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Monday, June 30, 2014

Grasping at Leadership

The last time I was studying the book of Hebrews was about 2007.  In that study the Lord used Hebrews 5:4 to start a breakthrough in our lives and ministry.  I won’t share all of the details, but my wife and I have had a lot of ministry experience and training.  Yet from 1992 through 2007 it felt like we were sitting on the sidelines struggling to get into the game.  I had ended up back in industry and my wife was teaching.  We had been through the process of candidating at three churches but those did not work out.
Ever try really hard to do something and find yourself continually blocked?  Thoughts at DTTB.
It seemed like everything we tried was blocked.

Then Hebrews 5:4, "…no one takes the honor to himself but receives it when he is called by God…"  It was as if the Lord was speaking directly to me.  "Mike, you are trying to force your way back into 'ministry.'  Stop.  Rest in what I have you doing."  I shared my thoughts with our small group.  They affirmed that I was on the right track.  Quit fighting.  So I did.

Within a month I was asked by our church to lead the Sunday school teachers through preparation for a church wide series on spiritual gifts.  That is a big deal because of where we live.  A major hot topic.  That March my wife and I went with our youngest son on a mission trip to Trinidad and Tobago, the first of 5 trips to that nation for me.

In June I went back with Gary and Leigh Barkalow and one of their friends.  Gary and I led a Wild at Heart Boot Camp for 23 Trini men.  Leigh and her friend prayed for us.  Then the gates opened.

I worked through Hebrews 5 this afternoon and there is more that I want to share on this.  The first part of this chapter, gives some fairly significant instruction to those in or contemplating leadership in the Body.  I will begin to unwrap that tomorrow and we will see how long it takes.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Sort Of Want To Be Like You…

My parents gave me a guitar, a Silvertone finger cutter, when I was 11 years old.  I took lessons for a while, twice.  So that was what, 53 years ago?  I have played that guitar and many others since then.  Solo, in bands, in worship groups, in front of one person, and in front of hundreds.  In 1969 I bought a Goya 12 String.  I played that until the neck broke off about 8 years ago.  I replaced it with a Takamine EF400SC 12 string.  I play that just about every day.  Over the years I have had a lot of people come and tell me that they wished they could play guitar like I do.  Really?
Saying we want to do something and doing it are two vastly different things.  Thoughts at DTTB.
In 1973 I was confronted with the claims of Christ’s lordship over my life.  I knew about the savior thing, the lord thing was a new idea.  I started doing Bible study that summer.  In six months I was leading seven a week.  I was in undergraduate pilot training at the time.  Averaging about 12 – 14 hours a day in class and at the flight line.

Since then I have pretty much continually been in Bible study.  Most of those were Bible and blank sheet of paper.  I heard messages from Prof about synthetic Bible study.  I took notes, drove from Selma to Tuscaloosa weekly to sit in on a study at the University of Alabama that was working through that method.  I found a graduate of DTS who had the notes from Prof’s class, I made photo copies and studied them.
Saying we want to do something and doing it are two vastly different things.  Thoughts at DTTB.
I relearned English grammar and sentence diagraming.  I figured out how to determine which Greek or Hebrew word was behind the text in my NASB.  I tried to teach myself Greek, ended up taking Greek and Hebrew at Western Kentucky University while stationed there with a Christian ministry.  Then four years at DTS taking a ThM.

I have had a lot of men over the years who have come up to me and said I wish I could study the Bible like you do.  Really?  I always respond, “Ok, meet me at [whatever restaurant] next [day] for breakfast and we will get started.  With very few exceptions they last two maybe three weeks.

Guitar and Bible, two things I do fairly well.  Probably Bible better than guitar.  People like the idea of playing and studying.  Most people are not willing to pay the price, do the work, invest the time, or sacrifice the leisure time to actually learn to play or study.

There is no pill one can take that will make you a guitar hero or a Bible scholar.  This isn’t the Matrix where Tank can upload a guitar or Bible program into your brain, along with the Kung Fu.  Nope, both skills take time, practice, and discipline.

So if you wish you could do it, whatever it is, do it.  Turn off the TV, pick up the guitar or Bible, and get after it.  You will struggle.  You will have a hard time with an F chord.  You may not be good at observations in Bible study.  You will get better.  Each week you will progress.  But you have to stay with it.

It is not too late.  Stop wishing.  Start doing.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Applied Rest

Ever get anxious?  Ever confused about what is going on in your life?
How do we cope when things are rotten?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Reading today Psalm 44:2 got my attention.  The nation of Israel took the land – well that was one side of the story.  The sons of Korah tell us it was really the Lord that did that.  He is the one who took the land and planted Israel in it.  But He wasn't done.  He then afflicted them and scattered them abroad.

God is purposeful.  If I were a member of Israel at the time I would have been anxious about the affliction and scattering.  But by doing that God spread the knowledge of Himself throughout the world.  Purpose.  His Purpose.

There is purpose in what the Lord brings into our lives.  We can trust Him with those.  We can rest in His finished work, we can rest, relax and know that He knows what He is doing with us.

I need that reminder, pretty much daily.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Thinking So as to Have Sound Judgement

Checking my email this evening I got one from a guy who added me on Google+.  He sent me a link to a presentation.  I clicked on the link and watched.  Don’t usually do that but the tagline was intriguing.
We are bombarded with at lot of religious stuff daily, how should we respond?  Thoughts at DTTB.
While the presentation had some interesting observations on a portion of scripture toward the end it made a huge interpretive leap that cannot be validated in any shape, fashion, or form from the text from which the individual was sharing.  While that does not surprise me the absurdity of the position was shocking.

Curious to see if anyone caught the logical fallacies, I skimmed through the comments.  I was not surprised again.  Most of the comments were very complementary.  No one mentioned anything about the absurd comment in the middle of the presentation.

That matters.

Throughout the New Testament we are exhorted to use our minds.  We are exhorted to think.  We are exhorted to have our minds renewed.  As a taste here are all the references to the word mind from Acts to Revelation.  You could do a similar search for the words think, thoughts, thinking… there is a lot about how we as believers are to think.

No one who responded to the presentation did.  They commented on the beauty of the experience.  The quality of the pictures and background music.  They did not check what was presented against the Word.

We are daily bombarded with religious junk.  Stuff someone has come up with to sell a book or a seminar.  We are warned against this multiple times in the Word.  2 Peter 2 may be the clearest.  We will have false teachers.  We are not to accept something because it makes us feel good, is cleverly and attractively packaged, or has interesting music or new thoughts.  We are to engage our minds.  We are to do the hard work of evaluating what is presented through the grid of Scripture.  If it does not align with what is written in there, it is false.  We should reject it, no matter how many people have bought the book or told us how great it is.

We are to think.  We are to think aright.  We are to have our minds transformed and use them.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

God’s Perfect __________

Just fill in the blank.  Things that come to mind right now are love, timing, care…  I am sitting at my desk working and get a phone call that tells me of answered prayer that has been on the list for 12 years.  What the answer is, is not important.  The one who answered is.
What God does is perfect, not just good...  Thoughts at DTTB.
It is last minute from our perspective.  It was a long battle.  Frankly, it may not still be over.  From God’s perspective the timing is perfect and the result is exquisite.

Yesterday I suggested that it is not easy to trust God at times.  His timing and answers are seldom in line with what we want.  I forget that this is His story.  It is His glory that matters.  It is His desire that counts.  My Bible tells me that I can trust Him.  That what He wants is the very best, His perfect best for me.  I just have to hang on and trust.

The writer of Hebrews calls it rest.  So in the midst of all that we struggle with in prayer we must be diligent to rest in trust.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

To Trust or Not to Trust, That is the Question

What does it mean practically to trust God?  Thoughts at DTTB.One of the things I do is coach men through the YourOneDegree® (YOD) process.  Part of that process is a Post-It-Note™ timeline.  In that exercise you brainstorm all of the significant events in your life and put them on yellow Post-It-Notes™.  You then transfer the events or people that were negative to red Post-It-Notes™.  You put them on a poster board chronologically and then step back to get perspective and make observations.

One of the truths on which YOD is based is the sovereign intentionality of God.  That means that there is purpose or reason for all that He does in our life, including those red Post-It-Notes™.  One of the questions we ask as coaches is, “What control did you have over that event?”  The answer is usually none.

What does it mean practically to trust God?  Thoughts at DTTB.But the other reality is that in many cases it is those red events that are significant turning points in our lives.  Bobby Clinton, author of The Making of a Leader, calls those negative preparation.  It is God moving you into another phase of your life.

The challenge is that in many cases we do not resolve those reds.  We get embittered at what happened or the people involved.  I have.  One of the messages of the timeline is that we have to trust God’s sovereign intentionality with each of those reds.

We may never understand this side of glory the what or why, but we can trust Him with the event and its outcome.  Not to do that, is to remain stuck, immobile, and ineffective.

We get to choose to trust or not to trust.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Thinking Heart

You probably have Proverbs 23:7 memorized, if now you know what it says.  Actually the sentence is Proverbs 12:6 – 7.  But we quote the first part of 7 a lot.  That is still right, the passage essentially is saying that if one thinks that they are the center of the universe, i.e. selfish, they are going to act that way.
What you think determines what you do... Yeah, it is obvious, but...  Thoughts at DTTB.
That is true in more than just selfish.  We tend to make judgments or decisions about ourselves all through our lives.  I have seen that play out in my life and in the lives of those with whom I interact.

Difficult situations, difficult people, or just the opposite, great situations and great people as we experience them shape the way we think about ourselves.  If we are healthy, we do not enjoy pain.  So we tend to do things, learn strategies that prevent us from experiencing pain.  So from the life situations we begin to develop strategies that put us more in better situations with better people to avoid the difficult ones.

For instance we may have been around someone early in our lives that had a very short, bewildering fuse.  We were not sure what set them off but when they were set off it was not pleasant.  We may decide that we are going to do everything we can to avoid setting anyone off ever again.  That could translate into avoiding all forms of conflict.

So we think in our heart that since conflict is painful, we will strive to avoid it.  The problem arises as we grow in Christ, that part of being a follower of Him requires us to confront sin not only in our lives but in the lives of those around us.  Conflict.

That’s where Romans 12:2 comes in.  We have to have our thinking transformed.  In a sense we have to reprogram our, in Proverbs 12:7 terms, our thinking hearts.  We have to learn to trust Christ, to think, that following Him is a better strategy than following what we think might work.

That is not easy.  Trusting Christ in doing what we think will hurt can be terrifying.  But that is the assignment.

Monday, June 23, 2014

No Cherry Picking

If you have been around believers much you have heard and you probably have shared favorite passages out of the Bible.  A lot of those favorite verses are quoted or printed on cards you may have purchased at a Christian book store.  Some if not most of them sound really good, but take on a significantly different meaning when read in their context.
Do you have favorite passages in the Bible, I do, sometimes I have taken them out of context...  Thoughts at DTTB.
There are several in Jeremiah that we quote often that set against the background of Judah’s commitment to disobedience should cause us to reflect on the impact of the passage.

Hebrews 4 is another passage that has at least two of people’s favorite verses.  Hebrews 4:12 – 13 and Hebrews 4:15 – 16.  Those passages are in a lot of Scripture Memory projects.  They are great passages.  But they have a context.

All of the passages we memorize and quote are part of a bigger whole.  They move the argument or theme of the letter in which they are found forward.  We miss a lot by not looking at those connections.

For instances in Hebrews 4 the author is laying out our response to the reality that there is a rest in which believers are supposed to enter.  He outlines how we are to enter that rest in the first part of the chapter, and then then 12 – 13 and 14 – 16 supports his argument and suggests a reasonable response respectively.

The question we should be asking is how does the information in these passages support and move his argument forward.

If we are to apply the Scripture correctly, if we are to understand it well, we must be aware of the context of our favorite passages and we have ask how they relate to the message of their context.  If we don’t, well sure, we will still have favorite verses, but there is a real probability that we will not understand what that favorite verse is actually saying.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Terror

What scares you?  A recession?  Politics?  Losing a client?  Losing a job?  Losing a child?
What really scares you?  What should?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Hebrews 4:1 tells us what should terrorize us.  The word is translated fear in most of our Bibles, but terror also works, and, I would suggest, works better here.  It is the feeling we get when we face an overwhelming force.  Most times when that word shows up people try to make it reverence.  It is not here.  It is terror.

But look at what is to terrorize us, one of our brothers or sisters coming short of entering into God’s rest.  This is not the first time the writer of Hebrews has said something like this.  In 3:12 he takes the idea of Proverbs 4:23 and brings it into the community of believers while expanding it to a corporate responsibility.

The force of these two passages seems to indicate that what I should fear, what should terrorize me is one of my brothers or sisters in the faith not entering into God’s rest.  The precursor to that in 3:12 is that I am to look closely at my brothers and sisters to make sure that they are not developing an evil, unbelieving heart, thus falling away from God.

The language is strong.  The assignment is clear.  I have not seen much evidence of obedience to that in the Body.  To the contrary, there seems to be a reticence to speak or ask questions about one’s walk with God.  It is uncomfortable.  It is probing into personal areas.  It is left to the pastor or the counselor.  Problem is, there are more people in the Body than the pastor or counselor can reasonably be expected to help (perhaps more on that later).

I am not good at this either.  It is uncomfortable to probe.  As an application of my ongoing study in Jeremiah I have begun to ask the men with whom I meet, “What is the Lord teaching you out of the Word these days?”  It is a start for me.  It has begun some really good conversations.

I am coming to the conclusion that I am not terrorized by the right things.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Are We There Yet?

If you have been on a trip with another person, especially if that other person is a child or a number of children, you have heard that question.  Usually, often.  Usually, accompanied by, “How much longer?”
You ever heard that question?  You ever ask it?  Thoughts at DTTB.
You were not the first.

Moses beat you to it.  Look at Numbers 21:4 – 5.  It may be the first road trip with young children recorded for us.  At least the Israelites were acting like children.
  • They were impatient because of the journey
  • They loathed the miserable food
Fun times for Moses.

I was rebuked by this passage.  There are many times that I am impatient with the journey on which the Lord has me.  I want things to move quicker.  I want to have a greater impact more quickly.  I loathe some of the things that I have to do to make life work.  It seems that in a lot of respects I am just like the complaining Israelites.

I was reminded by this passage that it is God who is directing the journey, in His time, not mine.  I was reminded that I need to be thankful for what “food” He has provided as He leads me.  I tend to forget that.  I need His reminders.  I am grateful that He is merciful in giving them.

I am not a big fan of fiery snakes.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Wicked

You ever think you are reading about other people when you read the Psalms?  You know the wicked, those that do not believe in God, the ones who are attacking you like they did David.  No?  Well, I have.
Ever think you are hiding something from God?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I was headed in that direction while reading Psalm 10:4 today.  Then the Lord kind of readjusted my attitude…  It occurred to me that when I choose to sin, essentially I am doing exactly what the wicked are accused of doing.  I am haughty and essentially am saying that since God will not be able to see my sin, He is not there…

Wicked.  Essentially practical atheism.  Not a good thing.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Pushed

On Thursday mornings I have two studies back to back.  The first is with a group of guys that have embraced the methods I shared with them two years ago and wanted to keep digging through the Word.  We are in Jeremiah about half way done.
Who pushes you in the Word?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The second study is on line.  It is with a pastor I have been working with for the past two years.  We went through the methods I shared with the first group of guys, and then applied those to Ephesians, Romans, and now Jeremiah.  We are in the first part of the book.

To say that I am challenged by this three hour part of my day would be an epic understatement.  The first six guys are continually pushing for more clarity in the Word.  They are dealing with how to really understand and apply the Word to all aspects of their lives as husbands, fathers, professionals, and men who are striving to represent their Lord in each of those roles.  The dialog is good, the questions are deep, the time flies by…

Then I drive home and fire up the video conference with a man half way around the world.  It is slower.  We sometimes struggle understanding each other, I talk to fast, and sometimes he has to search for the right English word to express his thoughts.  Then he starts asking questions.  They are coming out of a totally different context.  He is dealing with people who have come to Christ out of Islam.  The questions with which he deals are different than the earlier group.  They require me to listen and think in completely different ways.  I have to really work to understand the issues on the surface and behind the questions he poses.  This morning as we worked through the first part of Jeremiah 3 I felt like I had not begun to understand the book and this is my fourth time through it since last fall.

People tell me that to work with people that are not in my culture that we have to be sensitive to what they are dealing with.  OK.  But my experience in the past two years has been that when it comes to the Word, it equalizes the cultures.  If we approach the text honestly, openly, admitting and acknowledging our presuppositions, it pushes us.  If we listen to one another, listen to the way the other person’s gifts and experiences are interacting with the Word, it pushes us.  If we engage with people who do not live in the same circumstances as we do, if we listen to them, embrace their questions and look together with them to the Word for answers, it pushes us.

It pushes us closer to our Lord and each other.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Ground Rule for Struggling with the Word

I hit a passage in Jeremiah this afternoon that made my head hurt.  It seems to contradict several passages in the New Testament, but it can’t.
You ever find yourself struggling to make sense of a Bible passage?  I do...  Thoughts at DTTB.
I chased down several passages and could not resolve the problem.  So I turned to some commentaries that I trust – no help.  They were not even dealing with the issue superficially.  I found a journal article that dealt with the passage but the suggested answer did not cover all of the aspects of the challenges I saw.

I called a close friend who is an excellent teacher and Bible student and we talked it over for about 30 minutes, his solutions were not compelling either.

The problem is that there seems to be conflicting data.  If one accepts the New Testament passages at face value it appears that God reneged on a covenant that He declared to be unbreakable.  Since God is immutable that cannot be the answer.

So the basic ground rule is if there seems to be a conflict I am missing something and, or not understanding something correctly.  It is me that is wrong, not the Word that is in conflict.

There are many heresies present in the Body today.  It is my belief that most of them emerge from not dealing well with situations like this.  Primarily forgetting the ground rule.  The Word is not in conflict, I am not reading the data correctly.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Listening

I was reminded again today that one of the most important ministries we can sustain with a person is to listen to them.  Not just passively sit there and endure what they say but really listen.  Not thinking about what we are going to say when they are finished.  Listen.  Then tell them what they told you.
What is one significant thing you can do in ministering to others?  Thoughts at DTTB.
As a people we are inundated with noise.  Media is on around us everywhere.  In elevators, in stores, in our cars, there is very little time that we are in just quiet circumstances.  Further we are being told information at work and at church and every other venue we pass through constantly.

We do not get a chance to say much.  More importantly we do not get a chance to share often if at all what is or has gone on in our lives.  Thus we are sure that no one knows us.  We are not real sure that we know ourselves.

That is why listening to someone tell about themselves is such a gift.  It helps them process verbally things they may not have previously thought through and it encourages them that someone is taking the time and interest to actually listen and respond.

It is not hard.  You just have to pay attention.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Finished and Rest

You may remember that I am in a study on Hebrews.  I mentioned a few weeks ago the repetition of the theme of Christ’s completed work.  I was scanning through Hebrews 4 this afternoon getting a head start on the study for next week.  I noticed that in chapter 4 the writer talks about both the finished work of Christ and believer’s entering into His rest.
Ever feel like the Christian life is hard work?  Thoughts at DTTB.
There has been a lot of ink applied to paper on the topic of the rest by far smarter people than me.  Tentatively it seems to me that there is some connection between the believer’s completed position in Christ about which Paul spends so much time explaining in Ephesians, Philippians, and most clearly in Colossians.

It seems to me that we are part, that is our completed position in Christ, is part of His completed work.  I cannot become more complete in Him.  That is done.  I forget that.

I begin to try to gain favor with what I do for the Lord.  I know it sounds silly, but there is part of me that thinks that if I am consistent in Bible study, prayer, and other disciplines, somehow that makes me better, more complete.  So I strive.  I do not rest.  I do what the writer of Hebrews is cautioning against.  I set up some sort of system by which I can gain favor and go about busily failing at the system I set up.  Talk about futile.

It seems to me that my personal worship of Christ would be better served to simply praise Him for what He has already accomplished in me.  To rest in His completed work.  To revel in His glory and linger long in His presence without trying to gain favor that He has already bestowed on me.

But I forget.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

How to Think

When I am asked to lead a class, I do not like to lecture.  That is probably a function of my gifts.  I am an exhorter.  I would much rather equip someone with the means to answer a question for themselves than tell them what that answer may be.  But…
Ever answered a question starting with the words, "Well I think..."  Thoughts at DTTB.
There are limits to my approach.  Especially in the communication of emotionally charged or controversial issues.  Typically I want people to share their observations on an issue we are investigating.  But in the case of difficult issues, there has to be some pretty clear guidelines.

I have been in discussions on topics like these that had no ground rules.  In all cases the dialog consisted of people sharing what they thought or what they had heard about the subject with no scriptural validation of their position.

As communities of believers it matters how we think.  To validate that do a search in your favorite Bible app for “think” and “mind.”  Paul’s letters are thick with references to how we think, how and on what we set our mind.  Romans 12:2 may be the clearest, we need to have our minds, the way we think, transformed.

So for us, as believers and apprentices of Christ, what we hear, what we read outside of the Bible, what we are taught, or whatever messages we hear have to be evaluated, tested if you will, weighed against what the Bible says.  In some cases that is not easy.  There are topics that require us to dig deeply not only into the Word but into our prejudice and presuppositions.

It is not OK to leave these difficult issues to the scholars.  We are not going to be held accountable for what they think.  We are going to be held accountable for what we think.  The admonition to have our minds renewed, although corporately addressed, is individually applied.  Thus Luke calling the Bereans noble minded in Acts 17:11, for checking out Paul’s teaching, weighing what he said against what they thought by searching the Scriptures.

We do well to do the same.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Father's Day

Mother’s and Father’s days used to be pretty simple.  I would get a card for my mom or dad and that was pretty much it.

Have you ever noticed that life gets more and more complicated?  Thoughts at DTTB.
None of those are me... I have more hair...
Then I got married and the number of parents doubled.

Then we had kids and now I was a father, my wife a mother, and our parents, grandparents.  More and different cards and gifts.

Then our kids got married.  Now they had two sets of parents and grandparents with which to deal.

Now our kids are having kids.  Now they are mothers and fathers, we are the grandparents, and our parents are the great grandparents… ditto on their spouses’ side of the family.  How do you celebrate all of that at one time in one place?

You can’t.  The number of relationships and relational dynamics are way too complicated to count.  Makes my head hurt.

Add to that the reality of other life transitions and it becomes nearly overwhelming.

Used to be just a card.

This is not really all that spiritual or profound.  I have just been reflecting on where we are in life.  It gets really complicated, full, really quickly.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Body Preservative

Want to show you some things I saw this morning in Hebrews 3:12-16.
If you have any questions let me know in the comments below...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Glory of Futility?

Jeremiah 2:11 – 13 is one of those passages in the Word that I have read and studied many times.  During my fourth time through it this year, in a video conference this morning, I saw something I had missed all the previous times.
Trying to store water in a bucket full of holes is rather foolish... Thoughts at DTTB.
First verses 11 and 13 are examples of Hebrew parallelism.  The Hebrew writer Jeremiah would use parallelism to emphasize a point.  Look at the parallels
  • verse 11 – My people have changed their glory
  • verse 13 – They have forsaken me the fountain of living waters
  • verse 11 – For that which does not profit
  • verse 13 – to hew broken cisterns that hold no water
There are a lot of observations we could make here but I want to focus on two (I was going to say one but I can’t help it).  The first is first half of verse 11.  God was the glory of Judah.  The people deserted their glory, their God.

God is our glory, not our job, not our family, not our land, not our walled cities, not what we have accomplished with our lives, only God.  Everything else in which we put value does not profit nor does it hold water.

Second, there is a contrast that I missed, fountain over and against a broken cistern.  To make the point more forcefully I am going to do a three way comparison, a fountain, a cistern, and a broken cistern,
Fountain Cistern Broken Cistern
Source Storage Cannot Store
Gives Receives Passes Through
Flowing Stagnant Empty
Constantly Replenished Must be Refilled Cannot be Filled
Fresh Stale Dirty
When we base our lives on anything other than our glory, God, we are busily engaged in attempting to store water in a colander.  That pursuit does not raise to the level of futile.  There is no glory in anything other than the Lord.  Kind of echoes John 15:5 and Matthew 6:33 don’t you think?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Spiritually Surprised

In one of Prof’s messages he is making the point that many believers do not really take responsibility for their own growth in the Lord.  He depicts them as saying, “Now I am spiritual, never meant to be, just kind of snuck up on me…”  The obvious point is spirituality is not something that just happens…
Can we get spiritual by accident?  Thoughts at DTTB.

Multiple places in the scripture we are called to work on our spiritual condition, our relationship with Christ.

Here are a few on which you can noodle:


There are more.  Point is, it takes work to live in grace.  That sound incredibly contradictory but at the deepest level it is not.

Take a look and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Foundational Problem

I was reading an academic paper recently.  It was exploring what were some possible explanations for why people are leaving churches.  Especially, younger people.  I think the author may have missed it.
Why do you think people are leaving the churches?  What should be done?  Thoughts at DTTB.
People are leaving, I would suggest, because their faith, their understanding of the Bible is not their own.  They have been trained to be consumers of the faith, study, and understanding of the Bible of others.  Their pastors, their Sunday school teachers, their small group leaders, the authors of Christian books, the speakers at Christian conferences – there are a few voices out there that are trumpeting the necessity of personal Bible study, but their voices are drowned out by the din of the avalanche of Christian publications.  Why study when you can buy 347 books on the subject?

So when life gets tough, when everything is going, you know where, in a hand basket.  It really doesn’t matter that your pastor has really dug into the Word, asked the tough questions, and has applied the reality of the Sovereignty of God to His life.  No one can survive on another person’s solid convictions.  They have to be personal.

So ask.  When was the last time your community of faith encouraged you to Study the Bible for yourself?  No, more than that – with that encouragement, showed you how to study?  How to find the message of a book?  How to approach a topic that is troubling you?  Equipped you with the skills to do it yourself?  In the 49 years in which I have been paying attention, I have never seen it other than the workshops I have lead in the past six years.

We cannot expect people to stay engaged on the basis of someone else’s experience.  More teaching will not solve the problem.  We have to do what Ephesians 4:11 – 12 commands.  Then and only then can the people in our communities really do what the Bereans did in Acts 17:11.  Only then can they be noble minded, and only then will they have a reason to stay.  It is then their conviction.

Monday, June 9, 2014

What's the Rush?

You ever felt the need for speed in Bible study.  You are working through your study, be it a fill in the blank or independent study and you are running out of time.  You have to finish, the pressure’s on, so you begin to push yourself to finish.  After all you have to get done…

Why?
You ever feel pressure to hurry up and finish your time in the Word?  Thoughts at DTTB.
We do not want to be embarrassed, at least I don’t, by showing up unprepared.  Now that is a great reason to rush a study…  Do not want to look bad (take a peek at Galatians 1:10).

Tomorrow morning I meet with three men whom I have known for about a collective 120 years.  They are some of the better Bible students I know.  I may have an advanced degree in theology, but when they are sharing what they see in the scripture, I am taking notes.  Sure do not want to show up unprepared for those men.

Why?

Ditto above…

We are in Hebrews 2 tomorrow morning.  I was sick most of the time from last Thursday until today so I have not spent a lot of time in prep.  This morning I had an early meeting and then took my car in to get fixed.  I had another meeting at 11 at a coffee shop so rather than go home I went to the coffee shop, donned my noise canceling headphones and dug in to Hebrews 2.  Three hours later I was on verse 3.

What?  At that pace I will finish Hebrews 2 sometime around, looking at my schedule, 9 PM tomorrow night.  Got to speed up!  Right!  Normally that is my response.  But not today.  I was having so much fun and seeing so much in those three verses that frankly I did not care if I finished or not.  Frankly, I don’t think I scratched the surface in those three hours.

The Lord showed me much about Himself in those three verses.  It made me reflect on the times I succumbed to the pressure to finish.  I wonder what riches I have missed by not taking the time to listen, to linger, to ask about what He really wants me to see.

So my learning this morning – actually it was a reinforcement of an older lesson – do not succumb to the pressure to rush.  It is much more important for me to see what the Lord wants me to see, than it is for me to “finish” the study.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Bible as a Barrier

A few days ago I listed several men who have had significant input into the core of what I do.  I then gave a sentence or so on what they had done.  I want to expand on one of them a bit today, Larry Whitehouse.
What is the place of the Bible in our helping others in their Christian life?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I mentioned that he placed a barrier between me and what I thought my wife and I had moved to East Lansing to learn.  He required us, well me in particular, to spend a minimum of 20 hours a week in Bible Study.  Additionally, I had to work a part time job 20 hours a week.  Any ministry at Hubbard dorm had to be after that.  So my weeks were 60 – 80 hours.

That was required of all of us who moved there for training.

The studies we did were intense, exhaustive topical studies on the core of the ministry in which we were being trained.  Topics like the promises of God, spiritual multiplication, the Great Commission to name a few.

What did I learn from that?  Well, as I mentioned in the earlier post, I learned that job 1 for me was to be consistently and deeply in the Word of God.  I learned that anything that I do or did in ministry must be grounded deeply in the Word.  I learned that if I was not in the Word that there was not much for me to share.  I learned that I had to train others to study and base their lives on these truths as well.

Unfortunately over the years I have encountered many in both church and para church ministry who do not practice this.  Rather than live and minister from an overflow of their personal time in the Word, they either just dip into the Word enough to get a message or else find passages that support what they have decided to say.

I hurt for these.  They have the barriers reversed.  Instead of the Bible being the barrier to ministry, ministry has become the barrier that keeps them from the Word.  It will not work out well for them or those they serve.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

How to Make a Can

For the past couple of days I have shared a little about how we were prepared at the staff training center at Michigan State University.  I mentioned packages a couple of days ago, shelves and cans yesterday.  Cans are simply different ways of sharing a topic.
Here is some guidance on preparing to help people in their walk with Christ...  Thoughts at DTTB.
It might be helpful to share the outline of a “package.”  It was:
  • Topic
  • Objective
  • Motivation
  • How to Get Started
  • How to Keep Going
  • Evaluation
You may need a bit of explanation on a couple of those.  Topic is self-explanatory.  Objective – needs to be written in terms of the behavior that the package is attempting to create.  Motivation – is what you would share with the individual to explain why the behavior is important.  How to Get Started – is the first exercise you would share with them.  How to Keep Going – is a list of activities/tools that you may use to keep them engaged in the discipline, read “cans.”

The evaluation is what you are looking for to see that it has become a part of their life.

Make sense?  Let me know if you have questions.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Shelves

Yesterday I used the term “shelf” without really explaining what I meant.  In the context yesterday a shelf is a topic.  For instance “Quiet Time.”  On that shelf I develop several tools, small exercises that would help a person learn how to have a Quiet Time.
I need to explain one of the terms I used yesterday...  Thoughts at DTTB.
There may be a devotional book on that shelf.  It may be that one of the things on the shelf is a personal testimony of how quiet time has helped me.  There may be a message that I would recommend or a book to read.

People learn in different ways.  The idea behind the shelf is to have many ways to approach the same topic so that I can tailor time with a person to their best learning style.

When all that is prepared beforehand it allows us to think and engage with the other person without much thought about what we are going to say.  We can listen better.  That may lead, and often does, as I mentioned yesterday, to putting what I was going to talk about back on the shelf and bringing something else into the conversation.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Prepared but Listening

You ever change objectives in mid conversation?  I had several meetings today, back to back.  When I went to the third one I was going to share the details of Entrusting Truth with a former colleague with a closing appeal for financial support.
Sometimes you have to change direction...  Thoughts at DTTB.
About half way into the conversation, there was a check in my heart.  It was like the Lord telling me that I needed to go another direction.  That has happened many times.

In the college ministry, and still today, I have pre-prepared what we used to call “packages.”  Either a conversation or study or some other tool, that deals with some aspect of the Christian life.  For instance, how to have a devotional life, or how to memorize scripture, how to share one’s faith, etc.  There have been many times that I have met with someone intending to share one of these and something in the conversation suggested that what I was planning to talk about was not the need.

At that point I put the package back on the “shelf”.  But since that is not the only package I have prepared, I just reach back and take the proper one off of the shelf and share that.  The person I am with does not know that I just did that.  It looks like I am simply sitting there listening.  I am not only to them but also to the Spirit.

There are two things in operation here.  First is that we need to be prepared to share.  Second, we need to be listening attentively to the people with whom we are meeting to make sure we are meeting their needs and not ours.  It is the whole Philippians 2:3 – 4 thing.  In order to do that we have to have prepared that content.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Question to Ask Your Kids

I had lunch today with a gifted man.  It was a pleasure at multiple levels.  We shared what we were learning of our Lord through His Word.  We shared the challenges of being fathers of ever changing families in an ever changing world.  In the midst of the conversation he shared a question that he asked his six children at dinner last week.
I dare you to ask this question of your kids...  Thoughts at DTTB.
First the fact that they eat together is remarkable.  We did that.  But from the number of our kid’s friends who commented on the uniqueness we seemed to be in the minority.  It is not easy to do with the schedules we tend to construct for our families.  It is worth the effort – but back to the question.

At some point in the meal my friend asked his kids, “What do you think are the four or five most important things to daddy?”  Whoa, talk about exposure.  His oldest is 12 and his youngest 2.  Significant filters have not been constructed in their thinking.  He opened himself up for some… well I will let him relate what happened.

He told me that the in the next few days he came back to his kids and apologized for misleading them as to what was important by his life choices.  Being the best, working hard, fixing the house, doing a job right were good things but not the most important.  He told them that there would be some changes in his behavior toward them.  That he would begin to be more intentional about modeling for them what was truly important.

We talked briefly then about how he was going to introduce consistent time in the Word into their experience.

He took a great risk in asking that question.  It took integrity to listen, process what his kids said, and then commit to make changes to better communicate to them what he really values.

You may want to follow his lead.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Better Argument

I have been studying Hebrews for the past few weeks here are some observations I have made about Hebrews 1.
If you have questions or comments please let me know either by email or in the comments below.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Processing Anger

Yesterday I mentioned the value of anger.  It is valuable in that it reveals goals that we may have that are not Biblical, godly, or Christ like.
When you think about your anger, with whom or what are you really angry?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I was working through some issues I have with anger this morning.  I was journaling – by the way I have found that when I take the time to write issues out, it is much easier for the Lord to get my attention, it slows me down.  I was writing about that which I am angry, making a list…  In mid-sentence it struck me, to the point that I literally stopped writing – the focus of my anger was ultimately my God.  He is the one behind all of the events that have transpired in my life.  So if I am frustrated I am frustrated with God.  If I am angry, yes, it is with God I am angry.

Working through this I changed the direction of what I was writing in my journal and began to complain to the Lord that it was not easy, why did He make it so hard?  About halfway into that sentence, I got a strong reminder of what Jesus went through… He did not experience life as a cakewalk.  As I tried to work through this I saw images of the scourging and crucifixion of Christ.

He led me to Philippians 2:3 – 8; John 15:5; Romans 6:3 – 7, 12:1, 3; and Colossians 1:28 – 29 (see if you can work out the connection between those passages).

So the reality that is bearing down on me is that when I am angry, not only have I chosen to pursue a goal that is not Biblical, my anger is with God.  The assignment I thing I have from this morning is to empty myself of my demands of other people, situations, and organizations and serve them in Christ’s power, without expectation.

I do not really like all of God’s assignments.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Value of Anger

From 1984 through 1987 I had the privilege to be exposed to Larry Crabb and Dan Allender in a number of Institutes in Biblical Counseling and a week at Grace Seminary for a Supervision Seminar.  Subsequent to that I spent a number of months in counseling with one of Larry and Dan’s first interns.  While we were at Dallas Seminary my wife spent a year in counseling with a graduate of their institute.  I have read a lot of Crabb and Allender’s books as well.
What does frustration and anger tell us about ourselves?  Thoughts at DTTB.
One of the main takeaways from that exposure is the “value” of anger.  They suggested that anger is a result of continual frustration.  Working back from that, the suggestion was that we get frustrated when we have a goal that is blocked.  The simple illustration is when someone is in front of you in the coffee line at church and is taking their own sweet time to get and fix their coffee while blocking all other access to that which you need to keep your blood flowing during the Sunday school session.  It is frustrating.  When a goal is continually blocked the suggestion is that frustration becomes anger.

I have tested this in my life.  It rings true.

Then they drop the other shoe.

Larry states unequivocally that a goal that is Godly, Christ like, and, or Biblical cannot be blocked.  So, if that is true, then frustration and anger are – well, he calls them idiot lights.  They indicate that we are pursuing a goal that is not Godly, Christ like, or Biblical.  It was precisely at that point in the seminar that Larry moved from really good instruction to insufferable meddling.

Problem is I have tested that as well.  Unfortunately it seems to ring true.  I am still hoping I can find an exception.

It is in my most important relationships that this plays out.  Do I want someone to respond to me in a certain way or is my goal to engage with them in a way that would honor Christ.  Getting my way in their response is definitely a blockable goal.  My responding to them, engaging with them in a manner that honors Christ regardless of their response is not blockable.

It just requires death.  It requires a ruthless application of Philippians 2:3 – 9.

So my assignment when I am frustrated and, or angry, is to ask what is it that I am trying to do that is being blocked.  Then to ask the Lord what I can do to change my goal to one that is unblockable.  Lastly, I have to actually change the goal.

I do not always succeed.