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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Another Brick in the Firewall, part 3 (Firewall cont.)

We have been examining, somewhat closely, 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17, Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to build a firewall to protect the church against evil men and impostors.  We saw in the last post that the center of the second brick was an emphasis on continuing in the Word of God.
Another Brick in the Firewall, part 3(Firewall cont.)

In verse 15 Paul amplifies his argument.  He reminds his apprentice that he has known the sacred writings since childhood.  This has much to those of us who are parents or hope to be.  It is a tacit reminder to us that we are to, early and often, expose our children to the Word of God.

Paul’s emphasis is strong on this point.  The strength is obscured again by most of our English translations.  Paul places the object of the verb before the verb, literally it would read, “from childhood the sacred writings you have known.”  That is awkward in English so it is rendered differently in our translations.  Reversing the word order, though is one way of emphasizing a point.  Paul is emphasizing the sacred writings, the Word of God, to Timothy.

There is much error afloat in the Christian community, much like what Timothy was facing in Ephesus.  At a significant level what we face is orders of magnitude more difficult.  Timothy did not have to counter Radio, Television, the internet, nor was there anything yet in mass print.  Communication and the transmission of false teaching was done in person, traveling impostors.

Now we face all of that and more.  It makes it so much more important that first we abide in God’s Word and equip our children to as well.  Abiding, by the way, is more than a consistent devotional life…

Paul though, is not done with his instruction to Timothy…

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Another Brick in the Firewall, part 2 (Firewall cont.)

Continuing our look at 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17, we are looking at the second brick in the firewall that Paul is commanding his apprentice, Timothy, to erect against evil men and impostors who are teaching a different gospel.
Another Brick in the Firewall, Part 2 (Firewall cont.)
There are two elements in this brick:

  • Abide in that which Timothy has learned from his mother, grandmother, and Paul
  • The things that Timothy has learned are rooted in the Scripture

The result of this exhortation seems to be that Paul is reiterating the need for Timothy to remember his example and to abide in that learning as well as its source the Scripture, sacred writings, God’s Word.

This is where things get confusing for me.  Confusing in this sense.  There is no question that there are still false teachers abundantly multiplying and continually gaining followers.  The source of my confusion is how it seems that leaders in the Church seem to be attempting to deal with the false teaching.

I have seen communities focus on detailed doctrinal statements as a means to protect against false teaching.  I know of classes that have been held to teach the correct way for Christians to think about certain topics.  Messages have been shared from pulpits, podiums, chairs, videos, MP3s, and books that explain the proper way to think and or act as a believer.

What I don’t see is any of those answers in the text here.  The majority of the exhortation here is centered on the Scripture.  It seems like Paul is setting personal abiding in the Word of God as a significant brick in the firewall against the propagation of error.

Yet when and where are we equipping and encouraging people to dig into God’s Word.  How often do we exhort people, remind them how critical it is for them to be in the Word of God for themselves.  Not just reading the text, but digging in, allowing it to transform our thinking, reorient our priorities.

Christ tells us in John 8:31 – 32, that we are to abide (your Bible may say continue, but it is the same Greek word translated abide in John 15:1 – 16) in His Word.  John 15:1 – 16 repeats the idea of abiding in Christ and His Word 11 times in those 16 verses.

It seems that the clear message is that we are supposed to do this.

And yet there is more to Paul’s exhortation…

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Another Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

As we have seen in the previous posts, the first brick in the firewall was for Timothy to follow the example of Paul…  Before we look at the second brick, it would probably be a good idea to note how we know there are two bricks.
Another Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

As I mentioned before our English translations somewhat obscure Paul’s repetitive structure.  The illustration below is from Bible Hub using the Interlinear option (purple highlight).  You can only look at one verse at a time in this view.  I have put 2 Timothy 3:10 and 14 together to show the repetition.  Look at the first two words circled in red, in both cases they are the same two words, Σὺ δὲ, literally “you but.”  In the NASB the two words are translated; “now you,” in verse 10 and “you, however,” in verse 14.  The second translation seems to add more weight to the second brick.  However in the original the vocabulary and structure is the same.  (One could argue that the second brick, since it is in the last position, may be more important – for your consideration.)

Now that we have established the two, let’s look a bit more closely at the second.  There is quite a bit here so we may spill over a few days.

The first thing we may notice is the continued contrast with the reality of the evil men and impostors that will continually increase in the last days.  In contrast to this reality Paul has told Timothy to follow his example and now the second thing, the second brick in the firewall, to continue in what he had learned.

The word continue, μένε (mene) is a form of the verb μένω (menō) to abide or remain.  The word is thickly repeated by John in John 15:1 – 16.  It seems to be a key concept in John.  Here Paul is using the same word to describe how Timothy is to stand against the coming reality of increasing false teaching.  He commands his apprentice to abide, remain, continue in that which he has learned.

Think through that.  We will expand on this and the rest of Paul’s exhortation in the next post or so…

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Still on One Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

It is an absolute truth that none of us will ever get all that is in a text no matter how long we continue in our study.  The Word is the revelation of the thought of an infinite God, as such it has infinite depth.
Still on One Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)
Yesterday we looked at the first brick in the firewall that Paul was encouraging his faithful apprentice to build in Ephesus.  My intention was to move to the second brick (another brick in the wall) today, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.  Why?  I looked at the text again, and saw more that we really need to consider.
SPOILER ALERT!  The two bricks are in 2 Timothy 3:10 – 13 and 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17.  Our English translations obscure the repetitive structure somewhat – but we will look at that in the post about the second brick.
Look again at 2 Timothy 3:10 – 13.  Yesterday we noted that the first brick was Paul exhorting Timothy, as he had in several other passages, to follow his example.  But note the content of Paul’s exhortation.  He references his:
  • Teaching
  • Conduct
  • Purpose
  • Faith
  • Perseverance
In the midst of:
  • Persecutions (which is emphasized by the repetition of the word in verse 11)
  • Sufferings
He then states unequivocally that anyone who attempts to follow his example will be persecuted.

Paul may have skipped the class on motivating disciples.

The language in the Greek suggests that Timothy was not a casual observer, not a tag along.  The word, παρακολουθέω (parakoloutheō), is only used four times in the New Testament (here, Mark 16:17, Luke 1:3, 1 Timothy 4:6).  The word suggests careful observation, investigation.  Timothy was taking notes.  He was fully engaged as one who was committed to duplicating or emulating his mentor.

Structurally, proportionality helps our observation here.  Paul invests more words in describing the resistance to than he does the elements of his ministry.  The not so subtle message to his protégé is that Timothy can expect significant, intentional, sustained resistance to the task in which he is engaged.  He should expect persecution.  Based on verse 13, the resistance will not abate, but increase.

That is instructive to me.  There seems to be a fair number of believers who seem to think that if God is in something, things will go well.  Truth be told there are times that I have been thinking that way.  Timothy is engaged in a work for which he was set apart, 1 Timothy 4:14.  He was entrusted with the truth.  He is commanded to guard that with which he was entrusted.  It seems as if we could easily surmise that he is in the middle of God’s will.

Paul, though, promises him increasing resistance and persecution.  Yeah, Paul skipped that motivation class.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

One Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

We have been looking at Paul’s warnings to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1 – 9.  He is reiterating to his key man the warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:30.  Having detailed the challenge, Paul now begins to tell his man how to best counter this coming, certain evil.  How to build a firewall against the impostors.
One Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

The first brick in the wall is for Timothy to remember.

Timothy is to remember what he experienced as he traveled with Paul on the second and third missionary journeys (a good study is to look at Acts 16 – 27 and observe what Timothy saw and heard, the “things” of 2 Timothy 2:2, which Paul entrusted to his child in the faith).  Paul has already exhorted Timothy to share what he learned from Paul with those in the community who will be able to equip others, 2 Timothy 2:2.

Throughout Paul’s letters he calls those into whom he has poured his life to follow his example:

  • 1 Corinthians 4:16
  • 1 Corinthians 11:1
  • Philippians 3:17
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:7
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9

In 2 Timothy 3:10 – 13, he reminds Timothy of his example, reminding him in the process, that the assignment Timothy has been given is hard.  He will be resisted.  He will be persecuted.  But, one of his defenses in the midst of this difficult assignment under the onslaught of evil men and impostors, is to remember and follow Paul’s example.

So for Timothy, also for us.  The Christian life is not a solo enterprise.  We need examples.  We need mentors.  As each of us, based on the great commission, should have a Timothy into whom we are pouring our life; the prerequisite for our helping “our Timothy,” is to have “our Paul.”  Who is helping or who helped you?

Not only are we to imitate those men of great faith; not only was Timothy to imitate Paul; but Timothy and we are to be examples for others.  Paul exhorts both of his key men to be an example for their communities:

  • 1 Timothy 4:12
  • Titus 2:7

As we have seen, we face the same challenges of which Paul warned his disciple, Timothy.  As Timothy needed a firewall against the impostors, so also do we.  One of the important elements for that firewall is both having and being a good example.

But before the second and most important brick Paul shares a promise and a final warning.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Disciples of Impostors (Firewall cont.)

In the past couple of days we have said that those whom Paul is calling out are not content with being evil men and impostors, they are committed to lead others in the way of their “godliness”.
Disciples of Impostors (Firewall cont.)
They do this by going after the women in the community.  As an aside and as a suggestion for further study, note how much of this last letter of Paul to his closest co-laborer focuses on ministry to women.

2 Timothy 3:7, has always been a passage that scared me.  In the past I have wrongly attributed Paul’s description to the teachers.  But he is not describing them.  He is describing the women who are following them.

Regardless, the description, “always learning but never able to come the knowledge of the truth”, should still cause us a great deal of discomfort if not abject terror.  The word that is translated “knowledge” here is ἐπίγνωσις (epignōsis).  This word plays a prominent role in 2 Peter 1:3 – 10.  In that passage it is translated “true knowledge” in verses 3 and 8 and seems to have a similar force in verse 2.  The sense is that this is a clear understanding of truth.  A recognition of what God is revealing in the text.  Those who are the disciples of the impostors are not able to recognize the truth.

This is not the first time we have seen this reality in the Scripture.  Jesus rebukes the Jews in John 5:39 – 47, because they have completely missed the point of the Word.  They did not recognize the truth.  James tells us in James 1:22 – 25, that if we are not applying the Word, doing, obeying, applying it to our lives, it has no effect on our lives.  Essentially, we are not recognizing the truth.

I have encountered people enmeshed in the teachings of impostors.  They were committed and could recite nearly by rote convoluted and complicated systems of “thought” that was the teaching of the impostors they followed.  They were so deeply engaged in the false teaching that they were unable to state what the text of the Bible said.  They read and interacted through the lens of the system they had learned.  In many cases completely distorting the plain meaning of the text or else significantly redefining words in the text from any supportable historical or contextual meaning.

Some of these impostors are with us today.

The deeply troubling truth is that none of us are immune from slipping into error of this kind.  Which is really Paul’s point is it not?

He has laid out the danger.  He has described the evil men and impostors.  He next gives us an example to follow and tells us how to build the firewall against the conflagration of error that he warned the elders from Ephesus would come from among their own number in Acts 20:30; which warning he is repeating to his beloved son here.

We will dive into those remedies for error in the next posts.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Form (Firewall cont.)

Yesterday we ended by saying that we would look more closely at the evil men and imposter’s commitment to have disciples, but as I have considered that it makes more sense to invest a bit more time in 2 Timothy 3:5 (remember I was pulled into this passage two weeks ago, so deep that I lost track of time).
A Form (Firewall cont.)
As we saw yesterday, those who are evil and impostors view themselves as godly.  Paul says that they hold to a “form” of godliness.  That word “form” is interesting.  The Greek is μόρφωσις (morphōsis).  The word is only twice in the New Testament, here and Romans 2:20.  The word only shows up two or three times in the Koine literature which is used to help understand the different shades of meaning when we are digging deeper into the text.  So there is not much on which we can build our understanding.  The best practice then is to look at how Paul uses the term in those contexts.

When we look at the text, in both instances Paul is describing those who are either mishandling God’s Word or blatantly false teachers.  In Romans 2:20, Paul is rebuking those Jews who are using the Law to correct others, while not following it themselves.  Sounds like hypocrisy does it not?

In 2 Timothy 3:5, people who are evil and impostors are claiming godliness for their lifestyle.

It seems that in both cases we are dealing with those who have a skewed view of either God or the Christian life.  I get the mental picture of building a form in which to poor a concrete pad.  I need a square but the lumber used is warped, the sides are not straight and the angles are not ninety degrees.  If I were the people in Romans 2:20 I would be teaching people how to make a square form, correcting them when I had failed to make mine correctly.  If I were the evil and impostors of 2 Timothy 3:5, I would be holding my misshapen form out as the only true way to make a square form.

There are those today who fit in both categories.  Those who demand and teach what they are incapable of doing themselves, and those who portray a warped view of the Bible or Christianity as the truth.  Paul is warning us that this is the reality that we face as his apprentice Timothy did in Ephesus.

Later he tells us how to build the firewall.  But first, we need to look more closely at the evil men and impostors – tomorrow…

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Firewall cont.

Look with me at 2 Timothy 3:1 – 5.  In verse 1 Paul makes a general statement that he then unpacks in the next eight verses.
Firewall cont.
Paul warns Timothy, and by extension us, that things do not get better.  In fact, the last days, based on Paul’s description, seems to be a lush Petri dish for the growth of evil men and imposters.

Paul’s description of these men is detailed and reads like the character traits of some of our more prominent celebrities, politicians, and, unfortunately, some who present themselves as ministers of the gospel:
  • Lovers of self
  • Lovers of money
  • Boastful
  • Arrogant
  • Revilers
  • Disobedient to parents
  • Ungrateful
  • Unholy
  • Unloving
  • Irreconcilable
  • Malicious gossips
  • Without self –control
  • Brutal
  • Haters of good
  • Treacherous
  • Reckless
  • Conceited
  • Lovers of pleasure
  • Not lovers of God
I do not want any of that list applied to me.  However, I can see in my own life pulls in the direction of some of those characteristics.  Further, I can put the names of some men who are otherwise effective in ministry next to several of those traits.  It scares me.

But what makes this more incredibly and deeply horrifying is Paul’s summation in verse 5.  Those whom he is describing with this list view their life as “godly”.  They profess godliness.  Paul tells us that they don’t get it, but they are presenting themselves as godly while living out the reality of Paul’s list.

But they are not content to simply live a life of “godliness”.  They are looking for disciples.  We will look more closely at that tomorrow.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Firewall

The Plan
I started this blog post about two weeks ago.  Typically, these emerge out of my time with the Lord in my quiet time or my Bible study.  I will review my journal and look for something that really grabbed my attention.  Then I will go back to the passage to make sure that I am not misrepresenting the text.
Firewall
When I turned to 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17 to review and check what I had written in my journal something happened that I hope has happened to you.  I was pulled into the text.  It would not let go of me.  In fact I have been thinking about this passage, well actually the entire chapter, for the past couple of weeks.

The Structure
In the NASB the first two words in 2 Timothy 3:14 are, “You, however…”  If you have been reading this blog much you will know that one of the things to which we continually return is the importance of observation in our engagement with the Bible.  Structure is incredibly powerful in aiding our observation of a text.  Here, Paul, uses a strong, emphatic contrast.  That contrast, begs the question, “What is Paul contrasting here?”  That question, of course, forces us to go back and reexamine the first part of the chapter.

When we look back there are several stunning elements in those previous verses that lend enormous weight to 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17.

In the next few days we will examine this in some detail.  In the meantime take some time, look at 2 Timothy 3, jot down your thoughts, and let’s compare notes.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Intentional Focus

In one of the studies in which I am privileged to engage we are in 1 Timothy 4 this week.  Look at 1 Timothy 4:12 – 16.  Verse 12 is the one with which you are probably most familiar.
Intentional Focus

As you know the New Testament was written mostly in Greek.  Paul’s letters were all in Greek.  The verbs in Greek carry much of the weight in communicating the intent of the author.  In our study of the text then, it is most helpful, and important, that we pay attention to the verbs, particularly those directed to Timothy.  Those are:
  • Let (no one) look down on
  • Show yourself
  • Give attention
  • Do not neglect
  • Take pains
  • Be absorbed
  • Pay close attention
  • Persevere
All of these but the first are second person singular present active imperative, the first is third person singular present active imperative.  We will not engage in defining all of those terms, but the last three.  Present tense can have many nuances but here is continual action.  Active voice indicates Paul intends for Timothy to perform the root action of the verb.  Imperative mood, is as you might suspect, a command.  Paul is directing Timothy to personally see to these actions continuously.

So what?  We could say that Timothy has a lot of responsibility as a leader of the church in Ephesus, and as far as that goes we would be correct.

However, based on the object of the second verb, show yourself, Timothy is to be an example.  Paul tells us in multiple places that we are to follow his example:
  • 1 Corinthians 10:11
  • Philippians 3:17
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:7
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9
Not only does he command Timothy to be an example here, but also he commands Titus to as well in  Titus 2:7.

So?

This is Paul following Christ’s command in Matthew 28:18 – 20, is it not?  Christ expects His disciples, which based on John 17:20, includes us, to teach all that He commanded as part of the process of making disciples.

That would seem to suggest that those imperatives Paul addressed to Timothy, are addressed to each of us as well.

Think about that.  Is that the focus of all of the believers in your community?  Or has that focus been delegated to those who are paid staff or have taken on the mantle of teacher?  It would seem that if Paul’s exhortation does apply to all of us, and I would strongly suggest that it does, that it becomes a practical corollary to Matthew 6:33 for all of us.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Dark Day

Yesterday, some time back, Christ was crucified.  The Son of God killed.  Placed in a tomb.
The Dark Day

The next day, today, was dark.  His disciples hid.  Their hopes, even though they were hoping for the wrong things, dashed.  Depressed, dejected, in despair.

Some days, some weeks, some months, some years, we seem to be in the dark.

Tomorrow is coming.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hard Painful Lessons

Some time ago I was nearly praying constantly for a group of people.  They were facing a difficult situation, decision, and I was deeply concerned about their choices and welfare.
Hard Painful Lessons
In the process of working through this with them I approached some of the members of the group for an update on their progress toward a solution.  The people I asked questioned my motives for asking.  It seemed that they thought I was going to use that information against the group.

Their response both shocked and hurt, hurt deeply.

I found my zeal to pray for the group and the difficulties they were facing impacted.  It was if the air had been let out of my passion to pray for them.  When I turned to pray for them the questioning of my motives laid like a pall over my halting intercession.

A few months later I was reminded of Christ’s interaction with His disciples in John 13:1 – 4.  The context and reality of what Jesus was facing there is stunning.  He knows what is about to transpire.  He knows that those whose feet He is about to wash are going to betray and abandon Him.  With that certain knowledge He gets up, girds Himself, and engages in menial service to those who in a few short hours will fail Him.

I was filleted.

The desperate weakness of my heart was in full display.  The group was not responding to me in any form that would even remotely compare to the disciples abandonment and betrayal of Christ, yet my feeble prayers for them were hindered.  I was and still am ashamed of the shallowness of heart revealed.

I would love to report that I have fully repented of the weakness of both my faith and the practice thereof, but that would be disingenuous.  My prayer increased.  But there were still vestiges of my poor reaction to their rebuff.

I am so grateful, so completely overcome with gratitude that our Lord does not respond to us the way I respond to others attitudes and actions toward me.  It has become one of my prayers that I become more like Him.  Like John said in John 3:30, it is a must for me, He must increase, I must decrease.  My only hope is for His life to fill and overwhelm mine.

Monday, April 10, 2017

No More Veil

Compare Exodus 40:3 and Matthew 27:51 (also Mark 15:38 and Luke 23:45).  As we look forward to this Easter Sunday, it would be good to take some time to seriously and intentionally reflect on the import of Christ’s work for us.
No More Veil
From the time God began to reveal Himself to His chosen people, Israel; from the time He began to tabernacle among them in the detailed design He commanded, directed, and equipped them to build; there was a separation between God and His people.  There was a veil between Him and His people.  At first only Moses came to Him on their behalf.  Then a priest, but only once a year.

The access to Him was veiled, barred, close, but distant.  The people where shielded from the overwhelming majesty of His presence.

Christ’s death, which we remember this Friday, changed that, immediately, permanently.  The veil, the obstruction, the distance was torn in two, removed.  The presence of God, man’s relationship with Him was radically changed.

Whereas before, only the High Priest had access, once a year.  Now the way, John 14:6, was clear, wide open, available for anyone to enter.  No longer was a sacrifice necessary.  The ultimate sacrifice, the perfect sacrifice was made to clear the way.

We only have to choose to walk through the torn veil.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Help for the Pathetic (me)

I have said before here that I am not a great prayer warrior.  Prayer is hard for me.  I find myself in the company of the apostles in the garden with Christ, falling asleep after a few minutes of “deep” intercession.
Help for the Pathetic (me)
The good news, at least for me, is that as bad as I am I get some really excellent help.

I was in Psalm 5:1 the other day and I was struck by the word “groaning,” it immediately brought to mind Romans 8:26 – 27.  There we read that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with “groanings” to deep for words.  Note, by the way the reason the Spirit prays for us, “We do not know how to pray as we should.”  The encouraging thing here for me is that Paul includes himself in that category.  Paul the one whose prayer life has been the subject of really good books and whose prayers I have been using as a model to pray for others.

But there was more.  The Spirit prays for us, intercedes for us according to the will of God.  That led me to 1 John 5:14 - 15, which tells us that when we ask according to His will, He hears us, and we have that for which we ask.  So whatever it is that the Spirit is praying for us, is granted.

But there was more.  Paul ups the ante – well actually the Spirit does, look at 2 Peter 1:20 – 21 – in Romans 8:34, Paul tells us that in addition to the Spirit interceding for us, Christ is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.

Gives me hope.

I am bad at this.  But the assistance I am getting from both the Spirit and Christ – I find myself at a loss for words to express the magnitude of that incredible, priceless reality.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Finding

John 14:6 is a passage you probably have memorized.  It is perhaps only slightly less well known than John 3:16.
Finding
As I read this the other day, it occurred to me that the import of this passage is that no matter what we are seeking in this life, Jesus is the fulfillment of that search.

If we are seeking purpose, He is the way.

If we are seeking reality, He is the truth.

If we are seeking meaning, fulfillment, health, healing, happiness, significance, He is the life.

The search is over, we should be about finding.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Insulation

What is the purpose of insulation?

Insulation reduces the ability of an atmosphere either inside or outside a building to escape out or penetrate in.  It isolates us, puts a barrier between us and a climate.  It allows us to control our surroundings and our immediate atmosphere.
That’s great.  Life is better with insulation.

The Christian life however is not better with insulation.
Christ commands us to abide in His Word.  John 8:31 – 32; John 15:7 are examples of this.  There are so many more that it would be more than a little redundant.  Both the old and new testaments are full of examples, Psalm 119 is a prime example.

But it seems that many of us are insulating ourselves from the Word of God.  How?  We use secondary sources rather than engage directly with God’s Word.
  • We need to honor those who share the Word with us, we should listen to good messages, but that message is not the Word of God.  Hopefully it is the result of the messenger’s personal engagement with the Word, but it may not be.  Some people who speak are sharing what they read in other secondary sources.  Either way, it is not direct involvement with the Word, there is a layer of insulation, not all of it is getting through.
  • Fill in the blank or other types of Bible study guides are really helpful.  I have used them and in some cases still do.  But in those studies someone else has directly engaged with the Scripture and is leading you through what they learned.  You are being steered in the direction of their conclusions both by the references they ask you to consult, and the questions they ask about those passages.  Again, a layer of insulation…
  • I am currently reading through two or three books that deal with Biblical topics.  If you could see my office you would note that I am literally surrounded by books and my Bible program has hundreds more in its library.  While I am helped by those books, they are, again, someone else’s work.  Someone else dug into the text and wrote what they saw.  I can benefit, but it is a layer of insulation between me and the text.
The point of all of this is that as good as some speakers, study guides, and Christian books may be, they cannot be our primary input.  They are not even a pale substitute for diving into the Word on our own to work through a verse, a chapter, a book, a topic, or a character.

The challenge is that many of us have not been shown how.  That is the purpose of this ministry.  If you need help with this, let me know.  I will help you take down the insulation.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Miracles

I have not written since the 10th because I have been living answered prayer, miracles.
Miracles
I have mentioned earlier in this blog that our family has been facing several life and death issues in the past seven months.  One of our children experienced a miscarriage, my wife’s mother passed away, my father had a car wreck that fractured several ribs, had emergency surgery, was hospitalized, was hospitalized and passed away, while I was admitted into the same hospital.

Over all of that one of our children was diagnosed with cancer when 9 weeks pregnant.  All of these together have taken us through a significant school of prayer.  The lessons learned in that area are too numerous to name.

Last weekend child who was pregnant with cancer delivered a healthy baby girl, 9 weeks early, after undergoing 6 chemo treatments.  The child graded out in the NICU four weeks older than she was at birth.  Her weight was double that of other children born in the same conditions.

Overwhelmed, thankful does not capture our emotion.  We are still dealing with the cancer, but at a level that is less than we anticipated, another miracle.  There are still significant needs, we still need one more miracle.  We are trusting Him.

However, Daniel 3:17 – 18, is guiding us.  He is able and has provided us with several miracles in the course of this stretch.  We trust Him.  We beseech Him.  But, regardless, we are thankful for His grace, mercy, and engagement with us.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Just or Fair?


Just or Fair?

Amos 5:24 is one of 27 times that the Hebrew word that is rendered “justice” in our Bibles appears in the minor prophets (Hosea, Amos, Micah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Zechariah, Malachi).
How would you define “just”?

A quick look at the web suggests that the current understanding of the Word is similar to the definition of “fair”.  Fair is a concept that is talked about in politics, social media, and a myriad of other venues.

However, God is never described as “fair.”  That is not the force of the Hebrew word.  A quick survey of all of the uses of מִשְׁפָּט (mispat) seem to suggest that the term means alignment with the law.  It is not fair in the sense that it is normally used today.  It means compliance to the law.

Since in the Bible God is the source of the Law, one could suggest that “just” is in alignment with His nature and character.

It is not a subjective concept.  However, fair, seems to be.  There is significant debate on what is fair.  However, one is either in compliance with a law or one is not.

There seems to be a distinct difference.  Which begs the question, “Why is justice, so central in these books?”

Friday, March 10, 2017

Passive Christianity

I have sat on this for about three weeks but it won’t go away.  It seems to me that many in our communities are passive Christians.  In this context a passive Christian would be one who is continually taking in information.  Continually perhaps, even regularly listening to messages, reading Christian literature, and attending Christian events.  In other words high levels of preprocessed input.
Passive Christianity
However, a passive Christian is not personally engaged in self-feeding on the Word of God.  They are committed to what the writer of Hebrews refers to as milk, Hebrews 5:11 – 14.

What is milk?  Predigested and processed protein.  Someone else has done the eating of the meat.  There are all kinds of Christian milk available.  Books about the Bible, fill in the blank studies, messages on mp3, blogs, studies on disk, all of which I have used and from which I have derived benefit.  However, that, according to Hebrews 5:11 – 14, should not be our primary or continual input.  We are supposed to grow past that.  We are supposed to graduate to meat.  (By the way this is repeated in 1 Corinthians 3:1 - 3.)

How?

Practice.  We are to engage in the Word personally.  We move.  The word train here, is the Greek word from which we derive gymnasium.  We should be working out in the word.

But those in the Christian communities have to be equipped, they – well all of us – need personal trainers.  At the gym we need help to understand how to exercise properly.  We need that so we do not injure ourselves.  In our walk with God, we need people to equip us in how to study the Word for ourselves, that seems to be what Paul is suggesting in Ephesians 4:11 - 16.  In the New Testament we read that is exactly what the disciples did they showed people how.  They did not just tell them what.

All this brought the image above to mind.  In the movie Wall-E the people never moved.  They never ate solid food.  They were addicted to milk.  It was the robots that moved.  It was the robots that served.  The people didn’t even turn their heads to speak to one another, they used their media.

Perhaps it is time for some meat eating practice.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

More Parallels

Look at Job 35:16 and 1 Timothy 1:6 – 7.
More Parallels

In both cases the notion is that people are speaking without knowledge of what they speak.  If we are honest with ourselves we have all done that at one time or another.  I know that I have.  Or I speak beyond what I know making extensions to the topic for which I have no real knowledge.

Another, error I make is repeating what others have said or written without checking to see if they have used the data in a manner consistent with the intent of the author.

I had a seminal experience in seminary.  In one intercession class, we read two books by well-known Christian authors.  They were on opposite sides of a debate.  We looked at the sources they quoted as well as the passages they cited as support for their positions.

Both authors mishandled their source material; either misquoting or misrepresenting the context or import of their citation.  Both also, at some level, did not handle the Scripture carefully.

That experience emphasized to me that just because a well-known author has written and been published by a reputable publisher, does not mean that what they have written will withstand Biblical examination.  My conclusion was and is that I must lean on the Bible.  I can read and benefit from the thoughts of authors, and I read rather extensively.  But, I am responsible to validate what I read Biblically.  If I quote or use their material without first checking their work, I am in danger of opening my mouth emptily and multiplying words without knowledge…

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Parallel

Parallel
Page out of my journal noticing the parallels...
You ever notice that there are passages that are nearly parallel in their meaning and even in their vocabulary?

I noticed this the other day reading through 1 Corinthians 3:1 – 3.  It occurred to me that Hebrews 5:12 – 14 was nearly word for word the same.

It seems to me that when the messages of two passages are that close, we perhaps should pay attention.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Intentional Encouragement

Yesterday I shared some more on the concept of negative prep.  We are going through that at the moment, have been for some time.  I struggled with this last night in prayer.  I have learned over the past months that it is better to praise, to worship God, to seek Him rather than seek what He can do for me.  So a lot of what I did last evening was focused on that aspect of our relationship – there was also weeping.
Intentional Encouragement

This morning – and I cannot count the number of times this has happened – I opened my journal and recorded the current events that precipitated the struggle.  Then I wrote down the passages from the reading program I use, prayed Psalm 119:18 and started reading.

Job 36:13, was in the reading today.  That started me on a journey.  The way that works, normally, is the Lord brings passages to mind that support or extend the thought.  It happened again this morning.  The Lord took me to:
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • Hebrews 12:10 – 11
  • Ephesians 2:10
There were a couple of others that came to mind, Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 1:5, but the essence was in those first four passages.

When we are in trouble, stress, difficult circumstances, we have to cry out to the Lord.  He is in control, He brought those circumstances into our lives for a reason.  The promise, the reality has at least two component upon which we can absolutely depend.

First, He will not take us through circumstances that are beyond our ability to endure (as I am writing this more passages are coming to mind, Romans 5:3 – 5 and James 1:2 - 4).  Second, those circumstances, those difficulties have at least three purposes:
  1. To share His holiness.
  2. To produce the fruit of righteousness in our life.
  3. To equip us for the specific purpose He intends for our life.
By this I am not in any way diminishing the pain or difficulty of some of the trials.  No, they are difficult and often painful.  But, in the midst of those trials the anchor is that there is purposeful intention that is guided by the love, goodness, and faithfulness of our Lord.

It is to that I can confidently cling.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Negative Prep

In 1987 I was going through a difficult transition from a ministry that I loved into something that was as yet undefined.  It was a painful and traumatic time.  During that period I met with Bobby Clinton, the author of The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development.
Negative Prep
He listened to my story and in a few minutes shared what he called, "negative prep".  The idea is that God was pushing me out of the ministry I loved so that I would be able to do the next thing that He wanted me to do.  Over the past 30 years Clinton has been proven correct in spades.

There are Biblical examples of this.  One is in Exodus 1:12 – 13.  Israel grew so much under affliction that the Egyptians were in dread of them.  Further, the difficult labor that they were given prepared them for the rigors of the exodus.  It physically prepared them for the hardship of walking while carrying all that they had as they fled Egypt.

For the past seven months we have been experiencing a difficult time.  The details are not important.  What is important in the midst of any difficulty is to remember Bobby Clinton’s term, “negative prep,” and to hold tight to the One who is preparing us.

He is good.  He loves us.  Even when things seem the darkest, we can know that He is committed to our preparation for His purposes.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Him With Us

Note: There was a pretty significant typo in yesterday's post.  I listed the wrong passages in Luke.  I have fixed that if you want to check out what I meant to say...

You probably have Matthew 28:18 – 20 memorized.  You know that the promise that accompanies that command is the Lord will be with as we obey to the end of the age.  I my reading in the past month I have seen that theme thread through the Bible.
Him With Us

Look at:
Exodus 3:11 – 12
Mark 3:14
John 14:16
John 14:26
John 16:7 – 15

The implications seem to be that when He calls us or assigns us a task, ministry, etc.  He is there with us throughout.

Some of the tasks are difficult.  I am pretty sure that without His presence, I would fail.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Given the Words

There are three passages that connected for me a few weeks ago.  I don’t know how it works for you but when I am working through the Word if there is a passage that is really speaking to me it tends to remind me of other passages I have studied or read.
Given the Words
Sometimes I remember where they are.  Other times I have to search for them.  I use my Bible program to find them.  Often I do not remember the exact wording.  So I have to search for a phrase or combination of words.

In just about every case the effort reinforces the message that the Lord has pointed out in the original passage.

Here are the three, in order:

  • Exodus 4:11 – 13
  • Luke 12:11
  • Luke 21:12 – 15

You’ll note the last two are connected.  That is because Luke 12:11 was the passage I remembered, the other was a cross reference after I located the passage – it is always a good idea to look at the context…

I was overseas a while back.  I was in a country that is hostile to Christianity.  We had been called to the police station.  Walking over there I was thinking of this passage and wondering what hymns Paul and Silas were singing in Acts 16:25.  It turned out that we did not need hymns.  The police were “concerned for the American’s safety”.  They wanted money from the people who had rented the house to us.

Regardless, these passages remind me that I am completely dependent on the Lord for the words I say.  Not just when under duress.  I need to be trusting Him even when, perhaps more so, I am engaged in discussions with believers.  Whether it is about our walk with God or our service for Him together, I need to trust Him for His words, His leading, not my words or ideas.

That requires, more than anything that I know, to do what Paul exhorts us to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

Too often I engage my tongue before my prayer is in gear.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Remember this Day

Look at Exodus 13:3 – 16.
Remember this Day

The Lord is commanding, exhorting, emphasizing to the nation of Israel that they are to remember that He, with a powerful hand, brought them out of slavery in Egypt.

Four times in those verses He reminds them of what He did, what they are supposed to remember.

They didn’t.

In a matter of days they were grumbling that He brought them out to die.

I tend to forget what God has done for me.  Latent Israeli tendencies I suppose.

He has done so much more for me.  He died for me.  He rose breaking the power of death for me.  He lavished His Spirit on me.  He has brought people into my life who have instructed and mentored me.  He has guided me and formed me for His purposes that He set for me before the foundation of the world.

Yet I forget.  Yet I grumble.  I need to remember.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Entrusted Stewardship

I have mentioned 1 Corinthians 9:17 once before.  It will withstand another look.
Entrusted Stewardship

In Chapter 9, one of the things Paul is sharing is his commitment to evangelism, sharing the gospel.  He views his responsibility for the gospel as a sacred trust.  In fact in 2 Timothy 2:2 he uses a financial term that describes trusts in describing what Timothy is to give to those whom he is equipping.

The great commission tells us that we are all, like Paul, entrusted with what Jesus taught the disciples.  That is validated by Christ’s prayer in John 17:20.  We share that trust that was given to Paul.

Paul was gifted.  He was at least gifted in teaching, exhorting, and probably as an evangelist,  My gifts include exhortation and leadership, but not evangelism.  But that does not absolve me of the responsibility, the trust, the requirement to share the gospel.

Regardless if I do it voluntarily or as a stewardship, it is still my assignment.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Who Hardened Whom?

If you read through Exodus 7 – 12 you will read several times that Pharaoh hardened his heart or his heart was hardened by the Lord (if you want specifics here is a list of the passages).
Who Hardened Whom?

Paul refers to this situation in Romans 9:17.  If we look at Exodus 7 – 12 from Pharaoh’s point of view.  He was calling the shots, he was the one who was hardening his heart.  Yet if we look at it from God’s perspective, according to the text both in Exodus 7 – 12 and Romans 9:17, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

Why?

That God’s name would be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.

Proverbs 21:1 supports this as well.  God has control and can direct the heart of a king.

It struck me that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted by man’s choices.  He is not bound by the whims or decisions of man.  He can and does channel those thoughts and choices, as illustrated here with Pharaoh.

One application of this personally, is that I can rest in that truth.  When I am faced with a difficult leader, boss, person, situation, I can know for certain that God’s purpose in that situation cannot be stopped.  I also, based on 1 John 4:16 – 17 and Romans 8:28, can trust that the situation is a manifestation of God’s love and goodness.

That is an anchor for me in difficulty.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Corollary to Grace in the Midst

Yesterday we looked at Exodus 9:16 (I won’t rehearse the point).  There is more.
Corollary to Grace in the Midst

Look at Exodus 10:1 – 2, while it is the case that the purposes of God in all that He does that we experience, either good or bad, is to reveal His nature and character to the world.  Look at what He expects from us.

“…that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the LORD”

We are expected to relate to our children and their children what we have seen God do in and for our lives.

Men that is primarily your responsibility.  Look at Deuteronomy 6:4 – 7, 20 – 21.

Incredible opportunity and assignment.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Grace in the Midst

Exodus 9:14 – 16 is just after the sixth plague that God sends on Egypt.  It wasn’t a good time to be an Egyptian.  Reading through this section at some level it was like reading Revelation 6 – 11 and 16.  God is raining significant difficulty down on His creation.
Grace in the Midst

Why?

In the midst of Exodus 9:14 – 16 there is purpose given that is stunning:

“…in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.”

One purpose of the plagues, the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls is to reveal God.  It is to draw people to Him, to demonstrate His power and nature.

Man is stubborn.  Committed to disobedience.  In Genesis 7, God wiped out the world and started over.  He promises in Genesis 8:21 He will never do that again until He creates the new heaven and the new earth, 2 Peter 3:10 – 16.

In the meantime, when He sends difficulty, the purpose is to demonstrate to us, this stubborn people, that it is He who is in control.  It is, as Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:15, a call to us to accept His grace.  To acknowledge our rebellion and come to Him and have our relationship restored.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Taken Away

The parable of the soils, or the sower, is one of my favorite passages.  It shows up in Matthew 13:2 – 23; Mark 4:3 – 20; and Luke 8:4 – 15.  My reading project this year took me through the Luke version a few days ago.
Taken Away

As many times as I have read, studied, and shared this parable, I saw something that I had not seen before.

In both Mark and Luke’s account they record Jesus following the soil/sower with the lamp under a bushel parable, Mark 4:21 – 25 and Luke 8:16 – 18.  There is a phrase in Luke that is repeated in both parables.  Look at the middle of Luke 8:12 and the end of Luke 8:18.

  • Luke 8:12 – “takes away the word from their heart”
  • Luke 8:18 – “even what he 1thinks he has shall be taken away from him.”

In verse 12, the devil takes away the word because the ground is hard.  In verse 18, the one who hides light has what he thinks he has taken away.  The repetition of that idea of the word and what one has taken away is not accidental.  Not accidental, that is, if we hold to what the Bible says about the Spirit inspiring every Scripture.

That association seems to indicate that hiding what we know has the same effect as the Word of God falling on hardened ground.

When I consider this, it is congruent with Christ’s commission to us is it not?  We are to both share all that we know of Him with others, Matthew 18:18 – 20, and we are to be about seeking His kingdom first, Matthew 6:33.

I missed that connection here.

I was too focused on one part of the passage and missed the connection in the context.  It reminds me that I need to continually look at the passages surrounding those I am studying or sharing with others.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

What’s the Rush

Ever find your mind wandering during the time you are supposed to be having your devotional?  Ever feel like you have to speed it up because you have more important things to do?
What’s the Rush
I have.

I find that the enemy knows me pretty well.  He knows how to distract me.  He does all that he can to keep me out of the Word and especially from thinking and praying through what I am reading.  He brings projects to mind.  He reminds me of stuff that I haven’t finished or need to get done.  He shares a great idea with me that has to be written down or I will forget it.

I find myself thinking I need to speed this up and get to what is really important.

Really?

You remember Mary and Martha in Luke 10:40 – 41.  Jesus told Martha what was important.  Hint, it wasn’t getting on with the day’s business.

Everyone I know is busy.  All of us have calendars that tend to get full – quickly.  We are always in a rush.  We are always connected – where is your cell phone?  Right?

In John 15:1 – 16 the word that is translated abide or remain in your Bible is repeated 11 times.  That may suggest it is important; don’t you think?  Observation, it takes time to abide.  One cannot be moving and remain.

It is counter to the times to slow down.  We are encouraged to do everything faster, more efficiently, and better.

Perhaps we need to reconsider Matthew 6:33 in light of the message of Luke 10:40 – 41 and John 15:1 – 16.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Joy

Yesterday I asked you to look at John 15:11 and 1 John 1:3 – 4.
Joy

What did you see?

Did you notice that John said essentially the same thing that Jesus said?  Think about that.

John was physically in the presence of Jesus Christ for 3 years.  Yet, his joy is not complete unless he shares Jesus with us.  Further he states that if we accept his message, we have the same relationship with Jesus that he has.

Mind blowing.

It is also what Jesus prayed for him and for us in John 17:20 – 21.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Men of Understanding

A while back my reading program took me through 1 Chronicles 12:32.  I was struck by the two fold description of the sons of Issachar:

Men of Understanding
  • Men who understood the times
  • Men who knew what Israel should do

Is that not what we need in the Body today?  Understanding and wise direction on what to do.  The difference is that our assignment is to seek His Kingdom, Matthew 6:33.  The New Testament seems to have several men who understood and knew.

Paul leaps to mind as one of these.  1 Corinthians 9:19 – 23 describes his mindset.  He does all for the sake of the gospel.  What drives him, was introducing people to Jesus.  It wasn’t getting ahead as a tent maker.  It wasn’t getting recognized as a great orator.  It wasn’t gaining the respect of the other apostles.  It wasn’t even getting along with everyone.  He was laser focused on doing all that he could to introduce people to Christ.

John was the same way.  I will expand that tomorrow.  In prep look at John 15:11 and 1 John 1:3 – 4.

It seems to me we may need more men like this in our midst.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sorry for Your Loss

As I mentioned yesterday I cannot count the number of times people have said that to us in the past month.  It is a good thing to say, appropriate, nothing wrong with those words, or the thoughts behind them.
Sorry for Your Loss
Dad with 4 of his 7 greatgrandchildren
However, at a significant level this was not a loss for us.

Mom fell at home 10  years ago and was home with the Lord six hours later.  Dad watched her fall.  For the past 10 years he would break into tears at “odd” times.  At 0538 on January 21st, his tears became those of joy.

Mom and dad experienced five miscarriages between me and my brother.  There were five children that dad never knew.  Mom has been with them for the past 10 years.  At 0538 on January 21st, dad met those five people for the first time.

During the first of August my oldest son and his wife experienced a miscarriage.  Mom has been with that greatgrandchild for the past seven months.  At 0538 on January 21st, dad met his greatgrandchild.

Also his sister, her son, his mom, his dad, his mother in law, and many more of whom I am not aware.

James 4:13 – 14, reminds us that this life is a vapor, it vanishes after a little while.  Psalm 78:39, describes our life as a wind that passes and does not return.  Job 7:7, 16, describes this as a breath.

Dad missed being with mom, those kids, and his greatgrandchild for part of a breath.  He will spend eternity with them in the presence of Jesus.  How is that a loss?  For him an immeasurable gain.

For us, sure.

But for me to focus on loss in light of all that dad is experiencing now seems epically selfish.  Rather, at a significant level, I am jealous.

I have struggled with Philippians 1:21.  I am beginning to understand more and more Paul’s heart.

So while it is still a good thing to say.  It does not capture the full reality of the situation for one who has accepted Christ’s gift of eternal life.  I am going to be apart from dad for part of a breath.  We will spend eternity together with all of the above members of our family and countless brothers and sisters in Christ.  The loss is fleeting.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Death with Dignity?

Getting his first chemo treatment
Yesterday I shared that my dad passed away on the 21st of last month.  There are many who talk about death with dignity.  My dad was dignified.  More times than I can count the week after his passing he was described to us as a southern gentleman.  He was always concerned about whether he was dressed properly.  It was not an issue of pride but more a conviction that he had to continually put his best foot forward.

He was a hero especially to his unit in WWII.  For a better picture of this you can read what I said at the funeral here.

His death though was anything but dignified.  For the last several weeks of his life he was increasingly unable to care for himself.  He needed help to bathe.  He needed help to go to the bathroom.  He was an incredibly modest and proper man.  In those weeks he was helped by some really gracious people.  All of them were women.  While he never complained, I know he was embarrassed.

When I got to his room the morning of the 21st there were four medical personnel working on him.  They had the hospital bed sitting up and he was leaning to his left with his head tilted forward and his mouth open as if he was gasping for air.  He was unresponsive.  There was some black matter on the front of his gown.  It seemed that it had finally come out of his lungs.

A few minutes later he was gone.

This hero, this man who had been described as a southern gentleman, who was always concerned about making sure that his external presentation matched his commitment to excellence in all that he did, in his final moments had been exposed, had expelled matter from his lungs, and had lost control of his body.

Dignity.  No.

We were not created to physically die.  Physical death is the consequence of rebellion against God, Romans 6:23.  We were created in the image of an infinite God.  We were meant to live with Him forever.  Our choice of sin resulted in our eventual physical death.  However, our soul continues to live on.  In dad’s case, he had trusted Christ.  He had accepted that he needed Christ’s death as a substitution and payment for his sin.  So as he took his last breath, he entered into the presence of His savior.

There is dignity in that.

Not in the consequence of our sin.

Since dad has passed away many people have told us they were sorry for our loss.  I want to share some thoughts on that tomorrow.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Death

Death
The last post was on January 16th.  That was my dad’s 94th birthday.  On Wednesday the 18th, my wife and I were driving to his home in Huntsville, Texas.  We were going to take him to M. D. Anderson for his appointment on the 19th.  He was to have blood work and a PET scan to re-stage his cancer.

We were about a third of the way through the 7 hour drive when we got a call from my brother.  He told us that we needed to take dad to M. D. Anderson as soon as we got to Huntsville, he was having trouble breathing and had pneumonia in his right lung.

When we got to my dad’s home, I was shocked to see how weak he was.  It took a major effort to get him from the kitchen table to the car.  We got to MDA at about 6 PM.  We went through the emergency room triage and finally got to a room at around midnight.  The first doctor that saw him in the ER felt that his condition was caused by a resurgence of his cancer and that he would probably not last the week and possibly that night.  She asked one of her colleagues to consult.  The second doctor felt that he was stronger and that we should be able to deal with the breathing and get him well enough to return home.  The first doctor was right.

I am not going to share the details, but shortly after dad was hospitalized, so was I.  I was in isolation two floors below him.  The last time I saw him conscious was in the ER before we were both assigned our rooms.

My wife stayed with dad for the entire time he was in his room.  Saturday morning at about 5:20 AM my wife came to my room and told me to get to dad’s room, he was in respiratory distress.  I had to gown up, put on gloves and a mask.  The nurse helped me and helped get me and my IV tree to dad’s room.  Five minutes later, at 5:38 AM he went home.

Since August first, our family has experienced a miscarriage, a pregnancy concurrent with an aggressive form of cancer, emergency surgery for my dad, my mother in law experiencing a massive stroke and subsequent death, my father’s final hospitalization and death, and my concurrent hospitalization with my father.

It has been an interesting six months.

There are some things I wish to share from this.  Things that the Lord has led us through.  Things that deal with life and death.

I will start that tomorrow.

Monday, January 16, 2017

No Return

Something that will help you in the first step of any Bible study, observation, is to look for repetition.  In the Bible repetition is a bit like the teacher stomping their foot at the front of the class to let you know that something may show up on the test.
No Return
For instance in John 15:1 – 16, abide is repeated 11 times; fruit is repeated 8 times.  So what is emphasized there?

A similar emphasis shows up in Amos 4:6 – 13.  There a phrase is repeated 5 times, “‘Yet you have not returned to Me’, declares the Lord.”  That is not just a device by the publishers of your Bible to make a point, the Hebrew in each case is identical (וְלֹֽא־שַׁבְתֶּ֥ם עָדַ֖י נְאֻם־יְהוָֽה).  Read through that passage, it is sobering.

The Lord is calling Israel to repentance.  He is disciplining them.  He has disciplined them with:

  • Famine
  • Drought
  • Crop Destruction
  • Plague
  • Overthrown by God

The result of this discipline?  Israel refused to return, to repent.

We read in Hebrews 12:4 – 13 that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves.  He does so, according to the text, so that we can share His holiness.  We read in James 1:2 – 4 that trials are to be considered joy, because they produce endurance.  Paul agrees with James in Romans 5:3 – 5.  These trials and discipline are to refine us, increase our faith, help us to endure.

It would serve us well to embrace James’, Paul’s, and the writer of Hebrew’s advice.  Lean into the trials, the discipline while praying like David did in Psalm 139:23 – 24.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Closely Girded Word

Romans 15:4 tells us that what we read in the Old Testament was written both to instruct us and to give us hope.  Many of us do not spend a great deal of time studying or reading through those 39 books.  We spend most of our time in the New Testament…  Remember, though, for the writers of the New Testament, the Scriptures were those 39 books.  So we should be instructed.  We do need do so with care.  We need to make sure that we do not take ideas out of context nor should we allegorize what we read.
The Closely Girded Word

That being said, and attempting to follow my own advice, look at Psalm 149:6.  I was stunned by this passage.  The combination of high praise and a two-edged sword was striking.  When we imagine worship, at least when I imagine worship, I think more in terms of guitars than swords.

That terminology reoccurs in Hebrews 4:12.  There the Word of God is referred to as a two edged sword.  In Nehemiah 4:17, those building the wall with Nehemiah are portrayed as carrying their work out with one hand while holding a sword in the other.  In Ephesians 6:10 – 20, where we read about the full armor of God, we read that the Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit.

It makes me wonder if the writer of Hebrews and Paul had Psalm 149:6 and Nehemiah 4:17 in mind when they penned those passages.  What it does bring to mind is the centrality of the Word of God in all aspects of our experience as believers.  Whether in worship, work, or ministry, the Word should be in one hand while we are doing worship, work, or ministry with the other.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Skillful Trust

Sometimes when we are looking to get things done we look for skill.  Or we will study to attempt to learn what we need to do in order to accomplish what is in front of us.  While that is commendable, a great practice, I am fairly sure that it is not enough.
Skillful Trust

The sons of Reuben, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh were valiant men.  They were described as skillful in battle.  They were in a pitched battle with a larger army.

Look at 1 Chronicles 5:14.

They were helped.  They were skillful but in the midst of the battle they cried out to God.  They were helped not because of their skill, but because in the midst of that for which they had trained, that for which they had great skill, they trusted in Him.

It is imperative that we steward our skill.  It is not an accident that the Lord has given us the experience and gifts with which we are equipped.  We are to continue to hone and refine and learn – become ever more skillful.

When that skill converges with the task for which the Lord has designed us, Ephesians 2:10, it would be easy to trust in His training, His shaping our lives, the experience through which He has brought us, but that would be a grave error.  As the sons of Reuben, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh we need to cry out to God, in the midst of doing that for which He has given us skill, that for which we have trained, we need to trust in Him.

He is our help.