusal to repent, verse 12.
Nathan tells David that when he sinned he despised God and God's Word.  The word has the force of our reaction to sour milk, we want to spew it out...  Not a good picture of our reaction to God.
2 Samuel 12:1 – 13 – you know the story – is Nathan’s confrontation of and David’s repentance from his actions surrounding Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah.  Focus on verses 9 – 10 for a moment.  Notice how Nathan characterizes David’s action.  He uses the word despise, Hebrew bzh, twice.  Nathan links David’s despising to both the Word of God and to the Person of God.  The implication is that one cannot despise one without despising the other.  God’s Word and God’s person are inseparable.  There is much more that could be said about this, as a matter of fact it would be a great exercise to spend some time thinking through and writing about the implications of that in your journal.

The word despise, Hebrew bzh, is an onomatopoeia, that means is sounds like what it does.  When you say that group of letters is sounds like you are spitting something out of your mouth, bzzzah.  You despise it, you want it away from you as quick as you can.  Think of the last time you tasted something disgusting, like really sour milk, what was your visceral reaction, you probably spit it out.  That is the force of this word.  Nathan said David’s sin was bzh, despising the Word of God and God as disgusting.  David got it immediately, his repentance was immediate.  We get Psalm 51 from the experience.  We also get a clear picture of what our sin really is and a model of our only appropriate response when we are confronted with it.

Not easy, but appropriate.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Oops

I started writing this twice already and both times realized that I had already shared the thoughts on the passages.  So I set this aside and fixed breakfast.  While doing that task I was thinking about the near repeat of content.
We need to work on our relationship with Christ so that we do not stay in the same place - not growing.
All of us tend to live in constrained spaces.  In their 1996 book The Bell Curve, Herrnstein and Murray observed that most of us gravitate to people with whom we agree and tend to live in semi isolation only exposed to that with which we are familiar.  While comfortable, that creates a limited view of life and reality.

It occurs to me that includes our relationship with Christ.  We have our favorite passages and our developed view of Him and His Word.  We tend to wish to stay comfortable in our relationship with Christ, staying with what we know and listening to teachers, pastors, and scholars that reinforce what we believe to be true.  At some level that is appropriate.

However, the Scripture tells us that God is infinite.  Since I am not, I need other people’s perspective on who He is.  My understanding of the Scripture needs to be challenged so that I do not take for granted Him who is majestic beyond my comprehension.  We need each other to follow hard after God and to share what we are learning with each other, pushing one another to know more of Him.

Not getting comfortable and repeating the same aspect of our relationship with Him over and over and over and…

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Remember

If you have read much of this blog you know that I have mentioned journaling more than a few times.  I just checked, 31 times in the last year.  Here we go again.  Why, is this important?  Psalm 143:5 – 6, gives us a good reason.  Look at the verbs that deal with what my response to God is to be:

  • Remember
  • Meditate
  • Muse
Journaling helps us to slow down and remember what God has done for us.
The problem is, I forget.  If I do not write it down it is gone, even the big stuff.  Why is that?  We are daily inundated with a tsunami of information, mental and sensual stimulation.  We are told what we should think, what we should eat or shouldn’t eat, how we should look, and how people should respond to us.  The noise is deafening.  It takes effort to remember.  It takes time to meditate.  One does not muse in minutes.

Journaling does at least two things that help here.  First, it helps us capture what God is doing in our lives.  Second, it gives us a place to go to remember, meditate, and muse on that history.  It is not easy.  It goes against the grain the frenetic pace of our culture.  It requires quiet, which is hard to come by.  It is worth the effort.  It assists us to do that which is demanded if we are to know God more fully.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Known

A few days ago I was reading in Psalm 142.  Verses 1 – 2 stunned me.  Look at what David is doing:
  • Cry aloud
  • Make supplication
  • Pour out my complaint
  • Declare my trouble
God already knows our attitude, our anger, our situation.  In fact He is there with us.  He just wants us to acknowledge His presence and follow Him in rest through it all.
David’s model here for us is to pour all out before God.  David complains about his situation, he shares his trouble, he cries out.  Look at what David says about his relationship with God in verse 3, David’s spirit was overwhelmed, God knew David’s path.  This is consistent with Psalm 139:1 – 6.  When we come to the Lord with our trouble, our complaint, anger with Him, our overwhelming burdens, He already knows.  He is with us on that path.  Psalm 23:4 affirms it.

He shares – no He directs our path, that is why we can navigate the horrors of this life – He is with us and He wants us to call on His strength to rest in Him.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Strengthened 5

For the past few days I have shared some thoughts on Psalm 139:1 – 3.  This will be the last observation this time around.  I mentioned in the first post that that it was verse 3 that grabbed my attention.  We will look at that verse today.
If we are to be strengthened like David, we have to plug into God as David did.
David says that God responded on the day he called.  When I read a verse like that I tend to focus on the fact that God responded quickly.  The thing I tend to overlook is the generalization of what David did.  Verses 1 and 2 describe the particulars of David’s “call.”  We have already examined those in detail, He:

  • Gave thanks
  • Sang praises
  • Bowed down
  • Gave thanks again

That was David’s “call” that God answered on the day of the “call.”  It wasn't a couple of second, “Help me out of this, please,” type of prayer of which most of mine seem to consist.  David really engaged.  His focus was on the majesty of God and thankfulness for what God had already done.  Further this was no shallow engagement; rather it was focused passion on David’s part.

I crave the result, to be made “bold with strength in my soul.”  For that to happen it would seem that I have to approach my Lord with David’s passion.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Strengthened 4

From yesterday we saw that David did not separate Love and Truth from each other in Psalm 139:1 – 3.  In the second half of verse 2 he tells us why.  Note that the second half of the verse starts with the word “for.”  He is giving you the reason he has not separated Love and Truth.  He has magnified His Word according to all His name.  (If you are reading the Message or NET Bible you will not get that.  Look at the NIV, NAS, or ESV.)  David is connecting the Word to God’s name.
The Word of God is magnified by all of the Name of God.  That is all of His nature and character.
Notice how name is modified, all His name.  Not just part, all.  The name communicates who the person is.  Not part of who a person is.  The Word is magnified by all of who God is.

This is echoed in 2 Peter 1:3 – 4.  We read there that the promises of God, the Word of God, allow us to become partakers of the divine nature.  So if this is true, that the Word of God reflects the name, the nature and character of God, then all of God’s nature and character are magnified through it.  That is truth, holiness, love, etc., they cannot be divided.  All of God’s name, all of God’s nature and character, magnifies His Word.  Why?  He is the source of His Word.  Just as you can discern the nature and character of a human author through the study of what he may write.  So it is with God’s writing; just a bit more important.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Strengthened 3

I have been sharing some observations on Psalm 138:1 – 3, today’s focus is verse two.  David tells the Lord that he will bow down and give thanks and then the structural marker “for” tells us the reason, “Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth.”  Note the emphasis.  He could have said, “Thy lovingkindness and truth.”  That he repeated the pronoun makes it explicit.
Is it right to separate love and truth.  Why?  Why not?
In my experience we tend to separate the two, Love and Truth.  We even seem to elevate Love over Truth in the name of tolerance or political correctness.  Here David explicitly ties them together.  He seems to be saying that you cannot have one without the other.

He tells us why with the second half of the verse.  We will look at that tomorrow