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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Affliction

If you want to understand the Bible, really understand it, there is a key to your being successful at that task.

You won’t like it.
You want to know the secret to real understanding of the Word of God?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Affliction.  Essentially pain, difficulty, and other excruciating difficulties is what unlocks the Word.  Read Psalm 119:67, 71.  David shares that is what did it for him.

We do pretty much anything we can to avoid pain.  In so doing we avoid deep understanding of the Word.

In Morocco last August, a few of us were spending time early in the morning reading the Word and praying.  I suggested that we read through Psalm 27.  Psalm 27:4 was the first verse I ever memorized.  When I suggested the Psalm one of the men lit up and said, “Oh, that is my favorite Psalm!  I memorized it while I was in prison.”  He was jailed for his faith.

His insight into that Psalm is much deeper than mine.  It was forged in the furnace of affliction.  It is a high price to pay.  It is worth it.

I told you.  You won’t like the key.  I do not either.  But that is God’s way of opening His Word to us.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Need

If you ever wanted proof that we are in need of a savior, read Psalm 15.  Then if you tell me that you are doing all of that I will know that you probably lie about other things too.
You ever think this need for salvation is a New Testament thing?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The requirements to dwell with God listed there are humanly impossible.  It is futile to try.  The only way that we will get in there is the way that has been provided.  The way that Peter so succinctly outlined in Acts 4:12.  There is no other way.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Impact of Nations

Isaiah 49:6 outlines one of God’s purposes for Israel.  He is echoing what He promised Abram in Genesis 12:3.  It was the intention that Israel would be a light to the nations, a testimony of who God is.
Do the core values of a nation matter?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Contrast that with Jeremiah 25:9.  Judah did not follow God.  They refused to listen to His Word.  Rather they came up with their own ideas about redemption.  This did not work well for them.  God disciplined them, but rather than repent, they picked up a stone or a piece of wood and carved a “god”.  They then worshiped their creation and asked it to redeem them.  Judah also made alliances with godless nations in hopes of climbing out of the hole they had dug.

The Lords response was to send Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Judah.  But not only Judah.  Nebuchadnezzar’s assignment was to destroy the nations around Judah as well.

Think of it.  The nation that was supposed to draw other nations to God, by not following God, caused the destruction of nations.

I wonder if there is an application in there somewhere.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Real Trainer

The last couple of days I have shared about men who have built into my core and who were with me during training – oh by the way, Pat, Larry’s wife got me in touch with Cunneen, the guy I mentioned yesterday with whom I had lost contact.  Suffice it to say that like the others in the picture, he has greatly impacted the kingdom.  He went with Shimkus to Iowa after MSU then started the Nav ministry at Duke.  He is not in Orlando having left the Navs to form his own ministry working with colligates.  Shimkus joined Jim’s ministry before he passed away…
Have you ever considered that the difficult folks in your life are there intentionally?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Reading through Psalm 144:1 just now it occurred to me that the real trainer, the one who really built into my core, the one who really pushes me, is the Lord.  He uses and used these men.  He was intentional about doing that.  But it was Him that was directing the experiences.

We read in Isaiah 55:8 – 9 that our Lord is the most intelligent being in the universe that He created.  Psalm 139:1 – 6; 13 – 18, tells us that He is intimately acquainted with our way, and that He was intentionally and intimately engaged in creating us for a purpose.

The people and experiences we encounter in this life are intentional.  Placed in our life by an intelligent, intentional, and intimately involved Lord to make us into the instrument of His will.

I have mentioned all the men that I really like.  But there are those on that list that I did not like so much.  Some, frankly, are enemies.  The thing I have to continually struggle to grasp is that the Lord has placed them in my life intelligently and intentionally as well.  He uses people who may rub us the wrong way probably to rub some of the wrong stuff off of us.

It may not be pleasant, but it is intentional.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Blast From the Past

I am not sure what I was going to write about today but it was not going to be this…  Then at about 3:30 I got an email from one of the men in the Tuesday morning study and it jerked me sideways and brought a smile to my face.  The quality of the photo is horrible but that is apropos based on the subjects…
We need others... desperately we need others who will challenge us.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Back (l - r) Jim Cunneen, Ron Shimkus, John Hamilton, Larry Whitehouse, me
Front (l - r) Dave Hawes, Mike Garrett, Dave Bowman, Jim Falk
These are the men who were at Michigan State University, as best we can tell, in the spring of 1979.  Six of us were in training to be Navigator representatives.  The guy second from the left in the back, Ron Shimkus, was being trained by the guy second from the right in the back, Larry Whitehouse to be a staff trainer.

I have lost contact with Jim Cunneen the guy on the far left in the back.  I do not know what he did after MSU.  The others I know about and they have had incredible impact on the kingdom of God.

In the front from the left:
  • Dave Hawes – has trained multiple staff for the Navs.  He was the US collegiate director for a while.  He has worked at training, trainers for the Navigator military ministry, and has consulted the Texas collegiate ministry on staff training as well as the Nav work in Singapore.
  • Mike Garrett – has acquired a PhD, a DMin, and is a licensed counselor.  He is one of the pastors at Crossroads fellowship in Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Dave Bowman – led the campus ministry at Penn State for many years.  He has raised up many staff and missionaries while there.  He and his wife are now in Georgia heading up staff training for the collegiate ministry of the Navs.
  • Jim Falk – moved to Knoxville with Larry and me and helped start the staff training center in the Southeast region of the Nav collegiate ministry.  He subsequently led the work at Georgia.  He left the Navs shortly after we did and help start a church in Indianapolis.  Grace started with around 200 people and quickly grew to over 1000.  Jim served as a pastor to the staff until he left to join a ministry focused on the third world.
  • The guy in the middle in the back is John Hamilton.  John led the work at Western Kentucky and then Duke.  While at Duke he was involved in the Comission traveling multiple times behind the former Iron Curtain to train pastors and lay leaders in the Bible.
This was a high powered group.  Bible study with them was interesting to say the very least.  Two of these men are in the study in which I participate on Tuesday mornings, John and Dave.

It was a privilege to be with these men in 1979, and it is a wonder to be able to still be encouraged by them 35 years later.

Yesterday I shared men who had built into my core ministry.  All of these men were on the original list of 61+, one was on yesterday’s list.  Dave and John are pushing me in this season.

The point is, we have to have people like this around us if we are going to grow in our effectiveness.  Pray for that.  Cultivate it.  Do whatever it takes to maintain it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Suffering as Grace

A few days ago I mentioned I am in Hebrews, still working through Jeremiah but have added Hebrews.  I have shared here before that one of the main things you want to look for in Bible study is repetition.  I look for that as I read through the book.  I have noticed several terms and concepts in Hebrews that are repeated throughout the book.  One of which is suffering.  Look at Hebrews 2:9; 2:10, 18; 5:8; 9:26; 10:32; 13:12.
Have you ever thought through the magnitude of God's grace in accepting Christ's atonement?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Concentrate on a minute on the first passage, Hebrews 2:9.  Note that the last phrase is. “…by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”

We, well I do not think about the magnitude of God’s grace as it applies to Christ’s death.  As a people we are under a sentence of death for our condition of sin.  The unimaginable reality is that God accepts the death of His son as my death, so that the death sentence on my head is not carried out.  The mind blowing, unimaginable reality is that God accepts Christ’s death for all believers.  There is nothing before that acceptance that indicates the magnitude of that act of grace.  It does not say that one can substitute for another.  There are types but the magnitude of God’s acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice for us makes those types much less than pale examples.

This would be a good thing to memorialise on a day like today.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day

Tomorrow is Memorial Day.  We celebrated it in our church this morning.  Differently than I have ever experienced it.  Four members of the congregation shared who their heroes in faith are that they want to remember.  It got me thinking.  In February of 2012 I listed in my journal 61 men who had impacted my life.  This morning I began to think about those who have built into the core of what I do…
Do you remember who has helped you get where you are in the Christian Life?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The following men are my "Yodas"
  • Harry Steck – handed me three sheets of paper in 1973 I still have and equip men with today, verse analysis study.
  • Chuck Steen – challenged and demonstrated to me commitment to the study and application of God’s Word.
  • Terry Cook – gave me 8 cassette tapes by Howard Hendricks on Synthetic Bible Study (you can find them here at Discipleship Library, scroll down until you see the eight messages... they are listed alphabetically by title...).  Invited me to join his study to learn this method.
  • Pastor whose name I do not remember at a Bible church in Selma who let me copy his notes from Hendricks class at Dallas Seminary.
  • Larry Whitehouse – placed a barrier of 20 hours of study between me and the ministry each week teaching meme that my first job in ministry is mastery of the Scripture.
  • Howard Hendricks – first through tapes and then at DTS taking his course and grading his leadership class.
  • Dave Jewitt – encouraged me to be more intentional in equipping men in the Word.
These are the ones who contributed most to what I do now in terms of my passion for the Word and the passion to equip men to study the Word.  That in no way diminishes the importance of the other 54 men whom I have not named.  If I were to begin to list the authors who have impacted me you would quit reading if you haven’t already.

The point of all this is that we are members of a body.  Paul tells us that in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4.  We cannot and will not navigate this Christian journey successfully, without significant help and influence from others in the Body.

It is good that we remember that and remember and thank God for them.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rest

I tend to be a workaholic.  I work long hours.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are the longest.  I start at about 6 AM and finish after 10 PM.  Part of that is that most of the people with whom I meet work during the day, so if I am going to meet with them it is going to be early or late.
Ever feel that you have to keep going even if you are tired?  Thoughts at DTTB.
That works for a relatively long time, and then my body rebels.  I get tired and need to sleep for a day or so…  Those days are getting closer together.  It is, at some level, frustrating.  At another level a friend of mine reminds me that it is God’s way of forcing us to make choices to be the most effective with our time.

Today has been one of those down days.  It is interesting to me that in the midst of this I am working through Hebrews.  The pictures the writer paints of Christ sitting down, of God resting from work, and of believers entering into rest are an interesting juxtaposition with where I am today.

Those of us that are like me, seem to think that we always have to be doing something.  Sometimes we just need to rest.  Today is like that for me…

Friday, May 23, 2014

Christ's Supremacy

The men with whom I meet on Tuesday mornings have chosen to study Hebrews.  So for the last couple of week in addition to Jeremiah, I have been working through Hebrews.
How does Christ relate to the rest of the heavenly host?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I am still in the early stages of the study – note that this is not the first time I have studied this book, but I do not look at the earlier studies until I have worked through the book again.  I am testing some possible structure for the book and some possible key verses.

Hebrews 1:3 may be the key to the book.  Read through that.  One thing I do know about Hebrews is that it is about “better.”  Do a search for that word in Hebrews at Bible gateway and you will see what I mean.

Chapter one shows Christ as better than the angels.  But look at what Hebrews 1:3 says about Him, He is:
  • The radiance of God’s glory
  • The exact representation of His nature
  • The one who upholds all things by His word.
  • The writer says that He sat down.
There is a lot here but I want to point out two things.  First, the word that is translated “exact representation,” is charakter (that is not misspelled it is Anglicized Greek).  It is the Greek root for our English word character.  In the original it is the tool that is used to make an impression of something.  Like part of typesetting.  It is interesting that we use that now to describe moral qualities.  Christ exactly represents the Father.

Secondly, the text says, “He sat down.”  This is the first of four references to Christ sitting down, Hebrews 1:13, 10:12; 12:2, are the others.  The point is that Christ’s work is finished.  In contrast to the priests of the old covenant who stood daily to offer sacrifice, Christ’s sacrifice is complete.  There is no need for Him to stand any longer.  His work is complete and in Colossians 2:9 – 10, we are told that His work completed us.

That is an overwhelming picture of His supreme sufficiency.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cross Culture?

This morning’s meeting with the Moroccan pastor was interesting.  During the course of one of our conversations in the past months some questions arose about discipleship and whether God intends all believers to be disciples.
Are people really all that different in other cultures?  Thoughts at DTTB.
To answer that we looked at all of the passages in the bible in which the word “disciple” appears.  We went through them last week and made observations.  This morning we discussed what we found.

The conclusion was that discipleship is expected of all believers.  Some of the keys to that were Matthew 28:18 – 20 and Acts 11:26, among others.

During the conversation the pastor explained that there are a lot of Moroccans who want to be called Christian who are not interested in discipleship.  They are more interested in being in the group that actually developing a relationship with Christ (there is more to this but I will hold off on that until tomorrow).

So people who claim the label Christian who are not in the least bit interested in growing in their relationship with Christ.  No we do not have anybody like that in the States.  Must be a cultural Moroccan problem, right?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Good Stuff

My middle son and his wife are here.  We are in the middle of experiencing answered prayer.  My son and his wife are both physicians.  But due to some good choices my son made, he did not match for a residency coming out of med school.
All things work together for good in prayer, they are all answered, all good...  Thoughts at DTTB.
For the past two years he has first done research, and then did a year in surgery.  We found out in the past couple of weeks that he got a residency back in the town where we live.

We have been praying for that individually and with groups for two years.  Many people talk about unanswered prayer.  There is no such thing.  When we pray there are three possible answers, no, yes, and wait.  All of those are answers.  We may not like one or two of them, but answers they are.

For two years the answers were no and wait.  It is now a qualified yes.  In the sense that he has a residency but not in the specialty that is his passion.  So we have all three answers.

Last night we were talking at the DTTB workshop about how Romans 8:28 does not always work out.  Specifically the men were sharing that for Jonah things were not so good.  Like for the past couple of years things have not been so “good” for my son.  That is not the case.  Neither for Jonah nor my son.  The Scripture is true.  All things work together for good.  The challenge for us may be that our definition of good is not aligned with the Lord’s.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

God is Good

Tuesdays are long for me.  I start at about 0520 and finish around 2330 (that is 5:30 AM and 11:30 PM for non-military types).  Tonight was the last meeting of the current Dads Teach the Bible workshop.  Last week my kids came to be interviewed.  Out of 10 men who normally show up, three were there.  My family outnumbered them 2 to 1.
Do you ever wonder if what you are doing is really making a difference?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Over the years I have learned – check that, I am learning not to judge effectiveness by numbers.  Of all of the workshops I have done this was the lowest turnout for that part of the workshop.  Typically, that is the highlight of the 10 weeks.  The three asked good questions.  It was a good interaction.

We start at 8:15 PM.  Tonight at 8:14 no one was there but me.  I was beginning to work out how long I was going to sit there before going home when 5 guys walked in.

Regardless of my commitment not to measure by number, the combination of last week and this was a bit of a challenge for me.  As we began to talk.  One of the guys shared how he was applying DTTB in studying Colossians, the current sermon series in his church.  Later I mentioned the phrase “in Christ,” as a good topical study, he immediately said that he lost count of how many times that showed up in Colossians.  It is one of the keys to the book.  It was like the Lord tapping me on the shoulder telling me, “He gets it…”

Then one of the men shared how his son is asking him to meet with him in the Bible every night.  He said that he felt it was his commitment to come to DTTB that opened that door.  I do not know if that is the case, but it was like the Lord was tapping me on the shoulder again saying, “That’s huge.”

There were several other comments tonight that had that same impact.  I was lifted from tired and a bit morose to energized and eager.

My Lord did not need to do that.  Luke 17:9 – 10 tells me that I am only doing what I am supposed to be.  But He is good.  He is gracious.  He used those men tonight to give me a gift of encouragement.

I am overwhelmed, and grateful.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bible Study Demo Part 8

Working through the last of the 5 conditional statements in 1 John 1:6 – 10.
This may be the end.  I may come back and show you how to use interpretive questions on a couple of verses.  May not…  What do you think?

Posts in this series
Part 7
Part 6
Part 5
Part 4
Part 3
Part 2
Part 1

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bible Study Demo Part 7

Working through the first of the 5 conditional statements in 1 John 1:6 – 10
Will finish the conditional statements tomorrow

Posts in this series
Part 8
Part 6
Part 5
Part 4
Part 3
Part 2
Part 1

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bible Study Demo Part 6

Continuing to work through 1 John 1 focus on 1 John 1:3 – 5
Tomorrow we will make more detailed observations on the conditional phrases in 1 John 1:6 - 10.

Posts in this series
Part 8
Part 7
Part 5
Part 4
Part 3
Part 2
Part 1

Friday, May 16, 2014

Bible Study Demo Part 5

Yesterday I mentioned that I would show you the finished product today.  As I have thought through that it was basically a reaction to the awkwardness of talking and typing at the same time.  The videos on this are about 20 minutes right now.  Part of what I want to show you is that you can do this in a short amount of time and get a lot more out of your time in the Word.

So for at least a few more days I am going to continue to work through 1 John 1.  You may have noticed that I missed some repetition yesterday.  I will start with that today.
Tomorrow I will share some more observations on verse 3.

Posts in this series
Part 8
Part 7
Part 6
Part 4
Part 3
Part 2
Part 1

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bible Study Demo Part 4

Fourth demo on 1 John 1.  Focus on making more observations.
Next time I will show you essentially the finished product and make some observations from that.

Please let me know if this is helpful in the comments.

Posts in this series
Part 8
Part 7
Part 6
Part 5
Part 3
Part 2
Part 1

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bible Study Demo Part 3

The focus today is the five conditional statements in 1 John 1:6 – 10.
Tomorrow we will begin to work back through the text making more observations.  Most of us move past this stage of our Bible study too quickly.  In fact as I was reviewing this section this afternoon I saw several things that I had not seen in multiple previous passes through this section.

There is a lot here.  I will point some of them out as we go and suggest ways to capture what you are seeing as we work through this.

I am working in Microsoft Word 2013.  I do most of my Bible study in Word.  If you get lost in how I am using Word let me know and I will tell you in more detail how and why I am doing what I am doing.

Posts in this series
Part 8
Part 7
Part 6
Part 5
Part 4
Part 2
Part 1

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bible Study Demo Part 2

OK, I learned from yesterday and used a different capture tool.  We are going to pick up right after we have highlighted all of the structural markers.  The next thing is to begin to look for some literary relationships that the markers may indicate.  Here is a list of those literary relationships you might want to download them before you click the video.
Tomorrow we will work through the conditional statements.  Let me know how this is going for you in the comments below.

Posts in this series
Part 8
Part 7
Part 6
Part 5
Part 4
Part 3
Part 1

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bible Study Demo Part 1

Post updated 5/18/2014 to match video with the other posts in this series.

I am going to try something different.  I am going to use a video to show you how I work through a passage.  I start by highlighting the structural markers in the passage.  I have mentioned this before but here is the list of structural markers you might want to have it handy as we work through this.  I will be working through 1 John 1.
That is the start.  Tomorrow I will show you how I use the structure to make observations.  Let me know how this works for you in the comments.

Posts in this series
Part 8
Part 7
Part 6
Part 5
Part 4
Part 3
Part 2

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Moms

Mother’s day has changed a bit for us.  The focus used to be on my wife.  Now we have two other mothers, my daughter and daughter in law, and two more pre mothers, my other two daughter’s in law.
Life continually changes.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Not our family
It is a really interesting dynamic.  It is one of the things that makes being a parent a continually changing challenge.  The relationships with our kids are in a constant state of flux.  Each change in their life impacts our relationship with them.

When we were new parents in 1981, I remember standing over my new born son in his room, clueless as how to deal with whatever was going on at the time.  I stood there and James 1:5 leapt to mind.  I prayed then for God’s wisdom and then believing He gave it to me acted.

That scenario has played out more times than I can count.  With all of the changes in our kids’ lives, the opportunities are not waning, rather exponentially increasing.

We continue to pray and trust.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Upright

Psalm 33:4, 6 got my attention just now.  Question, if the Word of the Lord is upright, would that not mean that all that is done by His Word or through His Word would also be upright?
Is all that comes into your life from God?  Thoughts at DTTB.
If that is the case and He is involved by and through His Word in our lives, does that mean that all that has come into our lives is upright?

How does that work out?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Do Overs

Ever said something that you wish you could take back?  Or having left a conversation, hours, days, or months later you wish you had only said…  I could probably fill a book with both categories.  But, one continues to eat at me.  The reason?  It is at the core of what I do every day.  It is a burr under my saddle.  I know that God is sovereign over that time and that event.  I know that I have learned from what happened.  But, the reality of the failure still bothers me at times.
Ever said something you wish you had not or vice versa?  Thoughts at DTTB.
In the situation I was asked to tangentially address a persistent heresy in a ministry I will not name.  A heretical view of God’s Word had permeated part of the organization.  The research I did on this particular heresy and the counsel I got from historical theologians was that this was such a bizarre view that if it had occurred in history it burned out really fast.  But here it was.

In the midst of my presentation I mentioned that the Word was foundational to any ministry.  I was immediately challenged by one of those invested in the heresy with the statement that there was no other foundation other than Christ.  He was quoting, accurately, 1 Corinthians 3:10.  In the moment I did not process what he said well.  I agreed with him, inadvertently, unintentionally, reinforcing the heresy.

How?

Those who embraced the heresy focused on Jesus primarily, which in and of itself is not a bad thing.  The way it was applied was bad.  They were picking and choosing which portions of the Word they felt were relevant.  There are a lot of people doing that today, this was not unique to this group, but with their history it was an aberration.  By agreeing I reinforced their choosing to focus only on the portions of Scripture they felt important.

What I should have asked, note the verb there, it is hugely important…  Was something like, “Where did you come up with that idea?”  The answer is, as I have already mentioned, 1 Corinthians 3:10.  That is one of the books that is discounted by this heresy.  The inconsistency is huge.

The reality they were denying, is that our understanding of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit is derived from the Bible, all of the Bible.  It is His Word, it reveals His nature, it reveals His character.  Not part of it.  All of it.  Not just the part we like, but also the parts with which we struggle.  If we are to know Christ.  If He is to be the foundation of our lives and ministry, we have no other option than to make His Word the foundation of our knowledge of Him.

What other choice is there?  How else am I to know Him?  By talking with others about what they know?  How do they know what they say they know?  Without the Bible as the foundation of that conversation, that investigation, I am reduced to base speculation based on my own understanding.

Not a solid foundation.

That is what I should have said.  Or something very like this.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Running Chains

Back when I first started doing Bible study one of the things I did a lot was running chains.  The Bible I bought shortly after I came to Christ had side column references.  I would look at the references for the verse which I was studying and look those verses up.  Then I would look at the references for those passages and look those up.  I did that until it was obvious that the topic had changed.  I called that running chains.
Here is a simple way to extend your Bible Study...  Thoughts at DTTB.
Over the years the method has changed a bit.  After 40 years of Bible study and scripture memory, sometimes when I am studying a passage other verses or phrases that support or add to the passage I am studying come to mind.  I follow those as well as some of the side column references.

That happened this afternoon…  I was reading Isaiah 44:18 – 20 and a combination of the two approaches lead to this chain, run it with me and if you feel led, tell me what you see in the comments.

Psalm 81:12; Isaiah 6:9 – 10; 29:10; 2 Corinthians 3:14; 4:3; Romans 1:24, 26, 28; 2 Timothy 3:7

Have fun.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sharing What I See

Yesterday I promised to share what I see in John 9:1 - 34, that models a great approach to evangelism for us.
How does John 9 help us to share our faith?  Thoughts at DTTB.
John 9:1 – 7
If you read the chapter you know that Jesus puts clay on the blind man's eyes and tells him to go wash it off in the pool of Siloam.  He does and he is healed.

That starts a humorous chain of events, at least I think it is humorous…

John 9:8 – 12
The man comes back to the neighborhood, inciting a vigorous debate amongst the neighbors about who this person who looks, smells, talks, walks, and lives in the same house as their blind friend must be.  He certainly can’t be their blind friend, he can see after all.  After hearing his story they ask where the man who healed him is.  The man tells them what he knows, "I do not know."

John 9:13 – 17
For some reason perhaps alluded to in verse 14, the newly sighted man is brought before the Pharisees.  Why his neighbors thought that was a good idea is a mystery to me, but that is what they did.  The Pharisees are unable to connect how someone who heals on the Sabbath, which looks like work to them, could possibly heal on the Sabbath because that would be a sin and would prevent someone from healing on the Sabbath… makes my head hurt.

These great leaders and theologians decided to solve the problem by asking the man what he thought.  He threw out a guess… "He is a prophet."

John 9:18 – 23
Not satisfied with the theological perspective of one inferior in education and standing to their high position.  The Pharisees (whose logic in the paragraph above made my head hurt) thought it would clear things up to call in witness, the man’s parents, who were not present either when Jesus applied clay to the man’s eyes or when he washed in the pool.  They were pressed by the Pharisees to explain how their once blind son could now see.  Their answer, "Ask him."

John 9:24 – 34
Soooo… the Pharisees call the man back.  Now they turn up the pressure, telling him to give glory to God – that was a threat.  They ask again what Jesus did to open his eyes.

Think about this for a minute.  This man is sitting there, probably begging, the disciples initiate this by asking Christ a question.  Jesus, unbidden, puts clay on the guy’s eyes and tells him to go wash.  Now for the first time in his life he can see.  He has not seen the one who healed him.  All he knows is what happened.  Now the religious leaders are in a tizzy because this happened on the Sabbath.

So when they ask him what happened his response is essentially, "I already told you, weren't you listening?"  They tell him the problem is that they cannot know where Christ is from and then the best lines of the dialog:
Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes.  We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.  Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.  If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.
The Pharisee’s response, "Oh, yeah!  Says you!"  It's in the original.  Since they can't argue with him they apply more logical fallacies and kick him out.

So What
So how does this instruct us?  The man never said more than he knew.  He shared what had happened to him.  When pressed he shared what he thought about what he knew.  No more.

That is all that we are required to do.  Share our experience, what we know, and what we think about it.  We pretty much do that all the time.  We do it when our friends ask us about movies we have seen, cars we drive, appliances, internet, cable…  We do it all the time.

Jesus just asks us to tell them about Him.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Share What You Know

Yesterday I suggested that as believers we need to be about the business of sharing our relationship with Christ.  I mentioned that we need to share what we know.  That is rather important.  Why?  Well it is really hard to share what we do not know.
Evangelism is not hard... you just share what you know...  Thoughts at DTTB.
One of the best illustrations of this, one that shows the power of sharing what you know is in John 9.  Further, in my estimation it is one of the best examples of evangelism in the scripture.  It is also one of the most humorous passages in the Bible.

Read through it and jot down some observations.  I know that I told you I would comment on this today, but you really need to enjoy this passage on your own first.

I promise I will at least start to share what I see here tomorrow.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Right Approach

Since I trusted Christ in 1973, there have been many times that I have either been to workshops on evangelism or else taught workshops on that topic.  I have lost count on the number of times I have been in conversations centered on that topic.
You may be over thinking evangelism...  Thoughts at DTTB.
Not so much... but
As believers we tend to, well at least I do, come up with really good reasons not to share the good news of the gospel with those around us.  There are those around us that we feel will be offended if we share, after all they are leaders, they are wealthy.  They do not see a need.  But they are in need if they do not know Christ.

Psalm 49:5 – 20, seems to answer that for me.

The key phrase is repeated twice with some variation in verses 12 and 20.  We are not to fear those who are lost but powerful around us.  They are in need.  We are just to share what we know (more on that tomorrow).

For the reality for those around us in Psalm 49:8 – 9.  They have a major problem even if they do not know it yet.  We have the answer.  We need to share it.  That is the right approach.  That is a significant act of love.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I Got an Answer

As an application of my study in Jeremiah I have been asking most everyone I meet with what the Lord is teaching them out of the Word.  It has been an enlightening and in the case of Friday a challenging and rebuking exercise.
Sometimes I do not like the answers...  Thoughts at DTTB.
I asked that of the man I met with first on Friday.  He had just come from trying to buy a new water heater.  He ran into obstacles he had not anticipated.  His plan was to get the needed heater and take it home and have people come out to install it.  He was informed by a sales clerk that was not how it was done.  He had to essentially start the process of research over.  That was not the message that he wanted to hear at 6 AM.  He told me that his attitude was not the best as he was interacting with the clerk.

He told me that she, was struggling with allergies.  Then he reflected that as a believer he should have been more concerned with her than his needs – it was right at that point in the conversation that my friend shifted from sharing to meddling.

We both reflected on Philippians 2:3 – 4.  In all of the cases that we encounter that others are not behaving in the manner that aligns with our desires, we are supposed to put their needs ahead of ours.  Further Paul tells us that we are to do all things for the sake of the gospel, 1 Corinthians 9:19 – 23.  My friend should have had that clerk’s needs in mind before his need for a water heater, for the sake of the gospel.

Neither one of us are doing very well at that.  This afternoon on my way to a part time gig I have, I was asking God to help me to put all of the people I met needs ahead of mine.  I did better.  But not perfect.  People sometimes make that hard to do.

Even then the assignment does not change.

Sometimes when you ask a friend what they are getting out of the Word, it turns into a challenge for you.

Do it anyway.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Old Friends

For the past several years I have been using the morning and evening readings out of a 1945 version of the Book of Common Prayer.  It has been an interesting journey.  There are times when I see the themes that those who put the versed together saw, at least it seems that way to me.  Other times I have found myself struggling with issues and the passages for that day deal directly with my struggles.
Do you have passages to which the Lord continually draws you?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Today all of the passages were ones in which in the past I have spent much time.  They are like old friends.  Do you have passages like that?  Passages that the Lord draws you to time and again?  Rather than comment on them I will just share them with you…  I trust you will enjoy them as much as I.

Morning: Psalms 42, 43; Exodus 17:1 – 7; Hebrews 4:14 – 5:14

Evening: Psalms 93, 111; Isaiah 43:1 – 7; 1 Peter 3:1 – 12

Enjoy…

Friday, May 2, 2014

Alignment

One of the realities of my life in a ministry is that I have to raise money to support what we do.  I do not like that task.  I am not a big fan of anything that is related to accounting.  That is strange because both my dad and my son are accountants.  Apparently that gene skips generations.
What happens when you align your tasks with the way God made you?  Thoughts at DTTB.
But I have to do it.  Just like there are things in your profession that you have to do that may not be your favorite thing.

So as I prayed through this it occurred to me that I needed to align this task both with the way the Lord wired me and with my passion.  That passion is, as Herman Cain say, in case you missed it, getting men into the Word.  So as an application from my current study of Jeremiah, I have been asking men what the Lord is teaching them in the Word.  That has launched some really great conversations.  After I reciprocate I begin to share how in the past six years the Lord has allowed me to equip several hundred men with tools to personally study the Word, on three continents.

Then in closing I emphasize that if I have a choice, I would much rather help the man with whom I am sharing learn to study the Word more effectively than have him give to the ministry.  That has led to opportunities to do just that.

So by aligning this task I really do not like with the way the Lord has put me together and with the passion He has given me it has become, well not my favorite activity, but it has become more of an extension of what I am driven to do.  Equip men to study on their own.

The Lord seems to be honoring the alignment.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Working It Out

There are passages in the Bible of which I am not overly fond.  The primary reason is that they are really too easy to understand and make really strong demands on me.  Revelation is a lot more fun to study – after chapter 5 it becomes a little more difficult to apply personally (note that my tongue is firmly planted in my left cheek as I type).
Although we are complete in Christ, we have to work that out in our lives...  Thoughts at DTTB.
I have shared with some of the men with whom I meet that I would like to take Philippians 2 out of the Bible.  It is way too convicting.  Really cramps my self-centered style.  While it is crystal clear what Paul is telling us the impact of our union with Christ should be on our behavior, it is not easy, at least not for me, to get there.

I spend a lot of time in Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians.  They are what Bobby Clinton calls core books for what I do with men.  Earlier this week I was talking with a friend about some common ministry emphases.  During the conversation we were talking about the believer’s completed position in Christ, probably best described in Colossians 2:9 – 10.  He asked how we self-lead ourselves in light of this truth.  Great question.

His point was that we do not simply trust Christ and sit like a lump waiting for Him to give us all that we need.  We are charged to move.  We cannot move apart from Him (John 15:5), but we are to move.  That conversation has been literally keeping me awake.  Thinking through it has drawn me to Philippians 2:12 – 13 yet again.

Hover your mouse over the reference – note the tension.  “Work out your salvation…it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work…”  We are to engage.  We are to pursue.  We do that in the strength of God, which, by the way, is substantial.  What that looks like seems to be what Paul is describing at some length in Philippians 3 (I have written about the tension in Philippians 3 here).

If we claim to be Christ’s apprentices and we are not struggling with this… well it might be well to follow Paul’s advice in 2 Corinthians 13:5.