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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Over

In a few minutes 2014 will be over.  Looking back on the year, how was it?  Can you point to specific areas where you grew in your faith?  Can you measure that your trust in Christ increased?

How did it go with your family?  How was the time with your wife?  Your kids?

I do not usually share other’s stuff but this one is worth you taking a look at.

How will you apply that?

How do you evaluate your year with Him?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Authority

Still working through the overview of Mark.  Something I noticed this time through is the word “authority”.  It is repeated 9 times.
Authority
People are astounded at Christ’s teaching and the result of that teaching.  Both validated His authority.

The Pharisees challenged His authority.  He did not respond.  That is interesting.

Jesus claimed authority and gave authority to the twelve, which is listed in 3:15 as one of the reasons He chose them.

This is a relatively big deal.  Christ claims authority to forgive sins.  He gives authority over unclean spirits.

He validates what He claims by miracles.

The Pharisees got it right in 3:7, only God can forgive sins.  What does that say about Christ?  Interesting that they missed the lesson.

It makes me wonder what I am missing about Christ’s authority over my life.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Disciples

You may remember that several times in this blog I have suggested that words or terms that are repeated are good clues as to what is important to the author.  Mark uses the word “disciple” 44 times (I don’t count the one after 16:8).
Disciples
Mark uses the word “crowd” 20 times.

The interesting thing is that many times the two words are in contrast.  Jesus teaches the crowd with a parable and then takes the disciples aside and explains the parable to them.

I am still working through the implications of this but one is clear.  Jesus was more interested in His disciples understanding what He was teaching than He was the crowd.

What, if anything, should that tell us about ministry in our churches?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Astonished

Mark is the subject of a couple of studies in which I participate weekly.  I am behind on one of them.  I have been working on the overview today.  One of the things I look for in an overview is repetition of words or concepts.
Astonished
This time through the concept of amazed, astonished, overwhelmed, got my attention.  The word group appears 19 times in Mark; most of the time as a reaction to Christ and His teaching.

That seems appropriate.

We just celebrated Christ’s first coming.  As we read the gospels about what He did with His life, and we discover the impact of His death, resurrection, and ascension, we should be amazed.  Amazed, astonished, overwhelmed with the lengths that God went to, to call us to Himself.

Astonished is appropriate.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Family

We spent Christmas with my dad.  He has been battling cancer for nearly 2 years now.  My daughter and her family joined us so we have the oldest and youngest member of the family here.  My dad is 92, my granddaughter is 2 months.
Family
Not my dad or granddaughter
That is what this holiday is about, is it not?  We pass on what is important from generation to generation.  In Psalm 78:5 – 8, Asaph outlines for us what we should be passing on.  The core of the message is that we are to have confidence in God.

That would be a great legacy, tradition to pass on to our kids

Friday, December 26, 2014

Aftermath

It is the day after Christmas.  The day after unwrapping all of the presents, eating all of the food.  For the first time that I remember there wasn't football.  That changed today.
Was there a let down?  Was there some sort of Christmas aftermath doldrums?  There has been for me in the past.  I think for me, the reason I was focused on the wrong things.  I was focused on pleasing my family not the Lord.

This whole Christmas thing is meant for us to remember the intervention of God into our lives to bring us to Himself.  We have, or I have, at times used the presents we give to remind us of that gift.  But we forget that.

So after all of the emotions spent yesterday, on perhaps the wrong things, it would be reasonable to expect an aftermath of down emotions.

If that is the case, one way to adjust is to remember why we are doing all of this in the first place.  Use the time from now to the end of the month to invest some extended time in the Word and prayer asking Him what He wants you to do differently next year.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

More than a Birth

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

This morning as you open presents with your kids, or this afternoon as you are playing with them, remind them that we are celebrating more than just the birth of a child.  It is the birth of a savior.
More than a Birth
Luke 2:25 - 32 reminds us that He was born for the cross.  Without the cross, there is no celebration.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Summoned

Have you ever been drawn to a passage of Scripture over and over?  That has been happening with me with Psalm 50 for the past several months.  I was there again this morning.
Summoned
I use the first phrase of verse 1 in most of my workshops.  Asaph uses three names of God to emphasize the importance of the Word of God.

This morning the second phrase in verse 1 demanded my attention.  Asaph reminds us that the Lord summoned the earth from the morning to the evening.  Spend some time chasing that word "summoned".  It shows up several times in the creation account in Genesis.  The sense there is that the Lord named the different elements of the creation as He made them.  The sense here in Psalm 50 is that the Lord is in charge, He is sovereign.  He commands, summons the earth, He is in control of it.  Throughout the Scripture we are reminded of God's control over nature, over all aspects of this world.

That raised several questions for me.  Why is it when the reality of God's control over the world is so clear in Scripture, do we go to great lengths to establish that He does not have control over us?

I think the answer may be in Psalm 50:21, we think that He is just like us.  We create Him, in our minds in our own image.  We think He should do things the way we would do them.  Rather than allow the Word to tell us who He is, we form Him to be like us.  He is not.

He reminds us of that in Isaiah 55:8 - 9.  It is our assignment to seek Him for who He is not who we want Him to be.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Last Minute

Part time, I work at an outdoor equipment store.  I do that primarily for three reasons.  First, we need the income.  Second, I love backpacking; it is how I relax.  Third, it gives me access to people I would normally not ever see.
Last Minute
It is interesting to me that in the last several days the store has done a lot of business.  Today was no different.  Several people came in looking for a number of presents for friends and relatives.  Several said they were shopping at the last minute.  Technically that would be tomorrow when the store is open from 10 to 5.  After we closed tonight we had a call asking what our hours were tomorrow.  Someone is planning on coming in at the last minute.

As people we tend to procrastinate.  We do that with a lot of things in our lives.  Some of those things are fairly important.  More so than some last minute shopping.  We focus on our careers so we can provide for our families.  Then we realize that we have not spent much time with our kids and they do not know us.  So at the last minute we try to squeeze in some time.

At some point we figure out that we have spent half of our lives building a business or a career only to discover that we have neglected developing our knowledge of Christ.  So we decide to switch gears at the last minute.  Books have been written on how to do that.

These next weeks can be a special time.  It can be a time to reflect on what is really important.  To what should we be giving our time?  A new year is a few days away.  Before it gets here we will celebrate the birth of the One who came to redeem us.  His closest disciple reminded us in 1 John 2:15 – 16, that we are not to love this world.  It seems to me we need to heed that command more closely than we do.

Think and pray through how the Lord wants you to invest your time this next year.  Don’t wait till the last minute.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Vegged Out

You ever have a day where you just did not do anything?  Today for me.  I was out of the country most of the last six weeks.  There are a few shows that I watch and I had my DVR set to record them for the past six weeks.
Vegged Out
I spent most of the day on the couch emulating a potato working on getting caught up.

Additionally I am hooked on Christmas movies.  My wife has recorded about 20 none of which I have watched.

Pretty much a wasted day.  I think sometimes we need that…

Or maybe I am justifying my sloth…

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Listening with Different Ears

When we are in town we will go to our church for both the early morning service and Sunday school.  Because of the holidays there was no Sunday school.  Because we are at the end of the current pastor’s tenure and we have not found a new pastor the pulpit is being filled by a sister church.
Listening with Different Ears
The pastor has had some physical challenges in recent years.  I do not know him.  I do not know how the challenges he has been facing has impacted him or his approach to ministry.  He speaks with a reality and a familiarity with the Scripture that I find attractive.

He does not always finish his thoughts.  By that I mean he may refer to a passage of scripture in content, even mentioning the book, without giving the reference.  Other times he paraphrases something in the Scripture without referring to the book or the content explicitly.  I found myself filling in the gaps.  In doing so, I found myself thinking about more than what he was sharing.

I spend a fair amount of time in the Bible.  I have for a long time.  I have studied, at some level, all of the books.  Some of the books I have studied multiple times.  When I listen to a message, any message, what is being said is filtered through the studies I have done.  I find myself either agreeing or else in dialog with the speaker.  Long way of saying I do not take what he may share uncritically.

That should be all of our experience.  Acts 17:11 reminds us that the Bereans checked everything Paul said against the Scripture.  The Holy Spirit through Luke calls this noble minded.

We are, according to Christ, to have His Word abiding in us.  Joshua 1:8 tells us that we are to not allow the book to depart from our mouths.  It is to be our night and day meditation.  If that is the case, all of us should be listening through the grid of what we have studied in the Word of God.  We should be continually evaluating what we hear against what we know.

For me that means that I am in constant dialog with the speaker.  This morning that dialog resulted in a new take on a passage and topic I have studied in some depth.  The experience was like hearing what he said and then thinking through the topic and several passages that he did not reference but aligned with what he said.  It gave me a fresh perspective on something I share quite a bit.

So his message drew and built on my personal study.  His input was only part of what the Lord showed me this morning.

I would encourage you to follow that same path.  Do not allow the pastor’s message to be the primary input in your Christian life.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Complete Excitement

This afternoon we exchanged Christmas presents with my kids and their families.  For the past… well for as long as I can remember, we start this process with coffee cake.  My wife hides a full pecan in the coffee cake and whoever gets that piece, goes to the tree and picks out the first present to give.
Complete Excitement
The person that receives the present opens it and then picks out the next present to give.  We do that until all of the presents are gone.

This year three of the grandkids “helped” open each present.  They are four and nearly a half, two and a couple of months, and one and a half.  They were into opening the presents.

The one and a half boy was really into it.  He could not decide whether ripping the paper or jumping on the package was most effective.  Regardless his face was lit up and he was completely engaged in “helping”.

It occurs to me that we should have that level of committed excitement about the gift we got.  The reason we celebrate this holiday.  We cannot wait.  We are overcome with the joy of discovering what the gift means to us.  Diving in with complete joy and excitement to open our hearts to that gift.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Missed Opportunity

In 1974 I graduated from UPT (Undergraduate Pilot Training) in the US Air Force.  I went directly from there to PIT (Pilot Instructor Training).  Just before I left for Randolph I said goodbye to about four of my classmates, two from Denmark and three from Norway.
Missed Opportunity
One of the Norwegians was my partner for my formation check ride in T-38s.  As we were saying goodbye, at some point in the conversation something about my relationship with Christ came up.  One of the guys said to me, “I see we have left some things unsaid.”

One of the members of my class was also a graduate of Texas A&M, we were both Aggies.  He washed out and ended up in the back seat of an F-4 as a EWO (Electronics Warfare Officer).

When I got back to Craig as an instructor.  One of the students in my BOQ came by my room several times to talk.
What ties these men together?

I was on a cross country in San Antonio and ran into the commander of the Norwegian.  He took an F-104 into the North Sea chasing a Soviet sub.

The Aggie was in the back seat of his F-4 when his pilot, with target fixation, flew the plane into the ground.
Same thing happened to the student in my BOQ, except he was the pilot.

I did not share my faith with any of those men.

I work part time at a high end outdoor store.  One of the men for whom I have been concerned quit today.  He will return to his home state tomorrow.  I have been working at getting closer to him.  I have not shared my faith with him either.
Men who were in my sphere of influence with whom I failed to share.

There are those around us daily who need to know the Lord.  While we are working out how to approach them, they can be fatally injured.  I have hesitated.  With the result that with these four men I lost the opportunity.  The first three permanently.  There still may be a chance with the fourth, small, but a chance.

Do not hesitate.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Full Contact Nativity

We have a wooden nativity that was handmade probably 30 years ago.  Our kids played with it each Christmas.  Some of the pieces are broken and glued back together.  Some have been written on with pen or pencil.
Full Contact Nativity
This morning I was playing with it with my two year old granddaughter.  My intention was to tell the story of Jesus’ birth to her with it.  She had other ideas.

The camel, the shepherd, baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, just about all of the pieces at one time or another went flying down from the coffee table to the floor.  We talked about the kings and baby Jesus, but none of the shepherds or kings really were engaged like it says in Luke 2.

It was ok.  She had fun.  We got the words in; some of the story.

We will have more opportunities on this.  It was fun for her.  It was a piece of the puzzle for her on which we will build later.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Time Zones/Jet Lag

Going on record that I am not a fan of either.  I got back from my trip last night.  I got up, Tulsa time, at 8 PM Monday evening and got home at about 11 PM last night.
Time Zones/Jet Lag
I get why we have to have time zones.  Life would not work well without them, but crossing 9 of them is hard on me, and getting harder.  It was easier than crossing 13 though.

I say all of that to say that sometimes there is a cost to what the Lord asks us to do.  Well, pretty much all the time there is a cost.  Whether it is a long trip or investing time with our kids, it takes time, effort, planning, thinking, and other things that would make good sense if I could think of what they are…

The other half of the equation is something that a group of us talked about at noon.  After we obey, cross the time zones, invest the time in our kids, whatever it is that we are doing to obey Him.  It is pretty much impossible to measure the impact of what we have done.

It may be months, years, or after we are in the presence of our Lord, or never that we know the result of what we have done.  All we are responsible for is to do what He asks, cross the time zones.  Invest the time with our kids or those whom He has called us to serve.  The result is His deal.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Kindred Spirit

Yesterday I shared that I spent some time with a pastor in another country.  It was a refreshing six hours.
Kindred Spirit
It was refreshing because his experiences as a missionary pastor in a difficult situation reinforced my understanding of what is necessary both in that country and in mine.

His observations and the lessons he has learned in the years he has invested in the people here and his ministry experience prior to coming here, align exactly with mine.

He has struggled with the same issues.  He has fought the same fights.  He has felt the same frustrations.

Because of that it seemed that we had known one another for many years.  It has to do with being on the same battlefield, just different areas.

It was a rich six hours.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Affirmation

You ever wonder if you are really doing the right thing?  I have worked with a man in another country for about two years.  First helping him in personal Bible study and then helping him help others.
Affirmation
I have often wondered if the efforts are really making a difference.  I am convinced that getting someone into the Word for themselves is all one really needs to do.  I am convinced of that from experience and from what the Word says about itself.

But sometimes I wonder.

Today I met a pastor who knows the man I have been helping for the last two years.  He shared with me that the last two years have been life changing for that man.  The Lord did not need to affirm that.  It was a grace that was kind and encouraging.

I am grateful to Him for the affirmation.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Difficult Questions

You ever get asked tough questions by your kids or someone you are helping in their Christian life?  How do you handle it?
Difficult Questions
Many people I know will begin to share what they think about the issue.  I am not sure that is the best way to proceed.  I really do not want my kids building their faith on what I think, nor do I want people I may be in a study with doing that either.

In a lot of cases the issue is something that I have struggled through.  In that case there will be one or several passages of Scripture that I have identified that help resolve the issue.  That being the case, I will suggest that we look at those passages together and talk about what they say.

If it is the case that it is a topic that I have not considered, then “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you.”  Is my go to answer.  I then go struggle through the issue which allows me to do what I said in the previous paragraph.

Bottom line, it does not matter what I know or what I think.  What matters is what God, in the Bible, says.  That is what I want to be the foundation of my kid’s faith.  The foundation of those others whom the Lord may give me the opportunity to encourage.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Can You Convince Someone?

It was a long day.  The conversation was about how to get a new believer started doing personal Bible study.  I am working through a translator and I do not lecture.  It is a conversation, which means translating both directions since I only speak Texan and a smattering of Okie.  Makes the conversation a bit of a challenge…
Can You Convince Someone?
One of the people in the room asked if we would be able to convince everyone we helped to get into the Bible for themselves.  I asked the group to turn to two passages to answer that question, Mark 4:1 – 20 and 2 Timothy 2:24 – 25.

Mark tells us that not everyone will respond.  2 Timothy tells us that no matter how well we encourage, it will be the Lord that draws someone to the Word.

So, no, we cannot convince.  Our job is to pray, share, and trust God to work in a person’s life.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sleepless in...

I could not sleep last night.  The restaurant does not open until 1930 local.  That is too late for me to eat.  I did anyway.  Stayed up until 2200 and then went to bed.  Laid their until 0230 and gave up and got up.
Sleepless in...
Part of the issue is when I am on one of these projects my mind will not shut down.  I am analyzing and thinking through the implications of the interactions.

A couple of days ago Isaiah 9:15 – 17 was part of my reading.  The connection between that passage and Jeremiah 23:16 – 32 has pretty much lodged in my brain.  The Lord is telling the leaders of both Israel and Judah that sharing anything other than the Word of God with the people is foolish and a waste.

What bothers me, partially what kept me awake, is I know men and ministries who have either partially or nearly completely abandoned emphasis on the Word as central to their ministries.  If Isaiah and Jeremiah are right; foolish and wasteful.

Whatever we do, whether it is with our families, in our service to our churches, or broader efforts in our community and the world, if those efforts do not come from the overflow of our time in the Word of God…

Empty.  Foolish.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How Awesome...

Ever wonder how to pray?
How Awesome...
Psalm 66:3 gives clear guidance.  We are to tell God how awesome we think His works.

That assumes two things.

We are paying attention.

We remember what He has done.

In my experience neither one of those is a given.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hating Discipline and the Word

Psalm 50:1, the first phrase, has become the way I open all of the Dads Teach the Bible workshops.  Asaph uses three different names of God to say that He has spoke, sort of an emphatic way to suggest we pay attention.
Hating Discipline and the Word
Today Psalm 50:17 caught my eye.  The contrast with Psalm 50:1 is stark.  Rather than pay attention, the Word is cast behind.  Note what Asaph says about those who do that.

They hate discipline.

2 Timothy 3:14 – 17 reminds us that the Word teaches, reproves, corrects, and trains us.  Sounds a lot like discipline.

Hebrews 12:7 – 11 tells us that it is God’s purpose to discipline us to share His holiness.

The two, discipline and the Word of God are tightly, inseparably linked.  Should we choose to diminish our time in the Word, we are choosing to resist, hate God’s discipline.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tool

At A&M all of us had nicknames, mine was Zilch, don’t ask.  One of the guys was Crowbar.  He was called that because it was the simplest tool…  That was not a fair representation of who he was or is for that matter…
Tool
When I engage in a trip like the one I am on now, there are a lot of folks who will make comments along the lines of what a spiritual giant I must be, but the reality is I am more of a crowbar, in the truest sense of that term.

I know that folks are sincerely praising what I am trying to do, I appreciate it, but my response is typically something along the lines of Luke 17:9 – 10.

This evening, its evening where I am, Isaiah 10:15 reinforced the way I feel about this privilege.  The axe, read crowbar, does not exalt itself over the one using it.  This is not about me.  It is not about me when I lead a Bible study or Sunday school class.  It is about the one who formed, called, gifted, and sent me.  The one using the crowbar is to be exalted, He is the one to be praised.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Plans

So, on the way out of the country.  Have made plans.  Have vetted them with the people in the country where I am going.  But, Psalm 33:10 – 11…
Plans
Look at the contrast.  The Lord nullifies the counsel of nations, but His counsel stands, forever.  He frustrates plans, but His plans stand for generations…

It occurs to me that it would be better to follow His plan than mine…  So, on all these trips, my code is stay flexible, smile, and eat what is put in front of me…  i.e. follow His plan…

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Off Again

Having not yet recovered from the last trip, I take off for another country tomorrow.  I will be working with a local pastor.  We will be working with some of his key people to help them better follow up new Christians.
Off Again
I was going to tell you where but that would not be a great idea…

If you are inclined so to do, I would covet your prayer for clarity through the language barrier, for clear leading as we brainstorm what a new believer in that culture would need to know, and for health and rest during the next 9 days.

I will have WiFi so I will be continuing to blog, but the times will be way off.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Grandkid Time

This morning my wife planned a time for she and I to spend some time with our three mobile grandkids.
Grandkid Time
We made and decorated cookies.  We read the Christmas story out of one of our favorite kid’s books.  We made a special gift that commemorated Christ’s birth.  We sang songs and made a lot of noise beating on stuff.  Broke some stuff.  Marched around the house.  Played in the playroom.  Ate lunch.

A good time was had by all.  It was loud and messy.  Full of laughter and hugs.

We will do it again.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sneaky Advent

Advent kind of snuck up on me this year.  Probably wasn't looking because of getting ready for these trips.  I just realized we are nearly a week into the season.
Sneaky Advent
Part of my reading today was Psalm 22:31.  It is appropriate that we read that psalm at the beginning of advent.  That verse in particular reminded me of one of the major threads that runs through both the Old and New Testaments.  Those of us who know  Him are to share Him both with those who will come who do not know Him.

The truth of this season is the message that there is a way out of the morass we have created through our self-centeredness.  The rescue has not only been launched, it is completed.  All we have to do is inform those struggling how to tap in.

That is great news.  It is the real thing about which we should be excited and it is the real present that we should be giving those we love.  Not just these next few weeks but all 52.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Quenching

I have had a bad day.  It was my fault.  I did something really stupid yesterday and it cost me a lot of money.  I know better.  The signs were all there.  But I got duped.
Quenching
The thing is the Lord warned me.  There was a check in my spirit, which essentially I ignored.  1 Thessalonians 5:19 tells us not to quench the Spirit.  I think that is exactly what I did.  Isaiah 30:21 tells us that the Lord will direct by telling us which way to turn.  He did, I didn’t.  Costly lesson.

It takes a while to get to know His voice.  Just like it takes a while to get to know the voice of our loved ones.  But, when we hear them we know them.  Jesus said that we will know His voice, John 10:27.

It seems to me that when we hear and do not respond, like I did yesterday, that is quenching God’s Spirit.

Stupid.  Costly.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Time of Useful Consciousness

During water survival we were told about Time of Useful Consciousness (TUC).  They told us that if we ejected into cold water i.e. water that was below about 70 degrees you have a limited time where you will be coherent and able rationally think about what you are doing, TUC.  The lower the water temp, the less TUC you have.
Time of Useful Consciousness
Not sure this guy has any TUC...
For the past several days, I have felt like I had a TUC of about 4.5 hours per day.  I am sick and recovering from a hard overseas trip.  Each day I function longer, but I am at best operating at a significantly reduced capacity.

Thinking through this, it occurs to me that Proverbs 3:9 speaks to this at some level.  In my best TUC I should be engaged at some level with the Lord.  Today that was not the case.  Matter of fact that is the case most days.  I do not put my focus during my best TUC on the Lord.

I am going to work at changing that.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Like a Child Again

In Nepal a couple of weeks ago I spoke at a child dedication.  This afternoon my granddaughter and her brother were here for a few hours.  My grandson is one and a half.  He does not talk yet, there is way too much to do to bother with talking.  He is a Tasmanian devil of curiosity, he moves through life with a determination to find out how everything he sees feels, tastes, and whether it comes apart or not.  He does this at full speed.  Unaware of any danger or consequences, in full trust that the big ones around him will take care of all of that.
Like a Child Again
Watching him interact with his environment the way he does was entertaining to say the least.  His sister is 4+.  She is of the same mold.  Insatiable curiosity.  But hers is more focused.  She was able for the first time today to look at and appreciate some books we have had for years that were pop ups.  Her brother would have destroyed them in seconds.  She was fascinated by the construction and how the pieces worked.  She was able to work them gently so to enjoy and not destroy.

Watching them learn reminded me of the points in the talk I gave at the dedication.  Jesus said we are to be like children (Matthew 18:1 - 16).  One aspect of that childlike behavior is an insatiable desire for more of Him.  Just like my grandson, a hunger to experience all of Him as fast as I can.  Like my granddaughter, to observe the detail, to revel in the intricacies of who He is and how He works in my life.

We are to be like children.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Core of Training

In the movie The Pistol: Birth of a Legend, there is a scene in the first part of the movie, Pete’s dads, Press, takes him through a drill in their kitchen to help Pete develop, gunslinger fast hands – this is a great movie by the way.  Press, holds the ball on the back of Pete’s neck and then tells him not to listen to him but to pay attention to the ball.  The instructions are when Press drops the ball, Pete is to clap his hands in front and then catch the ball behind his back.
The Core of Training
That is not something that you would typically do in a basketball game.  It is not shooting or dribbling.  But the training creates skill that impacts multiple aspects of the game.  It is not something that can be used on the court specifically, but it preps a player to be able to do things they otherwise could not.

Personal independent Bible study is much like Press Maravich’s gunslinger drill.  In dealing with your kids on a daily basis, or in helping other people in their walk with God, you will not most of the time, be doing Bible study while you are interacting with them.  You will prepare before you meet, but you do not usually do the nuts and bolts of a study when you are meeting with them.

But the study you do, like the drill, prepares you to do a lot in working with your kids and your friends.  Situations will arise in life and conversations that will remind you of things you have studied.  You will be able to speak to those issues from a foundation of your personal Bible study.

I was asked a couple of years ago if Bible study was training for ministry, it is not all, but it is the core.  Everything else is dependent on study.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Blessed

We take a lot for granted.  Well at least I do.  I left my home country, USA, 20 days ago.  I got back last Monday evening.  For the past week I have been recovering from that trip, still am.  Digestive system, lungs, and sinuses are all messed up.  Combination of pollution, dust, and radical diet changes.
Blessed
I leave again Monday so I need to get over this quick, but back to blessed…

When I flip the light switch I never consider that the lights may not come on.  I do not wonder if the electricity will be on all night.  When I turn on the water, I do not consider the possibility that it may not flow, both hot and cold.  I just rode 11 hours in a car, every road was paved.  People were following the rules, traffic flowed without incident, except through one work zone.

Speaking of work zones, if a water main is cut, it is fixed within a day.  I do not have to deal with having no water for two months with no end in sight.  If I need a doctor, and I do, the hospital is less than a mile away, there are three pharmacies within a mile of my house.

There are a handful of churches within a couple of mile radius of where I live.  There are two Christian radio stations, one large Christian book store, my TV has multiple channels devoted to the Christian faith.

When I laid down to rest when we got back about an hour ago, I did not have to compete for a place to lay down with tomorrow’s lunch and dinner.  The house is climate controlled, not sharing the climate.

When I consider how I live, I am almost embarrassed.  One of the questions that has been plaguing me for the past couple of weeks is why this country is the way it is after 250 years and the one I just left is the way it is after a 1000.

I know one thing for sure, life is easier here, much harder in all aspects there.

I have more questions about that than answers right now.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Payment

I mentioned yesterday that I just got back from a project overseas.  It was a difficult trip.  Such that I have been sick since I got back.  The change in diet, the 27 hour trips, my body is not adjusting as quickly as it used to.
Payment
So as well as the monetary cost of the trip.  Part of the payment is on my body.  One of my applications from this trip, I need to loose weight and get in better shape.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fish or Cut Bait

My respect and admiration for pioneer missionaries was given an incredible boost in the past three weeks.  Working with people who had poor translations of the Bible, and asked to explain basic information about the Bible at multiple points.  What takes me 20 minutes to do here.  Took a minimum of 1.5 hours to cover.
Fish or Cut Bait
I was working to equip the people there to fish.  To discover from observation truth in the Word of God.  It would have been much easier to just tell them what I wanted them to know.  The problem with that, after I am gone, they will not be able to do that for themselves.

It was hard work.  I was there four days.  I thought how difficult it would be to work at that level for years.  I can understand why people in that circumstance would simply dispense fish.

We face, at different levels, the same choice each day.  It is much easier to tell people what we know, than it is to train them to get it for themselves.  We need to choose to teach to fish each time.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving

We give thanks today.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Today we give thanks.  It would be good to take some time to really think through what God has done for you.  Spend some time writing that down and then thanking Him specifically for His grace toward you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Short Break

I have been out of the country for the past 12 days.  The last 12 posts were written before I left and scheduled to post…  This will be a short break from 2 Timothy 1:1 – 14.
Short Break
This morning I was on our Tuesday morning online study.  We were in Haggi.  I was on primarily to give the guys an update on the Nepal project.  As they were discussing the book something stood out to me.  Look at Haggai 2:3 and Ezra 3:12.  These books happen at about the same time.

The attitude of the elders in Ezra 3:12 that is referred to in Haggai 2:3 is that what they have built is not as glorious as what was destroyed.  The kicker comes for me in Haggai 2:9.  The Lord tells them that the current temple will have far more glory than the one that was destroyed.  This is the temple to which Christ comes.

As I thought through this, there have been several times that things I have been doing in ministry either in my church or projects like Nepal, have not seemed to go well.  They seemed to be bunt singles rather than home runs.  I confess I have despaired over some of those events.

Haggai 2:9 reminds me that it is not what I do that matters.  What matters is what the Lord does with what I do.  I tend to use the wrong measures.  I tend to look for immediate results, the home run, the grand slam.  But the Lord can take my bunt single and make it a grand slam.

The painful truth is, no matter what I do, no matter how glorious I may think it may be, it will not be worthy of His glory.  It is only as He invests it with His purpose and His power that anything I may offer accrues value.  Further, I may never see that glory.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 9

Continuing looking at 2 Timothy 1:8 – 11, focus on the last half of verse 9, God’s purpose and grace have been granted to us from all eternity.  Coupled with other of Paul’s thoughts, Ephesians 2:10, for instance, seems to suggest that suffering for the sake of the gospel was part of God’s plan for us all along.
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 9
One wonders why.  But the next verse sheds even more light on this.  In 10 Paul starts with contrast, “but”, and temporal, “now”, what was designed from eternity has now been revealed.  How?  “By,” instrumentation, means, the appearing of His Son, who did three things:

  • Abolished death
  • Brought life
  • Brought immortality

How?  “Through,” again instrumentation, means, the gospel.

Putting all of that together, we are called to suffer for the gospel by one who has abolished death, brought life, and immortality.

We are not called to suffer needlessly.  The reality is that our suffering is temporary the reality is that the command is reasonable based on what Christ has done.

Which sets up verse 12 beautifully, but that is tomorrow.

Posts in this series:
The Influence of Structure
Structure in 2 Timothy 1
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 2
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 3
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 4
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 5
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 6
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 7
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 8

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 8

Paul writes really long sentences.  2 Timothy 1:8 – 11 is one sentence.  We looked at the first part of the sentence in verse 8 yesterday.  I was going to skip over this but it is too rich to ignore.
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 8
In the last part of verse 8, Paul explains suffering.  It is “for” the gospel “according to” the power of God.  Those are two structural markers we have already seen in verse 5 and verse 1.

Suffering is describes as “for” the gospel, the gospel is the reason we suffer.  The power of God is the basis for choosing to join in Paul’s suffering for the gospel.

Paul then, using particularization, expands his explanation of the power of God giving powerful support for our joining in that suffering.  He notes what God has done through His Power:
Saved us
Called us with a holy calling
Then Paul expands on this calling.  The calling is not “according to” our works but, contrast, “according to” God’s purpose.  Stop and think about what is going on here.  Paul is exhorting Timothy and by extension us to join in suffering for the gospel.  Here he links that suffering to God’s purpose in His calling us.

Suffering for the sake of the gospel is part of God’s purpose.

This Christian thing is not for the faint of heart.

More on this sentence tomorrow.

Posts in this series:
The Influence of Structure
Structure in 2 Timothy 1
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 2
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 3
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 4
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 5
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 6
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 7

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 7

The next structural marker is in 2 Timothy 1:8.  The sentence starts with “therefore”.  Most of us know that when we see “therefore” what follows is a result of what went before, the cause is before, and the effect is after.
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 7
The effect is telling.  It may give us more insight into who Timothy is and with what he is facing in his ministry in Ephesus.  Paul contrasts being ashamed with suffering.  That is a strong statement, hard choice, be ashamed or suffer.

Not all of us are there yet.  Some of us will be soon.  The pressure of the world is against Christ and His followers.  Revelation 12:17 tells us that the enemy is at war with us as does 1 Peter 5:8.  We are in a war whether we realize it or not.

The message we have been given is offensive to those who are perishing.  There is continual pressure to soften what the gospel, what God says.  When we do not, we are vilified and called haters by those who hate.  We are accused of fearing those who are “different” by those who fear we may be right.

Paul reminds Timothy, and by extension us, here that we have to stay on message even in the face of libel, slander, persecution, and suffering.

This is not an easy assignment.  But it is ours.

Posts in this series:
The Influence of Structure
Structure in 2 Timothy 1
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 2
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 3
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 4
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 5
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 6

Friday, November 21, 2014

Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 6

Look at 2 Timothy 1:7.  Note that the verse begins with “For”.  If you look at the list of structural markers you will see that “for” is listed under logical connectors as indicating “reason”.  Paul is giving the reason for his exhortation for Timothy to rekindle his gift.  The literary device is substantiation, what Paul is about to share is the basis for why Timothy should man up.
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 6
The reason is the rest of the verse but notice that Paul shares it with another literary device, contrast.  He contrasts “power and love and discipline” with “a spirit of timidity”.  We are not given timidity, but we are given power, love, and discipline.

Yesterday, when we looked at verse 6 one of the questions was, what was the gift of God that Timothy was to rekindle?  Here in the immediate context, may be the answer.

So some of the questions that begin to emerge from observing the structure:

  • What does this tell us about Timothy?  Paul?
  • Why does Paul emphasize all three by using “and” instead of a comma between power and love?
It may be the case that what we are seeing here is Timothy retreating from some of the challenges that we all face when trying to serve people.  Paul may be reminding him as a leader it is his responsibility to lead.

We would need to validate that as we work our way through the book.

Posts in this series:
The Influence of Structure
Structure in 2 Timothy 1
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 2
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 3
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 4
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 5

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 5

Looking again at 2 Timothy 1:6, the last structural marker is “through”.  This is the literary device instrumentation.  We saw this earlier in verse 1.
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 5
Here Paul is reminding Timothy how he received his gift, through, agency, the laying on of Paul’s hands.  From this one could conclude that Paul was able to impart gifts of God through laying on of hands.

That raises several questions:
  • Was this an apostolic ability?
  • Does this ability still exist today?
  • What is the meaning of laying on of hands?
  • What kinds of gifts were transmitted in this manner?
  • Are there other examples of this in the New Testament?
  • Why does Paul mention this to Timothy here?
These questions suggest a need for a topical study on laying on of hands.  Full disclosure here, this passage is problematic for me.  Why?  Because there are elements in the Church today who seem to abuse it.  So my inclination is to work to explain this away.

Frankly, that is the response most of us have when we run across a passage that does not fit what we believe.  Integrity in Bible study, in our walk with God requires that we do not do that.  We have to acknowledge our current beliefs and compare them to the Scripture.  To that end here is a list of all of the passages in the New Testament that reference laying on of hands.

I do not have time to work through these now, but I am setting this aside for a later study.  By the way this is a good way to deal with these types of things.  Make note of what you need to look at later and keep going.

Posts in this series:
The Influence of Structure
Structure in 2 Timothy 1
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 2
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 3
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 4

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 4

In this series we are looking at how structure can help us observe more in the text.  You can get caught up by clicking on the links below.
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 4
Yesterday we looked at the first structural marker in 2 Timothy 1:6, the next marker is temporal, “afresh”.  Paul is telling his apprentice to rekindle his spiritual gifts.  The implications of this are important for us.

One implication may be that our gifts can fade.  That raises several questions:

  • What would cause one’s spiritual gifts to fade?
  • Could one’s gifts fade to the point of uselessness?
  • What does one do to rekindle one’s gift?

These questions arise from observing the temporal marker but the next few are questions that come to mind from other passages of Scripture that may help me to understand what is going on here:

  • How does abiding in Christ impact one’s spiritual gifts?  Is the implication here that Timothy was not abiding?  (John 15:5)
  • Is there a connection here between Paul’s issue in 2 Corinthians 12:7 – 10 and Timothy’s need to rekindle his gift?

I do not have answers to these questions.  I may never have.  That is not the point.  By asking them I am forced to consider things that I may not otherwise consider.  Plus I find that asking questions I see other things that I would not have otherwise observed.

There is one more marker in verse 6 I want to investigate but I will save that for tomorrow.

Posts in this series:
The Influence of Structure
Structure in 2 Timothy 1
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 2
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 3

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 3

We have been working through 2 Timothy 1.1 – 14, if you are just starting you can get caught up with the links at the bottom.
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 3
Look at verse 6.  Again I am not going to focus on every marker just hit some of the high points.  Looking at the picture again you can see that the first marker in verse 6 is the phrase “for this reason.”  Pretty clear what that indicates, reason or purpose.  If you look at the context the reason is in the preceding verse. Paul is convinced that Timothy has the same faith as his grandmother and mother.

Paul’s certainty of that faith is the basis for his exhortation to Timothy to kindle afresh Timothy’s gifts.  So the interesting thing here is that Paul is using another’s faith to exhort his apprentice to greater things.  This is not the only time he does this in 2 Timothy.  Look at 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17, Paul again refers to those from whom Timothy learned the Scripture, his mom and grandmom.

Here the structure shows us that Paul expects that people who are from Christian homes will benefit from that environment.

That is not just Paul.  Remember his writing was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Posts in this series:
The Influence of Structure
Structure in 2 Timothy 1
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 2

Monday, November 17, 2014

Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 2

We started yesterday in 2 Timothy 1:1 to see how structure helps us observe more in the text.  I am not going to stop on every marker in this series but I will I this first verse.
Structure in 2 Timothy 1 – Part 2
The second marker is “according to,” it is not on your list.  It is one I have added as I have worked with this over the years.  It tells us the source or the context from which some action or idea emerges.

From yesterday we saw that the instrumentation of Paul’s apostleship was the will of God.  Here God’s will is “according to” His promise of life in Christ.  Paul’s apostleship was grounded in the will of God which was informed by or constrained, if you will, by God’s intention, promise to give life through Christ.

In my estimation, that is huge.  It explains Paul’s drive.  It helps me to understand why he penned passages like 2 Corinthians 5:14 – 21.

What would it be like to know that you were chosen by God because of His promise to provide life through His Son, to be an ambassador to those who do not know this message?  How would that impact your thinking?  How would that change the trajectory of your life?

Guess what…

Posts in this series:
The Influence of Structure
Structure in 2 Timothy 1

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Structure in 2 Timothy 1

So if you looked at 2 Timothy 1 as I suggested yesterday you will have seen some of the structural markers on the list.  As I have worked through this over the past few years I have learned that Traina’s list is not exhaustive.  Further I have begun to see implied structure.  Some of that is here in 2 Timothy 1.
Structure in 2 Timothy 1
I am going to focus on 2 Timothy 1:1 – 14 during this series.  I have marked the structural markers I saw in the picture.  Compare them to what you saw, or if you have not done so yet.  Read through the text looking at the sheet and see what you find there.

The first marker I saw was “by”.  This is instrumentation.  Paul was an apostle of Christ not by his choice, not by the choice of the other apostles, not by the choice of the Church, rather by the will of God.  The means by which Paul was made an apostle was the will of God.  If you look at the list of questions associated with instrumentation you will see:

Instrumentation
  • What is meant by the end or purpose, and what is meant by the means?
  • How does the means serve as an instrument(s) for realizing the end?
  • Why does the author use this instrumental relationship?
  • What are its full implications?
  • If you look at the definition of Instrumentation, you will see:
Instrumentation – the setting forth of the means to and end as well as the end itself.  Instrumentation thus involves the factor of purpose. The gospel of John, in view of the author’s statement in 20:30-31, exemplifies this law. The signs recorded in the book are a means to an end, namely, belief in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, in order to make possible eternal life.

In this case the end was Paul’s apostleship.  The means was the Will of God.  What questions does that raise for you?

It raises several for me.  For instance:
  • Did Paul get a vote in this matter?
  • What does this tell us about the actions of the other apostles in choosing Matthias?
  • How did this means empower Paul’s ministry?
You can come up with others.

Typically we breeze by these opening words to get to the good stuff.  There is some good stuff right here.

Structure helps us observe it.  It slows us down.

Posts in this series:
The Influence of Structure

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Influence of Structure

I have written about the use of structure in the Bible to help us observe more effectively about 41 times in this blog; type structure in the search bar above to see the posts.
The Influence of Structure
This morning I was reading through 2 Timothy 1 and was reminded again how helpful structure can be.  I am not a literary person.  The college English courses that required me to evaluate literature were baffling to me.  I was an engineering major, I get math, soil, concrete, rebar – grammar and structure were foreign, and in my opinion back then, relatively useless soil.  Boy was I wrong.

Reading and studying the Bible since I came to Christ has been the main source of my growth and understanding of Christ.  But one of the things that hampered my grasp of the Scripture was my engineering background and disdain for those “useless” English courses.  All of the guidance I received in learning to study my Bible told me to pepper the text with questions.  Problem – I quickly ran out of questions.

After the basic W’s I was out of gas.  Enter structure.  About 1985, there was a staff conference at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.  For five days he walked us through how to use structure to make better observations.  Additionally, he shared a full set of questions based on that structure.  It was life changing for me.  I went from having six questions, to literally hundreds in 5 days.

When I got to Dallas Seminary in 87, Prof had Traina’s book as one of the textbooks for his course on Bible study methods (my relationship to that course is a long story that will not be told here).  Being one of the reasons I was at Dallas in the first place, Prof’s validation of Traina’s instruction, further reinforced the need to master these tools.

Bottom line?  Structure is a tool to help us observe more than we can see without it.  It helps us to view the Word with fresh and different eyes.  It acknowledges that the Holy Spirit was intentional in the use of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax in His guiding the creation of the text.

It is good stuff.

In the next few days I will share how I used it this morning in 2 Timothy 1.  You can get a head start by looking at the list of structural markers here and the list of associated questions here.  Further, I have done some of this in the series starting here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Breaking Evangelical Consumerism, How?

For me the answer begins with Matthew 28:18 – 20.  It is our job to make disciples.  It seems like somehow we have drifted off of that directive and are now looking for converts, people who have prayed a prayer.  Rather than follow what Christ and Paul modeled in the New Testament, we rely on large meetings and media.  Look at Mark 3:14.  He appointed the 12 to be with Him, then to preach.  The order is not accidental.
Breaking Evangelical Consumerism, How?

Paul did much the same.  When you read through Acts and the epistles Paul penned, you see names, Timothy being primary.  2 Timothy 2:1 – 2 mirrors in Paul’s admonition to his apprentice, not only Christ’s method, but also His command in Matthew 28:18 – 20.

If you look at Acts 11:26, this is reinforced.  The disciples were called Christians, not the other way around.  The problem may be that we have forgotten what it takes to make a disciple.

In his books Simple Church and Breakout Churches, Thom Ranier shares research that supports this as well.  He states that the churches that are doing great, are those who have defined discipleship and have put in place an intentional process for moving people toward discipleship.

To me this is simple.  Pastors have to refocus on equipping, making disciples, intentionally developing leaders, rather than what program to run in the next 13 weeks.

The challenge will be that the consumers will rebel.

What do you do with that?  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Foundation of Rest

A few days ago I was stopped by Psalm 92:2.  We are exhorted to declare God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness in the morning and night respectively.  Thinking through this I wondered at the timing.
The Foundation of Rest
It occurs to me that we need His lovingkindness in the morning.  Why?  We all encounter many different trials throughout the day.  We need to know that the Lord’s lovingkindness surrounds us in all that we encounter.  These things come upon us for a reason, a purpose, and His lovingkindness will sustain us through them.

In the evening when we sleep we are most vulnerable.  Remember the old nursery prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep…”  That prayer acknowledged our vulnerability and our reliance on God’s faithfulness.  We can trust Him.  He does not change.  In our most vulnerable state, we are covered by His faithfulness.

The coupling of those two characteristics of our Lord lays a solid foundation for trust, rest in Him.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Breaking Evangelical Consumerism

For the sake of argument, let’s say that my thoughts yesterday and the day before are right.

Breaking Evangelical Consumerism

How would you go about breaking down, changing a church’s culture of consumerism?

I will share some of my thoughts, day after tomorrow.