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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Just a Short Question…

If you expended the same effort in mastering the Bible as you do in mastering your career how would that work out for you?
Just one quick question... at DTTB.
You might want to look at this post as well as this one…

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Competence

Last night we began a 10 week Dads Teach the Bible workshop.  The men who come to these come with varying levels of experience in Bible study.  I push them hard.  I ask them to do things that they have never done before in Bible study.  It is hard.  I recognize that.  But in each case thus far they have walked away with a better understanding and tool set for understanding the Word.

In the introduction I use a quote and example of how we gain competence.
What does it take to become really good at something?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The quote…
What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence. – Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)
The example…
Do you remember the first time you drove down a two lane road into oncoming traffic at 55 MPH?  You have at least a 110 MPH closure rate with the oncoming traffic.  You are not sure if the dude in the other lane is going to stay there.  At your skill level you aren’t real sure you are going to stay in yours.  If you were like me there was a fine sheen of sweat on your palms and your stomach was a bit tight.

Now on that same road you are probably 5 over.  You are drinking coffee and talking on the phone while driving the car with your knee as you change the radio…  What is the difference?  You have done it thousands of times.  You do not even think about what you are doing anymore; it has become automatic.

The application…
Every new thing we do, either physically or mentally, follows that same pattern.  When we first start we have to think about what we are doing.  If we stick with it, at some point, it becomes part of our muscle and brain memory.  It becomes automatic.  Another way to put this is we have to be bad at something before we are good at it.

Competence in anything your career, your hobbies, whatever – including Bible study, is not automatic.  As Johnson said above, to get there we have to apply diligence over time.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Fearsome, Powerful, Majestic, Daddy

I was just reading in Psalm 29.  In there the “voice of the Lord” is repeated seven times.  It..
  • Is upon the waters
  • Is powerful
  • Is majestic
  • Breaks the cedars
  • Hews out flames of fire
  • Shakes the wilderness
  • Makes the deer to calve
  • Strips the forest bare
The interesting thing to me is that books are written and seminars are attended in order for us to hear His voice; seems like that might be a bit dangerous.
You ever think about how powerful the voice of God is and the implications of that?  Thoughts at DTTB.
As I was thinking through this Ecclesiastes 5:1 came to mind.  That got me thinking about how we needed to be careful coming before God.  But then Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:15 counterbalanced that.  So the picture that was developing for me is a young child running carefree into the presence of a fearsome, all powerful king, who is his dad.  He runs up to the throne and jumps into the lap of the one who has the power of life or death with a word.  That is what God has done for us.

Spend some time thinking through that.  It will fry your circuits.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Journaling

In the workshops that we do I encourage men to journal.  I have written about that a couple of times here and here.  Typically I share from Judges 2:7, 10 – 11.  Today I ran across another passage that deals with our forgetfulness as believers, Deuteronomy 4:9.

I especially like this as a reminder to capture what God is doing in my life through the discipline of journaling.  There are x things that Moses relates to us here:
How does keeping a journal assist in generations of believers?  Thoughts at DTTB.
First, we need to take heed to ourselves.  There is an appropriate time to reflect and take stock of what God is doing.  That has to be deliberate.  There are so many demands on our time in this day that if we do not make this a priority we will not do it.

Second, we are to keep our soul diligently.  This foreshadows Solomon’s exhortation in Proverbs 4:23.  When we come to the Lord to examine ourselves it is not to be a cursory look.  We need to dive deep to ask God with what we should be dealing.

Third, Moses gives us three reasons for this discipline.  The first is so that we do not forget what we have seen.  You and I quickly forget as did the nation of Israel what God does for us.  Recording His work in our lives can mitigate some of our forgetfulness.

The second reason closely follows the second.  We need to keep in our heart, in the center of our lives all that God has done for us.

The last of the three may be the more important, spiritual reproduction.  The purpose of all that Moses sets forth here is so that our children and grandchildren will know what we have seen and known in our hearts about our God.  Think of the legacy of a clear picture of your walk with God passed down to your grandchildren.  That is a valuable foundation on which they can build.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Forgiveness

It may be telling that in the 713 posts here that this is the first one I have written on forgiving those who have sinned against us.  Probably because it is hard, raw, and hard – did I mention hard.  This started for me, this time, yesterday.  It was the impetus for yesterday’s post.  I am not able to describe what is going on because too many people will quickly figure it out.  Suffice it to say that the situation is continually in, as my daughter used to say, my bubble.
Do you ever find it hard to forgive a jerk?  Thoughts at DTTB.
This afternoon I was reading in Psalm 51.  I wondered if one who has sinned against me has been forgiven by God should I not forgive them?  What if they have not asked for forgiveness?  What if they are still a jerk?  What if they are completely insensitive and self absorbed?  I came up with a long list of what ifs and wrote specifics of how unhappy I was with the way God has handled this in my journal. That was a BIG help.

Then, as He is wont to do, He quietly directed me to Ephesians 4:32.  I hate it when He does that.  It is pretty clear.  It is not dependent on someone who has wronged me acknowledging the wrong.  Doesn't seem to matter if they have changed or stopped being a self absorbed jerk.  What matters is that Christ forgave me.  My responsibility is to imitate the Savior and forgive.  When you strip all of the Sunday school answers away the reality is I do not want to.  Doesn’t matter.  That is the assignment.

So the bottom line for me is that has to be a work of Christ’s grace in my life.  I am incapable of doing that on my own.  To suggest otherwise is simply dishonest.  So the starting place for me is to acknowledge that inadequacy to my Lord and ask Him to help me in my unbelief.  Because the reality is if I am unwilling to do what He has told me to do I do not believe Him.  That is where Hebrews 11:6 comes into full force in my life.

I do not want to live there.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

It is not Fair

No it probably isn't.  But as I have said before, fair is not so much a Biblical concept.  That does not make it easier to deal with what seems unfair.  Even David, a man after God’s heart struggled with fairness.  I do.  I am.
You ever think that something isn't fair?  That may not be the real issue.  Thoughts at DTTB.
There are situations with which I am dealing that anger me.  People who are given honor that from where I sit should be chastised.  I cannot control that.  It does not seem fair.  So what do I do?

Psalm 73:3 tells me where to start.  David said it first and it rings true with me.  David was envious of the arrogant.  That is it isn’t it.  When I think something is unfair, the real issue with me is envy.  I think somehow I should be getting the attention rather than the one who is “arrogant.”

That envy reveals in me a lack of trust of God’s plan for my life.  I do not trust Him that He has for me His best.  Or I do not agree with Him that what He has for me is best; which is another problem.

I cannot control what God is doing with someone else, whether I think it is fair, right, or not.  I am responsible for my response to what I see.  Envy, plain and simple, is sin.  That is something I can deal with.  Perhaps not easily, but it is something I must deal with all the same.

Friday, October 25, 2013

What Is the Best?

Yesterday I was reading in Psalm 17.  The last phrase of verse 3 through verse 5 got my attention.  In my journal I wrote that I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life that I could honestly pray that with David.
Do you know the best way that connects you to Christ?  Thoughts at DTTB.
As I reflected on that scripture memory came to mind.  Why?  Because without a doubt that has been the discipline that has most impacted my apprenticeship with Christ.  I have not written about that much here because the discipline has slipped in the past 20 years.  The academic load in seminary made it nearly impossible to invest the time to memorize new passages or review old ones.  After the four years the habit was gone.

Psalm 119:9, 11 tells me that hiding God’s word in my heart is essential to following Christ well.  Jeremiah 15:16 echoes that reality.  So I dug around and found my verse pack.  Dusted off the cards that were in there and I am going attempt to reignite the process.  It does not make me more complete in my relationship with Christ.  For me it just helps me stay more connected to what He has already done for me.  Further, as Jeremiah wrote it becomes a joy.

If you are interested in getting started in Scripture memory, and I would highly encourage you to do that, the Topical Memory System published by the Navigators is a good, proven, time tested way to get started.

Scripture memory is just about the best way for me to stay connected.  If you do not know what yours is you need to find out.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Lame, Halt, and Blind

All of us, well at least I am, are a bit competitive.  We like to go with a winner.  If you play fantasy football you choose players who you think will do better than others.  No one in that arena picks people that they think will lose.
Could we just work with those who want help?  Thoughts at DTTB.

It is the same with our families.  We work with our kids early to help them get a head start.  We do all that we can for them to be successful in school and in the extracurricular activities in which they participate.

Who wouldn’t like to have a player like Johnny Football on their team?  He is gifted, studies the game, works in the off season to get better, continues to improve, and is driven to do so.  No coach wants to have to fight to instill those qualities in a player who does not have them; it is a lot of work.  It is much easier to work with the gifted.

If we work with people in their walk with God the same thing seems to apply.  We would much rather engage with those who are eager to follow Christ, to dig into His Word, to share their faith, etc.  Problem is those folks are a relatively small percentage of those who present as believers.  So we might conclude that we should only work with those who really are fired up.  Problem is the Scripture does not allow us to do that.

Hebrews 12:12 – 13 the writer exhorts us to work hard at helping those who struggle to do better in following Christ.  If you think about it that was the role of many of the prophets.  They spoke to the sin of Israel in order to draw them closer to God.  In a word they were resisted.  So was Christ.  So were the 12.  It is not a fun, glorious assignment.  It is ours just the same.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Quiet God

You may know that the time frame between Malachi and the first book of the New Testament, Matthew probably, was around 400 years.  So for those who were hungry for God who had been used to having prophets, judges, and kings who spoke with inspired authority from God there was quiet.  No new Word from God through any means for 400 years.  For us that would mean the last time we heard anything new was 1613.  Shakespeare and Galileo were still alive, kicking, and doing their thing then.
Have you ever thought about how long it has been since God spoke?  Thoughts at DTTB.
That is a long time without a new Word.  We have gone longer.  Since the close of the canon of the New Testament it has been roughly 2012 years give or take a few months.  That is 5+ times longer than those who followed God in 400 BC waited for Matthew to capture his thoughts on the King.

How does that strike you?

Hebrews 1:1 – 3 tells us that we have it better.  How could that be?  Nothing new from God in 2012 years?  As I thought through that the other day I was overwhelmed with two implications.

First, God did not need to add to the revelation in the Bible because it is complete.  All that we need to know about God is captured in those 66 books.  That is a mind blower.  It elevates significantly the importance of what is contained in the words recorded there.  It explains the dedication of scholars throughout those 2013 years to dive deeply into the structure and vocabulary of the original languages.

Second, the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit.  Prior to Acts 2 the Spirit was temporarily and selectively resident with a few people.  After Acts 2, radical change.  All those who have trusted Christ have the Spirit resident in them.  That is significant in parallel with the first point.  The Spirit is the ultimate author through His inspiration of the authors of all of the content in the 66 books we have.  In John 16:13 – 14 Christ describes part of the Spirit’s role in our lives.  He is to lead us into all truth.  So when we open the Word of God to read or study we have the author with us to lead us in to understanding the truth.  That is a relatively big deal.

So yes, we do have it better.  We have the revelation of the nature and character of God complete and the Spirit who inspired us to lead us through it.

The insane thing is that we take that for granted.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Reality of Relentless Exponential Shifting

The world is changing.  Quickly.  Continuously.  Relentlessly.  In my short life the fabric of society has been unraveled and rewoven on a loom producing a warp and woof of chaos rather than order.  All aspects of personal, local, national, and geopolitical interaction has shifted radically in the past 5 years.  Norms, law, and foundational principles are being ignored or discarded as outdated obstacles for those who are driving the change.
Do you despair over how Christ will impact this chaotic culture?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Multiple generations of people have matured without the influence of the Bible.  Some have lived through adolescence with none of their decisions guided or questioned (we first encountered this in 1978).  Data and devices to engage with data are ubiquitous.  In a recent stroll through a hospital corridor literally everyone I saw was walking either reading or typing on their smart phone.  There was no eye contact or acknowledgement of the people in their surroundings.

As apprentices of Christ do we have something to say to this chaos?  If we are honest, it is a bit daunting to think about how to impact this undulating culture with a 2000 year old message.

Psalm 46:2 is an anchor – regardless of change we will not fear.  Psalm 112:7 – we do not fear evil tidings but trust.  Psalm 27:1 – 3 – we do not fear, we trust in the defense of the Lord.

We have the answer to this chaos.  We have to trust Christ, follow Him, love those caught in the shifts, and declare the truth to them. We especially have to arm our kids to deal with this.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Scales Corollary

Yesterday I shared some thoughts on the value of the Word of God over the pursuit of career.  In that post I mentioned that there are a number of us who are pursuing and have heard that one could use the first half of one’s life to create wealth and the second half to serve.  While I support and applaud those who have chosen to use their success to engage in this way, I suggested that may not be the wisest course.  Something happened this weekend that may validate that suggestion.
Is is wise to wait until we can afford it to really pursue God?  Thoughts at DTTB.
You may know that Saturday A&M hosted Auburn at Kyle Field (full disclosure here I am a A&M former student and my wife attended Auburn).  My brother in law, who is an Auburn grad, with most of the rest of his family, and his wife bought a package to go to the game last year.  They left from Birmingham Saturday morning and flew to College Station for the game.  Imagine the atmosphere on the plane.  All of the folks were Auburn fans.  They have a new coach.  They are playing much better than last year.  Auburn had never before played at Kyle field.  They were coming to see one of the most explosive offensives and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.  They were pumped.

One of the Auburn fans was a 35 year old man from Birmingham sharing the experience with his father.  Somewhere between Birmingham and College Station, he suffered a heart attack.  Six people on the plane rotated administering CPR; a doctor, several nurses, and others who were trained.  He was pronounced dead when they landed.  35.

First half for him was 17.5.

I do not know who he was.  I tried to find out more info.  No idea what he did or if he had a family.  I know that he was excited to be on the plane to see the game and then was struck down.

For us there is a lesson here.  We do not know how long we have here.  Psalm 139:16 tells us that all of our days are set.  Psalm 90:12 tells us to number our days so that we can present a heart of wisdom to God.  In Luke 12:16 – 21, Jesus shares a parable that reinforces the truth that we should not plan on doing something later.  James 4:13 – 17 reminds us that it is God who is sovereign over our plans.  I could go on…

The point is there are more important things for us to pursue than career, gold.  Our first responsibility is to know Christ.  That is done through His Word.  If we have been given children, our responsibility is to raise them as apprentices of Christ.

Do not wait for the second half.  You do not know when that is.  Do it now.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Scales

Psalm 19 is one I like for a number of reasons.  First, David aligns natural and Biblical revelation of God foreshadowing Paul in Romans 1 and 2.  Second, early in my walk with God we sang 7 – 11 in our meetings and around campfires together.  But I want to focus on verse 10 for a bit with you.

In what way do we in the Church follow the world?  Thoughts at DTTB.

This morning those of us who are attempting to follow Christ together met.  We met at different places all over the city.  With the group with which I met one of the men shared some thoughts he had gleaned from his time in the Word.  he challenged those of us there with the reality that less and less of the people in this country and for that matter in the world grow up under the influence of the Bible much less attempting to live following Christ.

He’s right.

He was speaking of those who are not in the habit of joining those who come together during the week to celebrate following Christ.  He had specific issues with which he challenged those gathered before him.  It occurs to me that the issues to which he spoke impact those gathered as well as those who do not.

Psalm 19:10 says that the Word of God is more desirable than gold, not just any gold; fine gold, pure gold, and not just a little, much.  Is it your experience that when faced with a choice between gold and the Bible that most of the people who gather in groups on Sundays, would choose the Bible?  How many times do you think the pursuit of gold, much fine gold has taken priority over pursuit of the Word of God.

I am aware that we are commanded to take care of our families, 1 Timothy 5:8.  I wonder though if we have not forgotten that taking care is not necessarily defined by our culture.  I wonder why some will suggest that we should first build our fortunes and then in our second half pursue God?

This is not intended to be more than a query.  I am pretty sure – no sure – that I do not have great answers for this.  What I do know is that the pursuit of gold, read career, has taken priority over the schedules of many of the men with whom I have been acquainted.  In their scales the gold wins.  There have been times in my life that has been true.

Not sure that was or is the right order.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hard Question – My Answer Summarized

Last couple of days you looked at a question that, if you have not encountered, at sometime you will, how does one reconcile Paul’s central message of justification by faith stated most clearly in Romans 1:17 and 4:3 with James’ seemingly conflicting argument that we are justified by works in James 2:21 – 24.  Yesterday I suggested that to answer the question it is best to look at what the New Testament teaches as a whole.  To that end I asked you to look at 5 passages in four books.  Those passages are written by 4 of the 8 or 9 New Testament authors (8 or 9 depending on whether one thinks Paul wrote Hebrews).  So as you read those what were your conclusions?
My summary for the answer to the hard question...  Thoughts at DTTB.
My conclusion is that faith saves and changes behavior.  Paul agrees with James and James agrees with Paul.  If we truly trust Christ then as Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “the love of Christ controls us…”  All through the New Testament the notion that there will be evidence of faith in a person’s life is consistently presented.  In Romans 6:1 – 2 Paul uses strong language to reinforce that point.  Most translations say something like certainly not or may it never be, you could also translate it NO WAY JOSE!

It is not the works that save; it is faith.  The works are the result of the change that faith brings.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hard Question – My Answer

Yesterday you read that the same question came up in Romans twice in two different conversations within the hour.  The question is how do we reconcile what Paul says in Romans 1:17 and 4:3 with what James says in James 2:21 – 24.  You may have heard this question before.  If you haven’t you probably will if you stay connected with a Bible study.
So how does one go about answering tough questions?  Thoughts at DTTB.
When asked questions like this I will not typically answer them with what normal people would call an answer – I guess that would suggests some innate level of abnormality…  Typically I will suggest that those with whom I am talking look at several other passages that may shed light on the issue at hand.  There are at least two reasons for this.  First, it really doesn’t matter what I think the answer might be.  The issue is what does the Bible, and by extension, God think about the issue.

Second, while I may have studied the issue, and can articulate a coherent answer, my words, regardless of how coherent they may be, are not as powerful as the Word of God.  It is much more effective for people to read what the Bible says about an issue for themselves.

Third (at least two reasons, right?), walking folks through this process models how one would find the answer for oneself through a simple topical Bible study.

To answer this one I suggested that we look at several passages of Scripture:
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14 – 21
  • 1 John 1:1 – 2:11 and 2:18 – 24
  • 1 Peter 1:13 – 21
  • Matthew 7:15 – 27
So take a look at those passages and see what they say.  I would ask the individual to summarize what they have read.  You do that and I will give you my summary tomorrow.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hard Question

Twice today within an hour the same question came up.  Essentially the question was how do we reconcile Romans 1:17 and 4:3 with James 2:21 – 24.
I have a hard question for you...  Thoughts at DTTB.
How would you answer that?  I will tell you how I do tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tuning Our Ears

For the past several weeks I have been drawn to the book of Jeremiah.  What do you mean drawn you may ask.  Well it started with some cross references to other passages I was reading.  I read, mostly, in the first Bible I bought as a new believer.  I marked that one up.  It has been rebound twice, needs another trip to the bindery now.  During the cross references I found myself in Jeremiah.  The marks and the highlights reminded me of things I was going through when I made the notes.  It was a comfortable place.
How can we better hear what God says to us?  Thoughts at DTTB.
However, the message of Jeremiah is anything but comfortable.  Yet the message of the book is at the core of what the Lord has given me as a focus for my life.  This afternoon I was getting ready to write this post and I got a sense that I needed to read the book again.  I am not done.  But the time has been great.

Two things I want to share from this.  First, when a passage of Scripture comes to mind go there.  One of the ways that God speaks to me – and I know others who have the same experience – is to lead us to passages in His Word.  It is not a audible voice, just a sense that I need to be reading a certain passage.

Second, in order for the Lord to be able to bring passages to mind, you probably will have had to studied or at least read them at some point.  If it is the case that He speaks through His Word to us, it is probably a good idea to be familiar with it.  Start a reading program, most of us have smart phones, and most smart phones will take YouVersion.  YouVersion has more than one reading guide in it.  Pick one.  Don’t be a slave to it.  If you miss a day move on.  This is not a competition or about being perfect.  It is about us tuning our ears to hear the voice of our Lord.  It is about giving Him the ability to say to us quietly, “Go read Jeremiah.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pursing Emptiness

More from “basking.”

Look at Jeremiah 2:5.  Specifically in the last phrase the prophet says that the people “walked after emptiness and became empty…”  When I read that it feels like I am reading and indictment of this age.
If it is true that we become what we pursue, how should that inform our choices?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Look at the headlines on Fox News or the Drudge report.  Much of what is presented as news has no real benefit.  It deals with diets and love stories of the rich and famous, real life altering content.  Or we spend a great deal of time looking at some of the things I mentioned yesterday, stats from football games or articles on the upcoming game (OK, I may be the only one that does that).

The scary thing is that this passage tells us that we become what we pursue.  If we pursue futile stuff we will become futile; empty, then empty.

However the converse is true and Christ emphasized that in Matthew 6:6 dif He not?  If we pursue righteousness, if we walk after that, we will be satisfied…

Seems not to be such a tough choice?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Study Greatness

Yesterday I shared that I basked in the Word.  Next day or so I will share some things I saw.
In what do you delight?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Look at Psalm 111:2, note that the psalmist tell us that those who delight in the works of God study them.  This is the same word that is used in Ezra 7:10.

That statement is universally true.  What we delight in, we study.

The question I would ask is what do you study?  In what do you delight?  What do your kids see you deeply pondering?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Basking

There are times when I feel rushed in my time with the Lord.  People, tasks, other stuff, pulls at my ability to concentrate on what I am reading.  It is a little hard to believe, but I am more interested in the meaningless than standing before God in His throne room.
Do you, like me, ever feel rushed in your time with God?  Thoughts at DTTB.
This afternoon I was better.  I will not claim to have been completely absorbed, but the majesty of the creator drew me in.  The time was unhurried, calm, I was pulled gently from passage to passage – how that works for me is while reading or thinking through a passage another passage or phrase from that passage comes to mind, I then either turn there or do a quick search for the combination of words that came to mind, usually that leads me to the passage that came to mind…

I do this with my journal open and a set of colored pens with which to capture the thoughts on the blank pages.

It was a rich time.  I have a lot to share from it.  But the direction seemed to be – the thing that I felt compelled to share was encouragement to just bask in His Word.

This is not an instant kind of fix, it takes some time and it takes making a choice not to do other things.  It is well worth the investment of your time.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Hardened

Tempered glass is a good thing.  It is hardened, it is safer, it does not break as easily.  Hardened steel has many uses.  It is good for locks, it is great for tools, it is difficult to break or cut, so for security applications it is really good.
How do we respond to God.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Hardened hearts are not so good.  I ran across that concept today in Matthew 19:8, the Pharisees were up to their favorite pastime of trying to trip up Jesus – you think they would learn.  They had it figured out.  They would get Him with divorce.  So they asked if anyone could divorce, knowing that Christ would quote Genesis 2 and then they would “blindside” Him with Moses’ law on divorce.  But they did not succeed.

Christ told them that the Law was added because they had hardened their hearts toward God.  I have not completed my study of this but the indications are that stubborn and hardened are closely related.

The implications are vast here.  They seem to be falling under the mercy and grace of God.  We as a people are not as responsive to Him as we should be – I am speaking for myself now.  As stubborn hardened people we tend to do our own thing.  God seems to be giving us some room to be stubborn while He continues to pursue us.

While that seems really gracious of Him, it did not work out so well for Pharaoh when he hardened his heart against God in Exodus 8:15 (yes I know that both God and Pharaoh are credited with hardening Pharaoh’s heart).

As a people we are always looking for loopholes in the Bible.  If we do not find them, we make them.  That was what Matthew 5 – 7 was all about, Christ closing the loopholes the Pharisees had created in the Law.  It seems to me that the better course of action is to soften my heart toward God.  The only way I know to do that is to prayerfully spend time in His Word.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Identification

Do you ever hesitate to identify with Christ?  Do you do that to keep from getting in trouble or offending someone?  I find that I do at times.  I am not sure what that says about me.  Probably nothing good.
Do you always identify with Christ?  Thoughts at DTTB.

Several times in the past few weeks I have chosen to identify with people who I did not know.  I was talking to a lady who identified herself as a Buddhist.  I told her I worked with underground churches in a country that was hostile to Christianity.  She remarked that like Buddha, Christ was a great teacher.  I politely disagreed with her using C. S. Lewis’ liar or lunatic example.  She was offended.

Often though I find that when I share my belief in Christ with strangers they turn out to be believers.  We end up encouraging one another.

I have been places that to self identify is considered proselytizing which results in expulsion or incarceration.  So far that is not the case here.  Writing this 2 Timothy 2:8 – 13 leapt to mind.  It is our responsibility to identify with Christ, regardless of what others think or do in response.  I do not do that well.  To hold back is to deny who I am.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Be Turned

Sometimes when I go to the Word in the passages that are prescribed by my reading project, I do not get much out of the passages that are on the list for the day.  It was like that yesterday.  Plus for some reason I actually turned to the wrong passage, but neither the one that was prescribed nor the one I read really captured me this morning.  When that happens to me, I usually either go to Psalm 119 or read around the passage that is not speaking to me.  Today I read around the passage that I turned to inadvertently.  I am glad I did.
When you are looking at a passage pay attention to the verbs, for example...  Thoughts at DTTB.
Matthew 18:3 made me really think.  The disciples are asking Christ who will be great in the Kingdom.  Christ’s answer is interesting.  He called one of the children and says that to enter the Kingdom we have to be converted and become like a child.  They asked how to be great.  He answered how to enter.  He does go on to speak about greatness but He started with the entry.

When most of us read this or when I have heard it read, we think or explain it that we have to become like children to enter.  It is something we do.  That is not what the text says.  Literally the text says “if you are not turned,” the voice is passive.  Being turned is not something we do.  We are turned by something acting on us.  The implications are significant.  Look at passages like 1 Corinthians 1:30, Romans 8:29 – 30, Ephesians 1:3 – 6.  To really blow a gasket look at Galatians 1:13 – 17.  All of these have God working on us prior to our “choosing” to follow Him.

Then think through the product, “like a little child.”  We have three grandchildren ages 3, 1, and 3.5 months.  They are all completely dependent on their parents.  They cannot survive without aid.  They have nothing that is not provided for them.  They trust their parents completely.  That is how we have “to be turned.”

The question becomes what will it take for God to “turn us.”

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Raising Our Kids Under Grace – Two

Yesterday I asked the question is it possible to raise our kids as believers fully aware of their completed position in Christ and not have them go through any phase of legalism.  I mentioned that in my experience that has not happened, everyone I know has at sometime succumbed to some form of a performance based Christianity.
We need examples of how to raise our kids under grace.  Thoughts at DTTB.
In our discussion on this yesterday morning, one of the men referred to a woman we all know who was so loved by her parents, and thus so secure in her relationship with Christ that when confronted with a performance standard by a Christian organization, she was not impacted.  It just did not faze her.  She knew that she was loved by Christ whether the organization approved or not.  That is huge.

I do not think I did that well with my kids.  I am not sure that the example is exactly on target here but the message is really good.  I am talking about a documentary I saw this week on ESPN, The Book of Manning.  If you are struggling with or want to raise your kids under grace I highly recommend watching this.  Especially if you are or your family has a competitive streak.  Pay attention to what Archie says about his direction to his sons and how his son’s portray the advice their father gave them.

I have it recorded on my DVR and have already pre-ordered the DVD.  It is one I will use working with dads.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Raising Our Kids Under Grace

This morning we were in Galatians 2:11 – 21.  Tomorrow the study will be on Galatians 2:20.  For years I have been struggling with a question surrounding this passage that connects to much of Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.  I have written about this some here if you search for Colossians 2:9 – 10 in the search box above you will see a few of them.
How do we help our kids embrace grace rather than legalism?  Thoughts at DTTB.>
In Galatians and the other passages I mentioned, Paul tells us that we are free from the Law; that we are complete in Christ.  The bottom line for that is that there is nothing that I can do to increase or decrease my standing in Christ.  I am complete.  The problem is that Christ and Paul both tell us that we need to be in the Word of God, we need to pray, we need to engage in other spiritual disciplines as they did.  (By the way a great book on this is Willard’s, The Spirit of the Disciplines.)  As believers we tend to substitute those disciplines for the Law and in so doing they become a law for us.  We tend toward legalism, competition, merit, performance based lives.  We measure things.  The houses we live in, the cars we drive, the schools we attended, and we tend to categorize ourselves and people with whom we interact based on those measures.  It is wrong but we do it, or at least I am prone to do so.

Back to the question.  I have worked through – that is an overstatement – I have introduced this concept to a lot of believers.  Most, including me, struggle with the concept.  They begin to understand it.  But it seems to be a continual battle to keep from viewing our lives in Christ as complete rather than based on merit.  So the question is it possible to raise our kids in a way that they are delivered from performance in their relationship with Christ and live from the beginning of their relationship with Him in the full knowledge of their completed position in Him.

In my experience the answer seems to be no.  I don’t like that answer.  My prayer is that my kids do a better job than I did with theirs so my grandkids will always know Christ that way.

I have more thoughts on this but will save them until tomorrow.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Warn the Wicked

Yesterday I shared some thinking, frustration really, with what I perceive as a systemic failure of the Church to have a meaningful and lasting impact on the cultures with which it interacts.  I shared bewilderment with the notion that we are doing well as a Body when there are so many segments of our culture which the Church has essentially abandoned to the evil one.
If it is true that the Church is not engaging well with the cultures, what should we do?  Thoughts at DTTB.
As I was thinking and praying through this the Lord took me to Psalm 92:6 – 7 – by the way I have been using an old copy of the Book of Common prayer for the past several years as a source for devotional times in the Bible, it is uncanny how often the verses for the day deal with either the challenges I am facing or issues with which I am struggling.  It was that way this morning.

Psalm 92:6 – 7 forced me to think through the reality of the sovereignty of God over the impact of the Church on the cultures with which it interacts.  Further it reminded me that as an apprentice of Christ my responsibility is to warn the wicked that are marginalizing or persecuting the Church.  Twice, in Ezekiel 3:16 – 21 and Ezekiel 33:7 – 9, the prophet, and by extension we, are admonished to warn the wicked to turn from wickedness toward God.

Regardless of what we perceive as how effective we are as a Body, that assignment stands.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

So What?

I have been in a lot of great conversations about the Bible.  Deep stuff on Romans, Philippians, pick the book.  I have also been in discussions on significant topics, the kingdom of God, Spiritual Multiplication, the Promises of God, and a long topical study on what the Bible says about itself.

Many others have done this as well.  This nation was founded, in part, so that people would have the freedom to do so.  The first universities that were founded in what we now call the Ivy League were founded as seminaries to train pastors.
What difference is the Church really making today?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The aims of Duke University are to assert a faith in the eternal union of knowledge and religion set forth in the teachings and character of Jesus Christ, the Son of God .  To advance learning in all lines of truth, to defend scholarship against all false notions and ideals, to develop a Christian love of freedom and truth, to promote a sincere spirit of tolerance, to discourage all partisan and sectarian strife, and to render the largest permanent service to the individual , the state, the nation, and the Church.  Unto these ends shall the affairs of this university always be administered. 
What happened?

People have been having great discussions about the Bible in this country for – let’s just go back to the Declaration of Independence – 237 years.  Deep stuff covered in small groups, churches, Sunday schools, seminaries.  With all of those deep discussions shouldn’t we be better off as a nation at least in terms of the Christian foundation that was laid by those who braved those boat rides from England?  Are we?

Try sharing Christ openly at one of the Ivy League schools.  Duke University was founded to explore the glory of Christ in science (see the plaque above that is at the west entrance to the school).  Today one is in danger of banishment if one violates the “religious” sensibilities of a Duke student.

Culturally it would be extremely difficult to argue that as a people we more closely follow Christ than those who settled this country.  We have killed more babies through abortion than the number of people the Nazis were able to extinguish during the holocaust.  They did it to further the political goal of racial supremacy.  We do it in the name of sexual freedom.  Which is worse?  Our culture is accepting and promoting perversion as normal.  Our journalists have abandoned all pretense of speaking truth to further causes that they have chosen to support.  These are but a few and not necessarily the most important issues that are facing us as a people.

As a Body Christians, while discussing deep issues and doing deep Bible studies, abandoned the Institutions of Higher education they founded, thus populating the leadership of the country, the medical profession, and those who report as journalists with folks who do not acknowledge Christ as Lord.

We can outline Romans, so what?  What happened to being salt and light?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Recovery and Learning

I mentioned that last month I went to a country that is hostile to Christianity to help equip the members of an underground church to more effectively study the Bible.  It was a long 8 days.  It was completely engaging and completely exhilarating.  I came back tired but excited about what was accomplished.
When things go really well, what usually happens next?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I was surprised and a little disappointed that for the next week I was wiped out.  I figured it would not take that long to bounce back.  I was wrong.  It has also taken longer than a week.

I am not sure that I have fully recovered from the trip.  My time in the Word in terms of Bible study has been good.  However, meeting Christ in that time has been hard.  I do not know if it is because we stirred up those folks in the Word and the enemy is retaliating, or if I just am still emotionally drained.  Whatever it is I did not expect this.  I will be better armed next time.

That is one of the lessons I have learned over the years.  I have to be aware of how the enemy comes after me.  I have to guard against his schemes.  From time to time he throws me a curve ball.  I try to observe that and learn so I will be better armed the next time.

It is a good practice.

Friday, October 4, 2013

To Teach Is To Learn

Last summer when we finished the Dads Teach the Bible workshop seven of the men agreed to continue, study a book together, and teach it in a Sunday school class.  That was suggested to them as a means of reinforcing what we had covered together during our 10 weeks together.
Do you want to learn more about the Bible?  Teach it to someone...  Thoughts at DTTB.
I have found that, and you may have as well, that when one teaches something one learns more than the one being taught.

So if you want to learn more about the Bible, lead a study, or teach a Sunday school class.  You will get asked questions that you will not be able to answer.  That will encourage you to study more.  If you want to learn how to study more effectively, teach someone else how to study.  Same deal.  You will learn more and the questions you are asked will force you to expand your skill.

Those who teach never cease to learn.  If they do, they should quit teaching.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Truth About Sin

It is not what most of us think it is.  Most of us think that sin is breaking God’s Law.  If that is the case, Romans 7 does not make a lot of sense, for that matter neither does Romans 3:31.  (I have written briefly about this once before.)  If not sinning is just about following rules, then really none of Romans or Galatians for that matter the Bible makes much sense.
What is sin? Really? Thoughts at DTTB.
Back when we “learned” grammar in school we were told that a verb was an action or a state of being.  Most people when asked will define sin as doing something, an action, committing murder is the thing that has most come up when I have talked to people about this.  Committing adultery, stealing, that sort of thing.  Things that break the 10 Commandments.  Problem with that is that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus really turns up the heat on the 10 Commandments.  He says that calling someone a fool is the same as murder, oops.  Or that looking at a woman lustfully is the same as getting into bed with her.

It is impossible to keep the 10 Commandments.  Why?  Because they reflect the nature and character of God.  God is telling Israel what He is like and by extension what they are not like.  They discover that they cannot follow those ten “simple” rules.  The Old Testament is full of examples of their failure, but we can look at our own lives for plenty of examples without having to resort to digging through Genesis through Malachi.

If you question this take a look at Galatians 3:21 – 25.  There Paul tells us that the Law essentially leads us to faith in Christ.  He expands this in Romans 3, verse 20 is especially telling.  He states there that the Law essentially reveals our state.  It tells us that we are in a state of sin, it is our nature.  We are different from God, therefore sin.

So sin is not something we do.  Sin is our nature.  The Law points that out and communicates that the only way to resolve that is for Christ to pay the price for our state.  That is the message of Romans 6.  That is the Gospel.

Our only response to sin is to accept Christ’s death for it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Help!

Need your thinking…  I have had three conversations today where men have either told me or else reported that men are not willing to get into the Bible for themselves.  Why do you think that is true?  Or is your experience different?
I need your opinion on something.  Please comment on the post today...  Share your thoughts at DTTB.
Let me be clear about what “getting into the Bible for themselves” means.  That does not mean that they are:
  • Watching a video about the Bible
  • Reading a book about the Bible
  • Doing a fill in the blank study
  • Reading a commentary or the notes in their study Bible
  • Having devotions or even journaling.
It means taking a passage of Scripture and digging in deep.  Making first hand observations on the text writing down what they are seeing.  Analyzing critically what they see.  Making personal application of what they find to their own life.

What do you think?  What is keeping men from doing this?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Diagramming

Yesterday and several other times in this Blog I have mentioned diagramming sentences as a means of unlocking or analyzing passages of Scripture.  It is not easy.  It requires a lot of thought and some research.  It also requires one to brush up, no polish brightly one’s English grammar.  The benefits outweigh the work.
There is one tool that will really help you unpack a verse, but it is hard.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Click on it and the fuzziness goes away...

Why?

Because it slows you way down and forces you to really look at how the Holy Spirit led the writers to construct their thoughts.  I was going to recommend a text that I have that would help you learn to diagram and at the same time polish your grammar, Sentence Analysis by Donald W. Emery, but if you do a quick Amazon search for that book you will find that 114 page paperbound pamphlet is now selling for north of $70.  If you are serious it is worth it.  But you can get a lot of information on this skill by searching for Sentence Diagramming on the internet.

Dare you