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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Not Enough Time

I hear that sometimes.  I have said that sometimes.  Usually in a situation where I have not or someone else has not finished their Bible study.  I was thinking about that some this morning.  A couple of thoughts
Not Enough Time
There are two things that Jesus said that makes my excuse of not having enough time to study His Word fall incredibly short.  First in Matthew 6:33, He commanded that we see first God’s kingdom.  That wasn’t a suggestion, the verb is imperative.  We are to seek Him and His kingdom first.  Not after we have everything else taken care of, first.

The import of that on our lives is huge.  If we were to take Him seriously, it would impact how we approach everything in our lives, would it not?  Perhaps it would inform what kind of work we choose to do, and how much time we invest in that work.  It might alter our ambitions.  But that is not all…

In John 15:7 Jesus tells us that we should be abiding in His Word.  That impacts our prayer and by extension in the context, our fruit.  This is a conditional structure in the Greek.  It is the type that is undetermined in the sense that we may or may not abide in His word.  The result if we do is more effective prayer.

It would seem, based on these verses that we have the time.  Better, we have direction from the Lord on how we should be using our time.  If we do not seek His Kingdom first and abide in His Word, it would seem like He may have an opinion about that…

Friday, April 29, 2016

Struggling

I mentioned the other day that I am reading through Chafer’s Systematic Theology.  At the same time for some different reasons I have been listening to messages from several other speakers.  Some of those speakers, if you are engaged in any way in Kingdom work, you would know, some you would not.
However there is a relatively consistent theme in Chafer’s preface as well as the messages of both the well know and not so well known speakers.  That theme is the elevation of the “preacher” and the centrality of “preaching” to the Christian life.  I have those two words in quotes because it seems that most of our Bibles have mistranslated κηρύσσω (kerusso).  As I have written previously that word has carried the idea of a “herald” for a king who “proclaims” the kings message.  It is in our Bibles that the word family is rendered “preach” or “preacher”.  I heard one of the men to whom I have been listening refer to “preaching” as a spiritual gift.  I have rechecked 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4, neither in Greek or English does either κηρύσσω or preach appear in those lists.

Another said that it was imperative for believers to come to the community to listen to the sermon because in the community there is a different spiritual experience when the sermon is heard in that way.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for this man, but I cannot find any Biblical support for that statement.  Further, the import of the statement is that experiencing a sermon in this way was life changing and a primary means of growth.  To say that I disagree would be – well I do.

As believers we are exhorted by Christ to abide in His Word, John 15:7.  We are told that it is the main way in which we are to grow, 1 Peter 2:1 – 2.  We are told that the Word of God is living and active, Hebrews 4:11 – 12.  It is the expectation that all of us are teachers, Hebrews 5:12 – 14.  We are told that it is the Word of God that makes us adequate in the Christian Life, 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17.  We are told that it is our responsibility to handle the Word of God accurately, 2 Timothy 2:15.

There are those who might say that those passages are aimed at leaders, pastors, etc.  The problem with that is Christ’s command.  In Matthew 28:18 – 20, He commands that disciples, followers of Jesus, are to be taught ALL (emphasis added) that He commands.  Not just those who pay tuition at seminaries.  Not just those who are “ordained”.

Further, in Ephesians 4:11 – 16, Paul explicitly says that the role of leadership in the communities is to equip those in the community.  That continues a theme that he wrote to Timothy, who he sent to Ephesus.  Timothy was to find people he could train to do what Paul trained him to do.  Those people were to do the same, 2 Timothy 2:2.

I do not understand – I am struggling greatly with this – how men who are steeped in the Bible can elevate their 20 or 30 minutes behind a pulpit as more important than those in their care being equipped to dig into the Word of God for themselves.

This has to change.  Those of us who have been through the halls of seminaries have been given much.  Much will be required of us.  It is more important that we equip men to study, and study well, than to tell them what we got out of our study.

It is much harder work to do so.  But it is, at this point, what Ephesians 4:11 – 16 directs.

If I am missing something please let me know.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

More on Body Observations

It happened again this morning.  Although a couple of the men could not make it, the three of us dove into Acts 20.  Something that looks like a banal travel log at first glance with the application of observation and discussion yielded some life changing application.
More on Body Observations
Again the men around the table had prepared.  We are not coming to the table cold; that is not having engaged in the text at some significant level.  But for the past two weeks the discussion has yielded more insight for me than my personal study.

One of the men saw a repetition that I missed.  In Acts 20:21 – 26, the phrase solemnly testify occurs three times, if you add testify, which has the same Greek root, it is four times in those six verses.  But the key to that observation was in Acts 20:22, there Paul states that he was bound by the Spirit.

The observation was that this is nearly identical to what Jesus said.  Jesus only did what His Father told Him to do.  Here Paul is bound by the Spirit to do what the Spirit leads him to do.  Further earlier in the chapter, Acts 20:4, we read the list of men who are traveling with Paul.  That mirrors Jesus’ ministry as well.  Look at Mark 3:14.  Like Jesus, Paul recruited men to follow him, to see his ministry.

Finally, in Acts 20:25 – 35, Paul commits the ministry in Ephesus to the elders there, warning them about false teachers that will come both from in their midst, as well as from outside.  Peter shares the same warning in 2 Peter 2:1 – 3; 3:14 – 17.

What I am learning is that when men dig in on their own, then come together to share what they have found, richness emerges.  If you are not in a group like this, do whatever you have to, to find one.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Body Observations

I have said before that we need each other as we study the Word.  This morning three of us were in John 5.  Now I have been through that chapter earlier this year with the Tuesday group.  That group consists of mostly people who have been in full time Christian work, leading Bible studies for upwards of 40 years.
Body Observations
While I need the Tuesday group, the guys this morning saw things that the Tuesday guys missed.

You know the passage, Jesus heals the man by the pool that has been there for 38 years.  As he is walking out of the place carrying his pallet, the Jews jump all over him for working.  One of the men observed that they did not jump all over the person that brought him to the pool, which would also have been considered work.  Great observation.  Their ire was focused on what Jesus did.

The other man in the conversation remarked at the end of our time that he really wanted to know God better through the Word.  We are not there yet but he was essentially quoting John 5:39 – 46.  He is already applying the Word before we get there.

Both men are fully engaged.  Both are making great observations.  So are for that matter the Tuesday guys.  The point is we need each other’s insight into the Word.  The other point is that no matter how many times we go through the text, there will be more to see.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Seeding Perseverance

This morning we “finished” our summary of John 13 – 17.  My chart for the section is below.
Seeding Perseverance
This section of John is the core of the book.  I do not feel like I have a complete handle on this yet.  I am gaining on it, but the more I dig in the more I see.

I approached this several different ways.  First the chart.  Then I wrote a summary of the major lessons from each chapter.  Then I asked how do each of these chapters support John’s stated objective for the book, John 20:30 – 31?

Overall it seems to me that Christ is preparing his men for the reality they are going to face in the next few days.  They will see their leader and Lord crucified, buried, and then resurrected.  Subsequent to that they will be transformed by the arrival and pouring out of the Holy Spirit.  All of them will be executed but John.

Throughout this discourse and prayer, Christ is planning the seeds that will allow them to persevere with coming ministry of the Spirit.

Part of my summary was the promises that the Lord made to us as well and requirements of the twelve and by extension us:
There are several things promised by the Lord to the 12 and by extension us:
  • The preparation of a place for us with the Father
  • The abiding presence of the Father and the Son in our lives
  • The abiding and teaching presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives
  • The free access to and of the resources of the Father in the Name of Christ
Additionally the Lord asks us to:
  • Abide in Him
  • Abide in His Word
  • Pray in His Name
  • Love one another
None of the actions we are asked to do are possible apart from the first.

If you haven’t spent a significant amount of time in John 13 – 17 I would recommend it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Tension

There are two verses that inform my day, well to be honest more than two, but these are important.  Ecclesiastes 10:10 and 2 Timothy 4:8.
Tension
The two are in a bit of tension for me.  I focus more on 2 Timothy 4:8.  I spend a significant amount of time in the Word and talking to others about the Word while equipping them to get more out of the Word of God.

But I have found that if I sharpen the axe, that is take care of my body, fitness, work out, I have more energy and stamina in my practice of the discipline for Godliness, i.e. my time in the Word.

Further in the past nine years the Lord has allowed me to travel overseas on ten short term mission trips where I worked with people in the Word on eight of them.  I have learned that those trips are draining.  Even though I am engaged in my passion, I discovered my passion will only carry me 4 days without sleep.  So part of the reason Ecclesiastes 10:10 is important to me, is to tolerate those trips better physically.

So for me this is a two pronged approach based on those two passages.  If I err I err to the side of 2 Timothy 4:8.  I am praying and learning that this approach is helping me be more effective.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sound or Tickled

In 2 Timothy 4:3 – 4 Paul warns us that there will come a time that people in the community will not endure sound doctrine.  That raises the question, “Why?”
Sound or Tickled
Have you thought about that?  I have been for the past several weeks, actually years.  I wonder if it is because what the Bible says sometimes makes people uncomfortable.

This week I had a conversation with a person that resulted in their reading Romans 9:14 – 24, apparently for the first time.  They could not believe it said what it did.  Why?  I am not certain but, it seemed part of the reason was that the passage has God’s choices in the center of things rather than ours.  That is troubling.  That is especially troubling for those who see themselves in control of their lives.  See themselves as the center of the story.  For in reality, they are not.

So it seems that when they find passages of Scripture that trouble them; that do not align with their view of how things should work; either much energy is expended to change what a simple reading of the text would indicate, or they dismiss the passage as one that should not be in the Bible at all, not because of text criticism but because it does not fit their agenda.

One thing about this journey we are on as followers of Christ that is so difficult, is that we are engaged with a God who is far beyond our comprehension.  Unless He deigns to reveal Himself to us, we have no hope of understanding Him.  So as we come face to face with Him in the Scripture, it is little wonder that we are uncomfortable.  We should be.  After all, we are separated from Him.  Except for His grace demonstrated through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, we would stay in that state.

By His choice, we do not.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

How Safe Is Your Faith from…

I struggled with how to finish that title.  While I do not want to paint all pastors with a broad brush, there are real problems that need to be addressed.
How Safe Is Your Faith from…
I have met each week online with a man who wants to find out how he can best use the gifts God has given him.  One major problem.  He is not walking with God.  Each week we start with my questioning him about what the Lord is teaching him in the Word.  Each week he tells me that he has not touched his Bible.

This last time I told him that when I had asked some of my friends to pray for him, one of them commented that he really did not want to know God.  As we processed that together he began to share why he no longer trusted the Bible.

He has listened to a number of messages on line.  Much of what he has listened to falls in the category of prosperity theology.  He has also listened to pastors – I could name names but I won’t – whose message consists of feel good, you can be the best you type messages.  Further, he has been told by people he respects that the Bible we have cannot be trusted because it has been created by men.

Here is a young man who is in dire need of the grace of God.  Teachers, some false, some well-meaning but Biblically ignorant, and some people simply ignorant, have essentially taken the Bible out of his hands.

Ezekiel 34:1 – 10 promises that those people will – well let’s just say I really do not want to be them when they meet the Lord.  However…

My friend is not off the hook.  We are warned in multiple places in the Scripture that false teachers will abound.  Perhaps one of the best examples is 2 Peter 1:16 – 2:3 (by the way this is one of the many places where the chapter and verse divisions that were added for the convenience of finding our place actually breaks up the point of the author.  Remember they were added more than 1500 years after they were written you do not need to, nor should you be bound by them in your Bible study – that was free).  There on the heels of Peter telling us we can trust the Scripture, he tells us that just as false prophets arose in Israel there will be false teachers among the Church.  He repeats the warning tacitly in 2 Peter 3:14 – 16.

Paul goes the other direction.  In 2 Timothy 4:3 – 5, he warns us that there will be a time when people will clamor for false teaching.  I sometimes wonder when I hear what people are excited about in the “Christian” press if that time has not arrived.

In Acts 17:11 we read that the Bereans did not accept what they heard from Paul.  They went to the synagogue and pulled the scrolls out of the cabinet (YouVersion was not yet available for their iPhones), unrolled those scrolls and checked to see if the passages that Paul was using to tell them about Christ really said and meant what he said they did.

So there are two realities working here.  There are two levels of accountability.  Those who are proclaiming lies as the truth to my online friend will have to answer to God – I do not want to be in their shoes then.  But, my friend is going to have to answer for why he refused to question what he was taught.

By the way, we are in the same boat.  We are accountable both for what we proclaim and for whether we validate what we hear by the Word of God.

Friday, April 22, 2016

WARNING: You May be Guarding the Wrong Thing

I heard a great message last weekend.  One thing in particular got me thinking about what I care about on this journey.  Look at 1 Timothy 6:20.  Paul exhorts Timothy to guard what has been entrusted to him.
WARNING: You May be Guarding the Wrong Thing

If you follow the word “entrust” through the Pastoral Epistles you will find these references:
  • 1 Timothy 1:11
  • 1 Timothy 1:18
  • 1 Timothy 6:20
  • 2 Timothy 1:12
  • 2 Timothy 1:14
  • 2 Timothy 2:2
  • Titus 1:3
All but 2 Timothy 1:12 refer to the gospel.

So what we are to stand guard over is the truth and accuracy of the gospel.  That does not include a number of thing about which I have heard people really angry.  Things like the type and volume of music.  The fact that the coffee machine has been moved.  That the time of the early service has changed by 15 minutes.  Those things seem to be guarded with unbridled passion, while things that may be said in Sunday school classes or from the pulpit that do not align with what the Bible says are ignored.

What is it that angers us?  What is it that we are guarding?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Shocking Truth about Group Bible Study

I did not really want to go to Bible study this morning.  I have been fighting allergies all week.  I did not feel prepared, I had not really gotten that far with the time I had invested in Acts 19.  I thought about texting the guys for the 0600 study and sending an email to the pastor I meet with online to bail out of both studies.
The Shocking Truth about Group Bible Study
Late last night I finally got a title for each of the paragraphs and just quit.

I drug myself out of bed at 0520 and went to the restaurant where we meet.

An hour and a half later I left blown away.  It was just about the best discussion we have had.  All of the men made great observations.  A passage that I thought would not have a lot of discussion, we barely finished.  I was encouraged by the depth and clarity of the men’s thoughts.

Thirty minutes later I was online with the pastor in a country six time zones away.  Same song second verse.  We barely got out of the first paragraph.  He is dealing with issues that that paragraph addresses directly.  It was a stimulating and challenging conversation.

I walked into the restaurant fatigued with low expectations.  I ended the video call 3 and a half hours later excited and overwhelmed with what had transpired in both meetings.  What happened?  Two things.

First, the Word of God is live giving and life changing.  Hebrews 4:12 tells us that it pierces us.  Second, each man brought his gifts and thus his unique insight into the Scripture.  We built each other up.

Some context.  The men in both groups have been equipped to study on their own.  They come prepared.  They come having wrestled at a significant level with the text.  In my experience, experience I sometimes forget when I am wrestling with fatigue and allergies, when you have that combination, men equipped to study, prepared, assembling to share and hash out what they have seen; first the Lord promises He will be there, Matthew 18:20, and the Holy Spirit is going to lead us into truth, John 16:13

If you have not experienced this, do whatever you have to do to get in that type of group.  If you need help, let me know, I will figure out a way to help.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Walk by Faith or Signs?

Signs are a central part of what is happening in John’s gospel.  In John 20:30 – 31, he tells us that he deliberately chose the signs he reported for a purpose.  The purpose?  So that we would believe that Jesus is the Son of God and through Him have eternal life.
Walk by Faith or Signs?
I have written about this a in the past months, but there is a thread through John that we need to pull that may be instructive to our faith.

Look at these passages:
  • John 2:18
  • John 4:48
  • John 6:30
  • John 12:37
  • John 14:8
The signs were for us to understand that Christ was the Son of God (John 20:30 – 31), but Christ did not respond to those who believed in the signs.

We see in the passages above that those who saw the signs continually asked for more.  Even Philip in John 14:8.  This is how we are is it not?  We want tangible proof that God is who He says He is.  If He will just ________ I will believe…  Usually, that ___________ is something that we want, it is not focused on Him or His glory.

In 2 Corinthians 5:7 I wonder if Paul has this reality in mind.  We want a sign, Jesus wants us to walk with Him by faith.

What are you depending on to validate your relationship with God?  Signs or faith?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Built Up

For the past five years or so Tuesday mornings has been a Bible study group.  It was the first one that I did on line.  I knew the men in the study for a combined 130+ years.  I joined it primarily for that reason.  We do not allow each other to get away with either sloppy study or unsupported conclusions.  We also build up each other in that we both challenge each other’s study and praise each other’s observations.
Built Up

We met this morning.  Like each Tuesday, it was challenging and affirming.

If you do not have a group like that, start one.  It is impossible to navigate this journey solo.  We need each other’s gifts.  We need each other’s perspectives.  We need each other in the Word and sharing what we see with one another.

It is hard work to make it happen.  It is well worth the effort.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Fried

Normally Bible study pumps me up…  Not tonight.  I am working on a summary of John 13 – 17.  It is our second week on this.  We meet tomorrow morning.  But I am having a hard time keeping my eyes open.
Fried
I learned in the Air Force that when we were tired in class we should stand in the back of the room.  Sleeping through those classes – well let’s just say it was frowned upon with a rather large and damaging frown.  So I stand sometimes when I am this fried to get through my study.  Not sure I am going to do that tonight.  I probably will.  I am seeing some really great stuff in these five chapters.

I will work through being fried…

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hopefully Dependent

I started writing this under the title “Hopelessly Dependent” but quickly realized that was epically incorrect.  The point here is that although I “know” this, I am being daily reminded in various ways that in order to know my Lord and know Him well, I am utterly dependent on His grace.  If He does not reveal Himself to me, I will never know Him.
Hopefully Dependent
I struggle with praising Him adequately.  I struggle with understanding what He says about Himself in His Word.  It seems I am in good company.  David – you know, David, the man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) – David writes in Psalm 25:4 – 5, asking God to reveal Himself to him.  Jesus told His men in John 16:12 that they could not bear what He had to tell them.  He then promised to send the Holy Spirit to lead them into truth, John 16:13.

Without the Lord’s intervening grace, I cannot know Him.  I want to.  It is changing my prayer life.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Crippling Help

This is probably a corollary to yesterday’s post.  Have you ever read or heard the story about the man who was watching a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon?  He watches the insect attempt to get out of a tiny hole.  With compassion he attempts to help by cutting the cocoon open.  The result?  Without the struggle the butterfly’s wings are not fully developed.  The butterfly is crippled by the man’s help and is never able to fly.
Crippling Help
Yesterday I suggested that we may be in a situation similar to that which existed around the time of the start of the Reformation.  Similar, in that the Bible, while now available to most all of us, is not studied deeply except by pastors and seminary professors.  As I shared there are those leaders who suggest that as believers we should come to church and listen to the expert and then apply what the expert tells us.

If it was not clear from yesterday’s post, I consider that to be an abhorrent misreading of the Biblical text and mandate given by our Lord in Matthew 28:18 – 20.  All of us as believers are responsible to study our Bibles and apply what we learn there to our lives.

For those of us who are privileged to lead others in this journey, our task is to equip those the Lord has given us too lead to study and apply the Bible.  In that process it is not important what one knows.  What is important is helping those in one’s charge learn to dig out and apply the truth for themselves.

I am often asked for answers to help a brother or sister understand a passage of Scripture.  I rarely will answer such a question.  Frankly, it doesn’t matter that I know the answer.  What matters is helping that person at that time progress in their ability to discover the answer for themselves.  So my response to a question like that is usually something like, “What are some of the answers to that question that you have considered?” and then, “Which of those do you think answers the question most completely?”  and finally, “How did you come to that conclusion?”

Helping a person struggle through the text properly is helping them grow their wings in their study of the Bible.  To give them the answer, even a well-crafted and Biblically supported answer, is cutting open their cocoon and crippling their ability to stand alone in the text.

It does not seem that our assignment from the Lord is to make cripples. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Full Circle?

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 Theses by nailing the document to the door of the castle church at Wittenberg.  He was angry.  The Pope was misrepresenting the Bible and Catholic doctrine for the purposes of financial gain so that he could finish building St. Peter’s Basilica.  At the time, the Scripture was the domain of the academics and the priests.  The common people did not have access to the Word.
Full Circle?
Nineteen years later on October 6, 1536, William Tyndale was tied to a stake in the prison yard where he has been held for the past 500 days.  Oil was poured on his hands and then scraped off, signifying his removal from the priesthood.  The executioner then strangled him.  He was then burned at the stake.  Why?  He had translated much of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English.  In so doing he has given the common folk the ability to read the Bible in their own language for the first time.  Thus they were no longer dependent on the priests for the Word of God.

I have a ThM, Master of Theology.  I earned that degree at Dallas Theological Seminary; long story.  I owe the seminary and the professors there profound gratitude for what I learned in those 4 years.  I have used some aspect of that work every day for the last 25 years.

Recently I have begun to read through Lewis Sperry Chafer’s, the founder of DTS, Systematic Theology. While I have used various parts of the work over the years I have not read the eight volumes cover to cover (technically seven volumes, volume eight is an index).  I am working through the preface at the moment, parts of which I have previously read and used.  It is challenging and beneficial and I am looking forward to finishing the project.

I have been concerned for some time with what I have observed in the Church.  There is an emphasis on preaching and an elevation of the role of the preacher that seems to be, at some level, at odds with how I currently understand the text of the Bible.  I have heard prominent ministers declare that the role of men in their families is to come to the church and listen to the preacher and take that message back to their families and teach it to them.  I did not believe what I heard so I bought the book and the same message was found in its pages.

Chafer’s preface references Ephesians 4:11 – 12 as the role of the pastor – I do not understand why he stopped at 12.  The thought is not complete until verse 16, but I cannot ask him.  He rightfully suggests that the role of the pastor is to equip the saints for the work of service, but there seems to be elements of that same notion of the preacher being the one who dispenses the truth.  The study of the Scripture seems to be, in his mind, the primary domain of the pastor and seminary professors.  At some level this is true, or at least is should be.  Pastors and professors should dedicate themselves to accurate exegetical study of the Word of God.

However, if I am reading Matthew 28:18 – 20 correctly, the Lord’s expectation is that we are to teach disciples ALL that He taught (emphasis added).  That would seem to include equipping in studying the Bible well and deeply.  Not to do so seems to put us back into a situation similar to what Luther and Tyndale faced.  The difference being that we have multiple translations of the Scripture – the challenge being that we are not doing a very good job of equipping the saints to study on their own.

I work with a pastor in a country that is hostile to Christianity.  Members of some of his underground churches have been arrested and imprisoned for their faith.  One of my trips to visit him was to equip the people in the several underground churches he serves to study the Bible on their own.  By the way there are no seminaries in that country, no professors, no theological libraries.  The purpose of the trip was to equip those in his churches to be able to stand on their own in their study of the Scripture, when he is arrested.

We live in an environment that is relatively unique in the world.  There are many seminaries.  Many professors, many pastors who study.  That is not the case in much of the world.  It will more than likely not be the case here interminably.

When the seminaries are shut down, the pastors jailed or executed, the Christian bookstores destroyed and the books burned, when people have to huddle together secretly in order to worship Christ, when all they have is their Bible, or a portion thereof, if they do not know how to study on their own, how then will the Church grow.

PS. This is the longest break in this blog.  The reason, my daughter had her third child Monday, and my wife and I have been helping.  I should be back to daily now.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Foundation of Serving

Tuesday we finished working through – well finished is too strong.  We finished this time through John 17, we will never finish with the passage…  Now, we are doing an interim summary of John 13 – 17.  Those five chapters cover about 6 hours of Jesus life.  In a book of 21 chapters that covers about three years to invest 23.8% of the book on six hours might indicate that those six hours and the data recorded about them is relatively important.
The Foundation of Serving
I began to work through the section this afternoon, did not get very far, but noticed something I had not seen before.  Look at the word “know” in John 13:1, 3, 17, 18, in each case it is a form of the word oida (οιδα).

In John 13:1 – 4, knowing that His hour had come and that He had been given all things, was presented as the reason that Jesus got up and washed the disciples feet.  This was a humbling act.  So much so that Peter initially refused.

Now look at John 13:15 – 17.  Christ points to His example and says that if we (I use we here because of John 17:20) know about His example we should follow it.

Putting that together it reads a lot like Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 2:5 – 30.  We are to have the same attitude that Christ did.  We empty ourselves as He did.  He did because He knew all things were given to Him.  They were already His, He did not have to work for them.  We have the same thing in Him.  Colossians 2:9 – 10 reminds us we are complete in Him.  We have all that God is going to give us already and it is a rich, rich, rich inheritance.

So like Christ we lose nothing by humbling ourselves to serve.  Our standing with Him and with His Father is impossible to diminish, no matter how far we stoop to serve, or how demeaning the task in which we choose to engage.  We cannot be demeaned more than our Lord.

We know, therefore we should follow Him.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Inadequate

As the Lord has been working with me in the area of prayer one thing has become crystal clear.  I am a whole lot worse at this than I thought.  Inadequate does not really seem to capture the depth of my inability.
Inadequate
I have looked at the prayers of Paul, even started to do things that noted Christian scholars and authors have written about in their books before I read them.  That was encouraging.  But, it seems mechanical and heartless as I work through praying what Paul prayed.

I got a copy of Operation World and it has been useful as I attempt to pray for the countries in which the Lord has allowed me to work… but 978 pages of prayer requests in fine print, is just – well there are no words…

The state of the Church and the needs of its people are crushing.  It feels futile…  It feels hopeless…  I wonder how in the world my feeble prayer can possibly make a dent.

Then I read Proverbs 15:8 – 9 again and am reminded that God is pleased with the effort.  I can’t understand why – it is so pitiful.  Then I am reminded that I am not alone in this battle.  I am pulled to Romans 8:26 – 27.  God’s overwhelming grace through the ministry of the Spirit amplifies, clarifies, and corrects my inadequacy; turning my halting efforts into an intercession according to the will of God.

My inadequacy is known.  It is embraced.  It is enfolded in the Spirit’s groanings.  It is known that I am hopelessly inadequate.  It is in that inadequacy that God’s grace, His majesty, and His sovereign adequacy is manifested and perfected.  I am undone in His presence.

I am inadequate.  He is not.  I will keep on trying.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

More Struggles with Prayer

In the past several weeks I have spoken with a number of people who are struggling with prayer.  Everything from not understanding why God did not grant a request to not understanding why we need to pray when the Scripture says that God knows what we need before we ask.  There are Biblical responses to those positions but they are not necessarily easy.
More Struggles with Prayer
I struggle with prayer.  My struggle is probably somewhere in the middle of that continuum.  It has become clear to me that I do not have the faintest clue how to pray very effectively.

So what is one to do?

It is clear from the model of Scripture that we are supposed to pray.  Jesus did.  Paul did.  David did.  Some of their prayers are recorded.

A place to start may be to look at some of their prayer and see if there are some guidelines that we can follow.  The problem with that is those guidelines can become routine and essentially kill the relationship.  Using the prayers of Jesus, David, or Paul rote is without heart.

So what do we do?

If John 15:5 is true, perhaps we need to abide in Christ.  Not abiding results in our not being able to do anything.  The implication seems to be if we abide in Him, we can.  Prayer would seem to fit that promise.

So perhaps our task is to do what the disciples did in Luke 11:1, ask the Lord to teach us to pray.  That is what I have been doing.  The lesson for me is taking some time.  It is taking some effort.  I am not patient.  I want results and I want them now…  But, it seems that the Lord is on a different timetable.  It occurs to me that I will spend eternity learning how to better communicate with Him…  A few months or years here working on that communication seems trivial in comparison.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Spilling Over

A few years back I was assigned 1 John for a Sunday school class.  To prepare I studied 1 John.  I followed my normal practice, overview of the book, section by section analysis, finally summary of the book.
Spilling Over
During my analysis of 1 John 1, I was overwhelmed.  After announcements and other pleasantries in the classes there is about 20 minutes left for the content.  Add that to the fact that I do not lecture but engage a class by asking questions about the text, and I despaired of being able to share or lead the group through a tenth of what I was seeing in those ten verses.

The sensation was that of flood waters building up behind a dam.  I was about to burst with what I saw.  But I knew that it was both impractical and impossible to cover it all.  So I started writing.  I did not want to lose what I had seen.  That writing ended up in the workbook that accompanies Your Walk, their walk.

The point of sharing this experience is that as leaders of our families, our churches, or whatever charge the Lord has given you, we are to lead them from the Word.  In the case of my work in prep for the 1 John class, what I did in class spilled over from the flood that was behind the dam.  There was so much more.  My observation is that is not the case in many of the classes I have attended and many of the messages I have heard.

Rather than the individual’s time in the Word spilling over into the lives of those for whom he has been given charge, it seems that the preparation has been focused on the presentation.  Rather than reveling in the presence of God in His Word, work is done to support the points the teacher or speaker wants to share.

Instead of spilling over from their time in the Word, they backfill their message or lesson.  By that I mean that they find verses that they suspect supports the points they want to make.

That seems bassackwards to me.  If I am reading the charge that God has given those who are charged with teaching and speaking to His people, He expects them to come spend time with Him in His Word.  He expects that Word to overwhelm them.  To fill them with such a magnificent vision of His glory that it cannot be shared or contained.  That must spill over into the lives of those with whom they speak.  Check out Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34, see if I got it right.

It seems that is what should be our experience.  Is that yours?

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Burnt

This morning I was in Leviticus 6.  In most of my reading programs Leviticus does me in.  This time through I am looking with a different set of eyes.  I am looking for the why of things.  As always in my study or reading I am constantly looking for repetition.  This morning was no exception.  I found some.
Burnt

Look at Leviticus 6:12 – 13, note that the phrase, “The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out,” at the first of verse 12 is repeated, somewhat more strongly, in verse 13.  Only the last few words change in my version from “It shall not go out,” in verse 12 to “it is not to go out,” in 13.

That intrigued me.  Why was that fire not to go out?

First I looked at the Hebrew.  I noted first that the changes in the language from 12 to 13 was a decision of the translators and did not reflect the original.  The phrase is essentially identical in the Hebrew text.  The Lord does not want that fire to go out.

The purpose of the sacrifice is atonement.  Atonement for the nation and individuals.  Atonement for the sin of the nation or an individual.  As I thought through that it perhaps the reason for the fire never to be allowed to go out, is the need for continual atonement for both the nation and individuals.

The sin of the nation remains.  The sin of the individual remains.  Even after a sacrifice for sin, the essential nature of the nation and the individual remains the same.  So to atone for that state, the fire could not go out.

Think of it.  On the cross Jesus declared, “It is finished,” John 19:30.  The atonement was complete.  There was no longer a need for a continual sacrifice, a fire that was never to be allowed to go out.  Why?  2 Corinthians 5:17, gives us a clue.  We are made new in Christ.  Our sin nature is crucified with Him, Romans 6:1 – 7.

That is very good news.

Friday, April 1, 2016

What is Glorified

Even a casual reading of the Bible leads one to understand that one of the purposes of God is to glorify Himself and His Son.  In the gospels we find the Son continually speaking of glorifying His Father.  He speaks of glorifying His Father and prays to that end.
What is Glorified
For that reason it is not strange that we find that theme in the prayers of the apostles, Paul especially.  Look at 2 Thessalonians 1:11 – 12.  Paul prays that Christ would be glorified in the Thessalonian believers.

But I noticed something this morning as I was working through Paul’s prayers.  In 2 Thessalonians 3:1 Paul asks for prayer that the Word of the Lord would spread quickly and be glorified.  In the context one may assume that he is speaking of the message of the gospel.  But it is not too much of a stretch to extend that to the Bible.  At that time the only Bible available for them was in the synagogues.  You will remember that the Berean believers, checked out what Paul told them in the Scriptures, Acts 17:11.  They had to go to the synagogue to do so, You Version was not on iTunes quite yet.

This got me to thinking about the need to glorify the Word of God.  Sounds almost blasphemous, does it not?  But the more I think about it, I do not believe that it is.  2 Peter 1:1b – 4, tells us that the written Word of God, in the form of God’s Promises, and later in 2 Peter 3:14 – 16, Paul’s letters, is our means of appropriating the nature and character of God into our lives.  If that is the case, then glorifying the Book is essentially glorifying God.

In Psalm 50:1a, Asaph pens a threefold use of God’s name, “The mighty one (El in Hebrew), God (Elohim), the Lord (Yahweh) has spoken.  He has spoken in His Word.  A person’s speech reveals much about their nature and character.  A person’s fidelity to their word, their promise, reveals that much more.

God has spoken. God has promised.  Those words and promises are in our Bibles and on the apps in our phones.  If we wish to know and glorify Him, we probably should do what Paul suggests.  Glorify His Word.