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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Promptings

Bumping into…
Last week I ran into a colleague I had not seen for many months.  He mentioned he had been thinking about me.  We chatted for a bit and then the event we were both attending started up again, we parted ways saying we should get together.
Promptings
We should meet…
That happens a lot doesn’t it?  But many times, the getting together never materializes.

This time it did.  Something he said in our conversation about the Sunday school class he teaches, would not go away.  Doesn’t matter what.  It just stuck…  I am learning, slowly, that stuck thoughts about others may be, usually are, promptings by the Holy Spirit to do something…  So I did, this time.

Follow through…
I called my friend and asked if we could get coffee together.  Today we did.

My purpose was to hear more about what he was doing.  I spent the majority of the time listening and asking clarifying questions.  He is doing a significant work in his church.  Really significant.  But like most of us, he does not get much encouragement or reinforcement.

Daily Encouragement…
The time ended up being a time to do what Hebrews 3:13 commands.  I left encouraged that the Spirit kept after me to call him.  He left encouraged that someone was interested and appreciative of both what he was doing and the struggles that are part of that task.

Cleaning out my ears…
I am learning to listen more closely.  When someone comes to mind.  I am learning that is a call to action.  That action may be to pray, it may be to call.  I have to ask.  Then I have to act.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Enough?

Bad Day
The past 24 hours have been hard.  There has been a series of events that were discouraging.  What the events were is not important.  The impact that they had on me caused me to ask a significant question which I will share in a bit.
Enough?
Responsibility
I have had a varied ministry experience.  It is not necessary for the purpose here to recount it.  The experiences with which I have been provided, I view as a trust from the Lord.  It seems that He has entrusted much to me.  Luke 12:48, reminds me, because of that, much is required of me.

Benched
Yet there are times that I feel not only that I am not doing as much with that trust, but that He is blocking me, putting me on the bench, if you will.  That is the feeling that the events of the past 24 hours has produced.

Past Experience
Several years ago, I was really working hard at trying to use the gifts and experiences that He had given.  I was blocked at just about every turn.  The Lord used Hebrews 5:4 to dig me out.  He reminded me that He was in charge.  I needed to rest in Him, and let go of trying to serve Him.  I did.  He opened up many doors.

Working through the Confusion
Most of the day I have been processing my reactions to the events of the past 24 hours.  A question came to mind as I worked through my emotions.  “Is Jesus enough?”

The Main Question
I have been gifted in many ways.  I have a lot of skills that can and have been used for the Kingdom.  If I am never again given an opportunity to use them, “Is Jesus enough?”  Am I content to know Him?  Am I content to not be recognized, asked to serve, not be engaged in my passion to equip men to study His Word?  “Is Jesus, just knowing Him, enough?”

The answer should be yes.

I am not sure that it is for me right now.  That pains me.

Monday, September 28, 2015

What is Good?

What is the Measure?
How does one measure good in the body?  Is good something that keeps your attention?  Is good something that brings a large number of people through the doors?  Is good enjoyable?
What is Good?
I am not sure.  I do know that I seem to have a different view of what is good than many.

This is what I think is good…
A good message for me is one that fully explores the context of a passage.  A good speaker is one who does not dodge the difficult things in Scripture by continually speaking on topics.  I do not think it is good to put a young believer on stage because he will draw a crowd.  Some of the best messages I have heard were not enjoyable, the speaker was meddling.

Christ seemed to have a different standard…
Christ said a lot of things that irritated those who were listening.  In John 5:39 -42, He told the leaders of the Jews that they were missing the boat.  In John 6, when people reacted to what He said rather than soften His message, He doubled down, driving all but His disciples away.  He was more interested in the truth, what His Father wanted Him to say than He was the number of people who were following Him.  Heck in John 6:26 – 27, Christ rebukes those who followed Him to the other side of the sea because they were coming for the wrong reason.

I wonder if we are measuring good correctly?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Irritants

Bothersome
What bothers you?  What is it that gets your blood flowing?  What is it about your Church that gets under your skin?
Irritants
I heard one person this morning complaining about something to do with the music that was being played in the service.  I know of churches that have split over the color of the carpet.  I know a pastor who left his church because he did not tell enough stories, he shared too much from the Scripture.  I know of those who will raise holy heck if their pet theological position, whether they understand or can support it from Scripture or not, is challenged.  I have heard complaints that the music was too loud or not loud enough…

Not Bothersome?
I do not remember ever hearing someone complain that the pastor was not focused enough on discipleship.  Nor do I remember hearing a complaint that the pastor was not exhorting the flock enough to get into the Word.  I can’t recall anyone ever complaining that the staff did not rebuke enough.  I haven’t heard anyone complain that the equipping ministry of the church was not up to snuff.

What is Important?
I can’t find any passage in the Old or New Testament on the color of the carpet, the type and volume of the music.

I do find in Ephesians 4:11 – 16 that the leaders are supposed to equip.  I read in 2 Timothy 4:1 – 2 that the leader of a body is supposed to proclaim the Word continually, he is to reprove, rebuke, exhort, and instruct.  He is supposed to reprove severely, Titus 1:13 and he is supposed to do that so that no one ignores him, Titus 2:15.

I wonder what bothers us says about us.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Building Bridges

Engineering
My undergraduate degree was civil engineering.  I never practiced, after graduation I went directly, next day, into Undergraduate Pilot Training in the Air Force.  After that – well rather than repeat my resume – I never practiced CE.
Building Bridges
One of the things one studied in that discipline is structural beam design in both concrete and steel.  Those are the primary materials used in the construction of bridges and overpasses.  The process is fairly straight forward, one figures out the load that will be on that member and then designs it to handle that load.  But there is a safety factor.  You design for a percentage higher than the load the member will carry.

Living as an Engineer
1 Peter 3:15 is essentially bridge building for believers.  We are to live our lives in such a way that we have bridges to people who are non-believers strong enough to carry the gospel.

Intentionality
Engineering a bridge is an intentional process.  One does not simply throw some sticks across a river and expect to drive a semi across.  One of the reasons we are still here as believers – if I am reading Matthew 28:18 – 20 correctly – is to make disciples of all the nations.  If that is the assignment, then in each nation or person for that matter, we have to intentionally build bridges of communication.

Consistency
One can walk in and share the gospel.  I have done that.  At times God honors that.  But, the more effective bridge is one that is built by one’s verbal association with Christ and a life that demonstrates the reality of the effect of that relationship.

That is not as easy as it sounds.  It requires a complete, intentional commitment to the task.  1 Peter 3:15 implies that is a full time commitment, not just something we do in a season.  It is all in, all the time.  Hard.  Essential.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Barriers to Understanding

Theology is the Source
Theology is called the Queen of the Sciences.  Why?  Because Scientific method is a subset of Theological Method.  If you give it a minutes thought it makes sense.  Some of the best known early scientists, Pascal, Newton, were believers.  They studied the world with the theological tools they developed.  Most higher education included Theology.
Barriers to Understanding
The Purpose of Method
Theological method is intended to help us do what Paul exhorted Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 2:15, handle accurately the Word of Truth.  One of the first steps in the process is to acknowledge one’s presuppositions, what one thinks one already knows and believes about an issue.  The reason for this is to allow the data, the Word, to speak to the issue without our bending it to support our pet positions.

Critical Starting Point
This is a critically important step in our approach to the Bible.  I am always gratified when I find excellent explanations of why this is important, not just in our approach to the Word, but also in Theology’s offspring Scientific method.

Excellent Example
Claude Bernard was a French physiologist, he wrote this about the impediment of our preconceived ideas in 1865:
Men who have excessive faith in their theories or ideas are not only ill prepared for making discoveries; they also make very poor observations.  Of necessity, they observe with a preconceived idea, and when they devise an experiment, they can see, in its results, only a confirmation of their theory.  In this way they distort observation and often neglect very important facts because they do not further their aim…But it happens further quite naturally that men who believe too firmly in their theories, do not believe enough in the theories of others.  So the dominant idea of these despisers of their fellows is to find others’ theories faulty and to try to contradict them.  The difficulty, for science, is still the same.
Clear Your Mind to Observe Well
The key to good Bible study is great observation.  Bernard masterfully points out why we need to continually question and examine what we hold to be true.  If we do not, we are in danger of falling into the trap he describes.  In Science that results in error.  A problem, but not, in the grand scheme of things, overwhelming.  But in the Bible, the result is heresy.  Heresy has eternal consequences.

When you go to your study, acknowledge your presuppositions.  Allow the Bible to realign them.  Do not force the Bible to say what you want it to say.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Set the Table and Get Out of the Way

The Joy of Equipping
I have been about this task – that is a harsh term, it is more of a delight – of equipping people to study the Bible for themselves for about 40 years.  I think what drives me has been my experience with the Word since the early days of my walk with Christ.
Set the Table and Get Out of the Way
The Power of the Word
What I am learning is that what the Bible says about itself is true.  Hebrews 4:12, tells us that is living, active, and piercing.  1 Peter 2:1 – 2, tells us that it is required for growth.  2 Timothy 3:14 – 17 tells us that it makes us adequate.  There is much more but the kicker, in my opinion is John 16:13.  There we read that the ultimate author is committed to leading us as we study what He inspired.  Wow.

It Happened Yet Again
This morning that was validated yet again.  A group of us were working on an overview of 1 John.  We started last week with this outline.  We did the second reading this morning.  I had the men skim through the book in about 20 minutes.  Then share the answers to the questions.

It was a spirited exchange.  They all were eager to share what they had seen.  Their observations were rich and spot on.

I Do Not Share What I Know – Who Cares Anyway?
I know 1 John.  I have studied and written about that letter.  I have translated it from Greek to English.  I can parse all of the verbs, I can unfold the structure of the book, at least what I understand about it at this point in my walk.  But what I know does not matter.  What I know does not equip the men in the study to dig out the truth for themselves.

My Job
My job is to give them guidance on what to look for as they read and get the heck out of the way.  Then my job is to get over the top excited about what they see.  Not hard because I get really excited about what they see.  Why?  Because, maybe for the first time in their experience they have seen something that is really significant and they know it.

My job is to let the Holy Spirit do His.  He always does.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Kid

The Study
This morning with three other men on a video call I spent an hour in 1 John 2.  I have known two of these men for about 40 years.  They are my age, roughly.  The third is a former spec ops soldier who is the age of one of my kids, who I have known for about two years, only through this study.
The Kid
The Studiers
I have a ThM, Masters in Theology, one of the other guys has had a significant exposure to Greek and Hebrew, the other has been training Christian staff in ministry and Bible study for 30+ years.  We are more than twice the spec ops kid’s age.

The Leader
The Spirit is not really all that impressed with degrees, knowledge of the languages, or time in grade.  He pretty much applies Himself to His role of leading us into all truth, John 16:13, regardless.

So “the kid” made an observation in 1 John 2:1 that stopped me in my tracks and made me reassess John’s message and the way he presents it.  He notice that in 1 John 2:1, John starts with first person singular addressing second person plural, and then move to first person plural, I, you, we.

The Importance of the Observation
This is significant for a number of reasons.  First in the verse John states that one of the purposes of the letter is to keep the recipients from sinning, I, you.  Then, stating that if we sin, “we” have an advocate… He places himself alongside his audience as one who needs that advocate.

That brings two major themes from 1 John 1 forward.  First, that proclaiming the truth brings the ones who accept the proclaimed truth into the same level of fellowship that John has with the Father and the Son.  Second, a tacit validation of the thrust of the five conditional statements in 1 John 1:6 – 10, that we are all sinners in need of Christ’s forgiveness and redemption.

The kid’s observation was spot on and uncovered for us the strong linkage in logic that the Holy Spirit through John had employed. Not to mention a literary device that is repeated throughout the letter.

The Implications
If you know Christ, you have the same Spirit, and the same Book.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Knowing

Startin’ Up
How do you get a new believer started in studying the Bible or having a quiet time?  We know that it is vitally important to be in God’s Word for ourselves.  1 Peter 2:1 – 2 tells us that we have to crave the Word like a baby craves his mother’s milk.  However, in my experience, our communities are not doing a very good job of getting folks into the Word on their own – by that I mean blank sheet of paper and a Bible without study notes and meet with Jesus – on their own.
Knowing
Find “Know”
One thing you can do is have a new believer read 1 John.  It is simple, short, densely packed with truth, and expands on some of Christ’s central teaching.

Have them read the book at one sitting and underline the word “know” each time it appears in the text.  Then ask them to go back and write down what they can know because of their relationship with Christ.

Talk it Over
It is a great exercise and one that will give you a lot to discuss with the new believer…

Oh, if you have not done that, it may be a good idea to do so – by the way the word shows up 44 times.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What are We Doing? Why?

Church in Nepal
Last November I was in Nepal.  For the first part of the week I was privileged to work with church planters who had planted over 400 churches in eastern Nepal, equipping them to study the Bible more effectively and thus help those in the churches they had planted.
What are We Doing?  Why?
 The last part of the time there my translator and I traveled around the villages speaking at several churches.  The picture above is one of those churches.  The people in the picture walk 4 – 5 hours to get to the church each Saturday for worship.

Church this Morning
I went to church this morning.  We had lights, fog machines, electric guitars, synthesizers, drums, projected video and images, all of which I like and use some of – well no fog – in my workshops.
What are We Doing?  Why?
Pretty sure nobody in the room walked to church.  The cost of one of the lights would have sustained the family of a Nepali pastor for about a year.

We Should Grow… But…
I have been a consultant in church growth.  I worked with one of the leaders in that vertical for two years.  I get the music and the production.  I have been at some churches that have done that incredibly well.

Contrast
This morning though I was struck by the contrast in the two pictures above.  The simplicity of the one and the production of the other.  The hunger to walk 5 hours to hear the word of God and the desire to complain that the songs that I like were not sung.

What is Congruent with the Scripture?
It made me wonder, and I am sure I do not have an answer for this, why we are doing what we are doing?  If it is the case that as believers we are to be abiding in Christ and His Word, John 15:1 – 16, if the purpose of the church is to use our gifts to build up the body of Christ, Ephesians 4:11 - 16, what are we promoting and how are we promoting it?  What do we measure, why are we measuring it?

Friday, September 18, 2015

unproductive

The blog post needs writing – I do not want to write it.  Frankly, I am worn out and do not know what to write.  It has been a long, unproductive day.  You ever have those?
unproductive
Yesterday, I asked the question do we measure our spirituality by our performance, the tacit answer is probably yes, we do.

So when the day has been long, unproductive, when our sin nature has bubbled to the surface more often than not, where is spirituality?  Where is the hope?  To what do we cling?

For me, it is Colossians 2:9 – 10.  If that passage Paul wrote is true, inspired, like we believe it is.  I am complete in Christ.  Long, unproductive day and all.

Hold tight to that.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Used or Redeemed

Are You Spiritual?
How do you measure your walk with God?  If you are like many you measure it on some basis of performance.  Did you have your quiet time n number of days in a row?  Have you shared the gospel lately?  How well did you do teaching that Sunday school class?  Did you lead that Bible study well?  Is God using me as much as He could be?  Is there sin in my life that is keeping God from using me?
Used or Redeemed
We could probably come up with some more…without really trying very hard.

Not Sure that Being Used By God is the Measure…
My Moroccan friend and I were in Jeremiah 50 – 51 this morning.  In those chapters God outlines for Jeremiah His plans for the destruction of Babylon.  Now all throughout Jeremiah, Judah is commanded to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar.  He is portrayed as God’s servant and by extension, Babylon, Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10.  Yet in Jeremiah 50 – 51 the Lord outlines His plan to destroy His servant.

Daniel 4:34 – 37, tells us of Nebuchadnezzar’s praise of God’s sovereignty and dominion.

So here is one who is called God’s servant, that seemingly has declared God’s sovereignty and reign over himself and his land, and yet is being destroyed by God.

What Gives?
I am still working through this so I will gladly accept correction or questions…  It seems to me that what may be happening here is that we have a model of one who is being used by a sovereign God for God’s purposes – Oh, as a cross reference look at Habakkuk 1 – one who has at least acknowledged God’s sovereignty, but does not at some fundamental level accept and trust in that sovereignty.  Thus he and his country are destroyed.  He is not redeemed.  Used, not redeemed.

What is the Right Measure?
Now if that is true, and I am admittedly still working through this, then I would submit that being used by God for His purposes is not a measure of a good relationship with Him.  Further, seeking to be used, would not be a proper means to develop a deep, trusting relationship with Him.

Robert Morris touched on this when he described the four stages of maturity (you would be well served to watch or listen to this if you haven’t – if you have it wouldn’t hurt to listen again).

If my observations are correct, if we are being used of God, we need to look past that to our relationship with Him.  In 1 John 1, the issue for John is fellowship with the Father and with His Son, not being used.  Perhaps that is the better measure.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Reprove Severely

Are We Softies?
We may be getting too soft…  The whole notion of political correctness, tolerance, coexistence, the aversion to judging, and the general desire to be nice and not rock the boat or confront – to stay comfortable, may not be serving us well.
Reprove Severely

I have already written about Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to rebuke those in his care.  Paul seems to crank up the volume in his letter to his man, Titus.

Severe Christianity?
Look at Titus 1:13.  Paul commands Titus to reprove the Cretans.  He commands him to reprove them severely.  When is the last time that has happened in your church?  Someone, anyone, was reproved severely?  What would that look like?  How would you respond?  Likely, there would be those in the community that would call the severe reprover to task for being mean spirited, intolerant, or some such – might even be asked to take his fellowship elsewhere…

Intentional Severity?
When you compare the messages of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus a common theme emerges.  Paul is deeply, passionately, fanatically intolerant of those who spread false or unsound doctrine.  Scan those letters.  You will see reference after reference to reproving, rebuking, and exhorting those who are straying one iota from sound doctrine.  He called Peter to task in Galatians 1 for not behaving consistently with the decisions that were made at the Jerusalem council.  He was dead serious about the purity of what was being taught in the churches.

More Like Passionless Mildness…
What happened?  Where is that passion for sound doctrine today?  Who do you know that is passionate about the truth?

I have heard Christian speakers, well known at that, derisively refer to doctrine police.  It seems that Paul may have been one of those.

Eroding Foundation
Note the reason for severe reproof in Titus 1:13.  It is for the faith of the one reproved.  It seems that at some important level, sound faith is dependent on sound doctrine.

Who is minding the store?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Bad Practice

What I am Doing
At the moment I am in studies in Jeremiah, Titus, and 1 John.  In 1 John one of the themes that is repeated is the notion of doing, practice, the Greek word that shows up over and over again is ποιέω, it shows up 13 times in 1 John, the first time in 1:6.  The idea is that we are to practice righteousness, practice what Christ has already done for us.  That is a good thing, a good practice.
Bad Practice
The Current Lesson
This morning I was reading Matthew 5 – 7 in my quiet time.  In 6:1 that word shows up again, this time with a warning.  Christ tells us not to practice righteousness before men, for the purpose of being noticed as being righteous.  That is a bad practice.

That passage stopped me.  I began to pray and ask how I may be doing that in my life.

The Focused Rebuke
I have to ask, do I do things spiritually to be noticed?  How would I know?  One check in my heart is when I find myself thinking I could do a better job at teaching, speaking, or sharing than the one that is currently doing that task.  It is a spiritual arrogance.  It is sin.  Romans 12:3 reminds me that I am not supposed to think more highly of myself than I should…  Sometimes, to be honest, I do.  Sometimes, I find myself wondering why others get opportunities I do not.  Again, arrogance, sin…

The Futile Arrogance of Self Promotion
The facts are that God is in control.  He has placed us in the Body just as He wants.  He has given us the gifts and abilities that He wanted to give us, for His purposes, for His glory, not ours.  It is His plan, His Body, His Church, He will build it with whom He wants in His time in His way.  I may want a larger or different role, but the more important practice, the best practice, is to draw as close to Him as I can.

To try to do otherwise is to take responsibility for what God has said He would do, thus drawing attention to myself…  Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad practice.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Incredibly Awful

The Awful Premise
There was a contrast to the greatness I experienced at church yesterday.  It was on the radio on the way home.  Somehow I got on a station that was asking questions about a certain branch of the Christian tree.  The questions were to a couple of leaders who were, I suppose, experts or leaders in this branch of the tree.  Mostly the questions were asking for help answering objections about that branch of Christianity from those in other branches.  So at some level it was apologetics and focused and centered on we have everything figured out and everyone else is wrong, or at best second class, and they really should be on our branch anyway.
Incredibly Awful
The Vacuous Answers
The interesting thing to me was that in the 10 or 15 minutes I listened to the broadcast there were several questions that I found interesting, frankly, questions that I would have asked and have asked about that branch of the faith.  In answering the questions, the radio hosts gave answers that were based in the dogma of that branch of the faith.  None of their answers referred to a single passage of Scripture.  The answers were at some level given with a strong hint of superiority.

They Could Have Been Better, But…
On one of the answers I started talking to the radio – I know that is not all that effective, pretty sure they could not hear me.  I was giving them chapter and verse to answer one of the questions they had been asked.  Apparently they were more interested in sharing what their branch of the faith taught than what the Bible says.  Part of that may be that there is no way that they could support their positions Biblically.

Doctrines of Men
Matthew 15:8 – 9 leaps to mind.  These men were more interested in what they had to say about the questions that were asked than what the Bible had to say.  In John 17:17, Christ is praying for the 11 and by extension us.  He says that we are sanctified by the Word because it is truth.  The shepherds, leaders of Israel and Judah, abandoned the Word of God and began to teach their ideas.  Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34 are strong indications that God is not pleased with that type of ministry.

The Most Awful…
The biggest problem with this is that in every case I have been exposed to this branch of the faith the centrality of the Bible has not been emphasized.  On the contrary, the positions of the branch have been elevated over the Bible or at least put on equal footing.  So we have a great number of people who have been told that the Bible is essentially secondary to the ideas and positions of their leaders.  Seems to be a perfect fit with Matthew 15:8 – 9.

The Bottom Line
None of us are immune from this type of teaching, regardless of the branch of Christianity which we occupy.  It is easy to elevate personalities, good authors, great speakers, wonderful counselors above our time in the Word of God.  We become dependent on their study, their ideas, their understanding of the Word.  They may have done great study and exegesis of the passages, they my walk us through their study.  But it is still theirs.  We will not be held responsible for their faith.  We will be held responsible for ours.  We are to abide in the Word, John 5:38; 15:7; 1 John 2:14.  Not pay others to do that for us.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Uncommon Greatness

My Experience
As a believer I have been attending churches for the last 41 years, 16 of them in 10 cities including the base chapel at Craig AFB.  I have visited more than 30 for different reasons.  That does not count the three or four that I went to growing up.  In those 41 years, in all of those churches I have never experienced what I saw happen today.

Uncommon GreatnessNever Before…
The lead pastor taught a very practical Sunday school class on how to meet with God by having a quiet time.  I have seen that taught in Sunday school before, but never by a pastor.  Usually it was me or another person that had a para-church background.

Great Application of Gifts
In Ephesians 4:11 – 16, Paul directs those with the gifts of pastor and teacher to do what?  Pastor and teach?  Uh unh?  The purpose of the gifts is to equip the saints for the work of service and to build up the body of Christ.  The pastor got it completely right this morning.  He showed 30+ people a simple, clear way to meet with Christ.  To do what Christ exhorted in John 15:1 – 16, eleven times, to abide in Him.

Grace not Legalism
Further he did not prescribe method per se rather he set guidelines that allowed the individual to approach the Lord in a manner consistent with their gifts and personality.  It was good stuff.

I am not sure why his actions are so rare.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Taking Away the Word

Puzzled
Over the years there have been many men who have asked me for help in their personal Bible study.  In many, probably most cases, those who asked did not follow through.  More times than I can count men bailed out of the process.  That really bothered me.
Taking Away the Word
Concerned
I searched myself to see if there was something I was doing that was driving them away.  I prayed, journaled, thought, and agonized over what I could do better.  But consistently the result was the same.  Many who started did not finish.

Dawning Light
I then went to a couple of Wild at Heart Boot Camps, I read Eldredge’s book Waking the Dead, I listened to Ed Murphy’s messages on Spiritual Warfare, and some things began to fall into place.  Then I led a study through Revelation and some more data fell into place.

Scriptural Light
In Mark 4:1 – 20, Jesus shares the parable of the soils and its explanation.  In verse 15 Christ shares that one of Satan’s ploys is to take away the Word; since he is a thief that fits.  I don’t remember where I read this, but in preparation for Revelation 19 – 20, I read that this is the least studied passage in the Bible.  The writer surmised that the enemy does all that he can to keep us out of those chapters because that is place in the Bible that shows him utterly and completely defeated.  We started that study with 30 men.  When we got to those chapters there was less than 5 in the room.

Schemes
I rethought what I had experienced with men.  As soon as they made a move to get more effectively engaged in the Bible, their businesses took off or started failing, things in their family became chaotic, major problems developed elsewhere in their lives, I began to see patterns of the enemy doing everything he could to get them away from the Word of God.

Why?

It makes them dangerous to him.

We Have to Fight
Now I warn men.  I tell them that these things will happen.  They do.  But, now they are warned and more are fighting through the distractions.

The enemy of our Lord hates it when men are in the Word.  He will do all that he can to keep them out.  He is good at what he does.  We have to learn to fight.  That is one reason why Paul wrote Ephesians 6:10 – 20.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Deep Impact of God’s People’s Disobedience

The Source
For the past couple of years I have been studying Jeremiah.  First with the Tuesday morning group, then with Wednesday and Thursday’s groups, and I am about three weeks from finishing with the Moroccan pastor I meet with on Thursdays on line.
The Deep Impact of God’s People’s Disobedience
The Reason for the Nation’s Destruction
This morning my Moroccan friend and I were working though Jeremiah 49.  Jeremiah 46 – 51 describes God’s judgement on the nations that surround Judah as well as His judgement on the nation that takes Judah into captivity, Babylon.  These nations are judged both for their treatment of Judah as well as their worship of their idols.

The Nation’s Influence on Judah
These nations also influenced Judah.  The people of Judah, rather than trust God, began to abandon His Word.  When that caused problems for them, rather than repent and return, they made alliances with these nations even entering into worship of their gods.

God’s Plan
In Psalm 78:5 – 8, God outlines His plan for revealing Himself through Israel.  In Isaiah 49:6 we read that Israel was intended to be a light to the nations.  It was God’s intent that their worship of Him would draw the nations to Him.

Slight problem.

Israel and Judah Disobeys
Israel, Judah, rather than obeying and worshiping God as He directed, abandoned His Word and began to pursue the gods of the nations.  Rather than being light, they entered into darkness.

The Nations Destroyed
The result?  Rather than drawing the nations to the Lord, by becoming like them, they assisted in their destruction.  Because God’s chosen people did not follow Him, those who were to be drawn to Him through their obedience, because of their disobedience were destroyed.

Implications?
I do not want to push this too far.  However, it does raise a question.  If our churches are not holding fast to God’s Word.  If we are, like Israel and Judah compromising with the nations, what will be the impact on those with whom we are to share God’s truth?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Purpose of Rebuke

Rebuking is Commanded
Has anyone ever called you on the carpet about your walk with God?  Have you done that with another believer?  We are supposed to.  Take a look at:
The Purpose of Rebuke
  • Proverbs 9:8 – 9
  • 2 Timothy 2:24 – 25
  • Galatians 6:1
Why?
What is the consistent reason for rebuke in those passages?
  • Learning
  • Knowledge of the Truth
  • Restoration
The purpose of rebuke is to help one another walk more closely with Christ.

It is Necessary for Our Walk...
I can pretty much guarantee that we all can walk more closely with Him.  So we probably need rebuke…

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Is the Church in Love with the World?

Tossing out the Word
I struggle with groups and people who intentionally set aside the Word of God because it does not fit their agenda.  To be honest, I am probably guilty of that from time to time myself.
Is the Church in Love with the World?
Compromise or Confront?
What really stokes my frustration is when organizations and leaders who have in the past strongly supported the Word of God and diligently tried to apply it to their lives and ministry, abandon the Word to accommodate the world.

Embrace or Exhort?
1 John 2:15 – 17 tells us that we are not supposed to love the world or the things in the world – you know the passage.  But it seems like more and more believers are accepting the world’s view rather than God’s on the roles of men and women, marriage, and sexual perversion.

Tasteless Salt?
So that leads me to ask again, if we define manhood and womanhood like the world does, if we define marriage like the world does, if we define sexual perversion as a life choice like the world does, how is that not loving the world?

Monday, September 7, 2015

John in the Light

Familiar Territory
I have studied 1 John before.  I have demonstrated in this blog and in my workbook how to use structure to make observations in 1 John.  I have used that chapter on multiple occasions to demonstrate that skill.  I share that for context…
John in the Light
Always New
The Tuesday AM Bible study I attend is in 1 John for the next few weeks.  For the last two weeks we have been working on the overview of the book.  I saw a connection that I had not seen in all of the other times I have been through this book – I have said this before but it bears repeating.  The Bible is the only book I know that is fresh every time I approach it. No matter how many times I have studied a passage, there is more there that I can find…

Repetition is Key
One of the things about 1 John 1 is the density of the repetition of both terms and structure.  I won’t repeat what I have previously shared here, but look at 1 John 1:1 – 4.  Six times in those verses the words seen, looked, or manifested are repeated.  All of those are visual terms.  The passage is heavy on the use of the senses.

Light is Required
Now look at 1 John 1:5.  This is the declarative statement around which John builds his argument.  “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

It occurs to me that it is impossible to see or look at something that is manifested without light.

What Kind of Light?
That is taking me down a number of avenues of inquiry.  I sense that this is more than just physical light and sight, I will have to validate that as I go through the book, but the question is intriguing. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What is Handling Accurately?

The Charge
In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul exhorts Timothy to be a workman that, instead of being ashamed, handles the Word of God accurately.  That is an intriguing exhortation.
What is Handling Accurately?
What would handling the Word inaccurately look like I wonder?

Is it simply not explaining it well or is it more than that?

What is Accurate?
Have you ever had to make a presentation at work?  Have you ever had to explain something to your boss or your co-workers?  How did you approach that task?  Did you prepare?  Did you walk into the meeting not really sure what you were going to say?  Did you wing the presentation?

Have you ever had to take a professional exam?  A test that would determine your ability to continue in your career?  A test that would determine if you would or could be employed?  Did you prepare?  How?

More than Sharing Verses?
I have been in Christian meetings in which it was obvious the one presenting was not prepared.  Was speaking off the cuff.  There was no cohesion, identifiable point, or call to action that one paying close attention could identify.  The presentation may have been liberally peppered with really good verses.  But, there was no obvious connection between the passages shared.

One was left wondering what the point was.

Is that handling the Word accurately?  I don’t think so?  If we were to do that in a business meeting, we would be interrupted and immediately asked for clarification or what may be the bottom line.  Wasting time in a business meeting is costly in monetary terms.  That can get one reprimanded or terminated.

Condemnation for Sloppy Teaching?
Wasting time spiritually, not handling God’s Word accurately is costly as well.  We don’t keep score in the Body the way we keep score in business.  The cost may be confusing or turning people away from the gospel and the Lord.  It may mean discipline by the Lord Hebrews 12:8 – 11.  At the least our peers and leaders should take us aside like Pricilla and Aquila did with Apollos in Acts 18:24 – 28.

James 3:1 – 2, suggest that if we choose to engage in speaking about the Word of God before His people we should take that responsibility very seriously.  The word translated “judgement” in your Bibles is κρίμα, it is variously translated judgement, condemnation, sentence, and lawsuit.  Serious stuff.  It is evident in Hebrews 5:11 – 14 that we are all to be teachers.

We best not be sloppy about it.  It demands accuracy.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Who is Responsible for the Eroding Foundation of Christianity

The Question on the Table
Yesterday I shared a synthesis of 1st and 2nd Timothy.  The outline suggested a problem and a solution to that problem.  At the end of the post I asked how many churches and organizations are actually doing those four things.

Who is Responsible for the Eroding Foundation of Christianity
The obvious answer is very few.

So the next question is who is to blame for that?

Who do we blame?
It would be easy to blame the leaders.  In fact throughout most of the Old Testament that is who gets the blame.  One of the themes in Jeremiah is the failure of leadership to follow and proclaim the Word of God.  Ezekiel 34 is a scathing rebuke of the leaders of Israel.  So it would be easy now to lay the blame for our organizations and communities’ failure to follow Paul’s instructions on our leaders.  Surely some blame appropriately falls there…  But…

The Church is a Body
Paul also states very clearly that this Church thing is different.  In Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, he outlines not only that we are all gifted by the Spirit for ministry but that those gifts are given to each of us for the purpose of building up our churches.  In Hebrews 5:11 – 14 we read that it is expected that all believers will become teachers.  What is going on?  Who is responsible?

We Have Met the Enemy...
We are.  You are.  I am.  If your church is not doing what Paul says we should do in 1st and 2nd Timothy, what are you doing about it?  If your leaders are supposed to be equipping you to more effectively walk with God and serve and they are not, why are you not holding them accountable?  If they are not consistently sharing the Word of God with you, why do they still occupy your pulpit?  This is a body.  Based on what my Bible says, we are all accountable for what is happening in our fellowships.  I am not talking about the volume of the music or the color of the carpet.  The majors are important.  Is the Word being shared accurately?  Are people being trained to be self-sustaining in the Word?  If not, why are you not challenging your leaders to obey the Word?  Why are you not figuring out how to do it yourself  or figuring out how to get the help you need?

This is not about having a great pastor do the right thing.  It is about all of us doing the right thing.  It is about all of us exhorting each other to do the right thing.

If we do not.  The foundation will disappear.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Fighting for the Foundation

The Summary
I mentioned yesterday that out Thursday morning Bible study was summarizing 1st and 2nd Timothy.  There are several threads that run through both books.
What should we be doing in our communities?  Thoughts at DTTB.
  • Entrust – 1 Timothy 1:11, 18; 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:12, 14; 2:2
  • Sound Doctrine 1 Timothy 1:3; 4:1, 6:1, 3; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2:2, 15, 16, 18, 24, 25;3:5, 7 – 10, 14 – 17; 4:1 – 4
  • False Teaching – 1 Timothy 1:3 – 4, 6 – 7, 18 – 20; 4:1 – 7; 6:1 – 3; 2 Timothy 3:7 – 9; 4:3
  • Fight the Good Fight – 1 Timothy 1:18; 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7
Looking at the two books as a whole I approached it as one of my lab reports in college…

The Problem
Presence and increasing frequency of false teaching.  As we move further from source events, people, and documents, it is easy to get the message blurred.

The Solution
  1. Trust in God – I Timothy 1:11
  2. Develop Solid Leadership – Not about numbers, it is about truth and men who can fight for it.
    1. Solid in the Word
    2. Able to Teach
    3. Moral Character
    4. Good Reputation
  3. Sound Foundation and Commitment to the Word
    1. Remember what you have received
    2. Guard it
    3. It is under continual attack
  4. Sound Doctrine
    1. Proclaim it at all times
    2. Defend it at all costs
    3. Stay with it even though it is not popular
The Question 
We then asked ourselves is how many churches and organizations are doing this.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sovereign Conflict

So Much to Say too Little Time
There are two things that I want to share the first is a summary of 1st and 2nd Timothy, I will do that tomorrow unless something else comes up…  The second is another observation from the development of the curriculum for Pakistani and Ugandan pastors…
Sovereign Conflict
Growing Conflict
It is hard to encapsulate the notion in one passage but take a look at Acts 17:11, which is the positive side of what is going on the background of the negative.  As you know on Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 16:1 - 21:26) it was his habit to go to the synagogue in the city first and share about Christ from the Scripture, which was the Old Testament.  In Thessalonica, the Jews were not receptive, they challenged Paul, drove him out.  In Berea, they went and checked out what Paul was saying.  I won’t repeat all that I have said previously about Acts 17:11, type “17:11” in the “Search This Blog” box on the right to see that…

Quickly Spreading Gospel
In preparing this curriculum as I said yesterday I have been reviewing notes and textbooks on the transmission and codification of both the Old and New Testaments.  At the time Paul was being challenges and was in turn challenging the Jewish leaders, essentially following Christ’s example of using what we call the Old Testament to prove Christ’s claims, there was more than one version of the Old Testament Scripture in circulation.  The Jews had not been as careful with the text as they could have been.

Some Rejected But…
The use of the Scripture by Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles, challenged the Jews understanding of the texts they had studied.  Look at John 5:37 – 47 and Mark 12:24 – 27.  Christ flat tells them they don’t get it.  This had an impact on the Jews.  One of the impacts is they began to look closely at the different variants of the text that were in circulation to piece together through rudimentary text criticism, a more accurate text for their study.  One reason was to see if they could refute this upstart.

Think about that for a moment.

God’s Used Their Rejection
The Jews had got complacent and a bit sloppy about the transmission of the Word of God.  Along comes Jesus, and after Him, His apostles and those whom they brought to faith, and they are making claims that did not align with the current Jewish view of the Scripture.  That conflict forced the Jews to rekindle their interest in making sure that they had the most accurate Old Testament text, thus providing them and by extension us, with a better foundation for our Bibles.

God sovereignly used the conflict between the embryonic Church and His chosen people to bring needed attention to making sure the text was accurate and transmitted more effectively.

Overwhelming Breadth of God’s Sovereign Grace…
He did a lot more than that, but when I consider this, it is yet another example of how when things do not seem to be going well, when we are being attacked, when our message is being challenged, we do not know what God is doing in the lives of the people attacking.  Nor do we know how He is using their negative reactions for His glory.

We may not see it, but He is at work in and through those who reject us for His purpose.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sovereign Equipping

From Tedium to Eureka
For the past month I have been working on curriculum.  This afternoon I was reading through a history of the Hebrew language in preparation for a section I am writing on the transmission of the Old and New Testaments.  The purpose of this section is to give pastors from cultures without a strong Christian tradition confidence in the Lord’s shepherding of the transmission of the text of the Bible through time to us now.
Sovereign Equipping
Part of the discussion indicated that scholars now are assured that forms of writing were available to the Hebrews during the time of Moses.  That got me thinking.

God’s Hand in Moses’ Life
Look at Exodus 2:1 – 10.  You know the story well.  Moses is born, hidden in a basket, Pharaoh’s daughter finds said basket, opens it, is enthralled by finding the baby, and subsequently adopts him and raised him in the court of Pharaoh.  Ok.

We know this, so what?

At the time Moses was born into a society of slaves.  They had been in slavery for hundreds of years.  The reality is that the Egyptians treated them cruelly, for the most part they would have been illiterate.

God’s Training Program
Moses was taken out of that circumstance.  He was raised in the court of Pharaoh, educated, taught to read and write.  Taught the ways of the court.  Essentially trained by Pharaoh as one who could rule, lead, and administer a kingdom.  So that when Moses was called by God, he was ready not only to lead, he was able to record the Pentateuch.

God sovereignly led Pharaoh’s daughter to find Moses so that he would be prepared not only to lead God’s people but also to write the Law.

God is Still Training
When we are challenged.  When we face strong adversity.  We do well to remember that God is very much in control of that adversity and uses it to prepare us for the work which He has prepared for us from the foundation of the world, Ephesians 2:10.