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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Again Why?

March a year ago I shared I was asking myself, “Why?”  There is another facet to that question.

I have been working on the summary of 2 Corinthians for the Wednesday morning group.  This afternoon I was thinking through how I might use 2 Corinthians in the future.  One of the themes that runs through the book is the reaction of the Corinthian church to Paul and Paul’s response to their reaction.  A summary of the Corinthian believer’s reaction to Paul could be that they did not hold him in much regard.
What are the reasons we choose to engage in helping people in their relationship with God?
Paul poured his life into that group of believers and they rewarded him with criticism, disloyalty, slander, and disdain.  Thinking through this causes me to evaluate why I invest in men and what I expect from that investment.

If I am engaged in helping folks in learning to walk with the Lord more closely through learning to study the Bible on their own for the purpose of gaining their respect, donations, honor, or good will, I am not engaging for the right reason.  Paul engaged because he was overwhelmed by the grace that God had lavished on him, 2 Corinthians 5:14.  If I engage for any other reason, I will be disappointed with the result.  It does not matter how folks respond to what I do if it is not them but Christ who I am serving.

Monday, April 29, 2013

War

As I mentioned yesterday I am still worn out from the weekend.  So this morning when the phone rang at 0630 I did not respond.  I let my wife get it.  She came into the bedroom and woke me up.  My daughter called to tell us that one of her good friends who had a little girl last Tuesday was being rushed to the hospital with what looked like postpartum heart failure.  She asked me to engage those who pray for us.
Most of how we fight the enemy is on our knees and getting others to join us on their knees
I crawled out of bed and sent an email to the 130 people who pray for us.  I then posted the same request on a Tulsa Christian men’s facebook page.  I sent it to our church prayer team, and I sent it to a retired police officer who knew the husband, a current Tulsa officer, and he posted it on the TPD facebook page.

All day I have been getting requests for more and detailed information.  When I got some I would tell the groups.  The Body pulled together around this family.  People they will never meet have been praying all day for them.

Did it matter?

We found out late morning that they had eliminated heart failure.  She is still very sick with fluid around her lungs.  The Drs have not yet determined what is causing this.  She is still in need of prayer.  We will still pray.  But there is value on multiple levels.  The Body pulled together in unity on this.  That is powerful.  This young couple know that they have hundreds of people praying for them.  They are not alone in this war.

That matters.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

It's a Good Tired

This weekend a group of us went to Spring Valley Ranch for YourOneDegree™ Coach’s training.  There were five men who were there to be trained and Dave Jewitt and I conducted the training.  My goals for the weekend were met at about 90%.  The interaction of the men was great.  We hammered out some issues that Dave and I have been working on for over a year.  It looks like we have launched five new coaches.
Great time this weekend facilitating a training session for five new YourOneDegree coaches.
The Lord showed up in several ways.  One of the tenants of YOD is that if you are functioning in the way God designed you, you are energized by the effort.  I was.  I am tired.  But it is a good tired.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

March of Order

I wonder if we have things backwards.  I was talking to a person who is engaged in a ministry the other day.  He was “trained” as a pastor.  He was sharing how he was building up a new believer.  He shared that he was giving the person books to read.  They were good books.  But he was not showing the man how to get into the Bible for himself.
In ministry are we getting the cart before the horse?
At seminaries students are taught systematic theology, Christian education, Church history, missions, etc…  They are not taught how to ground a young believer in the Word.  They are taught to preach, not how to show someone how to have a quiet time.  The premium is put on groups.  Not on investing one’s life into another person.

So when the person that has been “helped” in that way gets further along in the Christian life, what do they see as normal?  Perhaps they assume that in order to really mature they have to do what their pastor did, go to cemetery – I mean seminary.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rest

We – or at least I – worry about, scheme, plan, and attempt to execute all manner of “critical” projects.  My world would probably cease turning if I were not effectively engaged in the effort to keep it spinning.  The things that are on my plate are critical to the well being of humanity after all.  Woe betide any who would hinder my important – check that, critical work by, say, not turning left quickly enough when the light changes.
Perhaps the world may not stop turning if the person in front of me does not turn left as soon as the light changes...
Then I run across passages like Isaiah 48:9 – 10.  This is really not my show.  My contribution while important in the sense that God created me for a specific purpose (Psalm 139:1 – 16; Ephesians 2:10) – well the adhesion molecules is not dependent on my completing my task.  Next year spring will probably come again, as well as the year and years after.  God will prevail.  He will deal with evil – in His time, in His way.  I just need to follow Him and know that He is in control – it is His responsibility to perform, mine to obey.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reach

On Thursday mornings a group of us meet at 6 AM to study Ephesians.  This morning we were in chapter 2.  Thirty minutes after we meet I am back in my office on Skype with a pastor in Morocco studying Ephesians with him this morning we finished up chapter 1 and started into chapter 2.
The Word of God does not know cultural boundaries.
There is a lot of talk in missions about how we have to be careful not to transfer our culture in the process of helping our brothers and sisters overseas.  I have a lot of thoughts on this I will not share here.  One thing I do know, the guys in the 6 AM group and the Moroccan pastor are reacting to Ephesians in exactly the same way.  All of these men whether sitting in a restaurant in Tulsa or six time zones away, have been overwhelmed by the way God has intentionally lavished us with His Grace.

It seems that when we equip folks to ask the right questions in the right order and give them simple tools to increase their ability to observe the cultural issues seem to dissolve.  Perhaps what we need to do is equip folks to study the Bible – not books about the Bible, the Bible – and get out of the way.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Forced Housekeeping

Well today has been interesting.  It took 4 hours and talking to 26 people at AT&T to get them to admit what I have been asking them since December.  Yahoo, the provider of AT&Ts e-mail, has been changing my password thus locking me out of my email periodically since December.  The reason?  Apparently, they have reduced the number of emails one can send per day.  My email list of notifications is larger than that number therefore I am flagged as a spammer and shut down.  Right now I am completely locked out of the pop3 and smtp servers.
How do you respond when you are forced to deal with difficult apathetic people...
During the four hours of getting kicked around technical support, disconnected 6 times and misdirected about 7 times, I found that I had to stop and pray regularly that I would treat those of the 26 on the other end of the phone with dignity.  For the most part, by God’s grace I did, with the possible exception of the last guy who lied to me.  On him I hung up.

That is why this post is late and will not be broadcast by email.

The timing of this is really interesting.  I am leading a Bible study tomorrow morning on Ephesians 2, Friday I begin to facilitate training for a select group of men who want to be One Degree coaches.  I have learned that when I have significant opportunity/responsibility the enemy comes at me hard.  Today he took away four hours I was going to invest in Ephesians 2 and did his best to frustrate me, with some success, and blur my focus.

We are constantly at war, 1 Peter 5:8

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Compare or ...

Tonight I have been working through a summary of 2 Corinthians.  One of the key verses for me this time through is 2 Corinthians 10:12.  I was working on summarizing that section of the book and was trying to come up with the opposite of compare in the context of 2 Corinthians 10.  So quick what is the opposite of compare?
What is the opposite of comparison?
You can see from the notes – assuming you can read them – I tried multiple words.  It occurred to me that in this context the root of both comparison and contrast is insecurity.  Insecurity in one’s place in, worth to, and usefulness to Christ.  That drives us to measure ourselves by what we can see, other people.  Paul says that demonstrates lack of understanding.

I am still not settled on how to communicate this most effectively but it seems to me that in this context the opposite of comparison may be contentment.  Contentment in my position in Christ.  Contentment in the role in which He has placed me.  Contentment in the way He has gifted me.  Contentment in the way in which He has allowed me to serve Him.

I find that often I am not content with the way my Lord has chosen to employ me.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fear and Love

2 Corinthians 5:14 – 21 is another passage to which I return.  It is one of the passages I use when talking about our responsibility to share our faith.  I have focused most often on verse 14 in the sense that it is Christ’s love for us and our love for Him that drives us to share with others.  In reading through the book again this morning in preparation for a summary of the book I noticed I had missed something.
Why do we obey God?  Because we love Him or because we fear Him?
The section starts in verse 11.  The first phrase of that verse is, “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade…”  There are two drivers, love and fear.  Many times when the word “fear” appears in the Word, especially when associated with the Lord, folks seem to want to translate it “reverence.”  That is a little weak.  While the word can mean “reverence” and is translated that way in 1 Peter 3:15, the word is φόβος (phobos) the word from which we derive our word phobia.

We obey a sovereign Lord whom we love and fear and therefore beg people to be reconciled to Him.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Making Life Work

Psalm 115:4 – 8 has been one of those passages to which I have returned time and again.  It serves as a reminder of the futility of following after gods that we invent.
The strategies we construct to make life work determine who we become...
Reading through it again today I was struck by another aspect of the Psalmist’s warning.  All of us have been shaped to some extent by our experiences.  Shaped in the sense that when we have experienced pain we tend to want to avoid encountering pain again.  So, if you are like me and most folks, you take stock of what caused the pain, and if it was something that you did, you make a covenant with yourself that you will never do that again.  When it comes to things like putting your hand on a hot burner, that makes a lot of sense.  However, when it comes to relating to people and relating to the world around us, those covenants can become damaging.

Larry Crabb calls those covenants strategies to make life work.  On the surface they may be good behaviors.  Things like serving others, or being a solid dependable person.  Some are not healthy like never taking risks, or refusing to confront people to avoid conflict.  These are a problem because we trust in our strategies to make life work rather than trusting in God who created us to thrive and have impact.

As it says in Psalm 115:8, we become our strategies.  We trust our strategies rather than trust the sovereign One who created us.  Read Psalm 115 and notice the contrast between making idols or strategies and trust.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Reds in Service of Greens

Over the past several years I have had the privilege of supporting friends in their ministries.  That help has ranged from helping with computer and website issues to evaluation of ministries and ministry personnel.  Your One Degree is the ministry with which I have been most involved outside of Entrusting Truth.  One of the reasons is the investment in time and counsel, which I will never be able to repay, Dave Jewitt, founder of Your One Degree, made into my life and the start of this ministry.
If you are familiar with Your One Degree – if not you can find out more here – you will know about reds, yellows, and greens:

  • Reds – activities that you do – you may even be gifted at doing – that suck the life out of you
  • Yellows – activities that you do, again at which you may excel, that do not suck the life out of you nor do they energize you.
  • Greens – activities that you can do and do well that not only energize you but you can do all day and not get tired.

Most of us will find that our lives become full of yellows and reds thus pushing greens out of our experience.

I said that to say this – most of what I do to help Dave falls into my greens (drivers) which are – study, imagine, connect, and change.  For the past year Dave has asked me to help him train One Degree coaches, that is a green – the assignment engages all of my drivers.  We are on the second iteration of that project.  This weekend I am working through the material that will be presented to the men next weekend.  It is tedious red work for me.  It is serving a really high green.

The point of all of this is that sometimes in order to serve our Lord and our Lord’s servants, we need to do things that do not necessarily align with our gifts and drivers.  We may have an opportunity to serve outside in a red talent that supports a green end.

Regardless, we should serve.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Turf

One of the ways that the enemy attempts to thwart the Body is division; another is exclusivity.  Those two go hand in hand.  Paul wrote about this in both of the Corinthian letters.  In 1 Corinthians 3:1 – 9, Paul scolds the Corinthian believers for identifying themselves as followers of specific teachers rather than followers of Christ.  In 2 Corinthians Paul is having to deal with “super” apostles who are denigrating Paul and his ministry in order to gain favor with the Corinthian Body.  Before Paul, Jesus had to correct His disciples when they hindered the ministry of those who were not in their circle, Mark 9:38 – 40 and Luke 9:49 – 50.
Which Christian project is better than the others... Thoughts at DTTB.
That still happens.  With churches and Christian organizations there exists the attitude that we are the best, we are doing it right, if you are not with us, then you are not really doing all that you could.  Further, there are gauntlets of membership that have to be run in order to be accepted in the fold.

It is necessary to check and see if one with whom you are thinking of associating is in the faith.  It is prudent to have a dialog to make sure that you are on the same page on the major doctrines.  It is exclusive and divisive to require specific pedigrees in order to acknowledge another’s faith.  It seems to me that is little better than the folks that were demanding the circumcision of new believers in the early Church.

It is much better when the Body works together.  Paul calls the Body, “the fullness of Him,” Ephesians 1:23.  Think of that.  As the Body of Christ, we are His fullness here.  When we unite, when we pull together and encourage one another, help one another that fullness is focused and creates a much stronger impact.

It would be a good thing for all of us to be aware of the barriers we erect between believers.  It would be a good thing for us to begin to pray we would see them and work to remove them.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Home Run Releases Tomorrow

I have intentionally not repeated myself in this blog, today I make an exception.  The movie I reviewed last December, Home Run, releases tomorrow.  I highly recommend this movie.  It will be a good one to talk through with your kids.  Here is my original post:

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.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Right Questions

You ever in a part of the Bible that baffles you?  Does not make sense?  Does not seem to align with your understanding of God or the Christian life?  Feels like – or you are not sure that it is really inspired?  Yeah – if we are honest, we all have had those experiences.  What do we do with all of that?
What do you do when you hit a passage that does not fit your understanding of Christianity?  Thoughts at DTTB.
[At this point in the creation of this post I went to my bookshelf to find a quote in the book How to Read a Book, I did not find what I was looking for but for a few minutes got pulled into the book again – I recommend it all of the time, I know it is good, I had forgotten how good…  If you have not read it, you should.]

In his book How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler says, “The Word of God is obviously the most difficult writing men can read; but it is also, if you believe it is the Word of God, the most important to read.” Two other quotes from Adler apply here:
If an author…explicitly asks you to take something for granted, the fact that the opposite can also be taken for granted should not prevent you from honoring his request.  If your prejudices lie on the opposite side, and if you do not acknowledge them to be prejudices, you cannot give the author’s case a fair hearing.
And
We are speaking here…of the difficulties that face a non-believing reader of a theological work.  His task is to accept the first principles as true while he is reading the book, and then to read it with all the care that any good expository work deserves.
The upshot of Adler’s advice here is that we have to read the Bible as the Bible says it is.  That is the inspired Word of God.  So that leads to at least three questions for passages that strike me as odd or not aligning with my current, using Adler’s words, prejudices I have to acknowledge that the Spirit inspired the author and ask:

  • Why did the Holy Spirit lead the author to write this passage?  
  • What do we learn about the Christian life and/or ministry from this passage?
  • How does what is being presented serve to build up believers in their faith?

Those are not easy questions to answer honestly.  However, answering them is worth the effort.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Little Ears

I work part time at an outdoor store for at least three reasons that I will not share here.  There is a family that comes in regularly just before closing.  Usually it is a father and his two daughters.  One is 7 the other is 4.  There are some knitted Frisbees in the store.  The last time they were in I played catch with the four year old.  Her sister had bought one of the Frisbees a few weeks ago and she told me all about it.  Tonight she brought it to show me.
You may think the little ones are not paying attention...  Thoughts at DTTB.
Her dad decided to try on some wading boots; he is an avid fly fisherman.  As he was trying them on he was describing the way he fishes.  He described himself as a nomad saying, “I hate to stay in one place.”

The four year old was standing to my left holding the Frisbee, she had a really solemn look on her face, she is really serious, and really cute, she stepped toward her daddy and said in a quiet, serious voice,  “We do not say ‘hate’ daddy.”

He responded, “Oh, you are right, thank you, I really do not like to stay in one place…”

It was all that I could do to keep from falling off of my chair laughing.  I think I hurt a rib holding it in.

You may not think that what you are saying to your kids penetrates.  It does.

This dad, by the way handled that superbly.  He acknowledged and received the correction from his 4 year old child.  He affirmed and reinforced what he and his wife are teaching their girls.  He communicated to her that her words were weighty and important and immediately corrected himself restating his sentence in the manner he wished her to speak.

It was funny, it was awesome, it was good – no great, parenting.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Homework

A while back in a workshop I was conducting one of the participants made an offhand comment that they did not do homework when we were reviewing the assignment from the previous week.  In the midst of the workshop I did not choose to respond.  Time did not allow me to ask questions, so all of my response was based on my understanding, which may be erroneous, of what this person meant…
What do you say to someone who does not see the need to do Bible study on their own?
First let me state that the purpose of Bible study is not primarily knowledge.  That is knowledge in the sense of what facts are presented, what date some event took place, what prophets spoke to which nation at what time, or what sequence of events happened in Habakkuk.  John 5:39 – 40 tells us that the purpose of searching the Scripture, study, is to know Christ.  So, on the one hand if this individual viewed the things I was asking them to do as anything other than a means of knowing Christ, I would support their statement.  But based on the content and context of the remark, that probably was not the case.

It has been stated many times here that studying the Bible is not just a good idea for believers, it is essential.  1 Peter 2:2, 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17; Hebrews 5:11 – 14; Acts 17:11, and many more passages speak to this directly.  As believers we are expected to study Scripture.  That does not mean that we are to read a book that someone wrote about the Bible or that our study should consist wholly of prepackaged, guided, fill in the blank studies.  The expectation is that we deal directly with the Word of God.  That takes work.  That takes practice.  Like any other skill we develop in our lives, it is something at which we have to work if we wish to get better.  Further, like any other skill, the initial attempts will be clumsy and possibly error prone.  It is only as we continue to press through that clumsy phase that we begin to gain confidence and skill.  It is through practice that happens.  It does not happen by osmosis.

My wife and I have four children and an increasing number of grandchildren.  We watched all of the kids and one of the grand-kids learn to walk.  The process – you know this – was nominally the same for all of them.  There was figuring out how to get up on your hands and knees.  Learning how to crawl.  Figuring out how to stand.  Taking a step and planting one’s face in the carpet.  Negotiating huge obstacles like the threshold of the door, etc.  All those were hard.  All of those steps were liberally peppered with failure in the form of falls.  Cuts, bruises, busted lips, stitches, crying, you know the drill.  What if after the first couple of tries, one of them decided this just is not worth the effort.  I would rather lie here and let others take care of me.  No chance of falling, no more bruises, no more stitches…  That would not be normal.  As parents we would help motivate them to walk.

That is what “homework” is.  It is practice.  If we do not continue to stretch ourselves, if we do not continue to learn more about Christ in His Word, we are much like that child who decided it was just too much trouble to learn to walk.  Forever dependent on others to carry us from point to point in our Christian lives.  Hoping they are going in the right direction.

We need to do the homework.  We need to learn to walk.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Assignment

How do you approach the Lord for your devotional?  If you do not have an answer for this and would like some ideas let me know.  I will share some.  For me the Word is central and it drives me to Prayer.  For my wife prayer is central and she spends time in the Word.
Sometimes the Lord leads us to more than we start with in our devotional time with Him.
For the past several years I have been using an old version of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.  I picked it up at my roommates wedding in Huntsville, Alabama probably in the late 1970’s.  I use the daily lessons and Psalms.  The first year I went through both morning and evening sections.  This year I am working through the evening section only.

Whatever Episcopal priest put this together did not do so randomly.  I do not always see why he chose to put together the passages listed for the day, but more often than not I see some connection between those passages.  Today was no exception.

See if you see the connection, the picture is today’s evening lessons and Psalms.  The thread started for me in Ezekiel 34:11-16, 30 - 31, and continued in John 21:1 - 19.

Working through this, the Lord led me to some other passages that picked up the theme:
  • Proverbs 27:23
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:14
  • Hebrews 12:15
  • Galatians 6:1 - 2
  • Isaiah 61:1
Rather than tell you what I saw, take a gander for yourself and should you feel led, share what you see in the comments.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Perform or Marinate

I was going to write on Psalm 40:1, but I already have.  But while I was thinking through that passage this morning Luke 10:38 – 42 came to mind.
We are not called to perform for Christ but to marinate in His presence...
If you are like me you are more like Martha than Mary.  The waiting that the Psalmist describes in Psalm 40:1 is really what Mary is doing here.  She is at the feet of Christ soaking, marinating in His presence.  Martha is busy serving, ministering.

Jesus says that marinating is better than performing.  I have trouble remembering that.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Power of the Word

Last night I met Glen Keane and heard his testimony.  You may not know who Glen is, you know his work.  As Disney’s chief animator he created Ariel, Aladdin, the Beast, and many other characters you and your kids know and love.  His father, Bill, was the creator of the long running cartoon, Family Circus, Billy was modeled after Glen.
Glen Keane, the creator of many of Disney's most beloved characters, came to Christ in a manner you may not believe...
Glen came to Christ when a fellow animator at Disney who was a black Jehovah’s Witness responded to Glen’s question about whether the Bible he saw him reading could help him get answers to knowing God, by telling Glen that as a Jehovah’s Witness he was wrong, but that if he would read John 3:16 in the Bible he then gave Glen (which he had taken out of a hotel room), Glen would find the answer.  Glen takes the stolen Bible with him to get a hamburger.  He reads John 3:16 on the way back.  As he is crossing the street on the way back from Jack’s, he trusts Christ.

You will need to read that again.  There is so much story wrapped up in that sentence that it may take you a few minutes to digest.

I have written earlier about the power of the Word to transform.  Glen’s story highlights, bolds, and underscores that truth.  Look at the elements:
  • A practicing cult member is reading the Bible
  • Figures out that what he believes is wrong
  • When asked admits his error
  • Does not share the truth verbally
  • Hands Glen a stolen Bible
  • Tells him to read John 3:16
  • Glen goes to get a hamburger and comes back with eternal life.
We need to get people into the Word.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

OD7

Unless something changes drastically this will be the last post on Ephesians 1:4.  We have been using it to look at both how to and the benefit of taking time to observe in your Bible Study.

The last phrase in the verse is, “in love.”  Note that this phrase follows the same format that I mention in the post about the phrase “in Him.”  So that means that this construction could be translated:
  • In love
  • By love
  • With love 
  • Among love
Work through all of those translations as you read through the verse.  Note the different nuance each rendering lends to your understanding of the passage.  The sense I am getting thinking through this is that God’s choice of us in Christ was an act of love that places us before Him blameless in a state of love, with the result that we respond in love.
If we slow down and look there is a lot there...  Thoughts at DTTB.
The purpose of these seven posts was not to fully explore the content of Ephesians 1:4, we have not.  In fact we have just scratched the surface.  The purpose was to demonstrate that if we slow down and look, there is a lot, and I mean a whole lot, to see in passages with which we are very familiar.  If we do take the time, our understanding of the depth of both God’s book and His nature and character will be drastically increased.  The value in doing this is far greater than that we could ever get by reading someone else’s observations on a passage, including mine.

I pray you will engage.  If you do and you have questions, do not hesitate to ask.  I will help.

The posts in this series:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

OD6

For the past several days, we have been looking at Ephesians 1:4 as a means of seeing what observations we can come up with.  While we have made quite a few and have at least a couple of more days left, we have just scratched the surface.  One of Prof Hendricks’ favorite assignments in the introductory Bible study class at Dallas Seminary was to repeatedly assign students 50 observations on Acts 1:8.  When I left the seminary the record was over 650 observations.  This verse is no different.  The depth of the Word is immeasurable.
When you think you have seen everything in a passage you have not yet scratched the surface... Keep looking
The next phrase in our journey through this verse is, “before Him.”  Typically, and for an obvious reason – few if any attending have studied the language, I avoid Greek our workshops on Bible study, with one exception.  In this case Greek unpacks for us a rich vein of inquiry concerning the word translated “before,” in Ephesians 1:4.  It turns out that particular word, katenopion (κατενώπιον), only occurs in two other New Testament verses:
  • Colossians 1:22
  • Jude 24
Take a minute and read those passages.  What did you notice?  Highlight the space below to see what I saw... (Click and hold your mouse here and drag down to the list below.)

In all three passages “before” (katenopion) is connected to the idea of our standing before God blameless.  The implications here are many.  Spend some time meditating on these three passages.  It will be worth any time you invest in the process.

The posts in this series:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

OD5

The next phrase in Ephesians 1:4 is, “to be.”  It indicates purpose.  God chose us before the beginning of time for a purpose.  It was not a random act.  The choice was intentional.  The choice was for a reason.  Not a reason of merit on our part.  Rather, God’s purpose.  Rick Warren had it right in the first sentence of The Purpose Driven Life , “It’s not about you.”  This is God’s story.  This is God’s purpose.
Even though we think we have exhausted observing the text, there is still more there.

The next phrase unpacks that purpose we are to be, “holy and blameless.”  On my own I am anything but these things.  Apart from His choice, we are wretched enemies of Christ (compare to Romans 5:6 – 8 and Ephesians 2:1 – 10).  Yet in, by, and with Christ we are holy and blameless.  That was the purpose of God’s choice.

And it gets better…

The posts in this series:

Monday, April 8, 2013

OD4

The next phrase in Ephesians 1:4 on which we need to spend some time is, “before the foundation of the world.”  This is a temporal clause.  That is it places the action of the verse in time or sequence.  The implications of this are vast.  Peter is stating through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that God’s choice of us in Christ took place before the earth was.
Sometimes when we take the time to slow down and observe, what we see can rattle our categories

God being outside of time and not bound in sequence is not subject to this phrase that illumines our understanding.  This placement of the choice of God as happening before the foundation of the world, in other words before Genesis 1:1, further distances us from having any influence on the choice of God, either by behavior or some other merit.

This phrase helps us to understand Peter’s later statement in Ephesians 2:10 and sheds some light on passages that trouble us like Romans 9:11 – 13.  This concept of God’s sovereign choice through grace is central to all of Paul’s epistles.  It has now surfaced strongly in Paul’s contemporary, Peter.

The posts in this series:


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Observation Demo 3 (OD3)

Continuing to look at Ephesians 1:4 the third phrase we should consider is “in Him.”  This is the third mention in 4 verses of the notion of "in Christ;" the 4th mention follows in verse 5, this phrase in one form or another occurs 30 times in the first three chapters.  That seems to be significant emphasis, don’t you think?
Observation is key - we have to keep looking in Bible study.

The Greek preposition en (ἐν) always takes the dative case (sorry about the technical here but in this case it is important).  En (ἐν) is translated in, by, with or among.  This indicates the means and the position of our choosing.  He chose us in, by, and with Him.  The dative here carries all of these meanings:
  • We are chosen positionally in Christ
  • We are chosen instrumentally by Christ
  • We are chosen collectively with Christ.  This notion of with Christ is validated later in Ephesians 2:6.
So the force of this observation points to the centrality of Christ in Paul’s argument…
More to come.

The posts in this series:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Observation Demo 2

Yesterday I started sharing some observations on Ephesians 1:4.  The purpose is to demo one of the ways I work through a passage.
What else do we look for as we study the Bible?
The second phrase that grabbed me in Ephesians 1:4 was, “He chose us.”  Several observations and some reaction:
  • He chose us
  • We did not choose Him
  • It was His action.  
  • It was His volitional choice.  
  • He acted.  
  • We played no part in His choice.  
  • Most people I know recoil at this notion; at some level I do as well.  
  • It is humbling to consider that my position in Christ is not by my choice.  
  • As a man I want to be in control.  I want to make the decisions.  I want to be the master of my fate as “Invictus” states.  
  • It is against my nature as a rebellious, independent, fallen man to easily accept that it was God who chose me and not the reverse.
  • That also breeds a desire to find some merit or explanation of why God chose me.  But the cross reference Romans 5:6 – 8 quickly disabuses me of taking that direction in my thinking.
More tomorrow.

The posts in this series:


Friday, April 5, 2013

Observation Demonstration

One of the things that this Blog is attempting to share is the need, importance, and primacy of observation in our personal approach to the Word.  A few days ago I shared that I had gotten sidetracked on Ephesians 1:4 while I was supposed to be doing an overview of the book.  For the next few posts I thought I would walk you through some of the observations I made on Ephesians 1:4.  You might want to stop reading now and take some time to make your observations before you read mine.  That way you can see if I got it right…
Like great detectives, we have to approach the scripture making great observations.
The first two words in Ephesians 1:4 are “just as.”  If you look at the list of structural markers I shared earlier in this blog, “just as” indicates comparison.  So the first thing I look for is to what is Paul comparing.  That throws me back to verse 3.  Specifically that “He has bless us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”  So, that tells me that what is about to follow is a comparison or probably better an extension in this case of what Paul just told me in verse 3.

So the first observation is that verse 4 flows as an extension of verse 3 and that what is about to follow is at least one of the blessing with which we have been blessed…

That may seem simple.  Hold on.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Common Hearts

Ephesians has continued to be a great study.  The five men with whom I am working through the book met this morning.  We went another week on the overview of the book.  One of the men focused on the statement Paul made in verse 1:3.  He observed that all that follow in chapter 1 is unpacking that short statement.
Paul and Peter were two strong personalities that clashed - they shared a common heart.
A few minutes ago I was reading through 1 Peter.  I noticed that in 1:3 - 5 Peter quotes in concept what Paul states in Ephesians 1:3.  That is intriguing at two levels.  First, that both the apostle to Israel and the apostle to the Gentiles would pen nearly the same thoughts.  It demonstrates the common thinking about Christ in the early Church.

Second, that two men who were decidedly type A’s, who clashed so strongly in Galatia, who were both passionate defenders and propagators of the faith, who were both imprisoned and eventually executed for their faith, were united in their passionate view of their blessed position in Christ.

Read through Ephesians 1 and 1 Peter 1 and compare their common heart.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Community

This afternoon I was privileged to meet with a bishop from the United Church of Pakistan and one of his key men.  The purpose of the meeting was to explore how we could be of service to them and they to us.  If you have been following the news - well you would have to be following it really closely - you know that Muslims are burning Christian houses and murdering Christians in Lahore and Gujranwala.  The charge from the Muslims is blasphemy stemming from both Christmas and Easter worship.
Like our brothers and sisters in Pakistan we need to be grounded strongly in the Word in order to stand against the schemes of evil.
As we talked this afternoon some common themes emerged.  The challenges were different but the themes were the same.  Believers in Lahore, Gujranwala, and Tulsa have to be grounded in the Word of God.  That means that they have the ability to sit down with a Bible and a blank sheet of paper and dig in for themselves.  They have to be able to know how to do this on their own.  Why?  One never knows in the midst of a world that is under the dominion of evil when the leadership may be removed.  We are all to walk with Christ individually through the Bible.  We cannot function as apprentices of Christ on the basis of someone else's relationship or knowledge of Christ.  It has to be ours.  When suffering comes - it will - we have to be able to stand strong against that tide.  The only way to do that is to have deep personal roots in God's Word.

So we stand in community with believers in Pakistan in that we both need the same things.  We need to be in the Word and we need to pray for each other.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Life Happens

This morning did not go as planned.  I spent about an hour on the phone with the internet provider because my email quit working yet again.  There was a call to a creditor about an account that was not behaving as I thought it should, discovered a problem that will have to be sorted out.  Before I turned around the morning was gone.
How are we to handle unexpected interruptions to our excellent plans?
When that happens to me, my frustration level goes off of the chart.  I have to remember that God is sovereign over all of those events.  None of the events that took me off plan this morning were a surprise to Him.  They were just more ways in which I can learn to trust Him.  I sometimes, like this morning, do not remember that until after the event.  The people with whom I had to deal were important.  In the midst of the frustrating circumstances I am required to treat those folks as image bearers of Christ.  That is the assignment.  Ofttimes I do not pass very well.  I need to remember that the person is more important than my problem and that God has me there for a reason.

Monday, April 1, 2013

On Our Own

You may remember that I am in a study with a group of men in Ephesians.  We are on the overview part of the study so as a group we are to be reading the book at one sitting and making observations on the book as a whole.

So I was reading through the book this afternoon and got as far as Ephesians 1:4.  Then I did what I have told the guys over and over not to do, I dove down deep in that verse.  Totally ignored my own rules.  Spent about 2 hours working through the verse, making observations and getting blown away by what I saw.  At the end of the time I literally was in tears over what I had seen.
There is no way to adequately communicate what we get from our time in the Word with others...  That is why it is so important for us...
My wife came home from school and I was sharing with her what I had found.  She was tired from dealing with kids with special needs all day.  She wanted to hear what I had found, so I went through it with her.  She thought it was good.  However, it did not impact her the way it impacted me.  Why?

It took me about 10 minutes to share with her what I had seen in 2 hours of work.  She listened, but she had not spent the time working through the passage.  So while the information was interesting for her, it was not processed through her experience.  It really would not have made a difference if I had taken 30 minutes.  There was no way I could communicate what I had seen there.

It is the same for all of us.  There is what others tell us – it may be interesting, even compelling.  But it cannot be a substitute for our own engagement.  It is when the Holy Spirit unfolds the truth to us, personally, that real change, real impact occurs.

That is why we have to be in the Word for ourselves.  That point was highlighted, underlined, put in italics, and in a bold font again this afternoon.