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Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Ascension of Halloween

Out of Balance?
How does it seem to you?  It seems to me that in the past several years the “celebration” of Halloween has increased way beyond what I remember as a kid.  Things that used to be reserved for Christmas have somehow begun to be applied to Halloween.
The Ascension of Halloween
Overboard?
Instead of a few carved pumpkins on the porch, now we have inflatables, orange lights in displays that rival some Christmas displays.

Implications?
I am not sure what to make of this but it feels like it may be a reflection of our culture turning away more completely from Christ.

Then again, I may be over-reacting.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Complete Joy

John’s Relationship with Christ
The apostle John was one of the first that Jesus called to follow Him.  He was with Jesus for about three years.  John walked all over Judea with Jesus.  He was one of the closest to Christ.  When others were not included in an event John was there.
Complete Joy
He is called the disciple who Jesus loved.  He was the only one who came to the foot of the cross.  Christ placed His mother under John’s care.

That is for context.  Can you imagine what it would have been like to be in John’s shoes for those three years.  To be at Christ’s side, to see what He saw, to hear Christ speak, to see Him do all of the miracles.

Sharing Completes John’s Joy?
If we consider John’s experience, even for a moment, it makes 1 John 1:4, all that more incredible.  After all of that John’s joy was not complete?  How can that be?  This is not the only place that this attitude appears in John’s writing.  Look at 2 John 4 and 3 John 4.

John’s heart is clear.  His love for Christ is so deep that he has to share Him with others.  He has joy in the experience of introducing the one He loves to others.  That is what completes his joy.

Paul was much the same.  In 2 Corinthians 5:14 – 21 is one example of that, Paul is controlled by the Love of Christ.

Not My Experience
For me that is a challenge.  Yes, I have great joy when I am able to tell someone about Christ, but complete my joy?  If I am honest, no.  It would seem that my love for Christ is less than John’s.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Power

Familiar
You know Acts 1:8, you probably have it memorized.  Next time you are in Acts trace the word “power” through the book.  You will find:
Power
Not Contained
  • Acts 4:23 – The apostles are testifying with great power
  • Acts 6:8 – Stephen was performing miracles with power
  • Acts 18:28 – Apollos refuted the Jews powerfully
Not Limited
The power was not limited to the apostles.  Stephen was one of the men chosen as a servant in Acts 6.  Apollos, well we do not know how he came to know Christ.  The point is that just as Christ’s prayer in John 17:20, and His command in Matthew 28:18 – 20, Christ’s expectation was that what was taught and given to the 12, would be passed on to all who came to know Him through them.

Not Today?
So is that power available today, or was it just for them?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

It is Not About the Money

Wrong Values
In Acts 8:9 – 24, we read about Simon.  He was prominent in Samaria.  He had a powerful reputation.  When Phillip the deacon came proclaiming the good news about the Kingdom of God, many believed including Simon.
It is Not About the Money
Peter and John show up to follow up on Phillip’s ministry and prayed for the Samaritan believers laying hands on them with the result that they received the Holy Spirit.  Simon was blown away by this.  It was a power far beyond anything he had ever imagined.  He was so excited he begged to be able to do what Peter and John had done, even offering money for the privilege.  As you know Peter rebuked him.

Why?

Wrong Economy
Peter said Simon had bad intentions, a gall of bitterness, and was in the bondage of iniquity.  Simon thought he could buy his way into spiritual power.  He thought it was about money.

It wasn’t.  It is still not.  Prof always said that if someone was in the ministry for the money, he did not have the brains for the job.

Simon Says
There are at least a couple of lessons we need to, well, I need to take away from our encounter with Simon.  First, there are no shortcuts on this journey.  There is nothing I can buy that will make me more spiritual.  No conference I pay for, no speaker or author whose books and messages I buy, will move me further down the path.  Not even reading Christian blogs.

Second, our position in our community does not translate to our position in the Church when we trust Christ.  I have seen men of “power”, C suite executives, founders of organizations come to Christ and either expect to have the same influence over the local body that they do over their organizations, or they are given that authority by a body.  That is a direct violation of 1 Timothy 3:6.

Practice
Based on Hebrews 5:11 – 14, it is not even how long one has been a believer that is important.  The issue is have we practiced, applied the Word to our lives.  Are we moving toward the Lord in our walk, or not?  It is practice not time nor money that makes a difference.

If You Want to Spend Money…
Oh – there are a couple of things you can buy that may help.  First, a Bible, not a study Bible, which has the least amount of headers on the paragraphs but does have cross references.  Second, a good concordance.  Then use them…

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Not Sick, Complete

History
From 1981 to 1985 I had eight operations.  One was on my knee, torn meniscus, ended my training for a marathon.  The other 7 were on my sinuses.  The last one took me out for about 6 months.  That 6 month span is a blank.  I vaguely know that some things happened from July to December 1985, but I cannot give you any details.
Not Sick, Complete
Personality
I was, am, driven.  I was, and sometimes still am, focused on performance.  I’m better, but still a recovering workaholic.  When you are lying on your back in a hospital bed for thirteen weeks in a 12 month period, performance is a little difficult to muster up.  At some level it was a relief.  I had good reason not to perform, I could not do my work from the hospital, though I did try.

Value System
So since my worth as an individual was connected to my performance, my worth was diminished.  That was exacerbated in January of the next year when, after sharing the frustration with team on which I was a member, I was forced out of the team and eventually terminated.

Taken Out
For a great deal of time in ’85 I could not function.  The last several days experience with this infection has brought that time to mind.  I am grateful for the refresher course, not so much the curriculum or lesson plan.

Wrong Thinking
Performance is not the measure of my worth.  I know better.  Sometimes, that knowledge slips.  That metric, performance, is a ruthless, hard task master.  It tells me that I have to continue to perform to be accepted.  That when I am sick I am failing.

Not true.

The Truth
Colossians 2:9 – 10, tells me I have already been made complete.  The word translated “made complete” in the Greek, πεπληρωμένοι, is perfect tense, passive voice.  It is a participle and as such derives its mood from the preceding active verbs, in verse 9, dwells, and verse 10, you are; both of which are indicative mood.  Indicative is a statement of fact.  The Greek in verse 10 reads, “and you are in Him complete.”  The perfect tense has the force of an action that happened once in time and has continuous results.  Since the participle gets its mood from the indicative verbs in verse 9 and verse 10, to get the full force of what is being said by Paul, one could translate that first phrase, “and you have at a point in time in the past been made complete with the result that you are in a continual state of completeness in Him.”

The Challenge
So what I have to remember is that it is not my performance that counts.  It was His.  His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and ultimate return did more than deliver me from sin and death.  It completed me.  I am no longer measured by any metric other than His life.  It is relatively easy to forget that.

This infection reminded me.  For that I am grateful beyond words.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Suffering Members Why Not?

The Challenge
Yesterday I asked if it was your experience that we hurt when one of those in our community hurts.  In my experience too often the answer is no.  Why?  There may be several reasons.
Suffering Members Why Not?

Not Operating In Giftedness
There are those in the Body who are showing up but not engaged.  They are not contributing for whatever reason.  They are there to consume not share.  They may not have identified their gifts.  They may have, but they are holding back.  It is hard for one who is not engaged feel the hurt of others.

Not Transparent
This was one of the issues with the Corinthian church, 2 Corinthians 6:11 – 13.  It is pretty much impossible for others to hurt for one if one is not sharing the challenges in their life.

Too Busy
This may be the root issue for us in the western Church.  The reason we are not engaged or transparent with one another, is that there are too many events scheduled on our smart phones.

Not Equipped
This last one could be a function of one’s fellowship culture.  I have quoted Ephesians 4:11 – 16 often.  It may be the case that people are not engaged, transparent, or too busy because there has not been an emphasis in the fellowship on engaging with one’s gift with a life that is transparent.

The Ideal
Read Acts again.  Look at how the believers related to one another.  What would it be like if all in your fellowship were operating in their gifts transparently sharing their lives with the purpose of building up one another’s faith?

Be pretty neat.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Suffering Members

I’ve Been Ill
You probably did not notice but I have not written anything in a couple of days.  There is a reason.  I have been dealing with a medical issue which I will not describe but involves, pain and a bad infection.  I have felt drained for two weeks, I was running a temperature, and I thought I had a sinus infection.  When the doctor saw the infection he told me that it was very bad and it was the reason for all of the other symptoms.  He then prescribed pain meds and an antibiotic that one normally takes one per day, but that I was to take two, two times a day.  He said that I may need surgery to get rid of the infection…
Suffering Members
Shut Down
So for the last couple of days I have been pretty much shut down.  First, I have no energy.  Second, what energy I do have leaves in about an hour and a half.

Made Me Think
Working through this brought 1 Corinthians 12:26 to mind.  One member’s pain causes the whole body to suffer.  Why?  My doc said it is a systemic issue.  The systems are so interconnected that a severe infection in one member can shut the body down.

Interconnected Interdependent
That is the picture that Paul is painting in 1 Corinthians 12:1 – 26.  In the Body of Christ we are supposed to be interconnected.  We are supposed to be dependent on one another’s gifts.  When one of us is in pain all are impacted.

Is that your experience?  If not, why?

I will share some thoughts as to why tomorrow.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Importance of People Part 2

Thoughts Continued
A couple of days ago I wrote about some observations from my overview of Acts.  There is one more thought that I want to share.  I also shared that I had a conversation about a friend’s project to develop an AI app that would engage people with the Bible.  The target of my friend’s app will be millennials.
Importance of People Part 2

Current Church Trends
During the course of the conversation we talked a bit about how churches are altering their services and messages to attract millennials.  The idea is that generation is different and so the Bible has to be made relevant to them.

Counter Cultural
The Bible is counter to all generations, all cultures, all people.  It is God’s thoughts, His Word, as unregenerate people we are enemies of God, Romans 5:10.  It is normal human nature to be repelled by our enemy.  There is not much of what they have to say in which I have any interest.

So the notion of attracting those who are not redeemed to come hear something that is counter to their world view strikes me as a futile exercise at best.  At this point Acts kicks in.

What Can We Learn from Acts?
Starting in Acts 2:42 we read what was going on in the early Church.  They were studying the Word, encouraging one another, and eating together.  All of these people were converts.  Read the rest of the book, I do not find in any passage, nor in any of the epistles for that matter a place where the apostles were meeting to strategize how to attract non-believers to their meeting.

Instead, they went out to those who were not believers and told them about Christ.

Backwards?
It occurs to me that if we are trying to attract non-believers to our church services we may have things backwards.

There is a little more to say about this, I will finish it tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Recital of Grace

The Show
The recital was at the studio this time.  It was about 25 three year old girls, one of which was one of my granddaughters.  It was a ballet.  The room was full of parents, siblings, and grandparents.  IPhones, cameras, and other video recording devices were there to record the pink and red tutu clad dancers every move.  Sometimes they moved together – well not so much.
The Recital of Grace
My Focus
My attention was on my granddaughter.  She mostly watched what the other girls were doing.  Every now and again she actually did the step that was called for by the dance, not often, but sometimes.  It was progress from the last recital.

There was a treat, a big pink cookie, at the end of the program.  She was into that.

All Pleased
All in all my granddaughter was pleased, so were her parents and grandparents, delighted in fact.  We have already watched and shared the video I took.

The Christian Life is Like the Recital
I woke up early this morning.  Couldn’t sleep.  Number of reasons, they are not important.  As I was lying in bed trying to go back to sleep, which is a ridiculous exercise, it occurred to me that the Christian life is a lot like my granddaughter’s recital.

We are Like Her
We are much like my granddaughter.  We are in a dance.  We are haltingly engaged.  There are time when we actually make a right step.  It is more by accident, it seems than by design.  Our audience is our Father.  He delights in watching our halting attempt.

We Expect to be Rewarded
We get excited because we did a step or two correctly.  We think that is what makes us acceptable to our audience.  We treat ourselves, congratulate ourselves focus on that right step that we did.

Our Father doesn’t Care
Our Father, is pleased.  He is pleased not because we got a step right.  He is pleased because He loves us.  He is pleased, delighted if we never get a step right.  It is not our performance that pleases Him.  We will pretty much never get the dance right.  Oh, as we grow, we may get more and more steps right.  But, we will always flub the dance, miss the mark.  It is called sin.

But He delights.

Why?

He Paid for the Recital
Because He loves us.  He loves us so much that while He knew that we were going to flub the dance, miss the mark, sin.  He sent His Son to dance for us.  He sees us through His Son.  He delights in us because He paid a high price for us.

Romans 5:6 – 11, describes our recital.  He delights in us not that we get a step or two right.  He delights in us because He paid for the recital.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Importance of People

Upcoming Project
I just got off of the phone with a friend in another city.  We were talking about a project he is considering, and finalizing thoughts about a conference call he wants me on tomorrow morning.  The project is a way of engaging people in learning wisdom from the Bible through an app.  It may be a good idea.
Importance of People
But Will It Work?
During the conversation my friend remarked that the app will never replace life to life in passing the truth of Christ to people.  We talked about the way that some churches and organizations are modifying their message and services to reach certain generations or people groups.

Stay Tuned
I have a lot to say about that idea, more than I can cover today, so this will bleed over at least until tomorrow.

What Happens in Acts?
This conversation was against the background of my current study of Acts.  We are still in the overview stage of the study.  Last week I got the idea to track the people in Acts through the book as part of the overview.  That turns out to be more work than I anticipated.  I am through chapter 8 and there are 78 people or groups of people that have played a part or are mentioned thus far.

What are the implications of that?

The Early Believers Were Engaged
Tentatively, and when we work through Acts section by section I will attempt to validate this, it seems that people are important in the growth of the Body of Christ.  You may think that is obvious.  But based on the way some churches operate, I am not sure that it is.

No Strategy Other Than Life to Life
In Acts what we see, at least through the first 8 chapters, is people in the Body, going out to those who are not in the Body and sharing Christ with them, thus bringing them into the Body.  It is not the case that the apostles and those who have gathered around them are coming up with strategies to attract people to come to their gatherings.  Rather, in every case someone in the Body has shared with a person or a group that is not in the Faith resulting in their coming to Christ.

It is people going out of the fellowship to talk to people about Christ.  In eight chapters that is the M.O.

Is that the way we typically do things now?  If not, why?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Confidence

Apparently we need it…
One of the things that we hear over and over from those who coach sports or make their living as motivational speaker that we need to have confidence in what we do.  I have an old poster decoupaged to a board that says, “No goal is too high if we climb with care and confidence.”

Confidence
This isn't it but it is close to the same idea...
Is There a Pill?
Ok.  How do we get it?  Last time I checked at GNC there was no supplement that increased confidence.  There are a bunch of ads that tell me I can have confidence, but they do not seem to be thinking about the same thing.  I am interested in confidence in my Christian life…

The Source of Confidence
John has something to say about that.  Look at 1 John 2:28, 3:21, 4:17, 5:14, note that in each chapter after his major declaration in 1 John 1:5, John addresses the confidence of believers.

Looking at the whole of the book, and I highly recommend that you look at the book as a whole, John seems to be saying that our confidence before God, is based not on what we do, but on what He did.  Specifically, that He sent His son in the flesh to satisfy, propitiate, Himself.

Note that in 1 John 5:4, 18, we are described as “born of God,” and as such described as victors, overcomers, and secondly we are kept from the evil one.

Not Confidence in Performance
Our confidence is not in our performance, how well we do Bible study, how well we obey, how righteous we think we are, no our confidence is in the reality that through the gift of faith we have been born of God and we are kept by the one that made that possible.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Boasting

Boasting
I did this once before but it bears repeating…  Next time you feel like taking credit for something or boasting about some area of your performance take a look at these passages:
Boasting
  • Jeremiah 9:23 – 24 (quoted in 1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17)
  • 1 Corinthians 1:26 – 29; 3:18 – 21; 4:7; 
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9
  • Galatians 5:26; 6:14
  • James 4:16
Don't
So if you think about boasting, rethink.  This is as much for me as anyone who reads this.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Misplaced Anxiety

Who Is This?
A Christian group started in 1844 with 13 men in London.  In 1855 they published their mission statement with read in part:
We “…seek to unite those young men who, regarding Jesus Christ as their God and Saviour, according to the Holy Scriptures, desire to be his disciples in their faith and in their life, and to associate their efforts for the extension of his Kingdom amongst young men.”
In 1851, D. L. Moody was the leader of this group in the United States.

Here is the core of their Logo at the time:
Misplaced Anxiety
Do you know the organization?  Select the area between the # marks to find out #The YMCA#.  Needless to say one does not associate commitment to the gospel with that organization today.

Many Drift Away
In my lifetime I have seen pastors leave the faith.  I have seen Christian missions abandon their core commitment to the Word of God.  Schools like Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and Duke which were founded to train pastors have abandoned that core responsibility and become bastions of secular thought.

When I see a Christian leader stumble and fall, it troubles me.  I hate it.  When I see a Christian organization or denomination abandon the Word of God, I grieve.

Many Will Change Their View of the Word of God
Jeremiah 5:5, 15, speaks to this.  We will continue to see denominations, churches, leaders, and Christian organizations like the one above break the yoke and burst the bonds.  But…

God Does Not Change
That does not diminish, marginalize, invalidate, or change God.  He is.  It is appropriate to grieve.  It is not appropriate to worry or get anxious about some entity breaking the yoke.  God is God.  Their departure does not change that.  John reminds us in 1 John 2:19 why they leave.

So when we see leaders, denominations, churches, and organizations leave the faith and abandon the Word, we need not get anxious.  We need to hold on tight to our unchanging God.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Misplaced Certainty

Continued
This post is a corollary of yesterday’s so if you have not read that one, you might want to do that first.
Misplaced Certainty
What We Believe Does not Matter…
Don’t over react to that, of course, at some significant level what we believe matters, but not if what we believe is not true.  Believing something to be true does not make it so.  It really does not matter how strong my faith may be if my faith is placed in something that is false.

Misplaced Faith
The Pharisees and Sadducees had a very developed system of faith.  A system that Jesus shredded in Matthew 5 – 7.  The Pharisees believed that they would have life by studying the Scripture.  They were so committed to that idea that they memorized the Pentateuch.  They firmly believed that would serve them well.  Jesus shredded that construct in John 5:39 – 47.

What Matters
What matters is what God says is true.  What His Word says is true.  What the Holy Spirit leads us to understand, through the Word of God, to be true, John 16:13.  There are too many things that we have glommed onto the gospel that are simply not necessary, not true, not required, additions that Paul would call in Galatians 1:8, another gospel and accursed.  Jesus would call them the doctrines of men, Matthew 15:8 – 9.

The Authority
It does not matter what your denomination, pastor, teacher, or Bible study leader thinks is true.  What matters is what the Word, God says is true.  We have to continually challenge ourselves, challenge what we believe to be true, measure what we think is true against what the Scripture says.

The Drift
If we do not we will drift away from the truth into deep, deep, error.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Misplaced Anger

Reaction to Unbelief
When you hear someone deny Christ, or challenge the reality of Christianity, how do you respond?  There are those who read this blog that post it on atheist websites and poke fun at it.  How should I respond?
Misplaced Anger
Made Me Mad
In the past things like that angered me.  At some level I felt like I had to defend Christ.  If I did not then somehow He was diminished.  So I began to review the usual objections and began to craft answers that dealt with them logically and Biblically.

Not So Much Now
I don’t do that anymore.

I was reminded why this weekend.  Look at Romans 3:3 – 4.  God is not impacted in the least if someone does not believe in Him.  Doesn’t make a dent.  He is not diminished, marginalized, or rendered impotent by anyone’s unbelief.  He is.  He does what He wants in the world and in our lives regardless of our faith or lack thereof.

No Connection, Totally Irrelevant
That makes dealing with someone who is an unbeliever not a personal thing, more of a matter of just sharing what one knows to be true.  There is a rest in that.  There is a peace in that.  My faith, my relationship with Christ is not dependent, impacted, reduced, or invalidated by the unbelief of anyone else.

Even if they are holding a gun to my head.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Best Laid Plans

The Plan
Last Friday I left with the intention of spending three and a half days alone under a tree in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness…  The plan was to read my Bible, journal, pray, and seek the Lord on a number of issues...  Things did not go as planned.
Best Laid Plans
The Reasons
The idea was to pull apart like Christ and Paul did.  I mentioned that at the end of the busiest day that we have recorded, Jesus did not sleep in, He got up early and went to spend time with the Lord, Mark 1:35.  Paul after his conversion went to Arabia, Galatians 1:17.  Solitude is something that we need from time to time…

I go to wilderness areas because Christ was tested in the wilderness and I can find solitude there.  Got tested, no solitude.

The Reality
Several things went wrong, the biggest problem, there was no water source.  In terms of solitude, the leaves were turning and everyone in Arkansas that did not have a ticket to the Alabama vs Arkansas game came to the wilderness to see the color, with their dogs…

Plan B
So I drug myself out Saturday morning after spending Friday night in a cave.

What I planned as three days with the Lord in the wilderness ended up as 5 hours with Him at Starbucks.

It was still a great time.  I have a lot to share and do.  My plan did not work out.  But we still met.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Time Alone

How to Respond to a Busy Day
Mark 1:35 immediately follows the busiest day in the life of Jesus that we have recorded.  Starting in Mark 1:14 the word immediately shows up six times before 1:35.  Event quickly followed event.  Long day.  After that busy of a day what would you do?  I would sleep in, get a few extra winks…
Time Alone
Not Jesus.

He got up early and went out and spent time with His Father.

Get Alone
It is good to get away.  It is good to focus on just time alone with God.  In the Spirit of the Disciplines, Willard reminds us that one of the disciplines that Christ, Paul, and many of the early Church fathers practiced was solitude.  So I am getting away.

Get Away
For the next three and a half days I will be somewhere under a tree in the valley in the picture above.  I will have my Bible, my journal, perhaps one other book a friend got me.  The purpose is to pray through some things.

Get Focused
There are no trails in that wilderness.  So the likelihood of seeing others is greatly diminished, which is the point.

If you have not done this yourself.  I would highly recommend it.  Get away.  Get somewhere where people cannot find you.  Spend time only with Him.

You will be refreshed.

PS.  No blog posts till Monday...

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sound Redemptive Structure

Summary
We finished Titus this morning.  Each of us summarized our study with an outline or a chart.  We do this by reviewing the word we did verse by verse, section by section and comparing that with our overview.  We then make whatever comments we need to that either validate what we had in the overview or else make changes that incorporate what we learned in our detailed study that changed what we thought during the overview.
Changes
My summary differed from the overview in some significant ways.  First I changed from three to two divisions.  I changed my title for the book.  Finally, I changed what I picked as the key verse.

Structure to Protect
What I saw in Titus was a clear direction by Paul to defend and protect what he refers to as sound doctrine.  The reason is given in Titus 1:13, so that those in the church will be sound in faith.  Sound faith is dependent on sound doctrine it seems.

Elements of the Structure
There are two things that Paul tells Titus to do to accomplish this goal.  The first is to develop a structure in the church that is able to teach and defend sound doctrine.  This includes”
  • Elders
  • Older men
  • Older women
The clear implication of this command is that it is not likely that the pastor or leader of a church will be able to do this without help.

Leading the Structure
The other part of the structure is leadership.  Paul exhorts Titus to do several things:
  • Set in Order
  • Appoint
  • Speak
  • Reprove
  • Exhort
  • Refute
  • Avoid
  • Reject
Does that Still Apply?
That list describes a proactive leader.  One that is not tolerant of either bad doctrine or bad people.  He is engaged in the identification, training, and deployment of others who are able to lead and defend the faith.  One of the questions we asked this morning is how many local bodies are following this model?

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Proper Process

Intentional Steps
In the workshops I facilitate, I encourage the men to follow a process in Bible study.  Broadly that process has three steps.
Proper Process

  • Survey, do an overview of, the book
  • Study the parts
  • Summary, put the parts back together

Or we move from the whole, to the parts, and back to the whole.

Why follow this process?

Safeguarding Your Study
If I start studying Titus, and just dive in at Titus 1:1 and start working verse by verse, I do not yet know what Paul is trying to communicate to Titus.  I do not understand the flow or purpose of the book.  Without surveying the book I will be forced to attempt to understand that flow as I work through the details.

The problem with that is that being so focused on the details I will more than likely miss the threads that are through the book, or if I do see them I may misunderstand their purpose.

Process Promotes Accuracy
Paul exhorts us in 2 Timothy 2:15 to handle the Word accurately.  If I study the parts without at least having a working knowledge of the whole, I am more likely to misconstrue something Paul says because I do not have a feel for his purpose, the broader context of the book.

My overview, summary, may not be my final view of the book.  In fact in the study of Titus we will finish tomorrow morning, my understanding of the book changed significantly during the verse by verse part, the section, parts, part of the study.  That happens a lot.  My summary of Titus is much different than my overview.

Try It, You'll Like It
Approaching your study this way will greatly impact your understanding of the text.  If you need help getting started with this, let me know.  I will help.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Treasured Impressions

More Impressions
Yesterday I shared some thoughts on Deuteronomy 11:18.  As I was praying through what to write about this evening Psalm 119:9, 11 came to mind.  I have written on this before so I won’t repeat that here, but focus for a minute on the last part of that passage.
Treasured Impressions
Treasured
The psalmist tells us that the way to purity is through the Word of God treasured in our hearts.  About the only way I know to treasure something in our hearts is to memorize it.

Seems like a lot of work…it is.

Hard Work
It is hard to memorize scripture, especially hard the older we get.  There are more distractions, more demands on our time.  But if it helps us to live more effectively for our Lord, why shouldn’t we do it?

Christ’s Example
Jesus did.

In the temptation after His baptism by John, Matthew 4:1 – 11 each time the enemy tempted Christ, He responded with scripture, Deuteronomy 8:3; Deuteronomy 6:16; and a mashup of Deuteronomy 6:13 and Deuteronomy 10:20 – Deuteronomy may be important.

Pretty sure Jesus did not have the Deuteronomy scroll with Him in the desert.  He had the Word committed to memory.  He countered the devil with memorized Scripture.

That may be a good thing for us to do.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Heart and Soul Impression

Impressed
Deuteronomy 11:18 was in my reading last weekend.  The image that is presented in that passage is one of what God expects of our relationship to His Word.  It is not a cursory relationship that He is describing.
Impact
The image rather, is that of permeation.  He expects, demands, that His Word be impressed on our heart, the center of our life, and our soul, our life essence.

Implication
So when we choose to skip our time in the Word for _____________.  Not sure that fits in with His expectation for us.

Definitions
To emphasize this I looked up some definitions of impression (by the way that is a good practice in your Bible study, even for words you know, it is interesting to look at how the word’s different definitions impact your understanding of the passage).


Intentional
In the context here, the Word of God is making a lasting mark on our heart and soul.  That is not a fleeting or incidental occurrence.  Rather, it is intentional and a choice.

How do you think we are doing with that?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Functional Heresy

Review
Yesterday I shared a quote from Henry Ward Beecher, I like the quote, not a fan of the man.  I noted that on the basis of 1 Timothy 3:1 – 13 and Titus 1:5 – 9 he would not have been qualified to be a deacon much less a pastor.
Functional Heresy
Bigger Issues
But there is a more troubling reason than his character.  He departed from orthodox Christianity, but there was a reason, before I share that this is what Wikipedia says about his changing theology:
In the course of his preaching, Henry Ward Beecher came to reject his father Lyman's theology, which "combined the old belief that 'human fate was preordained by God's plan' with a faith in the capacity of rational men and women to purge society of its sinful ways". Henry instead preached a "Gospel of Love" that emphasized God's absolute love rather than human sinfulness, and doubted the existence of Hell. He also rejected his father's prohibitions against various leisure activities as distractions from a holy life, stating instead that "Man was made for enjoyment".
If you review the paragraphs from yesterday that deal with his character, you will remember that Beecher was accused of multiple affairs, in fact he was formally charged with adultery and was tried.  The case ended with a hung jury.

Heretical Choice
Beecher at some point in his thinking, and I have not been able to establish the date, became a universalist.  If you look at his conduct it becomes clearer why he taught a “Gospel of Love,” taught that “Man was made for enjoyment,” and embraced universalism.  It allowed him to ignore the Word, carry on multiple affairs, and still be saved.  His theology functioned for him.  It gave him freedom to continually violate the clear teaching of scripture and remain “saved”.

Heretical Freedom
I have found that same functional heresy with other leaders.  They embrace some heresy, like universalism, for the purpose of justifying their own actions.  But it is not just leaders that do so.  All of us at some level are theologians.  We behave consistent with what we believe about God and His plan for redemption.  All of us will be drawn to alter our understanding of Scripture to better fit what we want to do.

The Lesson
The lesson from Beecher’s life, or better the question we have to continually answer, is in our pursuit of God, do we allow our desire and experience or the Word of God to determine our beliefs, our theology.

I would suggest if it is not the latter, one could find oneself at odds with God.  I would also suggest that we have a continual assault by our enemy that makes this a continual battle for us.

Sort of makes sense that Christ told us that we needed to abide in His Word.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Character?

Question
Is character important in a Christian leader?  Seems so, 1 Timothy 3:1 – 13; Titus 1:5 – 9.  So if one who presents as a Christian leader does not have this type of character, how should we respond to them?
Character?
Genesis of the Question
This morning I got an email from an old friend, with whom I am in the Word weekly.  We both have been laboring in the ministry at different levels for the past 40+ years.  He sent me a quote that his wife had found about the use of commentaries, here it is:
Coming to the Bible through commentaries is much like looking at a landscape through garret windows, over which generations of unmolested spiders have spun their webs. – Henry Ward Beecher, American Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, and speaker (1813 - 1887)
Why Ask?
My friend sent the quote because he knew that when I work with men and pastors in Bible study I emphasize that commentaries are resources that one uses only after one has completed their own study.  He was right I love the quote.  However…

Good Source?
I was familiar with Beecher’s name but not much about him as an individual.  I do not remember his name coming up in my Church history class, and I just checked one of the textbooks and he was not mentioned there either.  So I searched for him on the web.  Wikipedia had this entry:
Beecher married Eunice Bullard in 1837 after a five-year engagement. Their marriage was not a happy one; as Applegate writes, "within a year of their wedding they embarked on the classic marital cycle of neglect and nagging", marked by Henry's prolonged absences from home. The couple also suffered the deaths of four of their eight children. 
Beecher enjoyed the company of women, and rumors of extramarital affairs circulated as early as his Indiana days, when he was believed to have had an affair with a young member of his congregation. In 1858, the Brooklyn Eagle wrote a story accusing him of an affair with another young church member who had later become a prostitute. The wife of Beecher's patron and editor, Henry Bowen, confessed on her deathbed to her husband of an affair with Beecher; Bowen concealed the incident during his lifetime.
Several members of Beecher's circle reported that Beecher had had an affair with Edna Dean Proctor, an author with whom he was collaborating on a book of his sermons. The couple's first encounter was the subject of dispute: Beecher reportedly told friends that it had been consensual, while Proctor reportedly told Henry Bowen that Beecher had raped her. Regardless of the initial circumstances, Beecher and Proctor allegedly then carried on their affair for more than a year. According to historian Barry Werth, "it was standard gossip that 'Beecher preaches to seven or eight of his mistresses every Sunday evening.'"
Unqualified
If that data is true, Beecher was not qualified to be a deacon or elder, much less a pastor of a church.  Under the heading of having a good reputation, regardless, he would be disqualified.

Useful?
So, what do I do with that quote?  Do I use it?  Does the bad character of the individual who makes the statement invalidate its usefulness?

No.

There are many who were not believers who are quoted in the Bible; many who said things that were true that had bad character.  Truth is truth, regardless of its source.  Truth conforms to the Bible.  That was the point of the series of posts I wrote about Einstein.

So, yes, I will use the quote.

More to Say
There are some other things we need to learn from Beecher however.  I will share those tomorrow.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Undisagreeable Disagreements

In What kind of Study are you...
If you are in a Bible study where you have prepared and really dug into the Word, you will come to the study with some strong opinions as to both your understanding of the text and its application.  That, by the way, is a really good place to be.
Undisagreeable Disagreements
Not all will agree...
If you are in a group that is talking that type of study everyone in the room will have strong opinions of their understanding and application of the text.  It is likely that the views will not mesh.  At least some of them.

How do you resolve the dissonance?  Well it is not the case that the one who speaks louder or longer is necessarily correct.

Disagreement is positive...
Ephesians 4:11 – 16 and 1 Corinthians 12:7 tell us that we are each given gifts for the purpose of building up the Body.  Each person in the study has a gift.  Each person was given that gift to build up the other people in the study.  Our job as believers is to engage each of those gifts so that the end result, our understanding of the text and its application, is greater than any one of the members could have come up with on their own.

Disagreement is power
The power of the group is in the disagreement.  For at least two reasons.  If your understanding is challenged, you are forced to reevaluate your position and validate it from the text.  Your understanding functions the same way for the others in the group.

Second, what the others see may expand or add to the observations you have made both validating them as well as extending them.

Seek Disagreement...
This only works if all of those in the study are committed to excellent preparation.  It is hard work.  It is exhilarating when it happens.  It is worth fighting for.