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Monday, August 31, 2015

Abiding in John

Μένω in John
1 John is back on my plate.  We are doing an overview in our study tomorrow morning.  I have noted elsewhere that John uses the word μένω, abide, 11 times in John 15:1 – 16.  It is one of the central points of His last time with the 12 before His arrest.
Abiding in John
Μένω in 1 John
John uses repetition quite a bit to make his points.  So I was interested to see if he used μένω in 1 John.  He does, 22 times.

When we see repetition that dense, especially in the work of the same author, it raises, or should raise the question, “Why is that so important?”

Read through 1 John, μένω is translated in most of your Bibles as abide, or remain.  Why do you think John repeated this term so often?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Quandry of Blindness

The Task Today
Most of today was invested in curriculum development.  As much as I am passionate about getting men into the Word, this has been a slog.  Part of the issue is that I am writing this for someone else to give.  That is a challenge for me for a couple of reasons.  First, and this is probably selfish, I would prefer to do it myself.
Quandry of Blindness
The Steep Challenge
Second, I do not know those who will be leading the session for which I am writing.  I do not know their backgrounds, their experience in the Bible, or their views on what I am writing.  Further, part of my assignment is the modules on personal Bible study.  The focus will be a modified synthetic overview of the Gospel of John.  That is a difficult assignment.  Especially if one has never done a synthetic overview of a shorter book.  The men attending will not have.  Pretty sure the men teaching will not have either.

No Experience Necessary?
So my task is to write a lesson for people who have not done what they are teaching so that they can teach what they have never done to men who have never done it either.  Seems a lot like the blind leading the blind.

So I struggle.

I have spent a lot of time praying and writing – not necessarily in that order.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

How Inspired is the Bible

What the Bible Says 
I have mentioned that I am working on curriculum for pastors in Pakistan and Uganda.  This afternoon I was working on the theology of the Bible, Bibliology.  The focus of the module is the inspiration of the Bible, that we can count on the fact that what we read is in fact what God intended.
How Inspired is the Bible
I was reviewing some notes from that course in Seminary.  There is not time to cover all the nuances of the topic but looking at a key handful of passages you get a sense of what the Bible says about itself:
  • 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17
  • 2 Peter 1:19 – 21
  • 1 Corinthians 2:10 – 13
Detailed Example
But there is an example that I found in D. A. Carson’s book Scripture and Truth.  I will share it here in full:
In Matthew 22:44–45 (Mark 12:36–37; Luke 20:42–44), Jesus proves that David calls the Messiah “Lord” from Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand.…” Two different persons are implied by the two uses of the word Lord: the first is God the Father whom the Jews acknowledged; the second is the Messiah, whom David calls “my Lord” (NIV). In order for this argument to work, Jesus relies on the fact that Psalm 110:1 has David calling the Messiah “my Lord.” Otherwise the text would not prove that the Messiah was David’s Lord. 
Now the word my is signified by only one letter (י - yod) in the consonantal Hebrew text: “my Lord” is אדני. A slight lengthening of the final consonant to(ו - waw)would make “his Lord”; a bit more lengthening to(ך - kaph)would make “your Lord.” In either case, the argument would no longer work. Here Jesus’ argument depends on the reliability of one letter of the written Old Testament. 
D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge, Scripture and Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), pp. 40–41.

What it Means for Us
The point of the passages and Carson’s illustration is that the Holy Spirit inspired the men who wrote our Bible down to the word, in fact the letter.  This is important because we can investigate the vocabulary, grammar, and literary structure knowing that all was intentionally inspired by the Holy Spirit.

That should supercharge your Bible study.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Mirror Image

The Right Approach
Ezra 7:10 is one of those passages that challenges me and I use to challenge others.  The order in which Ezra approached the Word of God is instructive.
Mirror Image
  • He set his heart
  • He studied
  • He practiced
  • He taught
The order is not only instructive, he did not share things he had not practiced.  Prof said, “Never traffic in unpracticed truth.”  I would bet he got that idea here.

The Approach Repeated, sort of…
One of the steps I cover in the workshops is that the Bible is the best commentary on the Bible.  I love it when I find examples of that reality.  This afternoon I was working on curriculum again and saw a mirror image of Ezra’s approach to the Word in Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5.
  • Continue in the things you have learned
  • You have known the sacred writings
  • All Scripture is inspired profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness
  • Preach the Word in season and out of season
Well maybe not a mirror image but close.  Both Ezra and Timothy lived out the Word before they taught it.

Do First, then Say…
I cannot tell you how many times I have read and or studied 2 Timothy, just finished this week.  I have never seen the connection between 3:14 – 17 and 4:1 – 5 until this afternoon.  Part of the reason is the unfortunate chapter division.  It breaks Paul’s thought.  I should know better.  One of the things I harp on is to ignore the chapter and verse divisions.  This is why.  It is easy to miss connected thoughts.

But the main thought is for Ezra, Paul, and Timothy, our impact as believers issues from the application of Scripture in our own lives.  As Prof succinctly said, we have no business sharing or teaching something that we are not doing.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Hard Stuff

Ending the study well…
For the past several weeks in our Thursday morning study we have been looking at 1st and 2nd Timothy.  This morning we summarized what we have seen in 2nd Timothy.  This book, like 2 Peter is for Peter, is essentially Paul’s last will and testament.  He is passing the torch on to his faithful apprentice.  He is passing it on in the midst of resistance to the gospel from outside the church and abandonment of sound doctrine inside the fellowship.  Fun times for Timothy.
The Hard Stuff

We studied.  So What?  
God did not leave His Word for us to make us smarter.  He left it to change our lives, our behavior.  We are supposed to practice what we study, Hebrews 5:11 – 14 explicitly says apart from that practice we remain Christian infants.  James 1:22 – 23 tells us that we are to be doers of the Word – you know this.

We have to do…
So the question becomes how do we apply 2nd Timothy?  The main exhortation, as I have stated in the earlier posts, is to hold fast to and proclaim the Word of God intentionally and consistently in the midst of a people who are not interested in hearing that Word.

Here is a (not so) hypothetical…
So let’s say you are in a fellowship that chooses to abandon the Word.  Let’s say for instance your denomination has voted to ordain and marry homosexuals.  You have a correct understanding that one who is committed to living in sexual sin, any sin for that matter, is not fit for ordination.  Further for the fellowship to sanction a union that is a perpetuation and celebration of sin seems to you incongruous with the assignment to be salt and light in the world.

What would you do?

You are not the leader.  You are a member of the fellowship.  How would you respond to what you see as the fellowship choosing to participate in sin?

Do you confront?  How?
Paul called Peter out in public, Galatians 1.  We are not apostles, well, I am not…  When the fellowship is becoming more and more conformed to the world how should one react?  If I am reading the Bible correctly, all of us are responsible for what it says, not just the identified leaders.  The reality is all of our fellowships are under constant attack and pressure to abandon the Word for the world.

What can you do to stop that?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Slew of Perseverance

With apologies to John Bunyan…
Today I had about 9 hours blocked off to make significant headway on the curriculum project for pastors.  I really needed to stay focused and write.  I didn’t.  There is a lot of noise in our life right now.  Several issues that are weighing on my mind, probably more than on my wife’s.  Issues involving finances, ministry, church, health, and some of the material things of which we are stewards…
The Slew of Perseverance
All of that stuff, for lack of a more appropriate word, served as a kind of brain cloud (wonder how many of you will get that?) through which I had to work…  It was hard to focus, hard to press on, it was the slew of perseverance.

Progress in Spite of the Issues
By God’s grace I made progress.  Not as much as I wanted, but progress none the less.  I am more confident that I can hit the deadline.

Sometimes it is just work…
There are times when working on a project like this the concepts, words, and format just flows.  Not today.  Today it was a slog.  Today it was like digging a ditch, or doing my taxes.  Tasks for which I have a special all-consuming disdain.

The bizarre reality is that the goal of this project is my passion.  Getting men, in this case pastors in two countries, into the Word.

But today, it was just hard work.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Done

Finished
This morning our Tuesday morning Bible study finished our study of Psalm 119.  Well, the group did.  I missed a couple of weeks so I have that section to do.  I also was caught short this week – it took much longer to live than I had planned, so I was not able to put the time into the last four octets I would have preferred.  So I am not finished…
Done

Frankly, we went through the Psalm faster than I had planned.  So, I will stay a bit longer in David’s opus on God’s word.  I will probably go back to an octet a week.

Next?
At the end of our time together we discussed for a short time what we wanted to study next.  It was short because I had to get on the road.  Shutting down my iPad would end the conference call.  Just before I did that, one of the guys suggested Romans

In the last year, before he joined we studied 4 – 8.  Last year I studied Romans with the Moroccan pastor I meet with each week.  I know the older guys in the group have studied Romans several times, as I have.

Not Done…
But none of us is done.  We may have studied Psalm 119, we may have studied Romans 10 times.  We may have several outlines in our files.  We are not done with either passage.  Certainly, neither passage is done with us.

Living and Active
It is the nature of the Word of God that it cannot be mastered.  It can be studied.  I may be able to outline the content of a portion of the book.  I may be able to relate portions together.  There is still more to the Book than I will ever see.

Why?

I think David captures it best in Psalm 119.  Throughout the psalm he asks equally to be revived by God and His Word.  This is significant because David attributes the ability to revive both to God and also separately to His Word.  The import of that is that God’s Word is of God.  That is it reflects the God’s nature and character.

Peter got this.  He says in 2 Peter 1:3 – 4, that we become partakers of God’s nature through His Word.  Think on that.  Engaging in the Word is engaging in the nature and character of God.

How then could we be so arrogant to think we could master it?  We will never be done.  We may finish a study, but we are never done.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Consider it Joy or Poo

My Context
I live in a place where there is a lot of teaching that trusting Christ is the means to prosperity.  People are told if they are struggling materially or with health, all they need is a little more faith or to say their prayer a little differently.  I won’t go into detail but if you have watched some of the many folks on TV you can fill in the blanks.
Consider it Joy or Poo
A Great Message
These past few days I have been with my dad.  Today we took him for his quarterly PET scan at MD Anderson.  Yesterday we went with him to church.  His new pastor spoke on Philippians 3.  He did a great job.  Philippians 3 is one of my favorite passages.  The pastor pointed out, correctly, that in Philippians 3:8 the word that is translated rubbish in the original is closer to feces, poo.

More and Better Poo?
Think about that for a minute.  All of the things that Paul had in the world he viewed as poo.  In the college ministry when guys were pulled back to the world we called that going back to dine at the commode.  Some of those who are sharing the prosperity message are essentially telling people that if they have more faith they will get more poo…  Now that is attractive.  The stuff that Paul chose to consider poo, we get more?  That was a choice by Paul by the way.

More and Better Joy
James talks about another choice.  In James 1:2, you know the passage, James tells us that when we encounter trials, and if you have been reading the new testament much you know that trial is a promised reality of the Christian life, we are to count it, consider it, reckon it all joy.

Paul considered the things of the world poo.  James considers trial joy.  That seems to be a different message than I hear from some people.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Charge

Bottom Line
For the past few days I have been looking at the charges that Paul gave Timothy in 2 Timothy.  Yesterday I listed the passages in Psalm 119 that, it seems to me parallels the exhortation of Paul.  What is the bottom line?
The Charge
The Thread
Through both 1 and 2 Timothy Paul is concerned with what he terms sound doctrine.  In the face of wicked , false teachers, Paul reminds Timothy to stick to the Word even when people are not interested in hearing the truth.

Throughout Psalm 119, David is dealing with wicked adversaries who are after his life.  In the face of constant resistance and affliction, his means of coping is to hold fast to the Word of God.

The Centrality of the Word
For both Paul and David the anchor, the compass, the map, the sustenance through resistance, schemes of evil, and the apostasy and desertion of co-laborers was to hold fast to the Word.  When individuals, organizations, or churches loose that grip compromise with the world is soon to follow.  When compromise with the world exists, salt has lost its savor and light is obscured.

The book of Jeremiah brutally documents the result of Judah’s release and abandonment of God’s Word.  Reading that book feels like reading a commentary on the Church.  As individuals, organizations, and churches, we need to reaffirm the centrality of the Word of God.  It will mean some radical changes in some quarters.  But we have to decie, are we going to follow the Word or the world.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Facing Resistance

Observations
A couple of days ago we looked at the charges Paul gave Timothy in 2 Timothy.  Yesterday I shared one observation/suggestion on those charges.  I asked you for your observations, here are mine.
Facing Resistance
Looking at the list as a whole the picture that develops is of Timothy facing increasing resistance to his ministry.  False teachers, apostasy, frivolous controversies, abandonment of the ministry by trusted companions faced not only Paul but Timothy.  What did Paul tell him to do to stand against this set of realities?

Parallels
I have mentioned that I am currently working through Psalm 119.  It is interesting that David faced similar resistance.  It is also instructive that David’s means of dealing with resistance parallels much of what Paul’s exhortation to Timothy.

Look at this list and compare it to the list from two days ago:
Verse Means of Resistance
23 Even though princes sit and talk against me, Your servant meditates on Your statutes.
42 So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me, For I trust in Your word.
51 The arrogant utterly deride me, Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.
69 The arrogant have forged a lie against me; With all my heart I will observe Your precepts.
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.
78 May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie; But I shall meditate on Your precepts.
85 The arrogant have dug pits for me, Men who are not 1in accord with Your law.
87 They almost destroyed me on earth, But as for me, I did not forsake Your precepts.
92 If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction.
95 The wicked await for me to destroy me; I shall diligently consider Your testimonies.
98 Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, For they are ever mine
107 I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts.
113 I hate those who are double-minded, But I love Your law.
115 Depart from me, evildoers, That I may observe the commandments of my God.
118 You have rejected all those who wander from Your statutes, For their deceitfulness is useless.
119 You have removed all the wicked of the earth like dross; Therefore I love Your testimonies.
121 I have done justice and righteousness; Do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Be surety for Your servant for good; Do not let the arrogant oppress me.
139 My zeal has consumed me, Because my dversaries have forgotten Your words.
157 Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, Yet I do not turn aside from Your testimonies.
158 I behold the treacherous and loathe them, Because they do not keep Your word.
161 Princes persecute me without cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your words.

Do you see it?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Proclaim or Preach?

A Charge Revisited
Yesterday I shared all of the charges Paul gave Timothy in 2 Timothy.  I mentioned that I would share some observations today.  The first is on 2 Timothy 4:2.  I mentioned when I listed the charge in 2 Timothy 4:2 that I preferred “proclaim” over what most of your translations have, “preach”.
Proclaim or Preach?
Why?

Historical Usage
If you look at the use of the word through time, you find that the word group refers to the king’s herald.  He is sent as a representative of the king to give the king’s message.  I am not sure when the word picked up the notion of preach.  I am still working on that.  I have suspicions, I will not share them unless I can validate them.

False Separation
The problem I have with translating κηρύσσω “preach” is the way most of us will understand that word.  We assign that function to the pastor, the preacher.  In doing so, eliminating those of us who are not preachers from needing to apply that verse.

I am convinced that is wrong.

We are ALL Responsible
I base that on Christ’s ministry and His charge to His disciples in Matthew 28:18 – 20, primarily but there are other passages that have that same force.  That charge is clear.  The disciples are to teach those who come to faith through their ministry ALL that Christ taught them.  One of the things that Christ did with them is to send them out to – it is the same word, κηρύσσω, in Mark 3:14 – proclaim the gospel of the kingdom.

ALL Believers to Proclaim
If all disciples are supposed to be taught ALL that Christ taught the 12, that must include κηρύσσω.  He expects us to proclaim the Word.  We certainly do that by the way we live, but we also do that verbally.  Peter got this, and got it clearly.  1 Peter 3:15 is a great example and a good cross reference to 2 Timothy 4:2.

A lot of the literature labels 2 Timothy a pastoral epistle.  When we read that we tend to assign it to our church’s staff.  If my analysis is correct here.  That is a misapplication of Paul and Christ’s intent.

We are all to proclaim.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Shoring Up Timothy

The Charges
This morning we finished our section by section study of 2 Timothy.  This next week we are summarizing what we have learned through the study.  In preparation for that – well actually I was going to write about something that I saw in chapter 4 but as I pulled that string it got longer.  That happens to me a lot in Bible study.  I decided to take a look at all of the charges Paul gave Timothy in the letter.  Here is a complete list, take a look and tell me what you see:
Shoring Up Timothy
Verse Charge
1:6 Kindle afresh the gift
1:8 Do not be ashamed
1:8 Join me in suffering
1:13 Retain the standard of sound words
1:14 Guard the treasure
2:1 Be strong in grace
2:2 Entrust to faithful men
2:3 Suffer hardship with me
2:7 Consider what I say
2:8 Remember Jesus Christ
2:14 Remind them
2:14 Solemnly charge them
2:15 Be diligent
2:16 Avoid worldly and empty chatter
2:22 Flee from youthful lusts
2:22 Pursue righteousness…
2:23 Refuse foolish and ignorant speculation
3:1 Realize this
3:14 You continue in the things
4:2 Proclaim (my translation – I will do another post on why later) the Word
4:2 Be ready
4:2 Reprove
4:2 Rebuke
4:2 Exhort
4:5 Be sober
4:5 Endure hardship
4:5 Do the work…
4:5 Fulfill your ministry
4:9 Make Every effort
4:13 Bring
4:15 Be on guard
4:19 Greet
4:21 Make every effort

So What?
Note that all of the verbs except the first 2 and “solemnly charge” in 2:14 are imperative mood, commands.  However, “solemnly charge” is a particple that derives its force from the preceeding verb, “remind,” which is imperative, thus taking on an imperative mood by that association.

What are your observations about this list?  I will share mine tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Enemies of God

More Familiar Territory
Romans has been another book in which I have invested much time.  2 Peter still holds the record, I have lost count of the number of times I have read and studied that book, probably because it is the book I most use in our workshops.
Enemies of God
Despicable We
But Romans… I was reading this morning in Romans 5, again trying to catch up; didn’t.  I got stopped again this time in Romans 5:6 – 10.  Romans 5 is a great, joyous chapter.  In there we see the answer to all of the despair of the first four chapters, the sacrifice of Christ.  But in the midst of that great joy the theme of our abject rottenness is continued.  Look at the words Paul uses to describe us:
Verse Descriptor
5:6 helpless
5:6 ungodly
5:8 sinners
5:10 enemies
Inconceivable Sacrifice
Those words describe those for whom Christ died.  Paul rightly points out in verse 7 that, frankly, that does not make any sense.  Why in the fat would anyone die for people like that?  For that matter, why die for any of the people described in chapters 1 – 3, they are arrogant, legalistic, proud, and perverted.

But He did.

Oh thank God.

He did.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Escaping Snares

Snares are a Certainty
The Lord encouraged me this morning through Psalm 119:110.  It is the case that if you choose to walk with the Lord and likewise choose to help others do so, you will be resisted.  That resistance will come from the enemy of Christ, but it will also come from the religious community.  We can say that with definite authority.  Why?  Ask yourself from where most of Christ’s resistance came.
Escaping Snares
I have been asked questions that are intended to paint me into a corner doctrinally.  I have been denied the ability to serve other believers because I did not attend a specific church, someone assumed that I did not hold to a certain creed, was not a member of the right denomination, or did not like the seminary I attended.

I have been laughed at and ridiculed by non-believers when I have gone out of my way to serve and minister to them.  I have been required to report to the police on a mission to equip believers to study the Bible.  I have had to guard what I said and been monitored by governments lest I say something that would lead someone to trust Christ.

How to Escape Snares
How does one deal with these kinds of traps and snares.  David tells us his method.  He does not go astray from the Lord’s precepts.  There have been times that I have been pressured to compromise what the Word says to get along or better fit in.  While I have not done so, I have been hesitant and not a clear in my positions as I could have been.  Those times did not work out well.

It is clear here that we are required by God to stick closely to His Word.  It is when we boldly do so that the snares will be ineffective.

I was encouraged and at the same time rebuked on this in my time in the Word this morning.  That is the amazing thing about God’s Word.  It both corrects and encourages at the same time.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Joy of Tribulation – Character

Praise in the Night
I have mentioned in the past few days that this has been a tough season.  There are essentially three or four major struggles with which we are dealing.  It is the kind of thing that creates sleeplessness.  It is good that I am in Psalm 119 during this time.  It reminds me to anticipate the night watches and fill them with praise and thanksgiving.
The Joy of Tribulation – Character
Full Stop
I was getting started in my time alone with God this morning and was trying to catch up with my reading, I didn’t.  The reason?  I was skimming through Romans to get to where I was supposed to be today and came full stop on Romans 5:3 – 5.  I have written about this passage before from a slightly different perspective.  Today, though, I was struck by the purpose of the struggles, tribulation, the Lord brings in our path.  We go through that to develop our character.

I would personally rather take a course somewhere…

Deliberate Praise
But this is His method.  It is repeated in Hebrews 12:4 – 11.  It is a good thing.  It is evidence that God loves us.  It is evidence that He is committed to our Christlikeness.  It is a source of joy.  It should be something for which we give thanks.

That is hard.  At least for me.  I want solutions.  He wants character.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Faulty Foundations

The Foundation of Truth
A couple of days ago I mentioned that I was working on curriculum for training pastors in third world countries.  Part of that has been a review of Theological Method and the branch of theology Bibliology.  Theological method is the systematic process one applies to determine what the Bible says about a particular topic, such as sin.  Bibliology is the result of that process applied to the Word of God as revelation.
Faulty Foundations
Examining a Foundation
Theological method applied correctly starts with a thorough study of the Scripture to determine what the Bible says about a topic.  The result of that study is considered the prime data in any theological inquiry.  The second step is to investigate how those through history have viewed this data both to see conclusions they have drawn and to evaluate those positions based on the current understanding of the prime data.

Necessarily, there is logic applied when one is formulating a position based on one’s understanding of the data.  One job of the theologian is to evaluate both the handling of the data as well as the logic applied in formulating a theological position.

The data, the Bible, remains the same.  In some cases a person’s exegesis may be flawed or incomplete.  In other cases the logic may be faulty.  It is incumbent on the seeking to formulate a theological argument to examine both the historical exegesis and logic as well as his.

Cracks in the Foundation
One of the more frequent flaws in a theological argument emerges from the theologian wishing to prove a doctrinal position that he or his sphere of influence holds dear.  I have heard this first hand in the application of a number of logical fallacies in the presentation of a position during the remarks of a seminary president attempting to justify an unbiblical position his denomination has taken.

I have also heard messages where one statement in the message invalidates the rest of the points the speaker is attempting to make.

Looking for Cracks
The point of this is that all of us as we approach the Bible, all of those under whom we sit either as pastors, teachers, or authors are flawed humans.  We make mistakes.  We have issues about which we are passionate.  There are times that we have pushed the Word past what it says either by emphasizing one portion of the Word over another, or else using faulty reasoning or exegesis to make a point we believe is very important.

As believers we have to be aware of this for ourselves and in the ministry of those whom we follow.  That means that we cannot passively receive instruction from anyone.  Acts 17:11 should be our example.  Luke tells us that the Berean believers did not receive what Paul said without checking his message out in the Word of God.  The Holy Spirit, through Luke’s pen labeled their behavior noble.

Our task is to be noble.  We are to check out what we hear and read.  We are to check to see if what is being written or said aligns with Scripture.  In the final analysis like the Berean believers we will not be held accountable for what our pastors, teachers, or favorite authors think or believe about the Word.  No, we will be held accountable for what we think and believe.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Serving

The Context
My youngest son and his wife moved into their first home this weekend.  They are both teachers.  School started Wednesday.  They have had a rather busy week.  In the last few weeks they had to get their classrooms set up – oh, my son teaches high school chemistry and robotics, his wife teaches high school biology including honors biology.  They teach at the same school, they have adjoining labs, they share a storage room between the labs – they had to clean out and arrange the storage room, they had to check in new textbooks, get their first lesson plans ready, attend a bunch of meetings, pack, close, move, set up their new home and go back to class day after tomorrow.  They were not going to make it.
Serving
We figured that out last a couple of weeks ago.  We helped pack some last Saturday.  My wife went to their apartment nearly every day this week to pack boxes.  We started last evening after they closed moving a couple of small loads.  We started this morning at 0700 and finished at about 1800 this evening.  They had several friends a couple of uncles and most of our family helping.

At the end of the day they had a lot finished.  They had a place to sleep, they could take a shower, and their kitchen was most of the way set up so they could eat.  In the midst of this my daughter in law’s grandfather was having his 80th birthday.  There was a mini family reunion going on…  They missed a lot of it.

The Exhortation
Galatians 6:9 – 10 tells us to not grow weary in doing good, frankly we are.  But physical weariness is not what Paul has in mind here.  Rather, it is to weary of doing good.  It is relatively easy to serve your family.  This exhortation of Paul is much broader and at the same time emphatically focused.

Paul exhorts us to serve, do good without losing heart (there is another post in that phrase – maybe tomorrow).  Then he emphatically focuses us on serving those believers we know.

The Scope
My son and his wife are believers.  Pretty much all of those helping the last few days are also believers.  It takes time.  It takes us away from what we planned.  But the reality is that is our assignment.  Not only for our families but also for our neighbors and especially for those in our communities of faith.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Eating One’s Own Dog Food

The Mission
For the past several days I have been working on curriculum for a series intended to train pastors in developing nations.  I have been assigned several modules of that training.  I have a top level outline, but I am tasked to come up with sentence outlines for each of the sections.  To prepare a couple of the sections I have been reviewing some of my class notes from seminary, riveting stuff.
Eating One’s Own Dog Food
I have some experience with this task in Nepal, Morocco, and Trinidad and Tobago.  Some of my material has been used in Liberia and Uganda.  That experience has shaped, informed my thinking on how to best approach these topics.  This afternoon as I was working through the material, I found myself weighing different ways to approach the subjects.  At one point I was thinking that I would like to get with the man I am working with on this and engage in some extended prayer about the direction…  Then it struck me…

Bailing Out
…I was wanting to do what I encourage others not to do, go to men instead of going to the Lord.  I wanted the companionship of another rather than taking my questions and concerns directly to Him.  The reality is He knows who is going to be involved in this training.  He knows how they best learn, Psalm 119:73.  So it makes sense rather than going to get help from the guy with whom I will be working, I should rather ask the One who created those who will be coming to the training how to proceed.

Seems like somebody wrote about this just yesterday…

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Kindred Spirits

Sleepless in Tulsa
Last night was sleepless.  Combination of allergies and a brain that would not shut down thinking about the issues that have been on my mind in the past few weeks.  I was sneezing quite a bit so rather than keep my wife awake I got out of bed and went into my office.
Kindred Spirits

Discovering New Allies
I have a backlog of books that I need/want to read.  I pulled one out of the carousel on my credenza, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood , edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem.  I am glad I did.  I read just the preface; I was blown away.  It was if the men that wrote the preface, J. Ligon Duncan and Randy Stinson had been reading my journal.  They were directly dealing with two of the issues with which I have been struggling.  Further, their positions were nearly word for word what I have written and struggled with in the past months and years.  For example:
We are reminded here of Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus and his exhortation to hold fast the Word and deal decisively with those who undermine it.  All too often, however, we are enticed by worldly substitutes.  When facing hardship, we are apt to seek a friend before turning to the Psalms.  When tempted to doubt God’s provision, we turn to human leaders before going to the words of Jesus.  When angry, we seek someone who will justify us rather than the wisdom of Proverbs.  Within us all is the tendency to turn to the uninspired books of men ahead of the inspired Book of God.  (page xii)
Grateful for the Kindred Spirits
Sometimes I feel alone in the battle in which the Lord has placed me.  There are times it feels like I am the only one – obviously this is wrong – that is continually harping on the primacy of the Word of God for believers.  I cringe when someone tells me that they are “studying” a book by Rick Warren (nothing against Rick, I like him) or some other Christian author in their “Bible” study.  Really?  As good as some of those books are, they are not inspired.

Reading these scholars take and express the identical position was like a breath of fresh air.  I needed the fellowship; the encouragement.  This morning I tracked down both of their email addresses and sent them thank you notes.

It is good when men are in unity, Psalm 133:1.  It was really good last night.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Crushed

Hard Times
This has been a hard week.  I say that but it has not been a hard week in terms of what Paul endured.  But nevertheless I have felt crushed by several things that have happened in the past few days.  I should not be surprised, after all Jesus promised it would be like this, John 16:33.  That doesn’t make it fun.  I think I will add John 16:33 to the list of passages in the Bible of which I am not very fond.
Crushed
Paul’s Example
Back to Paul.  When I studied 2 Corinthians in the past year or so I made a mental note that those who are engaged in trying to help others in their walk with God should from time to time read and study this letter.  I took my own advice today.  I re-read 2 Corinthians 6:4 – 10.  Based on what Paul faced I do not have a lot about which to complain.

But I still feel crushed.

The Solution…
The good thing is that what I have been reading in Psalm 119 is true.  The Word is a refuge in the storms, trouble, tribulation this life throws at us.  I just have to claw my way back into it to get that solace.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Solace in Anguish

Shelter in the Storm
Psalm 119:143 gives us direction for difficult times.  David describes his situation as being in trouble and anguish.  David’s solution, delight in God’s Word.  Thinking through that a movie came to mind, “The Book of Eli.”
Solace in Anguish
Art Imitates Life
If you have seen it you know it is of the dystopian genre.  The story is about Eli, walking across a post-apocalyptic America on a mission with a book.  The book turns out to be a copy of the King James Bible.  The book is in braille, Eli is blind.  He reads it daily and helps one of the other characters learn to read it as well.

The Bible sustains Eli on this quest full of trouble and anguish.  It is a fairly clear picture of David’s thought in Psalm 119:143.

But.

The final couple of scenes, and I will share this without revealing much of the plot, shows a man putting a printed copy of the King James Bible obtained from Eli on the shelf of a library, at that point we get the notion that it is the only copy in existence.  In the next scene we see the other character that Eli led in and through the Word leaving, essentially taking up Eli’s mantle, into trouble and anguish, but without the book…  As I thought about this, this is a metaphor for what is happening in many of our communities today.

Life Imitates Art
The book is on the shelf and the disciples are in the world which gives us trouble and anguish without the book to sustain them.  Eli’s disciple was in trouble without that book.  So are we.  She had an excuse.  There was only one copy.  We don’t.  We have it on our phones.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Making the Simple Wise

Brain Food
As I have shared previously I have been working through Psalm 119 for the past several weeks.  I work through three octets a week with a group of men most of whom I have known for 40 years.  It is a great time.  We meet on line, video chat.  I share that to emphasize that whatever you need to do to get pushed in Bible study, do it.
Making the Simple Wise
This week we are in Psalm 119:121 – 141, it is a good section, but truthfully there isn’t a bad one.  I want to focus on Psalm 119:130 and while you are at it check out Psalm 19:7.  Those passages describe me perfectly.

I wrote about this some time back, but it bears another look.  Through nearly 40 years of working with men in the Word, I can say with complete certainty that learning to study the Word will prepare a person to learn better than any other discipline of which I am aware.  I have seen men who have been labeled dumb jocks, who struggled with academics, after diving deep into the Word not only be transformed intellectually, but begin to lead others in and through the Word.

Why is that?

Tailored Brain Food
Psalm 119:73 gives us a hint.  God made each of us.  He knows us intimately, for instance the number of hairs on our head, Matthew 10:30.  He also knows how we best learn, what it is that will allow us to learn more of Him.  Couple that with one aspect of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, John 16:13, and we have the case where the author of the book created us, knows how we learn, and is personally guiding us into truth.  That is an impossible combination to beat.

The Only Barrier
We are the only ones who can short circuit that process.  How?  By either not doing what Christ said, abide in His Word, John 15:7, or by bailing out of a passage before we have struggled with it and dive into secondary sources like the notes in our study Bibles, commentaries, other experts, or that repository of all knowledge and truth, the internet via Google…

The Incomprehensible Offer
Think of the reality that these passages reveal.  I’ll say it again, the creator of the universe who was intimately, intentionally involved in your creation, who knows how you best learn, is committed to lead you into truth, to teach you personally.  How can we turn that down?

Don’t Settle for the Crumbs
Sadly, many of us do.  We settle for a steady diet of books about the Bible, good but not inspired.  We settle for listening to our favorite speakers.  We settle.  Why settle when we have been offered a completely transforming educational experience?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Fearing the People

The Command
Saul was chosen to be the king of Israel by God through the agency of Samuel.  He was a good looking, forceful, leader.  But, like all of us he was flawed.  He was told, in 1 Samuel 15:3, to destroy Amalek.  In Exodus 17:8 – 16, we read that as Israel was coming out of Egypt, Amalek came and fought them.  God was not pleased with this.  He commanded Saul to destroy, completely destroy Amalek.  He told Saul to leave absolutely nothing alive.
Fearing the People
The Excuse
But we read in 1 Samuel 15:7 – 9, that although Saul did roundly defeat Amalek, he did not wipe them out.  He kept what he considered to be the best destroying only what he deemed worthless.  When Samuel confronted Saul’s disobedience, Saul, in 1 Samuel 15:24 blamed the people.  He said that he feared the people.  He was more concerned with what he said the people wanted than what God wanted.

The Lie
Couple of side notes here.  First, in the text there is no indication that Saul was approached by the people.  He is portrayed as being in on the decision to keep the “best”.  Second, since the garden it has been human nature to blame shift when we disobey.  Adam blamed Eve and ultimately God for his disobedience.  Eve blamed the snake.  None of us seem to want to quickly own up to our disobedience.

The Ongoing Pattern
Saul disobeyed because he feared the people.  Let’s go with that for a minute.  It made me wonder in what ways I am disobeying the Lord because of my fear of people.  I am not a big fan of conflict.  I enjoy being accepted much more than I enjoy rejection.  If at all possible I would prefer to avoid persecution and suffering.  There have been times that I have stopped short of sharing my faith with people for fear they would react negatively.

Our Call to be Different
In the culture today there are several “third rail” topics.  Homosexuality, same sex marriage, abortion, ordination of homosexuals, to name a few.  Conversations that drift toward those topics are confrontational.  As believers we are to engage.  We are to engage on the basis of Christ’s provision for our salvation and of those with whom we may have the chance to interact and under the umbrella of 2 Timothy 2:24 - 25.  But rather than engage Biblically, some of us, me included, at times have drawn back.  I did it last week because of the time and place.  Not sure that was the right decision.

Some organizations and denominations have chosen to embrace the culture over and against the Bible.  Rather than stand on what God has said, like Saul, they have chosen to disobey for fear of the people.

We will all give an account of our obedience.  I am not sure – no I am sure – I do not want to stand before the One who was nailed on a cross for me and tell Him I did not share my faith because I was afraid of being shunned.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Guarding the Baggage

Unwarranted Despair
I met this morning with a friend with whom I had lost contact for several years.  We spent some time getting caught up on our families and then he asked me to share about what we have been doing in our ministry, Entrusting Truth.
Guarding the Baggage
After I shared what we have been doing here, in Africa, and Asia, he shared that he had felt called to do more but was stuck in his current situation.  This man is president and CEO of an organization.  His position in his company and community affords him opportunities that I will never have.  Because of his financial success he is able to support multiple ministries.

When he shared he felt like he wasn’t doing more I reminded him of Psalm 139:1 – 18, and Ephesians 2:10.  He is right where God wants him now.  I also reminded him of Philippians 1:3 – 7; 4:17.  There Paul tells the Philippian believers that their support of his ministry credited the work he had done to their account.  His sandals may have been in the sand but it was their ministry.  Same with my friend.

Equal in Ministry
We give too much credit to those of us who go to places like Nepal and Morocco.  In reality I cannot accomplish anything here, in Nepal, Morocco, or any other place for that matter, without the prayer, and that is listed first on purpose, and financial support of those who are on my team.  It is their ministry as much if not more than mine.

David believed that as well.  In 1 Samuel 30:22 – 24 there was controversy among David’s men.  The ones who went to the battle with him felt that those who stayed behind to guard the supplies should not share in the spoils of their victory.  David said emphatically that those who stayed behind had an equal share in the spoil and thus the victory.  They were as much a part of the victory as those who went with David to the battle field.

Equally Critical Roles
Thus it is today.  Those who pray and give to a ministry share in result of that ministry equally with those whom they pray for and support.  We are a body.  We have different functions.  All of those functions are critical.

Fine, Fine, Fine, all the Time, Time, Time…

The Problem?
I have traveled four times to North Africa to work either in pre evangelism or with underground churches.  I traveled to a Caribbean nation five times working with believers there.  I have been in five Asian countries doing the same thing.  One of the realities that is dealt with in each place is a false teaching that when one becomes a believer suddenly all of their monetary and physical needs are supplied by their faith in Christ.  If they aren’t then they do not believe deeply enough.
Fine, Fine, Fine, all the Time, Time, Time…
What Does the Word Say?
To say that this teaching is difficult to validate from the Word of God would be an epic understatement.  To label it false teaching is overly kind.  I have mentioned that I am working through 1 and 2 Timothy with a group of men.  We were in 2 Timothy 2 this morning.  Take a look at 2 Timothy 2:3 – 7.  What does Paul call Timothy to join?
  • Suffering
  • Separation from the World
  • Hard Work with delayed gratification
Those things do not easily align with the message described above.  One of the major themes of 1 Peter is the suffering of believers.  Christ promised that as followers of Him we would be treated as He was treated, John 15:18 – 21.  He was persecuted and crucified.

One of the arguments might be that this word to Timothy was special because he was a leader in the church.  But that flies in the face of Matthew 28:18 – 20.  The apostles, including Paul, were to make disciples and teach them everything that Christ taught them.  That includes the call to suffer.

Does it Matter?
I do not hear that much.  I have not seen that cross stitched on many pillows.  It is the reality in many of the places I have traveled.  Yet there are still those who are teaching and proclaiming the message that faith brings wealth.

If I am reading this right, I believe I am, it is a different gospel.  Paul in Galatians 1:8 – 9 curses those who share a different gospel.

Probably want to stay away from that camp.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Things

An Old Friend
2 Timothy 2:2 is one of the first verses that I memorized.  It is one of the first passages on which I applied a verse analysis study.  While I have studied the book and the passage several times there is a richness there that continues to bear ongoing scrutiny.
The Things
Thursday mornings I am in a study with a group of men and we are working through 1 and 2 Timothy.  This week we are in 2 Timothy 2 once again.  While there is much in that chapter that needs to be addressed look at verse 2 with me one more time.

Lessons Learned
Focus on what Paul exhorts Timothy to do.  Specifically, he tells his apprentice to entrust the things he has heard.  Now if you are like me, the first questions that leaps to mind is what are those things?  There are hints all through 2 Timothy 2 but there is a list in 2 Timothy 3:10 – 11.  My response to this was to go back to Acts 16 – 21 and note the lessons that Timothy would have picked up on his journeys with Paul during the 2nd and 3rd missionary journeys.  I would recommend that exercise.  Some of what I found:
Passage Lesson
Acts 16:6 The Holy Spirit is in control of the agenda. The leader is the Lord not Paul. Paul was in submission to the Lord.
Acts 16:7 Be consistent in the following of the Holy Spirit’s guidance
Acts 16:9 Paul followed visions. Again the reality of the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 16:18 Spiritual Warfare
Acts 16:19 Physical resistance
Acts 16:23 Torture and incarceration will be a reality
Acts 16:37 Paul used his citizenship and the law to his advantage
Acts 17:1 Go to the people who are already hungry
Acts 17:11 Connection between the Word of God and belief
Acts 17:20 A major tenant of evangelism look for the God shaped vacuum in the culture
I’ll stop there, there are more, but it will give you a taste…  Do the study yourself, it is worth the effort.

One other observation, Paul writes about his ministry experience in 2 Corinthians 6:1 – 10, what “things” would Timothy learn through those experiences.

How Are We Doing With This Example?
This morning I was chatting with a Christian leader in our town.  He wondered aloud what we could do in our churches to better equip our people to be engaged like Christ, Paul, and Timothy.  One quick observation, both Christ and Paul assembled men and had them with them in ministry.  They were intentional in selection, engaging in life with those men, and launching them into ministry experiences that required them to trust God and lean on the Spirit’s gifts in their lives.

Not sure that we do that often in the Church today.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Personal Responsibility for the Word

What gets you out of bed in the morning?  
That is an easy question for me to answer.  Getting people into the Word of God for themselves.  What I mean by that is equipping people to sit down with their Bibles and a blank sheet of paper and being able to study the Word and thus meet with Christ themselves.  The focus is on men because based on Ephesians 5:15 – 6:33, men are supposed to lead.  To lead people have to be in the Word for themselves.
Personal Responsibility for the Word
What does that mean?
Further clarification, by studying for themselves I do not mean reading the notes in a study Bible.  In the workshops I do I forbid them.  I give the participants just the text of the book we are studying.  Further, I do not mean by personal Bible study a fill in the blank study.  Why?  In the case of the study Bible, the notes are not inspired, the text is.  By reading the notes one assumes they are right, usually dropping down below the line that separates the text from the notes before one has struggled with the text.  When we do that we are short circuiting the ministry of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, John 16:13.

In the case of the FIBS (Fill in the Blank) studies, the person who created the study is leading you through their observations.  They are asking you to see what they saw.  I will guarantee that there is more in the passage than they have seen; more that someone doing that study can see…

Why is it important?
For the past few months I have been working through Psalm 119.  This past week I was in Psalm 119:97 – 104.  In there I found validation for what I just shared.  Look at verses 99 – 100.  David says that the Word gives him more insight than his teachers and more understanding than the aged.  That is a big deal.

Studying the Word for oneself puts one in a dialog with teachers and pastors, a conversation if you will.  Rather than being spoon fed, one is comparing what they saw with what the teacher or pastor saw.  Since both parties are gifted by the Holy Spirit and are under His ministry of leading into truth, the dialog will be much richer than the spoon feeding.

Second in the Hebrew culture, well in most cultures, the aged are deemed to have greater understanding.  Here David tells us that observing the Word levels that playing field.  Speeds up the learning if you will.  That is a very good thing.

So What?
The bottom line?  Each of us needs to be in the Word, independently, for ourselves.  We cannot only depend on teachers, commentators, authors of Bible studies, and our pastors to study the Word for us.  We need to do that for ourselves.  That is what gets me out of bed.  If you want help with that, let me know.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Foundation of Appropriate Hate

There are a lot of things that bother me.  I shared one of them yesterday.  Today is a bit of an expansion on that theme.

Driving around town from time to time I see bumper stickers – I am convinced that there are some folks who are committed to sharing their entire world view on the back of their cars…  One of them I see frequently is this one:
The Foundation of Appropriate Hate
 The problem is how many of those who slap that sticker on their bumper define hate.  Basically if you don’t agree with their position you are a hater…  It is a form of verbal tyranny.  I have also seen bumper stickers that claim that God does not hate anyone, those folks are Biblically illiterate, Romans 9:13.

But there is more.  Psalm 119:113, David says that he hates the double minded, in the context, those who turn their back on or place their hope in something other than God and His Word.

I get that.

I am totally and completely confused how one can claim to be a follower of Christ and yet take positions that are militantly unbiblical.  I was talking earlier this morning about yesterday’s blog post to a friend.  He told me of one of his acquaintances who though conservative in their approach to the Bible was attending a liberal seminary.  He shared that in the Greek and Hebrew exegesis classes the professors have to work incredibly hard to force the text to support the positions that they have chosen.  Technically, that is called eisegesis.  It is a whole lot easier to let the Bible say what it says.

I am going to choose to stand with David.  I choose to hate that behavior.  I choose to hate those who twist the Word of God to their own ends.  So:
The Foundation of Appropriate Hate

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Confront?

Yesterday I shared about talking with a man who was committed to what he “knew’ to be true over what the Bible actually says.  On our way home we ran into a couple at one of the airports who were engaged in training for ministry in a denomination that has completely abandoned what the Bible says.  They were excitedly sharing how they were in the process of ordaining those who were practicing homosexuals as well as performing “Christian” ceremonies to wed homosexual couples.
Confront?
Whatever your view on this issue, the Bible is very clear that this behavior is sin.  It is also clear that those who are continuing to live unrepentant in sin, whatever that sin may be, are not to be in the leadership of a church.  Further, to sanction those who are living in unrepentant sin, again whatever that sin may be, is to participate in that sin.  Neither a local body nor a denomination should be engaged in either of these practices.

They shared that the wife was the one pursing the MDiv at the seminary.  She told me she was excited about the Greek and Hebrew she was taking.  She was taking Greek and Hebrew exegesis.  My internal response, really loud internal response, was, “Why?”  Why would one be excited about learning to study in detail that which one has rejected?  It frankly makes no sense.

It was all I could do to not say what I was thinking.  I did not.  The concourse at SEA-TAC three minutes prior to boarding was not the time nor place.

I wanted to.

I still do.

It makes me mad.  I have permission.  Look at Psalm 119:104, 113, 128, 158, 163, David says he hates and loathes those who have abandoned the Word of God.  So it is ok that it makes me mad…  But, on the other side of the coin, 2 Timothy 2:24 – 35 tells me I need to gently correct…

I know who they are.  I have a way to contact them.  I just have to pray through how and when.  SEA-TAC was not the right time or place.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Bible or What You Believe

I was on vacation for the past couple of weeks.  My wife and I were in Alaska on a land and cruise tour.  It was much better than I expected.
One day we took a train from the coast of Alaska up to and through the US and Canadian Yukon.  On the way up one of the men asked me what I thought about Acts 29 churches, many in the group have figured out that we are engaged in ministry.  I had no idea what he was talking about.  So I asked for more information.  He told me that his son was in an Acts 29 church.  That he and his son had got into a long discussion about the church and in the end he had upset his son.  There was a doctrinal issue that separated them.  It does not matter what it was for my purpose here.

He told me what he believed.  He stated that belief like it was the end of the discussion and it was with his son.  There was one significant problem.  He would be hard pressed to validate what he believes from the pages of the Bible he takes to church.

Believing something does not make it true.  Truth is not determined by what I believe, what my pastor believes, what the statement of faith of my church or denomination states, or what my society thinks is true.  Truth is determined by what God says is true.

In John 14:1, Jesus said He was the truth...  In 2 Timothy 3:14 - 17, Paul tells us that all Scripture is inspired by God.  Multiple times in Psalm 119, David ascribes truth to God's Word.  Bottom line, if what I believe cannot be validated by a proper study of God's Word, it is not true.

In the final analysis, that is what matters.  As followers of Christ, our continual quest should be to plumb the depths of God's Word continually aligning what we believe with what the Word says.