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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Open Mind?

Yesterday I suggested that perhaps the gospel is rational… but rational to whom?  Obviously Paul thought it to be so.  Richard Dawkiins not so much.  I am re-reading Tom Clancy’s book The Bear and the Dragon, among other things it is a study in contrast of the Chinese and American world views, and specifically the conservative American world view.  You may have had similar experiences as I have with this.  I have left meetings with people and if both parties were interviewed the one interviewing would swear that we were in different meetings.
We cannot change the minds of those who do not think that the gospel is rational, that is God's job...
That presents a challenge.  If it is the case that we are supposed to share the gospel with those who do not think that it is rational how are we to change their mind?  What can we say that will alter their perspective and move them to change their world view?  Not a thing.  It is not possible for us to convince someone to open their mind to the gospel.

That is God’s job.

Look at Romans 1:18 – 32 and John 16:8.  It looks like from those two passages that it is God that will engage with people to change their mind.  There are other passages that speak to this, Romans 8 – 11 is one key passage.

Engaging in changing someone’s mind is like trying to teach a pig to fly; it frustrates you and irritates the pig.  So if we cannot change people’s mind, how do we proceed?  Stay tuned…

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Blind Mind?

Sometimes the word choices in the Bible are jarring.  A good example of that is in 2 Corinthians 4:4.  I am following Paul’s argument well and then get twisted up in his choice of words.  He says that Satan has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so they cannot see the light of the gospel…  Wait a minute…  Shouldn't that say, “blinded the eyes?”  One sees light with the eyes don’t they?  This afternoon I was talking with a friend and asked him about this verse, and he quoted it as, “blinded the eyes.”  That is what makes sense… sometimes we will subconsciously substitute what we think it should say as we read…

When I see something like this in scripture, something that does not seem to make sense to me, it is a flag to sit up and take notice.  Why would Paul, and ultimately the Holy Spirit use mind here instead of eyes?  It seems to speak to understanding, rational thought, logical thinking.  Earlier in 2 Corinthians 1:13 Paul says that he expects people to understand what he is writing.  Here the triad of see, mind, and light must deal with cognitive understanding not an optical process.
What do we do when the scripture says something that does not seem to make sense?

As believers there is a tendency to spiritualize, mysticize, or turn Biblical truth in to some emotive experience that at some level requires us to hang our intellect at the front door of the church.  But twice here in the first four chapters of 2 Corinthians Paul speaks of engaging one’s mind, and I have counted 39 such references in Philippians.

It seems as though Paul puts a premium on thinking about the Christian life.  It seems that he thinks the gospel makes rational sense.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Truth about Timothy

Who was Timothy?  He was the young man Paul took under his wind at the outset of Paul's second missionary journey.  Timothy traveled with or for Paul during the remainder of of that excursion and all during the third.  Take a few minutes and skim Acts 16 - 21 to get a sense of what Timothy experienced during his travels with Paul.  2 Corinthians 6:1 - 10 is a fairly concise overview from Paul's perspective.
Was Timothy a timid retiring pastor?  No.
Now turn to 1 Timothy 1:1 - 14.  In this passage I have heard more than one message where the speaker portrays Timothy as some timid pastor who needs encouragement.

No.

Not on the basis of what he endured and learned from Paul.  One does not emerge from that crucible milquetoast.

That context informs one's perspective on what is going on in 1 Timothy.  Think of it.  Timothy has a great deal of experience under his belt.  It has been a hard slog.  It has been peppered with huge ups and significant downs.  He is a hardened, tested, proved laborer.  He knows Paul's message.  He understands how to engage in areas where the Gospel is not only new but resisted.  Paul writes this exhortation to this man.

What that tells me is that those who are the most engaged, the most tested, the most competent, still require exhortation to press on.  Unfortunately, we tend to leave them alone.  We assume that since they are so strong they do not need our encouragement.  Apparently, Paul and by extension the Holy Spirit, does not agree.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Victory Reconsidered

Yesterday I shared some thoughts that were a response for a friend’s funeral.  What was stunning about Clark’s celebration was the number of people that he had impacted present in the sanctuary.  It was awe inspiring and challenging.  But…

As I recorded my thoughts yesterday it was as if the Lord said, “Yes, it was great, but is it greater than the missionary who gave his life on foreign soil who did not have a service or even a burial?  Who served and died in an area where there was none to notice or come to celebrate their life?”
These men were killed by tribesmen whom they were trying to reach for the gospel... There were no crowds at their funeral, there were crowds cheering when they reached heaven...
This is in no way diminishes Clark’s life.  We would do well to imitate his passion.  But the nudge the Lord gave me reminded me that I tend to measure worth and value by measures other than His.  I look at quantity and other metrics; He looks at heart, 1 Samuel 16:7.  I get excited about crowds.  He is excited about faithfulness and a heart given to Him.  Clark’s was.  It just so happens that there were people who noticed and came to give tribute.  But the Lord had already approved.  It was not the approval or the numbers of the people that validated Clark’s life.  It was the words that the Lord spoke to Him, “Well done.”

The measure of our life is not in the accolades or notice of those in our community.  It is the validation of the One whom we serve.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Victory

A couple of weeks ago I went to the funeral of a friend.  Arriving about 40 minutes early I walked into an already packed church.  The church is one of the largest in our area.  Looking around the crowd I saw many I knew and many of whom I knew.  All were prominent either in the Christian or business community in most cases both.  I was going to say local but the people and the man whose life they were there to celebrate impacted far more than the local community.

As I surveyed the crowd thinking of my friend’s obvious impact, a friend sitting in an adjacent pew leaned over and said, “This is the result of finishing well.”  He was right and I thought immediately of 2 Timothy 4:7 – 8.  Then I turned the program over and saw:
What is the result of finishing well?
It was an appropriate tribute to Clark Millspaugh.  During the service I was both reminded of the reach of a life given over to Christ and challenged to do the same.  I was in an auditorium with hundreds of people essentially cheering a man across the finish line.  It was impactful in ways that I cannot fully express.  It was the result of a life given fully to following Christ and finishing well that race.

I hope to do the same.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Personal Revival

In Psalm 143 we get a glimpse into David’s heart as he cries out to God.  I have referred to this Psalm in an earlier post focused on 5 - 6.  In 7 – 12 we get a deeper glimpse at David’s passion for God.  Look at the verb sequence:
  • Answer me quickly
  • Do not hide your face
  • Let me hear 
  • Teach me 
  • Deliver me
  • Teach me
  • Lead me
  • Revive me 
  • Bring my soul out of trouble
  • Then two about David’s enemies.
To be revived we have to pour all out to God freely...
Focus on the cries that deal with David’s heart toward God.  I first was struggling with the order of the words.  It seemed to me that David needed to be revived first and then ask for the teaching and leading.  In talking this over with my wife she had a totally different take.  She said that it was a pouring out of despair and that I was over thinking it.  She is right on the first point.  Not sure on the second…  As I was reflecting on this perhaps what is happening here is that David is doing exactly what my wife said.  Pouring out all of his requests in desperation and at the end collapsing in desperation and surrender with the final revive me and bring me out of trouble.

The lesson for me is that I need to be freer in my prayer, to cast all of my thoughts before Him, with the final one a desperate cry to be revived in my love for Him.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How to Begin to Show Young Children That Jesus is God

There is a story that may help you begin to expose a young child to the reality that Jesus was not just a good man or teacher but God.  Read Mark 2:1 – 12.  There are at least two things happening in this passage that points to Christ being divine.
How do you begin to show a young child that Christ is God?  Here is a thought...
First, in verse 8 Christ knows what the scribes were reasoning in their hearts.  He did not guess, he knew, it was not intuitive, the Greek is emphatic.  The word translated “knew” here is the same word translated “true knowledge” three times in 2 Peter 1:3 – 10.  You can ask your child how Christ could know what they were thinking in their hearts.  Then you can reinforce this with Psalm 139:4, God knows what we are going to say before we say it, He knows what we are thinking.  Since Christ did that with the scribes, He must be God.  Further, it is not the only place in scripture that Christ demonstrated this divine attribute.  In John 1:43 – 51, when Jesus met Nathanael, He told Nathanael that He had seen him when he was not present with Christ.  At that point Nathanael knew that Christ was God for the same reason stated above.

Second, the dialog on forgiving sins.  In verses 5 – 10 the scribes are scandalized because Christ forgave the sins of the paralytic.  They stated correctly that only God could forgive sins, and they held incorrectly that Christ was not God.  To prove that He was and that He had that authority, He healed the paralytic.

In this short story from the first part of Christ’s ministry are two clear evidences that Christ is God.  Additionally there are other interesting facets of Christ’s nature that one can share with one’s child, compassion, boldness, fearlessness, to name a few.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Your Opinion Does Not Matter – Neither Does Mine

Opinions do not matter, facts do.  Truth is not relative unless your definition of truth is that of Lenin and Stalin which is, “Truth is that which moves our agenda forward.”
We should not fight for opinion, but rather for truth.
As apprentices of Christ we are not, or should not be interested neither in our or anyone else’s opinion.  We should work hard at determining what is God’s truth.  This is not a politically correct position.  Our culture demands tolerance, coexistence of world views that are completely at odds.  That demand is irrational and destructive.  That demand denies that there is truth.

This is critically important when it comes to the pursuit of God.  By His grace – and Peter says by His divine power (2 Peter 1:3 – 4) – He has left us with His Word.  It matters what the Bible says, not what we want it to say or wish it did.  There is ample, sufficient data the text for us to find the truth and the promise of the Holy Spirit’s guidance (John 16:13).  We court significant in many cases fatal error when we try to speak where the Lord has not; when we try to close what we perceive as holes in what the Lord has revealed to us.  It is the best – no the only course to stay as close to what the Word says for when we do not, we tend to develop constructs that elevate man and not God.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Validation

This morning I was asked to go overseas to help train pastors to study the Bible.  The initial trip is scheduled for about a year from now.  If you were to think I am eager to do this – well you would be far short of the mark.  I have said over and over that I would crawl over broken glass to do something like this.  So yes I am eager to the nth power.  At some level this feels like validation of all of the things I have been doing for the past several years…

But…

As I was journaling about this opportunity the Lord gently rebuked me.  He subtly asked me why I needed validation apart from Him.  As I thought through this, prayed through the question, I was filleted by His loving correction.  He then asked why was I so excited to go serve Him but not that excited about knowing Him here, now.  I have no good answer for that.  He then brought Galatians 1:10 – 24 to mind followed shortly by Colossians 3:1 – 4.
Validation of my life and ministry does not come from what I am allowed to do for Christ, rather it is simply from knowing Him...
The bottom line for me this morning is that the privilege, the thrill of serving Christ should not and cannot exceed my love for and joy in knowing Him.  If it does, it seems to me that then ministry crosses the line from worship to idolatry…

Monday, October 22, 2012

Can We Really Trust Paul?

In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul tells Timothy his purpose for the letter.  In some New Testament books we have to read book several times to discern the intention of the author.  In some cases, like John 20:30 – 31 and Acts 1:8 the author tells us explicitly what he is doing with the book.  1 Timothy 3:15 is one of those books where the purpose is explicit.  Paul tells Timothy that his purpose is to communicate proper conduct in the church of the living God.  That clarity is really helpful or a real problem.
Can we really trust what Paul says?  Did the Holy Spirit really inspire him?  If so what are the implications of that on our behavior?
If it is the case that Paul’s writing is scripture as Peter states in 2 Peter 3:15 – 16, then Paul is inspired by the Holy Spirit and this letter has the same weight as the Old Testament.  That is not a challenge if one happens to agree with Paul.  If one does not like what Paul says it creates a significant challenge.  A great deal of effort has been expended to explain away portions of this letter which liberal theologians consider politically incorrect up to and including the denial of Pauline authorship of the letter and questioning its inclusion in the canon.

That effort is driven by those expending it so that when they choose to disregard the explicit writings of Paul, they can say that they are not disobeying God.  While I do not agree with their positions I am humbled by their integrity.  Rather than simply ignoring a clear directive in Scripture as some in the Church do, they are at least trying to justify, albeit erroneously, their choice.

The problem is that sets those who choose this path as judges over scripture.  What is and what is not.  But in a sense we do that as well.  When we choose to ignore or disobey what the Scripture plainly says, we are judging what we think is important and what we deem not so much.  Judging.  So for both choices it comes down to can we really trust Paul.  By extension the question is can we really trust the Holy Spirit inspired Paul.  Can we really trust the Bible?

Far too many choose the wrong answer to that question.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Legacy

I have written several times about the workshops we do to help fathers and in this last one parents teach the Bible more effectively.  We had that session this morning.  All of my kids and my son in law were in the room; well our third child was linked in by video from Pittsburgh.
Our kids will do and say what we do and say to them... if not immediately, eventually
The Q&A lasted about 45 minutes.  The questions were similar to what they have been asked before.  This is about the 25th time we have done this.  The take away at the end of the time is always similar.  Today was no different.  As parents we have to be consistently in the word for ourselves, we have to try different things to reach our kids, and we have to persist in both in that order of importance.

The changing thing for me is to listen to my two older children who now have kids of their own share that they are going to do the same things that we did with them.  Our kids will do what we did with them even if they are resistant to the process.

That is both encouraging and a warning.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Stubborn

Elisha was selected by Elijah to be his replacement in 1 Kings 19:16 – 21 and using Texas Hold ‘Em terms Elisha was all in having sacrificed his family’s oxen on their yokes when called by Elijah.  In 2 Kings 2:1 – 15 it is time for Elijah to leave.  Three times Elijah tells Elisha to stay as he was leaving an area.  Three times Elisha refused.  The result Elisha not only took Elijah’s place but did so with a double portion of the Spirit.
Like Elisha we have to go all in to learn to follow Christ.
The point here is that one who has chosen to learn from a mentor has to hold on, be committed to the one who is mentoring him.  Being mentored or trained to do a ministry is not a trivial undertaking.  It requires a complete commitment, going all in.  Even when there seems to be resistance from the mentor, the mentee has to press through.

There may not be enough of that going on these days.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Intentional Serendipity

This morning I had a meeting on Skype with a man in Boulder, CO.  We were working through the introduction of and the first exercise of Your One Degree.  YOD is a ministry that helps people discover by coaching through a series of exercises how one can have the greatest impact with their life.
Random things that happen in our lives aren't.
One of the things that emerged from the hour we spent together was that we have very similar ministry interests.  How did we get to the meeting this morning?  A person whom we both know suggested he go to the YOD website and sign up.  That generated a task that another individual received.  That individual contacted me to see if I had time to coach this person.  I accepted the assignment.  Sent a few emails and we connected this morning.  Toward the end of our time together we discovered the similar hearts.  About half way through the time I encouraged him to begin journaling… He laughed and told me that the Lord had been speaking to him on that and he had already set time aside tomorrow to begin that process.

Psalm 139 tells us that God is intimately engaged in not only our formation in our mother’s womb but also in the day to day events of our lives.  God knew when my new friend was asked to check out YOD that we had similar interests.  Stuff does not happen by accident.  The events and people that make up our days are not random.  They are opportunities for us to see the hand of God in our lives.  However, because of – whatever – we miss a lot of that intentionality.

I need to pay closer attention.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How Safe Is Your Pastor From Depression?

From February to May of 1991 I talked to about 1000 pastors during a project to promote Meta Church Cluster Consultations for the Charles E. Fuller Institute for Evangelism and Church Growth (CEFI).  That was an eye opening and life changing experience.  Since that time I have held pastors in high regard for no other reason than their exposure to unending questioning and criticism of their motives, effectiveness, and leadership.  I learned then and it has been validated through multiple conversations with pastors over the past 20 years that not only does this situation persist but there is no one with whom they can share in their congregations for fear of reprisal.
The constant pressure under which our pastors live can lead to depression or worse, what should we as members of churches do about that?
That brings me to 2 Corinthians 1:23 – 2:4.  In this passage Paul shares his heart for the Corinthian believers asking God to bear witness to the truth of what he is saying.  He states that he works with them for their joy.  Then he says that he has not come back to see them so that he would not cause them sorrow, the word can also be translated irritate.  What we have here is the work of a man who is dedicated to establishing the joy of those for whom he cares, but the actions that he takes to that end irritate those whom he is committed to serve.

Those in the Corinthian church did not understand or accept that what Paul was doing was for the purpose of and would have in fact established their joy.  They were more interested in getting the building account funded and the proper balance of monies for the women’s and men’s ministries in the budget.  They were also concerned that Paul was not visiting them in the hospital when they were sick, and that he was not available to come to their dinners.  They also did not think that his messages were all that entertaining or weighty.

Unlike most pastors, Paul took this head on.  Of course he was an apostle, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit.  All of the pastors with whom I have discussed this experience the same things Paul experienced with the Corinthians.  I wonder what we as congregants should do about that?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Example of the Use of Comparison and Contrast

Yesterday I asked you to compare and contrast the messages of John the Baptist (Mark 1:4) with that of Jesus (Mark 1:15).  I asked you to make observations about the comparison and contrast of the two messages.  As promised here are mine:

  • This contrast is in the first 15 verses in what Mark calls the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ
  • John’s message calls for an action, baptism, Jesus’ message calls for faith, believe.
  • Christ was baptized by John before He preached the Gospel of God.
  • Christ was impelled to go the desert to be tempted prior to preaching the Gospel of God
  • The gospel of God does not require baptism rather belief
  • This shift is the first New Testament declaration of salvation by faith alone.
  • The position of this shift at the beginning of Mark is significant for it sets the tone for the ministry of Christ, believe and accept that He is who He says He is.
Noting the structure of a passage opens up whole new avenues for observation...
These are just a few of many observations that can be made from noting the similarities and differences in the messages of John and Jesus in Mark 1:1 – 15.  There are many more.  The point is that noting the structure opens up and reveals more depth in the text than does a cursory reading.  If you choose to engage at this level the depth and the riches of the text will overwhelm you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How do Comparison and Contrast Help?

In the workshops on how to study the Bible, I stress the need to be aware of structure of the text.  We all have heard that if we see a therefore in the text that we need to see what it is “there for.”  But there are a great deal more “structural markers” than “therefore.”  Here is a list of some of the markers you may find in the text.  You will notice that comparison and contrast are on that list.  Sometimes the comparison and contrast is not immediate in the text.  For instance…

I mentioned earlier that I am studying Mark this year.  For the past several days I have been contemplating the similarities and differences between the message of John the Baptist (Mark 1:4) and the message of Christ in Mark 1:15.  Both have the notion of repentance but there is a difference after that.
When we see comparison or contrast in the Bible we need to stop and think through why it is there and what it tells us.
John preached baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus said believe in the gospel of the kingdom.  One was an action the other was faith.  Why the difference?  Is it significant?  What do you think?  I will share my thoughts on this tomorrow.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Shocking Truth about Accountability?

In 1 Kings 21:22 we have a portion of God’s rebuke of Ahab through the prophet Elijah that should give any leader pause.  Apart from the murder and theft which precipitated Elijah’s assignment to rebuke Ahab we read that God is holding Ahab responsible for causing the nation of Israel to sin.
We are all leaders in some capacity.  If our choices as leaders cause others to sin, will we be held accountable?
In 1 Kings 16:29ff we read the stigmatization of Ahab’s reign Ahab “did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.”  I am pretty sure I do not want that evaluation on my leadership by the Lord and I am relatively certain that all leaders will join me in that.

The question then becomes does God hold all leaders responsible for the actions of those whom they are leading or is this a special case that applied only to the kings of Israel.  It was Ahab’s policies and actions that caused the nation to sin.  God held him accountable for the nation’s response to his leadership.  There are leaders today at multiple levels, families, teams, businesses, churches, denominations, countries, all of those leaders make decisions, develop policy, and act.  If those policies, decisions, and actions, lead their organizations to sin or rebel against God, will they be held accountable?  What do you think?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

New

Words matter.  Even little words.  Today reading in Psalm 29 verse 11 caught my attention, specifically the part about the Lord giving strength to His people.  Getting older and being tired this afternoon probably contributed to that capture.
Even small words in the Scripture can lead you to a new richer understanding...
Thinking through the passage a couple of other passages came to mind, Isaiah 40:27 – 31, and Matthew 11:28 – 30.  That is where “new” came in.  You know the passage in Isaiah well; probably have it memorized.  Today as I was thinking through these passages “new” grabbed my attention.  I have always read that as restored.  In other words waiting on God recharges my strength.  But today I dug a little deeper the Hebrew word that is translated “will gain new” is chalaph ().  While it does mean recharge or renew it also can carry the meaning of changes or replace.  It occurs to me that while waiting on the Lord is rest as Matthew 11:28 says it is also transformative.  2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that we are new creatures as we come into relationship with Him.  Philippians 2:13 and 4:13 tells me that the Lord gives me not only the will but the ability or strength to follow and serve Him.

That is a great encouragement to me when I get weary.  I can come to Him and He will give me “new” strength, His strength.  That is a pretty good deal.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

You Also Must Teach Your Kids to…

Speak…in public.

Why?  Because, for the rest of their lives they will be called on to express their thinking one on one, in small groups, and in some cases in large groups.  Our children need to be effective communicators of the truth of the gospel and how it applies to life.
Our kids need to learn to express their thinking verbally.
To do that they have to be able to interact logically with people and know how to defend the hope that is in them.  It is a command of Scripture, 1 Peter 3:15.

The major challenge with this is to speak not from emotion or feelings but rather from fact.  That is where reading and writing will help your kids to clarify their thinking and hone their communication skills.

Friday, October 12, 2012

You Must Also Teach Your Kids to…

…Write.

Next to reading writing is probably the most important skill you can build into your child.  You cannot depend on the schools to teach your child to write well.  For the most part they do not.  Your child will have to write well to be successful in life.  The current culture conspires against that with texting and emails.
Writing helps our children to crystallize, sharpen, and clarify their thinking.  It is a life skill that not only will advance their careers but significantly help them in their understanding of the Word of God.
The reason writing is so important is that communicating through the written word is hard.  It forces one to think critically about what one is attempting to communicate.  It compels one to put oneself in the mind of one’s reader to anticipate questions and to answer them effectively.

It is a skill that is informed by yesterday’s suggestion, reading and fuels the last thing I will suggest tomorrow.

This issue became crystal clear for me when I graded papers for a class in seminary.  The papers were written by people in their second or third year of a four year masters program.  I was shocked by the inability of those students to communicate concisely and effectively what they were thinking on paper.  It is a huge deal.  For the rest of your child’s professional life they will be required to write.  If not for that, the discipline will help them learn to think.  That skill is in short supply these days as well.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

You Must Teach Your Kids to...

...Read.

They must love to read.  They must know how to read well, interactively, critically.  For the rest of their adult life they will be required to process information.  In their work and in their leisure, the ability to read and read well will set them above their peers.
If our kids do not know how to read and to read well, they will not succeed in anything, including following Christ.
This is critical to following Christ.  If your kids do not know how to read, how to analyze what they are reading, how will they process the truth of God’s Word?  We have to teach them how to study the Word, but the prerequisite for that is to be able to read.

Read with your younger children.  Assign book reports to older kids.  Pay them to read books that are hard.  Just get them to read…

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Required: Thought

Yesterday I warned that we need to stay engaged with difficult passages in the Bible rather than bailing out to secondary sources to get “answers.”  One of my mentors responded, “to do that we have to think.”  He is right and it is a challenge.
Following Christ requires right thinking.
Because relating to Christ is spiritual many seem to diminish the importance of thinking clearly or reasoning, instead taking an approach to the Word and its application that is overly mystic, or that read significant allegorical meaning into passages that on a plain reading does not support their conclusions.  This approach to Scripture directly informs action.  “Believers” have lied to me, stolen from me, on the basis that I did not have a “right” spirit, in direct contradiction of the plain teaching of Scripture.  They did this because they were “spiritually” led.

The New Testament writers used words like consider, think, test, set your mind on, to remind their readers and by extension us that our minds are given to us by God.  Yes the Scripture is inspired and spiritual, but the Spirit used language that has vocabulary and grammar to transmit the nature and character of God to us.  We are expected to understand mentally and rationally, 2 Corinthians 1:13 explicitly states this.

Our minds are to be engaged.  We are to think.  Even when it is hard.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Warning: Do Not Bail Out

Sunday before last in the Parents Teach the Bible workshop, one of the participants asked a really great question.  We had just made some observations about a passage of Scripture and she challenged one of my observations stating that she thought that there was a difference between the terms that I had linked in observation.  It was a really good observation and question.

I did not answer her.

I was not being difficult - well maybe a little - rather I used her question to emphasize the core purpose of the workshop.  We need to struggle with questions like that ourselves.  Last week traveling through Big Bend with my wife and my dad, I could not get her question out of my mind.  One evening I came up with this diagram.
If we go to secondary source before we have struggled through understanding the text we short circuit the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
In 2 Peter 3:16 Peter tells us what we already know some of Paul's stuff is hard (truth be told so is some of Peter's, Matthew, and for that matter all the rest of them).  When we hit something that we do not understand, in my experience we tend to dive to secondary sources really quickly.  Back in the70's when I was first coming around the Navs it was the notes in the Scofield Bible.  We would hit a tough patch in the study and one of the guys would say, "The notes in my Bible say..." and he would read the notes thus ending all speculation and discussion on the matter.

The problem with that is when we bail out of the struggle we do not allow the Holy Spirit to do what Christ promised He would do, lead us into all truth, John 16:13.  When we do that we diminish our sensitivity to the Spirit's leading.  We need to stay in the struggle and ask for Him to lead us.  This morning three of us were discussing this and one of my friends suggested that most people bail because they know that those who have written the notes or the commentaries have the Spirit.  Maybe.  Not all who write about the Bible, even with multiple degrees are believers.  Even if they are, what they write is not inspired.  What they write about is.  We would do better to spend more time in that about which they write.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Problem

Mark 1:5 is interesting and may have some application for today’s climate.  There we read that the entire country of Judea was going out to hear John’s message of repentance from sin.  Today that would seem odd would it not?  To have a whole country turning out to hear a message that addresses their problems from the vantage point of its root cause.
The problem is not what they are debating, and the solution is not found at the ballot box.
But that happens every day.  The difference is that there is more than one voice crying in the wilderness and there is more than one message.  A quick obvious example, the debate last Wednesday night; north or 70 million people watched.  Listened for a solution to their pain; hoped for an answer; did they get it?  No.

Rather than looking for solutions to a root problem, people are settling for quick fixes.  The good news is that people know there is a problem.  They just do not know, for the most part what it is.  Instead of listening to a message of repentance, they flock to a message of entitlement.  Our challenge as believers is to gently remind them that the answer is not in jobs, money, politics, national defense, environmental stewardship or any other thing that is being debated or demagogued during this season.  We have to clearly state that the problem is still what John shared in the wilderness and that the answer is to follow the One whom he baptized there.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Purpose

Yesterday at about 2:20 PM I held my new granddaughter for the first time.  She is the second grandchild, both girls.  Later in the evening both girls were together for the first time.  Saturday we bypassed going to my wife’s aunt’s 90th birthday and her aunt’s granddaughter’s baby shower to get to the hospital in time.  This morning my wife and I led the 5th week of an 8 week workshop, Parents Teach the Bible.
Our purpose is to reproduce not only physically but more importantly spiritually.
Thinking through the events of this weekend something is beginning to slowly clarify in my thinking.  Considering our grandchildren our purpose in life seems to come in to crisper focus.  In Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18; and Deuteronomy 5:9, the Holy Spirit through the writers of those books, warns us of the generational nature of sin.  I have counseled couples who were struggling in their relationship and discovered patterns of abuse that stretched back three and four generations.  The encouraging thing is that the same pattern can be found in righteousness.  2 Timothy 2:2 is Paul’s exhortation for Timothy to reproduce generationally.  Jonathan Edwards is considered to be one of if not the most important theologians in American History.  If you trace his family tree the seeds of righteousness he planted in his family have endured to this day 254 years later, eight generations.

That is why we pursue God.  That is why we dig deeply into His Word.  It is so that we reproduce not just physically – that is easy – but spiritually in our children.  That is the real purpose.  That is the real inheritance we should strive to leave our kids.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Counsel

In 1 Kings 12:6 - 11 we read of Rehoboam's ascension to the throne of Israel and the beginings of the fracturing of the kingdom of Israel.  In this short passage seems also to be some insight into some principles I have seen in play in a consulting situation over the past two years.
We can always find counselors who will tell us what we want to hear, we need those who will push us to be better.
Rehoboam had some rather large shoes to fill.  His grandfather was David and his father Solomon was considered the wisest man that had ever lived.  Admittedly that is some kind of pressure for a young man to endure and as you know he did not handle it well.

Out of the box he failed.  He failed in the way that he sought advice.  Note in the passage he first receives counsel from the elders who had served his dad.  These men had been involved in the governance of the land with his father and had experience with and knowledge of the people.  They gave him counsel to work with the people, to meet their needs.  The counsel sounds a great deal like Philippians 2:3 - 18, it was good counsel.

But then Rehoboam's friends, his contemporaries, told him that he should follow his own  desire and increase and consolidate his power and authority over the people.  This advice appealed to Rehoboam's ego and desire for greatness, in choosing to follow this advice he sealed his place in history as the one who caused the division of the kingdom.

We can always find those who will tell us what we want to hear.  We need to seek those wise counselors who will challenge us to do greater things than that for which our ego and desire reaches.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Scheme of Busy

It seems to me that Exodus 5:9 possibly reveals a scheme of the enemy.  Through Pharaoh he made the labor of the Israelites difficult so that they would not be able to pay attention to "false words"  In this case the "false words" were the the words of God through Moses.
The enemy limits our ability to hear the Word of God by giving us opportunities to be busy - to do great work...
We are beset with tasks.  Our schedules overflow with "important" stuff to do.  Things that just have to be done else the world as we know it cease to function.  We are so important that if we were not involved - well what would God do?  We do not have time to pay attention to words, false or not.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Trust

In the workshop we lead to equip parents to lead their children in the Word, part of each session is a table discussion.  In that section of the workshop we give them some questions to consider and discuss.  Last Sunday was the 4th week.  So they have done an overview of the Book and have studied the first chapter of that book verse by verse.  After they shared what they got form that work one of the questions that I asked them to consider was,"What prevents you for sharing what you are learning with other people?"  The answers were similar to those I have heard before from this question.

  • No time
  • Not sure I have the right answer
  • Not sure I have all the knowledge I need
  • Not sure that the person will accept what I have to say.
If we do not do what God asks us to do because we do not think it will work out, what does that say about our trust of God?
As I said these were not new answers to that question.  As I was noting them on the whiteboard, a new thought did occur to me.  All of those obstacles seemed to have their source in one thing, lack of trust.  
  • Ephesians 2:10 and Psalm 139 tells us that we are created specifically for a purpose.  If that is true how is it that we do not have time?
  • John 16:13, James 1:5, and Mark 13:11, tell us that the Spirit will lead us into all truth, that, if we ask, God will give us wisdom, and that when confronted with difficult situations we will be given the words to say.
  • Hebrews 4:12 - 13, and Isaiah 55:11 tell us that the Word does what it is intended to and cannot be thwarted.

If all that is true if I am not sharing because of the stated reasons, then it is really because I have chosen not to trust that God is true to His Word.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Overwhelmed

God’s Mercy and Grace are overwhelming and sometimes I notice them.  Early last Saturday morning I left the house to run an errand.  While I was gone my wife opened the Friday mail.  There was a check in the mail that, because of its amount, she thought was a distribution check from the non-profit umbrella that receipts gifts to Entrusting Truth.  It was not.
I am continually overwhelmed with God's grace...when I notice it.
When I got back to the house from the errand and saw the check it took a few seconds for my mind to adjust to what I was seeing.  The check was from one who had never given to the ministry and had limited exposure to what we are doing.  When it finally sank in I slowly sat down at my desk, leaned back, stunned by the graciousness of both the one who gave and the God who prompted them to do so.  As I thought through what had just happened I knew that I did not deserve this favor.  I was overcome that God would grant it.  My wife came into the office and reminded me that I needed to mow the yard.  Refocusing me on what needed to be done – she suggested I could be in awe pushing the lawn mower.  So I left the special demonstration of God’s grace…only it was not special.

All that God does for us is overwhelming.  He created this universe, holds it together, created each of us individually giving us gifts, abilities and purpose which He uniquely assigns to each of us.  When the race was estranged from Him through sin, He initiated the restoration of the rebellious people.  He sent His Son who emptied Himself and became obedient to death in order to accomplish that restoration.  Then He individually draws us to Himself granting forgiveness through the shed blood of His Son.  All that we have, all that we see, all that we will be we owe to His grace.  It was not special.  I just noticed it this time.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Comfort and Affliction 2

Yesterday I asked you to take a look at 2 Corinthians 1:3 – 5 and see what was repeated there.  You noticed that “comfort” and affliction or suffering was repeated 10 and 7 times respectively.  I then posed a few questions for you to ponder.  It is not enough to just observe one has to ask what the observations tell one about the text.
Repetition in the Word helps us to unwrap the author's intent more effectively...

Not all of the questions you ask the text need to be answered.  In some cases the questions will serve as a crowbar to make further observations.  I am going to address the second and third questions I asked yesterday.  Why does Paul repeat these term and why here specifically?  There may be more than one possible answer for this.  Here is my take:

In the sweep of the book Paul spends a lot of time defending his apostleship to the Corinthians.  They have apparently moved away from him and begun to follow the teaching of other people for whom Paul does not seem to care much.  The repetition of these terms here in the book does several things.  First, it emphasizes that suffering is one of the marks of an apostle in contrast to the “super” apostles whom the Corinthians have begun to follow.  Second, it tacitly invites the Corinthians into that same experience of suffering for the gospel.  Thirdly, it strongly emphasizes that while one suffers for the gospel of Christ, one is at the same time comforted and that comfort translates to the platform for ministry to others.

The post yesterday and today demonstrate at a basic level how to use repetition and questions about that repetition to unpack what the author is saying.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Comfort and Affliction

You have read this before here that repetition is one of the things that you look for in the Scripture.  It is like the teacher stomping their foot in the front of class to let you know something is going to be on the test.  It is one of the things for which I am constantly seeking as I study the Word.  Not just repetition of words but also themes, content, and structure.
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In 2 Corinthians 1:3 – 7 there is a little repetition.  Take a look and get back to me (by the way if you hover your mouse over any scripture reference in this blog you will see the verse, you also have the option to click on the reference and it will open in another tab in your browser).

You probably noticed the two concepts in the title are repeated in various form.  In these five verses we see comfort 10 times and affliction or suffering 7 times.  Now that we have that repetition, what do we do with it?  We ask questions:

  • What does the repeated term or theme mean? 
  • Why does the author repeat it?  
  • Why repeat it here?
  • What are the full implications of repeating these terms?
  • How does this repetition move the theme or argument of the book forward?

Take a shot at those.  I will share some thoughts tomorrow.