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Friday, July 31, 2015

Smoking Holes in the Ground

Continuing the Air Force theme from yesterday.  One of the idioms we used frequently was, “smoking hole in the ground.”  That, probably obviously, refers to a crashed airplane; hopefully one from which you have ejected, referred to as a “nylon decent”.  The idiom was expanded to “crash and burn,” amongst others which would be better left un-shared in this forum…
Smoking Holes in the Ground
The idea is that the pilot, usually it was pilot error, messed up so badly that regardless of training or experience he was unable to recover the aircraft and either flew it into the ground or else ejected…

There were a number of us who were believers.  We were involved in Bible studies, evangelism, follow up of new believers, church, base chapel, and Christian conferences.  However, there were those who crashed and burned in their Christian life.  Those who although doing all of the “right” things made terrible decisions and crashed and burned, leaving a smoking hole in the ground of their walk with God.

Some have yet to recover.

You have seen this happen in your community.  Leaders involved in adulterous affairs.  Leaders involved in homosexual conduct.  Community members embezzling funds and spending the money on pornography.  Leaders in the community taking their own lives.  I could go on…

For me each time these things happen I experience excruciating pain.  My question is always how did we as a body fail?  We are supposed to be building one another up.  We are supposed to be strengthening the weak, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 – 15; Hebrews 12:12 – 13.  How did we miss it?

It seems to me that the challenge may be that we are not engaged with each other at an appropriate level.  We do not know one another well enough to see the danger signs.  We do not want to ask questions for fear of alienating people – in fact I have asked and confronted and had the person bolt from the church.

The bottom line is that there are too many smoking holes.  As believers, apprentices of Christ we have to do better.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wind the Clock

The last several posts (10) were written before my wife and I left for vacation on the 20th.  It is Saturday night now, the 18th.  I am running out of ideas.
Wind the Clock
I was an instructor pilot in the U.S. Air Force.  Flying is constant error correction, especially without an auto pilot.  You are continually adjusting your throttle and trim to maintain altitude, airspeed, and bearing.  There are times when things go wrong.  One of the purposes of pilot training is to equip pilots to deal effectively with those times.  Pilots are trained to think, think ahead of the aircraft, and think fast.  Emergency procedures are memorized rote, and frequently tested.  However, there are times when all of the training does not solve the immediate challenge.  At that point the pilot’s proverb was…

When you are out of airspeed and ideas…wind the clock.

Short explanation, the clocks in the aircraft we flew were mechanical, they had to be wound.

The Christian life should be a lot like this.  There should be training to deal with the stuff the world throws at us on a daily basis.  But there are times when all of the training we have had does not prepare us for what we are facing.  You get a phone call that your son has been in an accident, his life is lost.  Your daughter’s child is still born.  Your doctor tells you the pathology indicates stage four and you need to get things in order…

When you are the end of your training, experience, expectation, what does one do?  There is no real clock to wind.  For me – and I offer this with the trepidation that comes from failing to apply it consistently – winding the clock means remembering that my God is sovereign.  That He knew what was coming, Psalm 139:3, and knows what is happening.  Further, He has or will provide a solution.  Winding the clock for me is falling completely and totally on the grace of my Lord.

If you have another idea I would be interested in hearing it…

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How to Create Rage

Paul was good at getting people riled up.  Really good.  Look at 2 Corinthians 11:22 – 27.  People do not imprison, beat, scourge, beat with rods, or stone folks they really like.  Why was he so popular?  He shared the gospel.
How to Create Rage
One example, look at Acts 19:28.  Paul is in Ephesus, this is the place that he spent more time than any other, at one point teaching daily for two years, Acts 19:9 – 10.  It was the place that he called the elders to him to say goodbye on his way to Jerusalem and his eventual, Acts 20:17 – 38.  It is also the place that he sent Timothy to lead the church.

But look at Acts 19:28.  He filled the people there with rage.  Why?  The gospel was offensive to them.  It was in serious conflict with their world view.  Truth does not mix well with the world’s take on reality.  When people who are committed to lies are faced with truth they have at least four options:

  • Change their world view
  • Discredit the message
  • Discredit the messenger
  • Drown out the message

You have experienced this in arguments.  When a person’s point of view is challenged rationally and they do not want to change they tend to talk faster and louder, I think they believe that quantity and volume trumps fact.  This is what happened to Paul.  The Ephesian craftsmen’s livelihood was in peril.  So, option one was not viable.  So they went with three through four.

More and more, we as believers we will be faced with this reality.  John 15:20 promises that and Paul affirms it in 2 Timothy 3:12.

Buckle your seat belts; that is the assignment.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Judged and Misconstrued

Acts 21:20 – 21, 29 describe Paul’s experience with the Jewish believers in Jerusalem after his third missionary journey.  It was not positive.  He was judged and his actions were misconstrued.  He was accused of things that the Jewish believers had heard he had done, he had not done them.  They did not ask questions, they just reacted based on what they “knew”.
Judged and Misconstrued
It is a good thing that never happens to believers today (tongue firmly in cheek).

If it has not happened to you or if you have not misconstrued something that another believer has done, wait for it…

There are some fairly simple things we can do as believers to stop or significantly diminish these types of issues.  First, if someone comes to you with a bad report on another believer stop them.  Say something like…

“Excuse me, have you talked to [name] about this?”  If they say no, reply something like, “You should talk to them about this first.”

If they say yes, “Are you telling me this because you would like for me to go to them with you to talk about this?”  You are asking them if they are in the process of following Matthew 18:15 – 18.  If they say yes, great.  If not, then, “Thank you but I would rather not talk about this.”

Second, if you have concerns about something another believer is doing or you suspect them of doing, ask them.  Do not ask about them, ask them.  Something like, “[Name] I am a bit confused, it seem like you may be [insert whatever you think is going on here].  Is that the case or have I got my wires crossed?”  By asking you are starting the process of following Galatians 6:1 – 2 in a gentle way.  If you have misunderstood great.  If not, you may have helped a fellow believer get back on the path.

In either case these are better ways to deal with these kind of issues than what we usually do…

Monday, July 27, 2015

Head Waiter

I read something a few days ago in Luke 12 that nearly knocked me out of my chair.  I have read it before, many times, but somehow it had not sunk in.  Frankly I get focused on Luke 12:48 and pretty much everything else blurs out…
Head Waiter
But look at Luke 12:37.  When the master finds his slaves on the alert, the master girds himself and waits on the slaves…what?  Peter got it.  He starts asking clarifying questions, not sure if he was taken aback or did not want to share the event, but He reacts similarly to the way he reacted – I am getting ahead of myself…

If I am reading this right, the image is of the creator of the universe serving those believers who are prepared when He returns.  I can read what it says but I cannot conceive of that actually being what is being said…but there it is.

How would you react?  If the Lord of the universe came to you to serve you…

John 13 gives us, perhaps, a clearer picture.  You know the story, Jesus girds Himself and begins to wash the apostles’ feet.  Peter again responds, “No you don’t.”  I totally understand why.  I would be frankly, terrified.  Peter by this time thought he knew who Christ was and he was certain that it was inappropriate for Christ to wash his feet, serve him.  Christ quickly disabuses Peter of that notion causing Peter to go all in.

The event in John 13 seems to mirror Luke 12:37.  In both cases Peter is struggling with what Christ is saying and doing.  I am too.  I have the benefit of Peter’s experience.  I have the full canon.  I have studied the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.  I know He came to serve.  I know He emptied Himself.  Somehow though the thought of my creator serving me in that way is overwhelming.

But I know I have to, like Peter, go all in.  Otherwise, I will have no part with Him…

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Purpose and Burn Out

A couple of weeks ago our Thursday morning Bible study was in 1 Timothy 1.  We kind of got off on a rabbit trail, but it was a good one… 1 Timothy 1:9 tells us that that we are saved according to, on the basis of, God’s purpose.  That raised a question what was the purpose?  Was it just our salvation or was there something else involved?
Purpose and Burn Out
Ephesians 2:10 may suggest an answer.  Coupled with Psalm 139:1 – 6, 13 – 16, we get a picture of the Lord intimately involved in our intentional creation for a specific purpose.  As we kicked that around the breakfast table, we began to ask how we find that purpose and how the reality of that intimate, intentional creation should impact our lives and ministry as believers.

We further began to talk about how leaders in the church are chosen and the role of the pastoral staff and how that is informed by God’s purpose and plan.

From there we noted that there is a fairly high instance of burnout for leaders and pastors in the Church.  We wondered if it was connected to people working outside of their purpose.  Another way of putting that is people taking on jobs they are asked to do without regard for the intentional way that the most intelligent being in the universe intentionally designed them.  That led to the reality that the Church, like most institutions subscribes to the 80/20 rule…

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that one is not going to figure out God’s purpose for their life if they are not abiding in Christ, John 15:1 – 16.  In that passage the word “abide” occurs 11 times.  It is central to the argument.  One problem may be that churches are not really very good at telling people how to abide.  They are good at telling them to do so, not so much about how…

We kind of scraped the universe in that discussion.  But it was good.  I caused a lot of brain cells to activate in ways they may not have in the past.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Observations on How to be Rich

Yesterday I shared the method and the verses I looked at to answer the question I asked, “How does one become rich in God?”  I asked you to look at the passages first and come up with your ideas; here are mine, verse by verse:
Observations on How to be Rich
Luke 12:21 – this passage started the question for me.  From the contrast in the passage it seems more to tell me what rich is not.  According to the passage it is not storing up goods or finances for oneself.  That is the way the world defines rich.  That, based on this verse, is not rich toward God.  That aligns perfectly with what John wrote in 1 John 2:15 – 17.  The measure of wealth the world uses is temporary.  We are looking then for an eternal measure of richness or wealth.

Romans 10:12 – the source of riches for us is in calling on the Lord.  Note however that we have already determined from Luke 12:21 that those riches are not monetary or possessions.  So, whatever one comes up with as being rich toward the Lord it seems to start with calling on Him for those riches.

2 Corinthians 8:9 – this one could be a bit confusing.  The context is dealing with the completion of a pledge the Corinthian church made for the support of other churches.  That aside the import of this passage seems to align closely with the previous passage.  We are rich through Christ’s poverty.  We read in Philippians 2:5 – 11 that Christ voluntarily emptied himself in order to save us.  Our wealth, riches toward God then is sourced in Christ’s ministry and sacrifice.

1 Timothy 6:18 – this one is more specific.  Rich in good works.  Paul exhorts those who are rich in this world, like the rich man in Luke 12:21, to be rich in good works.  It is interesting that in doing so Paul says that this will create for them a good foundation for the future with the result that they can take hold of life indeed.  That opens up a further, really rich vein of inquiry (rabbit trail, but closely related) about what is life.

Revelation 3:18 – this is set in contrast to Revelation 3:17 and supports Jesus’ position that worldly riches are not what is important.  In contrast to worldly wealth what is important is purity, righteousness… admittedly I skipped sharing some of the steps in getting to that conclusion to validate it look at the context and Hebrews 12:4 – 11.

So the bottom line seems to be that richness toward God comes from our pursuing Him, actually begging Him for those riches, that are evidenced in our lives by serving others as Christ did, pursuing a life of purity and the righteousness of Christ under the discipline of God to that end.

Practically, based on my current study of Psalm 119, that seems to include intentional, prayerful absorption of the Word with the result that I work the impact of the Word out through my actions including sharing what I am learning with those whom the Lord brings into my sphere of influence.

There is a lot here.  I have made some statements that while I can support I have not completely shared the support primarily because of the need for brevity.  If there are questions please do not hesitate to ask and I will respond.  It will be several days before I can, but I will respond…

Friday, July 24, 2015

How to be Rich

Yesterday I posed the question how do we become rich toward God?  While I am still formulating my answer to that question, let me tell you what I am doing to get there.  I looked up all of the passages in the New Testament that had the word rich in them, well specifically the word that is translated rich in Luke 12:21.  That list is here.  Not all of the verses really spoke to my question, I highlighted the ones that do:
How to be Rich

  • Luke 12:21
  • Romans 10:12
  • 2 Corinthians 8:9
  • 1 Timothy 6:18
  • Revelation 3:18
I then went through each of those verses looking at what they said it would take to be rich.  Before I tell you what I saw, what do you see?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rich

Ever wish you had more money?  Did not have to think about when and how to pay the bills?  Maybe just a little rich?  Ever been or known of a situation where there was a disputed inheritance?  Money issues make people crazy…
Rich
Jesus encountered people like you and me all through His ministry.  People who were either struggling with money or else were well off financially.  Luke 12:13 – 21 records one such encounter, this one about an inheritance.  A man asks Christ to tell his brother to divide the inheritance.  Christ refuses, and launches into the parable of the rich man and his barns.

Look at Luke 12:21.  It is Jesus’ bottom line.  He says there that the end of the rich man is for all who store treasure for themselves but are not rich toward God.  That stopped me.

Rich toward God.

Based on the parable the obvious response, my response, is I want that.  I want to be rich toward God.  But how?  How does one become rich toward God?  What are the steps?  Where does one start the process?  So I asked some people I know, and I will ask you…  How would you answer those questions?  How does one become rich toward God?

I will share what I learned tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Committed to Death

In Acts 21:1 - 14, Luke tells us about the end of Paul’s third missionary journey.  In the passage several prophets warn Paul not to go to Jerusalem.  They prophecy his arrest and imprisonment, even his death.
Committed to Death
Paul, seemingly could not have cared less.

He was committed to the path that the Lord had set for him.  Committed to the point of willingly going into a situation that may result in his death.  Somehow I do not think Paul, were he among us now, would be considered politically correct.  He was completely sold out to the message of the gospel, regardless of the implied or real danger to his person.

One wonders how to develop that level of commitment.  Being blinded by God on a road trip may have something to do with it.  Spending the first part of my relationship with God immersed in His Word may have contributed.  Being committed to studying His Word continually may contribute as well.

Most of us will not have the first experience.  Many of us are past the second.  All of us can engage in the third.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Assuming Growth

Last December I was working with a pastor in another country to equip some of his people to help him follow up and establish new Christians in that country.  It became obvious early in the process that rather than equipping them to help, we would be equipping them to do what we wanted them to help others with, that is pray, have a quiet time, share their testimony, etc…
Assuming Growth
I have done over twenty workshops with men from a lot of churches, a lot because men from other churches show up.  I focus on equipping men to study the Bible on their own.  Most of these men have been in church most of their lives.  One of those was in a Sunday school class I led for a number of years.  After he went through one of the workshops he told me that it used to frustrate him when I would ask them to study something during the week between classes.  Why?  He did not have the first clue how to do that.  After the workshop, he did.  I have heard that same story more times than I can count.

I meet with men individually pretty much every week.  In working with them to show them a simple way to study a verse of Scripture, they are blown away by what they can see on their own.  Happens every time.

What is happening?  Men and women are attending church, they are in Sunday school, they may even be in a small group, but when they are asked to find something in the Bible or they are asked to study a book of the Bible or a topic in the Bible they are not able to do so.  Why?

I wonder if it is because there is an assumption that if they are showing up and listening, they are growing, and thereby equipped.

There is no other area of life that we think that is an adequate way to equip someone.  We expect more of doctors, lawyers, engineers, plumbers, heck students in elementary school.  We expect all of those to expend effort, homework, lab work, classwork, to learn the basics of what they need to know.  All of those are instructed and tested on what they need to be successful.

We do not do that in church.

The interesting thing is that in 1 Timothy 3:10, Paul instructs Timothy to test those who want to serve as deacons.  For the most part, we do not do that.  I have never seen or heard of a deacon test.  If we were to give it, when is one instructed in preparation for that test?

The Church seems to be losing influence.  I wonder if it is because we are assuming that those who are showing up are growing.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Answering Critics

Answering CriticsHow do you respond to criticism?  Typically, I begin to pick the argument of the one criticizing me apart.  I think through all the flaws in their argument.  Sometimes I outline or write out how deeply they are incorrect.  Then I step back and look at how well constructed my rebuttal has become.

Is that the best course of action?  Not so much…

Psalm 119:41 – 42 is pretty clear on how David responded and by extension how I should respond, and further what Paul tells us is the proper way to respond to criticism.  David’s response is to lean not on his ability to rationally pick apart those who reproach him, no, he leans on the lovingkindness of God and his trust in the Word of God.

That lovingkindness can be applied on both sides of the event.  On the one hand it was the lovingkindness of a sovereign God who brought David into this reproach, David’s certainty of God’s sovereignty places him in a position of trust that there is a reason for this reproach, God is certainly aware of it.  On the other hand the person on the other side of the reproach, the critic, is one who is created in the image of God.  In 2 Timothy 2:24 – 25, Paul gives us instruction on how to best handle that.

The bottom line here is that like David we are to trust God for both our response and the response of the critic.  Not easy, but that is the assignment.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Application

There are times when life is not fun.  I work part time at an outdoor store for a number of reasons.  Today I had two customers that were rude, demanding, and – frankly I am at loss for words to describe their behavior.
Application
It will do no good to describe what happened – I would rather focus on my internal struggle.  I wanted to strangle them – I didn’t.  I prayed.  Probably a better choice.

I asked the Lord to please let me treat them with the respect and image bearer of Christ deserved even if they did not act like it.  It was a battle.

I have shared that I don’t like Philippians 2:3 – 4 very much.  I really didn’t like it this afternoon.  But if I am serious about being an apprentice of Christ, I have to apply that passage I don’t like very much when dealing with people who are acting like jerks.

This Christian Life thing is really a lot of fun sometimes…

What is Your Legacy

Toward the end of any U.S. president’s tenure, there is ongoing talk about his legacy, how he will be remembered.  Financial planners will talk about your legacy in terms of the inheritance you leave to your children.  The Bible has a different view of what is important in terms of a legacy.  Look at the following passages:
What is Your Legacy?

  • Exodus 20:5
  • Exodus 34:7
  • Numbers 14:18
  • Deuteronomy5:9
  • Psalm 127:3 – 4
  • Proverbs 8:32
Legacy in the Lord’s view is what happens with your kids.  In the New Testament how a man builds into his children’s lives is a qualification for leadership, I have written about that here.

So while how you are remembered and what you leave behind are measures, they seem to be flawed, perhaps shaped by the molding of the world.  What seems to be important is the foundation you lay in your children’s lives that lasts from generation to generation.

Friday, July 17, 2015

How Should a Pastor Equip the Saints

I have referenced Ephesians 4 in this blog several times.  Type or paste “Ephesians 4” in the search box at the top left of the page to get a taste.  I have hinted at ways for believers to be equipped but have not ever explicitly stated what, to me, is obvious.  So at the risk of repeating myself, or stirring up nests of flying, stinging insects…
How Should a Pastor Equip the Saints
In Matthew 28:18 – 20, sometimes referred to as the “Great Suggestion,” the imperative in the Greek is “make disciples.”  You probably knew that, but the force of that imperative drives the force of all of the other verbal phrases in the passage.  The last verbal form that is driven by “make disciples” is in verse 20, “teaching.”  What are the 12 commanded to teach?  All that Christ taught them, all of it, not just content, but means as well.

What was central to Christ’s means?  Mark 3:14 explicitly states it, “with Him.”  The priority for the Lord was that the 12 be with Him.  They needed to see His life, hear how He interacted with His culture and the people who He encountered and who were drawn to Him.  They walked all over Israel and some of the surrounding area for three years with Him.  They saw Him interact with all kinds of people, in all kinds of situations.  They did not understand a lot, most, of that to which they were exposed.  However, later, after Acts 2, it began to sink in.

Note also that Paul followed the same model.  He drug a group of men along with him during all of his missionary journeys.  Look at 2 Timothy 4:9 – 15, there Paul relates to one whom he dispatched to Ephesus how he had dispatched the rest of the troops….

So, bottom line, the two models we have in scripture have content sure, but that content is given in an ongoing relationship that involves co-laboring in mission.  The apprentice sees the master working, ministering, teaching, and also receives explanation beyond what the masses hear.  They are then given assignments for which they get feedback.

Sounds a lot like what every professional educational model we have, does it not?  Why is it done so infrequently?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Rites of Passage

So today my youngest son and his wife made an offer on their first home and it was accepted.  My middle son and his wife are in the process of building a home.  So, now, all of my children are in or will shortly be in their own homes.  Two of them are in their second homes; the two with kids.
Rites of Passage
I had not ever really thought of this before but that seems like a milestone.  In most of the cases our kids have asked what we thought about what they were doing.  That is a privilege.

So we had four kids from 1981 to 1988.  Three boys and a girl.  They are all walking with the Lord, they are all married, two have two kids each, all now have homes or will shortly be moving into theirs.  They are all professionals in that they have to be certified in for what they do; a CPA, two teachers, and a physician.  They are all active in their churches.  They are all engaged when they can be in our workshops.

It seems like yesterday we were in diapers and my oldest was crawling around under the desks in my office playing hide and seek.

The point of all this is that we essentially had them from 1981 to 2009, 28 years.  That is all we got to set them on a path.  You will not have much more than that.  It was chaos.  It was at times really hard.  There were many short nights.

You do not have long.  You have to be intentional or the milestones will pass and you will wonder why you weren’t.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

No Secrets

So you got away with that one…  Ever thought that?  I sure have.  Problem.  Look at Luke 12:2 – 3.
  • Nothing covered up that will not be revealed
  • Nothing hidden that will not be known
  • What is said in the dark will be heard in the light
  • What is whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops
No Secrets
Hebrews 4:13 picks up this same theme, “all things are open and laid bare…”  There are no secrets.  You will not get away with anything.

I have lived in a town of around 350,000 for 20 years.  I have been in Rotary and worked as a consultant for a number of corporations here.  It is rare that I go someplace in the city and not encounter someone I know.  We joke that you cannot get away with much in our town.  I have had people call me when they saw my kids doing things of which they knew I did not approve.  Small town.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg as it relates to these passages.  There is NOTHING that we do that is hidden from our Lord.  Psalm 139:2 tells us that He knows what we are thinking.  We know from Christ’s sermon in Matthew 5:1 – 7:29 that our thoughts in some cases are sin.

So we cannot fool ourselves that no one will know; at least two will.  Us and the Lord.  There is nothing that we do that is not known.

No Secrets.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Forced Godlessness

I have a close friend who serves on a Christian organization at a university that is decidedly liberal and predominantly anti-Christian.  Sunday our pastor pointed out that most of what we consider Ivy League schools were established by believers.  He is correct.  Harvard, Princeton, and Yale among others in that group were established as seminaries to train pastors and missionaries.  Now, not so much.
Godless by Force
As our pastor mentioned Sunday most of those schools, including the one my friend serves, are embarrassed by the monuments and plaques that are on the campus.  They no longer believe or defend the right of people to believe what is written on those plaques.  Further, if one is vocal about faith, one will soon find themselves censored, excluded, and most likely expelled from the institution.

It used to be that the purpose of “higher” education was to examine ideas.  It seems now that it is to accomplish what Paul warns us of in Romans 12:1 – 2, the purpose is to squeeze us into a mental, social, aspiritual, and verbal mold.  Ironic that the very institutions that were founded for the purpose of equipping for the spreading of the gospel are now committed to the propagation of a “settled” godless worldview.

The students do not benefit from this.  My friend was telling us of a group with whom he was talking who were discussing the SCOTUS ruling on same sex unions.  There was not one who would admit to disagreeing.  My friend felt that if he had spoken, he would have been reported and possibly banned from the campus.

In some of the countries in which the Lord has allowed me to serve in the past few years, disagreement with the prevailing religion or conversion to Christianity is punishable by death.  For me speaking in the name of Christ to one who was not a believer would mean my forced removal from the country or worse.  That level of physical tyranny is not yet being felt here, but it soon will be.  There is a couple in Oregon that probably would disagree.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Revival

In Psalm 119:25 the word translated “revive” is חָיָה (chayah – if you are using a NIV, that committee translated the word “preserve”; the KJV, “quicken”; and the ESV “give…life” – for this post I will stick with “revive” – otherwise I would have to come up with a new title…).  The word shows up 283 times in the Old Testament of which 16 occurrences are in Psalm 119 (verses 17, 25, 37, 40, 50, 77, 88, 93, 107, 116, 144, 149, 154, 156, 159, 175).  I like the idea of being revived, especially in light of yesterday’s post.  So I spent some time looking at how David was asking God to revive him.

Revival

One of the literary devices in the Scripture, well for that matter any literature, is instrumentation.  Instrumentation declares the means as well as the end the means are to achieve.  So when it occurs both are present.  In this case the end is to be revived, revival.  Here are the means that David asks the Lord to use to bring revival, life to him.
Verse Means
25 Your word
37 Your ways
40 Your lovingkindness
50 Your word
77 Your compassion (in this verse the NASB translates our word as “that I may live” but I add it because it is basically the same idea)
88 Your lovingkindness
93 Your precepts
107 Your word
116 Your word (another instance similar to 77 above)
144 testimonies (again like 77)
149 ordinances
154 word
156 ordinances
159 Your lovingkindness (but note here that David substantiates his request on the basis of his love for the Lord’s precepts)

Of the sixteen instances only the first, 17, and the last, 175 are not David asking for the means of revival or life.  17 is a request for the ability to obey and 175 a request to live so David can praise the Lord.

The interesting thing to me in this list is that God’s word and all of the terms that David uses to describe that word, are requested as means for revival along with God’s lovingkindness and compassion.  In David’ view the word and nature of God are equal as means to revive him.

I am not sure that I think of the word of God with that level of reverence – no, I don’t.  David did.  David was described as a man after God’ heart, both before he was anointed king, 1 Samuel 13:14, and long after his failure with Bathsheba, Acts 13:22.

Perhaps I need to rethink my reverence for God’s word.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Stuck

If you are like most believers you spend most of your time in the New Testament with side excursions into Psalms.  Most of that NT time is probably in Paul’s letters.  Interestingly, Paul initially only had the Old Testament with which to work.  This afternoon while on one of the Psalm excursions, specifically in Psalm 119.  I saw some themes that seem to have informed some of Paul’s thoughts.
Stuck

Look at verse 25.  David says that his soul cleaves to the dust.  The idea behind the Hebrew, דָּבַק (dabaq) …well you can get a sense of the strength of this word by how it is variously translated (the number of times the word is translated this way in the NASB): cleaves(4), cling(14), clings(3), closely pursued(1), closer(1), clung(4), deeply attracted(1), fasten its grip(1), follow closely(1), held fast(1), hold(2), hold fast(2), holding fast(1), joined(2), joined together(1), overtake(1), overtook(5), pursued him closely(1), pursued them closely(1), remained steadfast(1), stay(1), stay close(1), stayed close(1), stick(1), stick together(1), stuck(2).

Reading that list kind of makes one feel like Brer Rabbit stuck to the tar baby.  David felt that way, stuck to the dust, the world, the daily junk – stuck not just with his fist, but his soul.  You ever felt that way?  I have.

How do we get out of that?  Brer Rabbit could not get himself unstuck from the tar baby, neither could David nor we get our souls unstuck from the dust.  Look at what David asks the Lord to do to get him unstuck, focus on the verbs:
Verse Verb
26 Teach
27 Make me understand
28 Strengthen me
29 Remove

Note what is involved in each request:
Verse Means of getting unstuck
26 statutes
27 precepts
28 word
29 law

David knew that the only way to get his soul out of his “tar baby” was for the Lord to do it through His Word.

Paul seems to pick this up and expand it in Romans 7 and 8.
Wonder where he got that idea.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Not Alone

I was cleaning out my office today – I do that every 10 to 15 years whether it needs it or not…  I had a stack of Bible Study magazines that I had set aside to read, I didn’t…  But before I put them in the recycle bin, I flipped through them to see if there was anything I needed to keep – dangerous, the point was to get rid of stuff after all.

In the workshops I do, one of the things I share is that it is vitally important for each of us to be in the Word ourselves.  I share a number of reasons for this.  Too many believers come to church to be fed by the pastor.  That is not and can never be a very nutritious meal.  For one thing your pastor is a secondary source.  He is not inspired, the Bible is.  Further… well look at the diagram:
Not Alone
The percentages are what we retain from the method of input 24 hours later.  If the pastor retains 35% of what he studies and shares that with us, 24 hours later we are running on 1.75% of his study.  Not much life change is going to come from that level of input.

What was interesting during my random act of neatness, was I found two men, one a well-known pastor, Greg Laurie, and the other the president of LifeWay Research, Ed Setzer who essentially say the same thing.

Setzer, “Christians must NOT come to church every week expecting the preacher to chew up their food for them…” (Emphasis was in the quote).

Laurie, “I really encourage people to study on their own.  It’s a recurring them in my preaching.  In a perfect world, Christians would be studying their Bibles every day, and what I offer would be supplemental on a Sunday morning…I’m trying to teach them how to feed themselves.  Better yet, I’m trying to teach them how to cook a little bit.”

I love it when well-known men who have a great platform agree with me.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Follow or Be Led

There are passages that I have known for many years, in this case over 40, that I will read, like I did this morning, and the full message finally sinks in.
Follow or Be Led
Look at Psalm 32:8 – 9.  If you are like me and many other believers you have used verse 8 as both as a comfort and a counseling tool.  It is one of those standard verses that everyone memorizes, me included.

The interesting thing is that verse 9 is in contrast to verse 8.  In both verses the Lord is leading, directing us in the way in which we should go.  The difference is in verse 8 we are engaged in listening to Him, learning from Him, asking His counsel.  Those in verse 9 are still being led by the Lord, they are just not involved at all in the process.  It is like He is pulling them along with a bridle, the trappings.

The interesting thing is we are invited to participate so we can follow or be led.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Established 2.0

Yesterday I shared some observations on Psalm 119:1 – 5, I intend to finish the octet today.  This will be a little more technical than yesterday’s post.
Established 2.0
As I said the first three verses detail what it means to be blessed in following the Word of the Lord.  David in verse 5 asks that his ways be established to do just that.  The verb stem for “established” is nifal, in this case carrying the weight of passive.  Thus David needs the Lord to establish his way to obey, he cannot do that on his own.  Then things get really interesting.

Note in your Bibles the first word in verse 6 is “then.”  After David’s way is established the result, then, he will not be ashamed.  These next two verses are a really interesting construction.  Note the parallel construction again.
Then I shall not be ashamed
I shall give thanks
When I look upon all Your commandments
I learn Your righteous judgments

It reads like two conditional statements.  Instead of if – then, it is then – when.  But the verb stems make it even more interesting.  Both look and learn are hifil.  In the hifil stem the subject of the verb, here in both cases, “I,” causes the object of the verb, here respectively commandments and judgments, to participate in the action of the verb.  Thus when David looks at the commandments the commandments are drawing David to look.  When he learns the judgments the judgments are participating in that learning.

Think about that.  We read in Hebrews 4:12, that the Word of God is living and active.  Here David is saying essentially the same thing.  The commandments participate in his looking at them and the judgments participate in David learning them.  Then, based on the conditional nature of the construction, the commandments participation removes shame from David and the judgments cause him to give thanks.

But there is one more verse.

Verse 8 reverses the order of verse 5.  In 5 David asks that his ways be established to keep.  In 8 he will keep, implied, if he is not forsaken.  David’s dependence on the Lord to look and learn and thus to keep is emphasized by starting and finishing these four verses with his need for his Lord’s engagement in the process.

So to follow the Word, we are dependent on the Lord and the Word, the Bible, is central to that process.

That is just 8 verses of 176.  There is a ton in this Psalm.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Established

I have mentioned that I am working through Psalm 119.  In our Tuesday study we are doing 24 verses, three octets a week, frankly it is faster than I want to go through the Psalm.  I am finding it to be richer than I had ever imagined, and it is my go to passage.
Established
We did the first three octets yesterday.  When it was my turn to share what I had seen, I could hardly talk.  I was tongue tied, stuttered.  I had seen so much I did not know where to start and how to share it in the time I had.  I stumbled through it and realized later I had not done a very good job of codifying what I had seen.  Frankly, the psalm impacts me in ways I have a hard time articulating.  So even though I have started on the next three octets I have found myself going back over the first three, really the first one, several times today.

One of the reasons I am doing this study is to attempt to kick the dust and rust off of my Hebrew.  It appears it is more like raising the dead.  I am having to lean heavily on my Bible program, Logos, to parse the verbs.  But some of it is trying to exit the tomb.

There is some rich stuff in the first octet.  In the first four verses David outlines the value and impact of following the Word of God.  One is blessed who does.  Note the triple parallelism in the first three verses:
How blessed are those whose way is blameless
who observe His testimonies
they do no unrighteousness
who walk in the law of the Lord
seek Him with all of their heart
walk in His ways

Then David shares the reason that the Lord ordained His precepts, that we should keep them diligently, which is parallel to verse 2's seek Him with all their heart.

But the kicker is in verse 5.  David pleads that he be established – this one makes for a good word study should you have the time – it is variously translated established, fixed, confirmed, and strengthened.  David realizes and shares that apart from his Lord’s work in his life he has no chance to keep the Lord’s statues.

There is a great deal more, especially in light of the verb forms used in the next four verses.  But I will leave that until tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Rejoice in This...

For a lot of my adult life I have been focused on helping people in their walk with God.  I have done that in one way or another on five continents directly.  If you count readers of this blog, all seven.  It is fulfilling to help people learn to study the Word for themselves.  It is exciting when they get excited about what they have seen.
Rejoice in This…
I was reading just now Luke 10:20.  The disciples were pumped – it is in the original – they had seen great things happen on their mission.  Jesus rejoiced with them.  But His encouragement came with a caveat.  Yes it is great that you did well, but the really important thing is that your names are written down in heaven…

It is great to serve the King, His Church, His people, but the danger is that we, I, can begin to think that is what is important, that is what pleases Him, it is in my performance for Him that I should take pride and rejoice.  But no.  He reminds me that it is the work that He has done that is important.  It is His work in my life that has caused me to be redeemed, to have my name recorded in His book that is the real reason to rejoice.

Everything else is second.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Seedbed of Leadership

One of my facebook friends is a pastor at a church in Wisconsin.  He shared he was spending time in Luke, specifically about Zacharias’ understanding that his son would be great in contrast to Herod the Great.  I had been reading that same passage this morning.
The Seedbed of Leadership
The thing that jumped out at me was what the angel told Zacharias that John would do in Luke 1:15 – 17.  Note that the core of John’s ministry, he would:
  • Turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God
  • Turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children
  • Turn the disobedient to righteousness
  • With the result that a people would be prepared for the Lord
In 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, Paul outlines for his apprentices the qualifications for leadership.  Look at:
  • 1 Timothy 3:4 – 5
  • 1 Timothy 3:12
  • 2 Timothy 3:2
  • Titus 1:6
Note the thread of parent child relationships in those passages.  2 Timothy 3:2 describes the cultural context of the Church.  So one who has good relationships with their children would stand out.

This is not a new idea.  In one of the central passages for Jewish worship twice the requirement for men to lead their families is highlighted.  Look at:
  • Deuteronomy 6:6 – 7
  • Deuteronomy 6:20
The expectation is that the fathers will teach their children and that the children, when they have a question about the Word, will immediately think, “Dad will know.”  Why?  Because they know their dads know the Word.

Bottom line, the Lord’s expectation is that fathers would have their hearts turned toward their children.  From Deuteronomy we see that includes them processing life through the grid of the scripture with their children.  The Holy Spirit, through Paul, picks up this as a qualification for leadership in the Body.  The family is the seedbed of leadership for the church.  It is there that fathers hone their skills in teaching their children the Word of God.  That leadership, the ability to lead children in the home, is a prerequisite for leading in the Body.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Coincidence

This has happened more times than I can count.  Usually it is a Sunday school lesson.  I prepare and the message in the worship service either deals directly with the passages I have prepared or else the message is on the same topic.
Coincidence
This morning our associate pastor essentially shared what I wrote yesterday.  He focused on 1 Peter and did not mention Psalm 119.  His emphasis was slightly different but the tenor was the same.  We need to be prepared.  In his message, we need to acknowledge one of the other themes in 1 Peter, that we are aliens here.

Interesting how the Spirit leads His Church is it not?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Be Prepared

Today is my birthday.  Driving home from my daughter’s house, where we had the birthday celebration, there were fireworks going off all around us, not for me of course.  We are celebrating here, 239 years of declaring our independence.  Problem is we are losing it as we shoot off the fireworks
Be Prepared
The people who came here on the Mayflower were coming to escape religious persecution.  Much of the thought that went into the founding documents was intended to preserve the freedom to practice Christianity as one pleased.  Many today will deny that and in so doing ignore great volumes of evidence both in the texts of the Declaration, the Constitution, and the writing of those involved at the time.

Those who wrote those documents had experienced enough of tyrannical despots.  They set up this system of government in an attempt to insure that that could not happen here.  It has lasted for 232 years.  In the last seven years the erosion of our liberties has increased exponentially.  In his book, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14-17, D. A. Carson says, “Empire-building is so common a temptation for idealists that today’s revolutionaries commonly become tomorrow’s tyrants.”  In this country we are witnessing that play out on a daily basis.

So why in this blog about fathers teaching their children the Word do I bring this up?  It seems to me inevitable that with the recent activity of our courts, Christianity is under attack, while different than that which drove the Mayflower here in 1620, we will come under attack nonetheless.  It is my conviction that persecution of Christians who do not toe the politically correct line will begin, and soon.  Franklin Graham, among others, has warned of this.  I was not in the scouts long but I did learn the maxim, “Be Prepared.”

1 Peter is a book I would begin to study.  One of the themes is suffering, specifically suffering for being a believer.  It would be good to get that one under your belt.  I would also invest time in Psalm 119.  One of the themes in that Psalm is the solace of the Word of God in the face of persecution.

Not trying to rain on anyone’s fireworks display.  But we are facing times when decisions are being made that will have consequences that will almost certainly began a time of trial for believers.  It is best to be prepared and to prepare our children.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Disgusted

Ever get really disgusted with yourself.  I did this afternoon.  I was leaving the post office and there was woman in a high dollar car on the street in front of me.  She was weaving all over the street going about 15 miles below the speed limit.  Ahead of us the light at the intersection had turned green, it is one of those intersections that takes forever to get through.  She put her blinker on as if she were turning left, so I hoped she was going to make the light in time for me to turn as well.  No.  She slowed down to a near stop to turn left into the car wash, her car was clean.  I pulled around her and just barely made the light.
Disgusted
While this was going on I was talking to her.  In glowing terms about her lineage, her mental capacity, and her driving acumen.  She couldn’t hear me, which is a good thing.  I assume that if both our windows were down she would still have been oblivious.  She did not seem to have a clue where she was or any awareness of her immediate surroundings.

I was angry.  Very.

As soon as I got around her and through the light, I got one of those soft taps on the shoulder that the Lord gives me sometimes.  It wasn’t audible, but it was like He was saying, “Really?”  I was immediately disgusted.  Not with the woman, with me.  My anger was not a reflection of the way my Lord would have handled that situation.  Philippians 2:4 tells me I should have put that woman’s needs, whatever they were, ahead of mine.  I do not like that very much, but it says that all the same.

As an apprentice of Christ, I am bound to follow Him., to learn to interact with the world and the people in it in the manner in which He did.  I don’t do very well with that.  Even though I have been on this journey for 40 years, I have more to learn.

Perhaps there will be days soon when I won’t be disgusted with myself.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Encouragement

Ever had a difficult period in your life?  Things not going well.  In a hole spiritually, emotionally, physically, or financially?  There are those that do not recover.  As believers there are times when we do not do well helping those who struggle.
Encouragement
I met recently with one who had been through a dark time.  They are out of that phase of life now.  This past few months have been very hard for my wife and I for a number of reasons.  In the conversation with my friend they shared freely about the struggles they had experienced and the way the Lord had used others to help them handle that load.

They then asked me several questions about what we have been doing for the past several years.  Their response to what I shared was affirming and encouraging.  Their encouragement was timely.  The struggles we have had have in the past months have caused me to question if I should continue to push through this – what Gladwell labels a dip.  My friend’s enthusiasm for what I shared was like a spring rain on a parched ground.

2 Corinthians 1:3 – 5 tells us that the junk – that is in the original – we go through is preparation to comfort others.  My friend did that.  I left that conversation comforted, encouraged, and recharged.

It reminds me that the “junk” has a purpose.  It is prep for me to comfort, encourage, and recharge others.  That was a good and timely reminder.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Entrusted Doctrine

Just finished working through my summary of 1 Timothy.  The key to the book seems to be 3:14 – 16.  This is one of the places where an author explicitly tells you why they wrote the letter or book.  Paul’s objective, to tell his protégé how the church should run.
Entrusted Doctrine
One of the major threads that runs through every chapter is sound doctrine.  Paul exhorts:
That it be taught
That it be received
That any leaders should be able to teach it
That its teaching will be resisted
That it requires discipline and effort to sustain its teaching
That those who labor in sound doctrine should be honored
That there will be those who attempt to make money from teaching something other than sound doctrine – however I do not think they had televisions as yet in Ephesus.

For Paul it seems that the teaching of sound doctrine is the foundation for what he calls the household of truth.

The most interesting thing to me is the exhortation in 1 Timothy 4:11 – 16.  Paul strongly exhorts Timothy to work hard, to take pains, to pay close attention to this charge.  Later in 1 Timothy 6:12 to fight the good fight of faith.  The implication is that this role is not easy.  Laying a foundation of sound doctrine seems to be very difficult.

But that is what Paul entrusted to Timothy.