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Friday, February 28, 2014

Torn

There are two things about which I wish to write…  Something I read online in a “Biblical Leadership Forum,” and Psalm 22:1 – 3.  The first one both saddens and angers me.  The second challenges my love of God.  I will go with the second.
You ever have two critical issues demanding your attention at the same time?  Thoughts at DTTB.
You know this Psalm, it is one of the clearly messianic Psalms.  It describes in some detail some aspects of Christ’s crucifixion, Christ quotes he first part of verse 1 on the cross.  The thing that grabbed me today was what it revealed about both David’s heart and mine.

David is crying out for deliverance.  His sense is that his words, prayers are not going beyond the ceiling.  Look at the contrasts (the words “but” and “yet”).  David cries out by day but God does not answer.  He cries out by night but has no rest, still not answer.  David is pouring his heart out to God day and night and getting no response.

That happens to me, I am not happy.  First I am probably going to toss and turn and worry rather than pray, so there is one difference between David and me.  But the bigger difference is the next contrast, Yet You are holy.  David’s response to God’s unresponsiveness is to declare God’s holiness.  Not my first response.

David got whose story this is.  This is about God.  It is centered on Him, not us.  It is His agenda that matters not ours (which, by the way, is what saddened and angered me about the first thing on which I was thinking about writing).  When I do not get what I want in prayer.  My heart response is not like David’s.  I wonder why God has abandoned me like David did.  I guess I know that He is still holy, but I am more focused on me than Him.  That is a strong rebuke for me.  David’s response is also a clue as to why God called David a man after My own heart, Acts 13:22, 1 Samuel 13:14.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Listen or Seize?

There is a reality of human nature on which Mark shines a bright light in Mark 9:10.  Peter, James, and John were invited to the Mount of Transfiguration.  While there they hear God tell them to listen to Jesus.  On the way down the mount, Jesus told them not to say anything about what they saw until he rose from the dead.  The text says that the three “seized upon that statement,” discussing what it might mean.
What do you do when you do not know what to do?  Thoughts at DTTB.
That is just like us.  It is easier to debate than listen…  I told my kids when they were in our home that it is really difficult to hear if your mouth is moving.  We would much rather work through a problem, dig in and discuss all the options than simply listen to Christ.

Prof always said that we have and AV presentation on our heads.  We have two ears and one mouth.  We should then listen twice as much as we speak, seize.  So rather than seizing on the current controversy perhaps we ought to be listening to Him.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It Is Not All Your Pastor’s Fault…

…if he is not leading your community the way he should be.  Read Jeremiah 5:31.  Note that the prophet, read leader, is not doing what he is supposed to be doing.  As the prophets are portrayed in the rest of Jeremiah, they are portrayed here as doing their own thing not God’s – by the way in my quiet time this morning I read Mark 8:33, note that Christ tells Peter that setting one’s mind on the things of man, that is doing their own thing, is Satanic.  That is bad…
How do you evaluate a leader in a church who is not doing what he should be?  Thoughts at DTTB.
But look at how Jeremiah describes those who are listening to the prophets, “they love it so!”  The prophets are lying and the people love it; so why would a prophet who is getting props for lying change?

Peter tells us that the church will be like Judah.  In 2 Peter 2:1 – 3, Peter tells us that we will have false teachers just like Judah and Israel had false prophets.  Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1 – 5, shares that people will begin to fall away from the faith to follow false teaching – good thing there is not much of that around.  Further, in 2 Timothy 3:1 – 5, there will be an epidemic of self-serving attitudes that crop up in the Church.  Paul expands his description – and this may be the key passage here – 2 Timothy 4:1 – 3, the people in the community find leaders who will tell them what they want to hear, turning aside to myths.  Like the men of Judah, “they love it so!”

So we have to ask ourselves, if our leadership is not preaching the Word of God, if they are not challenging and equipping us to stand on our own in the Scripture, why?  Is it their choice?  Or have we asked them to share myths?  Are we resistant to the messages or exhortations to take responsibility for our own understanding of the Word?  Have we engaged in encouraging the leader when they have especially challenged us and pushed our understanding or the Word?  Or are we subtly encouraging and demanding falsehood?

Tough questions.  Forces us to look at ourselves.  In elections the old adage is that the nation gets what it deserves.  Perhaps that applies to communities as well.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Contradiction Resolved

A few days ago I shared what might be considered a contradiction in the Bible.  I mentioned then that I would address it later.  It is later.

Just to review 1 John 2:27 seems to be telling the reader that they have no need to be taught anything in a book that is teaching them things and in a Testament that is chock full of teaching.  What gives?
What is the easiest way to resolve apparent contradictions in the Bible?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Earlier I have written about the importance of context, here and here.  Context helps us here.  It is a surety that if you take one sentence out of anybody’s speech or letter and try to understand it apart from its context you will have significant problems understanding what that sentence means.  The Bible is no different.  Each passage, each word is written in the context of an argument or thought that the author is conveying to his audience.  1 John 2:27 is no exception.

Look at the immediate context 1 John 2:18 – 29.  John is warning his readers that the antichrist is coming and there are in fact many antichrists out and about.  These people are teaching a Christ that is not physical but only a spiritual being (we get this from chapter 1) and is not from the Father.  It is in this context about this topic that John says what he says in 1 John 2:27.  His readers do not need to be taught about who Christ is, they already know.

Most of the apparent contradictions to which people refer can be resolved by reading a few verses on either side of the text in question.  1 John 2:27 is no exception.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Prophets of Anything but God

Being a prophet to God’s people during the time of the kings was not a job for which thoughtful people readily applied.  If you read through Jeremiah you will find that he did not have an easy time of it.  One of the reasons is that he was not given an easy message to deliver.
It is a good thing that we do not have to deal with this any more.  Thoughts at DTTB.
In my study of this book this time through it looks like chapter 23 is the key to the book.  If you read through this chapter you will see several indictments of the prophets who are leading Judah astray.  They are:
  • Scattering and driving away God’s flock
  • Polluted
  • Prophesying by Baal
  • Committing adultery
  • Walking in falsehood
  • Strengthening the hand of evildoers
  • Leading into futility
  • Speaking a vision of their own imagination
That is just through the first 16 verses.  There is a lot more in there.  For instance look at Jeremiah 23:36.  The Lord accuses them of perverting the words of the living God.  So they are either sharing things out of their own imagination or when they do share the Word of God they pervert it.

The result?  The nation is on the way to captivity.

It is a good thing that we do not face this type of thing today.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Frustrated with the Limits

I have allergies.  In reality that is a lot like saying the Appalachian Trail is a walking path.  I do not remember the numbers but this is close; the last time I was tested I graded highly allergic 4/4 for 40 out of 43 of the allergens for which I was tested.  Bottom line, if it is in the air I am allergic to it.  I have had 7 operations on my sinuses with the result that they do not exist as created any longer.
Do you struggle with physical limits?  Thoughts at DTTB.
When I was a kid that reality kept me from going on Boy Scout camp outs and on the sidelines of sporting events.  It wasn't until I started swimming in high school that I begin to breath easily.  It was in college during a rugby practice that I remember breathing for the first time out of both nostrils at the same time.  It was such an event I can probably take you to the spot on the practice field where it happened.

The point of this is that I have fought physical limits all of my life.  A couple of days ago a strong front blew through Tulsa.  Winds in excess of 45 mph most of the day.  That kicked up dust and pollen, allergens, as a result I have been flattened.  It is frustrating.

I have a lot that I need to do.  I do not feel like doing any of it.  It is at best frustrating.

Then I remember that none of this really caught the Lord by surprise.  He has assigned me work to do, Ephesians 2:10.  He created me and knows my frame that is my strengths and weaknesses, Psalm 139:13 – 16.  He knows my limits and has put things in my life that even limits me further.  That seems, on the surface, counterproductive.  But Paul had the same challenge, 2 Corinthians 15:7 – 10.  Look at Christ’s response to Paul begging for the limitations to be lifted, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

Our limits, weaknesses, failures, mean that we are totally dependent on Christ’s grace.  I have to be continually reminded of this when I get kicked in the head by allergies.  It is not my ability that allows me to serve Christ.  It is His grace.

Reading this may not help you.  But it helped me to write it.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Source of Leadership Failure

Jeremiah 2:8 is instructive.  I have shared already here that it appears that one of the central themes of Jeremiah is the failure of leadership.  Here it seems that Jeremiah is telling us what caused that failure.  Look specifically at the second part of the verse, “…And those who handle the law did not know Me…”  Think about that for a second.  That indictment appears again in John 5:39 – 42.  Both the priest in Jeremiah's time and the Pharisees, Sadducees, and priests with whom Jesus dwelt were characterized by handling the Word, Law, and yet not knowing God.  Major case of missing the point.
Ever wonder what causes leaders to fail?  Thoughts at DTTB.
There are many today who are scholars of the Bible.  Many books have been written about the Bible, they fill large libraries.  Some of those are really helpful.  I have read some though that while the author demonstrates excellent handling of the original languages, there seems to be little or no heart transmitted or evident.  They know the book.  They do not seem to know the Author or what the book is about.

Leaders are required by God to handle the Word of God with excellence.  That is one of the qualifications for leadership at any level.  But handling the Word of God accurately is not sufficient.  One has to know well the One about whom the book is centered.  If that is not the case the result is documented for you to peruse in the 52 chapters of Jeremiah.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Epic Failure of Religion

Jeremiah 20:1 – 2 outlines some truth about religion that is still true today.  Let me say up front that I am not a fan of religion in any form.  Religion in all of its forms is an attempt by man to reach God.  Christianity and the Judaism of the Old Testament is not religion under that definition.  In both Old Testament Judaism and Christianity God is the initiator.  He is the one who comes to the people and tells them what they must do to be reconciled to Him.  So for the purposes of this post, really this blog, religion is negative.
Full disclosure I do not like Religion in any of its forms.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Jeremiah had been tasked by God to call Judah to repentance.  He was given a series of messages to deliver that increasingly warned the nation that if they did not turn they would be taken by the Babylonians.  In Jeremiah 20:1 – 2, Pashhur, the chief officer of the temple, hears Jeremiah’s message and reacts by placing Jeremiah in the stocks.  He rejected the Word of the Lord because it did not align with what he had construed as the proper way to come to God.  Oh, he had Jeremiah beaten first.

As Jeremiah was resisted by the priests and prophets of his day, Christ was resisted and pursued by the religious leaders of His.  The Pharisees and Sadducees violently opposed religion.  He was telling them that they had perverted what God had set in place.  In other words they had turned it from God’s idea, to theirs.  Christ and Jeremiah violently opposed religion.  He was telling them that they had perverted what God had set in place.  In other words they had turned it from God’s idea, to theirs.  Christ and Jeremiah both threatened religion.

It is the same today.  Religion shows up where you or I or anyone else comes up with a way to please God other than that which He has prescribed.  Both in the case of those to whom Jeremiah was tasked to confront and those with whom Jesus argued, they had abandoned what God had revealed in His Word and replaced it with their own system.  Jesus addressed that system most clearly in Matthew 5:1 – 7:29.

In both cases the leaders of the people of God had abandoned what God had said.  When they were confronted they resisted because it challenged both their understanding and their position.  We do well when we begin to criticize to make sure that we are following what God has said and not what we think He ought to have said…

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Seeing Things in a New Way

If you wear glasses you may have noticed that over time they wear out.  It seems like the longer you wear them the weaker they get.  So every year or so you have to get a new pair.  That was today for me.  I picked up my new glasses at about 10:15 this morning.  I saw things differently the rest of the day.
How does being in the Lord change how you see?  Thoughts at DTTB.
This time the Dr. changed the prescription for my right eye while the prescription for the left eye remained the same.  I am hugely right eye dominant.  For the next few hours I was in meetings where people were relatively close to me, plus my eyes were dilated.  Later in the afternoon I was working in a situation where I had to keep in focus things that were further away from me.

My eyes were not cooperating.  Everything felt out of whack.  My right eye seemed to be fighting the new prescription.  I felt feverish and low level disoriented.  Those who know me well may suggest that is normal. It got to the point that I felt bad enough that I thought I might be running a fever, but no.

What has this to do with us as believers?  I have been working through an issue with a pastor in another country who is ministering to people who are coming to Christ out of a heavily legalistic religious system.  He is struggling with how to share the grace of God and the need to follow Christ with these people and not have them replace one legalistic system with an evangelical legalistic system.  That is our wont is it not.  To look to perform to a standard.  But Colossians 2:9 – 10 says that these new believers are complete in Christ.  It is grace for them not works.  It is a new view of the world.  A new set of glasses for them.

When our world view is challenged and changed, it is, like my experience this morning, at some level disorienting.  It takes time to adjust to the new realities.  That is a challenge for new believers as they learn about God’s grace.  But it should be nearly a daily experience for us as believers as we continually come to the Word of God to have our spiritual glasses adjusted.  For no matter how long we have been on this path, we have not aligned ourselves completely with our Lord’s view of things.  Each time we come to His Word it should have the effect of adjusting our “prescription.”  That should have the impact of disorienting us to this world on a regular basis.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Four Stages of Maturity

I wrote about Robert Morris' message on the four stages of maturity back in December.  I mentioned then that I was not able to locate the message.  I went as far as calling his church and asking for help.
I found a message for which I have been searching for about two years it is great on our growth as believers.  Thoughts at DTTB.
This afternoon I found the message while prepping for a meeting tomorrow night.  Rather than write about what he has shared so powerfully, I have stored the notes here and you can watch the message here.  Note that it says Inside-Out Families...

It is well worth your time.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Contradiction in the Bible?

How do you deal with apparent contradictions in the Bible?  Thoughts at DTTB.Over the years in talking to people about Christianity I have had a number of those folks tell me that they do
not believe the Bible because it is filled with contradictions.  My usual response is something like, “That’s interesting, could you share and example of one with me?”  That question was usually – no always followed by silence.  One of the reasons for that is that those telling me about the contradictions had never really read or found any.  They were simply parroting what they had been told by someone else.

But there are some passages in the Bible that seem to be contradictory.  1 John 2:27 is one of them.  That verse seems to contradict most of the New Testament including the book in which it is found.  On the surface John seems to be telling his readers that they have no need to be taught in a book that is teaching them.

How do you resolve that?  Take a shot and I will share some thoughts on how it may be resolved later, probably tomorrow.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Active Reading

How do you respond to the non-fiction books you read?  How do you respond to the non-fiction Christian books you read?  There is in us an inclination that if something is in print it is probably true.  At least it has been vetted by the publisher, right?  Not really.  Publishers, even Christian ones, are in the business to make money.  They want to sell books.  They do not necessarily have fact checkers or doctrine police on their staff.
Do you read books actively?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I have mentioned several times in the past weeks that I am reading The Divine Conspiracy.  I really like Dallas Willard.  I find his books both encouraging and challenging.  For the most part they align with what I have found in my personal Bible study.

This evening I was working through part of the second chapter.  He shared a thought that caught me a bit off guard.  I wrote in the margin of the book – I do that a lot – “not sure about this one, not validated strongly.”  What that meant was that up to that point in the book he had not strongly supported his position.  He had stated it in a previous chapter – by the way I went to the index to find the previous entry, good books have a good index.  In the next few pages he shared more that he felt supported his statement.  I am still not sure.

The point of this is that as much as I like Willard his book is not inspired.  He is sharing the result of his study of the Word and his thought.  That is valuable, but his position, if it is contrary to the Word of God is wrong.  It is my responsibility when I read him to weigh his thought against the Word.  In fact it is all of our responsibility to do that.  If an author says something about the Scripture about which we have questions, we should immediately put that book down and go check them out in the Word.  If they are speaking to an issue that we have not yet studied, it would be best to put the book down and engage in a study on that topic and then come back to the book to dialog with the author, compare notes if you will.

This morning I met with a friend who shared that his small group Bible study read a lot of books about the Bible rather than actually studying a passage or topic in the Bible.  I hear that a lot.  Reading a book about the Bible, no matter how good it is, is not Bible study.  It is a book about the Bible study.

As believers we are going to give and account for how we engaged with God’s Word, John 8:31 – 32 alludes to this.  He is not going to ask us if we read Willard’s books.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Who Me?

You ever find the Bible humorous?  Look at Jeremiah 1:3 – 4 – we do not usually associate that book with
humor, but humor me (sorry about the play on words).  In verse three the Lord outlines His program for Jeremiah, look at what He says:
When God asks you to do something do you ever think He must have gotten it wrong>  Thoughts at DTTB.
  • I formed you in the womb
  • I knew you before you were born
  • I consecrated you 
  • I have appointed you a prophet
Pretty clear.  This assignment has been set down since before Jeremiah’s birth.

Now look at Jeremiah’s response, essentially he says, “Who, me?  You must have the wrong Jeremiah, I am just a kid and can’t talk.”  It’s funny because that is a lot of our responses to God’s call is it not?  “You want me to do what?  I am sorry I think you must have the wrong number.”

Like the sovereign creator of the universe would get it wrong.  But we resist.  There are a number of reasons for that.  The most generous is that we are humble and overwhelmed by God entrusting us with something to do.  The worst may be that we simply do not want to obey.  Either way we resist.

It’s humorous.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Intentional Engagement

There is a lot of mysticism in the Christian life.  I have personally benefited and benefit from the writings of some of the Christian mystics, Bernard of Clairvaux, St Francis, Brother Lawrence, and others.  Bernard’s hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” is one of my favorites.  Mysticism has given us much in the Church.  Is it the best way to follow Christ?  Does one have to be a mystic to really engage with the Holy Spirit?  Is there any room for the rational use of our minds?  Or is the Christian life the exclusive domain of those who can or have tapped into the mystic vein?
Is mysticism the best way to really know Christ?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Peter seems to give an answer in 1 Peter 1:13.  Look at the three verb forms in this verse and their objects:
  • Prepare your minds
  • Keep sober in spirit
  • Hope completely
The last verb, “hope,” is imperative.  The first two are participles which grammatically derive their mood from the imperative “hope.”  Peter is telling us that we are to choose to intentionally engage our minds.  We are to – the word literally means to gird up the loins of our minds – intentionally prepare to learn.  To take it soberly, seriously.  Finally to hope only in God’s grace.

It is instructive here that Peter says to engage intentionally one’s mind.  The context is interesting as well.  It comes right on the heels of Peter describing the prophet’s intently studying their own prophesies.  It seems like Peter is agreeing with Paul that it is important not only to engage our minds intentionally, but how we think about Christianity is vastly important.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Place of Security

I was going to write about Valentine’s Day but realize that I probably should have done that yesterday, so…

Jeremiah 17:12 – 18, is interesting.  For one thing it reads like a Psalm.  For another it sets our security as believers in the throne room of God.  It is both a reinforcement of Jeremiah’s central message of trust in God and a reminder of why Judah would not repent.  Because of their refusal to continually engage in the Word of the Lord (read that as abide – which sounds a lot like Christ’s exhortation in John 15).
As believers what is the source of our security?  What should it be?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The problem throughout Jeremiah is Judah’s refusal to trust in that throne rather they make alliances with godless nations or worse fabricate gods out of wood and stone, building materials.  That would be like us constructing a god out of drywall or 2x4s.  Reading through the rest of Jeremiah these choices do not turn out all that well for Judah.

It is a really good thing that believers today only trust in God and do not make godless alliances or construct gods for themselves out of base materials.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wow

What a day.  Started with an overview of Jeremiah and then on to a topical study on how the sovereignty of God demonstrated God’s grace in salvation (conference call with Morocco).  Ended with a conference call with people in three time zones engaging in training on how to best help believers find their most effective impact for the Kingdom of God.
How was your day?  Thoughts at DTTB.
It has been a long fulfilling day.

In each of these meetings God’s glory was revealed through the lives of His people.  It is an incredible privilege to encourage, serve, and engage with people who are hungry to know more of God and to serve and build up other.

Wow.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Systemic Results

For the past few years I have been struggling with something.  You may be surprised, but I am struggling with what really is the gospel.  I have mentioned lately that I am re-reading (a bit of an overstatement, I did not finish it the first time but I am still in the part of the book I did read before) The Divine Conspiracy .  Turns out Willard is struggling with the same thing.
Are you and your church getting what you think you should out of the Christian experience?  Thoughts at DTTB.
What started my struggle was the observation that a great number of believers are not really moving forward in their faith.  There is no sense that being a Christian has an impact on the way that they conduct their lives outside of going to a different building than most of their friends once or twice a week.  Why is that?

Willard quotes (it is the one place in the book thus far that he does not credit the source) W. Edwards Deming.  Deming, speaking of business systems said, "Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you're getting."  That is very similar to Einstein’s definition of insanity.

That applies to our communities as well as our personal walks with God.  If we are struggling in either getting the results that we desire.  Perhaps we need to change some things.  There are a number of passages that are rumbling around in my mind right now but I think I will stick with…

…John 8:31 – 32

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Incredible Power of The Body

Repeatedly I am floored by the power of the Body of Christ.  In more ways than I can count today that power was revealed.
The Body of Christ is one of the most powerful ways for us to grow.  But it is not automatic.  Thoughts at DTTB.
First in the study on Jeremiah this morning one of the men was sharing a summary of what he had seen in the first 12 chapters.  I took notes as I listened.  Things he said caused me to see the structure of those chapters differently.  I did not tell him what I was thinking until after the study.  I saw in what he shared a structure that he did not see that helped him understand his summary at a deeper level.  I learned from him.  He learned from what I learned from him.

I got a series of emails nailing down the next Dads Teach the Bible Workshop this morning.  One of the men who has been through two plus of the workshops sent me a draft of a letter that will be sent to the men of the church to recruit to the workshop.  He shared that one of the most valuable parts of the workshop is the interaction between the men in the group.  He stated, that like I did this morning, he learned much from what the other men in the group saw in the passages we covered.

This afternoon I was reading through the first couple of chapters of Dallas Willard’s book The Divine Conspiracy .  Last June I – finished is too strong a word here, the study will never be "finished" but I can’t think of another one so – finished an 18 month study on the Kingdom of God.  The details of my study are not important but the document was over 200 pages.  Willard’s first chapter dives deeply into his view of the Kingdom of God.  I found myself working through his thoughts comparing what he said to the conclusions our group had come to in our study.  I will recommend that my fellow travelers on that road look at Willard’s thoughts.

The key to the power of these three events today was the same.  In each case each man who was engaged had spent time on his own studying the Word of God in the passage or on the topic that was being discussed.  Their listening, their thought, and their comments were shaped, evaluated, and molded by the comments of the others in the conversation who had likewise come to the table having done their own study.

That is the power of the Body.  Each person contributing.  Ephesians 4:16 tells us that is what is supposed to happen.

I submit that it does not happen without preparation.  It does not happen by accident.  It does not happen without intention.  It does not happen if the members are not in the Word.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Turning the Wrong Way

Repentance or turning from the worship of idols to the worship and obedience of the God of Abraham is one of the central themes of Jeremiah.  Time and again the Lord through Jeremiah pleads with Judah to return to Him, to obey the covenant, to obey His Word.  Time and again they refuse.
Ever struggle with stuff you thought you overcame?  Thoughts at DTTB.
But they do “repent.”  In Jeremiah 11:10, we are told that they “repent” from following God and return to the way of their ancestors.  They return to Baal worship.  They go back to sin.

That is the wrong type of repentance.  We all face that pull though, do we not?  Things that we thought we have overcome, creep back into our lives.  Victories we won through prayer and spiritual discipline, we seem to be fighting again.  Someone once told me that the things we struggled with in our 20’s and overcame we will face again in our 50’s and 60’s but bigger battles.  I find that has been true.

I have found that I need someone to encourage me.  Not hold me accountable, encourage me.  Not blow me up when I fail but stand with me in the midst of the battle.  I think that is the whole idea behind Hebrews 3:13, don’t you.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Blast from My Past

This one is going to be a departure from the rest of this blog… fair warning…

On this night 50 years ago I was in the den of our house in Dallas.  Less than three months before, John Kennedy had been shot, I remember where I was sitting in class when the principal told us over the intercom.  That night in February we had the black and white Zenith portable TV tuned to the Ed Sullivan show.  The Beatles were going to be on.  We watched, I was floored.
What events shaped your life?  Thoughts at DTTB.
That summer we lived in New York City.  My dad’s company was recruiting him to move to headquarters there.  While we were there, our neighbor across the alley was able to get two tickets for the Beatles Concert.  My dad refused to move the family to New York so in the fall we were back in Dallas.

On September 18th, 1964, my parents took my neighbor and me to Memorial Auditorium for the concert.  I already was playing guitar then, but that year kicked me into a higher gear.  I played in a garage band in high school and for friends and in a coffee shop during college, in my office today you will see four of the instruments I play, two more are in a closet and my son has my Fender Mustang.

There are things that we remember.  Events that are etched deeply into our lives that year, that concert, was one of those experiences for me.  I have been to a lot of concerts since then.  That one is unforgettable.

John Lennon once said, infamously, that they were more popular than Jesus.  He was wrong.  The Beatles impacted my life, they were important to me, still are.  But they did and cannot redeem me.  Only Jesus could do that.  My kids love the music.  I have given that to them.  But, they love Christ more.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Results of Stupid

I have been asked several times how I do this blog.  Mostly it comes out of my daily devotional time with the Lord or my Bible study, in some cases it is a reaction to something that happened during the course of the journey – actually all of it is the journey filtered through the lens of the Word as well as I am able to do that.
When you get yourself in a mess what is the best way to get out?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I try not to repeat myself.  So when I want to write about something I search through the existing posts to see if I have already written on the passage or topic.  Often I find that I have written about a certain passage many times, yet each time with a different point.  Today is no exception.

Last March Jeremiah 10 was on my mind.  I just finished working through that chapter again in preparation for three Bible studies in that book.  In the earlier post I focused on Jeremiah 10:1 – 16.  Today 19 – 22.  I am not going to rehash what I wrote last March.

In my understanding of the book thus far the central message of Jeremiah is that rather than come to the Lord for guidance Judah, specifically the leaders of Judah, came up with their own solutions to the problems they created by not coming to the Lord in the first place.  In the Air Force we called that a death spiral.  Einstein called it insanity.

In Jeremiah 10:19 – 22, Jeremiah outlines for us the result of following our own devices, idols, to come up with a solution they are:
  • Incurable
  • Sickness
  • Destroyed 
  • Broken
  • Scattered
  • Desolation
Not a happy list.  Pretty stupid to pursue this.  The problem becomes when we are facing crisis, albeit the making of our own disobedience, something needs to be done.  The dike is leaking.  We have to plug it.  So we act.  We look for solutions.  We plan.  We have meetings that outline strategy to fix the problem.  All of those are idols.  What God requires is that we come to Him.  We turn from our own self-reliance, from hiring people to fix the problem, and we come to Him and stay there.  Trust Him.  Let Him direct.  Then act in obedience to what He directs.

When we have a bias for action, it is hard not to act.  It is hard to turn from our inclination to trust in what we know we can do, and ask God what we should do.

Not to do so is stupid.  At least that is what God says.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Give a Fish or Teach to Fish?

You know the old adage…
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; show him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. – Anne Isabella Ritchie (1837 – 1919)
If you are one who is viewed as an expert in a field, you will have a choice to make every time you are asked a question.  Do you answer it, or show the questioner how to dig out the answer for themselves?  Sometimes you have no choice you have to answer the question.  For me that is the last thing I want to do.  I only do that if there is no option to show how to fish.
When you are asked a question, how do you respond?  Thoughts at DTTB.
It happened again this week.  I was on a conference call with a person in another country.  We were working through a particularly difficult issue for most people in the Bible.  We worked through a fairly long passage together with me showing him how the structure of the passage helped one understand what was being said by the author.

At the end of the time he asked me to send him a message on the topic that he could translate into his language and use to teach his people.  As I was reiterating his request to make sure that I understood what he was asking, I realized this was an opportunity for fishing lessons.  So I told him I would send him some passages to study on the topic and we would work through them together so he could come up with the message.

That way he is not dependent on me.

We need to do this with our kids as well.  I wrote about this earlier it is worth another look...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Well...

This has been an interesting day.  Did not at all go as planned after 9 AM.  Started the morning with four guys at the Savoy restaurant – by the way if you are ever in Tulsa you should eat breakfast there.  The cinnamon rolls are ready at 7 AM.  We were doing the first week of the overview of Jeremiah.  This group has been at this together for about a year and a half.  They are all extremely busy.  But they make time for this.  The 52 chapters threw them for a loop this week but they are engaged.  That study went from 6 to 7:30 AM.
Well this one did not go as planned...  Thoughts at DTTB.
At 8 AM I met with the Moroccan pastor to finish up on Romans 11.  Two weeks ago we left on the table his question could someone resist or reject God’s sovereign election.  We walked through Paul’s argument together by my sharing on screen my study and his following along.  At the end of the time he asked me to help him put together a talk on God’s grace as it dealt with the topics covered in Romans 8 – 11.  Really he asked me to put it together and he would translate it, but I told him I would work with him to do it.

My plan was to go to our church’s prayer room and spend the morning praying through some issues we are facing.  I got there and went to the kitchen to refill my coffee cup, when I walked back into the chapel most of the staff was in there to pray for the church.  I started to gather my stuff to leave and they insisted that I stay and pray with them.

After the meeting a few of them asked me several questions and about an hour after I planned to start praying through the issues I was able to begin.  Problem was that I could not get past some of the things I was asked.  So the Lord and I discussed why He messed with my plan.  He chose not to dignify the question with a response… I think it had something to do with who was really in charge of my day.  (Hint, not me.)

For the past several days I have been working on a presentation to better explain to people what Entrusting Truth does.  I sent the presentation to five men asking for their input.  One of the men emailed me this AM wanting to talk through his thoughts.  While that was better than good it took more time than I thought and radically changed the presentation…

I have continued to get feedback on the impact of what we are doing with men.  All of it is positive.  All of it is very encouraging.  All of it is due to God’s work in the men who come through the work of the Holy Spirit as He unfolds the Word of God to them.  It is a privilege to watch the Spirit work.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Absurd

Three weeks ago I mentioned that one of the themes I saw emerging in my study of Jeremiah was the abject failure of leadership.  This last couple of weeks I have been working through the first six chapters paragraph by paragraph.  My suspicions are being validated but in absurd ways.
When you get yourself into a real mess, do you hesitate to call on God to get you out?  Thoughts at DTTB.
In chapter 2 God, through Jeremiah, reminds Judah what He had done for them.  Nothing much really.  He liberated them from 400 years of slavery to Egypt, parting the Red Sea and killing all of Pharaoh's troops to the bargain.  He gave them the law through Moses.  He led them to the Promised Land, at which point they balked and had to run 40 years' worth of laps around the wilderness until He brought them back to the exact same GPS location for a do over.  This time they went in.  On the way in He parted the Jordan so that, like the Red Sea they walked across on dry land.  He fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls came a tumblin’ down.  He drove out the inhabitants before them when they engaged.

But they forgot all of that.  Did not seem all that important to them.

So they stopped listening to Him.  In order to get their attention at this point God began to discipline them to get them to come back to Him.  So they are in trouble.  Trouble that is self-inflicted because they have chosen to disobey and ignore the God who miraculously saved them and provided their land.

So how do they respond to the discipline?  Here is where it just gets absurd.  They found a tree, cut it down, took part of it and carved a "god" and asked it to save them.  Then they found a rock lying around doing nothing and figured it would be a great idea to carve it into another "god" and ask that one to save them as well.  I mean two professionally carved gods are better than one.

That wasn’t working so well.  So rather than return to the God who had proven Himself powerful and true to His Word, they found allies who worshipped god's that God had humiliated and made alliances with them to get them out of this mess they had created.

All they had to do was come to God and confess their disobedience and repent.  What they did was a whole lot more work and epically, absurdly futile.

I am just so glad that we do not do that here in the church age.  When we foul things up we immediately go to God in repentance.  I am glad that we never try to figure things ourselves like the stupid (its OK God calls them stupid) members of the tribe of Judah.  No, we are much more spiritually astute.  After all we have the Holy Spirit and we have Judah as an example.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Holy Spirit 2.0?

This morning four of us gathered online for our Tuesday morning Bible study.  We were looking at the first several chapters of Jeremiah.  We have a new addition to the study.  He is a soldier who has been medically discharged.  I am not aware of the medical issues, I have not asked, it is enough that he served and was wounded.  He is in the ministry of one of the guys in the study.  He is about a third of our age.
You ever found yourself discounting something a younger person in the Lord shares from their Bible Study?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The way we conduct the study, one of us shares basically uninterrupted what they got out of their study.  We rotate who starts.  This morning it was the new guy's turn to start.  He started by saying that he was not as good as we are, essentially apologizing in advance for what he saw.  The three oldies but goodies just about went through the screen at him all at once.  We told him that what he saw was just as important as what we saw.

Thinking about that later this afternoon it occurs to me that we all do what he did to some extent.  We evaluate what someone sees in the Word of God, what they can contribute, based on our perception of their maturity in Christ or their grasp of the Word of God.  Wrong.

I have written several times here about John 16:13.  One of the roles of the Spirit is to lead believers into all truth, to help us understand the Word of God.  Romans 8:9 tells us that all of us who have trusted Christ have the Holy Spirit.  It does not say that we have part of the Spirit.  It says that we have the Spirit.  So there isn’t versions.  A new believer does not have the beta version of the Spirit.  Someone older in the Lord with more Bible study under their belt does not have version 1.0 of the Spirit.  The three of us oldies do not have version 2.0 or higher.  There is only one Spirit.  Like the rest of the Trinity, He does not change.

The point is that the Spirit can and does show things in the Word to those who are “new” to this Christian life that someone “older” may miss.

The new guy in the study and in the Lord has as much to contribute as the seasoned believer.  Matter of fact for those of us that are seasoned, it is our job to reinforce that truth and encourage the “new” person, to draw them out, and get excited about what they see in the Word of God.  We should know that we do not know it all.  After all God’s thoughts are higher than ours or so Isaiah 55:9 suggests.  The new guy just maybe probably will see something we have not glimpsed yet.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Envy

Do you ever find yourself wondering why someone else has an opportunity to do something you would really like to do, yet have not been asked?  Perhaps it is a promotion, recognition at work, an opportunity to speak to a group of people – probably not the last one, most people are terrified of speaking in public…  Whatever you wish you were doing that another is, well, that is envy, jealousy, or covetousness or all three at once…  Full disclosure here, I struggle with envy, not in the last few minutes, but yesterday for sure and probably earlier today…
Ever wonder why someone other than you got that opportunity?  Thoughts at DTTB.
If you, like me struggle with envy, we are in good company, well in the company of people who are well known at least, technically since they are sinners, they are not all that good.  I was thinking of Peter.  He envied John.  Look at John 21.20 – 21.  Jesus had just finished outlining His assignment for Peter.  Peter turned and essentially said, “What about him?”  I love Jesus’ response, well not really, but I will explain that in a bit…  Jesus said, “If I want him to ____________, what is that to you?”  The blank is there for you and me to fill in when we envy what some other brother is getting to do.  Essentially, Jesus is saying to Peter and us, it is not our business what He wants others to do.  That is His business with them.

The last phrase is telling, “You follow Me!”

When we put all this together, the reality of envy, at least for me, is that I do not trust God that what He wants me to do, the lot He has given me in life, is really all that good.  Like Peter, I am kind of looking at the other guy thinking he got a better slice of the pie.  It boils down to I do not believe God knows how to engage me and the gifts that He has given me most effectively.  It is really immaterial that He created me in my mother’s womb, chose men for a specific purpose before the foundation of the world, and has gifted me and prepared me through all of my life for that purpose.  I am sure He has not used me as effectively as He should.

Pretty stupid.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

More Refining

Earlier this week we looked at what the Word says about refining us, here and here.  This morning I was reading through Psalm 66 and was brought back to that topic.  That seems to happen a lot in my time with the Lord.  He tends to bring me back to the same thoughts from a different angle repeatedly.
The Lord is intentional about refining us to be like His Son.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Look at verses 10 and 11.  There is a literary device called particularization.  Particularization takes a general statement and breaks it down into its component parts.  To put it another way, it moves from the whole to the parts.  This seems to be what the Psalmist is doing in Psalm 66:10 – 11.  Look at what he says the Lord does to refine us:
  • Brought us into the net
  • Lay an oppressive burden on us
  • Make men ride over us
We typically do not view those types of things as positive.  Here the Psalmist says that these are intentional events that God uses to “bring us out to a place of abundance.”  Do not read that as earthly riches.  That may in some cases be part of it for some of us, but the real deal is the character of Christ worked into our lives.

The Psalmist reinforces his description of the refining by stating that, “we went through fire and water.”  There is another literary device, generalization.  It is the opposite of particularization.  Generalization moves from the parts to the whole.  Here the psalmist uses both.  I did some quick research on silver refining.  I am no metallurgist and welcome corrections to this, but what I found is that some processes of silver refining start with fire and end with water.  That being the case the Psalmist is moving from the whole to the parts and back to the whole to describe what God is intentionally doing to refine us.

So what?  We may be entangled in a difficult situation.  We may have an incredibly heavy load in our lives right now be it health, financial, family, whatever.  We may be in a situation where we are daily having to deal with unreasonable people to whom we are accountable.  The Psalmist, well actually the Holy Spirit through the Psalmist, tells us that none of that is an accident.  It is an intentional program by God to refine us; to make us like His son.

I need that reminder.  When things are tough.  When things are not working out, I need to remember that God is at work even if I do not see and understand it or like it very much.  He promises in Romans 8:28 to work all that out to the good for us.  The good is for us to be like Christ.  Not necessarily enjoyable in the process, but pays big dividends in eternity.  Truth be told, it pays dividends now, at least that is what Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:8.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Pressure of the Wicked

This morning in Psalm 55 I felt like I was reading the story of my life.  I have written about this Psalm before and the distraction that is life.  But focus for a moment on verse 3.  Specifically look at the second way that David says that he is distracted, “…because of the pressure of the wicked.”  That your experience?  It is mine.
Do you ever feel pressured by the wicked?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The enemy has recruited a legion of helpers.  Those who are continuing to live in rebellion to God and who are actively evangelizing others to do the same.  That is the rub.  We are to be about evangelizing the wicked to come to Him.  All the while they are pressuring us to join them in sin.  Everywhere we turn we are beset with invitations and opportunities to rebel, to engage in thought or action that is contrary to God’s purpose and design for us.  How do we stand against this?

It seems to me that the answer may be in the first four phrases of Psalm 55:1 – 2:
  • Give ear to my prayer
  • Do not hide Thyself from my supplication
  • Give heed to me
  • Answer me
David’s request is that the Lord deliver him from distraction, from the voice, and the pressure of the wicked.  Prayer.  And I have been reading The Divine Conspiracy and Practicing His Presence, those conspire to lead me to 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and John 15:5.

Perhaps it is only as we practice David’s requests continually that we will be able to not only withstand the pressure of the wicked but also pull some of them out of the fire.