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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Courage of Trust

I am working through Daniel for the Wednesday morning Bible Study.  Working through the second chapter I began to notice a theme.  Daniel was one courageous dude.
The Courage of Trust
Think about this for a minute.  He has been uprooted from his land.  He does not have access to the temple, nor is there any indication of access to the Torah for him and his friends.  So there is no data that indicates that he had any other spiritual input other than the fellowship of his friends.

Yet as a young man he takes initiative to keep the Law of God even in the midst of an impossible situation.

Further when Nebuchadnezzar ordered the execution of Daniel and his friends, Daniel walked up to the executioner and asked why.  I mean, really?  Then, topping that he goes directly to Nebuchadnezzar, who ordered his execution, to ask for some time to consider his issues.

Thinking through this it occurs to me that Daniel’s courage was based on his trust in his God.  His certainty that God would come through in impossible situations allowed him to engage confidently and courageously with the reality that he was a prisoner of war with a death sentence hanging over his head.

I have some challenges in my life.  None as overwhelming as Daniel’s.  I am challenged and encouraged to trust God to deal with what looks to be impossible.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Futility of Increasing Guilt

I just got off of a conference call.  Part of the discussion was how do we as believers encourage other believers to get more deeply involved with the Word of God.
The Futility of Increasing Guilt
One of the points made was that simply telling people they need to do more in the Word of God does not work.

Why?

To tell someone that they need to be better at something and not tell them how is just increasing their level of guilt and frustration.  To require something without equipping is to ensure failure.

So if the objective is to get people into the Word more deeply, we have to show them how.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

In Christ

This morning was the last Sunday for the class I have been facilitating on Free Will vs Predestination.  As I promised at the beginning of the cycle, we did not solve the issue; but then that was not the point.
In Christ
The point was why do we believe what we believe?

The great thing was that I sensed that people left with more questions than when the class started.  Which was one of my objectives.

One of the questions that came up at the end of the class was one of the more crucial questions with which all believers should grapple.  One of the ladies asked something about how – well I can’t remember the question, and I went back to check the recording and realized that my recorder did not get the class, so I do not remember what she asked, but it is the answer I want to share.

The answer to the question was that as believers we are complete in Christ.  That is true positionally.  Most of us don’t get that and thus we spend an enormous amount of energy trying to gain Christ’s favor when He has already completed us in Him.

This would be a great study for you.  Start in Ephesians 1 and then take a look at Colossians 1.  There is a really significant thread through Colossians starting in 1:28 then 2:9 – 10, and ending in 4:12.  If you have a Bible program that allows you to check the Greek, do so, if not go to Blue Letter Bible, look up the verses and click “tools” to the left of the verse.

If you have questions do not hesitate to let me know.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Work or Abide?

A few weeks ago I was looking at Galatians 5:16 – 24.  In my journal I listed out the works of the flesh vs the fruit of the spirit.  The fruit is nine fold.  The works?  Well there are 15 of them listed.
Work or Abide?
Working those 15 will not get one into the Kingdom.  Having the fruit – there is no law against one who has that fruit.

It seems that we work for the deeds and we abide for the fruit.  One has real benefit the other a significant downside.

I choose abide.  But, there are many times that I want to work at it.

Never works.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dying for Fruit

So, John 12:44 was in my reading today but I read John12:24 instead, just after I responded to Chuck’s comments on yesterday’s post.  I cannot tell you how many times I have read the “wrong” verse and it dealt with issues I was facing.  Ditto today.
Dying for Fruit
The message in John 12:44 is that to be fruitful we must die.  That’s harsh.  The interesting thing is what other passages say about this death thing.  Romans 6:3 – 7 tells us that if we have trusted Christ, we have been baptized into His death.  So we are dead.  Colossians 3:1 – 4 tells us the same thing.

The interesting thing is that in Romans 6:11 and Colossians 3:2, Paul tells us that we are to think differently because of this truth.  In Romans 6:11 we are to “consider” ourselves dead to sin.  It can be translated reckon as well.  In Colossians 3:2 we are to set our minds on above.

That is hard for me to grasp.  Trusting Christ causes me to die and my life becomes His.  All then I have to do is remember that.  I must intentionally consider myself dead, and set my mind on the above, which results in fruit.

Sounds easy.

Doesn’t seem to be in practice.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fruitless?

I have been in Mark 11:12 – 25 for the past several weeks.  I have always wondered at Christ’s reaction to the fruitless fig tree.  I invested some time thinking through this and I might have an answer.  Not sure, but I might.
Fruitless?
Thinking through this two passages came to mind, John 15:1 – 16 and 2 Timothy 4:1.  This is in the last week and in the same time frame as John 13 – 17.  I wonder if this is an object lesson, a guided experience on fruitfulness for the twelve and by extension us?  When you throw 2 Timothy 4:1 into the mix it seems to make better sense.

Could it be that the Lord is setting up His discourse in John 15:1 – 16 on fruitfulness with this interaction with the fig tree?  Could it be that He is emphasizing that there is no season for abiding, that we are expected to abide in Him at all times?  If that is the case, then according to His statements in John 15:1 – 16 we will be fruitful, able to engage in proclamation in any season.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The List

Have a do list?  Does it list the projects you need to do?  Does it ever get shorter?  At night mine seems to grow.

Then when something does get done, it seems like a bigger task is added.
The List

It can – no it does get draining.

Then to top it off, things seem to break.  Expensive things.  So then one of the tasks become get the expensive thing fixed and then find the money to pay for the fix.

So the list never seems to get shorter.  In the midst of all of that I am supposed to seek first His kingdom, Matthew 6:33.  I am supposed to have a quiet time, and study my Bible.  It becomes easy to put some of those urgent things on the list ahead of the important things I am supposed to do.

I am finding when I lapse into that behavior, not only does the list seem to grow longer, even though I got something off the list, it took a lot out of me.

When I do the important first, things seem to go smoother.

You would think I would learn from that.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tools

For about the past year I have been working with a pastor in another country, and a group here, Mentorlink to translate Days with Jesus into a tribal language.  Today the project finished.  All that is left is the distribution of the material.
Click to see a sample
Click here to see a sample of what has been translated.
What is cool is that this will go on feature phones and can be shared phone to phone via Bluetooth.  In other countries this tool has gone viral quickly.  It allows people with low literacy to interact with the Bible.

It has been a while to get this done.  But I am excited about the possibilities.

Our conference call this morning spanned 6 time zones.  I meet with men each week through video conference to study the Word.  In a few weeks we will launch training for a ministry I am involved in, on line.  I have met with men in Pakistan and Moscow online.

The project we just finished has the potential to reach 1000’s of people in the target country.

The tools we have at our disposal at this time in world history are phenomenal.  We can literally meet one on one with anyone in the world that has a feature phone with a camera.

The only barrier is our imagination.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Conversing with Secondary Sources

There are a couple of things that I emphasize in helping men with Bible study.  First, before you study a book, you should do an overview of that book.  There are several elements to the overview, I won’t go into that now, unless asked, but the main idea is that you know what the book is about before you start digging into the sections and verses.  If you know the thrust of the author’s argument, you are less likely to take something he says out of context.
Conversing with Secondary Sources

The second, is to avoid secondary sources before you finish your study.  Secondary sources are anything that is not the text of the book you are studying.  By the way just because something is printed in your Bible, does not make it the Word of God.  If you have a study Bible there is usually a line at the bottom of the text below which the “study” notes are printed.  For your reference, the text above that line is inspired by God, the stuff below the line is not.  So commentaries, introductions, Wikipedia (the source of all truth), etc. are all secondary sources.

The reason you avoid them, if you have not yet done your study, you are not equipped to evaluate what they say.  Rather, you will more than likely take their position as true.  It will be more difficult to see anything else but their opinion in the text.

With that said, I am just about finished with my overview of Daniel.  Years ago I purchased John F. Walvoord’s, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation .  It is a commentary.  Walvoord invested most of his life in the study of Biblical prophecy.  While I have had the book for nearly 40 years, I have never read it; still have not.  But, this afternoon I located the book in my library and got it ready for when I need it for this study.

In my study of Daniel this morning, looking at the repetition in the first 4 chapters, and the content of the prophecies at the end of the book, one theme began to emerge, God’s sovereign rule over leaders, wars, politics, the course of history, and the final disposition of this world.

In Daniel the Lord is represented as the one who sets men on the throne as rulers and subsequently removes them.  He is displayed as the one who is in control of the rise and fall of nations.  He is credited with the plan and execution of what will transpire in the future up to and including the end of this world as we know it.  Bottom line, this is His deal, He is calling the shots, He is in control.

I skimmed the first few pages of Walvoord’s book after I found it.  One of the first things he said in his introduction to the book, was in essence identical to what I just said.  I was proud of him for getting it right.

No really.  I had just come that that conclusion, I have the passages marked and can go back and demonstrate from Daniel all I just said.  So when I read what Walvoord wrote, I was in dialog with him.  I was evaluating what he wrote based on what I had studied in the book.  In fact if he had not mentioned that as a theme, I would have wondered what else he might have missed.

So now as I work through the book and finish my overview, I know that I can continue to have a conversation with him.  But that conversation will turn into one of his lectures if I do not do the work first.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Insecurity

A couple of days ago the post here focused on 1 Corinthians 10:12, that if we think we stand we are about to fall.  Let’s expand that a bit…
Insecurity
Isaiah 55:8 – 11 tells us that we are not ever going to understand everything about God.  We can’t he is infinite and eternal, us, not so much.  He created us.  He created everything around us.  All of our scientific enquiry is attempting to understand what He spoke into existence.  The notion that we are going to understand what He has done is at a significant level, absurd.

He has chosen to reveal Himself to us.  He did it in two ways.  First through inspiring men to write about Him in languages that have vocabulary and grammar that contain rational propositions that we can study.

Second, He gave us His Son.  He came and lived among us and demonstrated what God’s nature and character was like.  We did not like what we saw, so we killed Him.

Fast forward a couple of thousand years.

We still have what He inspired men to write.  But we also have His Spirit, whose job it is to reveal that we really do need Him, and to lead us into understanding the truth He left us.

But there may be a problem or two.

As we begin to embrace what He has revealed about Himself in the Word He left, through His Spirit He poured out, at times we may think we have got it.  We may be pretty sure we understand something, so well in fact that we begin to build our faith on that understanding.  That puts us in a rather precarious position.

We have already said here that His thoughts are above ours.  That being the case it is certain that I will never completely understand even the things I think I know.  As Paul says in Philippians 3:15, I have to keep pushing.

In the past months I have seen or been told of several examples of people who stood on their understanding.  When what they held to be true was challenged, they either reacted emotionally and distanced themselves from those who may have been questioning their positions, or else they became overpowering evangelists for their position.

Neither behavior seems to be a proper reaction.  In Romans 12:3 – 13 we read that God has given us gifts.  Those gifts are meant to build each other up.  The tacit message is that we need each other.  We need each other’s insight to understand more fully what the Lord has revealed about Himself.

When what we think we know is challenged, our reaction should be, perhaps, rather than to defend or restate our position, to ask for the Biblical basis of the position that has seemingly countered what we think is true.  If that information cannot be given, we are outside the boundaries of the intent of this post and we may deal with that another time.

If it is given, our response should probably be to look intently at the evidence given to see if there is something we can learn.

I would submit that to respond any other way is to respond in insecurity.  Our security should not be based on what we understand about our Lord, but on Him.  Stipulating that He is infinite, our understanding of Him will be necessarily limited and thus continually in need of adjustment.

He does not change.  In that is our security.

Our understanding of Him should continually grow, we cannot ever be satisfied.  As John the Baptiser said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  (John 3:30)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

History

I am not a fan.  In college I had a history professor who was able to put us in the 4th stage of anesthesia within 5 minutes of entering the classroom.  He ALWAYS walked into class, took off his Stetson and placed it on the podium to his left.  He then set his notebook down, opened it to where he left off the previous period, and began reading his notes, NEVER looking up…  I was usually asleep before his hat touched the podium.
History
I could not have cared less about the dates, people, events, he droned on and on and on and on and on and on about.  I was a Civil Engineering major…  I was into concrete, steel beam design, soil mechanics…  But I had to pass this…

Once I roused from slumber long enough to ask him – in itself a risk, for most of us thought he was a carrier of narcolepsy – how to do better in his class.  He told me to find something in which I was interested and then try to follow its development through history…  Epically unhelpful.  I would have to dig through my files to find my transcript but I am pretty sure I eked out a C in his embalming room.

Fast forward 46 years.  I am studying Daniel.  I spent about 3 hours this morning constructing a timeline for the Babylonian empire, indicating the reigns of each of its emperors, including the first few Medes, and tying the content of Daniel to that timeline.

It gave me insight into the structure of the book.  I saw things I would have missed otherwise.  I had to dig through several resources to figure out which ruler was when, and their names are not always spelled the same.

I guess the somnambulist was right after all.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Arrogance Falling

There are times when I am very sure of myself.  There are subjects which I have studied about which I am confident.  There are other times that I impute the confidence I have in one subject to a subject in which I am not well versed.
Arrogance Falling
The problem with the second position is obvious.  But there is a problem with the first as well.  1 Corinthians 10:12 tells us that if we think we stand, we are probably about to fall…  There is always someone who has studied more.  There is always more that I can learn.  There will always be holes, deficiency in the things I think I know.

If I do not acknowledge that, continually I am in danger of a fall.  I need to be like Paul, in Philippians 3:15.  Though I may know some, there is more to know.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Persistence of Error

On Thursday mornings I meet with a pastor in another country via webcam.  We have been doing that for two years.  This morning we were in Jeremiah 29.
The Persistence of Error
One of the observations my friend made was that even though the leaders, prophets, and priests were proven wrong by the reality of Babylon’s carrying Judah into captivity, they continued to prophesy about their situation.  They resisted and contradicted Jeremiah’s every word.

As he shared that I began to think about how we do similar things.  There are those who teach that every disease we have is a result of a lack of faith.  That if we believe aright, we will be healed of our diseases.  Those people seem to have overlooked Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 12:7 – 10, or else they believe as they tell those who are not healed that Paul’s faith was somehow deficient or misplaced.

The leaders, prophets, and priests continued to stick with their message even after it had been proved by the actual events that they were at a minimum incorrect.  But rather than acknowledge their error and Jeremiah’s obvious accurate prophecy, they continued to stand against him.

We do this.

Not wanting to lose face we will stick by a position that has proven erroneous.  Even though the data does not support what we firmly support as true, we will stick by our guns, not wanting to appear ignorant or incompetent.

Bottom line that is simply arrogance.  We know better.  We are right, have to be, our image demands it, even though nothing we assert seems to happen.  I have seen it in business and in church.

Arrogance is sin.

Not to acknowledge that sin and repent, according to 1 John 1:5 – 10, is calling God a liar and proves that we do not know the truth.

It would seem a better approach is to approach life holding our positions much more tentatively, knowing that there is much that we do not understand.  Open to learning and quickly admitting and repenting from error.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Seeds

Have you ever had a garden?  If so you have prepared the soil and then sown the seeds for the vegetables you wanted to grow.
Seeds
Then every day you went out to dig up those seeds to see if they had begun to grow.  You really put effort in to help them sprout.  Further, you kept loosening the soil over the seeds and reached down and pulled the shoots up through the earth.

Right?

Of course not.

You may have watered the garden and pulled a few weeds but you had no control over the seed sprouting and growing.

When it comes to our kids, we have the same issues.  The lessons we want them to learn, the things we share with them are like those seeds.  Many times though we work really hard to help those seeds sprout in our kids or the people God has brought into our lives to help.  It doesn’t work any more effectively in people than it does in our garden.

We just plant the seeds and wait for the growth.  Mark 4:26 – 29 tells us this is our task.  We do not know which seeds we plant will sprout, nor do we know when.

Some we may never see grow.  Some will not only grow but flower and produce seeds that are planted in places we will never go or see.

Our job is to sow.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Accountability

Not a big fan of that word, especially as it is commonly used in many men’s ministries.  It feels to me like what John Eldredge says, sin management.  That is if I get enough men to ask me enough questions that will somehow keep me from sinning.
Accountability

The problem with that is my creativity.

Further, it seems to me that piling up accountability partners is much like trying to deal with my latent sin nature with more flesh.  I don’t have enough so I engage other peoples’ flesh to help me do a better job with mine.

Paul in Ephesians 6:10 – 20, tells us we are to arm ourselves.  We are told to encourage one another daily, Hebrews 3:13.  We are told we are to correct those who are in sin, Galatians 6:1, 2 Timothy 2:24 – 26.  But sometimes it seems that we may be encouraging and correcting slightly or a lot off target.

I wonder if it would not be better to encourage and challenge one another about our study, understanding, and application of God’s Word to our lives.  That seems to be what Paul is doing in Philippians 3:7 – 16, is it not?

Shouldn't our conversations take on the flavor of Ephesians 4:29?  Shouldn't we, like Paul did with the Thessalonian believers, push each other with his exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 4:1, that we push each other to excel still more?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

How Should We then Think?

For the past several weeks I have been leading a Sunday school class at our church.  The topic is “Free Will or Predestination.”  If you follow theology at all you will know that topic has been a source of division in the Body of Christ for millennia.
How Should We then Think?
It was never my intention to resolve the issue in the 8 weeks I was allotted for this class.  Rather, it was my objective to challenge those who dared to attend to think, and more importantly to think Biblically.  I am not sure how effective it has been.

We attended a Covenant church.  One of the legends about that denomination is that they continually ask, when it comes to issues of faith, “Where is it written.”  So, in keeping with that legend, and in alignment with my objective for the class, one of the rules for the class was that if we stated an opinion it had to be supported with Scripture.

One of the things I learned in seminary, probably the most important thing I learned as a matter of fact, is that I did not have very good reasons for my very strong convictions.  I had embraced the positions of those who had mentored me, I had listened to those who taught the Sunday schools, the pastors and speakers I to whom I has listened, and the authors of the books I had read, but I had not critically checked out what they said against what the Bible says.  In some cases, I found that some of those who shaped my thinking, were, in fact, incorrect in some of their assertions.

I have often quoted Acts 17:11 in these posts.  The Bereans did not accept what Paul told them about Jesus carte blanche.  They went to the Word.  In their case it was the scrolls in their synagogue.  They did not have YouVersion on their smart phones or tablets, their tablets were not all that smart.  Think of that they had to do to check out Paul. They had to go to the synagogue and pull out the scroll, go to the passage Paul referenced, and then look at it critically in context.  The Holy Spirit, through Luke, labels that behavior noble minded – as an aside, note that it is not noble spirited, or noble emotional, or noble experience, no it is noble minded – it matters that we have what we think shaped by the Word of God.

I mentioned this morning that we have a culture that is applying enormous pressure in attempts to squeeze us into its mold.  In many cases the culture has succeeded.  The Church has adapted or accommodated much of what the culture has demanded.  Churches’ positions on divorce, marriage, homosexuality, gender roles, race, and many others, have been dictated by the culture to differing extents.  I will not here comment on specifics – if you know, you know, if you do not I will leave it to others to inform you.

The point is, it is not important what your teacher knows.  It is not important what your pastor knows.  It is irrelevant what your denomination teaches.  When you stand before God you are not going to give an account for what your teacher or your pastor believes.  Nor are you going to have to defend what your denomination teaches.  You will give an account for what you believe.

My sense is that it probably should align with what God has revealed in His Word.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Behind

I am running behind today – ever happen to you.  We are babysitting two of our grandkids, and though I made a list of what needed to be done today, did not happen.
Behind
So here I sit at the end of the day with two things that literally have to be done.

I may have said this before, the reason I do this is obedience.  I was strongly impressed I needed to write this thing daily in November of 2011.  So far that direction has not changed.

There are days when I am not able to spend as much time as I would like on this – this is one of them.

Ever happen to you?  Ever run out of time to do that which God has led you to do?  Makes me question my priorities, or how I chose to use my time earlier in the week.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Flinging Truth

There are a things that really bother me.  Some of those things are trivial, like people who drive in a manner that seems to indicate a sub-simian intellectual capacity.  While that upsets me, frankly it shouldn't, it is trivial.
Flinging Truth
Then there are those who behave as is described in Daniel 8:12 and Psalm 50:17, flinging truth to the ground and casting His Word behind them.

I could name names, but I won’t.  Suffice it to say that some who are well known do this on a regular basis.
But we seem to do it as well.

How?

Well, when we base our actions and thinking on what we think is best, without having our minds transformed by the Spirit through abiding in the Word of God.  When we share what we think on an issue about which we have formed an opinion sans either time in the Word or prayer.

Truth is the domain of God.  If we hope to approach truth in our thinking, if we hope to act in truth, doesn’t it seem rational, to check with the source prior to issuing vast statements about what we consider to be true?

Further, it would seem that since the One who knows the truth is eternal, infinite, all knowing, and we are not.  Some of our understanding of the truth may need correcting from time to time.  It seems then that we need to hold what we believe to be true, at some level, tentatively.

If we do not we may be flinging truth to the ground and casting God’s Word behind us.  I do not want to stand before God and give an account for behavior of that sort.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Daniel and Friends, All In

Yesterday I shared that we finished Jeremiah.  The men want to study Daniel next.  So yesterday and this afternoon I began an overview of Daniel.  While I have studied it before I start over each time.
Daniel and Friends, All In
I noticed a theme.  Look at Daniel 3:28 and 6:16.

In the first passage Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are characterized as yielding up their bodies so as not to serve any god.  In the second Darius states that Daniel serves God constantly.  That is validated by the context.  The satraps knew that they could trap Daniel in worship of God.

Those are amazing things to be said of someone.  Devotion to God is more important than life and being known by all as serving God constantly.

Paul had a similar attitude in Philippians 1:21; 3:7 – 16; and 1 Corinthians 9:15 – 27.

I do not know many, if in fact any, of which I can say those things about.  However, that seems to be the assignment.  To what else are we to give our lives that is better?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Off Track?

In our Wednesday morning study we finished Jeremiah this morning.  It took about a year.  We summarized what we learned from the book this morning.  The group has been together for a long time.  There are few filters.  It is more like herding cats than it is a Bible study.
Off Track?
So like most days when we were talking about what we learned from Jeremiah, there were some conversations that started that were a bit off track.  I “herded” the cats back on track.

At the end of the study one of the men said smiling.  That sometimes when we get off track we are processing how we can apply what we learned.  I had not considered that, but I think he is right.

Yet another case of learning from the gifts and experience of a brother…

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Avenues of Observation

I have shared before that I am in a Bible study on Tuesday mornings that is usually six men in three different states.  The reason is that the study pushes me.  In the last couple of weeks I have learned or been reminded of some things to look for in the Scripture that I had overlooked; which is one of the main reasons I am in the study.
Avenues of Observation
We were in Mark 8.  One of the guys looked at all of the questions that were asked in the chapter.  A lot of them were asked by Christ.  In 8:14 – 21:

  • Do you not yet see or understand? 
  • Do you have a hardened heart?
  • Having eyes, do you not see?
  • And having ears, do you not hear?
  • And do you not remember…?
  • Do you not yet understand?

There are more questions in the chapter but this paragraph is especially dense.  So it begs the question why all the questions?  What was Christ communicating through these questions?  I look for structure, this is repetition; specifically repetition of interrogation.

A couple of weeks ago one of the men saw that there were many emotions listed in a passage; again, repetition, but this time repetition of emotions.

Taking time to observe this is important.  One of the men quoted Dr. Hatch this morning, “The Bible is God’s words encased in men’s words, therefore we need both the Holy Spirit and attention to the vocabulary and grammar to properly understand it.”  That is the sense of the quote.

Most of us move too quickly in our study of the Word.  We move off of observation much too early.  We leave passages we do not readily understand too quickly to go to secondary sources like the notes in our Bibles, a commentary, or an expert we may know.  In so doing, we short circuit both of the avenues of understanding and observation of which Hatch spoke.  We do not look closely enough at the structure, and we do not allow the Holy Spirit time to lead us.

We need to slow down.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Answered Prayer

Answered Prayer
My Dad and My 4 Month old Granddaughter
Today was one of answered prayer for our family.  My dad has been fighting a two year long battle with cancer.  We have had a lot of people praying for him.  My 4 month old granddaughter has had a lot of doctors poking on her in her short life.  She can’t see and she has been having trouble with her GI track as well as a couple of other issues.

Dad has not had chemo since the beginning of December.  He had a PET scan this morning and his cancer has significantly reduced; even without chemo.  Answered prayer.

My granddaughter had a procedure this morning to see if there was something wrong with her GI track.  As of this evening we have not heard the results.  That is also answered prayer.

What?

In the first case the Lord gave us more time with dad, a good report, all of the things for which we were asking.  In the second, the Lord told us to wait.  Both of those are answers.

We tend to view no or wait as God not answering prayer.  Those are answers.

We are to be thankful for all three possible answers, yes, no, and wait.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Adding to the Word

Revelation 22:18 tells us that we are not to add to the words of the Book.  Since the result of choosing to is getting all of the plagues that are in the Book dropped on you it would probably be wise not to be adding any words…
Adding to the Word

Now I am aware that this admonition in context is speaking of the prophecy.  However a similar text shows up in Jeremiah 23.  There, rather than sharing the Word of God the prophets were sharing their own ideas.  If you read the chapter you will find God was not happy with them.

We wouldn't do that now, would we?

There are times when there is not a lot of data about what is happening in the narrative.  We see people acting, interacting with Christ, but their motives and their thinking is not clearly revealed.  In some cases their motivation is revealed.  In the case where it is not, if we are called upon to teach or share on that passage there is a lot of pressure to supply that motivation or to explain the thinking of those involved.  There are commentators who will suggest motivation or thinking should we not be creative ourselves.

A couple of years ago I was working through Bible study methods with a group in another country.  I use 2 Peter in those situations.  One of the things I ask people to do is to try to determine when the book was written from observation only.  The answer is found in 2 Peter 1:14, Peter knows that he is at the end of his life.

One of the men asked how old Peter was when he died.  I told him I did not know.  He said he wanted to know; that it would help him better understand the text.  Less bluntly than I am going to write it here I told him that it would not and that apparently it was not data that was important.

Why did I say that?  There are many examples in the Bible where the Holy Spirit did tell us how old men were when they died.  Apparently, we need to know that information.  Not so with Peter.  If we add it, are we not adding to the text?

The same may be true when we try to supply motivation or thinking that is not in the text.  My point is that what the Spirit inspired men to write in the Bible, according to Paul, in 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17, is profitable – well you can read it.  It seems that it should be adequate to observe what is being said well, rather than speculate what could have been said.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Hope that is in Us

You probably have 1 Peter 3:15 memorized.  It is one of those verses that challenges the way we live.  We are supposed to do that in a way that causes people to ask what is different, why do we do what we do, stuff like that.
The Hope that is in Us
No one however has ever walked up to me and said, “Can you please give me an account of the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence?”  Hasn’t happened, don’t expect that it ever will, no the questions and sometimes the statements are much vaguer…

  • “Why aren’t you upset about…”
  • “Have you seen 50 Shades of Grey yet?”
  • “How come you don’t…”

It happened to me today.  I have been having my cars worked on at the same dealership for several years.  I have purchased 4 cars of that make and have used the same service rep for the entire time.  We are on a first name basis.  I have his cell number and we occasionally exchange text messages, which is not my primary means of communication.

I took my car in today.  When I got in his line there were two people ahead of me.  He saw me, lit up, and greeted me by name.  When I got to the counter he said that he was really tired of the day all he had been dealing with was oil changes.  It turns out that was not the real issue.  All of the people he had dealt with just came up to him and asked for service, treating him like a fixture in the lobby.  No conversation, no interaction other than asking for the service they wanted.

Over the years I have asked him about his family, his hobbies, other stuff, we have a conversation every time I see him.  Same today.  He went out of his way to help today, walked me over to get a rental car – they were out.  But during that walk he shared his frustration with where he was in his life at the moment.  We started a conversation that may lead to us getting together to work through some issues in his life that will lead to me being able to explain the hope that is in me…

The point is, people notice.  They are going to probe.  They will not come out and ask if you are a Christian – well that did happen to me once.  But they will ask questions that if you are looking for the opportunity will lead to your being able to tell them about your hope.
Ask the Lord, like I need to do more consistently, to make you sensitive to those types of questions.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The First Question

I have written elsewhere that there are four questions that we ask over and over in Bible Study.  I have in the recent past discovered that there is another application of those questions.  I have also written, echoing Prof, that if we move to the second question before we exhaust the first we will commit grave error.

To review the first question is, “What does the text say?”  The second is, “What does it mean?”

It is the case that many in the “Christian community” seem to skip the first question completely, moving directly past the first question into explaining the meaning of a text they have not determined what has been said.

A lot of this is driven by some notion that the Bible is only spiritually understood, that there is some hidden meaning that one has to have some sort of spiritual decoder ring or inside information to understand.  I hear this a lot from certain sectors.

There are several problems with approaching the Bible, or for that matter, any document in this way.  First if people cannot talk about what a document says, there is no basis for a rational, spiritual, or any other kind of conversation.  For if meaning is separated from what the text says, any meaningful dialog about meaning is impossible.  For, those in such a dialog have no rational measure of the truth of any meaning presented.  One cannot appeal to the text, for the words of the text have been, essentially, set aside.

So in that case to what does one appeal?  In my experience the one who talks louder, longer, and faster is the one who prevails.
This has led to all manner of strange beliefs and practices.

I might suggest that a lot of disagreements could be resolved by going back to the first question.  If we talk about what the text says, and 99.9% of the time it frankly means what it says, many of the controversies may be put to bed.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The End of the Chain

Yesterday I shared that I ran a chain of passages that I really did not like.
The End of the Chain
Why?

Well, they tell me to do things that I really do not want to do, and further, at which I am not really very good.

Bottom line those passages tell me that I am to put other people’s needs ahead of my own.  The instruction does not seem limited to Sunday either.  Seems like the expectation is it should be a way of life for me.  To add insult to injury the chain seems to be saying this behavior should extend to my speech.  I am to say only things that build up other people.

Boy!

So the reality is if I am following Christ aright, all my consideration should be what is best for all of the other people in my life and my words toward them should be calculated either to draw them to the Lord or else closer to Him.

Makes me tired.

I can’t do it.

The only hope I have in this is that Christ lived this way.  Colossians 3:1 – 3, Romans 6:3 – 11, and Galatians 2:20 tell me that the life I now live is His life.  That means that through Him, I should be able to do what He says.

I fail.  I am weak.

So glad that 2 Corinthians 12:9 is there and true.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Running Another Chain

The list of passages that I really do not like seems to be growing.  Thomas Jefferson cut those out of his Bible.  There are some that I would like to remove as well but I take Revelation 22:18 – 19 rather seriously.
Running Another Chain
1 Corinthians 6:12 started me chasing a chain of cross references – oh by the way that is something that I have done for a long time, running chains of cross references, it is a good way to get a feel for what the Word says about a topic, even one you do not really like.

Here are the passages I was lead to this morning:
  • 1 Corinthians 10:23 – 24
  • Romans 14:15
  • 2 Peter 2:19
  • Philippians 2:3 – 4
  • Ephesians 4:29 just came to mind as I was typing this.
What do you see there?  I will share my thoughts and my application tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Judging

If you are like many of those in churches today your favorite verse in the Bible is Matthew 7:1.  It used to be that people would say that John 3:16 was their favorite.  Not now.
Judging
That is a problem.

The reason is, that verse has been used to white wash all kinds of sin and corruption in those same churches.  Addiction, adultery, epidemic divorce, abortion, and other issues are not addressed in the name of not judging.

That is counter to what both Jesus and Paul instruct us to do in our churches.

In Matthew 18:15 – 20, Jesus explicitly tells us what to do if we find someone in our community in ANY sin.  By the way that is 11 chapters after Matthew 7:1, so apparently that is not judging.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:1 – 13, rebukes the Corinthian believers for not forcibly dealing with one who is in an incestuous relationship.  In verse 12 he distinguishes between those who do not self-identify as believers, those outside, and those who do, those inside.  He says we do not judge those outside, but we do judge those inside.  Paul concludes by quoting the admonition that is in several verses in Deuteronomy, “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”

Paul isn’t done.

In Galatians 6:1, Paul tells us, like Christ did in Matthew 18:15ff that we are to address any trespass.  He adds that the purpose of all of this addressing of sin or trespass in the Body is the restoration of the believer.

The Body of Christ is supposed to be salt and light in the world.  If we accept as normal behavior the same perversions and sins in which the world engages, it seems that the salt may have lost its saltiness and the dim light is hidden under a basket.

Where there is no difference there is no testimony.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Reading

I like books.  That is probably a bit of an understatement.  I do not have room for all of my books in my office.  So there are several boxes of them up in our attic.
Reading
Several years ago I read, How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren.  It is the best book I have ever read on how to learn.  In the book the authors talk about several layers of reading.  The first is the scan.  It is a method of getting the kernel of a book in about 20 minutes.

A few years later I took an intersession course at DTS.  The professor was a newly minted PhD, Hans Finzel.  Part of the course was an application of Adler and Van Doren’s level one of reading, a book scan.  Since that course I have used that system on many books.

I am not 100% consistent but I scan many of the books, non-fiction, I read before I read them.  It gives me a context for the argument of the author and makes my reading of the book more effective.  I recommend the practice, here is an example.

I am thinking about adding a page on this blog and from time to time sharing some of these.  Regardless, you should try it.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Not in Control

Yesterday my wife and I got up at about 5 AM to get to the airport and catch a flight to Colorado Springs.  I was scheduled to be part of a memorial service celebrating the life of the wife of one of my mentors.  We had been watching the weather closely all week.  It looked pretty good Friday night.  I checked the airlines when I got up and saw no delays at DFW.
Not in Control
But, it was snowing.

We made it to the airport easily.  We had precheck so security was a breeze.  When we got to the gate I was surprised to see a lot of people milling around.  There was someone there that I knew, and she told me they had loaded the 6 AM flight and then unloaded it.  I checked the airports again and now there was an hour and a half delay at DFW.  It was not the weather.  It was the streets.  After checking in the pilot told his crew – I was standing in line next to where he was briefing them – that American could not get enough employees to the airport to marshal and de-ice the planes.  The roads in the Dallas, Fort Worth area were that bad.

When it was my turn to speak to the gate agent.  She told me that my first leg to Dallas would go, late, but go, but while I had been waiting in line they had cancelled the flight from DFW to Colorado Springs.  She worked for about 15 minutes checking every airline but could not get us there in time for the service.

So we went home.

I sent the manuscript of the remarks I had prepared to my mentor and one of the men who I knew was already there.  It was read during the service by one of my mentor’s associates.  Frankly, I am not sure I could have gotten through it.  I struggled each time I practiced, and that was in an empty room.  With the family looking at me, I am relatively certain it would have been orders of magnitude more difficult.

I was honored to be asked to share.  I invested a fair amount of time in preparation.  It looks as if we will not get a refund on our rental car and hotel, it is still questionable that we will get our award mileage returned to our account.  I was – well disappointed is not really it – not sure how to describe it.  Resigned I think best sums it up.  I know for sure I do not understand why the Lord did not allow us to go.  I am at peace with it – except I will never use Priceline.com again, that was a major lesson.

My wife and I were looking forward to supporting the family.  But, based on what I know about my Lord, this was better.  I really do not understand why.  But one thing I do know, I am not in control.