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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Last Second

Early this afternoon I had surgery on the left side of my neck and left shoulder.  There were two Lipomas, fatty tumors, which needed to be removed.  Not my first surgery.  My wife and I were counting on the way to the hospital, I think this was my 13th surgery, good thing I am not triskaidekaphobic.
Last Second
As I was in the prep area waiting to be taken to the OR, from time to time I glanced at the clock on the wall to see how much time was left until they took me back.  The clock was typical generic clock, round, black rim, white face with black numbers, and a red second hand.  The second hand did not move smoothly, rather it jumped from second to second.  It got me to thinking.

Each of us will have a last second.  At some point that second hand will jump and it will be the last time, in this life, that we will experience a second.

In Psalm 90:12, the psalmist tells us that we are to number our days.  To calculate how long we have to serve the Lord here.  We are to do that so that we can present to Him a heart of wisdom.  I take that, like we are told in the parable of the rich man and Christ’s explanation in Luke 12:16 – 32, that we are to place our relationship and service to Him as first place in our lives.  We are to arrange our lives to maximize our impact for Him.  In the past I have had conversations with people who say that they are going to give Him the second half.  Become significant after they have become successful.  I am not sure that there is anything wrong with that, I have suspicions but not sure.

I am pretty sure, based on what Christ shared in Luke 12:16 - 32, I am not going to know how long that last half will be.  I am sure I will not know when the last second is.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Household Order

Just finished an overview of 1 Timothy.  I have studied this book before but I always start fresh.  I saw things here that I have not seen before, and I revisited themes that were familiar.
Household Order
I have said this before but every study of a book should start with an overview.  If not you are in danger of not understanding the purpose of the book as you go through your section by section analysis.

It is interesting to me that this time through the thing that stood out was the concern Paul had that Timothy lead well, keep the household in order.  I saw some other things about one controversial passage but I will save that for later.

Paul is concerned about the teaching of sound doctrine in Ephesus.  Has the need for that teaching changed?  Other than my time in seminary, I do not recall much emphasis on doctrine in the churches I have attended in the last 40 years.

Apparently we do not need that any more.  Must have been a cultural thing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

“Personal” Bible Study

We were in Mark 14 this week.  Second week for that chapter.  One of the men listed all of the people in the chapter and how they related to Jesus.  His chart is below.
“Personal” Bible Study
The next thing he did was an excellent example of application.  He when through each of those attitudes and asked the question is he relating to Christ in that way.

It was hard for him.  It brought up some issues that he is praying through.  It was hard.  It was very personal.
We all need to follow his example.  We are not to do Bible study to make us smarter.  No, it is to change our life and give us a closer relationship with our Lord.

My friend did that this morning.  He is a gifted teacher of the Word.  He dives deep into the text with access to the original languages.  Yet one of the men in the study remarked that in all the years he has known him this was his best study.

Why?  It was personal.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Foreknowledge Response

Chuck, who responds to some of my posts, is one of my fist mentors in the Christian life.  From him, I learned to do Bible study.  I learned to love the Word.  After I left the Air Force, I lived in his and Sharon's basement.  His response to the post yesterday was better than my post.  It comes from a heart both broken in grief and committed to the Lord he serves.  I share it here because it needs to be more widely read.
Foreknowledge Response
Good posts, Mike and Salt (or is it Rock?), Ephesians 2 is difficult to get around, all right. It seems we humans are solidly hard-wired to want credit for what we do. I am who I am because of the good choices I have made. the hard work I had to do to get through school, my faithfulness in the jobs I was given in employment situations, etc., etc, etc.

My only problem in my own case is that just didn't line up with the reality in my life. I never in my conscious life sought God. I didn't choose my family of godly Bible honoring ancestors including clergymen and generations who fled religious persecution to come eventually to America and have all the opportunities offered hard working middle class European white folks of the Colonial era and beyond. And for as long as I can yet remember I went to church, at least twice a week and often three. I was so divinely preconditioned that when I heard the Good News clearly at ten years old, I responded.

What did I have to do with that? It was really no choice; I was thoroughly prepared through no doing of my own.

My late wife as a teen at a church camp was in such pain and despair that one evening she was headed into the camp kitchen, get a knife and kill herself. It "just happened" that a friend came by at that time and asked her if she would go to the evening meeting with her, she wend and met Christ.

Even if I was deceived into thinking that either of us "chose" for ourselves I would still be left to the grace of God having brought us to Himself sovereignly.

As I have reflected in this over the past few decades, I can only come to the conclusion that Ephesians 2:8,9 is true just as it says; I brought nothing (in fact didn't even come) to the table. He pursued me at His pleasure until He caught and wrestled me to the ground.

The last three+ weeks (note from Mike: it has been three+ months) since my Beloved's flight into the strong arms of the Savior she loved so dearly here on earth I have been reevaluating everything about my life (I've read this is normal in grieving such a loss). I am realizing how easy I have often lived congratulating - or condemning - myself on the basis of my efforts. My life is shot thoroughly through with "salvation by works." I am slowly learning to come to God with deep mourning and brokenness over my sin and trying to live by my feeble, futile efforts.

I often these days find myself asking God, "What did I do to deserve to live 45 years with a true angel and experience her faithful unshakable love. And what did I do, God, to be your child?"

The answer is the same: "Nothing!" It's called grace. Pure and simple.

But grace doesn't just end at conversion. If God were showing my sin like He now is without the Gospel in my life now, I would end it in a minute. Grace now says without condemnation, "Yes. That is the way you are and it's a whole lot worse than you know. But, you are forgiven by my grace from eternity past. Follow Me...." I still have a lot of learning to do.

I'm sorry I'm coming to this so late in life, and the cost is great. I miss her terribly with pain inside I'm told will never go away, but will moderate in time. I hope so. But I know in my head when I get to heaven and the Lord asks me if it was worth it, my answer will certainly be, "Yes, Lord. Worth it."

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Foreknowledge

I am three weeks in to the second time facilitating the Predestination and Free Will, Sunday school class.  Last Sunday I was out.  One of the men who has been in our Thursday morning group and was in the last class in which I taught this.  He taped it for me so I could follow the class.

One of the consistent issues that comes up in discussing this topic is the nature of God’s foreknowledge.  One of the ways it is defined by many is that God chooses those who He knows will accept Him.  That came up in this session last week.
Foreknowledge
Today we talked through that using the diagram above.

The person on the top accepts Christ.  The one on the bottom does not.  God is shown on the left choosing.  I asked what was the difference in the people on the right?  The obvious answer is that one chooses Christ and one does not.  If God chooses because the person on top chooses Christ, then He chose him based on merit.  The merit is that person chose and the other did not.  So the one who chose has reason for boasting.

Problem.

Ephesians 2:8 – 9 says that we are not able to boast.  Because our salvation is by grace, unmerited.  That definition of foreknowledge does not work.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Linked Shields

For the past couple of days I have been at Rewired.  It is the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s Men’s conference.  About 3500 men attended.  It was the second time I have been.  I had a couple of breakout sessions last time, as a matter of fact, that was why I wrote, Your Walk, their walk.  This time I was there to support a friend’s ministry’s breakout.
Linked Shields
There was a theme throughout the conference.  One that validated a lot of what I have been seeing and experiencing in the Church.  That theme was that men need to step up and lead.  Lead themselves, their families, their churches, their communities, and the nation.

One of the consistent messages was that we could not lead on our own.  Certainly we have to lead through the strength of Christ, but we also need to link shields with other men who are committed to Christ and engaged in the same battle to lead.

Much of the Bible speaks of this; there are examples in both testaments.  But if you look at 2 Corinthians 16:13 you get a flavor for why Paul wrote what he did.  That is the encouragement that permeates all of his letters.

We have each been gifted.  According to Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4:11 – 16, that gifting is to build one another up.  To link shields and to hold each other up in battle, in leading.

If we do not do our part.  The wall fails.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Storehouse Evangelism

Many times in the last 40 years I have heard leaders of local bodies say something to the effect that as believers we should be bringing people to the church so that the leader could share the gospel with them.  I am deeply grieved every time I hear a message like this.
Storehouse Evangelism
Christ did not do this.  Why do we?

Look at Mark 6:7 – 13.  Christ sent the twelve out to tell men to repent.  He did not tell them to go find men and bring them to Him so that He could tell them to repent.  He has just invested the first 5 chapters of Mark demonstrating ministry for and explaining His message to them.  He was sending them out to do real work for the Kingdom.

Each time I hear a leader tell people to bring people to the church in order to minister to them, or defining evangelism as getting people there to hear him, it is yet more evidence that person has ignored Ephesians 4:11 – 16.  Instead of equipping his flock to do ministry, he thinks he is supposed to do ministry.

Those that need the gospel are not all that likely to darken the doors of our churches.  We have to go to them.  That is going to be uncomfortable.  That means that we are going to have to get out of our comfort zones and move into theirs, rather than asking them to move out of their comfort zone and move into ours.

Isn’t that what Christ did?  Luke 19:10, Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost…  They are out there.  They are not going to come.  We have to go to them.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Success?

How do you measure a successful event?  Often we measure what we can see.  We count the number of people who show up.  We count the offering.  We count the number of books or materials sold.
Success?
We had a men’s ministry event several years ago and less people showed up than we had hoped.  One of the men prayed to open the event and remarked that he was disappointed in the number before he prayed.  I talked to him later and suggested that he may be using the wrong measure.

I have done workshops where one person showed up.  Was that a success?  My answer is, yep.

Large group activities are great for getting the juices flowing.  Not so good for life change.  There is no life connection with the speaker.  It is easy to listen and not really interact with the message.  In a small group or one on one situation there is more opportunity for dialog.  For processing the Word together, to really make sure understanding is taking place.

Throughout the gospel of Mark Jesus focused on the twelve.  He consistently turned away from the crowds and focused on making sure that the twelve understood.  Look at Mark 4:33 – 34, the last phrase says it all, “He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.”  He shared parables with the crowds.  But the twelve got the goods.

We may measure success by the wrong standard.  Rather than the number in the seats, perhaps the better measure is the number who really engage and are not only understanding, but actively sharing what they are learning with others.

More observations from Mark tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Respecting the Lost

The Wednesday morning Bible study was in Daniel 4 this morning.  That is the chapter that Nebuchadnezzer ends up eating grass for seven years.  Good times.
Respecting the Lost

One of the things we look for in each of the chapters is what we can learn about the people who are central to the narrative.  One of the men shared he was impressed with Daniel’s regard for Nebuchadnezzer.  Daniel seemed genially concerned for Nebuchadnezzer’s welfare.

As we talked through the application of that thought it occurred to us that we sometimes do not hold those in our sphere of influence who are not believers in high regard.  Sometimes, in fact, we are irritated or worse with them.

Romans 1:14 came to mind.  I am OK with being under obligation to the wise, not as OK being under obligation to fools.  But that is the assignment.  We are redeemed to be as Christ.  Luke 19:10 says He came to seek and to save that which was lost.  In 1 Corinthians 9:19 – 23, Paul says he does all things for the sake of the gospel.  In 2 Corinthians 5:14 – 21, Paul describes himself, and by extension us, as begging people on Christ’s behalf to be reconciled to God.

That includes people who may rub us the wrong way or would not be included in a gathering of the “wise.”  It occurs to me that when we treat people with high regard, we are more likely to gain a hearing for the gospel.

It is a good thing that Christ can use our weaknesses, 2 Corinthians 12:9, for without His enabling grace there are some who I would not tolerate well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Convergence of Stupid

This afternoon I was working through Daniel 5.  You probably know the story.  Nebuchadnezzer’s son, Belshazzar, has become king.  He inherited the kingdom, he apparently does not inherit nor learn from Nebuchadnezzer’s experience with God.
A Convergence of Stupid
The scene opens with a description of an environment that can produce nothing good.  An opulent large party, showing off, and drinking.  Not a formula for any good thing.  Belshazzar thinks it would be cool to bring out the items his dad took from the temple in Jerusalem in order to give his guest some really nice cups with which to get drunk.  Huge, big, epic mistake.  Cut to the chase by the end of the night Belshazzar was no more.

In Daniel 4 Nebuchadnezzar was warned not to take credit for his glory.  He did.  He got to eat grass for roughly (pun intended) seven years.  He came to his senses and repented and acknowledged that his kingdom was from God.

The interesting question is why Belshazzar did not learn from his dad’s experience.  Daniel told Belshazzar that he should have known better, 5:22.  So what are some of the implications?

Nebuchadnezzar was able to keep from taking credit for 12 months.  His son pretty much, well in the Bible we do not have much data, but this is the first time he is mentioned and he is in the process of blowing it big time.  One would hope that Nebuchadnezzar would have instructed his son.  He had learned the hard way that God did what He promised.  That God was not to be trifled with and that He was the one that granted leadership.  Either he did not tell his son, or the lesson did not take.  We know from the text that Belshazzar knew what happened to his dad.  So ignorance isn’t the problem, stupid is.  You can’t fix stupid.

As parents it is incumbent on us to teach our kids what we know about the Lord.  Both testaments are full of references that demand that of fathers.  One that we have shared here many times is Deuteronomy 6:6 – 7, 20 – 25.  Not to do so when we know better is not ignorance, it is stupid.

We have no control over how our kids respond to what we share with them.  We do have control over whether we are stupid or not.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Proud and Grateful

It was not easy and it was costly.  But all four of my kids, their wives, and the four grandchildren the older two have, came to my in law's 90th birthday party.  It was a financial and logistical challenge.  They are all back at home now, almost, my youngest and his wife either have just landed or are about to land.  My wife and I will drive back tomorrow morning.
Proud and Grateful
14 of these people are me, my wife, my kids, their spouses, and their kids.
We have prayed and taught them to honor their grandparents.  It was not always apparent that they were absorbing all of the things that we were attempting to teach them.  You may have had a similar experience with your kids.  But here was a time when it was obvious that they had taken something to heart.

Not only did they make the effort, and it is an effort to travel with two toddlers on a plane or in a car for 10 hours.  It is also an effort to arrange to get off when you are in residency, or to work extended hours on a project so you can come.  Not only did they come, they served.  They served by doing small things like mixing and pouring punch, keeping water and punch glasses filled, holding umbrellas for people to get in their cars, and all without being asked.

I know that it is not just our instruction that produces this result.  It is the work of Christ in each of their lives.  I am grateful to Him for answered prayer.

You may have noticed that this parent gig is not an easy one.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tell Me All About Samson

My granddaughter and I were sitting on the back porch.  She said, "Tell me all about Samson."  Not the first time.
Tell Me All About Samson
For the next 40 minutes or so, I told her about Samson.  It was more of a conversation.  Pretty much every fact was questioned with a, "Why?"  So we explored the Philistines, the source of Samson's strength, the deceit of Delilah, and the destruction of the building.

She wanted more so we moved to Saul and David's relationship.  Saul's disobedience and David's heart for God.

Her parents have done a great job laying a foundation.  We read to her all of the time.  She has an insatiable curiosity.

As dads and granddads, we have a unique place in our kids and their kids lives.  We will have opportunities like this multiple times at increasingly deep levels.  That is one of the reasons it is so important for us to do what Christ commands in John 15:7.  We have to know Him and know His Word really well.  So we can entrust that truth to our kids and grandkids.   

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sometimes We Do Not Like God's Direction

Sometimes We Do Not Like God's Direction
For the last three days I have been with my wife's family.  It is my in law's 90th birthday.  Family on my wife's side is coming in from all over the country.  All of my kids and their children are here.  It is a big deal.

My father in law has had a full life.  He has a compassionate heart.  My wife and I think that he has the gift of giving.  He and I were talking yesterday afternoon.  The subject was his second son.  He is 46 and has down syndrome.  When he graduated from high school my father in law started a sheltered workshop.  That was over 25 years ago.  My brother in law still works there 4 days a week.  He is no longer able to do much but he can go there as long as he is able.

In the conversation we were talking about the reality that God does all for a purpose.  My father in law mentioned that he wondered what the purpose was for his son to have down syndrome.  I suggested that all of the families that have been helped by that workshop in the last 25 years might be an answer.  He said that it would have been easier if God had just told him to build the workshop.  He's right.  It would have been.  But in my experience and in what I read in the Bible that is not the way God seems to work.

I certainly would rather God tell me some things rather than take me through the experiences He has to teach me.  I am probably too stubborn, or too deaf to hear.  So He directs my life to teach me what He wants me to learn and to lead me to do what He has designed me to do.

Like my father in law, I am not always a big fan of the process, but then I am not God.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Wiped Out

For some unknown reason I have been completely fried all day.  No energy.  You ever had days like that?
Wiped Out

Reality is, though, there are still things that have to be done.  My grandkids want to play.  Regardless of how I feel.

I need to pray, I need time in the Word, I need to exercise, I have work to do, regardless.

So, I pray, I spend time in the Word, I exercise, I work.

Life continues even when you are wiped out for no apparent reason.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Patterns

Just got off of a confernce call with a guy I am coaching through YourOneDegree.  One of the exercises is what we call a Post-It Note timeline.  One writes significant events and people on Post-It notes and then arrange them in a certain order on a poster board.
Patterns
I did this over a three day period with a consultant several years ago.  It can be revolutionary.  Why?

Well, if it is the case that the Lord is involved intimately in our lives, then the things that we have experienced have purpose.  That purpose is to intentionally equip us for the work for which He designed us.

By stepping back and looking at those significant events and people we began to see patterns.  It happened when I did the exercise.  It has happened with every one with whom I have done the exercise.

Some dead person said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."  Good stuff.  True stuff.  The Post-It Note Timeline is a good way to do that...  Oh, if you are interested I can help you with that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Applicable

There have been times when people have told me that the Old Testament was really hard to apply.  We are not finding that to be true in Daniel.
Applicable
This morning we were in Daniel 3.  You know the passage, fiery furnace.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were tossed in there because they would not bow to Nebuchadnezzer’s image.

The richness of their response to Nebuchadnezzer in Daniel 3:17 – 18 is legend.  God can save us.  He may not.  That does not matter.  We will not worship your image.

One does not make that decision in the moment.  It was made before.  The three friends were committed to God, period.  They had made that decision earlier.  Demonstrated by their desire not to defile themselves in the first chapter.

We may not yet be under persecution.  If not at some point we will be.  In order to pass that test, the decision to stand firm has to be made before the experience.  The enemy is evil and creative.  He will do heinous things to get us to turn on Christ.  A weak, shallow faith may not handle the test.  Mark 4:1 – 20 alludes to that.

Before the test we need to strengthen our relationship with Christ.  We have to come to the point where we know without a doubt that He is Lord.  That our life is His.  That we will stand strong.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Those who went through those death camps endured unimaginable cruelty.  If you and I are faced with that if we do not renounce Christ, what would we do?

At the gate of the camp, it may be too late to prepare.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Finishing Strong

First an update on a couple of things.  We got the results of my granddaughter’s biopsy back today, a day early, Hirschsprung’s requires a biopsy to have a definitive diagnosis.  Although the previous tests indicated she had it, she does not.  Answered prayer.  Second, I shared a few weeks ago that my wife and I were unable to go to a memorial service in Colorado Springs due to weather.  I shared that Priceline would not refund our money.  After several phone calls, they have.  More answered prayer.

Now for today’s post.

If you are studying a Book of the Bible, say Romans.  How do you usually proceed?  For sake of this discussion, post – you are not using a guide like a fill in the blank study.  Typically, in book studies that I have done in the past, we started by doing a chapter analysis of chapter one, then chapter two, then chapter three, and so on.
Finishing Strong
When we got to the last chapter we dove into another book.

Not the best way to approach a book.  Why?  Studying a book like that you do not really know what the book is about, the arc of the author’s thought.  You are trying to piece that together as you study the parts.  Not an efficient way to do that; probably will not figure it out that way.

The better way is to first do an overview of the book.  The purpose of that is to get a handle on the author’s argument.  Then as you go chapter by chapter or section by section (the chapter divisions were not in the original) you have a feel for and are validating your understanding of the argument.

But when you get to the last chapter, you are not done yet.  You need to do a summary.  You go back through your overview and you chapter analysis and then you summarize your study.  That validates your understanding of the book.

I was doing my summary of Mark this morning.  Not finished yet.  I assembled a chart listing all of the paragraph titles for the book.  By doing this I saw connections I missed in the overview and doing the chapters.

There is still more to learn from the book, but my understanding of the book is greatly enhanced by approaching it this way.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Long Day, Long Week

Early this morning my 5 month old granddaughter had her serial biopsy.  She has been diagnosed with Hirschsprung's disease.  She also has difficulty seeing, though that may be getting better.  We will find out the result of the biopsy Wednesday.
Long Day, Long Week
Thursday, we leave to celebrate my in law’s 90th birthday.

Wednesday is tax day.  Joy.

In the midst of this my daughter, the one whose daughter had the biopsy this morning, and her husband sold their house and bought another, in the interim they moved in with us.  My office is in my home.  Their older daughter, 2, will come in and grab one of my fingers and pull.  That is her way of communicating that it is time for me to pay attention and play with her.

So, it is a bit of a challenge to get things done.

My son, a CPA, is doing my taxes, and though we started several weeks ago, his business is growing and most of his family got sick in the last few days.  So he is scrambling to get the forms ready for my wife to sign before she leaves in the morning.

We are living in the midst of an eight sided unsolved Rubik cube.

There are multiple meetings before I need to leave for the celebration.  Multiple logistical issues to solve.

The one thing that holds all of these challenges together is that I know who is in control.  It is not me.  I know that even if all of this falls apart, I can trust Him.

We all have weeks like this, sometimes years or longer periods.  The key to survival is perseverance.  Not the perseverance of slogging through the challenges.  No.  Rather the perseverance of abiding in Him and His Word.  It is only by that perseverance that we will maintain the proper perspective in the midst of the chaos that is life in this world.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Starting Over

This morning I started the Free Will and Predestination Sunday school class again.  I learned a lot the last time.  It informed this iteration.
Starting Over
The major thing I want to communicate is that it is important how we think as believers.  Our thinking has to be transformed as Paul says in Romans 12:2.  Philippians reinforces that idea.  Thirty eight times in a hundreds and four verses Paul uses words that communicate thinking, mindset, and other words that deal with the way we think.  That is dense repetition.

We typically base our thinking on what we have been taught, what we have read, or what we have experienced.  But our responsibility is to do what the Bereans did with Paul in Acts 17:11, we need to check all that we hear and read against the Scripture.

The problem is the Church has not done that good a job of equipping us to actually do that well.  Many believers would be lost if they were asked to validate a message Biblically.  They would not know where to start.

That is the objective of this eight weeks.  I am looking forward to the challenge.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Giving One’s Life, Proclaiming

Prof was right.  When we do Bible study we need to do it in pieces.  We do that so our subconscious can continue to work on the passages.  When we do we will make connections that we may otherwise miss.  It happened to me just now.
Giving One’s Life, Proclaiming
I am working on my summary of Mark.  In 1:38, Christ tells His disciples that the reason that He came is to proclaim (your Bible probably translates kerudzo here, “preach,” in the context of the book, it seems to me that we have allowed the pastoral function of preaching to color too strongly the way we treat that word.  Readers who are not professionals in the pulpit read “preach” and assume that whatever that word might mean it is reserved for those who arise behind the pulpit on Sunday mornings.  I do not think that is what is going on here, so I much prefer, “proclaim,” all of us can and should proclaim – but then that is the point of this post – I got ahead of myself).  He came to proclaim to other cities.  The grammar indicates that proclamation was His reason for coming.  Problem.

Mark 10:45 says that He came to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.  Which is it?  Is this a contradiction?  Nope.  One of the presuppositions with which I approach the Word is that it cannot contradict.  So if I think I see something that is a contradiction, there is something that I do not understand.

I took a break from the study and watched an episode of “The Voice” that we had recorded earlier.  When I came back to the study I think things began to become clearer.

Proclaiming is giving your life as a ransom.  Further, it is one thing that as apprentices of Christ we can do that mirrors Him.  When we proclaim Him, in and through our lives and our sharing of the gospel, we are in fact giving our lives to those to whom we proclaim.  As Christ did, we face rejection.  In some cases we can face death.  Either physical death in some areas of the world, but in fact death to ourselves in terms of clinging to our reputation, our standing, a person’s regard for us, etc.

So proclaim Him.  Give your life a ransom for those you know.

Should We Pray and Sing to the Spirit?

This next week we are finishing our study of Mark.  So this week I have been working on my summary of the book.  There were some passages in chapter one that got me thinking about something that has been bothering me for several weeks.
Should We Pray and Sing to the Spirit?
All of us sing hymns and choruses in our churches.  Most of the time we sing them without really paying attention to the words.  Most of the older hymns are Biblical, most.  Many of the newer songs are as well.  Some, not so much.

There are several songs that are directed at the Holy Spirit.  I have wondered if that is appropriate.  I have been looking for Biblical support for that practice, thus far, I have not been able to find it.  If you have some passages that would direct us to do so, please do not hesitate to point me in the right direction.

So, back to Mark and how my summary relates to my question.  In Mark 1:8 John tells those listening that although he baptizes with water, Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit.  It is interesting that the next paragraph tells us that the Spirit descended on Christ at His baptism by John.  So the one who would baptize us with the Holy Spirit has the Holy Spirit descend on Him.  Two persons of the Trinity present in that time.

That got me to thinking about the gifts of the Spirit.  I reviewed 1 Corinthians 12.  In that passage we are told that the Father and the Spirit are each involved in the distribution of gifts.  So we have Christ baptizing us with the Spirit and all three persons of the Trinity mentioned in the passage.  In verses 6, 18, 24, and 28, God the Father is the one who is distributing the gifts and forming the Body.  In verse 11, the Spirit is distributing.

So do we pray for these gifts?  We are told to seek them.  If that is by prayer who should we ask?  The model that Jesus gave us in Matthew 6:9 – 13, is to pray to the Father.  So shouldn’t our prayer be directed to Him?  If He is the one that is deciding the composition of the Body, should not we be seeking the “greater gifts” from Him?

Should our praise also be to Him?  If that is the case, why do we pray to the Spirit?  Why do we sing to the Spirit?

It seems to me that all that we do in coming to our Lord should align with His Word.  Does praying to the Spirit and singing to Him line up?  If so, how?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bad Decisions and Bad People

Note: This post will refer to Psalm 139.  I just did a check I have written about that passage quite a bit.  There is a reason for that.  Psalm 139 is key, in my estimation, for our survival through hard times and the hard people that tend to accompany those difficulties.  I skimmed through what I have written before, there will be a list of posts that expand or support this one at the end.
Are there things that you have done or that have happened in your life about which you are ashamed or wish you could change?  Are there people in your life that, if you had a magic wand, they wouldn’t be?
Bad Decisions and Bad People
I had back to back conversations today that reminded me that, though I do not like it very much, God uses my bad decisions and people of which I am less than fond for his purposes in my life.  David wrote about this.

Look at Psalm 139:1 – 6, focus on verse 3.  God scrutinizes my path and lying down.  He analyzes our path as closely as a civil engineer would use a nested sieve to analyze aggregate in a concrete mix.  He knows all of our bad decisions before we make them.  He knows all of the “bad” people with which we will need to deal.  In fact He uses those bad decisions and bad people to form us for His purposes.  Remember Romans 8:28 and David and Bathsheba.  Not David’s finest hour.  But from his failure, Psalm 51.

We can either brood and regret the bad decisions or do the 1 John 1:9 thing and confess them and be cleansed.  Then we might ask the Lord to help us learn from those mistakes.

The bad people?  The fact that they are in our life did not sneak up on God.  He knew.  He put them there.  Intentionally.  He did that to prepare us for His purposes.  Might want to ask Him why.  Might want to pray for those whom He has intentionally placed in our life.

The list I promised:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Strength in Numbers

Each week I am involved in 4 Bible studies in three different books, Mark, Jeremiah, and Daniel.  The studies have a total of 20 men in them.  Each one of those men has been gifted by the Holy Spirit.  Each of their gifts differ.  Each of those men have had different experiences in their walk with God.  Each of those men bring that gifting and experience to the study.
Strength in Numbers
So when we come to a passage together, each of us benefits from the other’s gifts and experience.

That happened again this morning.  In Daniel 2 one of the men noted that there was similarity between Denial's prayer in 20 -23 and “the Lord’s prayer” (Matthew 6:9 – 13; Luke 11:2 – 4).

I did not catch that.

That is why we need each other.  We need each other’s gifts and experiences as we dig into God’s Word together.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Familiarity Breeds…

…complacency.  Especially when one is dealing with familiar passages of Scripture.  You are reading along and come to a passage or story you know really well and you kind of go into auto pilot.  Next thing you know you are in the next section or chapter of the book.  You essentially fast forwarded through that really familiar passage.
Familiarity Breeds…
I have done that.  You probably have too.

Not a good idea.

Assuming Hebrews 4:12 – 13 is true, and that John 16:13 is as well, the Word should be new to us each time we come to a passage, no matter how well we know the passage.

Today I was in Daniel 3.  It is a story I can tell without reference to the text.  I found myself doing just what I said, skimming, fast forwarding through the text.  I realized what was going on and stopped.  I asked God to slow me down to do a Psalm 119:18 on me…  He did.  I saw a couple of things that I had not ever seen or thought of before.

We are always in a hurry.  We have things to do, places to be, and people to see.  Epically important things, places, and people.  Hurrying through our time in the Word does not serve us well.

We need to slow down.  If you need help slowing down, click here.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Whew…

If you remember I shared that a few weeks back that my dad has been fighting cancer for the past two years and our youngest granddaughter was legally blind.  Well…
Whew…
My brother, who has been spending most of his time for the past couple of years with my dad, called this afternoon with the news that he thought my dad had experienced a stroke.  We kept the line open as I called his doctors while we waited for the ambulance to get to the house.

The paramedics determined that it was not a stroke but he needed to go to the ER for some tests.  Several hours later he was released and is fine.

In the middle of this my daughter calls to tell me that my granddaughter can see out of her left eye.  They are covering that eye with a patch so she will have to use her right eye.
The day was emotionally draining.

I just got off the phone with one of my mentors who lost his wife a couple of months ago.  He was sharing some of the things he is learning as he deals with the loss of his wife.

I am learning that life is hard.  It is hard to see one’s parent struggle, knowing that there is absolutely nothing that one can do.  I do not know the formula I can attempt to solve that will give sight to my granddaughter and comfort to my daughter and her husband.  I have no words to ease the pain of one who has lost the love of his life.

All I have is prayer.

I am not good at it.

It has to be enough.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Long Sad Saturday

If you were one of the twelve, your world was shattered yesterday.  Even though Jesus told you what was going to happen you did not believe it.  Yet He died.  He was the Messiah and He died.  What?  He told them He would rise, but they did not get it.
Long Sad Saturday
So they mourned.  They planned to go back to fishing.  They were lost.

But Sunday is coming.

Friday, April 3, 2015

"Good" Friday

I have often wondered about the “good” part.  It has never seemed to be good that an innocent man who was the Son of God was savagely put to death in just about the most horrible way imaginable.  If you want to understand how horrible click here.
"Good" Friday
But we call it good.

Why?  Because it was good that He paid for our sin.  It was good that He restored a means for us to be recreated and reconciled to His Father.  Good.

It would be really good to tell others about this.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Denying Jesus

This morning our Thursday study was in Mark 14.  Mark 14 describes the Thursday before Christ’s crucifixion.  One of the guys noted that we were studying what happened on this day a little over 2000 years ago.  Somehow, that amped up our time this morning.
Denying Jesus
We spent a lot of our time talking about Peter’s denials of Jesus.  There is a tendency at times to look down on Peter for this.  But as we talked through this, we began to think about ways that we deny Jesus today.  All of those around the table were guilty, including me.  Further, we have the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and Peter’s example.  Peter had none of that.  So our failures, our denials, are, if anything, more of a problem than his.

We determined that we deny Jesus when we pull back from sharing Christ with people.  I have done that.  Maybe it is in the middle of a business meeting and there is an opportunity to share Christ, and we do not because we think it may hurt the deal.  Or perhaps there is a job situation that we fear that if we share in that context it may affect our employment.  Sometimes I have not shared just because I did not want to be rejected by the one with whom I was talking.

In light of the knowledge we have, that makes Peter look pretty good.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19 – 23 tells us that he did everything he did for the sake of the gospel.  He exhorts us in Colossians 3:17, 23 – 24, to do the same, as to the Lord.  We are told by Christ in Matthew 6:33 that we are not to worry about the things the gentiles seek but to seek first His kingdom…  We have this, we memorize these things, we study these things, we have heard messages on these things…  still we hesitate, we evaluate how sharing with someone is going to affect us.  Really?  They are going to hell, we are supposed to put their needs ahead of ours, Philippians 2:3 – 4.

Yeah, Peter is looking pretty good.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fools

Since it is April 1st, it seems appropriate to mention fools, the Bible certainly does.
Fools
You know the verse, Psalm 14:1.  Those who say that there is no God are fools.  Not just April fools, but every month fools.

If they do not change.  They will be fools forever.

I am not a big fan of fools.  One friend remarked that I do not suffer fools gladly.  He was correct.  But Romans 1:14 tells me that I am under obligation to fools.  I am under obligation to share the good news of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension with them.  2 Corinthians 5:14 – 21, reminds me that I am not to view fools according to the flesh; rather I am to beg them to be reconciled to God.

That is a hard assignment.  Sometimes it is not very pleasant to talk to fools.