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Saturday, February 28, 2015

No Half Measures for Pros Only?

Yesterday I shared some observations on 1 Timothy 4.  There Paul exhorts his spiritual son to hard work in following Christ.
No Half Measures
Specifically he instructs Timothy to:
Verse Instruction
6 Be a servant of Christ
Be nourished on the words of faith
Follow sound doctrine
7 Ignore worldly fables
Discipline yourself for godliness
10 Fix your hope on God
Be an Example
11 Prescribe and teach these things
13 Pay attention to reading, exhortation, and teaching
14 Do not neglect your spiritual gift
15 Do not neglect these things
Be absorbed in them
16 Pay close attention to yourself
Pay close attention to your teaching
Persevere in these things

Now Paul and Timothy were the pros, right?  So this focus applies to them, those who are leaders in the Body.  For those of us who are simply members of a church this just does not apply…  Well, look at Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in verse 11, “prescribe and teach these things”.

Timothy is supposed to tell those in the Ephesus church to do these things, and teach them how.  Seems like Matthew 28:20, Ephesians 4:11 – 16, and 2 Timothy 2:2.  We are not off that hook.  We are to be all in.

Friday, February 27, 2015

No Half Measures

Timothy was Paul’s right hand man.  He was the one Paul sent to deal with issues in churches.  The church Paul invested the most in was in Ephesus.  Paul sent Timothy there to lead that church.  At the end of his life, Paul wrote two letters to his spiritual son, we have them in our New Testaments, 1 and 2 Timothy.
No Half Measures
Reading through 1 Timothy 4 this morning I was struck by a number of things.  First, language of hard labor that Paul uses. In verse 10 Paul uses the terms, labor and strive.  The picture there is clear.  This is not the language of a part time believer.  It is the picture of one who has committed to labor, labor hard.  One who thinks only of finishing the task, the race, well.

Then in verse 15 Paul exhorts his protégé to, “take pains with these things…”  That is not the language of half measures, weekend warriors.  No, this is the language of a pro.  Someone who’s entire focus is to do exceedingly well with “these things”.

Then in the last half of the verse he tells Timothy to be “in” them.  Your Bible probably ads a word like “absorbed” before “in”.  The construction in the original is more subtle and strong.  It is the imperative, the command of the Greek, “to be”.  The command is to be “in” these things, the sense is “all in,” complete and total focus.

Paul does not envision a Christian who is part time.  One who is not all in.  One who does not give his or her all to following hard after the Savior.

But there is more here.  Much more.  I will share some of that tomorrow.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

We Do Not Lose Heart – Analysis

Yesterday I suggested that you take a look at 2 Corinthians 4, specifically verses 1 – 2.  There is much encouragement there for those of us who are struggling with raising our kids to be godly people and also those who are engaged in building into the lives of others.

Here is the way I marked the text up in my journal.
We Do Not Lose Heart – Analysis
Here are my observations:
The first word is therefore, followed closely by since.  Those words are structural markers that, in the case of therefore, indicate the effect of a cause, and in the case of since are giving the support for, or the substantiation of that result.  So we have to look back at chapter 3 to understand what is causing this effect.

Paul is contrasting in chapter 3 the ministry of the Spirit with the ministry of the letter of the Law.  His point is that the ministry of the Spirit gives life.  As a result, therefore we, since we have this ministry, do not lose heart.  The reason we do not lose hear is that our ministry to our kids is not about following something like the law, doing all of the right things.  No, rather it is instead one of the Spirit working in our lives and the lives of our children.

Note the phrase, “as we have received mercy,” the word “as” can be comparative but in this case it is also the reason for or substantiation for why we do not lose hope.  We received Christ, we received the ministry to our kids or those whom God has given us to help as a gift of mercy.  It is not something we earn, it is not something have to do on our own, it is a merciful ministry of and through the Spirit.

Then things get really interesting.  In the context of the book there are people who are following Paul around and claiming to be better apostles with a better message than his.  They elevate themselves and criticize Paul in the process.  It is a pseudo- apostolic competition.  Paul is having none of it.

But we are pulled this way.  This is a really interesting construction.  Note the series of nested contrasts, the things hidden vs. in the sight of God, walking in craftiness vs. commending ourselves to everyman’s conscience, and adulterating (interesting word by the way) the Word vs. the manifestation of truth.

When things like the things that Paul is doing with his ministry, things like praying, sharing the Word of God, modeling discipleship, do not seem to be working, or working fast enough with our kids or those whom we are helping, the pressure we feel is to change something.  Do something more creative perhaps.

Paul seems to be rejecting that reaction.  He is sticking with plainly speaking the truth and living with integrity before all of those with whom he is sharing.  No tricks, no gimmicks, no craftiness, no changing the message to fit the circumstances, just sharing the truth.

There is a lot more here.  You probably saw more than I did.  But that is enough of my observations.  What did you see?

The summary for me, is that my responsibility in all of the assignments that God has mercifully given me is to engage with them through the strength of the Spirit, sharing the Word of God faithfully without trying to change the message, and to do so while living a life of integrity in the midst of my children and those whom God has given me to serve.

It is a really high calling but the overwhelming thing is that the Lord supplies the message and the strength to accomplish it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

We Do Not Lose Heart

If you are in the battle of raising children to follow the Lord, there will be times, if they have not already happened that you may feel, like the old Spanish knight, that you are tilting at windmills; chasing the impossible dream.
We Do Not Lose Heart
 If you are attempting to build into the lives of other believers, you will, if you have not already, sometimes feel exactly the same way.

When you feel that way 2 Corinthians 4 is a really good place to get recharged.  The whole book is good for that, chapter 6 will also give you a lift, but let’s park on 4 for now.  The chapter is great but look for a minute at the first two verses…

I am going to show you my markup of the text.  But I won’t comment until tomorrow…  Enjoy.
2 Corinthians 4:1 - 2

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Difficult

I mentioned last month that the wife of one of my mentors died.  This weekend is her memorial service.  There will not be a viewing.  Her body was donated to science.  That was appropriate.  She epitomized – no that is not strong enough, she lived and unconsciously modeled Philippians 2:3 – 4.
Difficult

Her husband asked me to speak.  I am one of, I think five, people to do so.  This afternoon I drafted my remarks.  I am not sure how your mind works but mine works in pictures.  I have images of things that have happened in my life, mental snapshots if you will.  As I worked this afternoon those snapshots of Sharon played over and over in my mind.

As I prayed and reflected over what to say – it was difficult – several times I broke down weeping.  Part of that was for the privilege knowing such a person, part was for the grief of loss.

It was difficult, but the draft is done.  I will change some words between now and Saturday.  But the essence will remain.  It is my prayer that the soul of one who finished well, as well as the One who enabled her to do so will be exalted.

In 2 Timothy 4:6 – 8, Paul tells his right hand man that he had finished well.  Few do.  Sharon did.

Monday, February 23, 2015

What to Do?

If you are like me you find yourself with more to do than you have hours in a week.  In the past couple of days there have been several things that have come up that I have wondered whether I should tackle.  One has to do with this blog.
What to Do?
What I am learning, is that I have to ask.  There have been times when the Lord has asked me to do things that I really did not want to do.  There have also been times that I have done things that He really did not want me to do.

I find that when I move without asking, the results are not all that sterling.  Problem is I am biased to do, not ask.

But like all of the people in Mark 5, I am becoming desperate.  I am more and more convinced that desperation is God’s way of driving me to my knees.  For the sole purpose of sifting through what can be done and what should be done.

I am not good at it.  But I am learning.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Destructiveness of Clichés

It was my first year in seminary.  I did not really want to be there, why is a long, long story.  I had a once a week evening class with Prof, 301, Advanced Bible Study.  I had been teaching this, from his notes and tapes for years.
The Destructiveness of Clichés
One evening he was sharing that at some point in our ministries we would see the Word of God transform people.  I was filleted.  I had already seen this over and over in our ministry.  Yet here I was sitting in the back of an auditorium listening to content I had taught for the last 4 years and being told that soon I would see what I had already seen.

At the break I was in the bathroom and one of my classmates sensed that something was wrong.  He was about 15 or so years younger than me.  I told him what was bothering me.  He had no frame of reference through which to process what I was sharing.  So very nervously he suggested he pray for me.  I said ok; he did.  It made him feel better.  He meant well.  I was not helped.

I was at a conference several years back.  I was sitting alone in a hall.  One of the young believers that came with me was walking toward me with a really puzzled look on his face.  I asked him what was bothering him.  He shared he had been sharing some struggles with someone at the conference with the notion that he might get some counsel, help.  I replied, “He told you to give it to God didn’t he.”  My friend replied, with a hopeful look on his face, “Yes, he did.”  I responded, “You have no idea what he meant do you?”  “No.”  So we talked it through.  My friend was not helped by the cliché.  He was confused.

I have learned that I have to be selective about with whom I share my struggles.  That is tough for me because with a primary driving gift of exhortation, I tend to use myself as an example.  I have found though that more often than not when I share, I am served a helping of Christian cliché as a reward.

Much like my friend at the conference I am told to give it to God, trust God, rest in God, or like my classmate in the bathroom at seminary I am offered a short prayer.

As I think through why this happens, I wonder if it is because we are uncomfortable with the fact that life is messy and does not really work out the way that we think it should.  That rather than engage in the fact that we really do not have answers for the messes we live through, the pain we endure, the desperation with which we crave answers to unsolvable challenges – rather than engage fully in our helplessness to either figure it out or help those whom we love, we respond with a cliché.  It gets us off the hook.

The problem is we need to stay on that hook.  We need to live in the pain.  We need to be honest that we have not got a clue what God is up to.  We do not have answers on why our friend’s child died.  Why our friend’s wife was diagnosed with cancer.  We just need to be there.  Uncomfortable with our uncertainty.  We need to love them.  We need to pray, yes.  But we need to pray desperately to know Him in that situation.

Life, as we know it, is a mess.  Clichés will not help.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Still Helpless

It is interesting how things in our lives cycle back.  About ten months ago I wrote about being helpless.  I still am.  I still do not like it.
Still Helpless
I am a fixer, a doer, an engineer by training.  I fixed three things this morning.  Three projects that required thought and in two cases design effort.  I fix stuff.

There are things that I can’t fix.  Things happen about which I am passionate, yet I am helpless to make a dent in the challenge.

That is neither pleasant nor acceptable for a type A personality.

My 92 year old dad is dealing with cancer, I can’t fix that.  My 4 month old granddaughter’s eyes are not communicating to her brain so she can’t see, I can’t fix that.  Doesn’t matter how much I plan, how much WD-40 I use or how much duct tape I apply, it won’t make a difference.

But there is something I can do, I am just not very good at it.  Pray.

I am in the middle of a study in Mark.  I have noticed that when people came to Christ for help.  They did not use a lot of flowery words.  They just begged for help from One whom they were pretty sure could help.  When they were not sure, they asked for Him to help them be sure.  The common theme is that they were desperate and helpless.

I can do that.  Because like all those people Mark records, I am desperate and helpless.  About a lot more than I shared above.

The hopeful thing is, I am coming to the same person they did.  He did and still does some fairly amazing things.  Healing deaf and dumb people.  Restoring sight.  Raising the dead.  He can probably handle my helplessness and at the same time help me with my unbelief.

That is good.

Friday, February 20, 2015

More on Rest

I have written on this before.  I am not wired to rest.  Out of the closet workaholic.  I am always on.  Thinking about what is next.  How to do something better.  Planning the next project.  A lot of what I do is ministry related.  There is no fee associated.  That is different than when I was consulting.  I could plan, financially.
More on Rest
One of the things that comes with being a faith based effort is rest.  Rest in the sense that I have to learn to rest in the Lord for the day.  When I have spent most of my adult life in project management and project controls, planning, that means that I have to, at some level not plan.

I can project resources.  I do it all of the time.  Intuitively I know when the resources are going to be gone.  But that is not what Matthew 6:34 commands me to do.  I am not to worry, plan, think about tomorrow.  I am supposed to live this day completely for the Lord and His kingdom.  Resting, trusting in Him for what is to come.

That is tough when unexpected expenses crop up, but it does not change Matthew 6:34, I checked, it still says do not worry about tomorrow.

It is tough for me to rest in that…

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Advantages of a Group Bible Study

You ever get stuck on a passage in the Bible you just could not figure out.  I have several times.  Most recently Mark 9:29.  The spirit, demon, would only come out with prayer.  But Christ did not pray…  What is going on?
Advantages of a Group Bible Study
So we were talking about that this morning in our Bible study.  I verbalized the question to the group and we began to discuss the possibilities.  I do not remember who said what but someone said something that triggered a different perspective on the passage.

The father of the boy came to the disciples and asked them to cast out the spirit.  They could not.  He then asked Christ, admitting he needed Christ’s help with his faith.

The request to Christ was prayer.  That was the connection I missed.

The interesting thing to me is that scenario is something that we do nearly all of the time.  When we have problems what do we do?  We try to solve them by either our effort or else we go find one of our friends or associates who may be able to help.  Like the father came to the disciples.

But like the father, it is not until we come to Christ and ask for His help that anything substantive will be done to solve the problem.

This emerged as the different gifts of those in the study were engaged in the discussion after all had struggled with the passage.  That has happened three times in the last week.
We need each other.

We need each other struggling with the Word.  We need each other’s insight.  It is the gift of the Body.

If you are not engaged at this level, you should be…  It will blow your mind.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What is Truth? redux

Pilate asked that question in John 18:38.  His tribe is legion.  From time to time I visit sites that have posts that are written from a Biblical point of view, or at least claim to be.  I scan through the comments.  I am amazed at what people think the Bible says or think is actually a solid Christian position.
What is Truth?  redux
We do and say a lot of things in our communities that cannot be supported by any passage in the Bible.  We follow traditions that have been around for centuries without much thought as to where or why they originated.  While we do this we claim to the world that the Bible is our guide.

Is it little wonder that one who is searching for truth hears that and is confused when they turn to the Bible and cannot find support for those traditions or actions?

By behaving thus we marginalize the Word of God.  We raise our tradition to the same level as His Word.  We confuse people.  We focus them on the wrong things.  In Matthew 15:8 – 9 and Mark 7:6 – 7, Matthew and Mark both quote Christ as He quotes Isaiah 29:13.

Truth is not in our traditions.  Truth is not sourced in our creeds.  Denominations are not the keepers of truth.  Truth is found in the Word and character of God.  We are His ambassadors, 2 Corinthians 5:20.  We would do well, I would do well, to remember where truth is found.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Taxes

For the past several days I have been working on my 2014 taxes.  I hate working on taxes.  I pretty much hate anything that deals with the tedium of accounting.  Which is interesting because both my father and my oldest son are accountants.  I guess that gene skips a generation.
Taxes
The amount of time and effort it takes to comply with the government really bothers me – I would state that more colorfully but this is supposed to be a Christian blog after all.  The only thing that gets me through all of this is Mark 12:17.

I am going to owe money.  I would like to do what Peter did in Matthew 17:27.  I think I will go fishing…

Monday, February 16, 2015

Blameless

Ever stunned by something that you have read in the Bible probably a hundred times?  Suddenly there is something there that you have not ever noticed.  That happened to me this morning.  But something else that has probably happened to you as well happened first.
Blameless
I was reading Psalm 18.  Not really.  I was looking at the words in sequence and the details of about three projects were really what I was seeing.  I started over about four times.  Each time instead of the content of the Psalm the content of the projects was pushing through.

I stopped and prayed for the Lord to help me to break through my distraction.  He did.  Boy did He.

Look at Psalm 18:30 – 32.  Notice how the way of God is described in verse 30 and how God makes our way in verse 32, blameless.  I have read that before.  I did not make the connection.  God makes our path, our way like His, blameless.

My first thought is that was after I came to Christ, that He made my life align with His purpose.  But the more I thought about it, the bigger deal it seems to be.

He makes all of my way blameless, like His.

Think about that.  All that you, well I, have done, all the shame that I have accrued, gone, blameless.  Like His way, because of His son’s blood, blameless.

For grins I just checked the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, the Greek word used to translate the Hebrew, blameless, appears in Ephesians 1:4, 5:27, Philippians 2:15, Colossians 1:22, Hebrews 9:14, 1 Peter 1:19, Jude 24, and Revelation 14:5, mostly translated blameless but also above reproach and without blemish.

We are completely blameless, past, present, and future.  No shame.  In His son.

One other thing.  Note that it is God who does this.  He girds me with strength, and makes my way blameless.  It is not of my doing.  It is His.

This is good news.  This is the gospel in one verse.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Another Level of Being

I work part time at an outdoor equipment store.  We sell relatively high end gear, not entry level.  From time people come into the store that are not really engaged in the activities for which the gear we sell was designed.  For instance they may try on a backpack, in which we will put 20 – 40 pounds, depending on their size and what they say they are going to do, and they will be surprised that the pack is heavy.
Another Level of Being
Most, of the activity for which we sell gear is not pain free.

This evening one of these people was complaining about a sore toe they got while rock climbing.  Rock climbing is definitely not a pain free endeavor.  You push yourself, hard, to the point of failure.  One of the books I read when I was getting into the sport said you have not reached your limit until you find yourself bouncing at the end of your rope and you do not remember how you got there.

One of the guys in the shop remarked after this individual left that doing the things we promote in the shop push us into an another level of being, in that it stretches us beyond what we think we can do.

He is a believer.  So I said to him in response, “Like Bible study?”  He looked at me bemused, I assured him I was not joking.  He then acknowledged that, yes, that is exactly what Bible study does.

It seems to me that at times some believers want to engage with the Bible much in the same way some of those customers want to engage in painless backpacking or rock climbing.  They want to say they did it, but they do not want to expend the enormous amount of effort it takes to get good at it.  They do not want the blisters, the skinned knees, the cuts and bruises, the panic of getting lost in a wilderness, or the fatigue of carrying a heavy pack up a steep trail for 5 hours.  They just want to say they have.

Getting good at Bible study is a lot like getting good at anything else that takes effort.  It takes time, diligence, practice, and coaching.  In outdoor adventures, one can hire people to carry your load.  You can hire a guide to lead you through the wilderness so you do not get lost.  You can get someone to plan the menu, and figure out the logistics and the gear.  You can experience the wilderness in that manner.

Or you can learn to do all of that yourself.

There are several orders of magnitude difference in the experiences of those who hire the guides and those who learn to do for themselves.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Real Love

You know the chapter.  You have heard it read in multiple weddings.  People who are not very familiar with the Bible know this one along with John 3:16 and Psalm 23, which they see behind goal posts at football games and hear at funerals respectively.
Real Love
I am referring, of course, to 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter.  I just checked my email and sure enough got a 1 Corinthians 13 card from one of the vendors whose product I use daily.

My wife prayed through the first part of the chapter before we ate supper.  It is a passage to which we return time and again.

Today it would be a really good idea to pray through 1 Corinthians 13 for your relationship with your spouse, and for your relationship with your kids.

Do it slowly.  One of the challenges with passages we know well is that we tend to fast forward through them.  Slow down.  Really consider the weight of what Paul is saying and how it affects your attitude and behavior towards those whom you love.

You will be glad you did.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Again

Three years ago I wrote about Valentine’s Day, there were some ideas about you could explore the concept of love with your kids.  That post is here.

Valentine's AgainIf you are like me, you have bought some cards and gifts for tomorrow.  It is not a great idea to miss this one if you are dating or married.  I pretty much blew the first one after we were married.

We were fully engaged in ministry training.  We were both meeting with student at Michigan State daily, leading Bible studies, sharing our faith with as many of the 1200 students in Hubbard dorm as we could get to.  At about 8 PM on the way back from the dorm I realized it was Valentine’s Day and I did not have a blinking thing to give my wife of nine months.

On the way home I stopped by a store to get a card.  As you can well imagine, they were picked over.  The only one they had that was any good was a Hallmark Mahogany card.  I got it and gave it to my bride when I got back to our one bedroom apartment.  She was less than impressed.  Neither one of us are of African heritage.

She kept the card.

Every now and again I hear about that card.  So it did make an impression.

Give yourself more time than I did.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Making an Idol of God’s Gifts

Last Sunday one of the messages at our church was that we worship what we fear.  The idea is that what we fear to loose is what we worship.  Be it our jobs, our homes, our family, our cars, our wallet, does not matter, what we are fearful of losing we worship.
Making an Idol of God’s Gifts
This morning I was meeting with a pastor in Jeremiah 24 – 25.  There we read that the Lord is about to use the Babylonians to take Judah out of the land into exile.  We were contemplating what could be the reason that God was taking His people out of the land that He had promised them.  What was up with that?

You ever have the tumblers just click in place?  I connected the dots between the message Sunday and God’s action here.  It occurred to me that the Jews were in love with their land.  They did not want to lose it.  They resisted Jeremiah’s message that they were going into exile for years; to the point of abuse.

They were afraid of losing the land, Jerusalem, the temple.  More afraid of that than they were of losing God.  In fact they had abandoned His Word.  They were comfortable in the land that God had given, comfortable in His gift, but moving away from Him.

So He took the gift away.  He took it away for 70 years.

There is a lesson here for me.  I need not to get fixated on the gifts that God has given me, either material or spiritual, and move my fear from losing Him to losing the gifts He has given.  He will respond.  Hebrews 12:7 – 13 promises He will.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

With Him, Intentionally

I have always known that Christ having the 12 with Him was a key component of Mark’s message, I just did not know how key.  There are at least 19 references to Christ intentionally having the 12 or some subset of the 12 with Him while He was conducting His ministry.
With Him, Intentionally
That is significant.  The gospel is only 16 chapters.  That is essentially once in each chapter and I did not count some that were repeated allusions to this idea.

It is clear that Christ was intentional about spending time with these men.  He was intentional about explaining things He was doing, even when they remained epically clueless.  He intentionally took them to see things that He excluded others from seeing.  He was building into their lives.

Two things come from this for me.  First, if I want to have an impact on my family, my wife, my kids, and the broader sphere of influence I have in my community, I had best make it a priority to spend time with Him.  The only way I know how to do that effectively, is to intentionally make spending time praying over His Word a priority.

Second, if I desire to have an impact on my family and my community, I have to be with them and they have to be with me.  They have to see me in the Word.  They have to experience my prayer life.  My character that has been formed by my time with Him.

Any other effort will fail.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Engaging the Wise

Twice today I have found myself living out Proverbs 9:8 – 9.  The first time was in our Tuesday morning Bible study and a phone call that followed up on some of the conversation.  One of the men shared something that seemed to be construed from the text rather than in the text we were studying.  I challenged him, somewhat bluntly – unfortunately even when I try not to be, blunt I can be.  I have memorized and meditated on Proverbs 15:1 – 2 but it is still a constant struggle – but based on the follow up phone call, he was encouraged.
Engaging the Wise
About 15 minutes later I met with a man who had called to inquire about another matter.  In the course of the conversation I asked the question I have been asking men as an application of my ongoing study of Jeremiah, “What is the Lord teaching you from His Word?”  His answer was much like many I have received, he started sharing things he was learning but the lessons were not associated or from the Word.

After listening to what he was learning – and it was good stuff – I circled back to the original question.  In the subsequent conversation it became clear that he, like most men, had never been shown how to study the Word of God for himself.

As we talked about this he became animated about his desire to learn to study.  We talked through a simple Bible study and I gave him an assignment.  If he responds, does the work, I may have found a wise man.  We’ll see.

I went to talk to him about something else.  As we talked, it became clear that he needed Bible more than that for which we had originally set the appointment.  My role now is to pray that he will follow through.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Redeeming the Time

Ephesians 5:15 – 16 is one of those passages that demands application.  Now there is an app for that.
Redeeming the Time
I used to carry a verse pack with me wherever I went.  When I was waiting for something I would pull that out and review verses I had memorized.  For years I have never gone anywhere without something to read.

That is a whole lot easier to do now.  Smart phones have apps for that.  I use Logos Bible Software for my Bible study.  It is on my iPad and my iPhone.  I have several books on there I am currently reading.  One I would recommend is Scripture and Truth by D. A. Carson.  But, I digress…  The point is with free apps like YouVersion or Faithlife you can have the Bible and associated books literally at your fingertips.  There are others but these are the one's I have used.

No longer do you have to wonder what to do with yourself if you are waiting in line or a doctor’s office.  You don’t have to read three year old magazines any longer.  You can even mark up the text on your phone.

There is an app for redeeming the time…

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sifting Truth

Pastors and teachers are not infallible.  Those who publish books, even Christian ones, fall into that category as well.  So it is the case that your Sunday school teacher, your pastor, the renowned Christian speaker whom you follow, and the various authors’ works you read will make a statement every now and then that will not align with your understanding of Scripture.
Sifting Truth
What do we do with that?

First thing we have to do is what the Bereans did in Acts 17:11.  We have to check out what that individual says against the Word of God.  We should be doing that as a matter of course.

The Sunday message or the Sunday school lesson should not be our primary input in our walk with God.  That should be a supplement.  A conversation, albeit internal, between the pastor or teacher’s study and ours.  If we find that their study has become our primary input.  Some things should change in our priorities.

If we find something that does not seem to line up with our understanding of Scripture in the message, lesson, or book, the first question should be am I understanding the Bible correctly.  It is possible that I may be in error.  Second, I need to reexamine what the individual said I may have misconstrued or misunderstood what was shared.

If after that there still seems to be questionable content, if you have access to the individual, the next step is to discuss it with him.  It may have been simply an unintentional misstatement, or your input will serve that individual in their pursuit of knowing God through His Word.

If you do not have access, resist the pull to discard all that was shared by the individual.  Rather, discard the error and choose to embrace what they said was true.

The point here is that in all cases we need to be interactive listeners and readers.  We cannot accept all that we hear or read uncritically.  There is too much at stake.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Hitting a Wall

This blog emerges from issues with which I am dealing.  I have been dealing with a particular issue for the past several months.  Typically, each day I end up writing about what I have been thinking about for most of that day…  Before I start writing I do a quick search of the past posts to make sure that I am not repeating myself…
Hitting a Wall
Today every topic I wanted to explore was already written…  So rather than rehash what I have already said…  Here are some blasts from the not so distant past…

The importance of defining terms in any discussion of controversial issues…

The necessity of admitting what you believe on a topic before you study it…

Let me know what you think about these.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Dishonoring the Body

You ever have your dad tell you that you want to act in a way that does not besmirch the family name?  Psalm 69:6 pretty much says the same thing.  The notion is pretty clear we are to behave in such a way that we do not bring disgrace to the name of Christ or cause any of His followers dishonor through our actions.
Dishonoring the Body
There are some people who apparently have not read this verse.

Thinking through this passage I was reminded that Christ told us that we would not be well thought of as His followers, Luke 6:22, 26; Matthew 10:16 – 25.  Peter also tells us that we are going to suffer for doing what is right, 1 Peter 2:12, 20, 4:14.

We are to choose to behave in a way that does not bring disgrace to Christ or His Church, but we will suffer for doing so.

This Christian Life thing is not for cowards.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

It is not about…

The first four words in Rick Warren’s, The Purpose Driven Life, pretty much nail it, “It’s not about you.”
It is not about…
Somehow we seem to get that mixed up.  We think, well I do, sometimes, that God does all that He does for our benefit.  I was reminded of that yesterday in Ezekiel 36:21 – 32.

Twice in that passage God declares to Israel that He is not acting on their behalf but because His name has been smeared.  There wasn’t anything about the people that suggested that they should be redeemed.  No, He redeemed them because of His agenda.

Sometimes we tend to think that God is there only for us.  He is there to give us what we want when we want it.  Some branches of the theological tree are more in this camp than others.  That does not seem to be the message of Ezekiel here.

We are in His story.  This is about Him.  He acts based on His interests; consistent with His character.  It is about Him, not us.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Warrior’s Book

I really like David Murrow.  If you are not familiar with his book Why Men Hate Going to Church , I would highly recommend it.  Recently he wrote his blog his take on why most men do not read their Bibles.  While my experience agrees with his assessment, I don’t get it.
The Warrior’s Book
I was reading and thinking through Psalm 63:1 – 2 this morning and David’s post was sort of playing in the background of my consciousness.  David is in the wilderness hiding from Saul.  He is a warrior.  He has killed 10,000 Philistines, he has attracted a group of mighty men, warriors all.  As a king he is a fearsome leader of his armies.  He is not the only one in the Old Testament who was that type of man.  Abraham, Joshua, and Caleb.  There were some kick butt judges, Gideon leaps to mind and Samson.  Saul was a disaster as a king but a warrior nonetheless.  The prophets were tough as nails, especially those who stood against the nation’s apostasy.

The Bible is full of writing by warriors to warriors.  But David is correct men, for the most part, do not engage.  I find that fascinating.

We find women all over the book.  That is interesting because the book is full of battles, gore included.  A book written by men who were warriors attracts women?  What is that about?

I wonder if it is because we have not explained the Book to men very well.  I wonder if it is because we suggest reading it without giving much guidance as to where a good place to start might be.

I do not find it boring at all.  Challenging, yes.  Difficult to understand, sometimes.  But it is written by warriors about a God who is also a warrior.  I want to know that Warrior better.  So I study…

Calling the Crowd

I noticed something in Mark 7 this afternoon.  One of the scenes that is repeated in Mark is Jesus withdrawing from the crowds and focusing on the 12.  One of the few places I can find that practice is different is Mark 7:14 – 15 (I wrote about the previous 13 verses a couple of days ago).  Here instead of leaving the crowd He calls the crowd to Him.
Calling the Crowd
What would be so important that Christ would behave differently with the crowd and that it would be so important that Mark would record the incident?

In the context the Pharisees are questioning Him about not following the Law about eating incorrectly.  Here Christ states unequivocally that it is not what goes in but what comes out that is the problem.  Think that through.  The rules were externals.  Things that the leaders added to control behavior, specifically, what and how food was consumed.  But that is not the problem.  The problem is a heart condition.  The people did not need rules to follow, they needed to be remade, reconstituted, reborn.  No rule, or law was going to do that for them.

In fact the rules would give a false impression that they were actually pleasing God by following them.  Totally missing the real issue.  That was such an issue for Christ, that He, again this seems to be unlike His usual behavior, calls the crowd to them to set the record straight that this is not going to work.

We need Him.  His work.  His life.  That is all.  We have to focus on knowing Him, embracing fully the life He has provided through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  If we add to that, we are clouding the issue.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Fear and Trust

Psalm 56:3 – 4 showed up on my reading list today.  I have this passage memorized, many years ago, memorized.  So I focused on what I could see there with different eyes.
Fear and Trust
The original is here
In the past months I have been in countries that are depicted as hostile to Christianity on the map above.  It occurs to me that putting my trust in God to get over the fear of sharing the gospel with a neighbor, is orders of magnitude different from trusting God when someone is threatening to remove my head from my shoulders if I do not choose to renounce Christ.

The sequence here is intriguing to me.  David says that he moves from fear, to trust, to no fear.  The response to fear is to choose to trust.  To put one’s trust in God.  That led me to wonder the source of fear.  It would seem to be trust in the wrong thing, not God.  These are some possible things I may be trusting in if I am in fear…
Fear of Trust in
Illness Doctors or Medicine
Rejection In those who reject or my ability to engage with them in a manner that does not result in rejection
Jail My jailer, my ability to avoid jail, or my ability to get out through my efforts or my friends’ efforts
Death the one who has threatened, or that I can reason or talk my way out, or my innocence

One thing became clear.  Regardless of the issue, I must be ready to trust God.  That does not mean that the event I initially feared will not occur.  Hebrews 11:6 becomes operative in the experience.  My trusting in Him makes the experience a reward.

I read or heard in a message some time ago that one of the things that leaders of those who are undergoing persecution have said is that they should have prepared their people to suffer more effectively than they did.

In this country, we are incredibly sheltered.  That may not last.  Preparation may be a good idea.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Invalidating the Word of God

Earlier this year I wrote about Mark 7:9.  I am going back to Mark 7 again.  I have said several times here that repetition is something to which we need to pay attention.  Look at the concept of tradition in Mark 7:1 – 13:
Verse
5 tradition of the elders
7 precepts of men
8 tradition of men
9 your tradition
13 your tradition

Notice in verse 9 and 13 what tradition does, it sets aside the commandment of God and it invalidates the Word of God.

How?

When we come up with ideas that are not sourced in or validated by the Word of God and we hold those ideas closely, we are putting those ideas ahead of God’s Word, setting aside the commandment and invalidating God’s Word.  If we base our lives and or ministry on anything other than the Word, we have done what Mark 7:1 – 13 says.

It does not matter how old the ideas are.  It does not matter who came up with them.  If they are not validated by the Word of God, they are setting the Word aside for man’s idea.

This has happened before, Jeremiah 23:21 – 32 records for us a time when the leaders, prophets, and priests were sharing their own ideas, dreams even stealing those ideas from one another rather than sharing the Word of God with the people.

It is a good thing that does not happen today.