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Monday, September 30, 2013

Who Will Be Saved?

Our Tuesday morning group is studying Galatians.  We shared our overview of the book last week.  This week we are working through the first section roughly Galatians 1:1 – 2:10 give or take.  I really like Galatians I love the emphasis on freedom that Paul presents.  But this time through I was stunned by Galatians 1:15.
Are there people you encounter that you are pretty sure are not going to heaven? Thoughts at DTTB.
The context is one of Paul’s long, convoluted sentences (if you know how to diagram sentences I dare you to diagram this one, if you don’t learning will really help your observations in Bible study).  Paul is explaining his call as an apostle and the revelation of the gospel he experienced.  To illustrate the supernatural depth of his conversion he shares with the Galatians what they already knew about him, he was a rabid persecutor of the Church.

The amazing thing here is how he describes God’s involvement in his conversion.  Look closely at verse 15.  Paul states that he was set apart and called while he was persecuting the Church seeking the death of its members. Whoa.

Think of the implications of that.

There are people today that are so rabid in their hate for Christianity that I tend to write them off.  There are those in the Middle East who are killing believers.  It may be that God has, like Paul, set them apart and called them.  I certainly do not see that.  But the reality of Paul’s life challenged me this afternoon to check myself in relating to those types of people.

As is His practice, He nearly immediately tested me on this.  I had to deal with a cult member this afternoon who was arrogant and unresponsive to the help for which he asked me.  I struggled to help him I am not sure that I represented Christ well in that dialog.

Application does not come easily or quickly.  Bottom line?  Today I was reminded that it is God who determines who He chooses to draw to himself.  I have to treat everyone I meet as one whom the Lord may be drawing as we speak.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Crave, Long, Demand, Require

When Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released, my son and I went to the bookstore at midnight to get the book, actually we picked up three copies one for my son and two for my other two boys.  We walked into a chaotic zoo.  The place was packed with people in costumes.  Everyone was excited to see what was going to happen next to the boy who lived.  That scene played out three more times with the release of the last three books in the series.
What kinds of things do you crave?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I know people who have ransacked Dave Ramsey’s books in order to get a handle on their finances.  They have paid to go to seminars that he has presented on financial principles.

I know people who have read the Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings multiple times (I am one of them).  I have heard that many people have read the Twilight Saga books multiple times (I am not one of them).

I have had friends who have fought long battles with cancer.  They have poured over information and have become conversant with highly technical medical language.  Their lives depended on it.

In each of the above, people are craving information or entertainment.  It becomes their passion, their focus, for some amount of time it consumes them.

I have been in 1 Peter 2:2 a lot in the last couple of weeks.  I used it in a talk I gave to a DMin class last week and I shared some thoughts on that passage with some men I meet with during the week, finally today we talked about the verse in Sunday school.  Peter describes here what our attitude should be toward the Word of God.  It seems to me that some of the above examples are pictures of Peter’s intent.

But I have never seen a line, or people in costume at the release of a new version of the Bible, OK that would be weird.  But you get the point.  Few of us approach the Word as if our lives depended on it.  But that is exactly what Peter is suggesting here.  Few of us really dig in to find answers to life’s problems, but that is where Ramsey gets most of his stuff.

This is getting long.  What do you think?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Closely Examine Yourself

Most of us believe somethings about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Christian life that are shaped not by the Bible but by our experience, by the sermons we have heard, the books we have read, the teachers under which we have sat, secondary sources.  We all hold those beliefs fairly strongly to the point that we base our walk with God on them.  That is dangerous.
How do we know what we believe is true?  Thoughts at DTTB.
 At some point in our journey we have to shift the foundation of our beliefs from those secondary sources to our own investigation of the Bible.  If we do not we are, according to Acts 17:11 at best not noble minded and at worse emmeshed in heresy.

That is easier to say or write than it is to do.  To do it well we have to submit what we believe to what the Scripture says.  To do that we have to first admit what we believe is true.  If we do not we will force the Scripture to say what we already believe and will not consider passages that may contradict what we believe to be true.

I know many believers who will not do this.  They continue to hold and defend positions that they learned from their traditions continually shaping the Scripture to support what they already believe or else, and this I have seen as well, actually deciding that passages of scripture either no longer apply to us or, in the most egregious example, decide that the passages that do not align with their position should not be in the Bible.  For a believer neither of those choices are a real option.

It is not easy to really closely examine our core beliefs, but we have to do so.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Study or Learn

Met with a guy at lunch today.  We were talking about a number of things.  He made a comment that caused a lot of things to fall into place.  He mentioned in passing that he was doing Bible study to get through the process and he was realizing that he needed to understand or learn what was really going on in the passage.  That may seem obvious but I think that he hit on a core issue with learning in general.
Is there a difference between study and learning?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I am process oriented.  I equip people with process continually, especially in Bible study.  But the process is not the end it is the tool.  The end is John 5:39 – 40, to know Christ through the Scripture.  But in learning the process for a time we get focused on what we are doing, getting through the task, rather than why we are doing it.

Often I have gone through the motions of a Bible study and finished the task and have not learned anything new about my Lord.  Some of that is normal when I am learning the process.  But if it continues, then I have either lost sight of why or I am engaging in the process for the wrong reasons.

Finishing a study is not about completing all of the steps.  One of my friends asked a student at a school in Texas when he was finished with a study.  He responded that he was finished when he saw the glory of Christ in the passage.  He had it right.

We engage in study not to finish but to see Christ.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

When in Doubt Pull Up

You ever get stuck in a passage?  Can’t really figure out what is going on?  I have.  Sometimes when that happens I really dig in go deep in the passage, look up words, parse verbs, check the original languages.  In the Air Force we called that target fixation.  It was often fatal.  Often times the most help is to gain altitude, pull up out of the weeds.
When you are having trouble understanding a passage of Scripture, what do you do?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Prof told us that most of the questions he was asked by people about the Bible at Bible conferences could be answered by simply reading the passage before the verse and, or the passage after the verse in question.  The term for that is context.  Pretty much all of the questions we have can be answered if we pay attention to the context.  Pretty much all of the errors that people make in understanding the Bible have their source in ignoring the context.

So if you get stuck on a verse do not fix on your target, pull up, gain altitude, read the surrounding passages, more often than not you will find that will help.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Checks and Balances

I was studying Romans 6 this afternoon.  I was deeply impressed by something there.  I wrote out a short paragraph about what I saw.  I then called a close friend and read it to him.

Why?
How can we keep from error in our understanding of the Word?  Thoughts at DTTB.

I wanted him to think through the passage with me.  I wanted him to question me on what I wrote.  I need the examination.  I need someone to challenge what I see in the Scripture.  I do not have all of the gifts.  I do not have a corner on truth.  I need others in the Body to listen critically to what I find and process my conclusions through their understanding of the Word.

Not doing that, not seeking that, is what breeds error.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Choices

While I was working with a student ministry at Western Kentucky University, I took a few accounting classes.  One of the concepts that we studied was opportunity cost.  That refers to the reality that when one chooses to do something with their resources other options are necessarily eliminated.  That is especially true when resources are limited.  We are all limited, regardless of our financial situation, with time.  We each have 168 hours.  If we use an hour for something, that hour is gone, it cannot be retrieved, recycled, repurposed, nothing else can be done with that hour.  That is a true opportunity cost.
Choices limit our choices.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Each day we have a tsunami of opportunities that are vying for those hours.  We choose which opportunities on which to either spend or invest our hours.  At the moment I am engaged in four Bible studies with another one pending.  Each of those takes preparation.  I just finished preparing for one tomorrow morning.

There are several TV shows I like.  It does not matter what they are, but two were on tonight for the first time this season.  I watched the first one with my wife and then got up and went to the study.  I chose not to watch the show (full disclosure we DVRed it – I refuse to watch a show unless it is recorded that way I zap the 17 minutes of commercials – so I will watch it later).  I am curious as to how last season’s cliffhanger resolves, but it will have to wait.

We all have the time we need to spend time in God’s Word.  We just have to choose to do it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bible – Eat Fresh

One of the keys to Bible study is when you come to a passage you need to read it as if it were the first time.  This evening I was in Galatians.  Not sure how many times I have studied that book.  Probably around 10.  I have translated it from Greek to English and have a lot of it memorized.  So how do I eat Galatians fresh?
How can we study the Bible with fresh eyes?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I started with a blank Bible.  Well really a blank copy of the book.  I do all of my Bible study in my word processor.  So rather than open up my old Bible that is all marked up, or open one of the other studies I have done on my computer, or pull the Galatians file out of the file cabinet (I was doing Bible study before computers were available at home), I opened a fresh copy of my Galatians file and saved it as a new study.

I then read it through at one sitting.  I saw things that I have not seen before.

The point is that when you are diving into a book you need to start fresh, to borrow the phrase – eat fresh, each time.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Application

Prof Hendricks said many times that interpretation without application was abortion.  His point was that the Bible was not given to us to make us smarter but to change our behavior, our lives.  He used that strong, poignant language to communicate that if one was going to study the Bible and not apply it to their life, they are wasting their time.
If the Bible was not given to us to make us smarter, waht do we do with it?  Thoughts at DTTB.
James tells us this in James 1:22 – 25.  He exhorts us to be doers of the Word not merely hearers.  He calls those who hear and do not do delusional.

Prof and James beg a couple of questions.  How do we effectively apply the Word to our lives?  Well first, we have to study it.  If we do not know what is going on the passage there is no way that we will be able to apply it effectively.  After we have done that we should ask some questions.  Several times in this blog I have referred to the Verse Analysis study I do with men, actually yesterday.  The eighth step in that study is to come up with a personal application.  Rather than retype that here you can download it and take a look.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Shocking Truth about the Bible

Earlier this week I mentioned that I was the guest speaker at a DMin class at ORU.  I pushed hard on the need to equip people in the church to study the Bible independently.  By independent I mean that they have the ability to take a passage without the aid of commentaries, study guides, introductions, etc.  Just the Bible and a blank sheet of paper and are able to dig deep into that passage.  I got some push back.
Do you need to know background material in order to study the Bible?  Thoughts at DTTB.
One of the men said that we certainly had to give some people enough guidelines in terms of teaching about the book so that they would be able to understand it.  I had just handed out the verse analysis study I have used with men for the past 40 years.  I shared with him that was not my experience.

My first month in the Air Force I was invited to a Bible study.  We were doing the Navs Studies in Christian Living Book 4.  Took about 5 weeks.  It is a fill in the blank Bible study.  Most of my blanks still are in that book.  I was not a believer.  I was bored to tears.  At the end of the 5 weeks the 1st Lieutenant leading the study suggested that we move onto book 5.  I raised my hand and asked if there was anything else that we could do.  He handed out three half sized sheets of paper, the verse analysis study.  He told us to take the three sheets and use the 8 steps on 2 Timothy 2:2.  A couple of days later I opened up a Bible, looked a the three pages and started.  Three hours later I finished.  Blown away.  I did not know you could do that with one verse of the Bible and it was obvious that I had just scratched the surface.  About three weeks later I trusted Christ.

No one instructed me on the context of 2 Timothy.  No one told me what the issues were in the church Timothy served.  No one told me anything about Paul or Timothy.  He just handed me the three sheets and gave me a verse on which to use the study.  That is when John 16:13 kicked in.  The Holy Spirit inspired men to write the Bible.  Jesus told us that when He left the Spirit would come and lead us into truth.  The Bible is the only book I read that the author is committed, able, and present to help me understand His work.

The truth is we just need to set the table and get out of the way.  We need to let the Holy Spirit lead people in the Word.  All we need to do is give them some minimal guidance on how to be looking.  The Spirit will do the rest.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Patience

My wife and I have three grandchildren.  This Sunday the youngest is to be dedicated at the church my son and his family attend.  My dad and brother came to town for the event.  It is kind of a big deal because this grandson is the fifth generation first born in our family with the same first name.  All of the family that is in town went out to eat tonight.  We went to a new restaurant at which my wife and I ate earlier this week.  It was very good and we asked the owner if they could handle a group of 13 tonight.  He assured me that if we called ahead they would be able to do that.  Not so much.
How do we develop patience, we don't, really... Thoughts at DTTB.
We called 45 minutes ahead as he asked and he told me to come in an hour and fifteen minutes.  When we arrived they were not ready and it was over an hour before we were seated.  New restaurant, packed, still learning how all the equipment and systems work, plus patrons who were not all that aware of what was going on conspired to make it a difficult wait.

Our three year old granddaughter observed, “It is hard to be patient.”  Nope, impossible.  Without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to be patient.  My experience with life tells me that the only way to make it through this world with some modicum of sanity is to engage in that journey with patience.  But on our own we are not very…

Galatians 5:22 lists patience as a part of the nine fold fruit of the Spirit.  In the past I have tried many applications to increase my patience with less than limited results.  Working on the fruit is a lot like treating symptoms and not the real disease.  We do not develop fruit.  The Spirit does in us.  That is why it is hard.  We get patience along with the other eight as a result of our walking in the Spirit.  Not as a result of working on the fruit.  It is a function of how closely we are walking with Him.

It is hard…

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Does not Matter...

This morning we met at 6AM in the Savoy restaurant to talk about Romans 5.  There were five of us around the table.  At one point there were seven.  But due to work and life circumstances the number has been four plus me for the past several months.  At 8 I was on a skype call discussing Romans 1 with a pastor halfway around the world.
It does not matter what I know...  Thoughts at DTTB.
I know a great deal about the Bible.  I have studied and outlined all 66 books.  I have studied most of the New Testament books multiple times.  I have translated most of the New Testament from Greek to English.  I have a lot of verses memorized.  None of that matters at 6 AM or 8 AM.  What matters are what the four guys at 6 saw and what the one guy at 8 saw.  And with all I know, they made observations that I had not seen.

As someone who is working with others in the Word of God, it does not matter what I know.  It matters that those with whom I work are equipped to see more than they have in the past, and by extension see things that I have not seen.  That is the genius of Ephesians 4:11 – 16.  The gifts are given to build up the others in the body to fulfill their place in the body.  In so doing those who are being built up build up those who initially helped them.  Paul referred to this in Romans 1:12.  He expected to be ministered to, to have his faith strengthened by the Roman believers when he was able to finally come and minister to them.

That is true with those who we help.  It is also true for our kids.  They will grow to build us up.  If we are doing our job.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Running on Empty

Normally for this blog I start typing and I come up with something to say.  Today I am running on empty.  For the past several days I have been in a fog.  It may be that I have accumulated fatigue from the trip overseas and the other things I have done since getting back.  Whatever it is I am ready to be rid of it.
I need your help, how do you get out of funks?  Thoughts at DTTB.
These funks occur in my life from time to time.  I suspect they do in yours as well.  It seems like I have two options in dealing with them.  Veg out or push through.  One guess what a type a personality chooses.  I typically push through.

This afternoon I pushed through Romans 5:12 – 21.  I used all of the tools I have to work through the passage.  I saw a lot but I am still not satisfied with the time there.  I felt like I was about 70% engaged.

What do you do when you are in the midst of the fog?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reality

I have written several times about Ephesians 4:11 – 16.  I have talked to a number of my pastor friends.  They agree that because of tradition, job description, and expectations it is virtually impossible for them to do what this passage demands, equip the people in their congregations for the ministry.
Is it better to teach or equip?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Today I was given the opportunity to speak to a group of DMin students at Oral Roberts University.  The class was the foundation of Christian Education.  We talked for an hour about the reality of what the Scripture says that a believer has to do to grow.  We had an animated conversation about what should be done differently.  I mentioned that in a lot of the churches I have attended the pastors and staff were the ones who taught Sunday School.  One of the men in the class said that was to make sure that heresy was not taught in the classes.  I agreed with him that in the community we needed to be concerned about heresy.  I asked him if there was another way for the pastor to combat heresy in the Sunday school.  He responded that the pastor could show the teachers how to study and then give them instruction on how to teach, then observe them, and give them feedback.  In other words the pastor could equip others to teach.  He got the point.  It is Ephesians 4:11 – 16 again.

Whether you are a pastor or a dad or both, we have to equip, arm our people, our children to study the Word of God for themselves.  They need to be able to take a blank sheet of paper, a pen, and a Bible and know what to do to study a passage.  It is not just a good idea it is critically essential for their survival in the Christian life.

One illustration that I did not get to, in the past few weeks I have been in a country that is hostile to Christianity.  I was working with a pastor there to equip his community to study the Bible on their own.  Up to this point they have been completely dependent on his grasp of the Bible.  That is not so different than a great deal of the people in our communities.  But what if he is taken out?  Jailed?  Executed?  How will they then grasp the Word if they have not be equipped to do so?

Likewise, when you are no longer in the picture, will those into whom you have invested know how to stand on their own, or will they flounder?  Your choice.  Teach or equip.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Preparation

Tomorrow I am a guest speaker at a class at Oral Roberts University.  I will be talking about why Christian Educators need to teach people how to study the Bible.
If you were awakened in the middle of the night and asked to present your core message, could you do it?  Thoughts at DTTB.
This morning at breakfast a friend asked me if I was ready.  I told him, not yet.  Then in about 2 minutes outlined what I was going to say to the group.  We laughed.  I have shared this idea more times than I can count.  With individuals in the same restaurant in which my friend and I were sitting, in conferences 30 years ago, two weeks ago overseas, and in multiple workshops in the past five years.  I really cannot count the number of times.

So preparing to share my core message does not take a lot of time.  Nor does it take my friend long to share his.  Both of us can do it on a napkin or in the dirt.  It is what drives us.

Each believer has been designed for a message like that.  Ephesians 2:10 states it.  Psalm 139:13 – 16 describes the process.  One of our quests as believers is to find that message and live it out.

Problem is we have to be paying attention to find it.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Watchman

Ezekiel 33:8 is a passage that has been in my Scripture memory project for a long time.  I do not know when that passage first grabbed my attention but it has been at least a couple of decades.

When I was in the Air Force there was a kid in my undergraduate pilot training class that washed out.  He was smaller than most of us and had a rather large chip on his shoulder, probably as compensation.  I remember during a pick up basketball game he jumped from the top of the key onto my back.  I grabbed him with one arm and pulled him off of the ground.  When I saw who it was I put him down and walked away.  He wanted to fight.  I kept walking.  I was a relatively new believer but I knew that I should not engage with him in that way.  After he washed out, he was in the back seat of an F-4 as an Electronics Warfare Officer.  He and his pilot took got target fixation on the range and flew their plane into the ground.  I never shared my faith with him.
Are there people around you with whom you have not shared your faith?  Thoughts at DTTB.
There was another kid in my BOQ.  He was a few classes behind me.  Since I was about to graduate he would come by the room and ask questions.  During range training in his F-4 he flew his plane into the ground as well.  I never shared my faith with him.

In my UPT class there were four students from Norway.  I flew with one of them on our formation check ride.  As they were leaving to catch the plane after graduation we were saying goodby in the parking lot.  I do not remember how it came up but the issues of my trust in Christ came up, one of the guys said, "I can see there are some things that we have not fully discussed."  A year later while on a cross country flight with at student I ran across a Norwegian Colonel.  I asked him how the pilot with whom I flew the check ride was doing.  He told me he flew an F-104 into the North Sea while chasing a Soviet sub.  I did not share my faith with him.  It remained undiscussed.

There were many others.

When I read Ezekiel 33:8, those men haunt me.  There are others around me now that need to hear about my relationship with Christ.  There are those around all of us that need to hear.  We do not have the option to wait to tell them.  They may not be there long.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Priorities

I am sitting in Huntsville, Texas in my dad’s office.  We are about 55 miles from Kyle Field.  I am wearing an A&M shirt and my dad, my brother, and I just finished watching the A&M, Alabama game.  For all of this week, really for the last 10 months there has been a great deal of attention given to this game and to the players.  Rightly so, it was entertaining, very.
Do you ever get distracted?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I do not want to be one of those people who are always pointing out that when we get excited about something other than our relationship with Christ we should somehow feel guilt that we do not pursue Christ with the same passion, and I am not.  After all God created these men.  He gave them the talent and the ability to do what they do.  He gave the idea of football to us.  Last year I wrote about the experience when I watched the game with a monolithic crowd of Aggies.  It is good, fun stuff.

I found myself this week though, spending probably more time than I should following the pre-game conversations.  It did take me away from some things I should have done.  Do not get me wrong, it was good, it was fun, it was entertaining.  But I did not do a very good job of managing my time in pursuit of that good, fun, and entertaining.

I find that managing the time I spend on the good in order to give myself to the best is a constant battle.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Creating Questioners

A few years ago a pastor and I were working through an issue in the Scripture.  We had spent about an hour working through the issue looking at it from different sides of the issue.  It was a good conversation.  We did not end up at the same place but we had a great discussion.  At some point the pastor said to me, "You know Mike, we are struggling with questions that most people will never ask."  He was right.  He said that somewhat dismissively.  Meaning that at some level what we were struggling with was not important because most believers would not ask the question.  In that he was wrong.
What do we do to create people who question well?  Thoughts at DTTB.
From where I sit Ephesians 4:11 - 16 tells me that if the people whom I am helping do not start asking the questions that I ask, I am doing something wrong.  I am not suggesting that members of churches will present papers at the Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting or the Society of Biblical Languages, but that does not mean that they should not be asking and dealing with deep issues in the Bible.  More importantly they should have a handle on how they would approach difficult issues Biblically.

As dads or those who invest in other's lives, we cannot anticipate all of the issues with which our kids or those whom God has given us to help will have to deal.  But we must equip them to ask the hard, deep questions.  We must equip them to deal with those questions Biblically.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Angry?

Psalm 80:4, the second half, has had me thinking all day.  I have a question for you.  What would make God angry at the prayer of His people?  I started to answer that by thinking through all that Israel had done to raise God’s ire.  Then I begin to wonder if the Church, God’s people, is doing the same thing now.
If you find yourself puzzled by a portion of Scripture, what do you do?  Thoughts at DTTB.
But the problem is, we are different than Israel.  We are covered by the blood of His Son.  Can we make God angry with our prayer now?  If we can what are the implications of that?

What do you think?  How do you support your thought from Scripture?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Serving

Do you enjoy serving?  Do you enjoy being treated like a servant?  For me the answers are it depends and no.
How much do you enjoy serving?  Thoughts at DTTB.
It depends on what I am doing to serve.  Equipping others to study the Bible, absolutely, I love that.  Doing dishes or cleaning bathrooms, not so much.  I really do not like being treated like a servant.  Ordered around.  Told what to do, when.

You know the verse.  Mark 10:45, Christ’s example.  He said we should be like Him.  To be a servant first.  To be treated as one.  Paul explores this in excruciating detail in Philippians 2:3 – 9.  It is a passage I do not like very much.  Because it is crystal clear.  The application is that we, I am to have that same attitude and behavior.  On my own, not going to happen.  It takes Christ living through me.  It is a good thing that I have been joined to His death and my life is now His.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Questions

From time to time I get asked questions about what a passage in the Scripture might mean.  I mentioned earlier that happened overseas as well as here in the past few weeks.  I also mentioned that I typically do not answer the questions, or I will answer the question with a question that is intended to help the one who asked me find the answer on their own.
Do you answer questions about the Bible?  Should you?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Why?

It is the old give a fish or teach to fish question.  It is not my first response.  It is easier to just give an answer.  I find I have to work harder to ask questions that help people discover for themselves.  Plus, when I do not answer them directly I risk their ire and I do not get credit for being a great resource.  But I may be equipping one in the process.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Shaken

As you work your way through the Bible do you find your understanding of God or the Christian life challenged, shaken?  It happens to me quite a bit.  I find that my understanding of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and the way they interact with me as a believer constantly being challenged.
What do you do when your view of God or the Christian life is challenged?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Today was no exception.  I was reading in Psalm 71 and got as far as the first phrase in verse 5, “for you are my hope…”  Stunned.  Stopped.  Romans 5:3 – 5 leaped to mind.  I turned there.  Then I checked the Greek Old Testament (The Septuagint) to see if the Hebrew was translated with the same Greek “hope” that is in Romans 5:3 – 5, it is.

So like the post a couple of days ago on the pursuit of righteousness, there is a nagging feeling that I have been viewing hope incorrectly.  I have not validated this yet, but it is beginning to look like the hope that does not disappoint is Christ.  Which calls into question a number of other things that I thought I understood about Romans 5.  When this happens I find myself driven further into the Word.

I need to do a topical study on “hope”.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Foundation of Trust

So God promises stuff, so what?  How do you know that what He promises He can deliver?  I have had people promise to do things for me and not come through, even though they really mean well and want to deliver on what they promise.  They just do not have the ability, the power, the resources to do what they promise to do.
How do we know that God can deliver?  Thoughts at DTTB.

Look at Psalm 93:1, 5.  The two phrases that stand out, “The Lord reigns…” “Thy testimonies are fully confirmed…”  Think about that for a minute.  If the Lord does not reign, if He is not sovereign, then it really does not matter what he promises, He could not deliver.

The good news, He does reign.  He is sovereign.  He is the resource.  His promises therefore are sure.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Known by Grace

Read Psalm 67:1 – 2.  If you are interested in understanding more of God’s Word what does this passage tell you that you need?
How do we get to know more about the Bible?  Thoughts at DTTB.
It is not more commentaries.  It is not a good study Bible.  It is not better Bible software.  It is not good books about the Bible.  What is it?

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Pursuit of Righteousness

Reading this morning in Matthew 5:1 – 6:18 I was struck by – you know this is not the first time I have read this passage; it seems as if whenever I get back here there is something new.  Is that not your experience?  Anyway, Matthew 5:6 stopped me.  You know it, you probably have it memorized, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  I wondered what it meant to hunger and thirst for righteousness.
What does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Does it mean that we hunger and thirst to live righteously?  To live a holy life?  Truth be told, that is probably how I have viewed this verse in the past.  If I really strive to live a righteous and holy life, I will be satisfied.  Not sure that is what Christ is saying here.

Two thoughts have been bouncing around in my head most of the day.  First, Christ is the only one who is righteous.  Second, Psalm 42:1 – 2 the deer panting for water…  The thought seems to be that I need to hunger and thirst for Christ.  He is righteousness.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Identity

Up until last week I was studying Romans with three different groups, this week it is down to two.  Early this morning it was Romans 4 at the Savoy – if you are ever in Tulsa you must eat breakfast at the Savoy, get there around 7 so they will have the cinnamon rolls done…I digress – Thirty minutes later I was in Romans 1 on Skype with my Moroccan pastor friend.  Then about an hour later I was discussing what we saw in Romans 1 with another friend who works with a Christian ministry at Duke…

There are several things that stood out, one was the consistency of the themes throughout the book, but I want to focus your attention on Romans 1:1.  Look at how Paul describes himself, and the order in which he describes himself.  First a bond slave of Christ; second, called as an apostle…  This is the first time Paul refers to himself as a bond slave of Christ.  The only other time is in Titus.  It is instructive to look at how Paul introduces himself in the letters leading up to Romans.  The chart below is a chronological listing of Paul’s work.
How does Paul's greetings inform our identity?  Thoughts at DTTB.
In Galatians and the Corinthian epistles Paul immediately identifies himself as an apostle with various qualifiers.  Both of those churches had challenges which he was addressing.  In the greetings for the Thessalonian epistles he mentions those who are with him without reference to his office.

The order in Romans is significant.  Paul views himself first as a bond slave then as an apostle.  Most of us as men get some form of our identity out of what we do.  The typical introductory dance includes the question, “What do you do?”  No one has ever identified themselves to me as a bond slave.  We hold the role of apostle in high regard.  Paul in his ultimate theological treatise focuses first on his enslavement to Christ.  There is much more that can be said about this in relation to the other introductions, but I will leave that for now.

The take away for me is that my identity is not in what I do but whom I serve.  That is key, for I do not serve primarily those to whom I have had the privilege to equip, rather Christ.  While I want to know how they are receiving what I share, the real issue is whether or not I am serving Christ in what I do.

For us as dads, that is key.  When we are engaging with our kids we have to remember that we are doing that primarily as servants of Christ.  We measure effectiveness not by how our child responds but whether we were faithful to do what Christ commanded.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

To Grow or Not To Grow – Illustrated

Yesterday I pointed out that Peter said that we had to crave the Word personally in order to grow.  Let me illustrate that…

Say that you are the guy on the left who is interested in the girl on the right…
Is what we are doing helping us to grow - Illustrated.  Thoughts at DTTB.
So in order to get to know her you ask your best friend to go spend about 30 hours a week with her to find out all that he can about the girl of your dreams…
Once a week you go over to your friend’s house to get a report for 20 minutes.  You cannot ask questions but if you are really interested in the girl of your dreams you can take notes… In fact you do and soon you have a file folder full of notes about the girl of your dreams…

How is your relationship with her going to work out?
100% of the people with whom I have shared this scenario tell me that your friend is going to marry the girl of your dreams.  Yep.  But that is how a large majority of believers approach the Christian life.  The friend is the pastor, the Sunday school teacher, the small group leader, the person that wrote the Bible study guide you are using, or the book about the Bible you are using in your “Bible” study.

We have to cut out the middle man if we want to get to know the girl of our dreams.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

To Grow or Not To Grow…

This morning I participated in four conversations in four hours that dealt with the growth and development of Christians.  There are a lot of books written on the subject.  If you are not in that arena and looking for them you may not be aware of that.  If you are a believer you are probably aware that there are a ton of books and “Bible Studies” published on line, in books, and on video each year.  Churches spend an enormous amount of money each year buying them to fill up their schedule with programs for the people in their communities.  The idea is that these programs will cause people to grow in their walk with God.  Not sure that they do.
Does the stuff we do in our communities really cause growth?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Peter tells us that there is one essential for us to grow in 1 Peter 2:2.  He says we have to crave the Word of God as a newborn craves its mother’s milk.  You ever negotiated a feeding with a newborn?  You know the little tyke is hungry and is letting you know that in their normal manner, so you saunter over to the infant and say something like, “Junior, we are in the middle of a conversation here, we will be through in about 30 minutes, just be patient and we will get your bottle then.”  How would that work out for you?

In my experience the immediate world stops until that child is fed.  That is what Peter says, that attitude, that demand, that craving for God’s word is required for a believer’s growth in their faith.  As Prof Hendricks so succinctly put it, it is not optional, it is a requirement for survival.

The programs, books, recorded messages, etc. that we obtain to grow, while based on someone else’s study of the Word of God, are not the Word of God.  So that seems to beg the question, are those things going to cause us to grow like Peter says the Word of God will.

I have doubts.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Earmark of a False Teacher

Several times in this blog I have referred to the warnings about false teachers in the Bible.  You can do a quick search by typing “False Teachers” in the search bar above to see them, like this:
I was reading through Galatians this morning and ran across another warning, really an earmark of those who are false teachers.  Look for a moment at 4:17, notice how Paul describes those who have deceived the Galatian believers.  Those false teachers engaged with the Galatian believers not so they would seek Christ, but so that they would seek them.
What is one thing false teachers will always do?  Thoughts at DTTB.
One of the earmarks of a false teacher is that they will point not to Christ or not to the Bible, rather themselves or their teaching will be the focus of their ministry.  They will promote themselves endlessly.  The purpose, as Paul states, is to get you to seek them, not the Bible, not Christ.  Some will even hold the Bible up while speaking of things that are not found within its pages.  We have to be alert.  We have to be like the Berean believers who did not accept on face value what Paul told them.  Rather they dug into the Scripture daily to see if what Paul said was accurate, Acts 17:11.

The New Testament is full of warnings about false teachers.  They exist.  They exist in great numbers.  They fill our pews, they fill our airwaves, they fill our screens.  Beware.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Amazed

The Tuesday group in which I participate is picking up the study of Galatians.  I am behind getting ready for it.  I started reading the book this morning for an overview Tuesday.  Not a good example nor good practice but I am still a bit jet lagged from the trip to Elbonia.  Not an excuse but it is the reason.
What got the apostle Paul's attention?  Thoughts at DTTB.
If you have read Galatians recently you know that the tone of the book is different from Paul’s other epistles.  He goes through his typical greeting and then without mincing any words jumps right into their knickers.  He is exercised with that church.  His first word to them after the greeting in Greek, 1:6,  is the verb “I marvel.”  He is not marveling at their great faith.  He marvels that they have abandoned it.  Quickly.

The Galatian believers had embraced adding requirements to the gospel, specifically circumcision.  They said that we needed to accept Christ but we also needed to be circumcised.  Paul said in the strongest terms available that notion was accursed, not the gospel.

What would he say to us today?  What have we added?  I have been told by some folks that in order to be saved I had to be baptized.  Others have told me that I was not saved if I have not spoken in an unknown tongue.  Still others have suggested other additions, like I had to be in their group because it was their group that had the truth.  I wonder if Paul would have marveled?

Personally, I am not real interested in being accursed.  It seems to me that it might be important to make sure that I know what the gospel really is and that I neither add nor subtract from it.