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Monday, March 31, 2014

The Lord is...

In difficult times, what is the the Lord for you?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Look at Psalm 18:1 – 2.  The text prior gives the context, 2 Samuel 22:1 – 51.  David is delivered from Saul.  Look at what David says about the Lord in these two short verses, “The Lord is my…
  • Strength
  • Rock
  • Fortress
  • Deliverer
  • Shield
  • Salvation
  • Stronghold
That is an impressive list.  The reality is that the Lord is that for us as well.  David just engaged with the Lord fully.  That both challenges me and gives me hope.  There is more of Him into which I need to tap.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Grace AND Truth

During the message at church this morning the pastor mentioned as an aside to one of his points, John 1:17.  In the Sunday school class a few minutes later we were covering Romans 14 and one of the questions the pastor teaching that class asked was “…what was the bottom line of the chapter?”
Have you ever heard someone say that doctrine is not as important as grace?  Thoughts at DTTB.
One member of the class answered, “Live and let live.”

That answer, or something very close to that has been the type of answer that I have heard on a number of issues.  That answer ignores both the word after the “and” in the second half of John 1:17 and the first 11 chapters of Romans.

Believers are quick to invoke grace, but are seemingly resistant to truth.  I have heard more than once in more than one community that doctrine is divisive so we really need to focus on grace.  The problem is that if we read the Bible we are not allowed to do that.  Grace AND truth were realized through Christ.

Doctrine is mentioned 12 times in the New Testament.  Truth 111 times and Grace 122 times.  Grace and truth, doctrine, right teaching are treated as equally important.  Paul warns us against false doctrine and tells us that at the end people will not tolerate sound doctrine, 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:3.  Christ in Matthew 15:9 decried the teaching of the Pharisees saying that they were teaching as doctrine the tradition of men.  The implication being that there is a right doctrine were not teaching.

It is both.  Not either or.  We are called to live in grace.  We are called to spread truth.  To do one without the other ignores one aspect of Christ’s purpose.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Above All

Psalm 95:3 made me think yesterday.  The verse says that the Lord is a great God.  While I intellectually embrace that, I do not always live like I believe that is true.
Sometimes I find I do not really believe God is great.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Hebrews 11:6 ups the ante quite a bit.  Those two passages conspire to cause me to question do I really believe God is a great God, and does he really reward those who seek Him.

I find that much like the nation of Judah in Jeremiah, I try to solve my own problems.  Problems, many of which, stem from the fact that some really deep level I do not really trust that God is great and a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Further the second half of Psalm 95:3 tells me that He is a great king above all kings.  Yet I fret about how governments and regimes can thwart what I am trying to do for this great God and King.

Pretty silly.

Paul tells me that I am supposed to not be anxious but pray about everything, Philippians 4:6 – 7.  That is probably the source of my problem.  I would rather be anxious and plan rather than release my challenges to a great God and King above all kings.

From silly to stupid.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Intelligent and Intentional

Today was the ten year anniversary of my good friend, Dave Jewitt’s ministry, YourOneDegree (YOD).  Over 200 of us gathered to celebrate what God has done internationally through YOD.
What was God thinking when He created you?  Thoughts at DTTB.
One of the breakout sessions explored the Biblical foundation of the ministry.  Nathan Baxter shared his experience of working through the scripture with Dave and traced the way the ministry has emerged from a study of God’s creative engagement in each of our lives.

Central to my involvement in YOD is my commitment to elevate and emphasize the Biblical basis of the ministry to those who are engaged in both the process of learning how God has designed them as well as those who are engaged in helping others as coaches.

What Nathan shared was superb.  I took about three pages of notes.  There were several key take aways but the one on which I wish to focus was what Nathan shared about the nature and character of God.  He stated that God was the most intelligent being, in fact He is the source of all knowledge.  Then by looking at Psalm 139, Ephesians 2:10, and Jeremiah 1:4 (there are many others to which he could have referred as well), Nathan demonstrated the intentionality of God in what I call God’s intimate engagement in our creation.

Think of that.  Our God intelligently, intentionally, and intimately formed us for a purpose that only we can do.  Nathan’s next question is the key to the YOD ministry.  Wouldn’t it be great to know what God was thinking when He intelligently, intentionally, and intimately formed us?

To engage in that purpose with His resources, now that would be a fun ride.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Committed to Iniquity

You may remember that I am working through Jeremiah with three groups of men right now.  This morning in one of the groups we looked at Jeremiah 8 – 9.  Later I was reading and Jeremiah 9:5 nearly jumped off of the page.  The two phrases that got my attention were:
  • They have taught their tongues to speak lies
  • They weary themselves committing iniquity
Talk about commitment!

The people of Judah studied how to lie, practicing lying so they could get it right.  Think about that.  Picture a class room where the students are being taught, equipped to lie.  That is a process not an event.  It takes someone describing how to lie, listening to you try, and then giving you feedback as to how you did?  How would they have a test?

The next phase is just as shocking.  The people of Judah were so engaged in iniquity that they tired themselves out committing iniquity.  They probably fell asleep or had trouble staying awake in lying class.
Some people wear themselves out sinning...  Thoughts at DTTB.
I can hear the teacher now… “Sam you are sleeping in class again!”

“Teach, I was out all night committing iniquity, I can barely keep my eyes open.”

The teacher responds, “Oh, ok then, sorry to disturb…”

Of course since this is lying class, Sam may not be telling the truth.

I know people like this.  We have politicians that seem to live like this.  Taught to Lie and committed to do so to the point of fatigue.

We have to be alert to these types of people.  They can take us down with them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pain and Promise

Today has been an interesting mix of conversations with believers.  It started this morning with a group of us discussing Jeremiah 9.  We saw strong parallels with what is going on in the western church today.
How do explain it when life does not "work out" for Christians?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I met after that with a friend who has had a rough few years.  He was struggling with why as one who was pursuing God did his life fall apart.

Then this afternoon a pastor from Canada who is staying with us for a few days and I talked for a couple of hours about how viewed ministry and discipleship.

There was a thread thorough all of the conversations.

At some level as believers we have a lingering feeling that if we follow God closely and do all of the right disciplines that life will somehow work out really well.  You know we will have a great marriage, we will have kids that all do the right sorts of things, and we will have all of our needs (really wants) met.

It does not seem to work out that way very often.  If you read the Bible at an even cursory level you begin to see a pattern that seems to extend to our time today.  Conflict, chaos, and suffering.  1 Peter is written to warn and prepare believers about just that.

This life is filled with emotional, physical, and spiritual pain.  But there is also a promise.  That promise is that this life is not all that there is.  As a matter of fact this life, our experiences here, are in, as C. S. Lewis called them, the Shadowlands.  We are not home.  We are in a world and a system in the control of an enemy who hates us and the horse we rode in on, and does everything he can think of to destroy us.  So things are not going to always work out well.  Read Jeremiah, Ezekiel, look at what happened to Paul in Acts.  Think about Stephen in Acts.  We are at war.  We are not on a beach.  Well if we are it is Normandy and June 6th.

But the promise is that this is not all that there is.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Is This the Answer?

Eleven days ago I wrote that I did not get the whole my strength is in the Lord thing.  My friend Andy wrote a really good and encouraging response to that post, it is worth a read.  I wrote then that I was asking God to show me how all this works.  Andy’s response helped.  Today I think Psalm 73:26 did.
Is the answer that it just is?  Thoughts at DTTB.
We read there that “…God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…”  I have not completely resolved this but that seems like a declaration.  I wonder if that is not the case whether I realize it in the moment or not.  Colossians 3:1 – 4 tells me that my life is hidden in Christ.  Romans 6:4 – 5 tells me that my life is Christ’s because I have been united in His resurrection.  While I do not really grasp all the implications of that.  I am not sure I have to understand it all to know that it is true.

Perhaps the reality is that whether I understand it or not, whether I feel it or not, since I have been united with Christ, He is my life and my strength.  It is simply a fact like the fact that He has completed me in Him, Colossians 2:9 – 10.

So, what do you think?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Raising a Fearless Warrior

There is a message by John Piper that I think you may find helpful.  It is a biographical message about John G. Paton who was the third missionary to the New Hebrides Islands.  The first two were clubbed to death cooked and eaten a few minutes after they landed on the shore.  Paton went 19 years later with people telling him, "You will be eaten by cannibals!"  Did not deter him.
How do we raise kids who can stand up to the threat of being eaten by cannibals?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Why?

One of the main reasons was the influence of his father.  Thus the connection to this blog.

You can listen to this in your browser, download a pdf of the message, or download a MP3 here.  It is worth more than the hour and twenty minutes it will take you to listen to it.  I have listened to it so many times I just about have it memorized.

Enjoy.  I would love to hear your reactions to it when you have had a chance to listen.  Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

How to be Taught by God

That sounds like a good idea, does it not?  It seems that having the creator of the universe teach you would be something that we would line up for rather quickly.  But probably not.  It has been my experience that most people are more interested in telling what they know than learning.  That seems to manifest itself when people are around experts and rather than listen they talk.  I have learned that it is really hard to hear when your mouth is moving.
How would we get to be instructed by God?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The interesting thing to me is that God offers to teach us.  Look at Psalm 25:8 – 14, there God offers to:
  • Instruct sinners in the way
  • Lead the humble in justice
  • Teach the humble His way
  • Instruct in the way a person should choose
  • Tell us His secrets
  • Make us know His covenant
Pretty good list.  Especially considering the source, all we have to do is:
  • Be a sinner
  • Be humble
  • Fear God
We all have the first one nailed.  The next two trip some, or maybe most of us, up.

Like those who are more interested in trying to impress an expert, it is hard to admit that we are needy.  However, it seems that if we are offered tutelage by the Creator, we might just want to listen.  I am not sure that we could impress Him with our great knowledge.  Especially, since He gave us both the knowledge and the ability to understand and use it.

Time to be humble and fear I think.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

It Simply Seems Impossible

The Christian life that is.  I really struggle with it.  This morning the struggle started in Psalm 63:1 then:
  • Psalm 42:2
  • Psalm 84:2
  • Psalm 143:6
  • Matthew 5:6
  • Colossians 1:28 – 29
  • Colossians 4:12
The attitude of the heart that these passages describe is one of desperate longing.  Not just thankfulness for a “Get out of Hell Free” card, but an all-consuming hunger for intimacy with God.  Not an engaging addition to my life but the driving center point of my existence.
The Christian Life is about more than getting out of hell.  Thoughts at DTTB.

Further the Colossians passages have the some of the same words repeated, “Striving” being one.  This word is the Greek word from which we get our English word “agonize.”  Oxford defines agonize as, “to make desperate or convulsive efforts.”  That seems to capture well what these passages are conveying.

The message is clear, I am to make desperate and convulsive efforts to first know God, and then transfer that desperate and convulsive effort into helping others know Him.  The kicker for me is that Paul in Colossians 1:29 says that he is making that effort “according to His (Christ’s) power…”  If I am honest, I really do not know how to do that.

When I strive I get sleepy.  I am desperate to know how to better do this in His strength.  I am weary of trying to do it on my own.

I am finding it is impossible.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Peaks

I love backpacking.  Putting 50 pounds on my back and heading above timberline for about a 40 – 50 mile trip is my idea of relaxing.  I am blown away by the beauty.  I am in awe of the reality that God has placed every element intentionally.  That each of the snowflakes that created the glaciers and snow fields are different.  How many billions does it take to create a glacier?  How many ways can one make a snowflake?  Apparently there are an infinite number of designs.
What is it that draws you into the heart of God?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Why that level of detail?

Why place this much awesome beauty in a place where 99.9% of the people of the world will never travel?

The level of stunning surprising detail never ceases to leave me breathless.

I can sit there for hours looking at the handcraft of the creator in awe of His might and majesty.
I can sit for hours looking at what God has done...
Then I read Psalm 95:4, “…the peaks of the mountains are His also…” and I am stunned that I am in a place He owns.  Not only does He own it, He calls our attention to it intentionally.

It brings me low.  It causes me to worship.  I crave that time with Him.

What is it that draws your heart to Him?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fear, the Pathway to Trust

While Psalm 56:3 – 4 has been the subject of two other posts, here and here, take a look again.
What does our fear tell us?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Larry Crabb tells us that when we fell frustration or anger that is like an idiot light on our dashboard telling us that our goals are wrong.  Here, David is telling us that fear functions similarly.

David’s response to fear?  Trust God.  Not my first response.  In the earlier posts I have already analyzed what equips David to respond this way, so I won’t repeat that here.  But think about the import of what David is saying here.  If my response to a situation is fear, the idiot light is blinking, that should tell me that I am not trusting.  In the car if the OIL light comes on, I am supposed to check the oil ASAP.  If the TEMP light comes on, I better be getting off the road, like now!  So if the FEAR light comes on, I need to check my trust, now.

We read that God has a plan for us.  That thread permeates the Word.  If that is the case, and God is truly sovereign, and we are intent on following Him, we have no reason to fear.  Things may be uncomfortable, dangerous, life threatening, but we are His instruments.  We are fashioned for His purposes, for His glory.  We are to trust Him with His use of us.

I never said it was an easy pathway.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Purposeful Freedom

We are free in Christ.  Paul’s letter to the Galatian believers centered on that truth.  Galatians 5:1 declares that truth explicitly.  Free is free.  There are no real qualifications on that freedom.  However, Paul exhorts us in the same breath to be purposeful in the use of our freedom in Christ.  Look at:
  • Galatians 5:13
  • 1 Corinthians 6:12
  • Romans 14:14
  • 1 Corinthians 9:19 – 23
We are free... So what do we do with that freedom?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Those passages reinforce our freedom in Christ but also direct that freedom.  In each case we are challenged to voluntarily, purposefully, limit our freedom for the purpose of reaching people for Christ.  I have long struggled with Philippians 2:5 – 8, how in the name of all that is holy am I supposed to do that?  I think the answer is here.

Like Christ did not view equality with God a thing to be grasped, in other words He did not flaunt it.  He emptied Himself.  Like Him we are not to flaunt our freedom.  We are to use that freedom in a way that draws people to Christ.  In a sense Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19 – 23 is emptying himself of his freedom to serve others for the sake of the gospel.  That I can do.  I can choose not to do things that will cause people to question Christianity’s truthfulness.

For instance I am free to drink wine, beer, and other adult beverages.  But in some of the places I have lived doing so would cause others to stumble.  So I choose not to.  I limit my freedom so as not to put a stumbling block in anyone’s way, Romans 14:15.  That is just one simple example.  There are many others.

It is our assignment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Bit More on Integrity

Yesterday I shared some thoughts on integrity.  Have you ever noticed that when you start thinking about something you begin to see it everywhere?  Like when you are looking for a new car, you begin to see the model you want every time you get on the road.  Well I ran into the concept of integrity again today.
How do we grow in our integrity?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Look at Psalm 41:12 and Psalm 25:21.  The three clauses that got my attention were:
  • …You uphold me in my integrity
  • …You set me in your presence forever
  • …integrity and uprightness preserve me for I wait for You…
These passages reinforce the conclusion yesterday.  My integrity is not something I can gin up on my own.  Integrity in the life of a believer is dependent on one’s relationship, call it intimacy with the Lord.  In 2 Peter 2:2 – 4, Peter tells us that one of the reasons that we are given the Word of God, is so that we can become partakers of the divine nature.  In the passages above David says that he has been set in the Lord’s presence and he waits for the Lord.

The conclusion I come to is that my integrity is directly proportional to my waiting on the Lord in His presence.  The advantage I have over David in this, that we all have, is that we have all 66 books.  We have a fuller description of the nature and character of God from which to draw.  We also have the heart of David stripped bare for us in his journal, the Psalms.

It occurs to me that we should be fairly strong in integrity.  Should we not?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Walking in Integrity

Psalm 101:2 is a hard, key verse.  It is echoed in Psalm 26:1, 11.  The three statements are:
  • I will walk in my house in the integrity of my heart…
  • I have walked in my integrity…
  • I shall walk in my integrity…
We have to continually choose integrity.  Thoughts at DTTB.
The three passages challenge me.  I have already written about Psalm 101:2 so I won’t repeat that here.  But the three together paint a picture for me of committed perseverance.  Having walked in integrity once is not sufficient.  We cannot rest in past performance.  We have to continually choose to do the right thing.  We have to choose not to click a link that we know would take us to a picture or a site that would be inappropriate.  When we inadvertently encounter something inappropriate we have to immediately choose not to linger.
We have to continually choose integrity.  Thoughts at DTTB.
For men this is a constant, continual, ongoing, never ending, always present battle.  In this culture we are bombarded with images from all sides that pull us in to a life of deceit.  On our own we cannot hope to withstand the onslaught.  It is only through the grace of Christ and the encouragement of others in the battle, Hebrews 3:13 that we can stand in integrity.

Lock arms.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Into Thy Hand...

What would it look like to live life with our spirit committed to Christ?  Thoughts at DTTB.
…I commit my spirit… When we hear or read those words we usually associate them with Christ’s last words on the cross, Luke 23:46.  But it was David that penned those words first in Psalm 31:5.  Christ was quoting his earthly forebear.

The fact that David said this first is instructive.  It tells me that this is something that is not just a messianic reference, though it certainly is, but it is a reference as to how David chose to live, a life with his spirit committed to the Lord.

It occurs to me that David’s choice is a great model.  What would it look like if all of us that clam to follow Christ lived life with our spirit committed to Christ?  In reality that is the case.  If we have trusted Him our spirit is His, alive in Him.  But, my observation of both my life and the life of some of those around me is that I do not live that way consistently.

What if we did?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Again, Remember

There are three phrases in Psalm 77 that we need to review:
  • Verse 2…my soul refused to be comforted…
  • Verse 4…I am so troubled I cannot speak…
  • Verse 11…I shall remember the deeds of the Lord…
I have lived in verse 2 and 4.  I know that it takes verse 11 to get out of that hole.  The problem is that remembering the deeds of the Lord is no easy assignment.
When things are bleak, how do we climb out of that hole?  Thoughts at DTTB.
First, we have an enemy that is committed to doing everything he can to make sure that we do not remember.  Jeremiah is a great reminder of the schemes of the enemy.  He will suggest other gods, he will suggest alliances with people who do not know the Lord or honor him.  Picture a brainstorming session where the enemy is throwing all kind of ideas at you to solve your funk other than remembering what the Lord has done.

The other reason is that we just flat forget.  The lives that we lead do not lend themselves to reflection.  We are not alone.  Israel forgot.  Forgot quick.  Read Judges 2:7, 10 -11.  We are no better.

I have said this many times before, this is why a journal is not just an interesting discipline, I am becoming more and more convinced it is a necessity.  If we do not record what God is doing in our lives, how in the fat are we supposed to remember?

Asaph had it right.  The way out of the dumps is to remember, to rejoice in, to be thankful for the deeds that the Lord has done in our lives.  It moves us back to Him.  It moves us back into our connection, our relationship with Him.  If we do not have that tool we are going to be greatly hampered in remembering what God has done.  We are vastly more vulnerable to the schemes of the enemy.

Don’t forget.  Write it down.

Friday, March 14, 2014

I Don't Get It...

This is kind of embarrassing.  I have written about this before.  But I still do not really understand.  Psalm 84:5 tells me I am blessed if my strength is in the Lord.  OK.  How?
There are a lot of things I do not understand in the Bible...  Thoughts at DTTB.
2 Corinthians 12:9 tells me that Christ’s strength is perfected in my weakness.  I get that I am weak.  No question about that.  But when does the strength kick in?

Isaiah 40:31, tells me I will not grow weary if I wait…  I am weary a lot.  So, not waiting?

I think – no I am pretty sure that I am missing something.  I can see God work through what He has assigned me to do.  Power?  It does not feel like power.

I am asking the Lord to please clear this up.  To help me understand.  I am open to suggestions here.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Body Perspective

In the past months I attended a meeting where several speakers shared.  I am not really a big meeting type of person.  I much prefer smaller groups or one on one meetings.  First when I look at the trajectory of Christ’s ministry He increasingly moved away from the crowds and focused on the twelve.  Further, even during the period of time when He was dealing with large crowds He would pull the twelve aside and explain what He was doing.  Paul followed the same pattern.  There were always names of people who were traveling with Him, the names of the people in whom he was investing his life.
I find that on my own my understanding is limited.  Thoughts at DTTB.
My experience in ministry for the past 40 years has reinforced this.  I do not find that much in the form of life change takes place in a large meeting.  It serves primarily as a place to expose people to some truth and is as effective as the plan for and commitment to individual follow up.

So when I go to large meetings I do not expect much.  That meeting was no different, two thirds of the speakers were interesting but not all that effective.  The other third was worth the evening for me, but, and again it is because of my passion to get men into the Word, there seemed to be a lot of motivation but no tangible application of the message.  Nothing that the men could get their heart, head, or hands around.  For the most part it just amped up the pressure for men to fulfill the unfunded mandate to lead their families in the Word of God.

A few days after this meeting some of us who had attended were at another meeting.  During part of our time together those who were at that event began to share some of what they had taken away from the meeting.  They shared some great insights and thoughts from the two thirds of the speakers that I, frankly would have not missed hearing.  Great stuff.  Not just pabulum, great stuff.  So what is wrong with me?

Nothing.

I just need my brothers' eyes.  I need my brothers' gifts.  I need my brothers' experiences.  I need my brothers' passions.  I need them to filter the life that we live together through those and share with me what they are seeing.  I need that from them in the Word.  I certainly need their understanding of our Lord.  There is no way with my limited vision that I will see all that I need to see.

I need them.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Two Roads Diverge

With apologies to Robert Frost…  Psalm 37 describes two ways to deal with people or situations that we feel are evil, wrong, or just plain not fair (I wrote about this briefly earlier, this one is a bit more detailed…).
How do we handle life's difficult people and circumstances?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Here are the two roads:
Road 1 Road 2
Fret Trust in the Lord
Dwell in the Land
Cultivate Faithfulness
Delight in the Lord
Commit your way to the Lord
Rest in the Lord
Wait patiently for the Lord
Cease from anger
Forsake wrath
Frankly, Road 1, fretting, is easier, and leads to a shorter life span so you will not have to deal with the evil, wrong, or unfair as long.  However, if we are interested in serving Christ, having our lives matter here, the right side, Road 2, is more likely the better option.

Note that the first seven (yellow) deal with our engagement with God.  The first, trust God, is repeated in verses 3 and 5.  The last two (green) are focused on our relationships with the folks around us.  Those who are behaving in evil, wrong, or unfair ways.  With a little effort you can find New Testament parallels to just about all of David’s suggestions here.

That might be a great study to do with your kids or others with whom you may be walking on this journey.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Strength to Strength and Weakness to Weakness

One of my mentors sent me an email this morning that jerked my day sideways.  The adult child of someone we knew had been found to do horrible things.  I will not share any details, for our purposes here they are not important.  What is important is the relationship between the man we knew and his son.
We model both strength and weakness to our kids.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Reading through the article that my mentor sent there was an exchange between the son and one of the son’s colleagues that floored me.  It was in a different domain of knowledge but the words reflected the father’s attitude perfectly.  The father, when I knew him, was a gifted and strong man.  Strong in the sense of effectiveness in the domain in which we were laboring (I am being intentionally vague here).  The father also had, as most gifted people do, you and I included, significant weaknesses.  The strength of his personality overwhelmed any notion that there could be issues about which he should be concerned.  Once he came to a conclusion it was unassailable.  As a result in the domain in which he operated many were negatively impacted by decisions he made.

His son seems to have learned those characteristics from his father with far worse results in his domain.

There are more passages in the Word than I can list here that deal with the impact we have as fathers on our sons and daughters.  They learn from us.  They watch us.  Their character is shaped by what they see us do and how we respond to life’s challenges.  They notice our attitude toward others.  They understand if we are vulnerable, teachable.  From the womb they are paying attention.  They are being shaped by the choices they see us make in all areas of life.

This event forcibly reminded me how desperately important it is that we live Godly before them.  It is not about religious activity.  It is not about going to church, doing Bible study, memorizing scripture, or any other discipline.  While those are all important, they are not the end.  The end is to pursue the true knowledge of Christ.  To get so close to Him that His nature and character increasingly becomes ours.

As dads, for the sake of our sons, we must do as Paul exhort in Philippians 3:13 – 14, relentlessly, passionately pursue intimacy with Christ.  We must do that in a community that speaks to our lives and we must be open to their instruction and correction.  The impact on our children, their lives, and the lives of those with whom they interact are at stake.

I wish that I could say this more eloquently or communicate more effectively the importance of this.  But right now this is the best I can do…

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Truth about Abraham and Issac Explored...

So what did you see?
Looking at Genesis 22 how would you describe the faith of Abraham and Isaac?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Here are my observations from Genesis 22:5, 8, 9, 10:
  • I and the lad will go…and return (verse 5) – Abraham fully expected Isaac to return with him from the sacrifice there are at least two reasons for this.  First…
  • God will provide for Himself the lamb… (verse 8) – Abraham believed that there would be a substitute, or…
  • Abraham believed that should there not be, God would raise Isaac from the dead.  For in fact God had already raised Isaac from Sarah’s dead womb.
  • …Bound his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar… (verse 9) – Isaac had to cooperate with this.  This indicates that he understood what his father did that the promise of God was sure.  It seems that he shared his father’s faith that he would survive.
  • …and took the knife to slay his son… (verse 10) – Abraham was completely sold out to his trust that God would do what He said He would do.  He did not know how God was going to pull this off, but that was the case with Isaac’s birth in the first place.  Abraham believed and moved without hesitation to obey.
There is much more here but these are some key observations.  One good exercise with your kids is to have them imagine the questions or thoughts that Isaac may have had on the trip to the mountain, on the way up the hill, and as he and Abraham were preparing the altar.

Interact with them and tell them how you would feel as Abraham.

Then pray together for the Lord to increase your faith.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

What Else Does One Need?

Ok, I know I said I would share my observations on Abraham and Isaac today but Psalm 50 got in the way.  I will share them tomorrow assuming some other passage does not intervene…
Do we really grasp what we have in the Bible?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Look at Psalm 50:1, all you really need is the first phrase.  I know you probably cannot read this but here it is in Hebrew: אֵ֤ל ׀ אֱ‍ֽלֹהִ֡ים יְֽהוָ֗ה דִּבֶּ֥ר

Going from right to left the first word is אֵ֤ל = “El” – the Mighty One, this can be simply translated God but it focuses on the might and power of God.

The second word אֱ‍ֽלֹהִ֡ים = “Elohim” is simply God.

Then the third word, יְֽהוָ֗ה,  is the name for God that the Israelites never pronounced, it is the word from which we derive the word Jehovah.  The reason is the word in the Hebrew has the vowel pointing for “Adonai” which is the word the Hebrews pronounced when they encountered this word in the text.  So for our purposes the translation should be “The Lord.”

The last word reading right to left is דִּבֶּ֥ר = “dabar” translated “spoke” or “says”.  The verb is perfect so the word should be rendered here “has spoken.”

So most of the English translations should read something like, “The Mighty One, God, The Lord, has spoken.”

That ought to get our attention.

Think of the implications.  The Creator of all that you can see or imagine, has spoken.  That would seem to be relatively important to hear, don't you think?  Not only that, His words are recorded for us in a book.

If one truly grasps that, really grasps that, one would give one’s life in pursuit of diving deep into that book.  We would or should cherish and guard our time in that book.  It is the very word of The Mighty One, God, The Lord.  What other pursuit would be worthy of our time?  What could possibly distract us from or take priority over time in this Word?

Yet there is much that does it seems.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Truth about Abraham and Isaac...

You know the story, God tests Abraham by telling him to sacrifice Isaac.  But what is the whole story.  Have you read it closely?  What was Abraham thinking about when he was traveling with Isaac toward the mountain of sacrifice?  What was Isaac thinking?  Why did he allow his father to bind him for the sacrifice without any struggle?  Inquiring minds want to know these things?  Take a look at Genesis 22:1 – 19, especially look at Genesis 22:5, 8 – 10.
What was going through Abraham and Isaac's thoughts as they climbed the mount of sacrifice?  Thoughts at DTTB.
What do you observe about Abraham here?  What about Isaac?  This is a good one to go over with you kids.  Take a shot I will share my observations tomorrow…

Friday, March 7, 2014

The True Power of the Word

Look at Jeremiah 5:14 (if you are new here if you hover your mouse over the verse you should be able to read it or click it and it will take you to an online Bible – that will also work if you are not new here).  In Jeremiah 1:9, God tells Jeremiah that He put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth.  Here God tells Jeremiah how He intends to use the words Jeremiah speaks.  He will consume Judah with His word through Jeremiah.
How do you respond when you share the Bible and nothing happens?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Isaiah 55:10 – 11 also tells us that God Word does what He desires.  Hebrews 4:12 – 13 tells us that His Word pierces.  God is in control of the impact of His Word.

As leaders we are told to handle the Word accurately, 2 Timothy 2:15.  We are held responsible to do just that.  The leaders of Judah did not even share the Word.  They shared their own dreams.  They were held accountable for that.

All of this conspires to tell us that while we are responsible to share God’s Word, to handle it accurately, we are not responsible or in control of the results.  God is.  I have seen those who have shared the Word and shared it well disappointed in the response of those who heard.  Wrong reaction.  We have no control over the response of those with whom we share the Word, including our kids.  It is our responsibility to share it, it is God’s prerogative as to how He uses it in other’s lives.

It is best not to get that confused.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

More on the Body

Self-sufficiency used to be my mantra.  Trained as an Air Force pilot and an instructor to boot, I had to be in control of the airplane and as much as possible the student at all times.  I had to think way ahead of where the plane was.  I was trained and learned to rely on my instincts, my reactions, my knowledge of the systems of the aircraft, the way it handled, and my skill in making it do what I wanted it to do when.
I am in desperate need of the Body of Christ.  Thoughts at DTTB.
When I trusted Christ a lot of that transferred over into my Christian life.  One of the officers showed me how to do a Bible study and I took it to extreme lengths building on what he gave me to the point that soon I was leading several Bible studies a week and teaching Sunday school at the base chapel.

I was in fellowship but really, at least if I am honest, I did not value it highly enough, after all, I was trained to be self-sufficient.

As I have grown in Christ and grown older, I have become more and more clearly aware both of my lack of sufficiency and deeply more aware of my need for others in the Body of Christ.  I need their gifts.  I need their experienced based wisdom.  I need their prayer.  I need their encouragement.  I need their love.  The enemy, and this is a long story which will not be told here, has gone to great lengths to convince me that I not only do not need the Body but that the Body is dangerous and I cannot trust it.  God through His grace and the love of His saints has penetrated that lie.

Today was yet another example of that grace.  A friend invested and hour and a half sharing with me his gifts and experience in an area of my life in which I am woefully inadequate.  The amazing thing was that it was done with grace and gentleness and while I am in deep need in the area which we discussed, I left encouraged and with a glimmer of hope that there is a way to grow through his help.

To reinforce this, minutes ago I ended an hour and a half conference call where six believers who are committed to the hilt to help others find their most effective impact for the kingdom of God worked through in detail how to better communicate and engage people in following Christ more intimately.  Each of the six had penetrating questions that pushed the conversation to places that I would, on my own, would have never been able to lead.

Being a part of this Body, is both humbling and exhilarating.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

It Turns Out Showing Up Is Not Quite Enough…

Woody Allen, the great theologian, said in an interview once that 80% of success is just showing up.  As Lee Corso would say on a Saturday morning, “Not so fast, Woody!”  Take a look at Jeremiah 7:1 – 9.
You ever hear that showing up is most of the battle?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Note where the Lord told Jeremiah to go to share this message, the gate of the Lord’s house.  Jeremiah was told to go speak to those who were "faithfully" coming to the temple.  These people were showing up.  Not only showing up, but they were engaging in the Levitical sacrifices.  One would think these would be the people who Jeremiah would want to recruit, after all they are going out of their way to practice religion.

But the message God tells Jeremiah to deliver is not one of encouragement.  Rather, it is a strong rebuke.  Even though they showed up in God’s house, they were not worshiping God in the manner that He required.  They were doing it on their terms, not His.

There is a lesson there for us.  Showing up at a building once or twice a week is not what God requires of us.  He wants our hearts.  He wants our surrender.  Our surrender on His terms.  He wants us to follow Him as God, not to get what we can from the relationship but because He is God.

Just showing up is not enough.  In this case Woody got it wrong.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tares

Throughout the Bible the people of God are confronted by lies.  There are prophets who speak not the
How can we tell if someone is teaching the truth or lying?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Word of God but their own message.  Peter reminds us of that in 2 Peter 2:1 – 3.  It is not a matter of if we are exposed to lies, it is a matter of how we discern them.  Jesus promises we will face that false teaching by people who seem to be those who are apprentices of Christ in Matthew 13:2 – 40.

These teachers will say that they are anointed by God and are sharing the “true” gospel.  Jeremiah faced this.  Look at Jeremiah 28.  The false prophet Hananiah, like Jeremiah, started his false prophecy with, “Thus says the Lord.”  So both Hananiah and Jeremiah stated they were sharing the Word of the Lord but their messages were complete opposites.  If you are one of the people of Judah how do you determine which one is lying and which one is telling the truth?  Cause God is going to hold you responsible for getting it right.

Paul faced this.  He was traveling around the Mediterranean with a new and offensive message.  We get some instruction from the Berean Jews.  Acts 17:11 says that they did not accept what Paul said on face value, no, they examined the Scripture to see if what he was saying aligned with the text.  That was not a simple task.  They did not have iPhones with Bible apps.  To look at the Word they had to go to the local synagogue and go through the scrolls to check out what Paul was saying.  Their effort was called by the Holy Spirit, noble minded.

Jeremiah 23:22 gives us another clue as to how to discern error, standing in God’s counsel.  Coming before Him with our concern, our confusion, with His Word and asking Him to clarify for us.  We have a significant advantage over both the people of Judah and the Berean Jews, if we have accepted Christ we have the Holy Spirit resident in us.  John 16:13 tells us that one of the roles of the Spirit is to lead us into truth.

So it looks like to discern whether something a teacher is telling us is true we need to go to the Word, in the counsel of God, and be led by the Holy Spirit.

Simple enough.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Consistent Message

If you have been around the Christian community for any length of time you have probably heard someone make a statement similar to or having the implications of, “The God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament.”  Or else some form of how things were different in the Old and New Testaments, Hebrews 13:8 notwithstanding.
Have you ever heard that the God of the Old and New Testaments is different?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Hosea 6:1 – 6, seems to suggest that God’s interaction with His people is the same in both Testaments.  Look at the core of what Hosea shares here and how it relates to similar passages in the New Testament…

Hosea 6:1 – 6  New Testament
He has torn us, but He will heal us Hebrews 12:7 – 11
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us James 1:2 – 4; Romans 5:3 – 5
Let us know let us press on to know the Lord Philippians 3:7 – 15
I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offering John 5:39 – 44

Does that seem consistent to you?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fear or Love?

First, Happy Texas Independence Day!
March 2nd is Texas Independence Day
Deuteronomy 10:12 – 13 seems to unite the two primary drivers for obeying God, fear and love.  (I wrote about this back in April of last year; you may want to read that post and the comment and response.)  1 John 4:18 seems to put the priority on love.  How do we sort this out?  Which is more important?

In Philippians 3:15 – 16, Paul at the conclusion of his sharing about what drives him, seeking to know Christ, Paul tells us that should be what drives our relationship with Christ.  He tells us then that regardless of what motivates our relationship with our Lord we should press on.  He then tells us that God will reveal our motivation with the implication that the Lord will help us with that motivation.  Regardless we are to pursue Him.
What should drive our obedience to God?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Looking at this in total, it would seem that certainly love is the preferred driver of our relationship, our obedience to our Lord.  However He works with us if we come to Him in fear, performance, or for whatever motive.  Regardless of our motivation, He wants us to obey.  Frankly, we are dependent on Him to obey.  David admits that in Psalm 119:35, 37.  David claims to delight in the Lord’s ways but asks God to make him walk in those ways.  Then David says that he needs revival in those ways.  Whatever reason we obey we still are dependent on God’s grace and working in our lives in order to follow Him.

This is one of the reasons I love this Book.  It deals with us as real people.  We are a mess.  God accepts us as the messes we are, renewing and reviving us to be the instruments that He wants us to be for His purposes and glory.

Amazing.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saddened and Angered

Yesterday I shared that I was torn between two things on which to write.  I chose to write on Psalm 22.  Today I will share the other issue.

As I have shared in several posts in the past months I am working through Jeremiah.  I am doing that with three different groups of men, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings.  This time through the book the theme that is emerging is the failure of the leadership of Judah to honor God’s Word by staying in it, thus not elevating the person of God to the nation.  Rather than share the Word of God with the nation they shared their own ideas of what was right and wrong.  The clearest description of that in Jeremiah is in chapter 23.
How can you tell if leadership is failing?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Yesterday, I received an invitation to join a LinkedIn group that focuses on principles of Biblical leadership.  After a couple of seconds' hesitation I joined the group.  It is moderately large with about 13,000 members.  Rick Warren is a member.  After joining, the group page came up in my browser.  One of the members had posted a question and hundreds of people had responded.  Apparently, after some time the one who posted the question deleted the thread.  Someone re-posted it and I scanned the posts.  The question that was originally posted was, “Can a woman be a pastor?”  Admittedly there are problems with the question.  The biggest is that it is too broad – no pun intended.  The immediate clarifying question would be. “Of what?”  The assumption of most of those responding was that the question dealt with the ordination of women to the office of senior pastor of a local body.

To more completely context my response to what I read you need to know that each of the comments in this group are tagged with the individual's credentials.  After their name it lists their degrees, their role in the church, and other accomplishments such as author, public speaker, etc.  For instance if I were to comment, which I did not, it might look like, “J. Michael Cunningham ThM, International Speaker, Author, Founder of Entrusting Truth”.  Most of those commenting had advanced degrees, several were pastors, and some were academics.  So by definition, they would be considered leaders in their communities.  With the exception of less than a handful of those responding, they were doing exactly the same thing that the leaders of Judah were doing, sharing their thoughts and ideas rather than dealing with what God has said in His Word.

Only one of those responding, and he was in the small handful, even mentioned the key passage that informs this issue.  The rest of the comments were opinion or else ad hominem attacks on previous comments.  In a place where “leaders” were supposed to share, what they were sharing was unfortunately aligned with the failed prophets, priests, and leaders of Judah.  I am not really interested in what someone’s opinion on that issue might be.  Nor should they be interested in my opinion.  The real question, there are two actually, first what does God say about the issue?  That can only be determined by careful exegesis of His Word.  Second, are we going to do what God says or not?  All discussion that does not address those two questions is a waste of time, breath, typing, or whatever effort is put into the discussion.

If, and I pray it is not the case, those who were speaking to this issue in this forum are typical of our Christian leaders today, I fear they may be, we are in trouble.  It did not work out all that well for Judah.