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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Paul’s Charge, Part 3

Yesterday we looked at the second part of Paul’s charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2.  The last charge to Timothy is “remind”, 2 Timothy 2:14.  This paragraph is packed and I will begin to unpack it a little tomorrow.
Paul’s Charge, Part 3
Paul exhorted his spiritual son, first to consider, think, ponder, what he had said so that Lord would give Timothy understanding.  Then he refocused Timothy by exhorting him to remember why he was in Ephesus, to serve Christ.  Success was not understanding or numbers in ministry it was the worship of Christ and thankfulness for the grace of God dispensed through the sacrifice of His Son.

It is against that backdrop that Paul now commands Timothy – oh did I forget to mention that all three of these words are imperatives?  Yep.  He commands him to remind those in his care of what he has just shared.  Think of the commands thus far.  Consider what has been said about the multiplication of laborers who are able to teach and the unmatched importance of remembering why we are engaged in this battle it is to serve and worship Christ in thanksgiving for His saving work in our life.

In this one word Paul is calling to mind his charge to the leadership of the Ephesian church both in Acts 20:25 – 35 and Ephesians 4:11 – 16.  As a leader of the body in Ephesus, Timothy has to pass on what he has learned, equip those whom he has taught to do the same, and remind them that their purpose, like his, is to serve and worship the Lord.

There is so much more here especially in this last paragraph.  As I said I will start on this tomorrow.  In the meantime see how many imperatives you can identify in 2 Timothy 2:14 – 26.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Paul’s Charge, Part 2

Yesterday we began looking at Paul’s charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2.  We looked in some detail at the first charge, “consider” in 2 Timothy 2:7.  The next word is Remember, 2 Timothy 2:8.
Paul’s Charge, Part 2

Paul has exhorted his spiritual son to consider, think, ponder what he has said to him.  The result will be, as Chuck pointed out in his comment yesterday that we will understand what Paul is saying.  The charge is ministry heavy.  Paul reminds Timothy that this is a hard assignment.  He compares the propagation of the gospel to military service, athletics, and farming.  Those can be all consuming.

The next word then is, remember.  Remember what?  Jesus.  Resurrected.  He is the reason for what needs to be considered.  All too often those of us who are engaged in ministry of any kind become consumed with that ministry.  Paul is reminding Timothy, and by extension us – well me at least – that the real issue is Jesus.  We have to focus on Him.

It is for Jesus that Paul is suffering hardship.  It is not for the ministry.  In the midst of all that he is doing, his primary focus is Christ.

There are many who have been on the mission field and have been on hard ground.  They work for years without seeing results.  If they are doing that for the ministry they will become depressed and discouraged.  If for their love for Christ, they will endure.

We need to remember what is important.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Paul’s Charge

Over the years I have spent a significant amount of time in 2 Timothy 2.  2 Timothy 2:2 is the first passage I studied using the verse analysis study in 1973.  It is one of the passages I use with men in the four week one on one meetings.

This morning I heard a message in a series on the Pastoral Epistles, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus.  The message focused on the second paragraph of 2 Timothy 2.  Since I studied the Pastoral Epistles as a unit in the past year I have my study on my iPad.  So, I have that open and am following along with the speaker as he is working through the passage.  While he was speaking I noticed a connection that I had missed or did not think through well.

2 Timothy 2 breaks into three paragraphs, 1 – 7, 8 – 13, and 14 – 26.  I noticed a key word in each paragraph:

  • Consider – 2:7
  • Remember – 2:8
  • Remind – 2:14
This was Paul’s charge to his spiritual son.  He told him to consider what he had told Timothy.  The Greek word is νοεω, noeo.  It shows up 14 times in the New Testament and is translated understand, see, perceive, understood, think, and consider.  Paul is telling Timothy to think about what he has told him, to ponder it, to process it, it is in that effort that the Lord will give Timothy understanding.

Often we forget or tend to downplay the truth that the Lord gave us a mind.  He gave us the ability to think, reason, evaluate, ponder.  I have heard and experienced those who have reacted to a passage without really considering what it says.  That leads, as Prof said, to abomination.  One cannot understand what Paul said if one does not consider, observe, what was said.

This may seem overly obvious.  But I assure you in working with people on 5 continents observation gets short shrift on each.  Paul is telling us that we need to pay attention to what he wrote.  That is good advice not only for his letters but for the rest of the Scripture as well.

I was going to share my thoughts on the other two but I will save that for tomorrow and possibly the next day.

Friday, May 27, 2016

In Common, Thoughts

Yesterday I asked what five verses have in common.  Chuck’s response is rich.  It is not surprising.  During my time with the Lord on the morning that I put those passages together, I had spent some time praising God for the love of the Word that He has given me.  He prompted me to list the men who had contributed to that love.  Chuck was prominent and early on that list.
In Common, Thoughts
Yes, the central issue is trusting God as Chuck observed.  There were at least three observations as I worked through the passages that struck me.  First is the reason that trusting God is attractive, He does not change.  In Isaiah 26:3 – 4, He is described as an everlasting rock.  We are urged to trust in him forever.  The context of our lives is continual change.  Nothing is static; everything is in flux.  The sheer volume of the rate of change is impossible to track.  Regardless of what you choose whether government, economics, morality, science, religion, whatever, nothing is constant but change.

God does not.  Neither does Christ, Hebrews 13:8.

The next thing I noticed was some of the parallel words and phrases, cultivate (Psalm 37:3) commit (Psalm 37:5), with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5), acknowledge (Proverbs 3:6).  The picture emerging was one of a sustained practice of trust.  Trust is not presented as a quick fix.  Not something we pull out of the tool bag when things are difficult.  It is a sustained life choice.  It is the bedrock of our lives.

Third, as I worked through this it was crystal clear, to me at least, that without God’s intervention in my life I simply would not trust Him.  He chose to reveal Himself through His Word.  He chose to send His Son.  His Son chose to die for me and give me life, Romans 6:8 and Colossians 3:1 - 4.  He sent His Spirit to indwell and empower me.  Without that – no trust.

It is because of who He is, what He has done, and His work in my life I am able to trust.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

In Common

Isaiah 26:3 – 4 started me on a quest in the Bible yesterday.  The verses were those that came to mind as I was thinking through the passage.  Here are the passages that came to mind:
In Common

  • Psalm 28:7
  • Psalm 37:3, 5
  • Proverbs 3:5 – 6

What are the common elements of those passages?  What comes to mind as you read them?  I will share my thoughts tomorrow…

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hostile Questions

I have spent a lot of time in 2 Peter.  I have lost count on the number of times I have read, analyzed, outlined, seen new things, etc.  The reason?  It is the book I use in my workshops to equip men with several Bible study tools.  When they read it, I do.
Hostile Questions
One of the themes in the Book is the reliability of the Word of God.  The theme is subtle.  Peter refers to the Word tangentially but refer he does.  In contrast to the reliability of God’s Word, Peter warns of the certainty of false teachers, people who will twist the Scripture to make it say what they want it to say.  Some of those are in our churches.  Paul warns us of this.  In Acts 20:30 he tells the Ephesian elders that false teachers will come from among them.

One of Peter’s warnings struck me a few days ago.  Look at 2 Peter 3:4.  Peter describes those who are questioning the promises of God.  Now remember in 2 Peter 1:3 – 4 he has declared that the promises are based on God’s glory and excellence, and that by them we can partake of God’s nature.  But because they are not fulfilled in what someone thinks is a timely manner they are questioned.

Essentially, what is happening is one who questions the promise of God is questioning the Word of God.  The start of any heresy, false religion, or sin for that matter, begins with questioning God’s Word; think Genesis 3.

But there is another challenge.

As I was working through this, it occurs to me that one of the things that is happening in the Church is that not only are those from among the Church questioning, but also those outside the Church with cultural agendas that do not align with what the text says.  The challenge is that some in the Church have embraced those questions and have worked hard to accommodate those who are challenging the Word.

James 4:4 seems to speak to this.  If I allow the world to dictate or change my theology or understanding of the Word.  Or if I modify my theology in order to coexist more effectively with the world.  Or if I work really hard to force the Bible to not mean what it says.  It seems, based on James 4:4 that I am engaging in open hostility toward God.

That may not be the best plan in which anyone has ever engaged.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Taking it Easy

(With appropriate apologies to the Eagles)
In the past several weeks I have been struggling with an issue.  Yesterday’s post was part of that struggle as was the post “Crippling Diet.”

Taking it EasyI have been in conversations with men I admire and respect that said things that, frankly, were inconsistent with what I have observed in their lives.

The thrust of their thoughts were that we needed to make the Bible easy for men.  I am still trying to recover from that statement.

Nothing I have ever done in my life was ever easy.

My undergraduate career was less than distinguished.  However, when I enrolled at Texas A&M, they did not hand out my diploma with my room assignment.  That came 5 years later after 173 hours of class.

When I was commissioned in the Air Force, they didn’t just walk up to me one day and hand me my wings and tell me to start training men to fly jets.  That was 58 weeks of primary and secondary jet training, followed by 5 months of instructor training.

When I started seminary… you know what’s coming.  They did not give me the diploma with the honors sticker on it, nor the pastoral ministries award the first day of class.  No they handed out syllabi some of which were 20+ pages long, expecting me to read 500 – 1000 pages between class.

My kids have all graduated from college, with various degrees.  My son the CPA was not handed those credentials without some difficult work.  My son the Physician is still in residency essentially still in school as he has been for the past 13 or so years, he has another year of that and then a fellowship before he can enter practice.

That is true of any profession.  Is it easy to become an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, a CPA, a teacher?  NO.

Why do we want to make the Bible easy?  Is it because we have low expectations of the people in our care?  Is it because we do not believe that they can understand the Scriptures unless we spoon feed them?  Is it because we really do not believe Jesus when He promises that the Holy Spirit will teach us, John 16:13?

If we made pilot training easy, more planes would crash.  If we made becoming an engineer easy buildings and bridges would not stand.  Doctors, more would die.  Lawyers…

We need to acknowledge both Christ’s expectation that all of us abide in His Word and resolve to raise our expectations for all believers.  All should abide.  Further, all should be engaged in helping others abide.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Walking in Complacency

This morning I heard a speaker say that when we walk with the Lord for a long time, we can become complacent.

NO.
Walking in Complacency
I wrote that in large red letters and circled it in my notes.

If we are walking with God by definition we are not complacent.  It is when we are not in fellowship with Him that we are in danger.  We are to abide in Him, John 15:1 – 16.  We are to stay vigilant, 1 Peter 5:8.  If we are doing that, by definition we are walking with Christ and not complacent.

I find that it is when I have drifted away from the disciplines of discipleship, complacency steps in.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Crippled by Diet

Sometime back I met with a group of men.  These men had been in a “Bible study” for most of their lives.  The study consisted of a publication that led them through a portion of scripture.  There is an introduction to the material and then essentially a commentary on the passage.
Crippled by Diet
There is no prep other than reading the passage and the publication.  Frankly, few of the men do that.  Their time together consists of the leader reviewing the passage in light of what the publication says about it.  Then the men discuss what they think about the passage.

Many of their comments were general statements about the gospel or the Christian life.  There was little or no observation on the text being studied.  Some of these men had been in a study like this for 40+ years.  I was struck by the shallowness of their comments and the lack of understanding of the Bible as a whole.  Struck, is not really an adequate word.  I was a mixture of deeply saddened and angered.  These men thought that they were engaged in the Word.  One of them was at some level, the leader.  The rest of them had been essentially eating baby food their entire Christian life.

Last month I wrote about crippling help, this is the same thing.  If as leaders we do not equip people to study the Word themselves, to abide in that Word, as Jesus commanded us.  Rather, we continue to give them “studies” that are essentially shortened commentaries on a passage.  We are not equipping them to engage with the Holy Spirit as they work through the text.  We are creating sincere, believing cripples.

If we continue to make the Bible easy for people, it is like cutting the cocoon of the butterfly open.

Please let’s not do that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tried

Psalm 66 has started me on many journeys through the Word, one of them I shared here.  Three days ago the psalm struck again.  This time the focus was on the purpose and result of God’s refining work in our life.
Tried
Look at Psalm 66:9.  The psalmist praises God for keeping us in life and not allowing our feet to slip.  How?  As I wrote earlier, through refining us.

Now read Psalm 66:12.  The last phrase is the focus.  The psalmist praises God for bringing us through refining into abundance (in the NASB a place of is supplied by the committee, it is not in the original).

This has been a challenge for me in my prayer this week.  It has reminded me that I am to be thankful for ALL that the Lord brings my way.  That includes the fourfold means of refining in Psalm 66:10 – 12.

When times are hard, when things are not going well, I need to remember who is in control and what His goals are for me, my refining.

Then I need to give thanks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Of My Own Accord

If you are familiar with Numbers 22 – 24, you know it is the account of the king of Moab, Balak, and his attempt to get a prophet, Balaam to curse Israel.  Did not go well for Balak.
Of My Own Accord
It is a great story.  Peter references it in 2 Peter 2:15 – 16.  Balaam gets a fairly negative evaluation but his commitment to the Word of God is strong.  Look at Numbers 24:13.  The key for me there is that Balaam is committed to say nothing other than what God has said.

Good idea.

There are things in the Bible that run counter both our culture and the choices that our culture is making.  There are those in the Church that work hard at making the Bible agree with the culture.  Balaam was under that kind of pressure.  For him it was external, Balak continually requested Balaam to go against what the Lord was saying.  Balaam refused.  He was committed to say and do only what the Lord said.

That was a choice.  It is a choice for every believer, every community of faith, large or small.  It is a choice to follow and be true to what the Lord has said in His Word.  Not to do so is to follow a different agenda than God’s.  To work at making the text say something other than what the grammar and vocabulary says in order to “align” it with what one wants it to say is to be committed to one’s agenda over and above God’s.

While that may make it easier to get along with the world.  That is not behavior about which I wish to give account.

If we have to really work hard with a passage to get it to say something other than what someone who is reading it for the first time would understand it to say; it would probably be a great idea to check our motives.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Heart for God

For each Psalm your Bible may have some kind of heading.  Part of that heading may be in italics the rest in regular type.  The regular type is part of the Psalm it is what the author wrote as a title, preface, or explanation, in the Hebrew Bible that is verse 1.  Psalm 63 is an example the preludes says, “A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.”
Heart for God
Most of us slide right over that.  But look at Psalm 63:1.  That verse echoes the title.  David is in the wilderness.  He describes it as a dry and thirsty land, with no water.  This is during the time when Absalom has usurped the throne, so again David is fighting for his life.

To relax, to really recharge I go backpacking – not enough.  Putting 40 – 60 pounds on my back and walking in a wilderness for a week or so is my idea of rest.  In the wilderness, in any backpacking situation, water is critical.  I had a weekend trip last fall scuttled because there was no water where I was going.  No water, no good.

Consider the title and verse 1 together.  David is in the wilderness.   Absalom has taken the throne, 2 Samuel 15, David is running for his life, the wilderness is dry, no water.  In that situation on the top of the checklist of needs is water.  Not for David.  He thirsts not for water, but for God.  He needs water to live.  From his perspective, he needs God more.

Job had a similar devotion.  In Job 23:12 he says that he treasures the Word of God more than his necessary food.  Those aren’t snacks.  It is what is needed to survive.

David craves the Lord more than the water he needs to live.  Job craves the Word more than the food he needs to survive.

I am not there yet.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Contradiction Application

For the past three days I have been looking at Acts 19 – 22 (the first post is here).  Yesterday we evaluated the options of understanding what is going on in that passage; the day before we listed what those options might be.
Contradiction Application
For me what leaps off of the page is something similar to Paul’s experience, though not to the same degree, that I have also encountered.  Namely, people who know what I do and that I am going to countries where there is some level of hostility to Christianity, concerned about the wisdom of my taking the trip.

That raises the question that had to be in Paul’s mind at some level.  How do I know that God is leading me to do something the wisdom of which some godly people are questioning?  In my experience, regardless of the level of danger or resistance, whenever we step out on faith either into a short term mission or if we are considering a vocational ministry, there seems to be those who we trust who may have questions.

How do we know?  In the face of questions from sincere believers that what we have been called to do is actually the Lord and not our own idea?

If I said there was a formula to answer this, you should shut your browser now and never read this blog again.  There is not.  However, there are some prerequisites for us being solid in our understanding His leading.  The main thing is John 15:1 – 16, we must abide in Him.  If you are being questioned and you are not abiding in Christ, which being translated means you are regularly meeting with Him in His Word and you are conversing with Him regularly in prayer – if that is not what you are doing, it is probably a good idea to take the questions to heart.

The only way that I have been certain.  Is to abide.  To rest in Him.  To enter into a task without regard for any personal gain or notoriety.  It is just obedience.  It is a settled peace that comes from being in front of Him and sensing His charge.  It is choosing to live Matthew 6:33.

That may not be helpful but at the moment it is the best I can do.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Contradiction Options Evaluation

Two days ago I asked if there was a contradiction in Acts 19 – 22, yesterday I stated that based on what the Bible claims to be there cannot be a contradiction and offered two explanations along with the one that Chuck suggested.  Today we will evaluate each.
Contradiction Options Evaluation
I suggested you look at the thread that describes Paul’s relationship with the Holy Spirit.  Why?  Doing so gives us better understanding of how he has related to the Holy Spirit through the book.

Option one was that Paul was over zealous in his purposing in the Spirit.  His desire to go to Jerusalem was so great that he construed the Spirit’s leading in his life.  While that is a possibility, and is similar to option 2, if we look at Paul’s relationship to the Spirit throughout Acts, we see a man who is sensitive to the Spirits leading to the point that the Spirit prevented him from going to two areas which he was planning to visit.  It seems unlikely that in this case his sensitivity to the Spirit is somehow dampened.  So this option does not seem to work

The second option is that the disciples in Tyre and Agabus in their desire to protect Paul, over reacted or else misconstrued their desire for the leading of the Spirit.  Unlike Paul we neither have data about the disciples’ nor Agabus’ relationship with the Spirit.  Unlike Paul there is no track record.  This is the first time that we hear of either speaking through the Spirit.  Even so it seems unlikely that the Holy Spirit through Luke would depict them misconstruing His leading.

That brings us to the scenario that Chuck suggested.  That the Spirit was leading these men to warn Paul to strengthen his resolve; to prepare him for the difficulty to come.  This option leaves everyone relating to the Spirit correctly and the Spirit using those relationships for a singular purpose of both leading Paul to Jerusalem and preparing him for what he will endure when he gets there.

There is an application of this for us.  I will share that tomorrow.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Contradiction Options

Yesterday I asked if there was a contradiction in the thread about Paul purposing in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem and the disciples telling him through the Spirit not to go there.  Chuck suggested in a comment that this was the Spirit in a sense testing Paul for the purpose of making his decision stronger.  That is an option.
Contradiction Options
There are others.  But first we have to set some ground rules.  In his excellent book, How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler tells us rightly that when we read sacred literature we have to read it as it expects to be read (by the way this is the best book I have ever read on how to learn).  That is, as it presents itself.  For the Bible that means no contradictions.  Why?  God is immutable, unchanging, error free, Hebrews 13:8 tells us this about Christ, who is God incarnate.  So the working presupposition with this scenario is that there is not a contradiction.  So what are the other options?

One option may be that Paul was mistaken or overzealous in his purposing in the Spirit.  He really did not purpose in the Spirit, he just thought he did.  He made an error.  While the Bible does not err, it reports errors, so this may be an explanation.

The same may be true of the disciples in Tyre and Agabus.  They may have erred in their understanding of the Spirit.  Their warnings could have been driven by emotion that they read as the Spirit’s leading.  I have personally committed that error.  I suspect there are others who have as well.

A third option is the one that Chuck suggested.  This was the Spirit preparing Paul for the difficulties that lie ahead.  Strengthening his resolve, preparing his soul for the upcoming battle.

Perhaps it would be helpful to look at Paul’s relationship with the Spirit throughout Acts.  Here are the references: Acts 13:2, 4, 9; 16:6, 7; 19:21; 20:22, 23.

Which of these do you prefer and why?

I will evaluate each of these tomorrow.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Contradiction?

In a couple of Thursday studies I have been in Acts 19 – 22 for the past couple of weeks.  Last week and this morning we were following a thread through those chapters and ultimately through the book.
Contradiction?
In Acts 19:21 Luke records Paul purposing in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem.  In Acts 20:22 – 23 Paul describes himself as bound by the Holy Spirit, and reports that the Spirit is telling him that he will be arrested and afflicted.  From Paul’s relationship with the Holy Spirit, he understands that he is supposed to go to Jerusalem, but he also knows that he will be afflicted when he gets there.

In the next chapter, while at Tyre for a week, the disciples kept telling Paul, “through the Holy Spirit,” not to set foot in Jerusalem.  A few days later while in the house of Phillip, a prophet, Agabus, tells Paul that he will be bound and handed over to the Gentiles in Jerusalem.

So we have a situation where Paul is hearing from the Holy Spirit that he is supposed to go to Jerusalem but the disciples in Tyre and Agabus in Caesarea are telling Paul through the Holy Spirit that he should not go and he will be bound and given to the Romans.

What gives?  Is this a contradiction that Luke has recorded?  What is going on here?’

I can think of three or four scenarios that may describe what is going on.  What do you see?

I will share some of my thoughts tomorrow, they may bleed over a couple of days, especially the application.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hope in Prayer

I have written about Exodus 33:12 – 17.  The passage though, keeps yielding help and hope to me in prayer.
Hope in Prayer
Look at Exodus 33:12 – 13.  God tells Moses that He knows Moses and that Moses has found favor in God’s sight.  On the basis of that Moses approaches God in intercession for the people.  In Exodus 33:17 God promises to grant Moses’ request on the basis that Moses has found favor in God’s sight and God knows Moses.

God knows me.  If you are a follower of Christ God knows you.  I have found favor in God’s sight, through the blood of His son.  Further, I have unbelievable favor in His sight, Ephesians 1:3 – 14.  Again, if you are a follower of Christ you have that favor.

I am challenged and encouraged to approach God in the way Moses did.  Claiming His knowledge of me and that I have His favor.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Trust in Relationships

Many of us revel in our friends.  We count ourselves – lucky is probably not the right word – rich if we have a solid group of good friends.  That is appropriate, Jesus surrounded himself with men to be with him.  A cursory reading of Acts reveals a long list of names of men and women who were associated with Paul’s ministry.  Proverbs 18:24 is both encouraging and a warning on this.
Trust in Relationships
Psalm 55 surfaced in my reading program yesterday (M'Cheyne Reading Plan).  This Psalm has been one that has gripped and guided my journey with God several times over the years.  This time I was struck by 12 – 14 and 16.

Reading through this just after studying John 13 – 19 probably has colored what I am seeing here.  Christ was betrayed by Judas, one of his “friends”.  He quotes Psalm 41:9 when He reveals the betrayer to John (John 13:18).  Psalm 55:12 – 14 also could describe Jesus’ relationship with Judas.

All of us have had disappointments in relationships with close friends.  Some have been betrayed, probably not at the level that Christ was betrayed.  But look at how Christ viewed that betrayal.  Shortly after Judas leaves, Jesus in the garden prays that His Father would glorify the Son so that the Son could glorify the Father (John 17:1).  In fact, if we look through the gospel, we find that Christ was laser like focused on that purpose; glorifying, magnifying His Father.

Psalm 55:16 then, for me takes on a more significant weight, especially coming right after 12 – 14.  David responds to the betrayal by calling on God.  Putting this haphazardly together, it occurs to me that there are times that I trust in my relationships.  As much as a gift of God friends are, trusting in them inches up on idolatry.  Rather it seems that in all of my relationships I have to continually trust God.

When Judas betrayed Christ, Christ trusted His Father to glorify Him.  If in my relationships I trust God, then at some level, I cannot be disappointed.  I can trust that what happens my Father will use both in my life and in the life of my friend.

This gives me a more certain ground on which to stand.  This allows me to pray more effectively for those who may have injured me.  This allows me to have more appropriate expectations of friends.  It gives me more questions to bring before the Lord.

It gives great peace.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Contrast

Last week we were in John 18.  Couple of things I noticed.  First, working through the text I kept finding myself in John 19.  The two chapters seem to be better approached as a unit.
Contrast
Second, there is more than one way to look at the content of the chapter but this time through what I notices was the contrast between Peter’s actions and attitudes and Jesus’ actions and attitudes.  I used a matrix chart to compare and contrast them:
State Jesus Peter
Awareness Knew what was coming Did not know what was coming
Involvement In Control Out of Control
Acceptance Did not resist Attacked with a Sword
Obedience Following His Father Following his emotion/will
Entrance Brought in by Soldiers Brought in by John
Declaration I am I am not
Confidence Affirmed His identity Denied his identity
Captor Bound by chains Bound by Fear
Inquisitor Questioned by the High Priest and Pilate Questioned by Slaves and Cold Soldiers
Destination Going to His death Going to protect himself
Immediate End Result Crucifixion Honor Out of the Story Shame
Result Success Failure
I am not thrilled with calling that first column “state” but that is the best I can do right now.

The contrast between Jesus and Peter emphasized for me the intentionality of Christ in obeying His Father in this act of redemption.

What do you see?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Challenge

A ChallengeI meet often with men who are interested in getting into the Bible more effectively.  We meet initially for about four weeks depending on schedule.  The first time I meet with them I share the why.  Why is it important that we study the Bible on our own?

Then we start with a study on John 15:5.  It is a verse analysis study.  I start there because it is a very familiar passage.  Most have heard a message or more on that passage.  Many have memorized it.  I pick a familiar passage because I want them to see that there is always more there than they think…

So I have a challenge for you.  Take this outline; this verse analysis study and use it with John 15:5.  You can do this in 3 minutes, 30 minutes, or 3 hours, your choice.

Let me know what you find.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Results of Rejection

Results of RejectionYesterday we looked at the 12 spies whom Moses assigned the task of investigating and reporting on the land the Lord has promised the nation of Israel.  Rather than trust God.  They trusted what they saw.  Rather than embrace dependence on Him.  They chose to reject His help, His strength, His promise, in essence they rejected Him.  These are the same people who were led out of Egypt through the parting of the Red Sea.  These are the ones that saw the glory of the Lord on Mount Sinai and responded by making a golden calf.  These are the ones who have been eating manna…  All but Joshua and Caleb.

As a result in Numbers 14:34 God outlines what their life will be like for the next 40 years.  The key phrase is the last, “you will know My opposition.  Not sure about you – I do not want to be opposed by God.

This is not the only place that God promises opposition.  Look at 1 Peter 5:5, God opposes the proud.  Putting these two thoughts together is seems that pride may be rejecting God, in the sense that we approach life on our own strengths on the basis of what we see and how we believe we can power through a situation rather than trusting in God’s provision, His strength, His help, His promise.

We are confronted with difficult situations on nearly a daily basis.  We have a choice to make.  Will we admit that we need Him in all that we face, or will we reject Him because we can handle it on our own?

One choice results in God’s opposition.  The other in His giving grace.

Friday, May 6, 2016

So You Want To Be Important?

All or most of us have been in situations where there was a group of people who were the movers and shakers and we were not either.  There were meetings going on at work or at church or some other organization that was where the best information was shared and decisions were made.
So You Want To Be Important?
You may have experienced at your work something that was decided at some meeting that made absolutely no operational sense. As a consultant from time to time I saw clients make decisions that did more harm than good.  I have made some of those myself.

Most of us then have, at one time or another, wished we could have been in the meeting so it would have gone better.

Look at Numbers 13:2 – 32.  Moses assembled an elite team to go and research the land God had promised and make recommendations.

All but 2 of the 12 blew it.  The elite team completely mislead the nation.  With the result that for the next 40 years the nation did laps around the wilderness, until all of those who followed the advice of the 10 that were wrong and those 10 were beneath the sand, and the nation was right back at the same place they decided to trust the 10 rather than God.

The elite group, the brain trust, the leaders, sometimes get it wrong.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Lot of Lamps

Thursday morning I have two studies 30 minutes apart, both in Acts.  The first is with a group of men who went through one of my workshops and then chose to stick together, we are going on 4 years.  The second is with a pastor in Morocco.  We meet online.  Since we are studying the same book and in most cases the same passage, the difference in the observations has been striking.
A Lot of Lamps
All of us in the first study are middle to upper-class white guys.  Have a doctor, a lawyer, a CPA, and me… there may be a country song in there somewhere.  The pastor in Morocco is an Arab, grew up Muslim, came to Christ through studying John, leads several underground churches, and is essentially illegal in his own country.

Most of us in the first study go to the same church.  At Christmas this year we had about 400 people in our Christmas Eve service, our biggest problem was parking for visitors.  My Moroccan friend was looking for a place that 50 people could meet securely, that is not get arrested for worshiping Christ at Christmas.  He was not able and they met in his home.  30 or so people were not able to come.

Those different realities impact the way each of these men sees what is going on in Acts.  This morning was no exception.

The first group was in Acts 21.  The pastor and I were in Acts 20.  We did that in the early group last week.  In Acts 20:8 during the account of Eutychus falling asleep in the window and subsequently falling three floors to the ground, Luke notes that there were many lamps in the room.

In my observations on that passage I wrote, “odd detail.”  The guys in the early group suggested that it was further evidence that Paul was not that engaging of a speaker.  If a kid in a window in a brightly lit room can fall asleep while you are talking, you must not be all that exciting.

This morning my Moroccan friend had an entirely different take.  He said that in Morocco when you have a party in the evening, each family brings a lamp.  Lamps are expensive.  Most families only have one.  So when there is a gathering at one’s home, the guests each bring their lamps.  Following that Middle East practice suggests there were many families in that upper room.

I do not know if his observation is accurate.  I do know that those of us who have multiple lights in our homes do not consider the need to take a lamp to a dinner party.  I do know that his observations have been different each week.  Some shaped by the pressure he is under on a daily basis being a pastor in a hostile environment.

It has been a privilege to study Acts with him.  I would suggest if you can, to engage in a study with someone from another culture.  It will help you with your observations as well as your heart for the world.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Getting Answers

Moses was leading a large group of people through a difficult transition and landscape.  One of the things that the Lord wanted them to do was to remember the grace that was given them when they were brought out of Egypt.  So He instructs Moses on how the nation is to celebrate Passover, Numbers 9:1 – 5.  But there was a challenge…
Getting Answers
There were those in the nation who, because of their duty, had to deal with those who had died.  Because of that they were ceremonially unclean.  They wanted to honor what the Lord had done for them, but how?

Moses reply to them in Numbers 9:8 is instructive.  He did not know.  He told them to wait, and he would go check with God.  He would listen to what the Lord would command about this situation.

He did not try to solve the problem.  He did not propose any options.  He listened.

Not my first response.  My first response is to plan or strategize.  Moses listened.

God had an answer.

I wonder how many things I have missed because I did not ask and did not listen.  It is relatively difficult to get an answer if I am not listening.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Missed It

Hebrews is a book I have studied more than once.  I have translated it from Greek to English at one point, and have used portions of the text in just about every workshop and opportunity I have to speak on the need for us to abide in God’s Word.  That makes this even more embarrassing.
Missed It
It would be really difficult to count the number of times I have read Hebrews 7:2, but whatever that number is, I missed the word play there and in Genesis 14:18 which in part reads (Hebrew, read right to left, translation is below):
ָׁשָׁלֵ֔ם
מֶ֣לֶךְ
צֶ֙דֶק֙
וּמַלְכִּי־
peace
king of
righteousness
and king of

The writer of Hebrews explicitly says it, I just blew by it for 40 years…  Melchizedek translated literally is king of righteousness when Moses writes his role, the next two words can be translated "king of peace".  So looking at the sequence translated literally it reads, “And king of righteousness king of peace…”

Look at what the text says he brought out.  Ring any bells?

The point the writer of Hebrews is that it was reasonable for Abraham to pay a tithe to the king of righteousness king of peace.  His point is this is either a strong type of Christ or else a theophany, a pre incarnate appearance of Christ.

Either way I missed it.

In our reading and studying the Bible, familiarity can breed missing really good stuff.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Gentleness

One of my spiritual gifts is exhortation.  My personality is driver/driver, high D, high hostile, choleric melancholy or how whatever instrument you are familiar with describes someone who runs over people to get things done.  That has moderated with time but is still purring under the hood.
Gentleness
My wife’s primary spiritual gift is mercy.  She has some of the same personality types that I do but hers are much more influenced by her primary gift.  She has the ability to confront people with difficult issues and they leave the conversation thinking she paid them a complement.

So one of the struggles I have had for years is communicating with people in a way that they can hear what I am saying through my directness and my passion.  It is a prime example of a strength being a weakness.

Some of my reading is in Hebrews now and I was reminded of several passages that need to work on my soul.
  • Hebrews 5:12
  • 2 Timothy 2:24 – 25
  • Romans 1:14
  • 2 Corinthians 12:7 – 10
The first two remind me that I am to deal gently with people who are ignorant and misguided.  The second reminds me that one that is ignorant and misguided will not change unless the Lord grants that change.  Because of that, I am not to quarrel – I like quarrels at some level…  But that is not the way God will change or help one who needs help.

The third passage, well the first half of it gives me no problems.  I have challenges with the last half.  I am OK working with the wise, I am not one to suffer fools gladly.  But Paul reminds me that I am under obligation to do so, under the umbrella of gentleness that is required by the first two passages.

So I am weak.  In dire need of some growth.

The good news for me is in the last passage, if I embrace that weakness, Christ will be strong through it.

That is the assignment.  I continue to embrace it.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Out of Your Soul

You know that our Bibles were first written in Hebrew, Greek, and some Aramaic.  If you have worked with any translation from other languages you know that it is impossible to do a word for word translation from one language to the other, the results make no sense.  The word order and syntax of languages differ greatly.
Out of Your Soul
In the translations we have the committees use differing philosophies in their approach to their task.  In the NASB, the version I use most frequently, the committee supplies words not in the original to make the flow of the sentence easier to read.  They put those words in italics so that the reader can identify the supplied words.

In some cases the literal translation of a word or phrase is difficult to render smoothly in English, the committee will often attempt to rectify this with an interpretation of what they consider the intent of the author.  In these cases there is often a footnote with the literal translation of the word or phrase.

This is the case with Colossians 3:23.

It is a passage that I memorized and have used as personal challenge and encouragement since the early days of my journey with Christ.  Jenny and I were reading in Colossians earlier this week and I read this passage out loud – by the way I have discovered that reading out loud seems to give me observations that I miss otherwise and this is a case in point.

I noticed in Colossians 3:23 there were two such literal footnotes.  I glanced at them as I read and the content stopped me.

I checked my Greek text and the literal rendering of the text would read, “Whatever you do out of your soul work as to the Lord and not to men.”  The NASB and most of the other versions render “out of your soul” as heartily.  That is good, but it does not seem to have the weight of working from your soul.

As I have considered that for the past few days, I am rebuked and challenged.  There is much that I do that if I am honest is not out of my soul.  I just get it done.  To work out of my soul seems to call for more.  It seems to suggest that I am doing all that I can with all of my being in that task “whatever” it is.  Further, it is not for my employer, my friend, my neighbor, I am doing “whatever” for Him.

That requires me to live in John 15:5.