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Monday, March 28, 2016

Struggling with Prayer

I have shared here that I am in prayer school.  The Lord has had me there since last fall.  I am not sure that I am making much progress.  It seems that I am a slow learner.
Struggling with Prayer
One of the things that has been brought to the forefront of my prayer is the need to adore Him (if you have ever used ACTS to pray you know that that A means Adore).  While I have known that, taught that, for years, it is just now becoming for me a deep conviction.  I am becoming more focused and intentional in adoration or worship of God first in my prayer.  I am working at trying to do what David did in Psalm 27:8, seek God’s face.  One tiny problem.  I have less than zero understanding of what that means.

So I flail away.  I know that I am supposed to pray for His glory, His will, in His name which is somewhat synonymous with His way, His nature and character, but I struggle with knowing how.

Then I get help from the Scripture – now I am not claiming that I have this figured out, I just have help and in that help, hope.  Look at Exodus 33:12 – 15.  Note that here Moses is asking God for help to know His ways, His character and nature.  Moses commits not to move until God shows up.  In Mark 9:24 I got some more help.  There the father asks Christ to help him in his unbelief.  I can do all three of those.

Lastly this morning in Proverbs 15:8 – 9, I read that He loves those who pursue righteousness and delights in their prayer.  That encouraged me no end.

So I am learning:
  • To ask God to teach me who He is
  • To help my unbelief, help me to worship Him correctly
  • Wait for that help
  • And that He loves and delights for me to approach Him in that way
It is encouraging.  I still am not very good at it.  But the other great promise that gives me hope is Romans 8:26 – 27.  Even though I stumble through my prayer, the Spirit interprets my fumbling prayer and the great thing is God already knows what I need, Matthew 6:8, anyway.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Oriented with Bearing and Lost

Today I led the second half of a Map and Compass Clinic.  The first half was three weeks ago at an outdoor store at which I work part time.  Today we were in an urban wilderness.  The objective was to navigate from one pond to another about half a mile away, and then navigate from that pond to one a half mile further, using only map and compass.
Oriented with Bearing and Lost
There are so many lessons here that apply to our Christian life that it is hard to single out one.  I will let you draw your own conclusions from what I am about to share.

Navigating with a map and compass is not really all that hard.  I taught all of my kids to do it when my youngest was 11.  There are essentially three steps:
  • Orient your map to North
  • Line up your compass along the direction you want to go
  • Turn the rose of the compass to get your bearing.
Then to use the bearing you have determined:
  • Align your compass so that the north arrow is pointing north and pointing at north on the compass rose without turning the rose.
  • The arrow of the compass will now be pointing at your bearing
  • Pick a point at which the arrow is pointing.
  • Walk to that point
  • Repeat until you reach your destination
Trust me, it works every time.  I did it last week to make sure the map I was giving the participants worked over a mile and a half course that was not trivial to walk.  I did it today from our starting point to the second objective of the participants, to a spot I had not ever seen.

So there were three groups of two.  The first group oriented their map, I helped them with this, in three weeks they had forgotten.  They got their bearing, found a point and headed toward that point.

All of the groups had their bearings at that point.  So after 5 minutes the second group found their point and then started off in another direction.

The third group did the same as the second group.

Only the first group followed directions.  Only the first group made it to either of the objectives.  The second and third group got completely lost.

That was my morning.  Two thirds of the people I showed how to navigate ignored what I told them and they failed.  The group that did what I told them to do succeeded.

Do you see the connection to the Christian life?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cair Andros

Ok, I will admit to reading the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings north of 35 times.  For my money Tolkien was a master at building an alternate reality.  All on the table, I have read Narnia almost as many times, and I have read all of the Potter books approaching 10 times.
Cair Andros

What does that have to do with dads teaching their kids the Bible?

In the third book of the trilogy, The Return of the King, after the battle for Minas Tirith is won, Aragorn leads the combined armies to assault the black gates of Mordor.  On the way there it becomes obvious to him that some of the younger soldiers were frightened to the point of uselessness.  Rather than berating them, he assigns them the task of retaking Cair Andros.  The passage bears repeating:
Aragorn looked at them, and there was pity in his eyes rather than wrath; for these were young men from Rohan, and from Westfold far away, or husbandmen from Lossarnach, and to them Mordor had been from childhood a name of evil, and yet unreal, a legend that had no part in their simple life; and now they walked like men in a hideous dream made true, and they understood not this war nor why fate should lead them to such a pass. 
‘Go!’ said Aragorn.  ‘But keep what honour you may, and do not run!  And there is a task which you may attempt and so be not wholly shamed.  Take your way south-west till you come to Cair Andros, and if that is still held by enemies, as I think, then re-take it, if you can; and hold it to the last in defense of Gondor and Rohan!’
As you may know, there is a lot of Christological imagery in LOTR.  This is one of those passages.  The King, gives an honorable task to those whom he knows are unable to stand against the coming battle.  He responds to their unspoken fear, with grace.

Christ was the model for this.  Several times in His ministry He responded to those who either He had challenged and they turned away or those whom He would not allow to follow Him with kindness.  The best two examples are Mark 5:19 and Mark 10:21.

In the past I have been overly harsh to those who were not up to a challenge.  I would do much better to follow in my Lord’s compassion and provide alternative as Tolkien had his Kind do.  That, I think, would serve my King more effectively.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Skewing the Data

Yesterday while working with a guy at my part time job, we got into a conversation about theology.  He was interested in whether I was reformed or not.  I will not get into the details of the conversation.  I will say that in the workshops we do through Entrusting Truth, we do not promote any theology per se.  There are a number of reasons for that and reflecting on the conversation last evening and this morning, those reasons applied to our conversation as well.
Skewing the Data
I have a t-shirt that I love, it says Theology Nerd, I be one…  Theology proper is the study of God.  Who He is, what He has revealed about Himself in His Word.  I am deep into that.  The prime data for that investigation is the Word of God.  What happens all too often is that is not the starting place.

The starting place for many of these discussions about who God is and what He has done, is the work of some man.  Now, to be clear I have a lot of those works and benefit from them.  Calvin, Luther, Chafer, Augustine, Strong, Tenney, and many others.  The problem emerges when we read those without having worked through the issues in the Bible ourselves.

If we read those men first, well we probably won’t ever get to the Bible, but if we do, then we will read the Word through a lens that is created by what they have written.  We all have those lenses.  They are created by the books we have read, the sermons we have heard, the Sunday school classes we have attended, and the experiences we have had in our Christian life and fellowship.  We tend to want the Bible to reinforce or validate those lenses.  To the point that sometimes we will misread or misconstrue what the text is saying in order to have it fit through the lenses we bring to the text.

Our challenge is to acknowledge that we come to the text of the Bible with a preconceived idea of what we think it should say.  Then we have to set aside those lenses and let the text speak for itself.  It is only then we will be in a position to grasp what the Lord is revealing about Himself through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I shared that with the man I had the conversation with this evening.  I am curious as to where the conversation will go next.

Monday, March 21, 2016

In the Shallows

I have mentioned before that the Lord has been encouraging me in the area of prayer.  I am learning a lot, it seems late as long as I have been on this journey, but I am learning none the less.
In the Shallows
This morning however, things did not work out well.  I overslept, that may have had something to do with the activities of the weekend, I was beat.  But, sleep in, I did.  So I got up behind schedule.

My time with the Lord was stiff.  I did not get into prayer all that much.  The time seemed shallow and forced.  Nothing stood out in the Word and there is nothing in my journal for today other than the reading assignment.

It is my suspicion that being in the shallows from time to time is part and parcel of being in the deep end later.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Living

Ever get frustrated trying to get all you need to get done in a day done?  I do.  More days than not.

One of my mentors used to say that it just takes a long time to live.  To get all of the stuff that has to be done, bills, maintenance, prepping food, mowing the yard, mundane stuff…  But it has to be done.

Then I think about Matthew 6:25 – 34.

I am not supposed to worry about all of that stuff.  But it still has to be done.  I am working through how in the heck I am supposed to seek first the kingdom when life seems to be getting in the way…

Any ideas?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

More Resistance

For the past three years I have met with a Moroccan pastor on Thursday mornings, Thursday afternoon for him, on line.  We started using Skype and we are now using GoToMeeting.  Yesterday, I shared that we have an enemy that is completely dedicated to destroying us.  He showed up again.
20160317 More Resistance

We connected this afternoon, we got video but the audio seemed to be blocked.  My friend told me through the chat box that the Moroccan telecom companies, which are run by the government, had blocked Skype, WhatsApp, and other VOIP applications.  It looked like that was what was happening with GoToMeeting.

As we attempted to fix the problem, I called GTM support.  They told me of a work around.  I had to set up a toll free number in Spain that would connect to my account.  That would mean that the pastor would have to call Spain and it would cost him per minute and it would cost me per minute as well to the tune of about $8 per hour, but it was a solution.

While this was going on I was praying against the schemes of the enemy, Ephesians 6:10 – 20.  I prayed that the Lord would be magnified and glorified in this situation.  By the way that is a direction that the Lord has been taking my prayer since last fall.

I had to restart the meeting to get the phone number in Spain to work.  When I did the audio came back.  By that time we had spent almost 45 minutes of our hour together trying to connect.  With the audio we dove into Acts 13 – 14.  My friend started sharing some observations from Acts 13:48 – 49.  He was really excited about what he had seen in the text.  As he started I hit the record button on the application.  In three years I have not heard him as animated over something he had seen in the Word.  It was great stuff.

What he shared directly related to a conversation that I had yesterday with another man here in Tulsa.  I was able to send him the audio from our time this afternoon.

The enemy did all he could to keep that from happening today.  But the Lord was magnified and glorified through prayer.

The take away for me is to do what Peter suggests in 1 Peter 5:8.  We have to be alert.  The enemy will do all he can to frustrate, block, steal, and obscure the Word of God.  We have to be alert when He attacks and call on the Lord to magnify and glorify Himself in the situation.  If I am reading 1 John 5:14 – 15 correctly, that will be smack in the middle of His will.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Steal Kill and Destroy

So I was just checking my bank accounts.  I need to transfer some money to cover our house payment for this month.  One of the accounts had less money than I anticipated.  I did not recognize the last check that cleared.  So I clicked on the image and it is a fraudulent check.  I do not recognize the payee and the signature on the check is not mine nor is it my wife’s.
Steal Kill and Destroy
John 10:10 leapt to mind.  The check was written for just less than $700.  In the grand scheme of things that is not a huge amount but it stings quite a bit.  One of satan’s disciples somehow got enough information to dupe my bank.  I started the process to reclaim the monies.

This is not a shock.  We have an enemy.  He is fully committed to our destruction.  1 Peter 5:8, is a clear reminder of that truth.  John 8:44 and John 10:10 outline for us his m/o.  He is a liar, murderer, thief, and destroyer.

In the parable of the soils the first thing we see in Christ’s explanation is satan stealing the Word of God,  Matthew 13:19, Mark 4:15, and Luke 8:12.

If we are engaged in a life of following Christ, we will face resistance.  We will face lying, stealing, killing, and destroying.  Christ did.  Paul did.  The apostles did.  We will.

We need to recognize from where it is coming.  It is only then that we can use the weapons we have been given to combat his schemes, Ephesians 6:10 – 20.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hating Knowledge Spurning Reproof

Yesterday I shared my anger, frustration with the effort we as a Church are making in getting people into the Word for themselves.  I mentioned that I read something that morning that emphasized the need for each believer to be in the Word, Proverbs 1:20 – 33.
Hating Knowledge Spurning Reproof
The picture is that of wisdom in the street shouting at the people.  Now I do not know where else to get wisdom other than the Word.  Look at verse 23, that looks a lot like John 14:26, does it not?  We are exhorted to turn to wisdom’s reproof, which is one of the functions of the Word of God as described by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17.

So wisdom is there for the taking.  It is in the Word of God.  Proverbs is part of that Word.  Yet as in Jeremiah the people turned their back on the Word and went with their own desires and dreams.  Verses 29 and 30, Solomon repeats the calling out of their hatred of knowledge and describes them as spurning reproof.

The result.  They get their way.  They are satisfied with what they can obtain.  That is not a good thing.  Tacitly the message is that there is so much more.  When we turn our back on the Word, we are left with what we can do on our own.  Rather than tapping into the riches of our Lord and His kingdom we become enthralled with the paltry riches of what C. S. Lewis calls this world, the shadowlands.

We need to focus on attaining wisdom.  We need to do what Proverbs 2:4 – 5 describes.  We need to do what Christ exhorts, abide in His Word.  Further we need to equip all who will listen to do the same.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Focused Anger

Yesterday during my quiet time, I was praying for Cameroon.  It was on the list of prayer requests from a ministry for which I pray.  As is my current practice, I turned to Operation World, which by the way is a great resource for your prayer time.  In there I read about the current state of the Church in Cameroon.  Typically OW lists answered prayer as well as prayer requests for the country.  One of the patterns I have seen from country to country is the need to translate the Scripture.  Cameroon was no different.  I have contacts in Nepal that are engaged in the same work as well as people I have met who are doing a similar work in Indonesia.  I had a strange reaction as I prayed through this prayer request.
Focused Anger

I got angry.

Why, you should probably ask, would a prayer request about getting the Bible translated into 252+ languages make me angry?  Good question.  First, I recognize that James 1:20 is true, my anger is pretty much non-effective.  What stirred me up was disparity in the efforts of the Body.

We expend an enormous amount of effort, albeit not enough, to translate the Word of God into the heart languages of the people we are working to lead to Christ.  But, when the work is done, very little effort is expended to equip those same people to study and apply that Word.

A little over a year ago I worked with church planters in Eastern Nepal.  Each of them had a Bible in their own language.  But there was very little knowledge of how to study the Word for themselves.  I wrote about my frustration with their basic understanding of the Word in my journal.  It was then the Lord reminded me that is why He sent me there.  But, I cannot go to all the nations.

We can translate the Word into every language and dialect that we can identify, and I support that effort whole heartedly.  But, that is just the start.  If we do not expend the same amount, no really more effort, in getting people to engage in that translated Word by equipping them to personally engage with the Word to probe its depths and apply it to their lives, why go to the trouble of translating it in the first place?

I am perplexed.  This question is consuming my thought.  I read something in Proverbs 1 that seems to make this a more critical issue.

I will share that tomorrow.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Unfired Weapons

I wrote earlier about the reality that there are many in war who do not fire their weapons.  As believers we have weapons.  Perhaps the main one is the gospel.
Unfired Weapons
It is not a good thing if we do not share the gospel, fire our weapon.

There has been at least three instances, truthfully, many more, when I had opportunity to share and did not.  Two of those were men who were in Pilot training with me.  One washed out and subsequently died in a plane crash on the practice range.  The second was a Norwegian pilot with whom I flew my formation check ride.  As he and his three friends were leaving after graduation, we were talking briefly in the parking lot as they were loading.  I do not remember how the conversation got to this point, but I identified with Christ.  One of the men said, “I see that there are some things that we left unsaid.”  They left.

On a cross country at Randolph I ran into one of his commanders.  He told me that my friend had lost the horizon on a night flight over the North Sea while chasing a Soviet sub.  He flew his F-104 into the sea, leaving a wife and child.

The last was a student while I was an instructor.  He was not my student, he was in another flight, but he lived a couple of doors down from me in the BOQ.  Since I was the ranking officer in that building, I had some responsibility for him.  We did not talk much, but some.  After he graduated, he too flew his F-4 into the ground, target fixation.  His parents were at the base waiting for his return.

Three men with whom I had the opportunity to share the truth of the gospel.  Did not.  Weapon unfired.  It haunts me still.

So, when I heard one of my classmates in college was dying of Pancreatic Cancer, I drove to see him.  I did not want another case of an unfired weapon on my mind.  He and his wife and I talked for about an hour.  I asked how they were doing spiritually and they dismissed the topic with some derision.  They were not open at all to hear what I had to say.  They ridiculed the notion that I would teach people to study the Bible.  It broke my heart.  I prayed for him and went home.

Many of my classmates have been or have become believers.  They have been praying for him.  They have challenged his resistance.  By the way he was healed of the cancer.  It was a direct answer to prayer.  The collected prayers of his classmates.  But as far as I know he never acknowledged that.

Today I got word that he fell out of a tree on his farm, breaking his neck.  While he is still alive, he apparently was deprived of oxygen for too long, he is paralyzed from C1 down, on life support.  They are waiting for his son to arrive before taking him off.

I am saddened.  Crushed.  But I did fire.

Do not wait.  There is no reason to.  Rejection is not personal.  It is directed at the Lord.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Ground of Perspective

For the past several months I have been learning – relearning actually – about prayer.  I have shared some of that journey here (1119, 1127, 1129, 0223, 0224, 0227, and 0304).
The Ground of Perspective
This morning I was reflecting on Paul’s focus on our final state, glorified in the presence of Christ eternally.  It occurred to me that all of the challenges and opportunities pale in the light of how we will spend eternity.

Further, to be anxious or worried about something that we are facing now, seems somewhat absurd in light of our ultimate destination.  The joy, grandeur, majesty, and glory of being in the presence of the Lord makes all of this through which we fleetingly traverse, seem trivial in comparison.

This is not yet a consistent experience in my prayer, but I am slowly, incrementally, gaining on it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Jerry Bridges

Jerry BridgesWe lost a warrior yesterday.  Jerry Bridges went home.  A few years back I was on the program with Jerry and Jim Downing at a Glen Eyrie conference.  Jerry sat in my workshop taking notes.  I was overwhelmed.  My thought was what can he possibly learn from what I share.  But there he sat with my handout.

Jerry wrote over 20 books.  Yet he was sitting in my workshop.  The lesson for me is that there is always something I can learn from another believer, no matter what I have done or think I may know.

We should all follow Jerry’s example.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Met in the Struggle

This afternoon I was really struggling with something that happened today.  The details of the struggle are not important, what happened as I was praying through the issue is.
Met in the Struggle
Typically, when I have my quiet time or devotional, I will check my reading plan, note the passages in my journal, pray, and then read through the day’s passages.  When I encounter something that the Lord highlights I write down the verse and any thoughts, observations, or applications that I may see.

The pattern breaks when I am struggling or thinking through an issue or event.  Today that was the case.  I started as usual, but as I began to pray I was writing out my struggle.  Nearly immediately, two sentences into the exercise in fact, two things happened.  First – and I do not hear the Lord audibly, rather He impresses with thought – It was if the Lord said, “Men will always disappoint, I will not.”  That dealt specifically with the issue with which I was struggling.  Then on the heels of that thought seven passages of Scripture came to mind one bringing the next to mind.  Here they are:
  • Psalm 37:4
  • Proverbs 3:5 – 6
  • Matthew 5:6
  • 1 John 5:14 – 15
  • Ezekiel 3:1 – 3
  • Jeremiah 15:16
  • 2 Peter 1:3 – 4
I will let you ponder what the lesson may have been for me.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Peddling the Word of God

People who are all about promoting themselves, especially those who are in the ministry, bother me.  I have followed the ministries of men who started out sharing where they got their information and inspiration but have morphed into claiming and promoting “their” insights.  That sickens me.
Peddling the Word of God
A day or so ago I was reading 2 Corinthians 2:17.  Paul there contrasts his ministry with those who were peddling the Word of God.  The contrast with peddling was sincerity.  I know of ministries that are all about the ticket price or the offering.  That does not seem to line up with either the ministry of Jesus or the ministry of Paul.

You may want to exercise caution in following one who is continually suggesting that you buy their material, or attend their seminars.

Paul might have questioned their sincerity. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Troubling Times

Ever get nervous?  Ever feel like things are out of control?  Ever just want some relief from what is happening in your life at the moment?  As an apprentice of Christ how do we respond to those times in our lives that are troubling?
Troubling Times
It is the case that we are to follow Christ, is it not?  His actions and reactions in John 12:27 – 28 may give us a clue as to how to respond to troubling times.  Jesus knows that in the next few days things are going to be really hard.  He describes His soul as troubled, which, in itself is astounding.  He knew exactly what was coming – troubled?  I would be in a free fall panic.  But our Lord is troubled.  His response?  Rather than ask to be saved from the hour, He asks God to glorify His Name.  This is instructive.

We saw in John 11 that our prayer should be anchored in asking for God and His Son to be glorified.  Here Jesus employs the same remedy to the troubling times through which He is about to pass.

We tend to want relief.  Christ wanted His Father glorified.

We may not get relief.  God will be glorified.

This answers for me what to pray in response to Luke 18:1.  This also informs my use of Philippians 4:6 – 7.

It seems like the Lord has me in school and the subject is prayer…

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Trouble with Knowledge

Last month I changed my Bible reading plan.  For the past several years I have been using the daily readings from the Book of Common Prayer.  I switched to the M’Chenye reading plan.  Two weeks ago that took me to 1 Corinthians 8.
The Trouble with Knowledge
The last part of verse 1 you have probably heard, “…knowledge makes arrogant (many versions render this “puffs up”) but love edifies.”  You have probably also experienced this.  All of us have been around someone who has a little bit of knowledge and builds his self-esteem on that bit.

The second verse is in contrast to the one who is “puffed up” about their “knowledge,” “…If anyone supposes that he knows anything he has not yet know as he ought to know…”  That one is pretty clear.

This is in the part of the book where Paul is dealing with meat sacrificed to idols.  While that is part of his instruction for that issue, this seems to have also a broader application.

We learn in 1 Corinthians 12:7 that the gifts of the Spirit are given for the common good.  We are not given gifts or knowledge for our own benefit.  No, gifts and knowledge are for the benefit and edification of the Body.  Paul addresses this earlier in the book, 1 Corinthians 4:7, all we have, gifts and knowledge is the gift of God.  It is His grace.  As Paul states in Ephesians 2:8 – 10 that excludes boasting.

So rather than being impressed with ourselves, it seems a better course of action to be good stewards of what God has given us and use our gifts and knowledge to build up those around us in their walk with Christ…

…oh, they are supposed to be doing that for us as well.