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Friday, October 31, 2014

All In

David wrote Psalm 119 as an extended meditation on the Word of God.  As I have said before it is a place in the Word to which I return often.  Today was no exception.
All In
I was struck by David’s attitude in 119:145.  He cried with all of his heart for the Lord to answer him.  In the broader context of Psalm 119, it is part of David’s commitment to know and follow the Lord’s Word.  Multiple times David asks for help to obey.  Here he does so with all of his heart.

Think of it.  A man all in on obedience.  A man all in, but knowing that he is dependent on the Lord to enable him to obey.  He poured his soul out, all of his heart to God in the effort to follow Him.

Makes my paltry attempts at obedience look lame at best.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Retail or Wholesale

Tonight was the last night of the current Dads Teach the Bible 10 Week Work shop.  This is the eighth one of these I have done.  I am learning a lot each time I do one of these.
Retail or Wholesale
One of the things I am learning is that not everyone is going to respond to the need to be in the Bible for themselves.  I have a theory as to why that is.  It is not empirically validated, just from observation over the last 30 or so years.
My theory is that the Church had done a really good job of creating retail consumers of the Word and a really poor job of creating wholesale distributors of that Word.

For example, I had a conversation with a friend earlier this week who had shared with an associate pastor of a church in another state how to have a quiet time, a personal devotional.  This pastor began to meet with men in his church and share that process with them.  It has revolutionized that church and that pastor’s ministry.

On the one hand I am greatly encouraged that a simple thing like how to have a quiet time had such an impact.  On the other hand I am incensed that it took someone who was not going to that church to show the pastor the skill, I am further angered that the senior pastor sees that movement in his church as a threat.

Ephesians 4:11 – 16 is pretty clear.  It is not the role of the pastor and teacher to do the work of service, to teach and preach exclusively, to visit the sick, to do whatever the congregation wants him to do.  Ultimately, he does not serve the congregation, based on Colossians 3:17, 23, he is accountable to the Lord not the congregation.  For what is he accountable?  Equipping the saints for the work of service is the clear charge.

Equipping is not standing behind a pulpit in a sanctuary or a lectern in a class room and speaking for 20 minutes to an hour.  Equipping is doing what Jesus, Paul, Timothy, and the others did.  Being with people sharing not only life, but how to practically walk with God in that life.

Having a quiet time is part of that.  If I were leading a group of people and found out they did not know how to meet with the Lord devotionally, frankly, I would be ashamed.  I would consider that an epic fail.

But rather than harp on that.  I chose to do these workshops.  I have done a bunch of them.  The purpose is to equip men to get into the Word for themselves.  Not all men respond.  That is between them and the Lord.  All I am responsible for is to set the table.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tedium

I am type A.  I nearly explode standing still.  My idea of relaxing is to put 50 pounds on my back and go walk in the wilderness for two weeks.  Sitting still is not my thing.  The exception to that is Bible study.  I can sit still for that.
Tedium
Today was tedious.  I resist admin work.  Most of the day I was reformatting documents.  Or getting them ready for when I get translated materials back.

The only way I get through stuff like this is because I am passionate about the end result.  I have found that I can sustain that type of effort for about six days before I have to do something else.

But that is part of this assignment of serving our Lord is it not?  Not everything we do is exciting.  Some of it perhaps most of it is just discipline.  Doing what needs to be done whether we feel like it or not.

Perhaps that is really the height of worship.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Planning for God

I am a planner.  I am good at it.  I scheduled many multi-million dollar projects both as a member of a team and as a consultant.  So when I take on a project, I plan it.  I set deadlines, I list tasks that have to be accomplished, and I make lists of resources that have to be obtained.  I am good at it.
Planning for God
God is better.

He tends to think my plans and schedules are humorous.  Especially when it is one of His projects I am planning.

The current set of projects is no exception.  Proverbs as some things to say about my planning gift.  Look at:
  • Proverbs 16:1
  • Proverbs 16:9
  • Proverbs 19:21
  • Proverbs 20:5
It is evident that we are to plan.  We are to approach an assignment that the Lord gives seriously.  But it is also evident that we are to hold our plan with and open hand.  Ultimately it is God’s plan that will be followed.

So when my first translator does not come through and my fall back plan tells me that they cannot meet the deadline I set.  I have to choose to move my deadline or go with no translations.  It is still a possibility that the fall back plan will not come through.  In that case I have the Bible in that language.  I will dictate through the translator what I want the people to know.

Not ideal, not at least from my perspective, but it is not my perspective that matters.  Ultimately these are God’s projects for God’s people, I am just the very expendable messenger.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Impact of God’s Nature on our Lives

I was reading this afternoon and the last half of three verses jumped off of the page at me, Psalm 89:9, 15 – 16.
The Impact of God’s Nature on our Lives
9b – …your faithfulness surrounds you…  The Lord’s faithfulness permeates His environment, His sphere of influence.  That sphere of influence is infinite.  His faithfulness encompasses the universe.

15b – …O Lord, they walk in the light of your countenance…  As the Lord’s people we move and live in the presence of His glory.  Think of 1 John 1, we walk in the light.  Psalm 27:4, David’s one desire was to behold the beauty of the Lord.  Think of Isaiah’s experience in the throne room in Isaiah 6, and John’s experience in that same location in Revelation 4 and 5.  Not only does the Lord’s faithfulness surround Him, but the beauty of His countenance as well.  All of the glory we see on a day to day basis is but a pale reflection of Him.

16b – …and by your righteousness they are exalted…  I am not exalted by my performance.  Not by my service.  Not by anything that is of my doing.  My exaltation comes from His righteousness.  It is solely because of Him that I have any standing before Him at all.

What do you see in this Psalm?

How Do You React to Failure?

There are two types of failure I have experienced.  First, when I fail.  Second, when someone fails me.  I do not really like either.
How Do You React to Failure?
I failed this evening.  I was responsible for part of an event at my part time job.  We had technical difficulties that I should have figured out.  That caused a break in the middle of a film we were showing that should not have been there.  It bothers me a great deal when I fail others.  It has happened more times than it should.

Last week someone failed me.  There was a project they were doing for me and they were not able to complete it.  Further, my back up plan is not able to complete the project by my deadline.  I have pushed the deadline to the limit but have not heard yet if they can come through.

So, how do I respond to these events?  When I fail, I tend to beat myself up for some extended period of time.  Sometimes, years.  When others fail my response is mixed.  At times I get angry other times, like this week, I saw God’s hand in the situation, and was able, at a shallow level, to accept the situation.

Two passages come to mine.  For my failures, Proverbs 24:16.  For other’s failures, Matthew 18:22.

As I think through this, it occurs to me that to react to my and other’s failure the way those passages require, I must, in the core of my being, believe that God is sovereign over my and other’s failure.  That He is using that failure for His purpose in my and other’s lives.

That does not make this much easier, but it gives me a place to start to resolve failure in a manner more closely aligned with Proverbs 24:15 and Matthew 18:22.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dependence

Yesterday my daughter had her second child, another little girl.  I got to see her about two hours after she was born.  She can’t do much.  She does not know how to eat, or where food comes from.  She is not real sure she likes all of the sound and light.  She can’t walk.  She cannot talk, although she does have an effective method of communicating displeasure.  She is able to eliminate waste from her system, but has no control over the process.  She cannot change her soiled clothes.
Dependence
Left alone she would not survive.

There were three nurses and a doctor or two dedicated to her care.

She did not choose her parents.  She did not choose when she would be born.  She has no vote on her hair color at the moment, which changes later with girls.  She does not get to choose her eye color.  She does not choose what she wears.
She is completely and utterly dependent.

I seem to remember our Lord suggesting that we needed to come to Him like a child (Matthew 18:2 – 5, 19:13 – 14; Mark 10:13 – 15, Luke 18:16 – 17).

Wonder what he meant.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Ground of Disagreement

I ran across a website this afternoon that presented itself as Christian.  There were books and shirts one could buy.  I do not remember how I got there.  The post that drew my attention was on a controversial topic.  As I typically do on those types of sites I skimmed the posts and comments.
The Ground of Disagreement
The issues the blogger addressed is one that is dividing churches and denominations.  A lot of ink has been spilled and is being spilled discussing this issue from many different angles.  What struck me about this post, neither in the post nor the comments, did any one mention a modicum of scripture.  To be fair there was an unreferenced paraphrase of Galatians 3:18 but that was it.

None of the comments referenced any passage of Scripture.

That begs any number of questions but here is the main one, if I claim to be a follower of Christ, and do not reference the Bible as my authority, from where does my authority arise?  I am especially interested in the answer to this question if the position one is taking is counter to what a casual reader would say the Bible says about an issue.

It is OK to disagree.  It has happened for centuries.  It is not OK to disagree on the basis of one’s own idea when it comes to determining what God wants us to do as a people.  Jeremiah 23 is really clear on that point.

If we are to disagree, the ground of that disagreement better be the Scripture.  If one is making their case based on logic disassociated from the Bible, or from some form of adaptation of cultural trajectory, that one is claiming authority other than what God has revealed.

That is not a place one should be.  Even a cursory reading of Jeremiah yields clear data on God’s view of following that path.

Isaiah 8:20 speaks to this as well.  The author of that blog and those who commented on it had no dawn.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Truth about Balance…

Tonight was the ninth meeting of the current session of Dad’s Teach the Bible.  This is the session where as many of my kids that are available come and those in the workshop interview them.  It is typically one of the highlights of the 10 weeks.
The Truth about Balance…
The key guy, the guy who instigated our doing this workshop at this church, came about thirty minutes early.  He and I talked about a lot of things.  During the course of the conversation he made a couple of side comments that floored my minds accelerator.  I am still processing this so I may not share it well, but here goes…

At the beginning of each workshop, session 1, I warn the men that the enemy will do everything he can to keep them from coming and finishing.  It took me years to see the pattern.  Their business will take off, or go down.  Their family will have challenges, or begin to take more time.  It happens every time.  Men get sidelined.

What my friend said that overspun my flywheel, was that in business we can only do what we can do and we have to trust God to make it work out.  That is not how I operated, and I do not know many who do.  If we are engaged in business we tend to bury ourselves in the presenting problems.  We work hard to come up with plans and strategies to get them done, on time, on budget, etc.  It can consume most of the 168 hours a week that we all have, and quickly.

Bottom line we trust ourselves to figure out the problem.

The reality is, we cannot anticipate everything that can go wrong or right.  What we should do is approach our work with excellence, yes.  But we schedule time that is vitally important to our walk with God and the development of our family first, and we hold to that schedule.

That requires us to trust God with the time that we devote to our work, Colossians 3:17, 23.  However, applying those verses is not license to become a workaholic, which, at some level is what I did.  Rather, it is to trust God that the time we invest in the work is adequate and that He will honor that time and we will trust Him with the outcome.

That is really easy to write.  Not so easy to live.  But if we ever aspire to any modicum of balance in our lives, we have to learn to trust God with what we are able to do not what we want to do.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Stunning Overwhelming Grace

Have you ever struggled with your walk with God?  I am not referring to the sins which so easily beset us, rather struggled in the sense that you are working on something that you think that the Lord has led you to do, and yet nothing seems to be coming together.  If you are like me, you may begin to question whether God really told you to do what you think He did.  At the least you may be scrambling to get the assignment completed as I have been for the past few weeks.
Stunning Overwhelming Grace
This kind of thing changes my prayer life.  I know that what I am doing is going to be resisted strongly by the enemy of our Lord.  So I pray against his schemes.  But that does not stop him from whispering that what I am doing is not going to work, or is not really what the Lord wants me to do.

In Jeremiah 32:6 – 44, Jeremiah faced this type of thing.  He was imprisoned.  He was told by the Lord that he was to redeem land that was about to be taken by the Chaldeans.  Jeremiah's default position was to obey.  But, God, in His grace confirmed what He told Jeremiah to do immediately.  Although the prophet had the Word of God confirmed He was still anxious.  In Jeremiah 32:16 – 25, Jeremiah models for us how to respond to this.  He prayed.  Look at the structure of his prayer:

16 – 20 – Jeremiah praises the Lord for who He is.
21 – 23 – Jeremiah recounted what the Lord had done for Judah and by extension himself.
24 – Jeremiah tells the Lord the current situation.
25 – Jeremiah repeats the direction he understood was from the Lord, tacitly asking for confirmation.

The Lord answers.  You may have the answer memorized, Jeremiah 32:27.

So that was how I prayed.

This afternoon the Lord answered with stunning overwhelming grace.  We serve a Lord who does not play games with us.  We serve one who when He directs, supplies what we need.  His confirmation comes in His time.  When it comes, it overwhelms.

Why would we not give our all for a God like Him?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Using Your Study

Yesterday I suggested that in all of the Bible study we do we should follow a three phase approach,
Using Your Study
This is not a good system
looking at a book as a whole, then studying the parts, and finally putting it back together as a whole.  I want to push that button just a little harder.

I am basically a lazy person.  That manifests itself in a number of ways.  One of those ways is a deep hatred of doing something twice.  It burns me up.  A subset of that is that I do not like losing information I have learned.

So I am rather meticulous about filing.  First I had a filing system for my Bible studies and other stuff that fills two four drawer file cabinets.  Since I have been on a computer for the past 29 years that filing system had migrated to my computer and is backed up continually.

This relates to the summary in this way.  Summarizing your study of a book on one sheet of paper forces you to think through your study of that book at a different level.  It forces you to record what was really important about that book for your life and ministry.  It becomes a tool you can use to share with others.

For instance as you are talking through an issue with someone, you will remember that you saw that in that book.  The summary helps drive that into your memory.

Application is the other thing that will do that, but that is another post.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Summary

If you are studying a book of the Bible there are three overall steps you should take.  Most people only take one of them and they take that step rather haphazardly at times.
Summary
The process is:
  1. Look at the book as a whole – that means that you do an overview of the book so that you are familiar with the content and the flow of the author’s argument.  There are many ways to do an overview.  But that is not the focus here.
  2. Analyze the content of the book – this is where a lot of us begin.  We dive into the book, chapter 1, verse 1 without having a grasp of what the book is about.  That means that we are trying to figure that out verse by verse.  Not easy if not impossible.  It leads to wrenching passages out of the context of the author’s argument, among other errors.  Like the overview there are many ways one can analyze the content of a book.  We cover five or six in the Dads Teach the Bible workshops, there are three in my book and workbook.
  3. Summarize what you have learned – this is the step that most people skip even if they have done the first two.  The problem is that this is the step that will cement what you have learned in your study.  After doing an overview and working through each section of the book, as you go back through the book you will see the whole with different eyes.
This afternoon I have been working on a summary of the book of Hebrews.  I saw threads of the author’s argument that I missed both in the overview and the section by section analysis.  Why?  Because having done the overview and analysis, as I again read the book as a whole several times I was more familiar with the parts.  I saw connections that I had not seen when I was looking at the detail of the sections or the book as a whole during the overview.

While I still have work to do, there are vestiges of a theme that I had not seen there before emerging.  My understanding of Hebrews and by extension my Lord is richer as a result.

Don’t leave out steps.  Especially 1 and 3.  If you need help with method, let me know.  I will help.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Faithful Comfort

I was really struggling this morning.  I was concerned about my attitude toward the trips I am taking in the next few months.  The thought had crossed my mind that I was gaining favor with God for doing this word.  That is not right.  Not even a little.  But the thought was there.  So I invested some time this morning praying through that attitude and asking the Lord to search me and make me who He wanted me to be.
Faithful Comfort
Then as I prayed through this my focus changed to all of the unknowns I will face in the next three and a half months.  I began to ask the Lord to help me trust Him for what I do not understand or see.  I then picked up my Bible and something happened that has happened more times than I can count…

For the past several years I have been using the morning and evening readings out of the Book of Common Prayer.  The copy I have is the 1789 version.  Typically I read either the morning or evening passages during my quiet times.  This year I have been reading both.

If you are like me you struggle with what is going on in your life from time to time.  That was what was happening this morning.

Like so many times before I wrote down in my journal the passages for the day and turned to the first one, Psalm 25.

Verse 1- “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
Which is exactly what I had been doing in the time immediately before I opened my Bible.

Verse 2 – “O my God, in You I trust, do not let me be ashamed…
Which is the core of what I had been asking Him immediately before I opened my Bible.

Verse 4 – “Make me know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths…
Which… you guessed it.

It was if the Lord was telling me, "I have heard."

Great peace followed.

Tomorrow is another day, another struggle.  What I am learning is that when I bring my attitudes, even bad ones, and my anxiousness to Him, more times than not He comforts me through His Word.

I know He already knows and I do not know how in the heck He uses this book that was “approved” in 1789 to guide me to passages that deal with my issues in 2014, but he does.

I am grateful.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Generation to Generation

Psalm 145 tells us that we are to pass on what we know about the greatness and majesty of God to our kids, the next generation.  If we pair that with other passages in the Bible, like 2 Timothy 2:2, we are to do that in a way that our kids will remember and pass that on to their kids.
Generation to Generation
The challenge with that is that we have to remember first.

We, or at least I, tend to forget.

So that means that if I am going to share with my kids in a way that they can remember and share with theirs, I have to figure out a way to remember what God has done.  Globally, that means that at least I need to be consistently in the Word.  That will remind me of the overall plan of redemption, and what He has done to provide that for us.

But He has also done much for me.  There have been prayers that have been answered, victories won, and challenges overcome all through His grace.

The only way I know to remember those is to write them down in my journals.  Otherwise, I forget.  So my journals become the means for me to share the majesty and power of God with my kids.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Waiting Patiently

Not really good at that.  Psalm 37:7 tells me that my assignment is to rest in the Lord and wait patiently…  I am a doer not a waiter…  My response to most challenges is to get up, get busy, and figure out a solution.
You ever have a challenge waiting on God?  Thoughts at DTTB.
That seems to be the polar opposite of what is required.

I am supposed to rest in the sovereign creator of the universe, like He would have it under control.  Then I am to wait for Him, patiently to boot.  Wait for Him who one day is like a 1000 years and a 1000 years like one day… I do not have that kind of time or patience.

But that is the assignment.

Sometimes I don’t even ask.  I just act.

Sometimes it is really hard to trust, rest, and wait on someone I cannot see.  But, based on Hebrews 11:1 – 6, I guess that is what faith is all about.

This Christian life thing is not easy.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Comfort Food

Do you have a passage of Scripture to which you turn when you really do not know where else to go?  I do.  It is Psalm 119.  If you have read much in this blog that may not be a big shock.  You probably know this, Psalm 119 is David’s alphabetical meditation on the Word of God as a subject.
Where do you go in the Word when you do not know where else to go?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The Psalm is divided into 22 octets, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  In most of our Bibles each octet has a heading which is the pronunciation of that Hebrew letter.  In one of my Bibles the Hebrew letters are printed, well, all but zayin.  Each verse in the octet starts with the same letter of the alphabet, the one printed above that section.  Look at the picture, you will see that each verse starts with the same Hebrew character אַ, remember to read right to left.
The Psalm is built on alliteration

So as I was waiting for the men to come to the workshop tonight I pulled out my journal and Bible and turned to Psalm 119.  I wrote down the first verse and started interacting with it.  That verse sent me to Galatians, Jeremiah, and I was headed several other places when the men walked in.

Even though I have been through that Psalm countless times, the thoughts were new, fresh.  Further, since the Psalm deals with my passion, being in the Word, it was like eating a plate full of comfort food.  It was a good time.  Short, but good.

If you do not have some comfort food in the Word, find some.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Loving Obedience

One of my weekly studies is in 1 John.  This week we are in chapter 5.  Throughout the study I have noticed numerous allusions and quotations from John’s gospel, starting with 1 John 1:1.  Chapter 5 is no exception.
Ever consider the connection between obedience and love?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Throughout chapter 5 John pulls the ideas from John 13 and John 14 forward into this epistle.  Specifically John 13:34 and John 14:15 – 26.  Look at how many times the word “commandment” shows up in both John 14 and 1 John 5.

Focus for a moment on 1 John 5:2.  In this passage John combines the concepts from John 13:34 and John 14:15 – 26, with stunning results.  Loving one another is demonstrated by obeying His commandments.

At first this seems to move ever so slightly back towards some form of keeping the Law.  But think for a moment about the Sermon on the Mount (which by the way, the mayor of Houston has just subpoenaed).  If we were to follow the exhortations of Christ in that sermon, what would be the impact on our relationships?  It seems to me that we would be pretty much in line with loving each other.

But the great thing is that this close connection between the epistle and the gospel leads us to understand that we do not have to do this on our own.  In and John 14 and and 16 John reports Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit and His description of the Spirit’s ministry to us.

It is only through that power, the power of the poured out Spirit, that we can come close to living the life that 1 John 5:2 demands.  As for me, I am grateful beyond words that I do not have to do that on my own.  I would fail.  In fact I do.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Leading with Questions

Three years ago when I started writing this, I shared some thoughts about superiority of questions over declarations when dealing with our kids.  I want to expand on that some.
Ever find yourself in arguments that could have been avoided?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The expansion is that questions are generally superior to declaration in just about every relationship.  If I make a declaration to a person and they do not agree, that puts them in the position of having to disagree with me.

However, if instead I couch the position as a question, the individual is invited to share without having to disagree.

Quick example.  In a study I am in, one of the men was considering withdrawing from the study.  He was facing a time crunch and felt like he was not able to do the work at the level he felt was appropriate for that study.  As an aside, the study is at a relatively high level.  He asked permission to engage with the study with the understanding that he may have to withdraw later or he would not share much in weeks he was unable to prepare.

One of the men made a declarative statement that he was welcome but if he had not done the work he should just audit the discussion.  For a number of reasons others in the group did not agree.  So they had to vocalize that disagreement to the declarative individual.

It would have been better if instead of the declaration, the individual would have asked something like, “Guys, how do you think we can engage Sam (not his real name) most effectively given his situation.”  We may have come to my friend’s conclusion, but it would have been a discussion rather than a disagreement.

This helps in every relationship.  It is not easy.  At least it is not easy for me.  I have to think before I speak to engage with people this way.  Which, as I come to think about it, is not such a bad thing.  It helps me follow the old advice, “Make sure your brain is engaged before you put your mouth in gear.”

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dependent

One of the project in which I am engaged has reinforced my dependency on others in the Body of Christ.  Not only others, but others I have never met.
Ever think you can get things done in the Christian life by yourself?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I needed a digital version of the Nepali Bible.  That is not something I can run down to Walmart and pick up.  To make matters more interesting the versions that are most easily – and I use that term in the loosest possible way – found are not the version that most believers use in country.

I networked through all of the contacts I have and contacted four people, none of whom I know.  Two missionaries and two staff members of organizations that have ministries in Nepal.

One of the missionaries and one of the organizations were of help.  The missionary at first sent me a version different than the one I was seeking.  I do not read Nepali but one of my friends was able to discern that it was not the right version.  I responded to the missionary and within a couple of days had all the passages I needed.  Yesterday, the staff member from the organization sent me the same passages in the same version.

A student at a local university from Nepal is translating my material.  I offered to pay her, but she refused.  She told me that she wanted her people exposed to the message.

When I get off of the plane in Nepal I am to be met by my translator for the week.  I have never met him.  We spoke on the phone last week, briefly.  Briefly, because not being used to his accent, I did not want to offend him by continually asking him to repeat himself.  I have seen his picture and he has seen mine.  So hopefully we will be able to connect in Kathmandu.

Additionally, there are 14 people and a couple of churches who have given money to finance the trip.
So while I will be stepping off of the plane in about three weeks, it is all of these people in the body that will have made whatever I am able to accomplish there possible.

It is their ministry.  I am dependent on them.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tired

I am really tired.  A few minutes ago I fell asleep on the couch.  I think I woke myself up snoring.  There is a lot going on right now.  I am preparing for three trips in the next three and a half months to countries whose primary language is not North Texan, which requires me to work through translators and or spend a great deal of time with Google Translate to get the materials I am taking in the appropriate language.  Secondly, my friends and family are concerned about the Ebola issues impact on my itinerary.  Third, I am still in recovery from rotator cuff surgery – which I heartily recommend especially if you are into pain.
How do you respond when you are tired of running hard?  Thoughts at DTTB.
As a result of all the above, and especially the last, I am behind.  I am behind in preparation for the four main Bible studies of which I am a part, I am behind in translating some of the material for the first two trips, and I am probably behind in some things I have forgotten about.

It is going to be interesting and exhilarating three and a half months.

I am learning through this just how weak I am.  Just how dependent on the Lord and the Body of Christ I am.  I glory in 2 Corinthians 12:9 – 10.  I crave the prayer of the Body, Colossians 4:4.  I am learning to rest in Luke 17:9 – 10.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Panic Resolved

There is no reason to panic when we trust God...  Thoughts at DTTB.A few days ago I shared I was in a near panic about a project in Nepal.  Yet again, God has come through, big time.  Today I talked to my translator.  We are in sync to get the material translated by Friday.

An hour later, I got an email from a missionary in Nepal with all of the Bible passages I need in the right version of the Nepali Bible.

This afternoon there were three checks in the mail that will help with all three trips.

Yet again a reinforcement of the fact that we have to be assured of what God has told us to do, even when we do not see how it is going to work, Hebrews 11:1.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Other's Expectations

The desire to seek the approval of men is persistent and subtle.  Galatians 1:10 reminds us that doing so removes us from service to our Lord.  But it is subtle.  It is one of the things that the enemy will use to try to sideline us.  Sometimes the pressure comes from the Christian community.
Do you ever find yourself struggling to meet the expectations of your community of faith?  Thoughts at DTTB.
The community of believers expects certain behaviors of members.  One who is growing and growing may be expected to enter the ministry full time.  Problem is that may not be the best use of the way the Lord has invested in their lives.
It may be that He would want them engaged in business.

A doctor who is walking with the Lord may be expected to take a leadership or teaching position in his church.  That may be the best use of his gifts.  But He may also be called to forgo Sunday school altogether and focus on reaching and discipling his peers.  His pastor will never have the credibility or understanding of the life a doctor leads.

It is not what the Christian community expects of us for which we will give an account.  Rather the question will be did we use the investment that God made in our lives in the way that He expected.  That may or may not please our communities.  But after all were are to seek God’s favor not our church’s.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Validation

Many years ago I memorized Luke 17:9 – 10.  The application was that when I do something that the Lord has commanded, my obedience is and was its own reward.  I was able in a small way to serve the King.
Ever overwhelmed by God's grace?  Thoughts at DTTB.
So, I do not expect the Lord to encourage me – not sure that is the right word here but it is the best I can do at the moment.  However, He is a gracious Father.  He expresses His love at times in unexpected and stunning ways.  For some reason He poured a lot of encouragement out on me today.

I cannot share the details for security reasons, but I served a friend in another country by equipping some of his leaders to study the Scripture.  They are in a place that is hostile to Christianity.  He told me one of the men made the statement that if I taught the leaders of that culture to study their documents the way I showed them how to study the Bible, they would all become Christians.  I was floored.

I got a call from a church I have been helping for the past several weeks and they indicated they are going to help with some of our ministry projects financially.

This evening some of the men in the current Dads Teach the Bible workshop were scheming not only how to get other men in their church involved but how to get the material to one of the countries in which their church regularly partners.
They were sharing how the exercises we have been through have changed their approach to the Bible and given them both a deeper understanding of the Word and a deeper desire to share it with others.

The Lord did not have to do any of that.  He poured out His encouragement as a gift.  I remain an “unworthy slave.”  Regardless, today in His overwhelming grace He validated what He has told me to do.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Certainty of False Teachers

With the Wednesday morning study I went through Jeremiah 31 for the third time this morning – not with them but my third time with a group.  I summarized what we have seen in the book through the first 30 chapters as we started:
If it is the case that there are false teachers in the Church, how do we identify them?  Thoughts at DTTB.
All the way through this book the thing that is being emphasized over and over again, there will be false teachers that come up against the people of God.  Those teachers will be in the form of leaders both political and religious.  They will speak in the name of God but not be really sent by Him.  The people will be held responsible for whether or not they follow this bad teaching.  The question becomes then how do we as a people attempting to follow God sort out what is true and what is not?  This is an incredibly important issue.  Acts 17:11 comes to mind, as does, Jeremiah 23.22
The problem is that those who are teaching the truth will be maligned.  The enemy will do all that he can to discredit them.
The other passage that parallels this warning is 2 Peter 2:1 – 3.  There Peter warns, after testifying to the validity of the Scripture in 2 Peter 1:18 – 21, that there will be false teachers in the Church just as Jeremiah experienced false teachers.

We observed that there was a bout a 750 year time period between Jeremiah and 2 Peter.  If both men were writing about the problem of false teachers.  It is probable that we have the same issue today.

This morning we asked the question how do the people of God identify these false teachers.  We came up with an answer or two.  How would you say we are to identify false teachers?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Search For It As Silver

Proverbs 2:1 – 5 instructs us to search for wisdom and understanding as we would explore and mine a silver mine.  Proverbs 3:14 further tells us that the profit of wisdom is much more than that silver, or for that matter fine gold.
We have to search for and cultivate those who will help us grow...  Thoughts at DTTB.
The take away is that we have to search for it.  It takes effort.  In my experience we cannot do that in isolation, alone.  We need brothers on that journey with us.  Sometimes we have to go to great lengths to search and to join in.

I have mentioned before that on Tuesdays I am in a Bible study with five other men.  We do it online.  We are into our third year.  The group has changed a bit, but the basic foundation is that with two exceptions we have known each other for more than 30 years.  There is not a lot of posing in this group.  One who misspeaks will be called immediately…

It is costly to meet this way.  We have to work across time zones and balance hectic ministry schedules.  Several of the men have said that it is the highlight of their week.  We push each other.  We challenge each other’s conclusions and understanding of the Word.  It is more precious than silver…

Do whatever it takes to get in a group like this.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Panic

Ever find yourself behind the 8 ball in the Christian life?  Thoughts at DTTB.You ever realize that you are way behind in a project that you thought was on schedule.  That happened to me this afternoon.  I leave for Nepal on 11/12, but I leave with my wife for a trip on 11/3.  All that I have to have for Nepal and for the Morocco trip two weeks after I get back has to be ready when we get in the car on 11/3.  That is four weeks from now.  Yikes.

The translation for Nepal is in limbo.

There is no way I can do that myself.

This is not news to the Lord.  It is, more than mine, His project, this is not new data for Him.  I cannot see how this is all going to come together.  But that is the last half of Hebrews 11:3 is it not?  I have to have conviction of things not seen.

That is the essence of Hebrews 11:6.  I have to trust Him, in all of this that I cannot control, I have to trust Him.

Not easy for me.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

I Will Be With You…

I was just reading Exodus 3:11 – 12.  I was thinking of the three trips I have coming up to equip pastors to study the Bible more effectively.  The first is less than six weeks away.  There are many logistical challenges that I am facing with these three trips.  Not the least of which is translation.
Do you ever find yourself reading what you want into the text?  Thoughts at DTTB.
So I am looking for comfort.  I was reading this passage and, although I know better, I was kind of thinking that God was speaking to me through this.  He will be with me.  But I know better than to wrench passages violently out of context…

As I was praying just now about what to write, the Lord brought Matthew 28:18 – 20 to mind.  I have not noticed before the parallel between the Lord’s commission of Moses and His commission of the disciples.
  • …certainly I will be with you…
  • …lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
So perhaps I can take comfort.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Absolute Necessity of Revelation

There are a couple of passages that conspire to tell us that apart from God choosing to reveal Himself to us, we would be hopelessly unable to understand Him.  Take a look at them, Isaiah 55:8 – 10 and Psalm 92:5.
Without God helping us, there would be no way we could understand Him.  Thoughts at DTTB.
God’s thoughts are described as much higher and much deeper than we can comprehend.  So we are hopeless when it comes to understanding His thinking.  If He did not choose to explain Himself, there would be no way that we could understand anything about Him.

But He does reveal Himself.

He reveals Himself in His son, Hebrews 1:2.  He reveals Himself in His Word, 2 Peter 1:1 – 4.  Further He has poured out His Spirit so that we can understand what He Has revealed about Himself, John 16:13.

If not for His grace in this, we would be clueless.

Friday, October 3, 2014

It Matters How We Think

Take a look at Romans 12:1 – 2.  Notice that Paul does not exhort us to be transformed by the renewing of our spirit, or our emotions, or our behavior.  It is the renewing of our minds, the way we think.  Take a look at all the references to the mind in the New Testament (click here).  That is not even all of the references to how we think.
How I process life, how I think about it, matters.  Thoughts at DTTB.
Paul’s letters are full of references to our mindset, Philippians 2:1 – 8 is a good example of that.  We are to have the same mind and attitude as Christ.  The one way I know how to do that, is to spend time, a great deal of it, in His Word.  There may be other ways, but I am not aware of what they might be.

There are many opinions about issues.  Only one opinion counts.  The Creator’s.  There are many who work very hard at making the Bible say exactly opposite of what it does say.  Frankly that is baffling to me.  If we have the Word of God, why do we not just accept it as it is?  But that answer is clear.  We saw it yesterday in Jeremiah 13:15 – 17.  In our arrogance, we think we know better than the One who created us and all we can see.

Lunacy.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Listen and Heed

For the past year I have been studying Jeremiah.  For the past several years I have been pulled toward the book.  It was like the Lord was tapping me on the shoulder saying you need to go through this…  But I was already in three studies that required significant prep and could not fit it in.  Last fall it occurred that I was able to pick what was going to be studied in those three studies, I chose Jeremiah.
If we say we are followers of the Lord, what does that say about our relationship to His Book?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I have or am working through the book with four different groups.  So I have been through the book in some detail four times this year.  This morning I was in Jeremiah 13 with a pastor in another country – we study together via video call over the web.

Read Jeremiah 13:15 – 17.  The language reminds me of Psalm 50:1.  Judah is exhorted to listen and heed what the Lord has said to them.  They do not.  They think they have a better plan.  They don’t.  Look at how the Lord’s reaction is described in verse 17.  He weeps because of the pride of His people.

By God’s grace we have His thoughts, His words, in a book.  We can understand some of His nature and character as we read and study this Book.  There is direction.  There are promises.  There are principles for wise living.

If we say that we are His follower, and we are not in His book consistently – well who are we trying to kid?  If we are not applying what we read and study in His book, what is it exactly that informs our Christianity?  If we are not in His Word and grappling with its depth, about what are we talking in our communities?  Our ideas?  Jeremiah 23 has some harsh things to say about that.

It seems reasonable if God made the effort to reveal Himself in the Book that we should be about passionately devouring it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Teaching the Wise

I have written about Proverbs 9.8 – 9 before, but it bears repeating, primarily because it does not happen enough in the Church.  We tend to live in tolerance and coexistence, to quote current bumper sticker theology.  As such we are hesitant to question, challenge, or confront those in our communities.
You ever go out of your way to invest in a wise person?  Thoughts at DTTB.
This afternoon, I did just that.  I met with a wise man whom I hold in high regard.  He had said something in my presence earlier this year in the midst of a group that, in my view, detracted from his overall message and effectiveness.  That statement was inconsistent with the rest of his approach to the Scripture.

This afternoon we met for about two hours, the time flew by.  We talked about a wide range of topics one of which was the statements he made that I found troubling.  I first affirmed him and then shared my concerns.  Afterwards I reiterated the esteem in which I hold this man.

He received the input with grace and understanding.  Perfectly modeling Proverbs 9:9.

That is the way we are supposed to interact as brothers.  That is how the Body is supposed to work.