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Friday, May 31, 2013

Persistence

Passion
My passion is helping people; especially men get into the Bible for themselves.  Most have never been shown how to do that.  On one of Prof Hendricks messages he talked about his experience.  When he became a believer someone told him he needed to get into the Bible.  He asked him where to start and the person told Prof that it was all profitable just dive in.  So Prof did.  Right in the middle of Leviticus.  When he got disillusioned with that he turned to the back and hit the seals and wraths in Revelation.  He closed the book for two years.
We have to show people individually how to study the Bible.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Challenge
It was not until a person sat down with Prof and showed him how to study on his own that he began to understand the scripture and grow in his walk with Christ.  Most men I know have never been shown how to study on their own.  They use guide books, videos, study Bibles, and commentaries to work through the text.  Folks will spend more time with the tools than they will with the text.  While all of those are helpful, it is essentially leading you through the work that another has done.  It is a barrier between you and the Word.

Breakthrough
It takes time and persistence to show a man that he can get into the Bible on his own.  There is core belief that has been created through a lot of experience that one has to have some sort of special knowledge to understand the Word.  That ain’t true.  John 14:26 and John 16:13 say it ain’t.  But guys have to experience it for themselves.

It is really fun to see a guy figure out he can understand the Word on his own.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

More Stewardship

Review
A few days back I shared some observations on Ephesians 3:2 on the topic of stewardship.  I am going to expand a bit on that here.  If you have not read that post it would probably help to do so, I am not going to repeat any of that here.
Is the stewardship of the grace that God has given us similar to Paul's?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Context
Ephesians 1 – 3 outlines for us the lavish grace that is intentionally poured out on us for God’s purposes.  To validate that look at how many times the notion of God’s purpose, intention, or will is mentioned in that section of the book.  4 – 6 is what Paul describes as our worthy response to that lavish outpouring of grace.

The Thread
Ephesians 2:10 tells us that each of us have been intentionally created for good works that God prepared for us.  As I mentioned in the earlier post 3:2 is the description of Paul’s responsibility to steward the grace of God for others, namely the nations.  Ephesians 4:11 – 16 outlines for us the role of leadership in the church.  Note especially 4:12 the purpose of the leadership is to equip the saints for the work of service.

Conclusion
Putting all of that together it would seem that the church’s stewardship is to equip its members to fully engage in their Ephesians 2:10 purpose, which would be each member’s work of service.  That equipping is to result in the building up of the body, which we see in 1:23 is His fullness.

Implication?
Now the kicker, Paul’s stewardship was to the nations.  If I am reading this thread in Ephesians correctly, the purpose for which we have been created and are to be equipped by the church to fulfill is to build up the Body.  Now of course that is local, but the Body is more than local, it has no borders.  So if we are to steward the grace God has given us, should not that also be, like Paul, for the nations?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Enemy

Know Your Enemy
On Wednesday mornings I am in a study with a group of men.  For the past several weeks we have been studying Satan.  Why?  Because it is important to know your enemy.
In order to resist him we need to know our enemy well.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Many believers never give much thought to the role Satan is currently playing in this world or his attitude and activity toward the Church or individual believers.  He likes the fact that we ignore him to the extent that some claim that he does not exist.  We do that and hold that opinion to our peril.

Fight Back
1 Peter 5:8 commands us to be alert for him.  James 4:8 and Ephesians 6:10ff tell us how to do battle with him.  If he were not active and did not exist the Holy Spirit would not have inspired Peter, James, and Paul to pen those warnings.

A Place to Start
If you need a place to start here is a list of references for the places in the Bible that Satan or devil crops up.  Skim through them and see what the Word says about him.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

To Whet or Not To Whet That Is the Question

You have read, heard a message on, read a blog post about, or read a book on Proverbs 27:17.  Ministries are named after this verse.  Much ink has been applied to paper exhorting men to engage in this process.  There are are other verses in Proverbs that inform the action you may choose to take in response to 27:17.  One of those is Proverbs 9:8 – 9.
We are to sharpen each other.  All the time?  Are there limitations?  Thoughts at DTTB.
A little while ago a man I know stopped me at an event we both were attending and asked me some very pointed questions about some of the choices I have been making in this ministry.  That was risky for him.  He did not know how I would respond.  That does not happen much.  To say I was grateful for his challenging questions would be an epic understatement.  Too often we are navigating on our own we need each other to question.

I meet with another man weekly to pray and talk through life and ministry stuff.  He asks me hard questions as well.  There is a group of men with whom I meet weekly on Skype.  We have known each other for a collective 130+ years.  There is not much that any of us can get away with in that conversation.

I need all of those interactions.  The Lord uses those men to keep me focused, on or near the right track.  He also uses my wife’s questions.

But there are some men I will not approach.  They will not listen.  They suffer from what Prof used to call hardening of the categories.  They already know everything so they cannot learn anything.  They scoff.  They disparage.  They attack when questions are asked.  Proverbs says we are not to challenge them.  By contrast they are fools.

Which are you?  If folks are not challenging you what does that say about you?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial

If you were to look up “memorial” in a dictionary you might find:
We are to remember God in a way that causes Him to remember us.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Read Joshua 4:7.  Note that God told Israel to build a memorial to remember what He had done for them.

Read Acts 10:4.  God told Cornelius that his prayer had become a memorial to God.

In the Greek New Testament and the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, the word translated memorial is the same in Joshua 4:7 and Acts 10:4.
It is interesting to me that God asks us to remember Him and our continual prayer reminds God of us.  Yes we are today to remember what others have done for us to allow us to Worship freely.  It is more important that we remember God in such a way that He remembers us.  Don’t you think?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

New Song

Psalm 98:1 tells us that we are to sing a new song to the Lord in response to the wonderful things He has done.  Most of the times I have read that passage I have blown by that verse on my way to the rest of the Psalm.  Mistake, big mistake.
There is a lot that Psalms tells us to do that we gloss over.  We shouldn't...  Thoughts at DTTB.

If you are like me – well I tend to get in devotional and individual worship ruts.  That is I do the same thing pretty much every day.  While that works for me and the Lord honors that with His presence; leading me into new, deeper, and greater understanding of Him and His grace, it does not honor Him.  I need to be creative in my personal worship of Him.  Come to Him with new energy, new approaches, new songs.

We read verses like this in Psalms and think, “That’s a nice idea.”  It is a command.  The verb is imperative.  It is not a suggestion, it is a requirement.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Microwave or Smoker

Occasionally my wife and I have what we refer to as gourmet meals – read frozen.  They are usually Healthy Choice, and mine is usually Beef Merlot.  You stick it in the microwave and nuke it for 5 minutes and you are ready to chow down.
Do you approach your meal in the Word as with a microwave or a smoker?  Thoughts at DTTB.
From time to time I smoke meat for our family.  That takes a bit longer than five minutes.  The preparation starts with finding the right cut of meat or getting the right size turkey or chicken.  I inject all of the meat I smoke with a variety of spices and other liquids.  The base is beer to which I typically add mustard, Chipotle Tabasco sauce, mustard, and a number of spices.  The night or two before I am to smoke the meat I prepare it by injecting and then marinating the meat overnight.

The next day I get up early, in the case of a turkey really early,
start the fire in the smoker and put on the meat.  I use mesquite wood to smoke.  The smoker needs to be at a relatively constant temperature of 220 degrees Fahrenheit.  So several times during the day I have to check and tend the fire.  Additionally I have to check the meat to make sure that it is cooking evenly and in some cases baste it as it cooks.  For a turkey it will take 16 – 20 hours depending on the size of the bird.  Briskets take about an hour a pound so about 10 hours.  But the meal is still not ready.

After I take the meat out of the smoker, we cover it and let it rest for about an hour before we carve it.  Each piece of meat, turkey, brisket, chicken, or ribs, have to be carved in a specific way to make the meal most enjoyable.

While I am carving the meat my wife has set the table and has cooked the side dishes.  That process can take up to two hours.

Then we eat.  It is good.

We can approach the Bible similarly.  We can nuke it for five minutes, or we can engage in preparation, marinade, slow cooking, resting, carving, and garnishing with side dishes.

Which do you think will result in better results in our knowledge of Christ?

Friday, May 24, 2013

What To Do When the Word Is Dry...

What do you do when you pick up the Bible, working through your reading program and the passage you are reading does not do anything for you?  You have two or three options.
There are a couple of good things you can do when you find the Word to be dry.  Thoughts at DTTB.

First, you could beat yourself up that you are not spiritual enough.  You could tell yourself that it is all profitable and you should be enthralled with every jot and tittle, and then go on a fast until the passage speaks to you.

Or you could go to a passage that you know is one of your favorites and spend some time there.

Or you could go on about your day and come back tomorrow.

I have done all three.  The second and third are best.  Do not beat yourself up.  God doesn't.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Deep End

Still working through Ephesians this week.  Met with a group of men this morning and a Pastor in Morocco via Skype after them.  The book is so deep I feel like I am over my head in the deep end of the pool only to realize that I am in the shallow end of a pool of infinite depth.
The Word is so deep it is sometimes overwhelming, but it is worth the plunge.  Thoughts at DTTB.

If you are not in the book that reveals the infinite character of the overwhelming God we serve on a regular basis.  And if you are not doing that on your own, just you and God, not reading a commentary or the notes in your study Bible, or following someone else’s fill in the blank study, you are filtering your experience through the walk of another.  If you need help.  I will help you.  If you know how and are just not doing it, get with it.

You will drown in grace.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Church or Individual?

Aristotle in Politics, 1253a, 18 through the end, makes the case that the state is “by nature clearly prior to the family and to the individual, since the whole is of necessity prior to the part; for example, if the whole body be destroyed, there will be no foot or hand…”  Other than the faint foreshadowing of Paul in Romans 12, the question arises does Aristotle’s view apply in a similar way to the Body of Christ which Paul calls the fullness of Christ in Ephesians 1:23.  Or to put it clearly is the Body of Christ more important, “clearly prior,” to the individual believer?
Do Aristotle and Paul agree on the primacy of the Church over the individual believer?  Thoughts at DTTB.
You may have gathered, correctly, from earlier posts that I am in the midst of a study of Ephesians.  This week I have been in chapters 3 and 4.  I noticed something in 4:16 that seems to contradict or at least bring into a different level of inquiry Aristotle’s notion of the whole being greater than the parts in society.

Note that in Ephesians 4:16, Paul is bringing together a number of themes he has explored in the first three chapters.  It seems to me that here Paul is examining in some detail the relationship between the individual believer and his gifts and the Church (I am using the capital C here to refer to the Body of Christ as a whole, not a local church.)  Note the integration of the two concepts in Paul.  The Body is held together by the individual gifts and contributions of the individuals.  The Body does not exist apart from the individuals.  Yet as we have already noted above in 1:23 Paul refers to the Body as the fullness of Christ.

Think through that.  The fullness of the Body of Christ is held together and grows by the proper working of each individual in that Body.  That throws and entirely different and blinding light on yesterday’s post and our responsibility to engaged completely in what Paul says in 2:10 are the good works for which God prepared each believer.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Stewardship

How do you respond to that word?  If you are like most church members, you think about giving, the yearly pledge card.  I am getting a different sense of that word from Ephesians.
Stewardship is not about money...  Thoughts at DTTB.

Ephesians 3:2 is where this started for me.  Paul states that his stewardship of God’s grace was given to him for the sake of the Ephesian believers.  I looked at the other places this word shows up in the New Testament; nine times:
  • Luke 16:2
  • Luke 16:3
  • Luke 16:4
  • 1 Cor 9:17
  • Eph 1:10
  • Eph 3:2
  • Eph 3:9
  • Col 1:25
  • 1 Tim 1:4
Reading through those and interesting picture of stewardship emerges.  The sense seems to be, for lack of a better term, “job,” that has been given to one who is to care for that “job” in line with the desires of the one who gave the “job.”  Further, the “job” has been given for the benefit of “others,” in this case the Ephesian believers.

This idea of stewardship in the context of Paul seems to have taken on the management or the administration of the ministry of the Gospel.  In the context of Ephesians 3 here the management is on behalf of others.  We are in a sense controlled by the one who gives the stewardship.  Thus the reference to the Love of Christ controlling Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14ff.  This seems to be in line with the thread of “entrusting” in 1st and 2nd Timothy.  The Gospel was entrusted to Paul and he in turn entrusted it to Timothy who was commanded to entrust it to faithful men.  The stewardship is not voluntary as per Luke 16:2 - 4 and 1 Corinthians 9:17.  We are expected to “steward” with consequences if the “stewardship” is not carried out with integrity.

So stewardship seems to be not the optional yearly pledge we experience in our churches.  Rather it is the intentional, committed, administration of the gifts and abilities with which God has equipped us for His specific purpose for our lives.
That is a much bigger deal.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Words

Working through Ephesians today I noticed something I had not seen before.  The word that is translated stewardship or administration in 1:10; 3:2 and 9 shares a root word with the word that is translated building up or edification in 4:12, 16; and 29.
Word studies can be a great benefit in Bible study if they are done correctly...  Thoughts at DTTB.
The roots of the first word are house – law.  The roots of the second are house – build.  So the thing I am working through is are these words related in more than just the first root word.  In other words how or does stewardship relate to building up one another in Christ.

This is both a good and bad example of a word study in Bible study.  On the one hand the observation of the root connection raises some interesting questions.  However, unless there is a connection in usage that can be demonstrated in the Scripture or the other literature of that era, one cannot make the connection.  All too often we make words mean something that they do not if we lean too heavily on the roots of the words.  I have seen folks make some serious errors by looking too closely at the root words.  On the other hand word studies can add incredible depth to your study.  Here is a simple guide on how to do a word study.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Marriage

This morning I led a Sunday school class on the Biblical foundation of marriage.  It was the final week of a series our senior pastor had done.  My assignment was to wrap up what he had done by providing the Biblical basis for what he had shared in the weeks before.
It may be a good idea to view marriage as a joint discipleship...  Thoughts at DTTB.
As I was praying and thinking through the assignment something occurred to me that is probably obvious, but in my experience has not been emphasized.  Marriage is an exercise in joint discipleship.  Couples yes are expected to grow together, but believers are also expected to grow toward the Lord.

The passage that most think of when they are approaching marriage is Ephesians 5:15 – 6:9.  I share that as a unit because of the verbal structure in the original.  The imperatives in 15 – 21 drive the force of the participles that follow in 22 – 6:9.  When you consider the direction of 15 – 21 in light of the overall context of Ephesians 4 – 6, one sees that the “marriage” section is a subset of Paul’s exhortation and expectation that as believers we are to respond to the lavish grace of God by walking with one another in unity committed to building one another up in each other’s faith.  The context is dense with the notion of intentional ministry to one another

That supports the idea that marriage is an exercise in joint discipleship.  Husband and wife minister to one another to build each other up in Christ.  Since that is the case it brings most if not all of the passages we typically consider instructing us in discipleship to bear on the marriage relationship.

What do you think about that?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Rough Patches

It has been a hard couple of days.  The specifics are not important but I want to process with you how I am trying to deal with the events.
When we encounter rough patches in our life - what do we do?  Thoughts at DTTB.
When things are not working out the way that I think they should I have a number of really helpful reactions.  Frustration, anger, hurt, disappointment, bewilderment are some of the tamer ones.  It is hard for me to hear the Word.  It is difficult for that light to penetrate the darkness that the events conspire to create in my heart and mind.  It eventually does.  But I have to wind down and obey – Oh the darkness also negatively impacts all of my relationships as well.  All in all it is a very pleasant experience.

What I find is that I need to follow David’s example.  I have to tell God that I am not pleased with the way He is choosing to engage with my life.  In no uncertain terms, I have to tell Him – not like it will be a surprise to Him – check out Psalm 139:4.  But I have to tell Him.  I do not do that well.  I find that I have to write it down.  Thus my journal.  I take to its pages and let the Lord and whoever else is involved have it.  Much like David the venting releases some of the pent up frustration, anger – I won’t repeat the list.

I find that engaging in that discipline allows me to more quickly hear.  To more quickly know how I need to follow Him through the rough patch.  The rough patch seldom smoothes out.  In fact sometimes following Him makes the patch rougher still.  But it reminds me who directed the patch and that there is reason and purpose for it.  Even if I do not see or understand what that reason or purpose may be.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Training

Take a minute and read 2 Samuel 22:33 – 40, Psalm 144:1, and Ephesians 6:10 – 20.  You see the connections.  It is interesting to me that Paul leans on David’s earthly warfare experience to inform our spiritual warfare certainty.
God's sovereign training of us is complete...  Thoughts at DTTB.
Think through what you know about David’s life.  I will not attempt to outline it here it would take too much space.  If you want to refresh yourself on his life skim through 1 Samuel 16 – 2 Samuel 24.  David is described in Acts 13:22 as a “man after My heart.”  Ponder that.  David was a shepherd, a musician, a warrior, a liar, an adulterer, a murderer – he made some really bad decisions and life choices.  Yet he is described as hard after God’s heart.  That brings us to the passages I asked you to read above.

All that David did, assuming for the moment that God is sovereign, God directed.  The bad choices and the good, God used in David’s life to shape him into the instrument of His purpose.  Even arguably the worse choice David made, the Bathsheba and Uriah issue, resulted in Psalm 51.

As you think through your life you may see some parallels with David.  I sure do.  Not all of my choices have been stellar.  There has been a lot of pain caused by some of those choices and those of others with whom I have been associated.  But if God is sovereign He is using all of that to shape me into the instrument of His will.  Preparing me for battle.

The interesting thing is the depth of that preparation.  Look at the passages again.  He trains:

  • My arms
  • My hands
  • My fingers

Through all that He takes me.  In physical development terms that is both large and fine motor skills that He is training.  The training is for His purpose, in His time, for His glory, in His way using all of my experiences and choices both good and bad.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Christian Consumerism

Why work when someone else is willing to do it for you?  Why engage when you can shift your recliner into high gear and comfortably gaze.  What is the point of struggling with the discipline of Bible study when the notes below the line in your study Bible have the answers?  Why struggle with a hard concept like predestination when my denomination has already determined how that all works?
I read all of the latest Christian books; I do not need to study the Bible...  Thoughts at DTTB.
If I go to church and Sunday school regularly isn’t that what a Christian does?  I mean, what else is there?  Hey, I am really committed; I go to a small group!  I read “Wild at Heart!”  I went to a seminar on _______ here is the notebook.  Matter of fact, I have a lot of notebooks.

I do not need to really learn to dig into the Word for myself.  That is for the pastors, teachers, authors – I will learn from them.  There is no way that something that is in print could be wrong.  Christian publishers would not publish something that is not Biblical…

2 Peter 2:1 – 3.  2 Corinthians 11:13 – 14.  1 Timothy 4:1 – 3.  Galatians 1:6 – 10.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Geeked Out

Before we start I will admit that this post will be somewhat – OK completely geeky.  I am excited about a book I got yesterday.
OK I admit it - I am a geek.
Nobody else in my house is.  What is cool about this book – it works through how Greek syntax informs exegesis.

So now you know what gets me excited.  Sad is it not?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Capacity

When I was in college, and even as late as when I was in seminary, I could get away with very little sleep.  During seminary I averaged about 4 hours of sleep a night for that four year stretch.  My recovery was about a day from an all nighter.
As we get older our capacity decreases, how do we continue to be most effective then in serving the Lord...  Thoughts at DTTB.
Last week I took two trips in which I did not reach my destination until after 3 AM.  I have not recovered yet.

As we get older – more mature as my father likes to put it – our physical capacity diminishes.  That is why it is so important that we steward well the resources we have been given by God.  He gave them to us for a particular purpose.  As my friend Dave Jewitt likes to say, one of the reasons we face diminished capacity as we mature is so we will function in the purpose for which God uniquely and sovereignly designed us.

Just doing the normal Christian stuff is not our ultimate purpose.  We need to be about that for which he designed us.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Process

There are those of us who want results without process.  Won't happen.  We want to understand the word of God better, but we are not willing to learn how to study it ourselves.  Or if we learn to study it, we do not continue to practice and stretch ourselves in the process.  We stay in the shallow end content to dabble our toes in the infinite depth of the Word, while congratulating ourselves that we are not like those who do not study.
We cannot get the results if we refuse to engage in the process...
We take far too much for granted in far too much of our lives.  We marry, and figure that being married will just work itself out.  We have children and figure that being a parent will just come naturally.  We go to church and figure that we will become Christ like by somehow being in the building and listening to someone tell us what they have learned about Christ.  That has not been my experience in any of those endeavors.  I find myself at a loss at how to be a good husband and a good father more times than not.  I find that it takes continual thought, continual prayer, continual work.  I find that I cannot survive on the spiritual meals that others eat.  I have to engage in all of this myself.  It is a never ending, ever deepening process.

The latest Christian conference or workshop, including mine, will not render you a spiritual giant.  Hopefully you will be equipped with some new skills.  But that equipping will not help you much if you do not engage in the practice of using the skills.  Getting the latest book or notebook may fill your shelves but it will not fill your life or solve your challenges.

Let me say this though, if you are going to conferences and workshops and you do not know how to study the Bible for yourself - by that I mean independent of a study Bible, a fill in the blank workbook, or a commentary – you are not doing yourself any favors.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Swearing

There are times when we over commit.  I have done it.  Still do.  It is something with which I particularly struggle when I see a need that needs to be met.  The pull is to deplete my resources either financially, physically, mentally, or spiritually to meet that need.
When we say we are going to do something, we should.  Thoughts at DTTB.
The reality is that no matter how well I plan, how well I schedule, what kind of margin I create, all of it can be wiped away in an instant.  Ask Job.  If you want to ask a more contemporary individual, ask someone who lost everything in Katrina, Sandy, or the May 3, 1999, EF5 Bridge Creek – Moore Tornado.  But it does not take something of the magnitude of those events to move me into the negative resource column.  The point of this is that there are circumstances for which no amount of planning will suffice.  Those kinds of circumstances are not the subject of this post.

There are times when I have not knowingly over committed that I find I am.  Usually, this happens when my margin is low.  When some unforeseen event happens that drives those aforementioned resources negative.  I find myself struggling with Psalm 15:4 and Matthew 5:33 – 37 when that happens.

Those two passages conspire to convince me that if I tell someone I will do something.  I had better well do it.  It seems to me that more often than not it is these types of circumstances that force me to trust God.  To rely on His unlimited resources rather than my sorely inadequate stash.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

He, Him, His...

…not me, my, mine.
All we accomplish is through His strength for His glory.
Read:
  • Psalm 8:2
  • 1 Corinthians 1:26 – 31
  • Psalm 98:1
  • Psalm 115:1
Whatever victory we may have, whatever triumph we may experience, whichever adversary we may overcome, it is not by our strength or for our glory.  It is by His strength and for the praise of His majesty.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cherish the Unremarkable

Let’s say that you spent some time in the Word this morning and nothing really grabbed you.  Does that mean that the time was wasted?  Hardly.
An unremarkable time with the Lord is still an essential part of your relationship with Him.
When you spend time with your wife, your kids, or your friends does something earth shaking happen every minute or every time you get together?  Relationships ebb and flow.  There are times that are rich with incredible intimacy, humor, conflict, pain – there are times when you are just there, nothing is happening but you are in each other’s presence.  All of those times, the incredible and the unremarkable are essential components in a relationship.

Do you suspect that your relationship with God should be any different?  Cherish both the incredible and unremarkable.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Luxury or Survival

Prof Hendricks said on multiple occasions that most believers view Bible study as an optional luxury not a critical, essential survival feature of their Christian lives.  Was he wrong?
Is studying the Bible optional or essential for survival...  Thoughts at DTTB.
How about the believers you know?  Are they clawing their way into the Word of God regardless of the barriers or the cost?  Or is Christian life by proxy the norm?

How about you?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

False Barriers

If you are struggling to get into the Word of God for yourself, why is that?  What is it that is more important?  What is so critical that you do not have time to invest 30 minutes a day digging into the book that promises to reveal the nature and character of God to you?  You say you want to know Christ better.  What other way is there to know Him in this age apart from time with Him in the Word?
We need to stop lying to ourselves that we do not have time to get into the Word.  Thoughts at DTTB.
You may say that you can read books about the Bible and that will do it.  Don’t kid yourself.  That would be like getting your best friend to date the girl you want to marry for you.  You cannot get to know someone through a proxy.

You may tell me that you have to spend time with your family.  Really?  They are more important than Christ?  Didn't you say that you wanted your kids to follow Christ?  If you are not setting an example, if you are not intimate with Him, where are they supposed to get the desire to follow Him?  TV?  Video Games?  Their friends at school? What the heck are you going to talk to them about spiritually if you are not fresh in the Word?

If you do not know how, we can remedy that; start here.  But stop telling yourself and others you do not have time for the one who created you for a purpose and gave you children to rear in the knowledge of Him.  That is simply a lie.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Release

A couple of days ago I was working through Psalm 139:23 - 24, you probably have the passage memorized.
Rather than try to fix ourselves.  We have to allow the Lord to do that...  Thoughts at DTTB.
I noticed some things I had not noticed before.  David asks the Lord to know David’s heart, to know his anxious thoughts, and to see his ways.  He does not ask him to reveal what the Lord sees to David.  David does ask the Lord to lead him.  So that could be construed as reveling but not explicitly.

My reaction to that was what is the use of that?  I want the Lord to tell me what He finds when he pokes around in there.  That way I will know what it is I need to work on to get better, more Christ like…  Then light began to dawn…

Working on me does not turn out so well.  That seems to be the point of Romans 7:19 – 25.  It seems like it would be a better plan to engage in the counterpoint of Romans 8:1 – 17.  That is follow Christ through the Spirit and allow His transforming work in my life…

It seems as if the best course is to release my commitment to improvement and trust that to the one who created me in the first place.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Results

As a new believer I was both ravenous and incredulous.  Ravenous about knowing more about Christ and the Word of God.  Incredulous both that those who I knew were believers had not shared the gospel with me and that the people I was around in the church were not as hungry or excited by the Word of God as I was.
If LeBron James analyzes his performance in basketball this closely, shouldn't we in the Church as well?

Hebrews 5:11 – 14 tells me that all of us are expected to become teachers of the Word of God.  James 3:1 warns us that we are to take that seriously.  It has not been my experience for the past 40 years that the Church produces many teachers.  Why is that?

I have seen many people express their passion and hunger for God’s Word.  There are not many who follow through.  Why is that?

In one of the business books I have read in the past few years – at this point I cannot remember which one it is – says something to the effect that we get the results the systems we put in place are designed to produce.  So if we are getting poor results; the system is designed to produce those poor results.

If we look closely at the results our churches produce, what do we see?  Are we satisfied?  If not, what has to change?

There is an interesting blog post by an author I have begun to follow closely.  There may be some application we can make in our churches.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Changes

The only thing that is really constant in life is change.  That applies to our families as well.  The diagram below is an incomplete genogram of our family – incomplete in the sense that the marriage relationships of our children’s spouses siblings are not represented.
A close relationship with Christ is necessary to navigate all the changes in our families.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Walk down through the diagram and think through the number of relationships that exist and the impact those relationships have on each individual.  Then imagine each of our children engaging in each of their spouses’ or in the case of our fourth child fiancĂ©’s family systems (remember that the sibling’s marriages are not depicted).  The number, complexity, and impact of those relationships alter every relationship in our immediate family.

Then at the bottom you see the emergence of the third generation.  All of the relationships prior impact the parents and thus the children.

Now go back to the top.  As each layer of the diagram develops my wife and my relationship, our roles, our relationship with each of our kids changes.

To complicate this further I could extend the diagram to the generations that created my wife and I.  Those relationships continue to play a part in our interaction with each other, our children, and everyone else on the diagram.

There are only two constants in the last 36 years.  One is the continual change that this represents.  The other is our relationship with Christ.  (My wife pointed out a third, our commitment to each other.)

It occurs to me that navigating life – just from the standpoint of surviving a family – I would not want to do that apart from the one who created us.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Blown Away

Have you ever hit a passage in the scripture in your study that suddenly opened up whole new vistas of understanding for you?  That happened for me in Ephesians 3:11 last week.  Verse 11 further explains 10.  As the Body of Christ we demonstrate to the rulers and authorities in the heavenlies the Wisdom of God.  My first reaction to that was we are not doing a very good job of that.  But notice that it is not a conditional statement, no, it is a declaration.  It is a fact that the Church demonstrates God’s wisdom.
Does the Word ever blow you away?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Then we come to the real mind blower, at least for me.  Paul writes that this demonstration was an eternal purpose carried out in Christ.  I had to ask several questions here.  First, why did God want to demonstrate His wisdom to Satan and his angels in the first place?  Why was the death of His Son necessary to accomplish this?  Why not just wipe them out?  It is what I would have done if I were God.  It is a lot of trouble to go through to demonstrate wisdom to a bunch of angels who have already rebelled.

When I encounter a passage that just does not make sense to me, like this, it is a fairly strong signal that I need to slow down and pay attention to what is being said.  As I thought through this the following occurred to me:
  • God does not destroy.
  • Death is not destruction it is anguish.  
  • The fallen angels would be better off destroyed.
  • God does not destroy his creation.  
  • He either redeems it or separates from it.
  • The separation creates anguish beyond description.
This forms a strong foundation for the gospel.  People who are separated from God will live in eternity in unspeakable anguish for being separated from the source of life.  There are only two options, redemption or anguish.

I wonder if this hits you like it did me.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cultural Realities

Thursday I met with five men with whom I have been studying Ephesians.  We are working through chapter 3.  One of my observations on 3:1 was that Paul’s statement was counter intuitive.  If I were Paul I would have written something like. “Rome threw me in prison for preaching the gospel, please pray for me or come bail me out.”  Probably why I was not asked to write any epistles…
It is the case that our cultural experience colors how we understand the Scripture...
But look at what Paul does say.  He is not Rome’s prisoner, he is Christ’s prisoner.  Further he says that his imprisonment is for the sake, or benefit of the gentiles.  What?  Again it would seem more of a benefit to the gentiles if Paul was out of the hoosegow sharing his faith.  This is certainly not how I would do things if I were God…  But thankfully I am not.

This morning I met on Skype with the Moroccan pastor.  We are also studying Ephesians together and also on chapter 3.  I shared with him my observations on verse 1.  His response floored me.  He said:
“Oh yes.  We see that all the time.  When someone is arrested for being a Christian, the papers print it.  All sorts of people wonder why they were arrested and begin asking questions about Christianity.  They seek out members of the underground Church to find out more about Christianity and Christ.”
It is interesting to me the different reaction to Ephesians 3:1 from Thursday to Friday.  Thursday was puzzled, Friday is living the passage.  Makes one yearn for persecution.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Struggles?

Compared to what is going on the world today in terms of believers being persecuted, the struggles I face are not worth mentioning.  Most of mine deal with issues of convenience.  I spend three or four hours on the phone with my internet service provider to find out why my email is not working.  There are believers in other countries who are spending months trying to get phone service.  Years ago missionaries were fortunate to hear from home every year or so.
Most of the stuff that I view as a struggle - in the grand scheme - is not so much...
In an age and culture where we are so used to things working so well it is easy to forget what real struggles are.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Early, Intentional, and Consistent

Tonight was the session in our Parents Teach the Bible workshop when our kids come in to be interviewed by those who have set through the last seven weeks.  For about 50 minutes the participants peppered our four kids with questions along with one to Ranae’s husband and Brian’s fiance.
One of the men in the Parents Teach the Bible workshop tonight boiled down the evening to three words...
After the kids left the people asked Jenny and I questions for about 30 minutes more.  I was not able to cover the material I planned to cover.  The same thing happens just about every time.  The interaction validates all that we have been sharing with them for the past seven weeks.

After the kids left the room I asked the workshop what they thought.  One of the men said he boiled down what they said to three words: early, intentional, consistent.
  • He said it was obvious that we engaged our kids early in their lives in things of the Lord.  We did.
  • He observed that we were intentional in what we did with them.  Again correct.
  • He said that we were consistent in our approach.  Yes, but consistently flexible.
He nailed it.  And He has most of the message.  The thing that he did not repeat is that all four of the kids said multiple times that they saw my wife and me in the Word.
It is not hard.  It is important.