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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.


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


John 14:6 is a passage you probably have memorized.  It is perhaps only slightly less well known than John 3:16.
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


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


I have not written since the 10th because I have been living answered prayer, 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.)


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


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.


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


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.


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


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

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


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.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Different Perspective

If you think you understand something in the Bible I would recommend studying that text with someone from another country.

I meet weekly with a pastor in a country that is predominately Muslim.  He is the pastor of several underground churches.  We have been meeting together for about four years.  We meet on line using the third video conferencing vehicle in four years.  The government there has blocked the three others we have used.

A Different PerspectiveI have been there five times.  Three of those trips were to help him equip the people in the churches in the word and for leadership.  We finished our study of Acts a few weeks ago and we started a study on 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus last week.  Last week we did an overview of the three books as a whole and this week we were in Titus 1.

His observations in Acts were much different than the observations of the men with whom I was studying the book here.  Why?  He is living through many of the same issues.  He is facing some of the same issues in his churches that I am working on in a church I have been asked to help.  Namely, developing and equipping leaders.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on the qualifications for the role of elder in Titus 1.  Then he started asking about some of the specifics of the requirements that Paul outlined as they applied to a Muslim convert.  I found myself hesitating with my answers.  I know the people about whom he was asking.  I know the struggles they have being converts in a Muslim family.  My response after we talked for a while was that I needed to spend more time in that passage and the others that deal with elders and I needed to pray about his questions.

So do the issues in the culture mean that we set aside certain of the requirements as they pertain to the family?  Or do we follow what Paul outlined trusting in what the Word says is right and that the sovereignty of God is over that ministry condition?

I am struggling with this.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Faulty Seeking

1 Chronicles 15:13 gives us a dire lesson to ponder.  In 1 Chronicles 13, David commits to move the ark of God to Jerusalem.  You probably are familiar with what happens.  The ark is placed on a wagon and as the wagon passes a threshing floor the oxen pulling the wagon do something to jar the ark so that it begins to topple over.  Uzza puts out his hand to keep the ark from falling over.  Problem.  He is not a Levite.  He is not supposed to touch the ark.  Neither is the ark supposed to be on a wagon.  God strikes Uzza dead on the spot.
Faulty Seeking
David is angry.  He leaves the ark there and the farm prospers.

Fast forward to 1 Chronicles 15:13.  David acknowledges his approach to the Lord was wrong.  He came to the Lord, to serve the Lord, with good intentions but on his terms, not God’s.  It may have been more efficient and quicker to move the ark in a wagon.  But, that is not the way that God had commanded the ark was to be moved.

David acknowledges that and goes back to the task correctly.

As I read and thought through this event in Israel’s history there are some lessons for me.  I have to come to the Lord on His terms not mine.  At an elementary level that means that I have to come to Him through His son, John 14:6.  But as I thought through this there may be more.  I tend to come to Him on my terms more often than not:

  • Without confessing my sin
  • On behalf of what I want done, my kingdom, not His
  • For the furtherance of my agenda, not His

I am instructed by David’s failure.  It highlights my own.

Monday, January 9, 2017

How to Show the Way

The great thing about the Bible is that it gives us a model, several actually, of how to engage in sharing our faith with others.  Yesterday we looked at the power of our personal testimony.  The power of sharing the impact that our relationship with Christ has on us.
How to Show the Way
One model we have for sharing our testimony is Paul in Acts 26.  Look at how Paul shares his story with Agrippa:

  • Acts 26:4 – 11 – What Paul was like before he met Christ.
  • Acts 26:12 – 18 – How Paul met Christ
  • Acts 26:19 – 23 – How Paul’s relationship with Christ has impacted him.

Note that there is a connection between Paul’s experience before and after meeting Christ.  He was zealous against the faith prior to meeting Christ and zealous for the faith after.

So the pattern is before, how, and after.  Note that if you read it out loud as if you were sharing it, it only takes about two and a half minutes.

Not long.


One thought connect, if you can, before and after like Paul did.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Showing the Way

Have you ever needed to show someone how to share their faith?  Their testimony is the easiest way for them to start.
Showing the Way
Someone I recently met in a country where Christianity is suppressed was asked by a family member why they were so happy all of the time.  The person shared that they had trusted Christ.  It was a risk.  It was a testimony.

The family member did not immediately react.  Shortly after though that family member went on a religious pilgrimage.  Half way through the pilgrimage they returned home.  They told my friend that those on the pilgrimage were continually fighting, stealing from each other, and stealing from stores on the way.  They said to my friend, “These people cannot behave this way while serving a true god.  Tell me more about Jesus.”

Simple identification with Christ, contrasted with the dominant religion in the area, led this person to the Lord.

How do you help someone share their testimony?  I will outline a way that may help you tomorrow.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Kangaroo 3.0

If reading through Acts 23:12 – 22 seems like Déjà vu all over again there is a good reason for that.  The leaders of the Jews do to Paul what they did first to Jesus and then to Stephen.

It seems if they did not like what you were doing they would hire people to lie about what you had said and would then seek to kill you for the crime of blasphemy.  The common denominator that triggered this action was their perception that these men were about to impact their power and control.  Since they could not honestly refute them, they lied about what they were doing.

I am forcing myself at this point not to draw parallels from current events…

But the question I would pose both to myself and to all who seek to be apprentices of Christ, “Where have we been pulled to stretch the truth to gain favor, power, or influence?”

Something to consider…

Thursday, January 5, 2017


Several years ago, 39 to be exact, my wife and I were at a staff training center for a Christian organization.  I was required to work at a part time job 20 hours per week, study the Bible 20 hours a week, and then I could go to the dorm to which we were assigned to lead the ministry there that was usually more than 20 hours a week.
This one is right, I think...
One of the Bible studies we did was on spiritual multiplication.  The directions for the study were fairly broad.  We were to look for generational chains in the text of the Bible and make observations about what we saw.  Essentially it meant that we scanned the Bible for these, it was before personal computers and Bible programs…

Genesis 5 was one of the places that I spent some time.  I was intrigued by the way the men’s lives were described, Genesis 5:6 – 7, for example.  So having an engineering scale and being a bit of a geek, I drew out the chapter in time scale.  I was floored to realize that a couple of these men died in the flood…

Not so fast…

This morning my reading brought me around to Genesis 5 again.  I was curious so I opened up one of my graphics programs and redrew the illustration, this time using the computer to set the time scale.  Apparently, I had miss measured the two men I thought died in the flood…

The point is, I make mistakes.  There are things that I think I have figured out in the Word, that on a closer look I may have misread or missed something in the context or misapplied a cross reference, and honestly there have been times I have taken things out of context.

Doesn’t matter how careful I am, I still can make a mistake.  That is one reason that when I take a position on a passage, I try to hold it tentatively.  I find that interacting with others that have studied the same passage is a significant help.  It both helps me because they will see things I did not, and sometimes they will point out errors I have made.

This Christian life thing is a journey.  There are times that I can get off track.  The great thing is that I do not have to be perfect throughout this cruise.  Jesus has already been perfect for me.  Frankly, it isn’t about getting everything right anyway is it?  Really, it is about getting to know the one who was perfect for me better.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


If you have studied Acts you know that it is the account of the leading of the Holy Spirit in the development and spread of the Christian message first through Peter and then through the missionary journeys of Paul.
The book forms a background for most of the rest of the New Testament.  All of Paul’s epistles with the exception of the Pastoral Epistles can be tied to events in Acts.

I want to propose a question for you.  One of the principles in understanding a book is the law of proportionality.  That is events or sequences that proportionally take up more of an author’s focus are thus emphasized in the book.  An example of this is the Gospel of John.  The gospel covers roughly three years of Jesus’ life and ministry.  Chapters 13 – 17 cover roughly 6 hours, nearly a fourth of John’s gospel.  Looking at the content, one realizes that the meat of the book is in those 5 chapters.

Acts is similar.  Most times through the book I tend to focus on the missionary journeys.  I look at how Paul’s passion for the gospel plays out during each of those efforts.  Additionally, I look at what he did to equip those who were traveling with him, specifically Timothy, I look for the “things” he learned from Paul in the presence of many witnesses (2 Timothy 2:2).

But that is not the longest part of the book.

Acts 21:27 – 28:31 covers the arrest, imprisonment, and transport of Paul to Rome.  The missionary journeys are covered in a total of about four and a half chapters.  This part of Paul’s life takes seven of the chapters Luke penned for us.

So my question is, why?  Why invest so much space and detail to something that on the surface does not seem to be as important as the spreading of the gospel all over the Mediterranean?

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


In Acts 18:1 – 17 we find Paul toward the end of his 2nd missionary journey.  This one was a bit different than the previous journey.  He stayed longer in places.  This is toward the end of this journey.  We find him at Corinth and we see that he invests 18 months into the people of that church.
Just before Paul “settles” in Corinth, the Lord tells him in Acts 18:9 – 10 that he is to speak freely and no one will attack him anymore.

In the next paragraph the Jews rose up and brought him before the procounsel.  Gallio was unimpressed with their charges and sent them away.  Paul was not beaten, but the leader of the synagogue was beaten.

God had promised Paul protection.  Here we read, immediately, that protection was given.  Not only was it given God used the Roman government to protect Paul.  This was not the first or the last time in Acts that Paul’s status as a Roman citizen was used by the Lord to advance the gospel and protect His messenger.

Point is, we can trust our Lord in our endeavors to spread His Word.

Monday, January 2, 2017


We have seen in Acts 12:1 – 23 that Herod through all that he had at his disposal to stop the spreading of the gospel.  Not only did he fail.  God took him out.
Look at his impact on the spread of the gospel, Acts 12:24.  There was no abatement, essentially no effect.

The implications here seem to be that even though a wicked leader was doing all that he could to snuff out the gospel it was he who was being destroyed not the gospel.  The word expanded rapidly.

The world and religion can use whatever means it has at its disposal, it cannot thwart the sovereignty of God.  Neither the World nor religion can stop the Lord from building His Body nor can it keep one of His chosen from a relationship with Him.

This is great encouragement in the cause of the spread of the gospel and engagement in mission.  I read a passage in D. A. Carson’s book, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: An Exposition of Matthew 5–10, that gives Biblical perspective on our responsibility to share the good news even in the face of persecution:
First, our willingness to face opposition, and the cogency of the reasons advanced for not fearing it, depend utterly on a biblical Christianity that weighs everything from the perspective of eternity. If there is no heaven to be gained or hell to be shunned, if the forgiveness of our sins and reconciliation to God are not the most important things both for this world and for the world to come, then none of the arguments makes sense. Conversely, if these biblical perspectives constitute the fundamental realities of our existence, whether they are widely recognized in fallen human society or not, then it is folly to ignore them. What is said to find is that form of belief that nominally assents to the existence of eternal realities, but does not act on that voiced assent. Such a tragedy is not merely inconsistent; it is dangerous. To put the matter another way: we cannot really see what biblical Christianity is all about until we live in the light of eternity. Only then do our responsibilities in this world come into sharp focus.  (Page 274)
The gospel and our God behind its spread is irresistible.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Disciple or Pharisee

For the past few months I have been working with a group that is focused on increasing the level of discipleship in their community.  It is a great objective.  A noble goal.
Disciple or Pharisee
In the past few weeks I have been reflecting on the effort.  John 5:39 – 47 has continually come to mind as I have pondered this.  There Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, the leaders of the Jews, these folks had the first five books of the Bible memorized.  They studied the scripture.  Paul was one of their number.  He outlines his experience and commitment in Philippians 3:4 – 16.

The knowledge of the Scripture, while crucial – after all Jesus tells us in John 15:7 we are to abide in His Words – is not, in and of itself, enough.  The whole purpose of what we do in discipleship, the purpose of the disciplines is to know Christ.

If we are doing all of the “right” Christian activities and yet our knowledge of Him is not increasing; we are not drawing closer to Him, we are badly missing the point.

It is not about our doing or knowing the right things.  It is about knowing the right Person, Jesus.

If you know someone who is focused on knowledge and not relationship, pray for an opportunity soon to encourage them to readjust, realign their thinking.