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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Grace Unexpected

When we found out that I had cancer four weeks ago, while we were convinced of God’s sovereignty and plan, there were obvious questions about how this was going to impact us as a family.  I viewed this as adding logistical issues that we would have to work around to do what the Lord has led us to do.  But…
My wife and I met with the local oncologist Friday.  The lymphoma is stage 2, which doesn’t mean a lot in this case.  The type of cancer I have SLL, is common, slow growing, always found by accident, and sometimes not found at all.  The doc said that the spots around my windpipe may have been there 20 years.  So what do we do?

Short answer, nothing.

In six months I will have another CT scan and see if there is any change.  If there is, there may be treatment then.  If not I may not have another CT scan for six months or a year.  This used to be called “watchful waiting” now they call it “active surveillance”.  I think that sounds more like they are doing something.

So other than the periodic CT scan, there is nothing else right now.  So the logistic issues will be minimal.  That was unexpected grace, but that is what grace is, isn’t it?  Unexpected, undeserved favor.

We serve a good God.

PS. You may want to ask God if He plans on giving you cancer, to give you this one.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

What Is Your Go To?

Bobby Clinton wrote, my copy is an e-book, Having A Ministry That Lasts--By Becoming A Bible Centered Leader .  The premise of the book is that if one is going to have an impact as a leader, which by definition applies to all of us, there has to be a pattern in our lives of mastering the Word of God.  There are a series of exercises in the book that help you determine what passages in the Bible are core for you.
What Is Your Go To?
So that brings up a question.  When you are looking for encouragement, when you are out of ideas, when you need to read something in the Word but you do not have or do not want to follow your plan that day, where do you go?  What is your “go to” passage?  Where do you find yourself reading over and over again?

That is an easy one for me.  Psalm 119.  I just did it.  That was the impetus for this.

What is yours?

If you do not have one…

Noah?

Last night I watched the BBC version of Noah’s Ark.  I have not watched the Russell Crowe version, but I have read enough and heard enough that I will probably pass…  It is intriguing to me that people can’t just tell the story.
Noah?
Admittedly it would be a short film.  But there were a couple of elements added in the BBC version that were actually thought provoking, the fact that they ignored that only Noah and his family were on the ark was an unnecessary.

The first thought provoking thing should have been obvious to me.  God told Noah to build the ark.  He did not tell his wife, or his kids.  So Noah had to tell them and convince them to help.  That part of the movie was really well done.

Second, in 2 Peter 2:5 Noah is called a preacher of righteousness.  The film showed Noah trying to proclaim the truth of the flood in the nearby city.  It also portrayed Noah as having friends in that city that did not believe him.  Both could be true and add an interesting dimension to the story.

Consider the second addition.  Noah would have known people who did not respond to the message.  It could be, without much stretch of the imagination be that he had close friends he lost in the flood.  That adds a personal loss to the flood event that in the past I have not considered.

But that is our experience is it not?  One of the costs of obedience can be and is the loss of some relationships.  That loss is hard.  It can cause us to question our faith and the love of God.

If you can overlook the other weird additions this is one movie that will cause you to think about a story that you know really well.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Trust or Plan

Matthew 6:28 – 34 has been and continually is a challenge for me.  I makes no difference that Matthew 6:33 is one of the first verses I memorized.  The fact that I have lead worship singing Matthew 6:33, with the other verses in that song, seems to have had minimal impact on my application of that passage.  Even though verse 34 tells me not to worry – OK.  Sometimes, actually most times, if I am honest, I still do.

Trust or Plan
There are times that I worry about having more month than income.  I know this passage tells me not to do that, but…

This is hard.  Hebrews 11:6 tells me that I am to come to Christ in faith believing that He is – no problem.  Then the writer ads and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him – challenge.  At a minimum, Christ and I have a different definition of reward.

It is easier for me to trust Him for the big stuff.  Mission projects in Africa, South America, Asia.  It is much harder for me to trust Him for the groceries.  Doesn’t make sense, but it is the truth all the same.

I find myself planning, scheming, rather than trusting.  I must be a slow learner.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Weak

There is a lot in life that we wish to accomplish.  In my life I have done a lot.  I have flown jets, taught others to fly jets, led ministries, equipped people to study the Bible on four continents.  I have plans to do more of that last one.
Weak
There is a simple obstacle, one’s body.  A little thing can take it out.  I have been down for three days with an infection that started as a pimple in my nose.  Now the left side of my face is swollen and I am essentially benched.  I do not have time for this.  I have three things in the next week that I need to do not counting the regular meetings I have had to cancel in the past two days and tomorrow.

It makes one wonder why the Lord committed the ministry of reconciliation to such weak vessels, 2 Corinthians 5:19 – 21.

It is probably so that we will know for sure that anything that is done for Him is done through Him, 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pain

I have been in pain all day.  Physical not mental.  I have an infection in my face that hurts.  It has drained me.
Pain
This is not all that bad compared to what my Lord endured in His last day.  He was betrayed by all that followed Him.  He faced the mental anguish of knowing that His Father would abandon Him.  He faced the travesty of a mock trial.  He was physically scourged.  The pain was more than physical.  It was mental.  It was spiritual.

I am worn out with the pain from a little infection.

After all of that He carried the cross most of the way to His crucifixion.  Then after being nailed to the cross bar, He controlled the rest of the event.  Choosing when to give up His Spirit.

That kind of strength in the face of that level of pain is overwhelming.

Our Lord was and is a strong Lord.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Hope and Redemption

I was in Psalm 130 today.  Verses 5 – 7 undergirded our need to be in His Word.
Hope and Redemption
The psalmist tells us in verse 5 that he hopes in God’s Word.

In verse 6, he tells us that he waits on the Lord.

In verse 7, he exhorts Israel, and by extension, us, to hope in the Lord.  The substantiation for that exhortation is the lovingkindness, character of God, and the redemptive work of God in our lives.

The embedded syllogism tells us that hope in the Lord is hope in His Word, based on the character of God and His redemptive actions.

The implication is that the Word of God is part and parcel to His redemptive purpose, thus Peter is strongly justified in 1 Peter 2:1 – 2.

John 5:39 – 47 tells us that is possible to know the Word and not know Christ.  However, it is not possible to know Christ apart from the Word.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Preach? Equip?

This is going to be a bit technical, hang in there.  For the past several months I have been struggling with the way κηρύσσω (kerysso, 2 Timothy 4:1, and many others) is translated.  In most of our versions κηρύσσω is translated, "preach".  What's bothering me is that the use of the Word prior to the Christian era was "herald," or "proclaim".  Why then do we continually see κηρύσσω rendered, "preach"?
Preach?  Equip?
This is a start, but we only obey once a month?
I wonder if it is the result of the divide, of which I find no Biblical validation, between laity and clergy.  That divide exacerbated by many if not most pastors ignoring the clear statement of the text of Ephesians 4:16 - 20.  Rather than equipping those in their care to do the work of service, they reserve that work for themselves.  So much so that I have heard one well known pastor, of whom I otherwise have enormous respect, declare that the role of men in the church is to come and listen to their pastor and then teach what they hear to their families.  Really?  I could have sworn that Christ admonished us to abide in Him and His Word, John 15:1 – 16.

This morning I heard another pastor, again one of whom I have utmost respect, essentially remove the work of service from the members of his church by elevating his role above theirs.  I have to be convinced that he really did not mean what he said; at least I hope so.  However, in his message he removed ministry, the work of service, from his people in two ways.  First, he stated that Peter although he was uneducated was known in Acts 4:13 as one who had been with Jesus.  Good stuff, the exhortation was to know Christ, could not agree more with that.  But, then, referring to the fact that Peter wrote two of our New Testament books he said that he did so after becoming a pastor.  I can find no place in Scripture where Peter is referred to as a pastor.  The implicit message is that the pastoral role qualified Peter to write 1 Peter and 2 Peter.  That is just not the case.  He was not a pastor, he was an apostle.  Admittedly, that is an office.  But, I would argue that the real qualification for Peter’s ministry and authorship of the epistles that bear his name was that which is stated in Acts 4:13, he was with Jesus.

Secondly – and again the main point was good, that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we have boldness to share the gospel – in making his point on Acts 4:31, he quoted the last part of the verse, “…and began to preach the word of God with boldness”.  In no translation that I have checked is the Greek, λαλέω, rendered preach, always, “speak”.  By changing the wording, he elevated his role.  The subtle, implicit message, is that it is the pastor, the preacher, who is the one who should share.

In Matthew 28:18 – 20, Jesus tells his disciples that they are to make disciples, teaching them to do all that He commanded them.  In John 17:20, Christ prays all that He prayed for the 12, for us.  Ephesians 4:11 – 20 seems to be and extension of that commission and prayer.  2 Timothy 2:2 and Paul’s actions throughout his three missionary journeys, indicate that he bought completely into the idea of equipping believers to do the ministry, he expected it.  Christ expects it.

Why then do we not follow suit?  Why do we require our pastors by expectation and job description to do the work of service rather than equipping us to do so?  Why, do they not embrace the role that the Holy Spirit set out for them in Ephesians 4:11 – 16?

Something is wrong.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The First Time

Four years ago I attended my daughter-in-law’s graduation from medical school.  That is a big deal.  The next year my son graduated.  I do not remember who spoke at either graduation.  I do remember what the doc at my daughter-in-law’s graduation said.  I took notes.
The First Time
Typically graduation speakers are filler between the entrance of the graduates and the handing out of the diplomas or the hooding of the doctors.  He was an exception.

He was sharing with the soon to be residents that they would have a burden of communication thrust upon them.  They would be in conversations with people who were ill, sometimes critically.  They would be sharing information that they may have shared hundreds of times before.  It would be at some level routine for them.  For the patient it would be anything but routine.  It would be the first time they had heard those words.  It would be life changing because the words applied to them.

Yesterday, I shared I erred in giving an assignment to a friend in the Bible.  This was the error I made.  I had shared that process hundreds of times.  It was the first time for him.  Forgetting that, caused confusion.  He still benefited from what he did, but he did not have the experience for which I had hoped and prayed.

As believers, what we share is more important than what any doctor will ever share.  It is eternal life and death.  It may be routine for us.  It is not for those with whom they share.  We need to take it seriously and remember it may be the first and or last time they hear what we share.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Assuming

Last week I shared that I had started a guy on a method to start abiding in Christ more effectively.  One problem.  I told him to start in 1 John.  He started in the first John he found, the gospel.  He read it all which was great, but the things I told him to look for were not in the gospel, so he was confused.
Assuming
I assumed he knew the difference, big mistake.  I know better.  I forgot to explain the difference between the gospel and the epistles.  While reading John was profitable for him, the assignment confused him.  When one is helping someone learn to have a devotional time with Christ, adding confusion is not the best practice.

The point is – well you know what assuming does.  It was a stark reminder that I need to be explicit in explaining things to people.

Those of us who have been engaged in studying the Bible for many years forget that there were times in our Christian experience that we had to look in the index to find Nahum.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wild or Profane

Three events in the last few days have conspired to shed a different light on disobedience for me.  First there was an anonymous comment on a March post, “Accountability”.  Second, we had a discussion this morning on 1 Timothy 2 – 3 that covered what the text says about leadership in the church and the reality that many churches and denominations are ignoring what Paul wrote.  Lastly, the Moroccan pastor with whom I meet each Thursday and I were in Jeremiah 34 this morning.
Wild or Profane
The background of the comment and the discussion on leadership is what perhaps what made Jeremiah 34:16 nearly leap off the page.  Through Jeremiah God is telling Judah that their commitment to obey God and their subsequent ignoring of what He commanded profaned His name.

I do not think I have ever taken disobedience that seriously.  Yeah, pretty much I haven’t.

I have been reading a short book by D. A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.  There is an extended quote that fits well here…
I recall meeting a young and articulate French West African when I was studying in Germany more than twenty years ago. We were both working diligently to improve our German, but once a week or so we had had enough, so we went out for a meal together and retreated to French, a language we both knew well. In the course of those meals we got to know each other. I learned that his wife was in London training to be a medical doctor. He himself was an engineer who needed fluency in German in order to pursue doctoral studies in engineering in Germany. 
Pretty soon I discovered that once or twice a week he disappeared into the red light district of town. Obviously he went to pay his money and have his woman. Eventually I got to know him well enough that I asked him what he would do if he discovered that his wife were doing something similar in London. 
“Oh,” he said, “I’d kill her.” 
“That’s a bit of a double standard, isn’t it?” I replied. 
“You don’t understand. Where I come from in Africa, the husband has the right to sleep with many women, but if a wife does it, she must be killed.” 
“But you told me that you were raised in a mission school. You know that the God of the Bible does not have double standards like that.” 
He gave me a bright smile and replied, “Ah, le bon Dieu; il doit nous pardonner; c’est son métier [Ah, God is good; he’s bound to forgive us; that’s his job].” 
D. A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), 65–66.
There it is.  That cavalier attitude that, quite frankly, I think too often I have toward my disobedience.  I know God will forgive, after all 1 John 1:9, right?

But God declared that disobedience was profaning His name.

I am due for a serious attitude adjustment.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Foundation of Leadership

I had a meeting this morning with the leader of a Christian organization that is dedicated to equipping pastors in other countries.  We were talking through the curriculum for the first year of a three year process.  My part is to equip the pastors to study the Bible on their own.

The Foundation of LeadershipThe first session covers the individual’s personal relationship with Christ.  We talked about the importance of leaders being in the Word for themselves not just to share with others.  That is a challenge not only overseas but here as well.  The relentless advance of Sunday each week, as one pastor put it, is a continual challenge and burden for one who has the task of speaking the Word each Lord’s day.

But, if a man is not in the Word for himself, his ministry, his life, his relationship with Christ will be severely limited.

That is true not only of the pastor, the leader of the church, but also of the father who is the leader of the family.  Ministry and leading of the church or of the family has to be an overflow of our personal relationship with Christ.  We cannot lead others to follow Christ if, in fact, we are not closely following hard after Him ourselves.  One of the main elements of following hard after Him is to abide in His Word, to study His Word, to delight in it.

David was declared by God to be a man after God’s heart, 1 Samuel 13:14.  David delight was in the Word of God.  His delight was of such depth that he wrote 176 verses of alliterated poetry about his love of the Word.  David wrote each octet of  Psalm 119 starting with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, working through each letter.  Think about that for a minute.  He took the time to express his love for God’s Word by thinking through how to state it with each verse in the octet starting with the same letter.  That takes thought.  That is a focused intensity.  All to capture the transforming power of God’s Word on David’s life.

If we say we want to be after God’s heart, if we say we want to lead, seems like the Word will play a major part in accomplishing those ends.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Closed or Open Questions

I have been retyping a study for my wife.  She is leading it this summer for a group of ladies in our church.  She is gifted in doing this.  The study is an old one from the early 70’s.  The topic is good regardless of how old the study may be.  It will be a good study for that group.
Closed or Open Questions
Working through it though I found myself struggling with the way the questions in the study were worded.  They were closed.  What I mean by that is that the way they were worded they either asked for one answer or else a yes or no.  Those can be helpful; in some cases that is the only option.  The problem is that those types of questions do not invite much thought, nor do they promote observation.  If am asked for one answer, probably, one answer I will give.

However, if on the other hand I am asked for a range of responses, I am required to look more deeply at the text.  For example the question, “What is the reason we are supposed to love one another in 1 John 4:7?”  Asks for one response.  Whereas, “What are some of the reasons were are expected to love one another based on 1 John 4:7?” asks one in the study to probe for more than one response.  While the questions may result in the same or similar answers.  As a leader of a study, one should attempt to ask open questions.  To help people engage more deeply in the text.

Most if not all of the books I have read on leading studies teach this.  It is harder to come up with open ended questions.  As a leader it is work that is worth your investment.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Fine Mess

You ever blow it big?  The kind of error that messes you up for days?  I did about three days ago.  I found out about it today.
A Fine Mess
I was paying a bill and meant to pay part of it but inadvertently paid all of it.  My bank account would not support that and went horribly negative.  Oops.

So I spent about an hour on the phone to begin to clear it up.  That is another story.  It should be ok tomorrow morning.

The situation reminds me that in fact I have messed up royally in just about every area of my life.  I have messed up so bad that it is not fixable.  Relationships are destroyed.  Bridges are burned.  People are hurt.  All because of my choices over the years.  There is nothing I can do to change that history.  There is no way that I can make all of that right, no matter how long I stay on the phone.  Today’s snafu was child’s play.

That mess can only be addressed through Christ.  I am powerless, weak.  It is a good – no epically awesome thing that 2 Corinthians 12:9 – 10 is true.  It is grace that all of my messes are cleaned up by my Lord through His Son’s blood.

I do not deserve that.

Neither do you.

But that is what the gospel proclaims.  In Him the mess is cleaned up.  We are reconciled to God.  We are redeemed and showered with His love.

Amazing.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Distractions

My two and a half year old granddaughter had a dance recital today.  She has been in dance all year.  This was a big deal.  The Tulsa PAC was packed.  She had practiced each week at the studio.  This was the first time in front of an audience that big.  She was wearing her cute ballerina tutu, of course pinkish purple and fluffy.
Distractions
The curtain raised and she was there with her classmates and the music started problem was there was a whole lot of new stuff to see.  All those people, the lights, the curtain, the stuff above her head above the stage, there was just a lot to process.  She got some of the moves in between checking out all of the new stuff.  Her classmates did just about the same thing.

She was distracted.  That is ok, she is two and a half.

As believers, ambassadors of Christ, apprentices of the Lord, we have a part to play.  We have a dance we are supposed to perform.  The stage is much bigger.  The audience is much larger, it is composed of all of those who have gone before, Hebrews 12:1.

Like all of the new stuff on the stage, the world is trying to distract us.  We get distracted by our jobs, our families, our causes, or whatever.  It is understandable when a two and a half year old gets distracted.  But it is not so when one who is supposed to be a mature disciple of Christ is pulled away.  Paul saw that happen with Demas, 2 Timothy 4:10.

When we walk out on the stage, we are not to get distracted.  We are to do what the Lord expects.  Not to gaze at the stuff above us on stage.

The question is, how do we do that?  How do we not get distracted?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Motivation to Get Started Abiding

Yesterday I shared the illustration I shared with a friend who wanted to learn to abide in Christ.  In doing that I kind of jumped to the bottom line.  That is not where we started the conversation.  I used an illustration to explain how we grow in our relationship with Christ.
Motivation to Get Started Abiding
I asked him how he got to know his wife.  It was the typical stuff.  Telephone conversations, dates, walks, talks, arguments, etc.

I shared that getting to know the Lord, abiding in Him, is much the same, but also different.

His girlfriend, now wife, was physically present.  Christ is not.  So the relational tools are different.  We still carry on a conversation.  Rather than picking up the phone we use the Bible, God’s Word to us, and prayer, our way of speaking to Him.

There are parallels with both relationships.  There were conversations with his girlfriend that were unremarkable.  That is part of any relationship.  Same with God.  There will be times we spend with Him that seem mechanical, stiff, whatever way you want to describe an unremarkable experience.  But as with his girlfriend there are conversations and times that are overwhelming, mind blowing, the times that drew him to her and finally led him to ask to spend his life with her.  Same thing with our relationship with God.  There will be times that the Word seems to leap off of the page, that our time in prayer with Him seems especially rich.

As both relationships grow.  As we get to know our partners the communication gets easier, richer, even to the point that we know what the other is going to say.  Same thing with God.  As we get to know Him, as we abide in Him and His Word, we begin to know His heart and we recognize His voice and we anticipate His Words.

It is no different, but it is.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Getting Started Abiding

This morning I was meeting with a guy.  About half way through breakfast he told me that he wanted what I had…  He wanted to learn to abide in Christ.  Although I still struggle with that, I understood what he wanted.
Getting Started Abiding
Our churches tell men that they are supposed to have a closer walk with God.  They tell men that they are to read their Bibles.  They tell men that they are supposed to be the spiritual leaders of their families.  They tell men they are supposed to study their Bibles.  Men are told to do these things among others, but the churches have not done a very good job of showing them how.

So I pulled out a 3x5 card and wrote down six letters and drew three lines to show my friend how to get started in abiding in Christ by having a simple quiet time, devotional, or whatever else you may want to call it.

On the left the letter P stands for “pray” in both cases.  The first means you pray to ask God to help you see things about Him in His Word.  Psalm 119:18 is a good model for that.

The R means “read.”  You will note the three lines going from the R to the letters A, B, and C.  They stand for “analyze,” “best verse”, and “contract”.  You read the passage and make notes on what you see, analyze.  You pick the verse that “best” speaks to you.  You then write out what you need to do about what you have seen, contract.  That contract may be as simple as praying about what you have read.  It may be you memorize the verse.  It may be that you need to share what you have seen with someone.  This is not a graded exercise.  It is a way of making what you read real in your life.

Then you P, “pray” again.  Thank God for what you have seen and ask Him to help you use it in your life.

Done.

You can do this in a few minutes or you can take longer.  Up to you.  But it is a simple way to begin to develop a conversational relationship with the Lord.  He talks to you through the Word, you talk to Him in prayer.

Try it.  You will like it.

Oh, by the way, I told him to start in 1 John...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dodge Ball

My Thursday morning group is going through 1 Timothy.  We were in chapter 2 today.  There is a verse or two in there that cause heartburn.

If one continually studies topics or books about the Bible, one can dodge all of the tough passages.  Many of those who share messages week to week stay on topical series so they can dodge these types of passages.  After all, why stir up trouble?  The problem becomes that those under teaching like that are never exposed to the difficulties these passages pose and never have to grapple with how and what they reveal about our Lord and His desire for us as believers individually and corporately.

1 Timothy 2:12 is one of those passages.

What does one do with what Paul says there?  Regardless of all of the ink spilled to the contrary, what Paul says is clear.  The question then becomes why do many either ignore the passage or else work so hard to prove it does not mean what it says?

It may be that it just cuts too hard across our cultural mores.

So rather than come face to face with something that stands hard against the culture, we dodge the passage either by avoiding the subject or else investing enormous energy in denying what it says.

Spiritual dodge ball.

That seems to be a game more appropriate for children.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Summaries

In Bible study we always need to move from the whole, to the parts, and then back to the whole.  Roughly that means that we do an overview of a book, then study the parts, and finally put them back together in a summary of what we have studied.  Prof used to say that the analysis was the easy part.  The hard part was synthesizing what you learn into a simple communicable form.  Einstein similarly said that, “…genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”
Summaries
Sometimes though, in longer books, it is useful, helpful to do summaries of sections of a book.  This morning for instance we summarized the first six chapters of Daniel.  The first six are narrative of the experiences of Daniel and his friends during Judah’s captivity in Babylon.  One can find a lot to apply in those first six chapters.  So we thought it good to hit pause and summarize what we learned.

I have done that with Romans 8 – 11 during a study of the book of Romans.  I have done it with single chapters in 1 John.  The point is that you capture and synthesize what you have learned.  I find that writing out those findings in a way that is easy to communicate forces me to think through the implications of what I have studied more deeply.

Some of the bullet points of our summary of Daniel this morning:
  • God is in control of who is in leadership whether Godly or not.
  • God holds all leaders whether Godly or godless to account.
  • One has to be prepared to obey God in difficult situations before one is actually in them.
  • Character does not need to self-promote.  It will be recognized.
  • Prayer is key to the successful navigation of difficult times.
There are some obvious applications for us in 2015 in that short list and there is more in Daniel from which we can learn.

Dive in.  If you have questions about how, ask.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dealing with Idiots

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I used YouVersion to listen to the Bible while I was driving down to accompany my dad on his cancer re-stage at MD Anderson.  I came back today.  Did the same thing.  The Tuesday AM study is going to be studying Psalms 91 – 95 next week so first I listened to those Psalms several times.  I am studying 1 and 2 Timothy so I listened to 1 Timothy several times and then both books together several times.  My favorite Psalm is Psalm 119 so I listened to that one several times as well.  Lastly, I am studying Daniel so for the last part of the trip I listened to Daniel, and finished through chapter 8 while I was mowing the yard…  It was a good thing I did.
Dealing with Idiots
Being in the Word for me is transforming.  I do not do well when people, who should know better, do incredibly idiotic stuff.

I work part time at a store that I really like.  I really like the people there.  It is a good team.  We do well in spite of the people who are at the corporate headquarters.  They recently changed their payroll system and based on past performance, we all figured this would be a royal mess.  Well, true to form, the instructions to sign up with the new system were nearly impossible to decipher.  The website was user hostile.  There were multiple logins that had to be created.  Today I was informed that it did not work and they blamed me.

So.

The corporate people told the managers to take me off of the schedule and if I did not get the information in that I had already filled out on line in by Friday, they essentially were going to terminate me.

I did not react well to that email.  I am still not reacting well to that email.

So what is a believer to do?  You do what you are asked to do.  You are blamed for the system not working.  You are not valued as a person.  You are punished for their mistakes.  You are pushed out of the organization.  How does a believer respond to this?

Even with seven hours of listening to the Word, I did not and am not responding well.  I know the relevant passages.  I know I am supposed to be under obligation to fools, Romans 1:14.  I know that I am supposed to do everything I do for the sake of the gospel, 1 Corinthians 9:23, and I am pretty sure these people are not believers.  I know Colossians 3:17, and 23.

I am still mad.

I will probably fill out their stupid papers.

Monday, May 11, 2015

More Answered Prayer

More Answered PrayerI have shared before that my dad has been fighting cancer and that my granddaughter was legally blind and may have had Hirschsprung's disease.

Today my dad, brother, and I met with the doctors at MD Anderson.  We found out that though the cancer has grown some, it is still smaller than it was in January.  So he gets another 3 months off of chemo.

We have learned that my granddaughter can now see out of both eyes.  She will still probably need surgery, but she will be able to see.  We also have found out that she does not have Hirschsprung’s.

So before the answers were wait.  Now they are yes.

Persistence is what we are told we need in prayer.  But it is still God’s choice how He answers.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day

Mother’s Day
BTW That is not my wife...
If you went to church today you probably heard a sermon on Proverbs 31.  I did.  It is a favorite passage this time of year.  Appropriate.  I married a woman like that.  Admittedly she had a weak moment.

She has dealt with a lot.  Raising four kids.  Processing how to be a mom now to married children and married children with children.

Yesterday she was helping our daughter and slipped coming down the stairs and landed on her knees on the hardwood floor.  So all Mother’s day she had been on crutches.

Even Superwomen get grounded from time to time…

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Redeeming the Time

I was on the road most of today.  My dad has an appointment at MD Anderson Monday, to re-stage his cancer.  I am taking him, so a 7.5 hour road trip.
Redeeming the Time
I started by listening to a couple of messages by John Piper that I like.  One on John Paton and the other on John Bunyan (12 and 13 on the list, they are well worth the listen).

I did not finish Bunyan.  About half way through the message I began to think about the reality of suffering in the believer’s life.  So I had a desire to get into 1 Peter, the challenge being I was driving and it is not a great idea to read the Bible while doing so.  I have done it.  I don’t any more.  I don’t recommend it.

So I opened YouVersion, actually had to download it from the cloud.  I pulled over and figured out how to have the app read 1 Peter to me.  I listened to 1 Peter about 15 times.  You have probably done this.  I have listened to the Bible on occasion but never like this.

I am more of visual and kinetic learner.  But, I found myself identifying themes in the book.  I used the voice memo app to take notes on what I was hearing.  I made note of things that I want to pursue in a study of 1 Peter.

It was a good use of several hours.  I could have listened to Piper.  That is good.  But listening to Peter is better.  He is inspired; Piper is good, not inspired.

In Ephesians 5:15 – 16 (KJV), Paul exhorts us to redeem the time.  Listening to the Word whilst road tripping, may fit that bill.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Root of Exhaustion

I have shared with you a few times that I work in concert with another ministry, YourOneDegree.  The idea is that since God is the most intelligent being in the universe, Isaiah 55:8 – 9; that He intimately was involved in your creation, Psalm 139:1 – 16; and that He was intentional in this intelligent, intimate, creation specifically forming you for a purpose, Ephesians 2:10.  It might be a good idea to figure out what He was thinking when He intimately, intentionally created us.
The Root of Exhaustion
The corollary is that if we are not aligned with His intention, it takes much more effort to live, we essentially have the life sucked out of us.  The good news is that He wants us aligned and He will guide us, problem is we are not all that good at listening.

Twice today I met with men who were out of alignment.  One of the meetings was planned.  The other was a “chance” encounter.  In the first case the man had begun to understand how God had designed him.  He could see that he could begin to align what he did with his life with that design.  His countenance lit up as he was thinking about how to move forward.

The second was a man who is really good at what he does.  But it is killing him.  When we ran into each other he looked like he was about to fall asleep on his feet.  He was trying to spend some time with his son.  But he was spent, exhausted.

One of the effects of the cancer I have is fatigue.  My body is not functioning in alignment with its design.  I came home this evening out of gas.  It occurs to me that not being in alignment with the God’s intelligent, intimate, intentional design for what He wants me do, has the same effect as cancer.  It drains the life out of you.

It is not a good way to live.  It is an ineffective way to serve the King in His kingdom.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

News

“Did you talk to your surgeon yesterday?  My doc asked.
News
“No, I am not supposed to see him until next week, why?”

“He called me yesterday.”

“Oh, why?”

“He asked if I remembered you.  He then told me the pathology report came back and it was positive for lymphoma.”

“Oh.”

That was Tuesday, about noon.  My first reaction is that everything changed at that point.  But, on further reflection, that is simply not the case.  Psalm 139:3 was true on Monday.  It was still true on Tuesday at noon.  My path had been scrutinized and it was known by the Lord, I just was informed what the next section was going to be.

A couple of days ago I asked what happens when our convictions intersect with life.  Many times they are rocked.  By God’s grace mine have not been.  I know He knew this.  I know He is in control of this.  Like Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:12, I know whom I have believed.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Impact of a Father’s Decisions

Fathers are to lead.  In fact they do.  They either lead well or else poorly, but lead they do.  Fathers have a more significant role in the lives of their children than this world is willing to admit.  In fact it is one of the aims of the enemy to destroy families by having fathers abdicate their leadership.  However, abdication does not negate impact or responsibility.
Impact of a Father’s Decisions
This is starkly illustrated in many places in our Bibles.  One of the more graphic examples is found in Daniel 6:24.  There we read that the men who had conspired against Daniel were thrown into the lions’ den he had just vacated.  But they were not thrown in alone.  They were cast in with their wives and children.  They led their families into destruction.  Their choice to undermine and malign Daniel resulted in the complete destruction of their families.

Men today are doing the same thing.

By choosing not to follow Christ, they are leading their families into destruction.  1 Timothy is full of references requiring leadership, by following Christ, of men.  By choosing to place career or something else in front of their personal engagement with Christ as well as their families, they are leading them into the same pit.

It is the responsibility of leadership in the churches to equip men so that they do not follow the lead of those who attempted to destroy Daniel.

Might want to do a checkup in your community.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Holding Convictions?

What do you believe?  How firmly do you believe it?

You may have done the studies.  You may have outlined the topics.  You may have read all of the books.
Holding Convictions?
How do you do when life intersects your convictions?

That is the classroom I just entered.  I will keep you apprised of what I am learning.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Difficult People

Ever had someone who just rubbed you the wrong way?  Someone who seemed to always be against you?  Someone with whom you struggled with all of the time?
Difficult People
Reading in Ephesians 6:12 the other day I am beginning to wonder if the struggle is with them or something else.  Paul tells us that our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with rulers, powers, world forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness.  Got me to wondering if those entities were also involved in the relationships with which we struggle.

I am not sure.  I know it is going to change the way I pray.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Impact

I have shared here a couple of times that I have been leading a Sunday school on Predestination and Free Will.  Most people when they hear that sort of roll their eyes and suggest I could have done something a little easier.  They are right.
Impact
In the last week I have also done an overview of 1 Timothy.  Several times in the book Paul exhorts his key man to teach sound doctrine in the church.  It has been my experience that we do not get a lot of that in our fellowships.  Too difficult.

Today we had an announcement that took a large portion of our Sunday school time.  So I went over the assignment from last week and asked people both what they had learned in the three weeks and what questions they wanted to have answered in the time we have left.

Here are some of the responses:
  • How does predestination impact our prayer life?
  • The idea that God has chosen people in our sphere of influence changes the way we relate to them.
  • I am amazed at the level of God’s intervention in our lives.
  • This has impacted my understanding of who God is.
  • Since he chose me it makes me wonder about my purpose in His kingdom.
  • It has forced me to view God as bigger, I tend to want to cut Him down to a size I can handle.
I am good with those results.  People are struggling, thinking, reevaluating their understanding of their Father.  That is a very good thing.

When we avoid the hard stuff.  We are not challenging those in our community.  One person said this morning that they would just be lazy and not dive into the hard stuff.  They would let others deal with it.  Problem is not many do.

By diving in we are forced to evaluate whether what we hold to be true is actually in the Bible.  That makes a difference.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Noah’s Faith

Yesterday I listed some of the things I saw about faith in Hebrews 11.  I want to focus on Noah for a moment.  Hebrews 11:7 tells of his faith experience.  In detail:
  • He was told that something was going to happen that had never happened before, a flood.
  • He was told to build something that had never been built before and for which up to this point there was no need.
Noah’s Faith
Think about that for a second.  There has never been a flood, frankly there may not have been rain.  Genesis 2:5 tells us that a mist rose from the ground to water the plants.  The next time rain is mentioned in the Bible it is associated with the flood.  So there is a possibility that Noah had no inkling about what God was doing.  No one in Noah’s community would have any idea what was going on.

Yet look how Noah reacts.  The language in the text is stunning.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that “in reverence” Noah prepared an ark.  Noah looked at the building of this unknown vessel for an event that had never happened in history as worship.

That challenges me.

Have you ever sensed God leading you to do something different?  Something really against the grain?  Something that no one else would understand?  How did you respond?

Noah obeyed.  He prepared what seemed to be an incredibly weird project for what God had told him to do.  It took many years.  Yet when the time came Noah was prepared.

This challenges me to do all that God has laid out for me in reverence.  Waiting for His timing.  Not worrying about whether the project makes sense.  Just doing what He says I am to do.

How about you?

Friday, May 1, 2015

What is Faith?

This morning my time with the Lord was in Hebrews 11:1 - 16.  It has been a hard month.  I looked and although I have been in Bible study pretty much every day, I had slacked off a bit in my devotional time with the Lord.
What is Faith?
There were several issues that had been weighing on my mind.  I wrote them down and began to pray over them, but got the sense I needed refreshing in the Word.  I did.

I have read Hebrews 11 many times, have part of it memorized.  You probably do as well.  It is the faith hall of fame.  This time through I noticed a thread that you probably have seen but I have not put together.  The theme deals with the substance of faith.

First, in verse 3 we believe that the world was not made out of what is visable.  Abel gave a better sacrifice but was not given direction to do so.  Enoch did not see death and was not seen because God took him up.  Noah was warned about  things not seen.  Abraham left his home not knowing where he was going and was given a child when Sarah was unable to conceive.  So we see that faith means we believe in the:
  • Not visible
  • Not directed
  • Not seen
  • Not knowing 
  • Not able 
We act on all of these on faith, believing, as Hebrews 11:6 says that God rewards faith.

This is not an easy assignment.  But there is more.  I will circle back to Noah specifically tomorrow.