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Friday, January 31, 2014

The Truth about Sinnin"

Several times here we have looked at Psalm 51.  There is good reason for that.  There is much we can learn from David’s failure.  First of all let me say that I am really good at sin.  Not necessarily proud of that but it is a gift.
You ever feel helpless in the face of your sin? You are in good company.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Focus for a moment on Psalm 51:2, 10.  Note the verbs David uses:
  • Wash me
  • Cleanse me
  • Create in me
  • Renew me
The interesting thing is that all of those verbs are imperative mood.  They are commands.  One of the shocking things about the languages is that all of the prayers are imperative mood.  It is a shock to think that we are using that kind of strong language with God…  But I digress that is not the point.  The point is that David cannot do any of that for himself.

David cannot wash away his sin with Bathsheba, her pregnant reality is literally in his face daily.  There is no amount of soap and water that will change that or for that matter cleanse him, set the clock back and make her unpregnant and David an unadulterer.  Not going to happen.

Nor can David create a new heart for himself.  Nor can he renew his steadfast spirit.  Ever tried that?  “I am going to be steadfast now!”  Works until it doesn't any more, which is measured in nanoseconds for me.

The reality of the effects of sinnin' is the seedbed for all of our attempts at religion.  We desperately do just about anything to remove the stains our sin has left on us.  So we sacrifice, we pray, we give, we follow all kinds of religious rules to attempt to scrub away the consequences of our sinnin',  But deep down, really deep down where it really counts, we know it ain't workin'.

That is where David’s prayer comes in.  David knew that he was helpless to deal with his sinnin'.  Only God by and through His grace could wash, cleanse, create, and renew David.  Same with us.  This is the good news of the Gospel is it not?  It is not about what religious rules we follow.  No, it is about the fact that God chose to wash, cleanse, create, and renew us through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son.  Now instead of having to perform within the confines of some religious rule, all we have to do is ask.  John clearly sets this out in 1 John 1:5 – 10.

Ask not do.  We are passive in our cleansing.  God does it.  We do not – well I don’t anyway – deserve that grace.  It is overwhelming.

He forgives and cleanses me from my sinnin'.  Wow.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Time Keeps on Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin…

“… into the future” or so said the Steve Miller Band, and they got that right.  It is hard to believe that tomorrow is the last day of January.  I am already behind this year.  The older I get – you know this – the days and the years seem to fly by faster.  The other thing is regardless of how much I work out, I get tired faster.  I used to recover from all-nighters in a day or so, now it is a week and I avoid them if at all possible.  The growing family, read grandkids, takes more time – do not get me wrong it is great time.  But that time invested in them reduces the time available for other things – again that is a good thing.
Have you ever thought that saying no could lead to a bigger yes?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The reality is Psalm 90:12 is taking on a more critical meaning.  I have to work much smarter.  In order to make the biggest impact in the time I have left, I have to be more selective in what I do.  I have to learn to say quality no’s.

One thing that helps me to do that has been my involvement with YourOneDegree™.  Through that ministry I have begun to understand more clearly how God has designed me.  I now have a decision grid that allows me to say no well.  Here is an example.

My drivers are study, imagine, connect, and change.  The primary domain for me is helping people study the Bible.  A couple of years ago I went to Morocco with another organization.  The purpose was pre-evangelism.  We visited two cities and made several presentations on developing small businesses and non-profits.  A few months later I went back and helped run a sports camp in another city.  The third time I was asked to go was a few months later, another sports camp.  I had by that time solidified some learning in YourOneDegee, by that I identified that there were some “go/no go” words for me.  If the event did not offer me an opportunity for me to incorporate the “go/no go” words it was a no go.  For me the primary “go/no go” word is Bible.  That trip did not afford me any opportunity to equip people to study the Bible so I declined the opportunity.

Saying no to that trip opened up all that has happened in equipping Moroccans to study the Bible since January 2014.  How?  One of the men that did go was a doctor with whom I had been meeting for about three years working with him to learn to do more effective study.  He shared some of what he learned with a pastor the team met.  He asked for help.  They passed his name to me.  We started meeting via the internet in January 2014.  We are still meeting.  I did a Bible camp for the underground churches he leads last summer.  We are working together to translate some exciting material for another people group in his country.

Saying no opened that opportunity.  If you are interested in learning to say better no’s, check out YourOneDegree™.  You can either sign up at their website or if you would prefer, I can help you with the process.

It is worth the time.  It really helps you give teeth to Psalm 90:12.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sleepless in Tulsa

I woke up this morning at about 3AM.  There were four issues that were rattling around in my brain.  Four fairly significant things.  I laid there for an hour and then gave up and went to my office, got my journal out and started writing.
You ever have a sleepless night struggling with problems you want to fix?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I am a fixer.  Probably has to do with my degree in engineering.  I love solving problems.  Some of the problems that I have to deal with are self-inflicted.  I have mentioned that I am in a couple of studies in the book of Jeremiah.  Judah was facing the consequences of self-inflicted challenges.  Rather than turning to God and trusting Him to solve the problems that their disobedience created, they chose to ask for help from other nations and from gods that they made of wood and stone.  That did not work out very well for them.

So one element of my struggle today was working through, praying through, trusting God rather than trying to fix the problems.  As a type A, with a bias for action, to stop and ask, consider if my plans are really what God wants me to do is not my default position.

So today was a day of reflection and reading a book that my wife showed me a few months ago.  I scanned it this morning and read it this afternoon.  I would highly recommend it.  It is Mark Batterson’s, The Circle Maker.  When I woke up the book was on my mind with the four issues.  After I wrote for a while in my journal, I started scanning the book.  This was one of those times when the Lord directed me to fellowship with a brother through a book that codified and helped me get a partial handle on what I needed to be doing.

I have not got this Christian life thing completely figured out yet.  In fact I am finding daily areas in which I am woefully inadequate.  Mark’s book helped pull some scripture together for me.  Had a good time with him this afternoon in the Word and in prayer through the book.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Intentionally Refined

Yesterday I shared the journey I went on starting with Proverbs 10:20 and the verses at which I subsequently checked.  You can see my journey in the page from my journal below.
Are you sure you want to have the tongue of righteousness?  Reservations at DTTB.
The phrase that got my attention was the notion that the words of the righteous are described as choice silver.  Choice silver is refined.  My wife and I watched a silversmith refining silver at Colonial Williamsburg.  It is a long process.  The silver is heated and the dross rises to the surface the silversmith removes the dross.  He then heats it again and repeats the process.

In the passages that I looked at yesterday the Lord is depicted as the silversmith.  His Word has been refined seven times.  He refines us through the furnace of affliction.  The image is of His intentional heating us up to remove the dross from our life.  He then tests us to see the result and then reapplies the process.

It is through His Word and the process of His refining that our words become as choice silver.  This is neither an overnight nor a quick, rapid, or easy process.  It takes time.  Time in His pure Word and working that into our lives through applying it in the crucible of His discipline.  There are several references to this process in the New Testament, James 1:2 – 4; 1 Peter, Romans 5:3 – 5; and Hebrews 12:4 – 16 came to mind as I was working through this last night.

Bottom line, it takes time for us to be refined by our Lord.  It is neither a quick or painless process.  But the result is that we will speak into the lives of those whom He has given us to serve more effectively.  Having the tongue of the righteous sounds like a really good thing to have.  Though I am not all that excited about the process to obtain it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Refined

It started this evening in Proverbs 10:20.  It did not end there.  I was struck by the phrase “choice silver”.  It made me think of another phrase, “as silver refined seven times.”  So I searched in my Bible program, Logos, for “silver AND refined.”  WOW.
What does it take to have us speak with righteousness.  Scary thoughts at DTTB.
Here are the verses I found:
  • Psalm 12:6; 66:10
  • Proverbs 17:3
  • Isaiah 48:10
  • Zechariah 13:9
  • Malachi 3:3
Take a look at those.  See what you find.  I will share what I got tomorrow.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Salvation or Discipleship

I have read three books by Dallas Willard and started a fourth.  I started the fourth one first and just could not get through it, The Divine Conspiracy was the book.  It was the third book of a trilogy.  I have, since trying to read Divine Conspiracy, read the first two books of the trilogy, Hearing God and The Spirit of the Disciplines.  Last week I met with a friend who essentially invested last year reading through Divine Conspiracy.  That meeting challenged me to engage again.
Can a person be a Christian and not a disciple?  Thoughts or better questions at DTTB.
This time is different.  It may be that I have read three of his other books now.  But I am more in sync with what he is sharing than I was a few years ago.  All of his books require thought.  That is one of the things I appreciate about them.  This one is causing me to ask some hard questions.

Let me pose one to you.  If a person says that they are a Christian but are not a disciple of Christ, a follower of Him, His apprentice, are they truly a Christian?  Christ’s directive to us in Matthew 28:18 – 20 was to make disciples.  That is the imperative in the original, not go, make disciples.  If that is the charge, should that not be the focus of the community?  When is the last time you heard the notion of discipleship discussed or presented in your community?  Is it the central organizing principle of your community or something in which to engage after conversion?

Suppose we were to build our communities and our families around Christ’s command to make disciples, would that make a difference in how we function?  If so how?  If so why are we not doing that?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Feed My Starving Children

This afternoon my wife and I were volunteers at an event at our church.  There were four shifts from yesterday to today assembling meals for Feed My Starving Children.  We worked from 11:30 this morning to 1:30 this afternoon.  Our shift assembled enough food to feed 92 kids one meal a day for a year.  This was the second time our church has done this, the first time we were out of town.  If it is at all possible we will not miss it again.  To say that the 2 hour investment was worth it would be a massive understatement.

If you are looking for some way to introduce your kids to serving others in Christ, this may be your answer.  Thoughts at DTTB.

Some of the men that have been in the Dads Teach the Bible were there with their kids.  Wow.  What a great way to engage in the things of the Lord with ones kids.  The opportunities for interaction on why we are doing this are incredible.

This is a great organization.  If you have not heard of it, check out their website.  Look into sponsoring assembling meals at your church.  Find out if they are doing a project at a church near you and volunteer.  You will be more than glad you did.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Bigger or Better?

A pastor friend of mine sent me a video to watch this morning.  Because of who sent it I watched it nearly immediately.  Glad I did.  Further, I sent it to a friend before I got through it, four more when it finished.  This message has been played in churches and boardrooms all over the country.  I took three pages of notes, stopping the video several times to respond.
In your work or church, should you be trying to get bigger?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Andy finished at Dallas just before I started.  We both spent a lot of time with Prof.  I can see the fingerprints of Prof on this message.  One of the things that Prof said in his leadership class is evident in this message.  The best literature on leadership is in the Business community.  Two of Andy’s points on organization and leadership come from that source.  It reminds me that I am behind in my reading.

I do not often in this blog share other’s content.  This is worth your time for your family, your church, and your business.

Click here when the site loads click on the "Monday Evening" tab at the top right of the player.  Scroll down to "Part 23" in the box on the right.  The message begins at about the 17 minute mark where he is being introduced by his father, Charles Stanley.  One of the men I sent it to suggested you need to hear Charles' prayer at the 16 minute mark.  Your call.  Let me know what you think...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Growth By Question

If you are a leader who has more knowledge in your particular domain of expertise than those whom you are leading, you may be tempted, in an effort to help them grow in their knowledge, to tell them what you know.  That is mostly how we are taught K – 12 and in many cases in university education.  In post graduate work that changes some at the masters’ level, I cannot speak authoritatively at levels beyond that, but my sense is that the doctoral level is more interactive.  While this is academically effective, in the workplace or small group study I am convinced that method loses effectiveness.
If you are trying to help your child or a friend learn, what is the best way?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The better way I feel is to ask questions that lead people to examine the material from a different angle or challenge their presuppositions.  Rather than telling people what you know ask questions that lead them to consider the data differently or that leads them to the conclusions that you have drawn.  For adult learners particularly this is a more effective means of transferring knowledge.  The reason, it is interactive, participatory.  Rather than listening to a lecture, they are sharing their understanding.  This has multiple advantages.  First, by sharing they are having to codify their thought in a way that others can understand their position.  Second, the others in the group will ask clarifying questions that challenge the speaker further.  Third, as the leader you get to listen and evaluate the quality of thought and communication of the speaker and are able then to craft questions that push their learning.

This is not easy.  But it is well worth the effort.  We are tasked as Christian leaders – dads are leaders by definition – to pass on what we know, 2 Timothy 2:2.  This applies to our kids and further to those whom God brings into our sphere of influence.  It is an assignment.  Not just for pastors, teachers, etc. but for all believers.  In Matthew 28:18 – 20 and John 17:20, 20:21 Christ through His commission and prayer includes us in that assignment.

Using questions to help people see more in the Bible is a much more effective way of helping them grow.  It empowers their learning.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Weary But Pursuing

It has been a long couple of days.  Last night was the last night of the current Dad’s Teach the Bible workshop.  Before we started last evening I had three meetings spread out through the day.  When I went to set up there was a short in one of the power cords.  That added about an hour to the setup.  More on that tomorrow it is a good story of God’s faithful direction.
How do you approach your Bible study when you are really tired?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Because it was the last night of the workshop I had to get all of my stuff out of the church.  I use a computer, two DVD players, a projector, and a sound system during the workshops.  The equipment fills seven boxes, not counting the easel and the four tripods.  This morning we started with an overview of Jeremiah in a room across the building from where we met last night.  (My wife pointed out I could have broken down all of the stuff this morning – I did not think about that last night.)  The result is I go home later than usual.  I was not prepared for the meeting at 0630 this morning.  So I worked on that until about 0100 this morning.

This has been another full day.  I just finished prep for two meetings tomorrow morning.  It is about 2130 (9:30 PM for those who missed the military.)  I am not done yet probably have another hour or so of work before I am done.

This is not a veiled appeal for sympathy.  I love what I do.  It is an incredible privilege to study and meet with men in the Word.  But I get tired.  In the Air Force we were not allowed to sleep in class, 16 hour work days was not an excuse.  If we got sleepy we were told to go stand in the back of the room so we would not go to sleep…  I have incorporated that into my office.  My kids will tell you that they have found me more than once standing to type on my computer or to read through a book or passage.

You have done that.  All of us have pulled all-nighters to finish something for work.  During this workshop one of the men made that comment but observed that he had never done that to finish a Bible study.  That was a keen observation.  We will work long and hard for that which does not last but will surrender to fatigue when it comes to our “optional” Bible study.

Thinking through this just now drew me to Judges 8:4.  You know the story of Gideon and his 300 handpicked warriors.  They had routed their enemy and were chasing them down to finish them off.  I love the way they are described, “…weary yet pursuing.”  That shows determination, perseverance, toughness, fortitude, focus, and other good qualities that won’t come to mind right now.

God’s Word, according to 2 Peter 1:3 – 4, allows us not only to see the nature of God but to partake in it.  That seems like something worth pursuing hard, even when weary.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Failing Leadership

We are in the second week of our Tuesday morning study on Jeremiah, still in the overview.  Longer books, Jeremiah qualifies as a longer book, take a bit longer to get an overview done, in fact we are going to invest one more week on the overview.
What makes a leader successful?  Thoughts at DTTB.
One of the themes that seems to be emerging as I read quickly through the book is the failure of leadership.  Now I know that there are a lot of books and articles out there about the importance of leadership and leadership’s impact on the organization and individual.  I cannot hope to add much of anything to that corpus, but I want to make a couple of observations.

In the context of Jeremiah the failure of leadership is to not elevate, honor, and obey the Word of God as the foundational element for the life of the nation.  Instead God, through Jeremiah, describes what the leaders are doing twice (6:14; 8:11) as healing the brokenness of my people superficially.  It is like the leaders identified the symptoms, treated those, but ignored the root issue.  The root issue was a systemic disdain for and disobedience of God’s Word.  Where I am at in the study right now the key passage is 23:21 – 40.  If you spend some time in that passage you will find that the Lord rebukes the prophets for not coming to Him when He is near to them.  Rather they share their dreams rather than His Word.  Since they refuse to come to Him they are unable to minister to the people whom the Lord has charged them to lead.  Look at 23:22.  Note the import of what God is saying there.  If these men had come to Him, instead of sharing their own ideas and dreams, He would have equipped them to turn the people back to God.

This is not just true of churches, nations, organizations – it is true for our families.  If as fathers we are to lead, to turn our kids toward the Lord, we must continually be coming before Him.  Otherwise, we are just like the leaders of Judah, sharing our stuff, our dreams.

That will not turn out very well.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Purposed?

The last part of Psalm 17:3 is a challenge for me at the level of, “you have got to be kidding.”  When I read stuff like this in the Scripture my reaction is typically, “Right, there is no way.”
How do you do at making purposed resolutions?  Thoughts at DTTB.
About 48 seconds after I purpose to do anything spiritually challenging, I am usually tested to failure.  David, here claims that he purposed…  I am not sure based on his recorded history how successful he was with that “purpose.”  I will find out some day.

For me I find that there is no way that I can do what David did here successfully.  I need Christ to transform me.  As I said when I “purpose” I fail.  It is only as I trust Him, ask Him to transform me, admit my total dependence on Him that real change begins in my behavior.

I have tried all manner of schemes and gimmicks to purposefully manage my sin.  They do not work.  What works is admitting to Christ that I am a mess and asking Him, trusting Him to fix the mess.  Problem is I forget that from time to time and “purpose” like David did.  It never works for me.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Weight of Glory

Yesterday I suggested that there were several nuggets to be mined from Psalm 16.  The one today is a challenge to me.  Verse 3 is it.  Here David tells us that the saints on earth, those chosen and redeemed by God are majestic and the delight of the one who chose them.
How do you respond to Christians who rub you the wrong way?  Thoughts at DTTB.
In his book, The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis puts it this way:
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
Think of that.  This describes, accurately according to David, the people with whom we interact daily.

I personally do not do all that good a job treating people like this is true.  My observation is that as believers, generally all of us do not really behave as if we believe this is true.  I was recently visiting a church where I found myself being critical of some of what I saw there.  Psalm 16:3 and this quote from Lewis came to mind.  I struggled to realign what I was seeing with the reality of the Scripture.  I obviously do not have a handle on this.  I continually struggle not only with my attitude toward others but also their treatment of others in the Body.

I wonder if all of us would view each other the way David described us in Psalm 16:3 and the way Lewis built on David’s thought if we could more closely achieve the unity that Christ and Paul continually demand of us?

I know that I am going to ask God to help me see the majesty in others.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

No Other Good

Psalm 16 is a rich vein.  Out of that vein we are going to attempt in the next couple of days to mine a couple of nuggets.  Take a few minutes now and read through Psalm 16.  You might want to take note of those verses that really grab your attention.  Do it now, I’ll wait…
What do you consider good in your life?  Thoughts at DTTB.
In just about every verse there is some gold.  But for our purposes let’s start in verse 2.  David says he has no other good besides God.  Wow.  I do not know about you but when I read that I understand why God called David a man after God’s own heart.  When I look at my life and heart compared to David’s I am pretty sure that I cannot say that I have no other good apart from God.  There are many other things I desire or consider good.

The reality is that He is my only good.  All that I have is from Him.  It is my shortcoming that I do not immediately recognize that truth.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Abandoned

Do you ever feel like God has abandoned you?  That you are all alone against the issues that you face?  I sure do.  So did the Psalmist who penned Psalm 10.
Do you ever feel abandoned by God?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The reality is much different.  Jeremiah 23:23 -24, Psalm 139:7 – 12, and Romans 8:37 – 39 tell us that we cannot be separated from our God who fills heaven and earth.

When it feels that way, and it does from time to time, like the train illustration, we have to put our faith in the fact that God is always there for us and not give into the feeling that we are alone.
When we feel abandoned by God we need to remember the facts

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Unshaken

In both Psalm 15:5 and Psalm 21:7 the Lord describes one who is unshaken.
How do we make it through life's hard times unshaken?  Thoughts at DTTB.
In Psalm 15:5 I am blown away by the requirements.  I have already written about this so I will not repeat that.

In Psalm 21:7 there is a different perspective.  The Psalmist says that the king who trusts in the Lord will not be shaken.  The thing that struck me this time through is that it is through the lovingkindess of the Lord that the king, we are not shaken.

When you put these together I begin to see that only through trust in the Lord and through His lovingkindness am I able to approach the requirements in Psalm 15 and thus it is still through His lovingkindness that I am unshaken by this world.

We are totally, completely, and in all other ways dependent on Him even to follow His commands.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Word of the Lord

The Tuesday morning study has switched gears.  We are working on an overview of Jeremiah in preparation for studying the book.  It is a long ‘un, 52 chapters.  I have been through it about four times this week.  I do not have a handle on it yet, not sure I ever will, Prof said this was one, if not the, hardest books in the Bible to outline.  I have not finished the overview yet but there are some patterns emerging.
What is central to the message of the prophet Jeremiah?  Thoughts at DTTB.
One is the centrality of disobedience to the Word of the Lord in Judah’s rebellion against God.  The phrase “the Word of the Lord” appears 52 times in the book and the phrase “declares the Lord” appears 171 times.  Further the around 700 times Jeremiah quotes God as saying, “I…” the verbs are nearly too numerous to count.  Suffice it to say that the Lord is extremely active in this book.

There are numerous references to false prophets or teachers who, instead of teaching the Word of the Lord are sharing their own ideas.  God through Jeremiah does not seem to think much of that behavior.

The clear message is that the Word of the Lord is not just central to Judah’s rebellion it is central in the plan and purpose of God.  The value that God places on His Word cannot be overstated.  I have not finished the overview, probably will not for another week or so, but one of the key verses has to be Jeremiah 15:16.  It occurs to me that we should seek to live out that passage.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sovereign Disruption

Your life ever get shaken up?  Job loss?  Financial challenges?  Illness?  Loss?  How do you respond?

I typically go through stages when things like these happen.  The first stage is usually some form of shock.  I am taken aback.  I am momentarily numbed.  Then I will either become puzzled or some level of angry.  Puzzled as to why the thing has happened and further what I did to cause it or what could I have done to avoid it.  Anger usually follows or is a part of the puzzled phase.  The level of anger varies.  I am not clear on what impacts how angry I get, I have an idea – but more on that later.
How do you respond when life falls apart?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The next phases – as a matter of fact none of the phases are necessarily linear.  There will be some form of planning or thinking through how to deal with the disruption.  Then I will begin to work on that plan.  At some point I remember…

The remember phase is the most important.  What I remember is that this disruption was not a surprise to God.  Matter of fact, based on what I understand from Scripture, He ordained it.  I am not always really happy with His choices or methods, but I am convinced that He has my best interests in mind.  He had committed to conform me to the image of His son.  That process is not consistently pleasant.  However it is intentional and good.  Hebrews 12:4 – 17 tells me that He brings these disruptions, trials into my life so I can share His holiness.

The quicker I remember the better.  The quicker I remember the less likely I am to get angry, or at least the anger subsides quicker.  The quicker I remember the less likely I am to start trying to fix the situation with one of my plans rather than going to God and finding out what He is doing.  Earlier I said I had a theory on what impacts my anger, it is how quick I remember that God is sovereign over all of life’s disruptions.  I find I remember that quicker when I am abiding in His Word as He commanded.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Skipping Steps

In the past several days I have been in a lively discussion on a passage in the New Testament, which one does not really matter - this has happened on more than one occasion…  During the discussion one of the participants asked a particularly good question about the passage.  Several people responded to the question with what they thought might be a good answer or insight into the topic.  Most of their answers were opinions that were based on their experience in life and not necessarily connected to what the passage was saying or for that matter any other passage in the Scripture.  That is not to say that what they shared was not helpful, but it really did not significantly move the understanding of the passage forward for the group, in some cases it was probably counterproductive.
What are some of the steps we can skip in our Bible study?  Thoughts at DTTB.
If you have been in very many Bible discussion groups you will have had similar experiences.  This happens more frequently in those groups where no one really prepares for the study.  People show up and react to the passage.

I have shared in other posts here that there are four steps in any Bible study:
  • Observation
  • Interpretation
  • Correlation
  • Application
In every case that I have experienced the type of conversation that I described the first step, Observation, was skipped or just touched on briefly.  The problem is that when we begin to discuss what we think without that being driven by what the text says, for the most part we will just be repeating what we already “know.”  Skipping or giving short shrift to observation means that we may not be looking past what we either expect to see or already know.  So that means we are not really reading or studying, we are just saying what we think we ought to about the passage.

If we take the time to really observe, there is literally no end to what we can see.  Prof gave in his introductory Bible study class an assignment to make 50 observations on Acts 1:8.  The second assignment was 50 more.  When I left the record was around 690 observations on that verse.  There is more to see.

The challenge is we get in a hurry.  We have to finish the study or the class.  The lack of time we spend in the scripture is a choice we make.

Slow down and observe.  Do not skip the step.  You will be amazed at what you find.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Taught of the Spirit

Have you ever been listening to a Christian message of some sort, it could be a sermon, a Sunday school class, or a conference, and it just was not connecting with you?  Or you may be struggling with what is being presented, have a different point of view than the speaker.  That has happened to me on a number of occasions.
When I do not get something out of a message, whose fault is that?  Thoughts at DTTB.
More times than not I will run into someone either immediately after the event, or soon thereafter who was immensely helped by what was said.  That has happened more times than I can count.

It reinforces two things for me.  First that although we are charged as teachers and leaders to handle the Word accurately, it is not the accuracy of how we handle the Word that gives it power.  That power lies in the fact that God has ordained it to do what He wants it to do (See yesterday’s post).  That does not let us off the hook for prep, it just reminds us where the credit goes.

Second, that unless the Holy Spirit is moving to teach a person, they are not going to learn.  If the Spirit is moving they are.  So the Spirit can take efforts that are not all that great and significantly bless a believer through what is shared.  He has done that with presentations I have made.

Third (this one is free) if I am not getting anything out of the event, I probably need to check and see if I am shutting the Spirit out.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Core

What is the most important thing to do with one’s kids as a dad?  What is the most important thing to do with those whom God has assigned you to lead as a Christian leader whether you are a pastor or teacher?
What is the irreducible core of ministry to our kids and others?  Thoughts at DTTB.
This morning was reading Psalm 147:15 and as His wont, the Lord led me through several other passages:
  • Isaiah 55:11
  • Jeremiah 1:12
  • Hebrews 4:12 – 13
  • 2 Timothy 4:1 – 3
  • 1 Timothy 4:13
Do you see the pattern?  If we chose to we could add a whole bunch more.  The core of what we are supposed to do seems to be clear.  We are to get people into the Word of God.  Our kids, the people in our Sunday school classes, our small groups, our one on one times over coffee, Christ tells us several times that we are to abide, remain, continue, live in His Word.  There are other things that we talk about, sure.  But they are secondary and preceded by our sharing the Word of God.

Think about it for a second.  Given the opportunity to share what the creator of the universe thinks or what you think, which would be of more value to your kids or other with whom you meet?

We ought to be asking each other continually what the Lord is showing us in His Word.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Reluctant Ambassador

Sometimes when I have an opportunity to speak to someone about Christ I don’t.  I get nervous.  I am concerned about how they will respond.  I become more interested in what they may think of me than I am about their standing with Christ.  I am not proud of that.  It is my reality though.
Not every time I have an opportunity to share Christ, do I actually share...  Thoughts at DTTB.
This morning I was reading in Psalm 67:1 – 2.  That took me on a short journey through a couple of other passages:
  • 1 Peter 1:10 – 12
  • 1 Peter 4:10 – 11
The summary of what I saw is that when we speak to someone about Christ:
  • It is by God’s grace not our initiative.
  • We are being sent by the Holy Spirit.
  • We are to speak as if we were speaking the utterances of God.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20 that we are ambassadors who beg people to be reconciled to God.  Truth is more often than not I feel more like a beggar than an ambassador.

Somehow this mix of passages encouraged me.  I am not sure that understanding this will keep all the butterflies in my stomach at bay, but I am both comforted and challenged that when the opportunity to share Christ is there, God’s grace and the Holy Spirit have placed me there to speak “the utterances of God.”  I pray for that grace to overwhelm me.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Accuracy in Understanding the Bible

A couple of nights ago in the Dads Teach the Bible workshop, I was sharing how to do a book summary – during the workshop we work with several tools to observe and study 2 Peter.  We look at the book as a whole, then we look at each section of the book, and then we put the book back together so whole to parts back to whole – as I was saying I was focused on sharing how to do the summary.
How do you know if what you see in the Bible is right?  Thoughts at DTTB.
As I was finishing up one of the men observed that since there were eight men in the room that we would have eight different summaries.  He was not sure how that was going to be helpful and further how one determines which one is right.  I did a really poor job of addressing his question.  It does not really matter what I said but this is what I should have said…

We are focused on inductive study in the workshops.  Inductive study starts with the question, “What does the text say?”  The other method is deductive.  That method starts with an idea that I wish to validate and then I set about looking to see if that idea can be validated in the Bible.  The main focus of what we are covering in the workshop is to answer the question, “What does it say?” more effectively.  To that end we have introduced a number of tools that help one make more and better observations.

If that is the focus, “What does the text say?” while there may be differences in detail of what the eight men see, there should not be substantial differences in the substance of what they see.  We are not asking the questions, “What do I want it to say?” or “What do I expect it to say?”  That really is the challenge.  To look beyond what we expect or want to what is really there.

My experience has been over the past several years that when men ask that question, “What does it say?” they will pretty much come up with answers that are very closely aligned.

What I did wrong Tuesday night was focus on my experience rather than what made that experience a reality.

By the way I would submit that the source of most errors in understanding and applying the Bible are rooted in starting with a question other than “What does the text say?”  Most if not all of the controversy that faces us in the Body of Christ today centers on efforts to explain away or nullify what the text plainly says.  But that is a longer and more involved issue than we have space for…

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Abiding Discipleship

Yesterday I met with two groups of men.  In the morning I met with two men as we wrapped up our study on 1 Peter.  Last evening I met with eight men for the eighth session of the current Dads Teach the Bible workshop.  The same topic came up in both conversations.
What is the one thing that you would tell someone they had to do to be Christ's disciple?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The men in the morning have been engaged in full time disciple making ministries for forty years.  They posed the question in light of the changes that are facing our culture, what do we do to effectively help people become Christ’s disciples?  In the evening group the question was reversed, how do we today with all of the distractions of life really engage in following Christ.

I think the answer is found in the verse one of the men in the morning group shared, John 8:31 – 32.  Jesus clearly states that to follow Him, to be His disciple one has to abide – by the way this is the same word that permeates John 15, the 95 edition of the NASB translates it, “continue in”; the NIV84, “hold to” (John 8:31 – 32 NIV); the ESV (John 8:31 – 32 ESV)and NEW KJV (John 8:31 – 32 NKJV), “abide in.”  The ESV and NEW KJV are the best and most consistent with John’s usage of that word.  Anyway – Christ says that to be His disciple one has to abide in His Word.  Pretty simple.  Right?

Problem is the Church is not really very good at equipping its members to do that.  Typically a handful of pastors and teachers are the ones who are “abiding” and then they are tasked with sharing what they gleaned whilst they abided with the rest of the Body.  That is not what Jesus said we are supposed to be about.  We are all supposed to abide.

One of the guys last night remarked that that is a tough assignment.  OK.  If by tough it means that one has to choose not watch a favorite program in order to spend time in the Word, or one has to get up a bit earlier or go to bed a bit later, then yep, that is tough.

Christ said that is what we are supposed to do.  Not my idea.  His.

By the way, as dads we are to both model this for our kids and equip them to abide.  It is our responsibility not the churches.  We will give an account.  Frankly I do not want to fail at this one.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Body Works

This morning three of us were working through the summary portion of our study on 1 Peter.  When he was finished sharing what he had gotten out of the Word one of the men sort of apologized for what he had shared, with the idea that it was really not all that profound.  Not that profundity is a hallmark of our studies anyway…
What you see in the Word is important to the Body.  Thoughts at DTTB.
I told him to get his toe out of the sand and the other guy on the call told our friend that he always benefited from what anyone who was attempting to learn more of Christ saw in the Word.  He is right.

We are supposed to be humble.  We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to.  Romans 12:3 tells us that in no uncertain terms.  But that is just the first half of the verse.  The second half tells us that we are to think as to have sound judgment.  Paul substantiates that exhortation with the data that God has allotted to us each a measure of faith.  Peter picks this up in 1 Peter 4:10 – 11.  He tells us we are to use our gifts that God supplies.

We have been given gifts by God for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ.  Last time I checked God does not make errors.  He gives us gifts and insights into His Word that we are expected to share.  If we do not we rob the other members of the Body.

Both of us this morning benefited greatly from what our friend shared.  He had no reason to apologize, rather he should give thanks with us for what God has done in his life.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Spirit's Work

As you are probably aware one of the purposes of this blog is to challenge us to be in the Word more consistently.  But not only that but to be more intentional and careful in our observation of what the text says.  Several times I have pointed out that the structure of the text can help in our observation.
Do you ever get discouraged talking to your kids about the Lord?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I have written several times about 2 Corinthians 4.  Look for a moment at verse 1 and 2.  The first thing you notice is that verse 1 starts with “Therefore, since…”  That combination of words throws us back to chapter 3.  In chapter 3 Paul tells us about the ministry of the Spirit and contrasts it with the ministry of death.

His point is that since we have received this ministry of the Spirit we do not loose heart.  If you have been engaged in any type of ministry you are aware that it can be draining.  One can get discouraged by lack of progress or outright resistance.

But look at what Paul contrasts with losing heart, renouncing hidden things, which he describes as walking in craftiness or adulterating the Word of God.  That is the pull.  To do something unique, something catchy, attractive, sexy to attract people.  But here Paul tells us that in the ministry of the Spirit, the issue is not our cleverness, no.  The issue is that we have to trust the Spirit to penetrate the darkness that enfolds those whom we wish to reach.

It is not something we can do.  It is the Spirit’s work.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Chosen

Psalm 65:4 is a launching pad.  It launches me toward a couple of other passages that I find continually both encouraging and challenging, Psalm 27:4 and Psalm 84:10.  Additionally, 65:4 reminds me of the “chosen” thread in 1 Peter.
How do you react to the notion that you were chosen by God?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Here the Psalmist is challenging us to rejoice in the fact that we are chosen by God.  When confronted by this notion my experience is that is not the initial reaction of most people.  Most of us seem to become, for lack of a better word, defensive.  We are not willing to cede choice to God.  We view that idea as offensive, after all choice is ours is it not?

Paul did not seem to think so.

In Romans 8 - 11 he clearly sets out that the choice is not ours but God’s.

The negative reactions that we have seem to come from an ingrained fierce independence.  I wonder if that fierce independence is a result of the fall.  I wonder if that fierce commitment to doing our own thing is that from which Christ came to redeem us.  Paul called that state of fierce independence slavery to sin in Romans 6.

Perhaps what is happening in Psalm 65 is that the psalmist is suggesting we praise God for choosing to save us from ourselves…

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Who is Looking?

Isaiah 66:2  Is one of those passages that makes my head explode.  Think of it.  The one who created the universe will look to us if we are:
  • Humble
  • Contrite of Spirit
  • Tremble at His Word
Do you ever despair of God hearing you when you look at the qualifications?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I wrote about this passage on the 4th last year.  I saw something different this time through,  I began to take inventory of my life in those three areas.  I asked the Lord how I was doing in them.  It then occurred to me that this is not graded on a scale.  It does not say:
  • Humble on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being really, really humble.
  • Contrite on that same scale 
  • Ditto Tremble…
It is not qualified.  Just humble, contrite, and trembling.  Neither does it seem to indicate that 1 or 2 is sufficient.  It is all three or not.

It then dawns on me that there is no earthly way God is going to be looking to me.  Then I remember that He sees me through the blood of one who not only was all three but was perfect in all three and imputed that perfection to me.

Grace is a good thing,

Friday, January 3, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks

There are not many movies that I think people ought to see, "Saving Mr. Banks" is one that fits into that category.  The purpose of this blog is to help encourage men to engage with their kids in and through the Word.  Why?  Because as fathers we have a huge influence on our kids both positive and negative.  Engaging with them in the Word does not guarantee a positive impact but will greatly improves the odds of a father having a positive impact.
This is a movie that you need to see...  Thoughts at DTTB.
This movie, besides being a paragon of exceptional acting and film making, clearly portrays that impact.  In this case the combination of negative and positive impact as well as the child's strategies of dealing with those impacts.

The role a father plays in the development of a child's personality is undeniably huge.  This movie is a must see to reinforce that truth.  Caution, if you are an adult child of an alcoholic this movie will have a much more profound impact on you.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Why?

If you have read more than one of the post on this blog you may have picked up that I am focused on and promote individuals personally engaging in Bible Study.  Not fill in the blanks or other study books but struggling with the text oneself.  Why?
If you need some reasons to get into the Bible for yourself - here is one.  Thoughts at DTTB.
There are a bunch of reasons, some of which if you read through the earlier posts you will see.  Hebrews 4:12 may be the most central of those reasons.  Again it is one of those passages that I had memorized many years ago, one of those passages to which I have turned in speaking, writing, and thought more times than I can accurately count.  The immediate context though enriches its already deeply penetrating value.

The operative word in Hebrews is better.  The writer is contrasting the old covenant with the new and specifically focusing on how Christ is better than anything else we have from God.  In Chapters 3 and 4 he is examining the concept of "rest".  There is much that can be said in regard to this concept.  It is a good study to look at how he approaches "rest" and how this concept relates to our position in Christ.  I recommend the study but I am not going to go into detail about that now.  What I would like you to focus on is that his comment on the piercing quality of the Word of God comes at the end of his thoughts on "rest".

It seems that our engagement in and with the Word of God is connected to our entering into this rest.  Further, the writer expands this in chapter 5 by telling us that we need to continue to grow in our intake of the Word of God not settling for milk, but moving on toward meat.

Take a look at that sequence from 3 - 5 for yourself and come to your own conclusions.  Mine are that our intentional engagement in the meat of the Word is critical to entering into the rest that God promises.

That's why.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Praise

Psalm 103 is always and encouragement to praise and exalt the Creator.  That happened again this morning.  I was particularly encouraged by 1 - 13.  That section of the Psalm focuses on what He has done for us.
For what are you grateful to God at the start of this new year?  Thoughts at DTTB.
As a good exercise, read through that and thank Him for each as you encounter them.  That would be a good way to start this new year.