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Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Law of Proportionality

I have been in a couple of studies in Acts for the past several months.  Both meet on Thursday, about 30 minutes apart.  We are wrapping up the first study in a couple of weeks or so we were in Acts 27 this AM.  If you are familiar with Acts you know that is a detailed chapter about the ill-fated journey to Rome.  You know, throwing stuff overboard, sea anchors… that sort of thing…
The Law of Proportionality
How in the heck are we supposed to apply that?

Here’s the deal.

Saul/Paul shows up in Acts 7:58 taking care of the robes of those who were stoning Stephen.  In Acts 9 he meets Jesus on the way to kill Christians in Damascus.  In Acts 13 – 19 we have described for us the three missionary journeys of Paul, 7 chapters.  Acts 19:20 is essentially the end.  From that point on, Paul is headed to Jerusalem, that is his focus.

From Acts 19:21 – 28:31 we are told about the trip to Jerusalem, Paul’s saying goodbye to communities of faith that he has been instrumental in forming, warnings about what would happen in Jerusalem to him, his arrest, his trials, his imprisonments, testimonies, and finally his shipwrecked trip to Rome, all of this ending with him in house arrest in Rome.  9.5 chapters, more detail than all of the missionary journeys combined.

Why?

If I were Luke, it seems like the most important thing would be the spread of the gospel, the Word of God, but Luke gives 7 chapters to that, and 9.5 to this journey to Rome by way of Jerusalem.  Proportionately there is more emphasis on that last journey than just about anything else in the book.

What are we to learn from this?  Why has the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write so much detail on this journey in his account of the early church?

It is intentional.  There is a reason.  I have some thoughts as to why.  What are yours?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Paul and Me

I learned some things about Paul and me last week.  I do not have the same commitment to prayer that he did.
Paul and Me

I mentioned yesterday that the past couple of weeks have been physically challenging.  Those days were not filled though with beatings, imprisonment, torture – well maybe a bit of that, stoning – non pharmaceutical, or being left for dead.

In my case I found most of my prayer focused on relief from pain and discomfort.  When I look at Paul’s prayer in the midst of all that he endured.  I find a completely different focus.  He is praying for those whom he has equipped to blossom to their full potential in Christ.

I am challenged and rebuked.  All too quickly when under pressure or pain, my focus turns inward, toward my needs, my wants.  But with Paul 2 Corinthians 11:22 – 29 clearly describes his focus even under pressure or pain.  He is praying for the gospel to spread and grow through the churches he has served.

I have a lot to learn.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Full Frontal Attack

If you have been even a casual follower of this blog you will have noticed that I have not posted anything here for 10 days.  That is the longest, by far, that I have missed writing here.  There were several reasons.
Full Frontal Attack
I am getting ready for a trip to a country that is hostile to Christianity.  I will be working for several days with leaders of underground churches there.  Then a few days later I will be helping with a family Bible camp.  Further, in between those meetings there may be an opportunity to meet with another leader which may expand opportunities in that land.

During preparation for trips like this there is always resistance.  The enemy is not pleased with this type of invasion of his territory.  You know the passages John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:8.  In the past the resistance has been mostly temptation, this time, it has been physical.

It started about three weeks ago.  There was what I thought was a pimple on my neck.  Over the last couple of weeks it grew into a spherical abscess with the diameter of a quarter.  Then I found out that I needed surgery on my bladder.  All of that came together last week.

I found out on Monday that what I thought was an infected hair, was a brown recluse spider bite.  I had begun taking antibiotics on the previous Friday, but the pain was such that I was prescribed a mild pain killer.  I do not get along very well with pain killers.  I was in a fog.  Thursday the surgery was scheduled and during the pre-op the surgeon took a look at my neck and told me that it needed to be cleaned out.  He told my wife after the surgery that the infection was worse than he had thought and I would have to stay in the hospital an extra night.  They were going to pump me full of antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading to the bladder.

I have never reacted to medicine.  Friday evening I did.  Every time they hung an antibiotic I broke out on my arms and legs.  It did not matter what they hung, I broke out.

I was released late Saturday but did not get rid of all of the surgical accouterments until yesterday morning.  So for the past week I have been in a pharmaceutically induced fog.  I did not trust that anything I might write would make any sense…

When I got home from the hospital there was a letter on my desk informing me that one of our largest donors would no longer support the ministry...

I am back today working on prep for the trip.  Normally, this is a joy and it just flows.  Not this time.  I feel continually blocked and resisted.

If you are so inclined and think about it.  Please pray that the enemy would be bound away from this prep time and I would be able to get the material assembled, translated, and printed.

If the resistance is any indication.  This is an important trip.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Revisiting Friends

I am doing an overview of 2 Corinthians.  It is for the Tuesday group.  The way we approach a book is overview, section by section analysis, and finally, a synthesis or summary of what we have learned.
Revisiting Friends
This is not the first or second time I have studied this book.  But as in every other book, I saw things that I have not seen in previous studies and that was just from reading through the book.  I highlighted several verses for a closer look as I went through.
  • 1:5
  • 1:10 – 11
  • 3:14
  • 3:17 – 18
  • 4:13
  • 5:15
  • 6:17
  • 7:4
  • 11:3
  • 11:15
  • 11:28
I was deeply moved by some of what Paul shares.

If you are not in a group that forces you to look intently and consistently at His Word.  Find one.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Stunning Encouragement

For the past several years I have used the morning and evening readings in the Book of Common Prayer for my quiet times.  I can’t tell you the number of times during that stretch that the seemingly random readings met needs about which I was struggling.
Stunning Encouragement
About the middle of February I switched to M’Cheyne’s reading calendar.  At some level I thought that it was the reading program that was meeting my needs.  I was wrong.  The same thing is happening with M’Cheyne.

I am in the midst of prep for a trip to another country.  I have been tasked to work with leaders of some churches for 5 days and then work with families in the churches for the next five days.

I have been struggling with getting the material pulled together.  In the past, this has been a fun but challenging process.  This time it is just challenging.  Much of that has been, I think, attacks of the enemy.  Yesterday, the reading plan took me to Deuteronomy 20:1 – 4.  To say that was encouraging would be a huge understatement.

I was reminded that in the war against the enemy of our Lord and His Church, that I am not alone in the battles.  Although the enemy is powerful, I am not to fear.  For the Lord is on my side in this fight.

Those words, written over 2500 years ago, gave me great comfort and encouragement.  It brought to mind that I need rest and trust in Him as I work through this prep.

So it was not the reading plan.  It was the Word.  It was the Holy Spirit.  It was the Lord.  I am humbly thankful.  I am stunningly encouraged.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Short Sighted Selfish

Hezekiah was one of the good‘ens.  There were not a lot.  Look at how the Holy Spirit describes him in 2 Kings 18:1 – 6.  I was especially impressed with verse 6, “…he clung to the Lord…” that is high praise.  But…
Short Sighted Selfish
I am not impressed with how he ended.  For two reasons.

First, look at Isaiah 39:5 – 8.  Hezekiah’s response is on the order of, “that is just dandy.”  What?  The nation is going to be defeated, overrun, and carried away into exile – that is a good word?  What was he thinking?

The Spirit tells us.  He was pumped that it was not going to happen on his watch.  Unbelievable.

Second, his son.  Manasseh was one of the worst kings of Judah.  Look at how he is described in 2 Chronicles 33:1 – 9.  Verse 9 got my attention, “…Thus Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the sons of Israel.”

The contrast is stark, cling to the Lord versus lead the nation into more evil than those Israel drove out of the land.

Hezekiah was focused on himself, he was short sighted, he did not invest, pass on his faith to his son.  So even though he is considered one of the good kings of Judah, from my perspective he was an abject failure.  His legacy was evil and the destruction of the nation.

As fathers and leaders we have to do more than just obey.  We have to do what the Great Commission demands.  We have to look past our time and pass on the truth of the gospel and the heart to cling to, abide in the Lord.

If we do not, we may be good in our life time, but our legacy will be like Hezekiah's, disaster.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Weary of Him

Isaiah 43:20 – 28 floored me yesterday.  The Lord calls out Israel because they have become weary of God?  The list of what they have not done is staggeringly long.
Weary of Him

  • Not brought the sheep of the burnt offerings
  • Not honored Him with their sacrifices
  • Not bought Him sweet cane
  • Not filled Him with the fat of sacrifice
  • Have burdened Him with their sins
  • Have wearied Him with their iniquities
  • Their spokesmen transgressed against Him
He is the one that wiped out their transgressions.  They became weary of Him.

The obvious question is how we do that today.  How do we become weary of our Lord?
  • Do we begrudge Him time in prayer?  Is that too much work?
  • Do we place other things as a higher priority over time with Him in His Word?
  • Do we desire things of the World over Him?
  • Do we pursue success in our profession over intimacy with Him?
The reality is that we worship Him through the Word and Prayer.  He is not present.  The disciplines of relationship can and do become hard.  That is why it is called discipline.  I for one will admit there are times that I weary of the grind of discipline.  As I read this passage I am ashamed and rebuked.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Unbalanced Relationship

A few days ago I read Psalm 91:14 – 16.  There are two actors in that passage.  One who loves the Lord and the Lord.  In the passage the Lord is describing one who loves Him and detailing what He does for him.  I noticed that the scales are not balanced.
Unbalanced Relationship
What the one who Loves the Lord does What the Lord does
Loves the Lord Delivers him
Knows the Lord’s Name Answers him
Calls upon the Lord Is with him
Rescues him
Honors him
Satisfies him with a long life
Lets him see his salvation

There are times when I may think that the Lord is lucky to have me.  I mean after all I do a lot for Him…right…

When the creator of the universe has chosen to have a relationship with you and has died so that could happen, there is not much one can do to even that score.

We are forever in His debt.  This is a relationship that is completely out of balance.  We get much more that we can ever hope to repay…  That is kind of the point.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Relentless Attacks

I was listening to a message this morning that was really good.  During the message the speaker mentioned several things that as believers we needed to make sure that we did not change, that we protect.  I do not remember all of the “things,” the gospel was one of them.  One that was not mentioned was the Word of God.  I kept yelling at my phone – which doubles as my MP3 player – the Word, the Word, the Word… but he never said it.
Relentless Attacks
That does not diminish his message – well yeah, it did.  Why?  Because all that we know about the issues he said we needed to guard we learn about from the Word and that Word is constantly under attack.  That attack is on at least two fronts.

In the past week I read a post on a “Christian” blog that suggested that we do not need to, and really should not, literally interpret the Bible.  Now there are figures of speech in the Bible, but this post was not talking about figures it was suggesting a much looser approach to the Word even stating that the Bible was essentially man’s traditions passed down.  That view of the Bible undermines all of the points the speaker I was listening to this morning said we had to defend.  So the attack is against the reliable inspiration of the Scripture.

The second avenue of attack is to take the Bible out of the hands of people.  In the same article it was stated that we needed teachers to unfold the Scripture to us because only the teachers would be able to explain the historical context.  The implication is that apart from some professional milk man explaining the Bible to us, we have no hope of getting anything right.  Unfortunately most churches tacitly support this in that there is no intentional equipping of the members of the church in how to study their Bibles.

The Bible itself internally does not support either of these statements.  One need not go further than 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17 to counter either of them.  Further, it is the command of Christ that we abide in His Word – not just the teachers, all of us.  Further we are to accurately handle it as well 2 Timothy 2:15.

If our trust in the Word of God, if our understanding of the Word of God is undermined.  Shortly to follow will be our faith.

We have to fight to guard our understanding and we have to hold our leaders accountable to equip those in their charge to stand strong through study in the Word.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Worthy

In part of the reading plan I have been following (M’Cheyne Reading Plan) I am in Revelation.  A couple of days ago I was in Revelation 6.  Look at Revelation 6:11, it is the plea of the martyrs.  As I read that I thought of Hebrews 12:1 – 4.
Worthy
Think of it.  These people, these martyrs along with those who are listed in Hebrews 11 are part of those who are witnessing our journey towards home.  Those who have shed blood in their striving against sin are watching us.

My prayer is that I am worthy to be watched.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Suggestion

Earlier this year I shared an experience listening to a message on a passage I had recently studied.  I have been able to follow that same series off and on since January.  This morning the speaker was in 2 Timothy 2.  I mentioned last week that I have invested a significant amount of time in 2 Timothy and specifically chapter 2.  So as previously I had my iPad open to my recent study of that passage.
A Suggestion
As before the experience was more of a dialog.  There were several times that I missed points because I was thinking about what the speaker had just said or else was rereading the text and comparing my understanding to his.  That interaction led to some observations that I had not made during my study.  They were not points made by the speaker, rather things I noticed while I was working through what he was saying.

We were in 2 Timothy 2:14 – 26.  What I noticed is that paragraph is built on four statements.  Three of which are in contrast with the fourth.  Three of the statements command avoiding some action.  The last commands action.  In each statement the action named has a consequence the first three negative the last positive.  Here they are:
Verse Command Action Result of Action
14 Do not Wrangle about Words Leads to the ruin of the hearers
16 Avoid Worldly and empty chatter Leads to ungodliness
23 Refuse Foolish and ignorant speculations Leads to quarrels
24 – 25 Not to quarrel, but (Technically not imperative but the verb δει, it is necessary, carries some of the weight of an imperative.) be kind, teach, be patient Leads to the knowledge of the truth


Those relationships are significant.  One might be able to line the three or four requirements of 24 – 25 alongside the commands, but that may be a stretch.  The contrast though is stark.  What we choose to say should be intentionally meant to gently teach rather than argue.  Not an easy assignment, at least not for me.

But there is a further lesson here.  I would highly suggest that if you are able to discover what passages your pastor is studying or speaking from, study them yourself before you hear him speak.  It will radically change what you hear.  Plus, if your pastor knows that a significant number of men in your congregation are studying the passage from which he is speaking, I can guarantee that it will impact positively what he says about that passage.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

More Solutions

Yesterday we looked at Isaiah 30:1 – 11.  Now look at 9 – 11.  Take a minute and note the lengths to which those who were rebellious went in order to ignore or disobey God.
More Solutions
Here is what I saw
  • Verse 9
    • They refused to listen
  • Verse 10
    • They told the seers not to see.
    • They told the prophets not to prophesy
    • They demanded that the prophets speak pleasant words, to prophesy illusions
  • Verse 11
    • They told the men of God to get out of the way
    • To get out of the path
    • To say no more about God to them
That reminded me of 1 Timothy 4:1
  • Men pay attention to deceitful spirits
  • Doctrines of Demons
  • They will not endure sound doctrine
  • Accumulate teachers that support their desires
  • Turn aside to myths
Sounds like the same group a few hundred years later.

This is a dire reality.  When coupled with Jeremiah 23:9 – 40, which describes a class of prophets who are more interested in their own ideas rather than the Word of God this sets up a perfect storm of those who want false teaching and those who are more than eager to oblige.

Wonder if that will ever happen?

Thinking through this I wrote in my journal:
Father, protect your Church.  Lead us to truth.  Identify those who want to share their own dreams and those who want to pursue myths.  Deliver your bride, the Church, from those who love to proclaim myths and those who crave myths.
As for me…

I choose to stand in the way – only in His strength.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Looking for Solutions

This will be the first of at least a couple of posts on Isaiah 30:1 – 11.  First, look at Isaiah 30:1 – 3.  Israel is in trouble.  They are under attack.  Rather than turn to God for help they go to Egypt to make an alliance.  The text says they did not consult God.  So the plan, the alliance was not God’s.  It was not of His Spirit.  The result?  Sin, shame, and humiliation.
Looking for Solutions
When I face a challenge and look for solutions without consulting the Lord.  When I try to solve the problem by trying to work through it myself or else try to find someone to fix it without asking the Lord.  It seems that I am following in the footsteps of Israel.

Based on this passage and a truckload of experience, that does not work out all that well.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Paul’s Charge Epilogue Thoughts

Yesterday I listed the imperatives in 2 Timothy 2:14 – 26.  I asked what you saw.  Ben’s comment was a great observation.  I would agree with him but I would add one thought.
Paul’s Charge Epilogue Thoughts
Those are commands that we are to follow.  However if I am reading John 15:5 correctly, I am not even able to follow those commands unless I am abiding in Christ.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Paul’s Charge Epilogue


Paul’s Charge EpilogueYesterday I suggested that you look for all the imperatives in 2 Timothy 2:14 – 26.  How did it go?

These are the ones I found:
  • 2:15 - Be Diligent (accurately handling – a participle, participles take the force of the main verb which is imperative thus this receives the force of the imperative)
  • 2:16 – Avoid
  • 2:19 – Abstain
  • 2:22 – Flee, Pursue
  • 2:23 – Refuse
What do these commands to Timothy bring to mind?

I will share my thoughts tomorrow.