Sign up to be notified of new blog post.

If you are not getting notifications of the blog posts by e-mail and would like to, click here. Make sure that you give us at least your first name.


I promise we will never give or sell your info to others.


You might also want to visit Entrusting Truth to find out more about what we do. My book and workbook Your Walk, their walk are available there as well as at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Translate

Friday, November 30, 2012

Deep Darkness

You ever go through periods of darkness?  In those times have you ever read Scripture that mirrors your heart?  This morning the mirror was in Psalm 142:3 – 3, 7 and Psalm 143:4.  Specifically:

  • In the way where I walk they have hidden a trap for me… Psalm 142:3c
  • …There is no one who regards me; there is no escape for me; no one cares for my soul… Psalm 142:4b
  • Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart is appalled within me… Psalm 143:4

Happy thoughts.
When life is hard.  When the night is really dark.  How then does this Christian thing work?
We tend to represent the Christian life as a continual happy party.  That has not been my experience.  Nor was it the experience of those of whom we read in the Biblical record.  Spend some time in Hebrews 11:32 – 38.  Life sometimes is overwhelming and it takes more than a “life is good” t-shirt to fix it.

So what do we do?  One of the things I love about the Psalms is that they are real.  They express the real struggles of real people who are really pursuing hard after God.  If we look, they lead us in dealing with similar circumstances.  Psalm 142:7a seems to do just that:
Bring my soul out of prison, so that I may give thanks to Thy name.
This acknowledges my helplessness, and complete dependence on God.  Not only to be thankful to Him, but also to pull me from the dark times of my life to a place where I am able to acknowledge that dependence.  That is a fairly clear demonstration of mercy and grace don’t you think?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bring it Home

This morning our group finished our study of Philippians.  We were talking about how the book impacted our lives.  I talked the men through the scene in “Walk the Line” early in the movie at the Sun audition when the producer stopped Cash in the middle of the song and told him that he was not interested.  The dialog was:
Sam Phillips: You know exactly what I'm telling you. We've already heard that song a hundred times. Just like that. Just... like... how... you... sing it.  
Johnny Cash: Well you didn't let us bring it home.
Sam Phillips: Bring... bring it home? All right, let's bring it home. If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing *one* song. Huh? One song that people would remember before you're dirt. One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You tellin' me that's the song you'd sing? That same Jimmy Davis tune we hear on the radio all day, about your peace within, and how it's real, and how you're gonna shout it? Or... would you sing somethin' different. Somethin' real. Somethin' *you* felt. Cause I'm telling you right now, that's the kind of song people want to hear. That's the kind of song that truly saves people. It ain't got nothin to do with believin' in God, Mr. Cash. It has to do with believin' in yourself.
If you were hit by a truck and only had time to tell you kids one thing you learned from your time in the Bible...  What would you say?

I asked the men if they were hit by a truck and had one thing to say to their kids from Philippians what they would tell them.  The Word is supposed to impact our lives that way.  Our lives are supposed to be impacted deeply.  It is supposed to move us in a way that people notice.

Bring it home…

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How Does the Church Recover?

This noon a group of us gathered to share over a meal how we are doing in pursuing God consistent with the way He has designed us.  Toward the end of the conversation one of the men shared his concern about the direction of the country and the American Church’s seeming inability to deal with the rapid advance of evil in our culture.  He wondered aloud what was preventing the Church from making a difference.
As believers what can we do to help the Church become more effective in this generation?
A couple of us responded.  The PhD in our group felt it is because Christians are not simply obeying God.  Instead we are parsing his commandments to understand them fully and not simply doing what He said to do.  He used an illustration he got from Francis Chan.  Chan related that he asked his daughter to clean up her room.  She called a group of her friends over and they examined the request in detail, parsing the verbs, diagramming the sentence, and looking at the root Greek and Hebrew underneath the request.  When she shared the result with her father, he remarked he just wanted her to clean up the room.  My friend has a point.

I shared that in my experience there is a lack of depth and desire to dig into the Word and an unwillingness or inability of pastors to equip those in their churches to do so.  We have created a generation of consumers of what a diminishing number of men have gleaned from their study of the Word and rather than engage with the Lord on our own in His book we are content to let others do the heavy lifting and survive on the remnant of their study.  It reminds me of Hebrews 5:11 – 14.  We all need to be teachers, meaning we all have to engage in study and application.

I try hard not to repeat myself here.  But both the PhD’s and my response to our friend’s question echoes what I wrote a couple of days ago on 2 Corinthians 4:2.  We have to reject the evil of this generation and manifest the truth of the Gospel which will commend us to the conscience of those in the world.

We need to hurry.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Spiritual Abuse

A few years ago I went to an event here that was intended to encourage men in their walk with God.  One of the “draws” to this event was to be the testimony of a native of the city, who had some notoriety, and had recently come to Christ.  Toward the end of the meeting he mounted the stage and proceeded to share.  I have not talked to the man personally so I do not if he is actually a follower of Christ, but there was no evidence of that in what he shared.  The meeting was a disaster.  That was not his fault.
When we trophy young, famous Christians for the gain of our ministry or our reputation as a church, we are putting ourselves ahead of them.  It is abuse.
Last year I was speaking to a consultant friend who was counseling a man on staff with the Christian organization who had engaged my friend.  This individual has had a successful business career (by the way these details are altered) had become a Christian through the ministry and had shortly after sold his business and joined the staff of the organization.  He had virtually no ministry experience and relatively little growth in his Christian life.  He was placed in a leadership position by virtue of his success in the business world.  He called my friend late one night in despair over multiple challenges with his understanding of how the ministry is done and the difficulty that pressure was placing on his family.  He was failing.  It was not his fault.

The fault lies with the men who made the decisions to put the new believer on the stage and elevate the young Christian to leadership.  In fact these men were abused.  They were asked to perform for the benefit of the men who made the decisions.  In the first case to fill and event in the last case to trophy a successful business man in a high profile ministry position.  There was no thought given to whether these men were ready or the impact on their spiritual formation.  It was a bit like giving a 4 year old a chainsaw and telling him to cut down a tree.

Paul is really clear about this.  In 1 Timothy 3:6, he warns Timothy not to appoint new converts to positions of authority.  In 1 Timothy 5:22 he tells Timothy that if he places one in authority too soon he bears the guilt of the mess they make and the sins they commit.  It seems like more and more we in the Church are ignoring Paul.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Unadulterated

First, if you are interested or involved in trying to reach the people in your sphere of influence – if you are a believer, you should be – you need to study 2 Corinthians.  It is a compelling portrait of a man who is struggling with communicating with a fickle and at times unappreciative audience.  Come to think of it this would be helpful in dealing with teenagers…
Have you ever wanted to change what the Bible said to make it easier to handle for some of your friends?  Paul has something to say about that...
Have you ever thought about changing or softening the wording of the Bible to “better” communicate the truth of what you think it is saying to a group or individual?  Yes, is probably the right answer.  Most of us have struggled with a passage that we thought might be offensive to people to whom we were attempting to communicate.  Paul addresses this pressure in 2 Corinthians 4:2.

Notice he completely rejects altering, the word is stronger, adulterating, the Word of God.  He contrasts that with the phrase manifesting the truth to gain credibility.  That indicates at least two things to me.  First, he does not pull back from sharing the Word of God as it is.  He expounds it accurately and clearly, see 2 Timothy 2:15.  He knows as it says in Hebrews 4:12 – 13 that the Word is piercing whether the hearer likes it or not.

Second, to manifest the truth one must live consistent with it.  Paul does.  We cannot have a “say, do” problem.  We, like Paul, have to be able to ask people to follow Christ as we are.

Tough assignment.  You in?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Running Encumbered

Do you ever struggle with obedience to the Lord?  Has He ever asked you to do things, or brought things to mind from which you recoil?  In our time together today I was led to Hebrews 12:1 – 2.  It was a circuitous route that started in Psalm 39:1, traveled through Proverbs 4:23, Job 31:1, Psalm 145:14, and ended in Jeremiah 3:22.
Laying aside encumbrances that are keeping us from running the race is not all that easy...
During the stop at Hebrews 12:1 – 2, I made a list of the encumbrances and entangling sins.  At this point in my life the encumbrances are, at least the ones of which I am currently aware, are broken – no that is not strong enough – destroyed and mangled relationships, the kind that still bring a level of pain when reminded of them.  I get the sense that He wants me to deal with them.  Not sure that is possible in each case.  Frankly, I do not want to.  Not sure why.  It certainly does not make sense to continue to continue to run this race encumbered with that level of pain or continually looking over my shoulder in an ever increasing effort to avoid confrontation with those…

The sins are more easily dealt with.  I did not think so at first.  But they are.  It is simply a matter of trusting Him rather than me.  It is counter intuitive but those struggles are private.  The encumbrances require the effort of reaching out to some to whom reaching out feels, at some level destructive.  I fear not only the response of those but also what else the encounter may expose in me.  Thus the recoil.

So my plan was to set up a project to get this done…  But it is not a project.  It is a simple decision, am I going to obey my Lord or not.  I would like to report that I am eagerly in pursuit of obedience here.  But…  Rather I am praying for the Lord to enable me to pursue the course He has set.  If it comes to mind please pray for me in this.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How to Avoid Burnout

Yesterday I shared the idea that as we get older, our physical capacity diminishes.  I also suggested that because of the way God had directed our lives it should be the most impactful and fruitful time of our lives.  The two seem contradictory, I know.  But it is nevertheless true.
How do we keep from burning out in the Christian Life and finish strong.
However, there are choices we must make in order to align the richness of what God has invested in our lives with the limiting factors of the reality of getting older.  We have to say no more in order to have a greater impact.  Some would call it focus.  If we do not we will continue to expend energy and increasingly limited resources on endeavors in which we may have a modicum of success, but are not the major wins for which we are created.  We have an enemy who will continue to present an unending stream of those types of opportunities to us in order to keep us from engaging in that which would be the most impactful.  If we do not figure this out, we will not end well.  We will be like the majority, working to retire, essentially sitting on the bench, burned out, and waiting for the end of the game when we should be on the field running pell-mell through the enemy.

Problem is most of us do not have a good handle on where we can make our best contribution.  We have, in some cases, a vague idea, but we have not taken the time to really take stock of our lives while asking God to reveal what He wants us to do with that with which He has equipped us.

There are ways.  Both Gary Barkalow and Dave Jewitt have ministries that focus on helping folks figure this out.  I have worked with both men and highly recommend their ministries.  I have worked more closely with Dave since we both live in Tulsa, and I coach men through his material.  If you are interested in avoiding burnout and making the biggest contribution with the time you have left (Psalm 90:12) do one of three things:


Friday, November 23, 2012

Capacity

Back in College Station, when I was engaged in the heights of academic mediocrity, there were many nights that I chose to extend my “learning” by pulling all-nighters, especially prior to midterm or final exams.  After college, in the Air Force, within a year of becoming a believer, I was leading or participating in seven Bible studies a week.  There were many all-nighters and short nights created by 2 AM report times to the flight line.  After graduation from pilot training, I went to San Antonio to learn to teach people to fly.  While there I was involved in two or three Bible studies a week again punctuated by all-nighters as I studied both the Bible and the dash one (dash one is the aircraft systems manual).
As we age our capacity diminishes, how do we increase our impact with diminished capacity?
Fast forward 10 years and while in seminary for the four years I averaged about 4 hours of sleep a night, and that was punctuated by some more all-nighters, I was working part time 30 -40 hours a week, coaching my sons’ soccer teams, and leading worship at our church.  I was beginning to notice that it was taking longer to recover from the all-nighters.

Today all-nighters are few and far between.  They still happen.  But now it takes about a week to recover.

The point of this?  When we are younger, we can do more.  Duh, right.  When we are older we do not have the same capacity.  But we know more.  We can make a more significant impact with our lives with the experience through which the Lord has led us.  The problem becomes that our diminishing capacity makes it imperative that we are more focused in the use of the knowledge, skills, and experience with which the Lord has equipped us.  Our impact is directly proportional to how effectively we have narrowed our focus to apply the way God has designed us.  Ephesians 2:10 and Psalm 139:13 – 16, tell us that all we have been through and are going through in our life is for a purpose.  In order to have the greatest impact in our lives, we need to find that purpose.

How?  Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

If your family is like ours, you have gathered together today to share a meal and give thanks for the year.  It is a great American tradition dating back to the founding of our country by the Puritans.  Those brave souls who fled the persecution of their faith to be able to live in relationship with Christ without the dictates of a State Religious system.
Remember today the reason we give thanks and the history behind it.
Their choice to flee to a distant land via a sea voyage that was fraught with peril, was a choice driven by the desire to worship Christ freely.  They fled persecution and suffering through a real possibility of death to come to a land where they had no resources other than what they could glean from the land.  Many died in the process.

Remember today the reason they left, the reason they came, and what has transpired in the land in which they settled.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to Avoid Heresy

Just finished reading through Lamentations 2:1 – 10.  I am reading in the first Bible I bought after I trusted Christ.  It has been rebound twice.  It is the only Bible in which I have ever marked.  Next to Lamentations 2:5, I wrote, “When you disobey the Lord even if you are chosen he becomes your enemy.”  I wrote that because, as you read in the passage the Lord became an enemy of His chosen people, Israel, because they had disobeyed His commands.  When I wrote this I had in mind a connection here between chosen in the Old Testament and chosen or elect in the New Testament.  I did not think much about it at the time just made the connection and moved on.
Just because something in Scripture may get our attention, sound really good, it may lead to some conclusions that entangle us in a web of heresy...
However, that connection may not be valid.  I assumed that chosen has the same meaning and force when applied to Israel and the Church.  You are aware of the results of assuming.  What I should have done is to validate my observation by turning it into a question, “Does chosen here mean the same thing as it does when applied to the Church?”

I do not have an answer to that question.  Yet.  I stuck my toe in that water for a few minutes this morning in Logos by doing a surface word study on the use of chosen in the New Testament and the Septuagint, looking at what Hebrew words were translated with chosen.  There was a significant amount of data.  To answer the question more accurately, I need to evaluate that data.  It is a whole lot like work, albeit work that I love.

Too often I have approached the scripture like I did with the note on Lamentations 2:5, I have also observed many believers doing the same thing, pastors and leaders included.  2 Timothy 2:15 tells us that we are to be diligent with the Word of God.  There is a process here.  It is like a journey; encapsulated in my experience with Lamentations 2:5.  I need to remind myself daily to hold what I “know” to be true lightly, always being ready to turn that knowledge into a question, which answer is dependent on the data in the Book that has no bottom.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Learning

About 1984 I picked up the book In Search of Excellence, other than opening the Bible for the first time no other book has altered the trajectory of my life as much.  I found in those pages passion, purpose, ideas, and a way of thinking that was immediately applicable to my Christian ministry.  What?  A business book that is applicable to ministry?  Yep.
Is there anything believers can learn from non-believers?
For three of the four years I was at Dallas Seminary I was either enrolled in or else grading Dr. Hendricks’ class on leadership.  Each year he emphasized that the best research and leadership material existed in the business literature.  At his prompting I began to read Harvard Business Review and Sloan Management Review.  Not every issue applied, but from time to time there were articles there that were pure gold.  I have since then read extensively in the business literature.  You may know this, Peter Drucker, who is regarded by most as the dean of American business, studied canon law and applied that study of the Catholic church in his practice.  His books have a depth and breadth that are breathtaking.

The Church is not a business in the sense that those who write about business think of the term.  We do no, or rather should not, measure success in ministry on a balance sheet.  But the Church, like a business, is a community of people who are working, or should be working, toward a common goal.  It is at that intersection that we have much to learn from what the business community has discovered.

That was reinforced by Dr. Hendricks’ class and by my experience with Christian organizations before and since.  While the Bible is our primary source, there is much to be learned from the work that has been done in the business community.  Especially when we filter what we learn there through a Biblical lens.

As I have said elsewhere in this blog truth is truth and has its ultimate source in God no matter where it is found.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review

From time to time I find that it is important to review what is core, the essence, the irreducible minimum.  With that in mind read 1 Peter 3:18.
In the midst of all the noise and confusion of life, all of the arguments and uncertainty, it is good from time to time to review what is core.
Nuff Said.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Puzzled

At times I am puzzled by believers.  What puzzles me most are activities that are promoted as Christian events that either do not involve the Word of God or else present the Word at the level of opinion.
Why would Christians attempt worship or reaching others without the Word of God?  Or else by not taking a firm stand on what it says?
If the purpose of an event is meant to introduce or move people closer to Christ, I have heard it said that one has to be careful with the Word at those types of events or non-Christians may be offended.  I am not sure how one can tell a person that they are condemned to eternal punishment and torment unless they receive Christ’s gift without challenging their life choices at some level.  It is not an easy message to deliver.  But one thing we do know from Hebrews 4:12 – 13, the Word of God will pierce.  One does not have to believe it.  It will pierce regardless.

The second approach is, if possible, more baffling.  When addressing a controversial issue the position stated in the Word is presented as an option to the current World view.  Option?  I am not sure how the one who created the world and all who are in it and then chose to reveal Himself and His thoughts in a Book; how that one’s opinions can be optional.

It seems to me that the Church is afraid to offend or disturb.  Yet a cursory reading of the Gospels seems to reveal a Christ who offended and disturbed on a regular basis.  If we are supposed to be following Him, as His apprentices, it seems that the message we share, should at some level offend and disturb…

Am I missing something here?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Torn

Two things today.
Today is the first anniversary of Dads Teach the Bible.  Thanks for reading.
First, today starts the second year for this Blog.  Thanks to all of you who have been reading for the past year.  Looking at the statistics from Google Analytics there is an average of about 1400 people who are reading this each month.  Someone from just about every country that has internet has read the blog.  It is overwhelming.  My ultimate audience is Christ.  This is done for Him, in obedience to His leading, so success is measured here by whether He is pleased.

Second, do you ever run across passages in the Bible that just do not make sense to you?  Or else you read them and think or say to yourself, “There is no way I can do that.”
When I get confused and perplexed by the Bible it is usually because I am asking the wrong questions.
wice today for me.

The first is Malachi 4:4 – 6.  If I were about to shut down communication for 400 years those are not the two things with which I would close.  I struggled with this for about an hour this morning.  I drew diagrams in my journal, prayed through the passage.  The breakthrough came when I realized I was asking the wrong question.  I should not have been asking why God did this; rather the question should have been how this command prepares the way for Christ’s ministry.  Still do not have a good answer but at least I am asking the right question.

The second struggle was in 1 Peter 3:1 – 12.  I listed in my journal what is required of the wife, the husband, and then both… at the end of the entry I wrote, “This is flat impossible.”  Figuratively, I was throwing up my hands in surrender…  Then it occurred to me that was precisely the point.  There is no way any human can live like this without surrender and complete dependence on Christ.

There is more here but this is getting long.  Look forward to the next year with you…

Friday, November 16, 2012

What Is This About...

Today is the 366th day in a row I have posted here.  It is the 368th post because there were two on the first day and I posted a second on 12/21/11 that was a link to an article that I found helpful, nobody else read that post or article…  So after a year of doing this, it is probably a good idea to review why…
So, I have been doing this for a year.  Why?
The answer was delivered with force yesterday in two separate meetings about an hour apart; the first with a small group of men, the second one on one.  Toward the end of the first meeting, one of the men said (paraphrased), “When we started this at the first of the summer, I did not know how to do this, and it seemed overwhelming.  But this is easy.  I know how to do this with any section of scripture now.”  Two hours later, the guy with whom I was meeting expressed a similar thought, we had worked through part of a book together and he had moved from reading past the text to what he thought it should say to reading the text and letting it speak for itself.

There was another meeting about two years ago, about which I wrote a couple of months ago.  These three scenarios plus many more like them, drive me.

We cannot grow in our relationship with the Lord apart from time with Him in His Word.  Not just reading, but studying, digging.  The purpose of this Blog and Entrusting Truth, is to help equip you to do just that.  Let me know how we can help.

PS.  We are tentatively planning a Fathers and Sons retreat at Spring Valley Ranch, March 22 – 24th.  The purpose of the retreat will be to help you to engage more effectively with your sons.  You could use this as a rites of passage for you and your son.  We are still working out the details if you are interested in this type of thing let me know by clicking here.  Watch the Events tab above for the details.  There are several great activities available including shooting range, zip line, and four wheel trails.  Let me know and I will let you know.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bad Priest

Just read Malachi 2:7 – 9, if you read it, you may have the same reaction that I had.  I thought, “My what a strong rebuke of the priests, I sure would not want to be one of them…”

Oops.
Before we go and criticize priests we should probably realize that we are...
I also read 1 Peter 2:5; 2:9; Revelation 1:6; 20:6.  It occurred to me that the priesthood has changed from Levi to the saints.  Us.  Which means that passage now applies to me – I hate it when that happens.  Which means that I am supposed to:
  • Preserve knowledge
  • Be able to instruct
  • I am a messenger of the Lord of hosts
  • I should not turn away
  • I should not corrupt the message
  • I should keep His ways
  • I should not show partiality
Bottom line I am to live in such a way that people are attracted to the Lord through my life and I should be able to instruct them in how they can enter into the same relationship I have with Christ.

If you are a believer – tag you’re it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ever Deepening

I am working through the summary of Philippians.  I have been working with a group of men on the book for the past couple of months – by the way the way we approached the book is something that I would recommend for your study.  We started with an overview of the book, studied each section separately, and now are putting the book back together.  We went from the whole to the parts and back to the whole again.  Anyway…
There is no limit to the depth of the Word of God...
When I did the overview of the book this time it seemed to me that 2:5 was the key verse.  As I am working through the summary I am changing that to 2:3 – 4.  I am beginning to think that everything after 2:3 – 4 is illustrative of that attitude.  I am still validating that thought.

The point of this is that regardless of how many times you have studied a book.  No matter how many times you have chosen a key verse or outlined a book, there is still more to learn in the text.  The more familiar with the book you become, the more you soak in the text, the more and clearer you will see.

In just about every workshop I lead we use 2 Peter.  I have lost count of how many times I have studied that book.  Yet every time I return to Peter’s words I see something new.  That is the depth of this gift that the Lord has left us.  We will never, no matter how long or hard we try plumb its depths.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Prepare Your Mind

I mentioned in an earlier post that I have found 39 references to thinking or one’s mindset in Philippians.  Have you ever noticed that when you identify a theme that you see it more often than you did before?  This morning in 1 Peter 1:13, a verse that I memorized many, many years ago, the theme emerged again – it has always been there I just saw it this time – which underscores the need to continually revisit passages in the Word that we have “mastered.”  But, I digress…

If you look at the passage in several translations you will see some differences in the way the committees handled Peter’s Greek, 1 Peter 1:13, 1 Peter 1:13 NIV, 1 Peter 1:13 NIV84, 1 Peter 1:13 ESV, 1 Peter 1:13 NET.  When you see those differences it indicates that the original is difficult or else has some interesting nuances.  In this instance the word that caught my attention is the word that is translated “mind.”
With all of the differing opinions out there how do we evaluate all that is going on as believers?
Some of your versions may have a note that tells you that the literal translation of Peter is “gird the loins of your mind.”  That is closer but it does not really capture the nuance of διανοία (dianoia).  It has the sense of how we understand, process information, like our world view.  What Peter seems to be saying here is that in light of the reality of the gospel which, in the immediate context, neither the prophets nor the angels understood, we are to soberly control the way we think in light of the overwhelming grace that God has afforded us in Christ.

Paul takes this same tack in 2 Corinthians 10:5, when he states that he is, “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  Again in Romans 12:2, Paul alludes to this same idea, our minds are to be transformed.  As believers how we think, how we process information, how we consider options, how we react to that information is to be guided and conformed to the grace of Christ.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Not My Fault

From time to time during the Bible Studies in which I participate, the subject of God’s sovereignty over individual salvation comes up.  Specifically it comes up in Romans 8 – 11, I Corinthians 1:30, and other places as well.  Today it came up in my time alone with the Lord in 1 Peter 1:1 – 3.  Note that Peter is speaking to a specific audience the elect or chosen.  In most of our English translations the word order varies significantly.  Typically if you see that between versions and translations look deeper.  There is something going on in the text, the translation philosophy of the committee, or the individual translation may have an ax to grind.  That is probably fodder for another post on which Bible to use…
We are pretty sure that our salvation is our choice, at least a lot of the people with whom I have talked this over with, seem to be strong on this.  Does the Bible - God agree?
Returning to the text...  Look at the words that Peter uses to describe our movement toward God…
  • Chosen
  • According to the foreknowledge of God
  • By the work of the Holy Spirit
  • In order to be obedient to Christ and benefit from His sacrifice
  • Caused to be born again
The bookends there “chosen” and “caused” give a lot of us heartburn.  We like to think that our salvation was our choice.  We moved toward God because of something that allowed us to understand His offer and we chose to accept it.  We, I chose, not God.

I do not know about you, but I do not see a whole lot in this passage that validates that position.  Peter seems to think it was God’s choice, not mine.  In that he seems to be echoing Paul in Romans 8 – 11.

Does that bother you?  If so why?  It bothers me.  Tomorrow I will share why…

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Whowah

There was a unique experience this weekend.  My 40th college reunion was held.  Saturday I attended with around 300 of my classmates.  The class is unique.  The state governor, the chancellor of the university, and the dean of student affairs are all members of my class, there are also several others who are congressmen or who have served in other public offices.  That does not account for the many leaders of companies that were present.
Ever been with a homogeneous group of people who were all deliriously excited about the same thing?  That is a very little taste of heaven.
That afternoon we watched the football game in the former student’s center.  You are probably wondering about now what in the world this has to do with Dads Teaching the Bible, wait for it…  The room we were in was two stories tall with a AV wall that was at least 60’ X 20’.  Everyone and I mean everyone in the room was intent on one purpose that was cheering the team on to victory.  At every turn of the game there were cheers, loud cheers, or else groans of displeasure mixed with various levels of imprecations directed at either officials or else errant players – as if they could hear us.  Our team prevailed against significant odds.

Reflecting on the Joy of the moment and the remaining afterglow of the weekend, it occurs to me that in some small way what I experienced this weekend was a glimpse of glory.  I am in no way suggesting that a football victory is equal to heaven, but the context.  All in the room celebrating with one heart and one mind celebrating the victory of the team they support.  It reminded me in a very small way of Revelation 21:22 – 22:5.  All of the believers from throughout the ages reunited in the city of God, in continuous celebration of the Lamb’s victory – the difference is that there is no afterglow – the celebration is infinitely more intense and eternal.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Stand Alone - Inadequate

For the past couple of days the life of Josiah has intrigued me.  You can read about him in 2 Kings 21:24 – 23:27.  I was most impressed with what the Holy Spirit said about him in 23:25.  Think of it he was more zealous for God than David.  His reforms of Israel were deep, sweeping, and aligned with God’s intentions.  Should have made a difference right?  Nope.
The passion and commitment of a leader for God is not enough to save a nation...
In 2 Kings 23:26 – 27, God declares that even thought Josiah did all that could have been expected it was not enough to redeem the nation from the damaging leadership of Manasseh.  The damage to the character of the nation was so deep that even Josiah’s deep, sweeping, and radical reforms were not enough to stem the tide of God’s wrath.  The reason?  Josiah stood alone.  Look at the kings immediately following Josiah.  They were evil.

One man’s passion, however deep, does not redeem the damage done by a people committed to sin.  Josiah repented, his nation did not.  They went into captivity.

We should be about not only building our relationship with Christ, but also sharing that with others.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Following Paul's Example

Yesterday I asked how we could develop the attitude to follow Christ as Paul exhorts in Philippians 2:5 and 3:15.  Tom Morris responded with his ideas, good stuff, you should read his response.
I am learning that I need a lot of help to follow Paul's example...  How about you?
In my experience there has been more involved than just resolving to read, study, and spend more time with Christ.  First of all I have not been very good at keeping those resolutions.  Second, it seems that the reality of Romans 7:15 works itself out in my life more than I would care to admit.  The passage in Philippians that gives me hope is 2:13.  That passage combined with Mark 9:24 seem to indicate a path for more intimacy with Christ through the means that Tom has rightly suggested.  I need to, and I do – not as often as I should – come to Him and confess that I need help not only in my faith but in my desire to follow Him.

I can gut out a quiet time or a Bible study.  But somehow those times do not result in much in the way of relationship with Christ.  It is only as I ask for Christ to lead, to enflame the faith that He has given me, to draw me toward Himself that the Word, the prayer, the time with Him enrichens.

So I am learning that I am dependent on Him to follow Him.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How to Follow Paul's Example?

This morning a group of men and I were working through the summary of Philippians together.  We were discussing themes in the book and how to best summarize those themes.  One of the themes that  we have identified is Paul’s repeated exhortation to have a proper attitude, 2:5 and 3:15.  Specifically, that attitude is to ceaselessly pursue the mind and behavior of Christ.  Paul’s uses a great deal of the letter describing how that mindset works out in life, using himself, Epaphroditus, Timothy, and Christ as examples of proper attitudes.
Is it reasonable for Paul to tell us to follow his example as he follows Christ?  If so how in the heck are we supposed to do that?
One of the men this morning after acknowledging that we need this attitude and with all of us stating that we do not have it, asked how do we develop that attitude.  Great question.  It is a really high bar.  Just looking at Paul’s example which he tells us in 3:17, that we are to follow is hard:
  • Using jail as an opportunity for ministry – 1:13
  • Not focused on the fact that he was under arrest but rather using the time to pray for those to whom he had ministered – 1:3 – 4 and 1:9 – 11.
  • Not caring that people are against him if they only share the gospel – 1:17 – 18
  • Forgoing being with the Lord to serve people – 1:23 – 25
  • Pouring yourself out completely for those whom you are called to serve – 2:17
  • Writing letters of encouragement to the church while imprisoned – 3:1
  • Not claiming to have it all figured out even while doing all of the above – 3:13
There is more but I think that makes the point.  So how do we develop this type of heart for God?  What are the key things that we need to do?  What do you think?  I will share my thoughts tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How Safe Is Your Faith From The Government?

Not sure how you responded to the election last night, at some level it really does not matter.  What matters is how believers respond.  The reality of the situation is that there are going to be major changes in this country in the next few years, in fact history suggests that would be the case regardless of the results of last night’s election.  The US has outlasted all other republics already.  Throughout history, and especially in the first century there was significant resistance from the government against the spread of Christ’s disciples.  That is certainly the case now in China, most of North Africa, and a great portion of the Middle East.  A cursory reading of the Bible reveals that resistance and suffering is the normative state of the Church.  For the most part that has not been the case in the US.  We may be due.
In them midst of a changing reality how does one respond as a believer?
2 Corinthians 2:14 – 17 seems to me to give us a good model for our actions.  Paul tells us that regardless of our surroundings, our culture, our government, whether we are surrounded by believers or unbelievers we are be led by Christ in triumph.  In so doing we will be a sweet aroma of the knowledge of God.  Then Paul expands that by saying that we are that fragrant aroma to both the believer and the unbeliever.  However to the unbeliever we are an aroma of death.  That conjures up thoughts of repulsion, resistance, distance.

Bottom line as believers we do not follow polls, culture, or political consultants.  We are to be led by and trust Christ and allow our lives to speak into the lives of those around us.  It is not an easy or necessarily pleasant assignment.  It is ours nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Overwhelming Forgiveness

This morning in our study on the Kingdom of God, one of the men shared that he was mesmerized by the truth of Colossians 2:9.  One of the other men remarked that we are too often so callused and familiar with the text that we do not allow ourselves to be mesmerized enough.  He is right…
The magnitude and completeness of God's forgiveness of our sin is overwhelming.
This morning I had a plan to read several passages during my time with the Lord but I got stuck or mesmerized by a thought in Psalm 25:7. As you see David asks God not to remember the sins of David’s youth.  I sure remember mine.  That sent me on a chase of the reality of God’s forgiveness.  Rather than tell you what I reviewed you can look at the passages yourself (by the way you should be able to hover your mouse over the references and be able to read them).
  • Isaiah 1:18
  • Isaiah 44:22
  • Isaiah 43:25
  • Acts 3:19
  • 1 Corinthians 6:20
  • 1 Peter 1:18 – 19
  • 1 John 1
There are more but the clear message of the extent of God’s forgiving us is overwhelming, mesmerizing, mind blowing, whatever large word you can come up with.  It is relief beyond measure to know that the things for which I am ashamed, God does not remember.  I am undone by that truth.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Poor Answer

Have you ever been asked a question for which you would like to change your answer?  In June of 2011, I had the opportunity to lead a series of workshops for a portion of a large ministry.  The focus of the weekend was on the leaders of this segment of the ministry and my assignment was to encourage them to increase their focus on Bible Study.  This was in the context of a focus on training the leadership of this organization.
When you are asked a hard question - do you ever wish you could change your answer later?
During one of the sessions one of the men asked something like, “So are you saying that training is Bible Study?”  The answer of course is no.  There is more to training for ministry than Study.  However, the context of the question and the answer is crucial.  There was resistance in that group to promoting deep study of the Word of God.  There were segments of that group that had decided large portions of Scripture were not worthy of attention.  There were segments of that group that were enamored of teachers and books that present as truth that which is not.  So while my answer was accurate.  I did not reinforce the truth that needed reinforcing strongly enough.

It matters.  A cursory look at the passages that enumerate the qualifications for leadership in the Church, 1 Timothy 3:1 – 13 and Titus 1:5 – 2:1, reveal that a leader must have a strong handle on the Word of God.  Not only familiar with the content of the Scripture but the doctrinal implications of that content.  So while it is true that there is more to learning to lead than Bible Study, it is also true that the constant digging in the Word of God not only for ministry but more importantly for one’s own growth is foundational and essential to not just effectiveness but continued qualification for leadership.

This is not just applicable to pastors, elders, deacons, and whatever else your local community may call your leaders, but it is also incumbent on each of us as members of a body.  We are all, at some level leaders, if not of a community, at least in our sphere of influence be it a family, our work, or our neighborhood.  It matters.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Go Slower

There are days when I come to the Word of God and I am in a rush.  I feel pressure to get on with life.  Opening my Bible on those days is more of a habit rather than a meeting with my creator.  I look at the pages with the intent to read but the ink on the paper passes before my eyes without registering.  I blink, and realize I have no idea what I just read.  Some days I just give up.  Other days and thankfully today was one, I stop, take a deep breath, pray through what is causing the shallowness, and try again asking the Lord to ease my heart – and oh, I also release getting done what I planned to do…  Some days I acknowledge that there is nothing more important than to spend time with the one who is my life, Colossians 3:1 – 3.
Are we going to fast and doing such important things that we do not have time for the one who created us and is our life?
There is nothing that I can do that is more important than spending time with Him.  Not this blog, not my ministry, not my family, nothing.  I do not acknowledge that every day.  I am too much in a rush.  The things I have planned or that others have planned for me are more important than taking time to meet with the one who created me and gives me life.  After all, what would happen if I did not get them all done?  That would be a tragedy of Biblical proportions surely.  Not so much.  I am not that important.  I need to go slower and spend the time with Him…

Saturday, November 3, 2012

How to Prevent Ear Tickling

There is a thread in 2 Timothy that I saw for the first time this morning.  Look at 2 Timothy 3:2 and 2 Timothy 4:3 – 4.  The theme seems to be the self contentedness of those who are in the Church but who are not truly following Christ.
How do we avoid falling prey to ear ticklers?
Paul warns Timothy that they are:
  • Lovers of self
  • Do not endure sound doctrine
  • Want their ears tickled
  • They want their spiritual experience to be for themselves rather than for Christ
  • They want teachers who tell them what they want to hear
  • They turn away from truth to myth
This is an indictment worthy of close scrutiny.  I see vestiges of some of those points in my attitude.  I want to hear message with which I agree.  It seems that as believers that we have to be careful not to mistake our preconceived ideas about truth with what the Bible really says.  We have to be careful not to base who we choose to follow as a teacher based on whether or not we agree with him, rather we should be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11.  We should see if what is being said agrees with what scripture says, even if we like what we hear.  If the Body were to do that, the market for ear ticklers would shrink substantially.

Friday, November 2, 2012

In Him, Yes

2 Corinthians 1:20 is a passage that I memorized many years ago – I am a big proponent of Scripture memory.  For most of the first 20 years of my relationship with Christ, Scripture memory was by far the most transformative discipline for me, Bible study being a tie or indistinguishable second.  I have always connected 2 Corinthians 1:20 to the topical study we did on the promises of God.  The idea being that in Christ we find the fulfillment of all of God’s promises.  That is true.  However…
Do we follow Christ because of what He can do for us?  Is that the right reason?
It seems to me that one of the things Paul is dealing with in this letter is some form of teaching that focuses on the benefits of following Christ rather than the primacy of the relationship with Christ.  We seem to follow that today when we look to Christ primarily as a rescue from the foxholes of life.  How many of us have made the deal?  “If you will just get me out of this [fill in the blank] I promise I will…”  Yeah, me too.

Christ does heal.  He does deliver.  He does provide.  Is that why we follow?  Is that the essence of this relationship?  Is that the reason He came and died?  No.  He came to restore our relationship with God, 2 Corinthians 5:14 – 21.  The essence of what Paul is saying here, and it is a thread throughout his letters is that the central issue is that we have a relationship with Christ.  It is not about what we gain from that relationship.  It is that relationship completes us and restores our life.  Any other benefit is secondary.  So, as one of the men put it last Wednesday morning in our study, When we come to God with problems like finances, illness, relational problem His answer is, “Have you met my Son?”

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Opening Minds

Yesterday I asked the question that if someone’s world view made the gospel irrational to them, what could we do to open their mind.  I suggested, “Not much.”  That does not solve our challenge.  We are still are expected to share the gospel, even to those who consider it irrational.  2 Corinthians 5:14 – 21 describes that responsibility as begging folks to be reconciled to God.  1 Peter 3:15 tells us that we are to conduct our lives in such a way that those who do have a different world view are intrigued and ask what is going on with us; Philippians 2:1 – 5 seems to describe that type of behavior.  Certainly prayer plays a part.  Paul asks for prayer in both Ephesians 6:19 and Colossians 3:3 – 6 not only for boldness and the words to say, but for openness to the gospel.
So if it is God's domain to open people's minds to the gospel, what is our responsibility?
The data seems to tell us at least three things:
  1. It is God, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit that changes, opens minds to the gospel ultimately drawing them to Him – not our job.  
  2. We are to live in a manner that attracts people to the gospel, praying for those around us, while speaking the truth of the gospel to them – our job.  
  3. We do not know on whom the Holy Spirit is working but we know that He is working, so we should do 2 with all in our sphere of influence – also our job.
At a training session for counselors for a Billy Graham film several years ago, like 40, the man conducting the training said that our job was to share the gospel joyfully and leave the results to God.  Based on the data in the Bible, his advice was very good.