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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Endings

It seems like about 15 minutes ago that it was 12/31/11.  Each year seems to pass at a vastly accelerated rate.  How was this year for you?  Not just financially, physically, or emotionally; how was this year in the development of your relationship with Christ?  What did your life tell your kids about the value you place on Christ and His work in your life?  It really does not matter what you say to them.  Like my dad said about 6 million times, “Your actions speak louder than your words.”
How did 2012 go for you?  Did you grow spiritually?  Why or why not?  What can you learn from this year?
Did your kids catch you in the Bible?  Did they catch you praying?

It may be a good idea in the next few days to review Psalm 90 and Psalm 113.  How did the heart of those Psalms play our in your live in 2012?  What should you do differently in 2013?  That is between you and the Lord.  Spend some time asking.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Undeserving

In Isaiah 63:7 we find the source of all of God’s actions toward us.  Note the twofold declaration of the prophet:
  • According to His compassion
  • According to the multitude of His lovingkindesses
Why does God engage with us?  Is it because of something we did?
The Lord’s love toward us is not deserved.  It is not extended on the basis of some inherent merit that abides in us.  It is not granted on the strength of our love or service to Him.  It is not earned.  It flows from His nature and character.  It is His choice in spite of who we are and what we do.

Paul picks up this thread in Romans 5:6 – 10.  Note Paul’s threefold description of us:
  • Helpless (6)
  • Sinners (8)
  • Enemies (10)
If God so treats us, how should that inform our treatment of others?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Does It Mean?

…Is the first question most people will ask when exploring a passage of Scripture.  It should be the second or third.  The first question one should ask is, “What does it say?”  In the vast majority of cases the passage will mean just what it says.  Getting those questions out of order is a rich seedbed for misunderstanding or misconstruing what the Bible says.  But there are other places one can create problems for oneself.
What do we do with terms that show up over and over again in the Bible?  Do they always mean the same thing?
About 30 years ago I was in a Sunday school class.  The leader was working through the parables in Matthew.  In his teaching on the parable of the mustard seed, Matthew 13:31 – 32, he stated that the church would grow to have evil in it.  He based that on the statement in verse 32, that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.  When I asked him to clarify that statement, he said that birds always were evil in the Bible, and therefore it had to mean evil in this parable.  He would not accept questions on that logic.  He was wrong.  He is not alone.  He was committing a common error.

The error he committed was to take the meaning of a term or phrase in one part of the Scripture and apply its use there on another portion of the Scripture.  In some cases that is valid.  In most cases the comparison can help understanding.  But in all cases the context in which a term or phrase is used determines how the author intended the reader to understand his choice of words.

Isaiah 30:4 – 5 compares God and His actions to both a Lion and a flock of birds.  Using that teacher’s logic since Satan is referred to as a roaring lion in 1 Peter 5:8, Isaiah must be comparing or equating God to Satan.  Obviously not.  Further Isaiah’s use of the bird metaphor does not expect the reader to see God’s actions as evil.

Comparison of one passage to another is a core principle of solid Bible study.  Forcing terms to mean the same thing in all instances where the term or phrase is used, is not.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Here am I...

You know the passage; you know the story, Isaiah 6:1 - 13.  Isaiah is caught up to the throne room of God.  He sees the Holy one sitting on the throne and he is undone.  After being cleansed by the burning coal Isaiah responds to the Lord’s search for a messenger.  “Here am I.  Send Me.”
All of us are owned by the fact of the overwhelming grace that God has exercised on hour behalf.
Paul has a similar reaction to his encounter with God.  We read in 2 Corinthians 5:14 – 21, that the love of Christ controls Paul’s actions.  Like Isaiah, he is all in to what the Lord would have him to do.  Note that both men were not guaranteed any success nor appreciation for what they did.  Isaiah was pretty much guaranteed failure in Isaiah 6:9 – 13.  Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:5 – 10 outlines his experience in following hard after Christ.  Apparently success in their ministries was not measured by head count of those following but by something else.

Each of us should respond as Isaiah and Paul.  Our desire to follow should be quick on our lips and swift to our feet.  Success is not measured by our production.  It is measured, as it was with Paul and Isaiah, but the heart of our obedience.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Legendary Error

I was given a paper to read a few weeks back that was written by a man for whom I have a great deal of respect.  I honor him for his foundational role in a number of Christian works.  I was given the paper to evaluate as a possible tool for use in training leaders for another ministry.
Those whom we respect can be wrong.  We are responsible to check what they say against Scripture.
Having heard this author speak previously, I was eager to read the paper and looked forward to seeing how his thoughts would help the target audience for the training that was under development.  As I read through the paper I was stunned.  This man whom I respect and admire had throughout the article mangled, distorted, and misused Scripture.  We will not be using the paper.  But more difficult for me was dealing with the disconnect between what I know to be true about this man’s heart, vision, and impact and his handling of the Word of God.

It is a reminder to me that I do not understand God.  I do not understand His honoring and using those who mangle His words so badly and by extension teach others to do the same.  I do know that pattern happened in the emerging Church.  Apollos came to Ephesus and taught in the synagogue.  His message was not quite on target.  Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and corrected him, Acts 18:24 – 28.  Paul confronted Peter in Galatia, Galatians 2:11 – 21.  Error existed in the teaching of the early church.  Error made by men with good hearts.  They were corrected.

There are two take aways for me here.  First, just because I revere a person, I am required to check what they say against the Word of God, and if they seem to be mistaken to engage with them if that is appropriate and God grants opportunity.  Second, God can use men who are flawed with flawed messages to expand His kingdom.  So I need to look at these messages with that grace in mind.

There is probably a third.  We are all flawed.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Unbelievable

Events have happened in the past few weeks that have reopened old wounds.  Praying through those this morning I was essentially complaining to God about the situation.  He was not dealing with those who had caused the wounds in a manner in which I approved.  These people had hurt me and my family, they had sinned against us; what the heck is going on here…
Have you ever had to deal with those who continually have sinned against you?  How did you handle that?
Psalm 51:4 came to mind.  Sin against a person is ultimately sin against God.  That threw my prayer in an entirely different direction.  I begin to realize that all that had been done to me I had, in some form or fashion also done to God.  His response was to send His Son to die for me so that He could restore the relationship.  I certainly would not send any of my three sons to die for these people.

My struggle with this situation has brought into sharp relief the magnitude of what God did that we celebrated yesterday.  All of humanity betrayed Him.  All of us turned our backs on Him.  We continually despise and ignore Him.  Yet rather than be embittered against us, He does not count our sin against us but rather sends His Son to die for our rebellion, 2 Corinthians 5:19.

Unbelievable.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

He Came for Us

God sent His Son when we did not care.  He sent Him to save us.  Rejoice.

Luke 2:7 (NASB95)
7And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sing

Do not forget to read Luke 2 to your kids tomorrow.

Zechariah 2:10 (NASB95)
10“Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the LORD.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Critical 3

The last couple of days we have been looking at Paul’s final letter and his exhortation to Timothy, specifically in 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:8.  Yesterday we observed that Paul instructed Timothy to abide, continue, remain, and entrust to others the teaching that he had heard from his youth.
The Word of God is the foundation, the equipping, and the message for us if we wish to have an impact on our kids or friends for Christ.

Note that 3:14 – 4:8 is the last thing that Paul says to Timothy before the final greetings and salutations.  It is in the place of importance.  The last substantive instruction Paul gave before he died.  Central to the instruction is the Word of God.  It is safe to say that Timothy could not abide in the teaching as Paul commanded, unless he remained in the Word.  Paul underlines that reality by telling his protégé that it is the Word that would make him adequate for his calling.  He further amps up his emphasis on the Word by reminding him that he is to share the Word at all times.  Timothy’s life and ministry is to center around the Word of God.

Is it not the same for us?  If we are going to get to know Christ; if we are going to lead our children and others to a closer relationship with Christ; should our lives not center on the Word of God?  If we are not sharing the Word with our kids or those whom God has put in our path, what are we going to share with them that is going to bring them closer to Christ?  Some idea of ours?  Some idea that another man or woman wrote?  That is better than the Word?

Too many seem to have forgotten this…

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Critical 2

Yesterday I shared some observations on 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:8, suggesting that Paul was outlining for Timothy what was critical for both his own walk and the effectiveness of his ministry to others.  In the comments Chuck offered additional perspective, which I am still processing.  I promised or threatened, depending on your point of view, to comment further on the first observation, “He is to continue in what he has learned.”  Here goes…
How does Paul's command to Timothy impact us?  Or does it?
Paul is contrasting what he wants Timothy to do over and against the general decay of teaching that he describes in 3:1 – 13.  He tells him he is to “continue” in the things he has learned, rather than follow in the paths of the false teachers.  The force of Paul’s command to Timothy rests in the verb, continue.  It is in the imperative mood and is the same word that permeates John 15 that in most of your Bibles is translated “abide” or “remain.”  Not to get too technical here, the tense is present, which indicates continual action.  So Paul is commanding Timothy to constantly, consistently, abide, remain, and continue in the things he has learned.  It is a close echo of the first part of the command in 2 Timothy 2:2.

The core teaching of the Gospel is set.  Doctrine, that is true doctrine, is important.  That doctrine is constantly under attack.  Paul in two places in this virtual last will and testament to his beloved apprentice, commands him to guard, entrust, and abide or remain in that teaching.

One question that rises out of this for me is how did Paul transmit that teaching to Timothy?  A corollary becomes, how are we doing in following his example?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Critical

When Paul wrote 2 Timothy he was at the end of his life.  He had invested the past several years in three trips around the northern Mediterranean sharing the gospel and training leaders for the communities of believers he planted.  During most of that time he had Timothy with him.  Timothy was his closest mentee.  Paul had invested and trusted more to Timothy than any of the many men and women to whom he ministered.  Paul knew he was facing execution.  He knew his remaining time was short.  2 Timothy is the last recorded words we have from this apostle and they are addressed to his closest co-laborer.  So this is not a casual missive.
What is critical to the expansion of the Church according to Paul?
A couple of days ago I woke up thinking through this book.  There was something that happened the day before that elevated this book in my thinking.  After I got up I read it again and I was impressed that 3:14 – 4:8 is the core of the book.  Look at what Paul is telling Timothy as his parting exhortation:
  • He is to continue in what he has learned
  • The Scripture is critical for his being adequate for his call
  • The Scripture is his message
  • This will be resisted
Think through that.  Tomorrow we will explore the first one in more detail.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Contrast

In sharing the Word with your kids or with those in your sphere of influence there will be mixed success.  Sometimes it will take; sometimes it will not.  Some people will respond; some will not.  Some of those who seem to initially respond will fall away.  I was reminded of that today in vivid relief.
Success and failure in attempting to reach our kids or our friends with the Word is not in our control.
At breakfast I met with the men who have been working through Philippians.  It was a joy to hear them wrestle with how to best engage others in the process to which they have been exposed.  Not only the content of Philippians but the way they had come to understand the book.  As I listened to the discussion I wished I a video recording of the interaction.  Success.

This afternoon I got an email from an associate who I followed at a campus ministry.  He was sharing an email from a person who had been in both his ministry and mine.  This individual has jettisoned the faith and all that goes with it in no uncertain terms.  Failure.

It would be easy to take credit for the success and blame for the failure.  However, the reality is that I had little to do with either.  I have no control over how people respond either positively or negatively to the message of the Gospel and the command to follow Christ.  All I, we, can do is set the table.  We cannot force anyone to eat or digest what the Lord says.  It is His work.  He has to work in their hearts and minds.  2 Timothy 2:24 – 25, reminds us of this.  We have to engage but it is God that works in a person’s life, not us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Schemes

Isaiah 30:15 - 16 paints a picture for us of the results of disobeying God.  It is a starkly painted picture because it is contrasted with the what appears on the surface to be a fairly simple command from The Lord.
We have a choice to either repent and rest in God or else run and look like a fool...

Look at the contrast:
  • Repent and Rest
  • No, we will flee on horses
The Lord told the people of Israel that if they were to repent and rest or trust in Him they would be fine.  Instead the people came up with their own plan.  They would run away as quickly as they could from their challenges, their problem, their sin.  The result?
  • You are left as a flag on a mountain top and an flag on a hill
The people became and example of what not to do.
It is especially important because most of us, at least me, are more interested in schemes of escape than learning to wait on The Lord.  Why?  We are a lot like Peter.  We have a bias for action.  Do not just stand there, waiting, do something, anything, sitting still, waiting is not productive, it is lazy.

But waiting and trusting is what The Lord commands.  He does not need our schemes.  He needs and commands our trust.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sharpening

Today was one of recovery for me.  My fever broke sometime last night but it takes a day for me to get over stuff anymore.  So today was pretty much a loss in terms of productive work.
It is not always the best to talk only to those with whom you agree.  It is golden to butt heads with those whose opinion you respect.
However, I did roll out of bed, albeit 10 minutes late, for the Tuesday morning study on the Kingdom of God.  I have mentioned this before, we live in three time zones and four different states.  We meet each Tuesday for about an hour on Skype to talk about the progress we have made in the Word that week, ministry and personal challenges, and whatever else may come up.  It is a safe, challenging place.

Yesterday I shared the challenge that came from the meeting with the former Olympic athlete.  I just got off of the phone with one of the men who is on the Tuesday morning conference call.  We talked for about 40 minutes on the reality of evil as it relates to what happened last week in Connecticut.  We do not always agree.  But we respect each other’s handle on the Word of God.  So what happens in the conversation is that we listen openly to the other person’s argument.  The result is that we are both sharpened.

We all need that desperately.  But it takes work.  The first assignment is to become one whose grasp of the Word is to be respected.  The second assignment is to seek out those who will challenge that grasp and to engage with them tenaciously.

I have some more thoughts on this that follow an athletic vein, I may share later.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sick and Excited

Most of today I have been in bed with about a 101.3 fever.  I did have one meeting before I crashed.  It was a good one.  I met with a guy who was an Olympic class athlete.  He told me his story and it is an amazing testimony to God’s grace and intervention.  But as good as that was it was not what made the meeting epic.
If one is open to the other gifts in the Body epic things can happen.  We are not in this alone.
We talked for about an hour about how to engage men like him in the workshops I do.  Most of them are as he is former world class athletes who, using his words, a bit restless.  He asked great questions about how to shorten the actual meetings and possibly extend the workshop in to four shorter modules.  They were good ideas and I have the assignment of thinking that through for the next few weeks.

What made this epic for me was the way our gifts meshed to think through the challenges we face engaging men in fighting for their families through and with the Word of God.  Each of us brought the gifting and experience with which God has equipped us and the dialog produced more than either of us would have created on our own.

This is how the Body should work.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Waiting and the Word

This morning a conversation with a friend about hearing the voice of God was on my mind when I woke up.  I was thinking about my experience and wondering how to help others.  Shortly after I got up I was reading in Psalm 130:5 – 6.  Don’t know about you but it is stunning to me when the Word speaks directly to what is on my heart so rapidly; it has happened twice today already.
What role does the Word of God play in waiting on the Lord.
Repetition in Hebrew is tantamount to writing in bold letters with an exclamation point.  Look at what is repeated in Psalm 130:5 – 6:
  • I wait
  • My soul does wait
  • My soul waits
  • More than the watchman in the morning
  • More than the watchman in the morning
Note also what is in the middle of all of the repletion:  In His word do I hope.

There are three significant observations here:
  1. The importance of waiting on the Lord
  2. The centrality of the Word of God in waiting on the Lord
  3. The attitude of those who are waiting on the Lord
Think through those and let me know how your respond.  I may give you mine tomorrow or the next day.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sovereignty

One of the more impactful studies I have done over the years both personally and with men one on one, is a study on the Sovereignty of God.  A key study, it is really never really finished.  One continues to see different aspects of how God’s sovereignty is expressed, assuming one stays plugged into the Scriptures.
Though He cursed the ground, He still holds all of it together and is involved in what happens to it...
This morning was one of those moments for me.  I was reading in Psalm 65:6, David says in the first part of the verse that the mountains are established by God’s strength.  If you know me you know I love backpacking in the mountains, high in the mountains.  So these types of passages draw me.  My first response was to reflect on some of my favorite places, the Bridger National Wilderness.  I was thinking through how that place, those mountains reflect the glory and strength of God.  Then a couple of other verses came to mind.

Colossians 1:17 tells us that Christ holds all of this together.  Each rock, each snowflake, each shrub is held in place by Christ, each movement under His control.  Then I recalled in Genesis 3:17 that as a result of Adam’s disobedience God cursed the ground.  That curse would include the mountains.

“Wait a minute.”  I thought.  That would mean that God through Christ is holding together the ground that He cursed.  The more I thought about that both the more it made sense and the more overwhelming it became.  God created all of what we see in the World.  He is responsible for its state.  He held it together before He cursed it, He holds it together now.  All that happens in and to it, He controls.  Nothing can be done to the ground, the earth, without His involvement.

Consider the implications of that.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Steady

You may have noticed that the world is changing.  Rapidly.  Not just politically but in every other way.  When we took our first son to college, during orientation they told us that there would be jobs when he graduated that were not even imagined when he entered school.  The amount of new information that is available each day is staggering.
As believers how do we handle the tsunami of change that is our world?
It is not possible to keep up with all of this.  As believers how do we cope?  What should be our focus?  How do we help our kids and grandkids navigate these turbulent waters?

Isaiah 26:3 – 4 offers some measure of an answer to this.  In the midst of a churning cauldron of change, the still point is the One who created this and holds it all together.  There is little in which we can trust that will not change.  He does not.  Therefore it is in Him only that we should trust.

He alone is steady.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Resistance and Reproduction

You are aware that Christ had mixed success in His ministry.  Not everyone agreed with Him.  Not everyone followed Him.  You will probably not fare better than God.
Not all that you do with your kids or with other people will result in them responding to Christ.  Some people will never do so...
In the past couple of days that has been driven home, yet again, through a series of events.  On the one hand there is a group of men with whom I have met for years (by the way while what I am sharing is accurate all of the details have been epically altered) are continually pushing back on what I am trying to do to help them.  “This is too hard.”  “People do not really need to study like this.”  “This is something that only pastors should be doing.”  “I do not get this.”  Resistance.

On the other hand there is a guy I have just been meeting with for a short time.  He is eating it up.  He cannot wait to find someone with whom to share what he is learning.  He is pushing me with what he is seeing in the Word.

Working to lead our kids in the Word will follow the same cyclical pattern.  It goes with the territory.  There are times when the kids will be receptive and times they resist.  Our ministry to them will follow the same pattern a ministry to those outside our homes would.

Be encouraged.  Christ had the same result.  We are not above our Teacher.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Impact of One Life

A conversation a couple of days ago was a stark reminder of the importance of each of our lives.  In the past two days I have been reading Seth Godin's book, Tribes, which emphasizes the identical truth.
Not entrusting what was entrusted to you prevents many from learning the truth.
A friend of mine recently returned from a meeting were material to which we were exposed about 33 years ago was presented as new thinking.  The material had its genesis in one of our mentors.  He was not given credit, in fact he is not even acknowledged publicly, but the impact he had on my life, my friend’s life, and the lives of several of the people who were at that meeting has endured.  I know that several of us are still using information that he shared with us.  That is an example of a life well invested with positive impact.

On the other hand our lives can have a significant negative impact.  There were others who were exposed to the same information but did not use it; were not good stewards of the information that God in His sovereignty exposed them.  Not only did those not steward the information well, they actively and passively discounted it.  2 Timothy 2:2 tells us that we are to pass on what we have learned to the best of our ability.  This was not done with the result that there has been a significant number of people who have not benefited from the information that was entrusted to those people.

Now that some of that information is resurfacing and will, I believe, prove to be valuable, those who held that information back have negatively impacted those from whom they withheld the information.  Essentially 25+ years of impact has been discarded by not valuing what was entrusted.

If it is the case that God is sovereign, He has brought our experiences and information into our lives intentionally.  He does that because as Ephesians 2:10 along with Psalm 139:13 – 16 tell us He formed us for a purpose.  It follows that all that He brings our way is to shape us for that purpose.

We are accountable for how we steward His sovereign interaction with our lives.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tom Clancy - Theologian, Anthropologist

I started writing on a Biblical view of global warming but that post has taken on a mind of its own and will be too long for this space; so I switched gears.
Tom Clancy has a take on the current state of Christianity.  How would you respond to what he says?
I have been reading through Clancy’s Ryanverse for the past several months.  In his book Teeth of the Tiger we read on 382 (somewhat redacted for language):
…He was able to download the Koran, and started reading it.  The holy book had forty-two suras, broken down into verses, just like his on Bible.  Of course, he rarely looked at it, much less read it, because as a (orientation removed) he expected the (clergy) to tell him about the important parts, letting him skip all the work of reading about who the _____ begat what the ______- maybe it had been interesting, and even fun. At the time, but not today, unless you were into genealogy, which wasn't a subject of dinner-table conversation in the Ryan family…
In my estimation Clancy has nailed the vast majority of people’s view of the Bible.
  • It is no longer relevant.
  • It is the domain of priests, clergy, and scholars.
  • It is not read
  • It is not discussed
  • I know what it says and it is like the other holy books that are out there
How do you respond to that?

Monday, December 10, 2012

No Dawn

There are many great books written today, I have read a bunch of them.  There are also those that are not so good.  I have had many of those recommended as well.  What is the difference?  Truth.  Measured in two ways:
  • Can what the book says be supported by the Word of God?
  • Is the book internally consistent?  That is does the author not contradict himself in the presentation of his point of view?  
Just because something is published in a book does not mean that it is true.  How can we tell?
Evaluation of a book on these factors requires first that we know the Word of God and second that we read a work critically.  I am learning that printing words on paper and binding that paper with an attractive cover, does not equal either accuracy or truth within.  That becomes a problem when communities promote books not the Bible as “Bible Study.”  Again there is much to be gained from books about the Bible, but they cannot replace our time in the Bible either in priority or time.  If we have time to read them, we should have time to study the Word ourselves.

Books are like those who are traveling through our spheres of influence with a message.  We are to check them out like the Bereans did with Paul, Acts 17:11.  Further we are to evaluate them based on Isaiah 8:20.  If they do not reflect the truth of the Word, they were written in the dark.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Say Yes to Hate

You have seen the bumper stickers.  “Say no to hate.”  Problem is the term “hate” no longer has meaning.  It has been warped to essentially mean if you disagree with a “politically correct” position, say the choice of a homosexual lifestyle, you are a hater, or, to use another term that no longer has meaning a ____phobe, fill in the blank with whatever it is you tend to disagree.
The world tells us that we should not hate.  Is the world right?  Do they know what that word even means?
Unsurprisingly, the world’s view does not align itself with Scripture.  There are too many examples to list here but you can start with Psalm 119: 104, 113, 128, if you want more email me and I will send you a longer list.

We hear a lot about the need to release hate.  That does not seem to be the counsel of the Bible.  We are to hate sin in all of its forms.  We are to oppose it and those who propagate it.  Before you respond that we are to hate the sin and love the sinner, spend some time in Psalms and Proverbs chasing down the term “hate.”

We have to choose between PC and following Christ.  Do we not?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Skills, Goals, and Mentors

In the past few days I have had a couple of conversations with men that were revealing not just of them but possibly of the state of the Church.  The first remark came from one of the men that is working toward team teaching Philippians in January.  He and his wife have been in the Sunday school I have taught for the past year or so – taught needs to be explained here – I am not a teacher.  That is not my primary motivational gift.  Exhortation drives me.  My goal in a Sunday school class is not to answer questions but to create them.  My friend commented that he would leave with the questions but when he got home when he opened his Bible he had no idea how to find the answers.  After our time together these past seven months he says he does now and he wants other men to have that desire and ability.
We should be helping one another to gain skill and grow in our relationship with Christ.
The second conversation was with a young associate of mine.  He outlined for me very specific goals in an area of his life for which he has great passion.  They were both specific and stretching.  If he accomplishes his goals it will move him far in the pursuit of his passion.  He is a believer.  After he had explained his goals after some hesitation I asked if he had similar goals for his spiritual growth.  He readily admitted that he did not and that he knew that was a problem but he also said that he had no idea how to set them.  I can help him with that, if he will let me.

What this seems to reveal in the Church is a departure from Christ’s mode of ministry.  Mark 3:14 may be the most succinct expression of his method.  Lest one think that method was supplanted by the pulpit, Matthew 28:18 – 20 and John 17:18, 20; 20:21, suggest otherwise.  We are not commanded to lead people to Christ and then leave them to try to figure this Christian life thing out on their own.  We are commanded to engage in the business of investing our lives in the lives of others, giving them an example to follow and instruction in how to pursue Christ.  That applies to our kids first.  But our assignment is much broader than that.

It is a graded assignment.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Home Run

A few weeks ago I was invited to screen a film that was shot here in Tulsa.  “Home Run" is scheduled for release sometime in the spring of 2013.  Make sure you see this film.
Generational sin is real and impacts nearly all of us.  The upcoming movie, Home Run, deals well with that theme.
If you have read Wild at Heart, you are familiar with the idea of the father wound.  That concept is a subset of the overall theme of generational sin and bondage to which God refers in Exodus 2:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18; and Deuteronomy 5:9.  This film explores that crucial theme in great detail, showing both the impact on the generations as well as extending hope on the breaking of that generational cycle.

The film is a study of recognizing, confronting unsuccessfully, and finally breaking that cycle through the power of grace, forgiveness, relationship, and the help of believing community.  It is done well.  The production quality is high.  The work extends to another level the quality of Christian Films that has been set by Sherwood Baptist.

We need to support this film not only because it is an unabashed Christian film, but also because the message will strike home deeply with men.

I will keep you updated on the film as I get more information.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Battle Within

This afternoon I was reading in Psalm 24.  There are a lot of passages that I really love.  My sons will tell you that when we were meeting regularly in Bible study just about every week I would tell them that we were looking at one of my favorite verses in the Bible.  It became a joke to them.  Psalm 24 is not one of them.  It is one of those passages I do not like very much.
How do we deal with the reality of fighting sin in our lives?
Specifically I do not like 3 – 4.  Why?  I do not know about you, but that sure does not describe me.  As hard as I try I cannot maintain that standard.  No matter how much I pray, study, beseech the Lord for strength, my flesh seems to eventually, read daily, get the better of me.  The older I get, the more I understand Paul in Romans 7:15 – 24.

The good news follows hard on the heels of that passage, Romans 7:25 – 8:1.  In Christ I am not condemned for the failing of my flesh.  I still, like Paul have to battle, not only my flesh but the one who is trying to devour me, 1 Peter 5:8.  But the hope and the glory is that the victory is not in my ability to deal with my sin but Christ’s.

I got there through Psalm 24.  I guess it is not such a bad passage after all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Common Sense

In a Sunday school class a few years back I opened a book, not the Bible, in front of the class to a page somewhere in the middle and read a sentence about halfway down the right page.  I then asked the class what the sentence meant.
Understanding the Bible is not hard it just takes common sense...
After a stunned silence the consensus was that there was no way they could answer the question?  So I asked them what data they needed to enable them to answer.  They quickly came up with a list something like this:
  • What book is that?
  • Who wrote it?
  • What is it about?
  • When was it written?
  • What is the purpose of the book?
  • Where does this sentence fit into the flow of the book?
  • What is the context of the sentence?
Interesting…

I have been in a lot of Bible studies and Sunday school classes that approach the Bible the way I presented the other book.  So the questions becomes if I need to know those things about any other book in order to grasp what the author is saying in a book other than the Bible, why is the Bible any different?  How can I understand or apply what is written in a verse of the Bible if I do not know the answers to the questions which the class identified as crucial to understanding?

Bible Study is not some mysterious deal.  It is simply applying what you already know how to do, that is find out what something means in a book, to the Bible.  Just like other books you read or study, you may encounter words or concepts which are new to you.  What do you do then?  You look up the definitions of terms with which you are not familiar.  You look for a short description of the concepts of which you are not familiar.  It is not hard.  Just common sense.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Confront Sin

When it comes to Scripture we tend to be selectively obedient.  That is especially so when it comes to confronting people about their sin or a leader who has drifted into heresy.  Most of us do not like conflict.  We avoid it, some of us at all costs.  We use the notion of tolerance or coexistence to deflect scriptural admonition to engage.  Or, like me, we are cowardly, not wanting to endure the imagined or inevitable pain associated with entering into the fray.  Sometimes we use the wise counsel of others, who hold to various positions listed above, to avoid the requirement to confront.
It falls to us to confront sin and heresy whenever we encounter it.  Not to do so invites the destruction of the individual or the ministry involved.
The problem is when sin or heresy is not confronted it grows, festers, metastasizes, and kills.

I will not share details and in fact they are altered.  But I have been aware of and engaged in confrontation of a heresy for the past few years.  I was asked some time ago to present material that was designed to counter the false teaching that had permeated some part of a ministry.  It was thought and I was counseled to not confront the issue directly.  It was a mistake.  The problem has not been resolved and those who have carried the banner against the error have been discredited and pushed aside.  Those who subscribe to the false teaching persist and have solidified their power.  The leadership of the ministry  as a whole seems unwilling or unable to deal with the issue.  Recently, a person who has not been engaged in this process confronted one of those who has been deeply engaged and pushed aside for their trouble and chided them for not doing more.  It was a bit like telling Romney he was responsible to convince Obama he should support the repeal of Obamacare.

Dancing around the counsel of the Holy Spirit never works.  Matthew 18:15 – 17 is pretty clear.  Paul, confronted Peter directly in front of others as he shared in Galatians 2:11 – 14.  Christ turned the moneychanger’s tables over in the temple, Matthew 21:12.  Most of Paul’s letters are dealing directly with errors of doctrine or practice in the Church.  We are not expected to allow error or sin to go unchallenged in our midst.  It denigrates the Body of Christ.  We, I am to engage.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Internal Audit

We are told that we should have a physical every year.  When I was looking for images for this post discovered instructions for self examination of different body parts; all that is focused on our flesh which is in an unstoppable decay, 2 Corinthians 4:7, 16.
Like we need yearly physicals and self exams, we need regular spiritual audits.
As believers we are called to a deeper, more frequent examination.  2 Corinthians 13:5, Proverbs 4:23, tell us that we are to be diligent in looking over our lives.  Do you do that?

From time to time I encounter scripture that reminds me to look deep inside.  Psalm 4:2 is one of those verses, Psalm 27:4 is another.

Only we and the Lord know what is going on inside.  He asks, no commands that we pay attention, and turn what we find over to Him.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Handled Consistently

You may have struggled with how God deals with people who have challenges.  How does a child who is taken before they can talk rationally receive Christ?  How does God engage with those who are challenged mentally?  I have been in many conversations about this over the past 40 years, you probably have as well.  It is a difficult and emotional line of inquiry.  In one of the discussions one of my mentors suggested that God deals with each individual in a manner consistent with their nature.  I am not completely comfortable with that position but it came to mind this afternoon.  Let’s consider it and some of the implications were that true.
If it is true that God deals with us according to our nature, we probably ought to work on that...
You may know an individual who is unteachable, I do.  There is little this type of person does not “know.”  Regardless of education or experience one cannot hope to share anything with this type of person, they are not interested in learning rather sharing their knowledge.  There is another type who is so focused on their own goals, stuff, ministry, job, etc that they have no time or use for those who are not aligned with them.

There are Biblical examples of these types of people.  In these two categories, Saul of Tarsus leaps to mind.  Saul was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that arresting and executing disciples of Christ was a godly and glorious pursuit.  He was good at it.  He was completely focused on his goal.  So much so that Stephen’s incisive explanation of the Gospel made no dent or difference in Saul’s thinking or goals.  So when he was proceeding down to Damascus to pursue his goals, the Lord slapped him up side of the head with the proverbial 2x4.  It took that, plus a few days of physical blindness, to open his spiritual eyes.  Christ knew that it would take that type of intervention to get Saul’s attention.

There are other examples to which we could point.  As I said I am not certain of the global nature of the observation, but it makes me think.  It makes me think that I want to be more open to the direction of the Lord than Saul was.  I would like to avoid that level of pain if possible.  If it is true that God deals with me according to my nature, I would like to have a nature that learns quickly; one that is responsive to His prompting and leading.

What nature are you presenting to Him?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Living With the End in Mind

In the workshops we do, Fathers to Sons, Dads Teach the Bible, and Parents Teach the Bible, we study the book of 2 Peter.  There are a lot of reasons for this; one is that is only 61 verses long so it can be read quickly.  The second is that it is packed.  One of the themes that permeates the letter is the second coming of Christ.  For the past few days in my time with the Lord I have been reading in Joel and 2 Peter.  Both books examine the coming or “day of the Lord.”
How should the reality of Christ's return and the destruction of this world inform our daily choices?  Peter says it shroud...
Part of the exercise we do on 2 Peter is to identify the key verse for the book.  In the workshops verses from each chapter have been chosen by the participants for good reasons, there are many through which one can view the book.  One of the verses that someone in each workshop will choose is 2 Peter 3:11.  After telling us that this world is temporary and that it will be destroyed by fire, Peter rhetorically asks how that information should impact our daily life choices.

There are at least two ways to approach the fact that the Bible says Christ is going to return.  One is to try to figure out all of the details and the sequence of events so that we can nail down the particulars.  A lot of ink and toner has been applied to paper in pursuit of this objective.  The second is to ignore all of the hype surrounding this as irrelevant.

Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, commands a third response.  To live one’s life in light of the fact that Christ is going to return and at that return will hold His disciples accountable for the choices they have made on their life journey.  Peter’s point of view is that it is not our career or family objectives that should drive our daily decisions but rather the reality of Christ’s sovereign return.  Joel agrees.

How should that impact our day?