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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Different Day, Same Question

It happened again.  I was asked what book I would recommend to help someone understand the context of a passage.  If you have spent any time at all reading any of my posts you probably know what I suggested.  If you are new here, type “commentaries” in the search box at the top left of the page…or just click here.
Different Day, Same Question
The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible.  The best way to understand the context of a book is to do an over view of that book.  The reality is that is what the people who write the introductions and commentaries have done, or should have done.

If you can read, you have the ability to do this yourself.  Further, Jesus promised help.  Look at John 16:13.  Then review 2 Peter 1:19 – 21.  Note that men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God and one of the roles of the Spirit is to lead us into all truth.  When is the last time you read or studied a book in the presence of the author?  You can stop anytime and ask for clarification.  The promise is He will lead you in that process.

That, by definition, is a really good deal.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Why Praise?

I mentioned a couple of days ago the value of identifying verbs in a text.  Here is an example.  In Psalm 147:1 the psalmist commands us to praise the Lord.  Then there are two structural markers, “for” telling us that he is giving us the reason, substantiating why, we should praise the Lord.  In verses 2 – 6 he particularized why we should praise.  Look at the verbs he uses to describe what God does:
Why Praise?
  • Builds
  • Gathers
  • Heals
  • Binds up
  • Counts
  • Gives
  • Supports
  • Brings Down
Then in 7 there is a variation on the theme of praise, sing.  Again in in 8 – 11 he tells us specifically why God should be praised.  He…:
  • Covers
  • Provides
  • Makes
  • Gives
  • Favors
The third stanza of praise starts in 12 doubly repeating the command to praise.  Why?  He again details the reasons in 13 - 19, God…:
  • Strengthened
  • Blessed
  • Makes peace
  • Satisfies
  • Sends forth
  • Gives
  • Scatters
  • Casts forth
  • Sends forth
  • Causes to blow and to flow
  • Declares
Just looking at the verbs one can see the logic of the psalm.  The clear reasons we are commanded to praise the Lord.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Help and Hope

Psalm 146 gives us instruction on where we can get help and on what and whom we can hope.  In verses 3 and 4 the psalmist tells us where we will not get help or hope, in man.  The reason?  Man does not last; he dies.  Nothing a man creates will last forever.
Help and Hope
In contrast we are exhorted to place our trust in God.  He can help and in Him we have hope.  Why?  Verses 6 – 10 catalog the reasons.  He created the world, He does not change, and He is the source of justice, food, and freedom.  He heals and loves.  He protects and supports.  Then the contrast, He resists the wicked.

How long?  Forever.  There is no end to His ability, power, love.  Think of that we can trust in Him because He is eternal, powerful, and unchanging.  Alter anyone of those and the foundation of our help and hope is destroyed.

How should we respond?  Trust and praise, for this great God.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Remembering Verbs

I forget things.  Sometimes I forget important things.  So I need to be reminded, my memory refreshed from time to time.  I have mentioned that I am working through Psalm 119.  Part of that exercise is forcing me to knock a significant amount of rust off of my Hebrew.  Really significant.  But one of the benefits has been a renewed focus on verbs in the text.
Remembering Verbs
In the text, in both Greek and Hebrew, verbs carry a lot of the weight.  The tense, mood, and voice are helpful in making good observations.  One can do much of that in the translations, doing it in the languages speeds up and enriches one's observations.

This evening I was working on the 5 Psalms we are studying in the Tuesday morning group.  I spent most of the time identifying the verbs and parsing them.  Frankly, I am so rusty in Hebrew I leaned heavily on my Bible program, Logos, to parse the verbs.  Working through that exercise in Psalm 119 and the 5 I worked on this evening has helped.  I am slowly beginning to begin to remember.

One of the tenets I share in the workshops and when I work with men one on one in Bible study is the need to slow down and see, observe.  Working through these Psalms in this way has done that for me.  Additionally, I have seen connections and threads I would have probably otherwise missed.

You do not have to have a formal education to do this in either Greek or Hebrew.  There are abundant resources that will allow you to not only identify the verbs in either language but also parse them and learn what that tells you about their function.  I did that with books before seminary.  Now with the Bible programs and websites that are available you can do what took me several books to dig out, with a few clicks, and in some cases just by hovering your mouse over a word.

That allows you a lot of power in your Bible study.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Current Events

There was a course I took in college that was pretty much, at the time, a throw away.  It was in the civil engineering college.  The purpose of the course was to read the newspaper and report on current events.  It reminded me of elementary school, but it filled some of the requirements for graduation.
Current Events
I was not much interested in current events or politics.  I did not see how they impacted me either as an engineer or a pilot in the Air Force.  Naive, huh?

I have since learned that current events and politics impact every facet of our lives.  Today was no exception.  There are going to be – I was going to say unintended, but reality is – intended consequences of what has happened.

Thinking through what happened today, it would not surprise me to see the government demanding churches and Christian businesses to engage in activity that are clearly defined as sin.  What has been done in the name of “freedom” for a small subset of the populace, has potentially removed the freedoms granted by the Constitution to the vast majority of the people.

I foresee huge difficulties with maintaining churches rights under the first amendment.  Businesses will not be able to practice freedom of speech.

As believers how do we respond?  How do we process these current events with our children through the grid of Scripture?  I would suggest that Ephesians 6:10 – 20, may be a place to start, along with 1 Peter 5:8; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11.

This may be full circle back to my attitude in the CE class, but at a significant level, these events are immaterial.  They do not change or diminish the truth.  They simply codify and justify abomination and perversion for those who are committed to life apart from God.  It does not change God’s view of sin.  Nor should it change the believer’s view.  Our task remains that which Paul described in 2 Corinthians 5:14 – 21; the love of Christ controls us and we beg sinners, all sinners, to be reconciled to God.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Resurrecting Skills

One driving characteristic of mine is that with all of my being I hate doing things twice.  If I find myself doing so I figure out a way to either do it faster, automate it, or else get someone else to do it.  But sometimes it is unavoidable.
Resurrecting Skills
While we were at Western Kentucky University, I took Greek and Hebrew, two semesters each.  I was good at Greek, when we got to the seminary I tested out of the first year.  Not so much with Hebrew.  It was always a struggle for me.  Since I spend most of my time in the New Testament, my Greek is much better than my Hebrew.  Since seminary though both are really rusty… Hebrew nearly rusted closed.

A couple of days ago I mentioned that I am investing time each day in Psalm 119.  In doing so I am working at resurrecting some level of proficiency in Hebrew.  It is frustrating because I worked so hard to learn what I did and it is nearly all gone.  But as I work through the Psalm with my grammar open, some is coming back, excruciatingly slow, but back it is coming.

The value in the languages is how much quicker you can make observations.  Plus the nuances of the verbal forms adds depth to one’s understanding of what one is observing.  It is hard work, but it is worth the effort.  Even, if I am having to learn it again…

With the tools available now either for purchase or on the web you can get a lot of what I struggled to learn without paying the hundreds of dollars per academic hour which I did.  The Blue Letter Bible gives you a quick look at both Greek and Hebrew with links to Strong’s numbers.  It does not parse the verbs for you but it is a good starting place.  Bible Hub will give you the part of speech, they call that parsing, but it is not.  It does not tell you what form the verb takesif you use their Hebrew study Bible, you can get closer for each word is linked to Brown Driver Briggs which is the standard Hebrew Lexicon.  It has the different verb stems but does not tell you what they mean…but that moves the ball further down the path…

This kind of sounds like work, huh?  It is.  But it is well worth whatever effort you choose to invest.  If enough people ask I will walk you through how to do this and get the verbs identified, parsed, and some basic understanding of the verb forms in a video blog…The only hang up may be finding a site that identifies the verb form for you…

Let me know.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

God and Doctrine

I was finishing up my prep for the Thursday morning study this evening.  We are in 1 Timothy 6.  I saw something stunning there.  But first…
God and Doctrine
Quick review, I have shared that Paul exhorts Timothy to teach and to teach sound doctrine, here and here, just to highlight this…

Paul talks about doctrine in 1 Timothy 1:3, 4:1, 6, 6:1, 3, and he talks about teaching in 1 Timothy 1:3, 7, 10, 2:7, 12, 3:2, 4:11, 13, 16, 5:17, 6:2.  The density of the repetition suggests those notions were significantly important.  How important?

Look at 6:1.  Notice what Paul is trying to protect by exhorting good behavior, both the name of God and doctrine.  Think of that.  I am not going to suggest the force of Hebrew parallelism here but it is significant that Paul is linking God’s name and sound doctrine.

The implications are stunning but on reflection should not be all that surprising.  Right understanding of who God is, is referred to in systematic theology as “Theology Proper.”  The content of our doctrine, teaching, reflects, or should reflect our understanding of the nature and character of God.  So it stands to reason that the two are linked.

As I suggested in the earlier post, with somewhat backhanded irony, we need to follow what Paul suggests here, we need to pay close attention to the content of what we herald and teach, for ultimately we are, by what we herald, teach, and do, representing the name of God.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Scratching the Surface

I have mentioned several times in this blog that I spend a great deal of time in Psalm 119.  It is my go to.  I have been listening to it when I drive.  As an application I have determined to spend a week on each octet for 22 weeks.
Scratching the Surface
But there is a problem.

I have been a week on 1 – 8 and I feel like I have only scratched the surface.  So… I am into the second week on this section.  The more I look the more I see.  Being familiar with the rest of the Psalm I am seeing threads starting in this section that I know will run through all 176 verses.

That is the beauty and depth of the gift we have been given in this book.  We can read it quickly, in a few moments, and be incredibly sustained.  However, if we linger long, we find that there is no discernible bottom to the depth and breadth of what we see there.

Amazing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Trust and Communication

I just got back from a three and a half hour congregational meeting at our church.  There were a lot of exercised people there and they came prepared to speak to what was going on in the church.  Some quick background we have had three pastors in the church's 28 years.  We have been there for 18 of those years and have known, well, all three of the pastors.  Our leadership structure is called a leadership team for a specific reason about which I will not elaborate at this point.
Trust and Communication
For the past 16 months we have had a search committee looking for a new senior pastor.  In the past three weeks it has surfaced through a couple of letters from that team, as well as the meeting tonight that the leadership team has decided to take the church in a new direction.  Further it was announced that the founding pastor was being presented to the church as the new senior pastor.  He is to speak next weekend and then we are to vote as a congregation on the following Monday.

The confluence of changes did not go down well.  Especially to those in the body who do not know the founding pastor.  They felt like the team was forcing these changes down their throats.  Frankly, it did feel a bit like that.  The scenario reminded me of a maxim a football player involved in the Nav ministry at Western Kentucky University often said, “If you are not in on something, you are down on it.”  Many of the people in the congregation felt marginalized and excluded from a process that was going to, in their eyes, significantly impact the church they had come to love.  For them the perceived lack of communication broke trust.

First, being on that leadership team or search committee, is not – well let’s just say the pay is not worth the stress.  I know all of these people.  They are doing the absolute best they can with a whole heart.  But the challenge they faced and did not handle well was including those who had not gone through the process they had in a manner that would allow those to see their heart or the leading of God in the process.

The point in this is that there have been times in my life that the Lord has taken me through some lesson over a long time period.  It is difficult to communicate to one who has not experienced that with me what has transpired.  That is what happened tonight.  There is not an easy way to communicate how and why God has led you to someone who was not on that journey with you.

It was a learning experience for all involved.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father’s Day

If you are a dad, you probably got a card today.  I got some starting Friday night.  With the logistics of having kids working with their lives and our family entering birthday month, we combine events to get through them all.
Father’s Day
Four Generations of John's, my dad, me, my son, and his son.
So what is this Father’s thing we do?  When does it end?  How does it change?

I have shared multiple times here Deuteronomy 6:6 – 7, 20, those passages tell us that the expectation of the Lord is that we will be processing life with our kids through the grid of the Scripture.  There are a couple of other implications.  First that our kids know that we are in the Word.  When they have a question the first thing they think is, “dad will know that.”  That means that they have confidence in our understanding of the Word.  That does not come over night.  It is developed over time engaging in their lives intentionally in and through the Word of God.

When does it stop?

It don’t.

I have four married children.  Two of the couples have two kids.  The other two have either not been married long enough or have been in work situations that have not allowed them to have children yet.  Our role as parents has changed.  We now have a role as grandparents.  Deuteronomy 6:6 – 7 still applies, and now it applies to two generations after us.  But now Deuteronomy 6:20 kicks into a higher gear.  Rather than speaking into things we see, now we are more and more waiting to be asked.  The grandchildren ask a lot.

So this father thing changes but it does not go away.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Feigned Christians

Psalm 66:3 was in my reading today.  This is a passage on which I have already written once, but not this part.  Something that has always struck me about this verse is the second half.  God is so awesome that people will pretend to obey Him.
That thought sent me on a journey through a number of other passages:
  • Romans 5:10
  • Matthew 13:24 – 30, 36 – 43
  • Isaiah 29:13 (Matthew 15:5 – 8; Mark 7:6 – 7)
  • Matthew 7:13
The thread here is that not all of those who say that they are believers are actually believers.  Our churches and our groups have “tares”.  Those who show up, possibly serve, possibly teach and yet the Lord will say to them, as He does in Matthew 7:22, “depart from Me…”

Paul exhorts each of us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, 1 Corinthians 13:5.  That seems to be good counsel.

Friday, June 19, 2015

What Does a New Christian Need to Know?

Last year I agreed to help a pastor in another country equip men in his underground churches to follow up new believers.  We spent five days together first brainstorming what a new believer in that country needed to know and then outlining how to help them make that a part of their lives.
What Does a New Christian Need to Know?
In the past several months I have been meeting with a guy in my city who has apparently seen that list, not really.  We started meeting for another reason but he quickly told me that he needed help in the basics.

We started with how to have a devotional, a quiet time.  Soon after he asked me how to pray.  Both of those are on the list.  So what does a new believer need?  Here is a suggested list (in no particular order):
  • Quiet Time
  • Prayer
  • Scripture Memory
  • Bible Study
  • How to use Christian Meetings
  • How to share one’s faith
  • Assurance of Salvation
  • The Lordship of Christ
In my wife and my collegiate ministry, we helped those who were learning to help young believers develop content for each of these topics.  That content included an objective, a motivation, how to get started, how to keep going, and how to know when it was part of the person you were helping’s life.  That is what we did at a slightly modified level with the pastor’s men.

These are fairly universally basic topics.  Don’t you think?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Four Meetings, Study, and Thinking

That was my day.  0600 Bible study on 1 Timothy 5, on line study with a pastor in Morocco on Jeremiah 37 – 38 at 0800, on line working through a guy in Omaha’s DESIGN at 0900, a short phone conversation on the proper translation of “οἱ κοπιῶντες ἐν λόγῳ καὶ διδασκαλίᾳ,” in 1 Timothy 5:17 with a colleague in Durham, lunch meeting with the founder of a ministry I have walked alongside for the past 12 years at 1130, working through Psalms 111 – 115, some time in Psalm 119:1 – 8, and working on leadership development curriculum for training pastors in Pakistan, Nepal, and Uganda.  It was a good day.
Four Meetings, Study, and Thinking
Finished by playing with two of my granddaughters and watching part of the Lion King with them.

It did not seem like I was getting much done.  It never does.

Now writing this

These come out of my days.  I am not sure what to say about this one.  So I will stop here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dwelling/Abiding

I did not make it through all of the passages I had planned to in my quiet time this morning.  I got stuck.  Stuck on Psalm 61:3 – 4.  Stuck there and in the passages that came to mind while I was thinking through that passage.  Ever happen to you?
Dwelling/Abiding

The passages that came to mind were Psalm 27:4 (which, by the way, was the first verse I ever memorized), Psalm 84:4, 10; and then back to Psalm 27:8.
The force of these passages seems to be that I need to intentionally work at getting into the presence of God.  That is the best use of my life and time.  But it begs the question, “How?”

In the midst of all of the busyness that we experience in life, how can we work our way into abiding in the presence of God.  I am sure I do not have all of the answers but I have some thoughts.

First, is solitude.  I need to be alone; by myself.  That is not easy to do.  I means I may have to close some doors, or even leave the house or office, or go seal myself in a conference room.  But I need to be by myself without distractions.  There are times though that is not possible so I also need…

Quiet, for that in times that I cannot have solitude, I use either soft background music or noise cancelling headphones or both.  The point is I have to as much as possible eliminate distractions.

Third, prayer.  I am learning as David did that I have to ask the Lord to help me get to know Him, to help me into His presence.  Without asking, I am pretty much toast when I try.  Why?  Because on my own strength or effort, I find I am not able to break through.

Fourth, His Word.  We have an incredible advantage over most of the believers about whom we read in the Bible.  We have the Bible.  They did not.  God reveals Himself in all of His interactions with people in both the Old Testament and the New.  Further, we have the promise in John 16:13 that the Spirit will guide us into truth.

Lastly, my journal.  I am a type A, driver, hard charging, competitive, etc.  My mind is always running at high speed.  I find that I have to write to slow me down.  Not type, write.  Pen on blank paper.  I find when I do, that things I am reading, pondering, trying to sort out become clearer.  The Lord shows up.

These are certainly not the only means.  But I have found that they have worked for me, and many others.

Try it.  You’ll like it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Grieving and Paining

Yesterday I shared my background in Psalm 78.  The point was that I know that Psalm well.  It was in our study this morning.  I mentioned I saw things in it I had not seen before.
Grieving and Paining
Look at Psalm 78:40 – 42.  Two words nearly leaped off the page at me, “grieved” and “pained”.  The context suggests that it grieves and pains the Lord when we do not remember what He has done in our lives and trust Him in all of our circumstances.

If I am honest, I have grieved and pained the Lord in that way.  In the midst of trouble it is sometimes hard to remember what He has done for me.  Thus the need for journals and beyond that to review those journals to remember what God has done.  But even with that tool, I tend to try to solve problems on my own, trusting my ability, my creativity, and not the Lord.  Grieving and paining Him.

I am dealing with an issue now.  It is one I can either choose to trust Him or else try to solve on my own.  I am praying – at some level I feel like David in Psalm 119:32, the only way I will be able not to grieve and pain Him is through His enabling grace.

On my own, I am too weak.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Grieving and Paining (background for tomorrow's post)

In 1978 and 1979 my wife and I were at Michigan State University living in faculty housing.  We were working with a Christian organization on campus.  MSU was a training center for that organization.  Part of the training was a requirement to study the Bible 20 hours a week and to work a part time job 20 hours a week.  After that we could go to the dorm and engage with students.
Grieving and Paining (background)
In that 20 hours per week of study we were assigned topical studies that were tied to ministry and ministry philosophy.  One of those studies was on spiritual multiplication.  The concept was simple.  We were to look up all the passages we could find that had multiple generations in them, record them, and then make observations and conclusions.  Simple, but this was before personal computers, Bible programs, and the internet.  So essentially we either used concordances or skimmed the Bible from Genesis to Revelation looking for the passages that were required by the study.

We lived in a one bedroom apartment.  In the corner of the “living room” I had a desk and some shelves with my reference books.  I either studied there or in the MSU library.  I was at that desk one afternoon working through the Psalms in the search for generational references and came to Psalm 78.  As I read through the Psalm I literally stood up at my desk in excitement.  Prof talks about keyhole texts, texts that open up understanding of books or large portions of Scripture.  Psalm 78:5 – 8 was the first such text that I found.  I stood up in excitement because that passage outlined the content and purpose of the Old Testament.  It became the cornerstone of many of my future messages, especially those that dealt with God’s overarching plan of redemption.

I have invested a significant amount of time in this Psalm, I have referred to it at least four other times in this blog.  I have spoken using 5 – 8 as the outline more times than I can recall.  This week it was part of the assignment for the Tuesday morning Bible study in which I participate.  I saw things in Psalm 78 that I had not seen before.  I will share those things tomorrow.

The point of this background is to serve as a reminder to me and you by extension, that no matter how familiar I am with a passage of Scripture, there is more there than I have seen or will ever see.

I may have a masters in theology, but I will never master the Bible.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

“Teaching” in the Last Days

In my journal to day I spent time in several passages dealing with the difficulty of teaching or imparting truth during the “last days”.  Namely, 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 John 4:6; 2 Timothy 3:1 – 5; Isaiah 29:13 (Matthew 15:8 – 9; Mark 7:6 – 9).  All these have in common – well you can see what they have in common…
“Teaching” in the Last Days
Bottom line as we get closer and closer to our Lord’s return, the resistance to the truth will grow, to the point of censor and persecution.  Already military chaplains are being forbidden to share Christ.  The Bible is being labeled, “hate speech” by those with the “tolerant” and “coexist” bumper stickers on their cars.  Our current administration is more interested in Islam than Christianity.

But the Church is not immune.  Individuals and denominations are taking positions in alignment with the culture rather than the Bible.  I have asked this before, but if we continue to accept what the culture says about sin, what is our message?  How are we different – other than we choose to gather in the same place one to three times each week?

There seems to be an abandonment of the Bible underway.  In most churches we do not instruct people on the importance of studying the Word of God, we certainly do not equip them to do so.  In 40 years I have never been in a class in a church that was focused on equipping people to study their Bibles that I was not leading.

Hard times are coming.  A couple of years ago I was asked to come to a country and help equip the people in underground churches to study the Bible.  The stated purpose was so that they could feed themselves when their pastor was arrested.  Some will say that can’t happen in the USA, the mayor of Houston has already tried to censor pastor’s sermons.  That was just the first of many salvos to come.

As a Body we have created several generations of consumers.  Pastors and leaders have focused on teaching and preaching rather than equipping.  In so doing, creating dependency on their study and teaching.  What happens when they are no longer available to preach and teach?  Exhorting people to read and study without instruction as to how, is not equipping.

The number of times I have been told that a guy did not study the Bible for himself because he simply did not know how – well frankly I have lost count.  It is much easier to get a book by a great Christian author or read a commentary or look at the notes in a study Bible, none of which are inspired, than it is to dig in for oneself, especially when one does not know how or where to start.

Things need to change.  Things need to change now.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The “Elusive” Will of God

Tomorrow is the last day of the eight week study on Free Will and Predestination…  I thought last week was…

Since I shared my conclusions last week, I asked those in the class what they would like to cover this week.  Since I shared in my summary that our free will is restored at redemption, they wanted to know how God’s sovereignty interacts with that restored free will.  There were other questions but they mostly fell under this category.

The “Elusive” Will of GodOne of the men asked how we should react to those who use the will of God as a foil.  That is they share what they are going to do and state that they know it is God’s will thus ending all questions.  It is a great question.  Great because I have encountered and continue to encounter people like that.

As I think back over my walk with God, the issue of God’s will was a lot more important for me when I was a young Christian.  I think some of that is because being a driver, I was looking for the boundaries.  Also, I was afraid He would send me to some remote place like Nepal or Morocco, like He did in November and December.

Some of those who are claiming to know God’s will are on pretty thin ice.  Thin in the sense that they have not engaged in some of the things that God suggests, check that, commands us as believers to do.  Yet, they figure they have the will of God nailed.

The way my Bible reads, in order to know the will of God we have to have a fairly significant relationship with and understanding of God’s Word.  I get that from several passages but notably John 15:7 and 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17 are good places to start – oh, go ahead and add 1 Peter 2:1 – 2.

So if someone has told you they have the will of God figured out and they do not have a strong foundation in the Word, red flags should be waving.

There are more issues, but this one is key.

One other thing, if they are not receptive to questions about their understanding of God’s will or are not interested in explaining how they got there, they are probably just following their own desires.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Resplendent

Still in Psalm 76.  Several times in my quiet time I have been brought up short by verse 4.  Asaph describes God as resplendent.  He then compares Him with mountains.  I love mountains.  That is where I go to recharge.  One reason, they are stunningly gorgeous.  Asaph says God is more stunning.
Resplendent
But look at resplendent.  The word in Hebrew shows up 42 times in Scripture.  It is translated resplendent once here in verse 4.  In other places it is variously translated, shine brighter and brighter, fire, shone, kindle fire, brightened, shine, light, gives light, enlighten, illumine, lit, give light, the day dawned, and bright.  There is a pattern there, don’t you think?  It is the notion of a bright source of light.  Asaph describes God as a source of light.  But what kind?  The dictionary defines resplendent as: splendid, magnificent, brilliant, dazzling, glittering, gorgeous, impressive, imposing, spectacular, striking, stunning, majestic.

That brings to mind several other verses: 1 Timothy 6:16; Revelation 4 – 5, 21:23 - 27; and Ezekiel 1:4 – 28; to name a few.

Our God is the source of majestic light.  So much so that when men see a vision of that majesty they are undone.  Review Isaiah 6:1 – 7 and Revelation 1:12 – 17.

It is by and for Him we have been chosen to call Him Abba.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Knowable

Psalm 76 is on the list of the ones I am studying this week.  Verse 1 pretty much stopped me.  It appears to be the basis of the Psalm, that God can be known.  Think of it, the God of creation, the creator of the universe, can be known.  He is not aloof; He has allowed himself to be known.
Knowable

How?

Through what He has done.  In the Psalm, through what He has done for Israel.

But that is not all.  He is also known through what He does through His people in the Church.  Look at John 13:35; Romans 3:19; Matthew 24:14; Mark 6:11, 13:9.  In those passages God is revealed through what He does through His people.

Ponder that.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Genetic Sin

Last week was week 7 of the 8 week session on predestination and free will.  The assignment for the class was to respond to four questions:
Genetic Sin
  • What does the Bible teach about homosexuality?
  • Is it a legitimate life choice?
  • Is it genetic?
  • What is the appropriate Christian response to homosexuals in the community? 
You may ask what has this got to do with predestination and free will?  Everything.  The arguments supporting homosexuality as a life choice are variously categorized under one or the other of the poles of those theological positions.  As with this blog, the purpose of the class is not to come up with what we think is right, rather, what the Bible teaches us that God thinks is right.  Bible deniers not withstanding.

The passages that deal with this issues are 4 or 5 depending on how you count them.  The one I want you to look at is 1 Corinthians 6:9 – 11.  Paul here lists 10 categories of sin that, using his language, will not inherit the kingdom of God.  In other words, will not enter, are excluded.  But focus on verse 11.  Paul acknowledges that some of the Corinthian believers had been in one or more of those categories.  However, again using Paul’s language, “…you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”  The implication is that those who were in those categories through a transforming relationship with Christ were no longer in those categories.

At the end of the discussion one of the people asked about the genetic issue, we had not addressed it well in our discussion.  The short answer is that all of our sin is genetic.  When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, they fell.  Not partially but totally.  The language is they died.  The language throughout the Bible describing man’s condition prior to regeneration includes dead, slave, helpless, etc.  We are genetically predisposed to sin; all 10 and more of Paul’s categories in 1 Corinthians 6:9 – 11.

So yes, sin is genetic, all of it.  Not just the ones we want to justify.  So Romans 3:20 stands, we are all in the same boat.  Without God’s intervention in our lives, none of us would, in Paul’s words, inherit the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Babies and Bathwater

Babies and Bathwater
In a study I was in recently one of my friends made a couple of statements about the Bible that were not sourced in the text but in reactions to what people had done to him.  He was filtering what he saw in the text with his appropriate reaction to those situations.  The problem was the filters caused him to overlook, miss, or ignore some seemingly clear statements in the text.  Essentially, he let someone else's bad behavior color what he sees in the text.  By denying or forcing the text to counter the bad behavior of those people to the extent that he discounted the meaning of the text, he essentially threw the baby out with the bathwater.

I have done that.  It is wrong.

Anytime we allow something other than the text to inform what we see in the text it is an error.  But we do it.

It may be that we have a favorite doctrine that a passage seems to contradict.  Rather than deal with the passage honestly, we tend to try to make it fit our doctrine.  That is an error.  I live in an area in which several people emphasize speaking in tongues.  1 Corinthians 12:28 - 31, says that not all people are going to have tongues as a gift.  Regardless, there are many who will insist that particular gift is available to all people.

D. A. Carson has dealt with this in Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14.  This is an excellent example of both a good Bible study as well as a superb example of theological method done well.

As apprentices of Christ we cannot allow other's bad behavior, or our pet theological positions to cloud our observation of what the text says.  To do so limits our understanding of God and His thought to what others force us to see or what we chose to see.

The world is doing that for us.  We do not need to help them.

Monday, June 8, 2015

On the Road

Since Friday I have driven 1,624 miles.  From Huntsville, TX to Borger, TX to lead a Fathers to Sons workshop.  From Borger to Tulsa to lead a Sunday school class at my church.  From Tulsa to Driftwood, TX to baptize the son of my cousin’s daughter.  From Driftwood back to Huntsville, TX to spend the week with my dad.  I am tired of driving.
On the Road
It has been a good four days.  Great workshop in Borger.  Good discussions about difficult issues in Sunday school.  Good family time at the Baptism.  Good to give my brother a break.

It has been a long four days and a long day.  Sometimes that is what is required on this journey of serving.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Tell Your Boring Story

If you have been involved in helping people with their walk with God for some time, you have a core message.  For me that message is essentially, “you need to study the Bible.”  I have a lot of ways that I say that.  You will have a lot of ways to share your message as well.
Tell Your Boring Story
There may be times when you are about to share that you may say to yourself, “this isn’t very good.  They really won’t get much out of this.”

Two things.  If you are like me you may have shared that same message 1000’s of times.  You have heard yourself share it.  It is old hat.  It is not for the person with whom you are sharing.  For them it is the first time they have heard your message.  It may change their life.  Stay excited about what God has done in your life.

Second, if you have developed that message in concert with your walk with the Lord, you can bet that the enemy does not want you to share it.  No.  John Eldredge has said, “Your life is a story of continual attack by one who knows what you can become and is afraid of you.”  Your message is dangerous.  The enemy will do all he can to prevent you from sharing it.

The bottom line?  Your life has impact.  You are to share that life and your story with as many of those around you as the Lord allows.  In Philippians 2, Paul exhorts us to pour our lives out for others.  Part of doing that is sharing that story you have shared umpteen times once more.  They haven’t heard it.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Power of Equipping

I have done this about 35 times in the past seven years.  In either a half day workshop or a 10 week class, I have equipped men to do a book overview using 2 Peter.  Additionally, several years ago I memorized 1 Peter and 2 Peter.  I translated the book from Greek to English at one point.  I am familiar with the 61 verses of 2 Peter.
The Power of Equipping
So when I share the methods with the men and they begin to work on the book, it is not new to me.  It is to them.  I have done this so many times that I tend to project my familiarity with the book onto the men in the workshop.  Mistake.  I usually snap out of it after they share what they got after the first reading.

The excitement of seeing that they can study the Word without the aid of secondary sources is invigorating.  I happened again this morning.  At the end of the four plus hours the men had charts of 2 Peter that captured what they saw in the book, and frankly are as good, no better than any commentary they could use.  Why?  Because it is their work.

One of the guys said it at the end of our time together, “I used to just read the commentaries, I see nowI can do this myself.”  He was pumped.  That is good.

The key now is that they continue to use the tools they were given this morning on the rest of the books in their Bibles.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Blessed by Obedience

Driving 7 hours today I had a lot of time.  So I listened to Psalm 119 several times again.  Truthfully I would fade in and out of listening.  I would start thinking about someting and realize I was in Psalm 121.

Blessed by Obedience

One of the things that came out of the time today is another project.  I have heard snippits of other Psalms as I listen to Psalm 119.  One of the projects that I am going to pursue is to work through Psalm 119 section by section and connect the themes in that section to other Psalms.

I started that this evening.  The idea is to spend a week on each section.  So I started looking more closely this evening at Psalm 119:1 - 8.  I noticed something that I had not seen before.  Verses 1 - 4 describe the benefit of obedience, being blessed.  Verses 5 - 8 record David asking the Lord to help him, establish him so that he can obey.  David realized that on his own he was not able to really keep the Lord's statutes.  In this he predated Paul in Romans 7.

By the way that theme, beseeching the Lord for help to follow Him, is a consistent theme through 119.

So it would seem that our ability to obey, like our faith, may be a gift from God.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Working as the Owner

Saturday I am doing a “Fathers to Sons” workshop in Borger, Texas.  I have discovered from my dad this week that I have deep roots there, but more on that later, maybe.  Talking to my friend the pastor this morning we determined I needed 30 – 40 more books.  So I went to a printer here in Huntsville to get them printed and bound.  For reference it was 12:30 PM.
Working as the Owner
When I walked into the printer there were about five people in there, none of which were doing anything but talking to one another.  None of the printers were being used.  So it looked like there would be capacity to get the job done.  No.  I was informed after I explained what I needed that they had three hundred books in front of me, not sure when they were going to start, but they would not have time to do my 30 copies.

So, I trucked on down to the local Office Depot.  I explained to the girl there what I needed and she assured me that she could get it done, but that they would not honor my tax exempt status.  I asked how much, it was quite a bit because they charge a lot for a color copy.  I had decided to bite the bullet on the price when she told me that she would have them tomorrow morning.  I reminded her that I had to have them today.  She said she thought she could get it done.  Thought?  I needed to know if she could.  She supposed so.  Supposed?  Supposed is not good enough, can you do it or not?  Bottom line she would not commit.  I walked out.

I found a printer in Conroe, thirty minutes away.  I called and explained the situation.  They were working on 800 books.  They closed 4 hours earlier than Office Depot.  Their punch for the spiral binder was broken.  But they would do it.

When I got there, it was three people.  All were moving rapidly.  Irene, took my file and converted the pages that had color on them to grey so I wouldn’t be charged for 29 color copies per book.  I don’t know how they got the pages punched.  But I have not 30 but 41 books because their price was about half of Office Depots’

Colossians 3:17, 23 tell us that we are to work hard and well for our Lord in whatever we do.  One way to do that is to do whatever we are asked to do with a whole heart.  All three of the people in Conroe did that.  There was evidence in the shop that they were believers.  They came up with the way to print the books so I did not have to pay for 29 color copies.  It took 15 minutes to fix, and saved me $200.

By their attitude and work ethic they demonstrated Colossians 3:17, 23.  It is no wonder that they have a consistent stream of work.

That is how we should approach all we do, as unto the Lord.  All we do should be excellent.  Because regardless of who our earthly boss may be, or how messed up they are, our ultimate boss is Christ.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Two Things

First, today 37 years ago my wife said I do – so did I.  She got a whole lot more than she bargained for; at least on the sickness and health front.  We have four kids who are walking with the Lord, married to believers, four grandchildren, currently, who are being raised to follow Christ.  We are engaged in helping others in the Word.  Not sure how it can get better.
Two Things
Second, last month when the docs told me I had cancer, while I knew that it was just the next segment of the journey, there were at least a couple of realities that kicked in.  My oldest grandchild is four and a half.  The youngest is 7 months.  The reality is that if Christ chose to call me home, they would not have any memory of me other than photos.  So…  What do you do about that?

I shared a couple of months ago that recently, nearly every time I am around the four year old she begins to ask questions about some character in the Bible.  Some of those conversations have been really long especially for a four year old.  That gave me an idea…

Why not record a series of videos in which I tell the current and theoretical future grandchildren stories from the Bible?  So in my journal I began to list what those could be…  That list gets long fast.  Today I came to the conclusion that it would probably be just as effective to start in Genesis and start telling the story.  One or two a day…  It will take a long time.  I may not finish.  If I don’t start, that’s a given.

Someone telling you that you have cancer can probably have a number of impacts.  For me, it was focus.  I was not going to change the trajectory of what I was doing, I know that I am doing what the Lord wants me to do.  But, with regard to my grandkids, what can I leave them that will draw them into what I passionately love, the Word.

It would have to be the videos.  So I will start…  The implicit message here is do not wait for a cancer diagnosis to get focused.  Build your legacy for your grandkids now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Understanding to the Simple

This morning at the end of our Bible study we were sharing prayer requests.  One of the men works with students in an ROTC unit.  One of his cadets had not passed the test that cadets take before the third year.  That means that he will no longer be in ROTC.  This kid is badly dyslexic, which contributed greatly to the result.  The request was that my friend would be able to work through the issue that the answer to their prayer that he would pass was “no”.
Understanding to the Simple
This afternoon while driving to be with my dad I was listening to Psalm 119.  About the third or fourth time through, Psalm 119:130 really grabbed my attention.  I have shared earlier how Bible study had transformed my learning experience.  I called my friend and suggested he push the cadet he was helping to begin to do verse analysis Bible studies.

Why?

Because in my experience, both personal and observing the impact on those with whom I have shared this study, the impact on them is far beyond learning a Bible study skill.  It taught me how to learn.  It does the same thing with the others with whom I have shared it.  It teaches research and the application of that research to a finite problem.

I do not know if my friend will follow through with this.  It is up to him.  He knows the situation much better than I.  He told me if he does he will let me know the outcome.  When and if he does I will share it with you.

Monday, June 1, 2015

With David in the School of Prayer

The Tuesday AM study is in Psalms.  I am pretty good at Bible study.  Prayer, not so much.  This week we are studying Psalms 6 – 10, it is a complicated formula that determines the Psalms we study each week.  Requires a PhD in mathematics or extended time ministering to active duty military.
With David in the School of Prayer
I just got through prepping for tomorrow’s study.  I was struck by what I saw in Psalm 6.  To me David seemed whiney.  I am pining away, I am dismayed – no check that, greatly dismayed.  Really?  That’s what you are coming to the Lord with?  You are the dude that took down Goliath for Pete’s sake.  Man up.

This little voice then suggested that I remember that David was a man after God’s own heart, 1 Samuel 13:14.  Oh.

Then as I began to think through the Psalm, it began to sink in.  That is what I do.  That is the whole backstory to Romans 8:26.  I am often pining and dismayed, just don’t want to admit it.  That is what I need to bring to the Lord.  Not like He doesn’t know.

It is on that basis, that weakness that I come to Him for not just strength, but life.

I have a lot to learn from David.