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Saturday, November 30, 2013

What Kind of Response

When you consider the magnitude of your redemption in Christ how do you respond?  Joy?  Song?  What form does your response to Christ take?
What would be a appropriate response to the great redemption that God has provided us?  Thoughts at DTTB.
In 1 Peter 1:13, Peter echoes Paul in Romans 12:2.  He tells us in back to back phrases that the response is rational.  It is a choice.  He tells us to "gird our minds for action,” which can also be translated "be ready to learn."  He follows that immediately with an exhortation to be sober minded.

In the context this gains weight when one considers 10 - 12.  Look at what the prophets did with their own prophecies.  The text says they made careful search and inquiry.  This is study, rational approach to the Word.  It is thought, rational, like the first phrase in 13, "ready to learn."

It seems that the proper response to the magnitude of our redemption, at least to Peter, is to intentionally engage our minds to learn about our God in His Word.

Friday, November 29, 2013

What Will They See?

Last night I was driving from my father in law's house to my sister in law's house for dinner.  On the way we passed the local Walmart.  I was stunned.  The parking lot was completely full, the field behind the store was full of cars parked on the grass.  The shopping center next to the store was closed but that parking lot was full as well.  There was a fast food restaurant, also closed, next to Walmart, its parking lot was full as well.  In both directions at the light that served the store, cars were lined up several deep waiting to turn into the already overflowing store.
Your kids are always watching what will they think is important this holiday from what they see you do?  Thoughts at DTTB.
A couple of weeks ago during the Dads Teach the Bible Workshop, one of the men was sharing his kids reaction to his being in the workshop.  They have walked in on him preparing for the workshop.  That raised a lot of questions about what he was doing.  At supper just before the workshop he had not changed his clothes like he normally does.  Again that raised a lot of questions.  His answers?  He was studying the Bible.  That raised more questions.

Your kids notice what you are doing.  They learn what is important from what they observe.  In this season.  What will they catch you doing?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks – in all Things

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.  Hope you survive all of the turkey and football and hope that your team prevails.
For what are you thankful today?  Thoughts at DTTB.
I was reminded last evening that it is not always easy to give thanks.  One of my daughter’s close friends was in a bad car accident that has put at least three people in critical condition one an infant in the other car that was not in a car seat and ejected from the car during the accident.

Your Thanksgiving will likely not be as traumatic.  But being around extended family with all of the relational issues that families can create can cause stress of its own.  Sometimes we lose sight of the things we about which we are thankful in the midst of all of the chaos.

It is hard to remember that all that we have both the good and the bad come into our lives for a purpose.  That is the basis for Paul’s exhortation to us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18.  The exhortation is “all things,” not just the things that we think are good.  All things.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


In this blog I have written a lot on Psalm 139 (type 139 into the blog search bar above to see what I mean).  It comes up quite a bit in my reading plan, my discussions, and the work I do with YourOneDegree.  It came up again today.  As much time as I have invested in Psalm 139 still when I go back I see more.  Today was no exception.
When you see something in the Bible that seems redundant, is it?  Thoughts at DTTB.

Look for a minute at 23 – 24.  That was the first two verses of this Psalm that I memorized.  Today when reading this again they seem redundant, unnecessary.  Why?  David has in the body of the Psalm declared that God knows David’s heart and thoughts, David has also stated that the Lord is engaged intentionally and intensely in David’s path.  So to ask what David has already stated in the Psalm seems like it is from the department of redundancy department.

As I was thinking and praying this through another perspective began to take shape.  Yes, David has stated that God knows his heart.  He has stated that God is engaged in his path.  But this is different.  Knowing something to be true and submitting oneself to that truth are two different things entirely.  This seems similar to me to confession or agreeing with God.  Here David has stated the truth and with the final two verses is fully embracing that truth into his life.

We have to do the same thing.  It is not enough to know the truth.  We have to live that truth out in our lives.  One of the ways to do that is to follow David’s example and pray that truth into our behavior.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I just finished – well that is probably too strong.  I just finished this time through an overview of 1 Peter.  I meet with three men on this book in about 3 hours.  This is not the first time I have studied this book.  Actually I am not sure without some archaeological digs through some old file cabinets in the garage how many times I have been through 1 Peter.  It is one of the three or four books I memorized.  So I am very familiar with the book.  But in these studies I start with a new file.  No markings or notes.  Like prof exhorts us we need to approach a passage like it is the first time.  Read it with fresh eyes.
How do you measure the value of God's Word.  Thougths at DTTB.
This AM I saw something in chapter 1 that I have not seen before.  Something in which I will need to invest some time as we study that section in detail – by the way we study a book by looking at the book as a whole first, then each section, and finally put it back together as a whole – whole to parts back to whole.

Look at 1:18 – 19 and 1:23 note the parallels:

State Means Description
Redeemed Blood of Christ Imperishable
Born Again Living and Enduring Word of God Imperishable

The parallels are striking.  Both the blood of Christ and the Word of God are described as imperishable.  Both have a hand in our eternal state before God.  At this point in my study this comparison has flagged something at which I need to take a closer look.  But at the very least this structure strongly emphasizes the importance of the Word of God as foundational to both our standing before God and our assignment to live a holy life in the world.

We do well to pay close attention to Peter’s thought here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tying a Knot and Hanging On…

What do you do when things are getting away from you?  Thoughts at DTTB.Sometimes the day gets away from you.  It has been like that today.  I spent the first part of the morning dealing with technical issues with the Bible program I use, and I just closed the day with a failed conference call due to technical issues.  In between my schedule was disrupted by a call at 11:15 that absorbed three hours of my day that I had planned to use for other things which included working on this post…

So the day did not go as planned.  At least as I planned.  I have prep to do for a Bible study tomorrow morning and I found myself squeezing in every opportunity to read through the book.  Sometimes that is how it has to be.  We just have to do what Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:15 – 16.  He says that we are to redeem the time, I read that we tie a knot and hang on…

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bless the Lord

If you are like me there are times when you are not all that happy with God.  Your life may not be working out as you planned.  You may not have received the answer to prayer that you were expecting.  If you were God you would certainly be doing things differently…
When you do not feel like blessing the Lord, what then?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Be honest now.

Apparently David was in the boat with us.  In Psalm 103:1 – 2 he commands his soul to bless the Lord.  This is helpful to me in at least two ways.

First, it tells me that I am in good company.  The man who God said was after God’s own heart commanded his soul to bless the Lord.  So it seems that there were times even David did not automatically respond to life with a blessing to the Lord without some effort.

Second, it gives me a model to follow.  I can do what David did and decide to bless and remember even when I do not necessarily feel like it.

Remember.  That is not always easy.  That is one of the reasons that it is important to keep track of what God has done in my life.  Journaling helps with that.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Walk Through Psalm 107 – Part 5

For this last post on Psalm 107 focus on the last section 33 – 43.  The last verse suggests that if we are wise we do well to consider well what the psalmist has shared.  What has he shared?  This last section describes God’s sovereign intervention in the lives of people by repeating 6 times things that “He” does.  A few examples:

Last post on Psalm 107.  Thoughts at DTTB.
  • Changes rivers into a wilderness
  • Fruitful land into a salt waste
  • Wilderness into a pool of water
  • Does not let the cattle decrease
  • Pours contempt upon princes
  • Sets the needy in security
All the way through this psalm we see that God is sovereignly engaged in both afflicting those who are rebelling and delivering them from affliction when they call to Him.

The picture we have is of a God who is engaged intentionally shaping events to lead people to trust Him.

As the psalmist suggests considering that carefully and choosing to base our lives on that truth would indeed be wise.

Posts in this series:

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Walk Through Psalm 107 – Part 4

Still in Psalm 107.  Look at verses 11 and 20.  In 11 we see that people are:
  • In darkness
  • In the shadow of death
  • Prisoners
  • In misery and chains
Psalm 107 walk through, part 4.  Thoughts at DTTB.
They were in this mess because they had rebelled against both the Words of God and the counsel of the Most High, all in all not the best move.

If you have been following the last few posts you know that each of the first four sections of the Psalm end with those in the situations that are described calling out to God who then delivers them.

Verse 20 is in the next section.  These folks are rebellious fools, perhaps the same ones who had rebelled against the Words of God.  When they cry out, looks at the means by which God saves them.  His Word.

It is instructive that we get into deep trouble when we rebel against God’s Word and yet it is God’s Word that gets us out of that mess we have chosen.

One more observation tomorrow and we will wrap this up I think.

Posts in this series:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Walk Through Psalm 107 – Part 3

For the last two days we have made observations about the structure and repetition of Psalm 107.  While there may be a couple of more things to talk about tomorrow, I want to share some of the patterns I see in these observations.
Part 3 of the walk through of Psalm 107.  Thoughts at DTTB.

First, when I did this I was reading Psalm 107 in my Logos Bible program on my iPad.  On that platform there are no paragraph or section divisions, at least not in the way I use it.  (Download the third part of the walk through here.)  The first thing the structure and repetition did for me is divide the psalm into 5 sections, 1 – 9, 10 – 16, 17 – 22, 23 – 32, and 33 – 43.  The first four sections have the repetition of the Lord delivering people out of:
  • Spiritual hunger and thirst
  • Rebellion against the Word of God
  • Foolish rebellion 
  • Overwhelming circumstances
In the first case the spiritually hungry and thirsty were in the grip of the enemy.  The rebellious were in a different situation.  They were being humbled by God for their rebellion with labor.  The Fools also were afflicted – I take it as being also by the Lord.  Those in the ships were in a storm the source of which was the Lord.

So in all but the first case folks made choices that the Lord met with some form of resistance that caused them to call to Him in their distress.  In each case He saved them out of that distress.  The one difference is in the last example, the psalmist says that He brought them out of their distress.  That raises a question about what the difference might be between this example and the others…

I have often wondered if my bad choices and the messes, distresses they create put me in a position that makes it difficult or impossible to be reconciled to God.  The encouragement I find here through observation of the different elements upon which we have touched is that regardless of how badly I screw up, God not only can save me from myself but is actively engaged in leading me to the place where I cry out to Him for that redemption.  For that I am overwhelmingly grateful.

There are a few more observations that are encouraging to me so we will have at least one more day with this.

Posts in this series:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Walk Through Psalm 107 – Part 2

The problem I have with series is where to cut each one off.  There is so much to see in this Psalm and it lends itself to demonstration of how observation can unpack some of the riches that God has given us in His Word.
Part 2 of the walk through of Psalm 107.  Thoughts at DTTB.

Yesterday I showed you how I use structural markers and literary relationships to increase the quantity of observations.  The reason we can do this is because when the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Old and New Testaments they used language.  While that is obvious to express thought in language requires vocabulary, grammar, and structure.  Those elements are intentionally used by both the human and ultimate author for the purpose of communicating about who God is and what He is doing.  The point is that all of the elements in the text are intentionally placed so that we can learn much from observing them.

One of the things I always look for is repetition.  In the scripture it is like the teacher at the front of the class stomping their foot to tell you something is going to be on the test.  It is emphasis.  In part 2 of the walk through I highlighted some of the repetition in Psalm 107.

The first thing I noticed was “lovingkindness,” six times the Psalmist refers to God’s lovingkindness.  Then I noted that verses 8, 15, 21, and 31 were identical.  Also verses 6, 13, 19, and 28 are identical but for the changing of one word in 28.  There is more but the last one I will point out is the thread of thanksgiving in verses 1, 2, 8, 21, and 31, the construction “Let them give…” is also repeated in 43 with some significant changes.  That is one of the things for which I look as well, differences in things that are repeated.

Do you see the patterns that are emerging?

Tomorrow I will spell out what I am seeing in the structure and repetition.

Posts in this series:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Walk Through Psalm 107 – Part 1

Ok let’s get started.  Yesterday I told you that I was going to show you how I work through a passage.  If you have not read Psalm 107 please do so now – jot down some notes about what you see.
Part 1 of walk through Psalm 107.  Thoughts at DTTB.

Now what I am going to share with you may seem a bit academic, some of it is fairly technical and admittedly not easy – this will feel a lot like work in the beginning as you attempt to use it.  It did for me as well.  Let assure you though, I do not even think about this anymore, I just do it.  In the example I will show you later in the post I have written out my observations next to the verses of the Psalm.  It took me about 30 minutes to type them out, but as I was reading the Psalm those thoughts were immediate because I know for what I am looking and have been looking like this for some time now.

Some Background Data
The first thing I look for in any passage I am reading is the literary structure the author has used to share his thoughts.  The text is riddled with clues that reveal that structure, markers if you will, like the road signs on the interstate that tell you where you are and how far you are from where you are going.  “Therefore,” is one of those markers.  You may have heard that when you read a “therefore” in the text you have to look and see what it is there for.  Why, because that word communicates that what follows is a result of what came before.  But that is not the only word that marks structure for us.  Here is a list, if not exhaustive, of some more words that may serve as markers as you read and what they mean in many contexts.  Here is a list defining some of the literary relationships the markers indicate.  Print them out and use them as you read through the Psalm.

How I Use This Stuff
The first thing I do when reading a passage – and I emphasize I almost do this unconsciously now – is to identify the structural markers.  Here is part one of the walk through for Psalm 107.  You can see that I highlighted the structural markers in yellow.  If you look at the list of words that you downloaded earlier you will see most of the highlighted words on that list.  The ones that are highlighted that are not on the list are there to draw my attention to either an implied marker or else something that over the years I have learned is a marker that is not on Traina’s original list.

To the right of each verse I responded to what the text says.  I observed how the structure framed the message of the Psalm and made some other notes.  I used the terms on the Literary Relations sheet so you could see how the sheets interact.  I only did the first 10 verses so you can try the rest on your own.

What’s Next
We are not done.  Tomorrow I will show you the next things I saw and how they help me see what is going on in the text.

This may seem over complicated but really after you work through the awkwardness of looking for the terms and understanding the literary relations, it really becomes second nature and unlocks amazing richness in the text.

Try it.  Any effort you expend will be well rewarded.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Walk Through Psalm 107

This morning I spent an extended time in Psalm 107, it was devotional but I used the Bible Study skills I share in the workshops – I do that without really thinking about it now.  There was a lot in that Psalm that I had not seen before and what I saw was extremely encouraging.  For the next few days I thought I would walk you through what I did.  That will do a couple of things.
You want to got for a hike through Psalm 107?  Thoughts at DTTB.

First, it will give you a taste of what I do with men in the workshops.

Second, it will demonstrate how these tools can help you observe more in both your devotions and your Bible study.

I did all this in my Bible program so I have to transfer what I did into another file that I can walk you through.  I am out of time today so we will start this journey together tomorrow.  It will probably take several days to complete; I pray that it will be helpful for you.  You may want to share with people you know what we are about to do, I thinks this would be a good way to introduce them to this blog…

See you tomorrow.  In the meantime read Psalm 107 and make as many observations as you can…  Remember that observations ask the question what does this say, not what does this mean…

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Two years ago I sat down at my desk and banged out a couple of posts to start this blog.  Today, 735 posts later and two years into the effort it is probably a good time to take stock.
The blog has been going for two years today...  Why?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Since that Thursday afternoon, according to Google 19, 615 unique visitors from all but 10 countries in the world have visited this blog.  They have looked at 97,440 pages.  In terms of all the blogs in the world that is not all that impressive there are those that get that kind of traffic or more in a day.  But through this I have been able to help a lady in South Africa study her Bible more effectively and encourage a man in Russia in his ministry.

So I will keep on.  This is not really written for any other reason than obedience to Christ.  Galatians 1:10 describes that pretty clearly.

As this third year starts, I needed to remind myself of that and why I do this every day.  It made sense to share it with you as well.
See you tomorrow.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

When to Confront

You ever wonder when you should confront an issue?  I am facing that right now.  I am aware of some people who seem to have made choices that are sinful and damaging to their testimony as believers.  Matthew 18:15 – 20 tells me that if someone I know who is a brother sins I should confront them.
Are we supposed to confront sin in another's life when we see it?  Thoughts at DTTB.

Problem is I do not know these people that well.  There is a relationship but not a strong one.  So the question is how strong a relationship does one have to have before you confront sin in a person’s life?  In my experience it does not often go well no matter how developed the relationship.

What do you think?  Why do you think that?

Friday, November 15, 2013

When the answer is, “I Don’t Know”

If it has not happened yet it will.  You will be asked a question by one of your kids for which you have no clue.  Well you may have a clue but just that.  Not really sure.  You will feel pressure to come up with an answer.  After all you are supposed to have them.  You are the dad.  Deuteronomy 6:20 suggests that the kids should automatically come to you first.  Further, men do not like to be found incompetent.
What do you do if you do not know?  Thoughts at DTTB.
But if you are not sure the best answer is, “I don’t know.”

You can then add, “But I will find out.”

Doing that will not decrease you credibility; it will increase it.

You do need to find out how to get answers to question for which you do not have answers.  The best possible solution is to dig through the Bible to find it yourself.  If you are unsure how to do that, I will help if you need it.  The next best is to have a friend who can point you in the right direction.  Not give you an answer, but point you in the direction to find it.  It is then really helpful to bounce what you found off of them.  Again if you do not have a resource like that I am available…

If you engage in this way soon you will have others calling you…  Including your kids.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Unbearable Lightness of Diligence

You ever have really good times with the Lord.  Today was one of those.  One of the passages that captivated me is Deuteronomy 28:1 – 14.  Look at all that the Lord promised the people of Israel.  It was a conditional promise.  The condition?  Diligent obedience to God’s commands.  But considering the amazing things that God promised that was no big deal for them – right?  Nope.  Even in the face of the astounding promises of God they turned away, nearly immediately.
What do you think holds most people back in their walk with Christ?  Thoughts at DTTB.

Perhaps they did not like being out of control.  They chafed under the notion that they had to do anything to get that favor from God.  They wanted autonomy.  Interesting that if you look at the roots of that word, autonomy, it means self ruling.  They did not want to submit to God – even if it meant that they did not get the promised blessing.

Are we much better?  We are not saved by keeping the law or by works – that is the crystal clear message of the Gospel.  But that word “diligence” shows up in relation to how we approach our relationship with Christ.  2 Peter 1:5ff, 10, 3:14 is one thread that comes to mind.  Peter describes the Christian life as one of diligent application of faith.  Is that your experience?  It is the case that believers you know are diligently following Christ?  What would that look like?

For the most part we seem to be diligent in our careers, our recreation, and in the support of our favorite team.  I wonder if like Israel we are missing out on the astounding stuff that God has promised.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Wall

It seems to happen every time.  This 10 week workshop is the 27th equipping people to study the Bible – it happened again.  Most people who come to these have not ever done independent Bible study.  By independent I mean that you can take a Bible and a blank sheet of paper and wring out a passage for all it is worth without a study Bible or commentary.  Most of the people have done FIBS (Fill In the Blank Studies), watched a video series, been in a lecture that was called a Bible study, a small group where the leader talked %80+ of the time, or a group that got together, read a passage, and then everyone in the group reacts to what they read…  All of those but the last are studies where someone else has done the work and is either leading you through their study with pointed questions or else simply lecturing.  We call those sage on a stage, sage on a page, sage on a chair, or sage on a screen.  The last one in the college ministry we called SYI studies (SYI = Share Your Ignorance), of course with adults one cannot use that language so now its “Share Your Insights.”  Those types of studies while really helpful are essentially like watching people exit a restaurant after a good meal and expecting to receive nutrition (ok, it is a bit of an exaggeration – they are all needed at times – we tend to lean on them too much and too long).
What holds people back in getting with the Lord in the Word?  Thoughts at DTTB.
So for the most part that has been the experience of the people who come to the workshop.  So there is some angst when I ask them to put away their study Bibles and give them the text of 2 Peter printed out without any notes whatsoever.  Truthfully some are resistant to the idea.  It is the wall of doubt, experience, lack of confidence, whatever.  Most of them have never been asked to interact with the text in that way.  They are not sure that they can.  They are not sure that they are supposed to – more than one has voiced that.  But then – and it is usually around the third meeting, which in this case was last night – the lights began to come on.

The people begin to see that what they are seeing in the text is similar to what everyone else in the room is seeing.  Their chart makes sense.  They begin to see how the book, Peter’s argument is structured and holds together.  They see the same or similar themes.  They have broken through the wall of dependency on commentaries and study Bibles and begin to have confidence that they can get stuff, good stuff, great stuff from the Word on their own.

I love that.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Warning: Contents May be Harmful to Your Eternity

Paul gives us a warning in Galatians 6:12 - 14.  It is a warning about false teachers.  The Bible is full of warnings both about and to false teachers in both Testaments.  It was a problem at the time both Testaments were written; I would submit that it is a problem now.
There is another way we can identify a false teacher...  Thoughts at DTTB.
Paul describes teachers who want to look good, by getting people to follow their teaching.  The teachers Paul was talking about were specifically teaching so as to avoid controversy or criticism.  Wonder if that happens at all today.  Can you think of issues that if a teacher spoke out on they would be criticized?  These teachers did not do that rather they got their people to follow them to do what they suggested, but Paul says they were not even doing what they were teaching.

So these teachers are essentially self protecting, self promoting, hypocrites.  They boasted about how many followers they had.  Paul in contrast only boasted of his relationship with Christ.

I won’t name names.  I will suggest that we need to look closely at those who stand to share the Word of God.  Following the content of a self protecting, self promoting, hypocrite might be harmful to our eternity.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fulfilling the Law

In Galatians 6 this morning I think I found an answer to a question that has gnawed at me for many years.  It is not an easy answer, yet an answer I think it may be.
Have you ever wondered what it means to fulfill the Law of Christ...  Thoughts at DTTB.
The discovery started in verse 2.  From there I did a search for all of the places in the New Testament that had the words “fulfill” and “law.”  I was looking for what we are told we have to do to fulfill the law of Christ.  I eliminated those passages that did not deal with that and came up with this list.

Looking at those verses it looks to me like in order to fulfill the law of Christ we need to:
  • Love our neighbor as ourselves (that is mentioned 4 times)
  • Bear one another’s burdens (which would seem to be a corollary to the one above)
  • Walk according to the Spirit (which would be the only way that we could do the other two)
As I thought through this, these instructions seem to be exactly what Christ did for us.  He certainly loved us as Himself to the point of death on a cross.  Paul talks about that more in Philippians 2 where we are exhorted to have that same mindset.

He bore our burden of sin on the cross.  He did that as Romans 5 tells us while we were ungodly, sinners, enemies, and strangers.

He did not do any of this apart from what His Father told Him to do – essentially walking according to the Spirit.

To me that seems to be a fairly fully-orbed description of what it means to fulfill Christ’s law.  What do you think.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Even S'more

You ever make a mistake that turns out to be a really good thing?  I did this morning.  This year I am using the evening Psalms and Lessons from the old version of the Book of Common Prayer.  Each day there are two sections, morning and evening.  Each section has a Psalm or several, a reading or few from the Old Testament, and then some from the New Testament.  Part of the Old Testament today was from Habakkuk which I abbreviated HB in my journal.  Problem is when it came time to read it I read that as Hebrews.  When the reading wasn't a clear paragraph I should have realized I made a mistake but no, I plowed through and I am glad I did.
So how do we sum up this notion of following Christ at a distance...  Thoughts at DTTB.
Look at Hebrews 2:1 then look at Luke 12:35 - 40.  For the last couple of days (here and here) I have been suggesting that a lot of believers rather than fully engaging in their walk with Christ are following Him at a distance.  You know just to see how things are going to work out, before they really commit; or to make sure that their family, business, etc. is on a solid footing before diving in headfirst.  We do enough for those who pay attention to identify us as probable believers, but we are on the fringe.

Those two verses, Hebrews 2:1 and Luke 12:35 - 40 conspire to suggest that may not be the best strategy.  Over breakfast and lunch I was talking to my dad about this and in the course of that conversation I shared a quote I pulled from Howard Tillman Kuist’s book These Words Upon Thy Heart (the book was recommended by prof, it took me 40 years to find a copy – it was worth the search).
“Every man is faced with the peril of rationalizing his quest for spiritual illumination…when confronted by a choice he is tempted to make it on a level which will be the least possible cost to himself, or in line with his own self interest.”
I think he nailed it and that quote sums up succinctly the theme of these last three posts.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

S’more Discipleship at a Distance

Yesterday I suggested that many poke at Christianity by following Christ at a distance.  I have probably been guilty of that myself at times.  What does that look like?  It may take a number of forms in our lives.  Perhaps it means that we compartmentalize and balance our lives.  You know we do not want to overdo the Christian thing so we make decisions on our pursuit of Christ based on how much time it will take away from our family and our work.
Are we following Christ too closely?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Perhaps it shows up in testing the wind.  Kind of like Peter did as we looked at yesterday in Matthew 26:58…  We hang back to see how things are going to turn out.  We wait to see who else will be involved.  We make decisions based on who is engaged.

Maybe it shows up in compromise.  We do not speak to sin that we see in our communities because we do not want to seem judgmental, and we certainly do not want people to look too closely at our lives.

It may be in how we choose to engage with the Word.  Perhaps we are more inclined to read a book about the Bible or listen to someone else’s take on the Word rather than take the time to learn to dig into it for ourselves.

From a distance if things do not work out, we really can’t be blamed – after all we were waiting for others to lead, to tell us what to do.

How does that approach work out for anyone in any other endeavor?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Discipleship at a Distance

Ran across something this morning that has had me thinking all day.  I took prof’s advice and did not write on this immediately rather I let it simmer on the back burner for most of the day.  What has emerged from that time and reflection is a new interested in doing a thorough study of Peter and his spiritual formation.  That is going to take some time but in the meantime here is a first tentative lesson.
Do you ever wonder if following Christ is safe?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Look at Matthew 26:58.  You are aware of the context of course.  This is at the tail end of the last night the Lord spent with the 12.  He washed their feet, led the first Lord’s supper, told them about the coming of the Holy Spirit, exhorted them to abide in Him, explained the ministry of the Holy Spirit, told them that they would all flee Him before the night was done – at which point Peter, vociferously denied that he would ever deny Christ – led them to the garden to pray – where He prayed and they slept off the meal – Judas betrays them and Peter draws his sword and cuts off the servants ear – which Christ immediately heals…  So that is what immediately precedes this verse – note I combined some gospel accounts and may have left out some detail but I wanted to paint a bird’s eye view of the scene.

So consider the I ain’t going to deny you ever Peter.  Think about his relationship with Christ.  He has seen it all.  The transfiguration, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the raising of Lazarus, he was the one who made the critical declaration at Caesarea Philippi – he is the one who not knowing what to say, speaks.  It has been a great, exhilarating three year ride, he thinks this is going to be really great.  Then Christ is betrayed and arrested.

When things are going really well Peter is in the midst, the inner circle of three, the first to speak up in support…  Christ is arrested and Peter is following “at a distance.”  He enters the court and hangs back to see what is going to happen.  You know the rest of the story – three denials, then the chicken clucks.

While I do not want to make too much of this, there seems to be a pattern here that I have seen repeated in men’s lives more times than not.  An initial, even somewhat lengthy pursuit of Christ, then when things get “interesting” following Christ at a distance, hanging back to see how all of this is going to work out…  It is kind of like we poke at Christianity with a stick to see what will happen.  We follow Christ at a distance so that we can control our safety… so we won’t get hurt or caught in any fall out.

I have a lot of thoughts on this – probably will expand it tomorrow…  In the meantime how do you respond to this?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wingardium Leviosa - Thoughts

Yesterday I shared both the question that one of the men in the Wednesday study asked about prayer and how we began to answer it in our discussion. We looked at all of the references in the New Testament that contained the phrases “in My name,” “His will,” and “will of God.” Why? Well there are at least a couple of reasons. We could have gone to a book that someone had written on the subject, it could have been helpful. But in doing that our thinking would have been shaped by that person’s understanding of what they had studied. Rather than doing that we chose to look at what the Bible said first. Then if we went to a secondary source, we would have done the work first and we would be in a dialog with the author rather than being taught by him.
So then, what does it mean to pray in His name - will?  Thoughts at DTTB.
As you look at that list of passages what is the first thing that you notice? For our group, we noticed that the references to asking in “My name” and “in God’s will” with the result that if that practice was followed we would receive our requests, was in John’s literature. Namely in John and 1 John.

It looks like based on comparing those passages that the notions of praying “in Jesus’ name” and “in the will of God” have the same result, namely, that we will receive the request. So that would seem to indicate that those two practices are similar if not equal. What are the implications of that for our practice?

We came to the conclusion that praying “in Jesus’ name” is the same as praying “in God’s will.” That would mean that it is more than adding three words to the end of each prayer. God’s will is consistent with His nature and character. So that would imply that we pray consistent with God’s nature and character. That fits not only the text but our experience. We used the illustration of an ambassador. The ambassador for any country speaks and acts on behalf of the country which he represents. In so doing he speaks in concert with the wishes of the leader of that country. In a sense consistent with that leader’s nature and character.

For us, the implication is that in order to pray well we have to know our Lord well. We have to have a relationship that is continually deepening and growing. One of the ways that we learn in that relationship is by the results of our prayer. If we ask something and the answer is no or later, that answer is data on God’s will in that situation and an insight into His nature and character. It is the same with any relationship. Over time we learn how people with whom we interact respond to different situations. We know their nature and character because we have spent time with them and experienced how they have responded to different situations and requests

It is the same with Christ. That is one reason why it is a good idea to keep a record of what you have asked of Him and how He has responded to those requests.

So it isn’t the three words. It is knowing Him.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wingardium Leviosa

Last week one of the men in the Wednesday morning group – we were studying 1 John 5:14 – 15 by the way – asked a really good question.  He painted a picture of visiting someone on their death bed and praying that they would be healed, “in Jesus name,” he pointed out that the text says that if we pray in that way that whatever we ask will be done for us.  That has not been his experience.  So his question was what does it mean to pray “in Jesus’ name,” or for that matter “in God’s will.”  The predominant thinking – and I have heard this from really good pastors – is that you have to tack on those three words to the end of the prayer in order to comply with the notion of praying in Jesus’ name.  Is that it?
Do we have to say the right thing to get God to listen?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Don’t think so.

In the first Harry Potter book and movie Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are in charms class.  They are to be practicing a levitation charm, Wingardium Leviosa.  In the scene Ron is furiously waving his wand at a feather, saying the incantation.  Hermione stops him and tells him he is saying it wrong.  She repeats the incantation with emphasis on the next to last syllable emphasizing the long “o”.  The spell works.  It seems that a lot of believers approach prayer in the same way.  We have to say things a certain way with the right emphasis, attitude, quantity, and quality of faith or the prayer, will not work.  How is that not the same as sorcery?  Albeit Christian sorcery?  Is that what prayer is all about?  Getting the last three words right with the right inflection?

Take a look at these passages and I will share some more on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Christianity – Not for Wimps ‘Splained

Yesterday I shared a chain of passages which the Lord led me through during our time together.  I suggested that you take a look at them and see what you came up with.  Here is my take:
This Christian thing is a tough mudder... Thoughts at DTTB.
If you look at all of those passages the picture that emerges is the Christian life is a call to perseverance and endurance in the midst of tribulation and trial.  That perseverance and endurance is not gutting it out, rather it is with an attitude of exultation and joy.  In the midst of those trials and tribulations we are to diligently supply through faith the seven things that Peter mentions in 2 Peter 1:3 – 11.

If we engage in life this way we are promised an increased true knowledge of God and hope through the Holy Spirit.

In marketing there is a call to action in any presentation.  My first response to this is that God needs a new marketing department.  This is not the most attractive call to action I have ever read.  The diagram shows the cycle.  We persevere to get proven character resulting in hope that takes us back into tribulation.

This is not for the faint of heart or those who are interested in some eternal fire insurance policy, this is tough.  This is not for wimps.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Christianity – Not for Wimps

Had one of those times in the Word this morning where the Lord led me on a journey through a number of passages.  I will list them here for you and then make a few comments that may bleed over for a couple of days – or not.
If you think that this Christian thing is easy, well...  Thoughts at DTTB.

I was going to tell you what I got now, but that violates both my typical MO and what I saw in these passages…  So I will wait until tomorrow.  Oh – you probably know this but if you hover your mouse over the references you should be able to read the listed passages or click on them and they will take you to those passages at

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Stewards of Gifts

This morning in Sunday school we covered one of my favorite passages, 1 Peter 4:10.  I like that passage because it elevates both the gifts we are given by the Holy Spirit and our responsibility to steward those gifts.  (I have written about stewardship three other times this year.  It is not essential but may be helpful for you to scan those if you have not, they are, in order, here, here, and here.)
Spiritual gifts are given not for us but for the Body...  Thoughts at DTTB.
Peter tells us, echoing Paul in Romans 12:3 – 8; 1 Corinthians 12:4 – 31; and Ephesians 4:11 – 16; that the gifts we are given are not given for our benefit, no, they are given for the benefit of the Body.  We as stewards of those gifts are expected to use them to build up the Body of Christ.

We cannot make this journey alone.  We are interdependent.  Regardless of your gifting; no matter how faithful you have been in exercising it, you are in need of others in the Body to build you up in your walk with God.

That does not mean that is easy, received well by other believers, or well done.  It is hard, sometimes met with resistance, and sloppy.  Regardless, we are to engage in the sloppiness.  If we do not, not only will we displease our Lord but we will rob the Body of the gift He gave us specifically to build that Body up.

If you are rearing your kids in the Lord, it is critical that they understand this.  The best way they will is if you model it for them.  Steward your gifts.  Engage in intentionally building the Body of Christ.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Despair of Escape

Yesterday I mentioned four events that were nagging my thought.  Reading through Scalia’s introduction brought the other three into focus for me.  His book is about interpreting legal instruments; however the principles, canons, that he lists in the first section of the book particularly, apply directly to understanding and interpreting the Bible; even more so than legal texts because the ultimate author does not make errors in composition.
I think there may be a single reason for the challenges we face...  Thoughts at DTTB.
There was another quote from the introduction that crystallized my thinking on this.  Scalia is describing lawyers and judges who use an illegitimate interpretive structure, in his opinion, to escape what a statute plainly says.  In so doing he quotes an English noble, Lord Devlin:
Five judges are no more likely to agree than five philosophers upon the philosophy behind an Act of Parliament, and five different judges are likely to have five different ideas about the right escape route from the prison of the text. (emphasis added)
Many if not most of the heresy and difficulty we have in and with the Church and in our attempts to follow Christ can be attributed to groups’, teachers’, or individuals’ attempts to “escape the prison of the text.”

In the first instance I cited yesterday, both the individual and the organization invested enormous energy in escaping a clear prohibition in scripture that would have “limited” certain members of that organization from performing certain functions in that ministry.

In the second case teachers in Africa are leading many astray by teaching revelation that they alone have received or are misusing the Bible by reading and teaching it incorrectly.  They are again escaping the text.

In the third case the Church has escaped from what is expressed as the role of the pastor in Ephesians 4:11 – 16 as equipping the saints and replaced it with standing in front of an audience and giving a presentation which most in the room promptly forget.  But those in the room are not without skin in the game.  Many have escaped the clear exhortations of Christ in Matthew 6:25 – 34 when He told us to put His agenda before ours.

So despair, at least in this context, is that we continually figure out ways to escape what the One who created us, chose to send His Son while we were unrighteous sinners, aliens, enemies, and strangers to die in our place so that He might restore us to life tells us is necessary.  We don’t like it.  So we figure out ways around it.

It never works well.

Friday, November 1, 2013


As I sit to write this four events are fighting for domination in my thinking.  First, an email I got yesterday from a person who I have known for about 40 years asking me to pray for and event that violates the clear teaching of the Bible.
Is there one source for all of the challenges that we face as believers?  Thoughts at DTTB.
Second, a conversation with a pastor in Morocco this morning in which he asked prayer for a person I know who has bought into false teaching (which by the way is rampant in Africa).

Shortly after that conversation the third event was a the observation by a man I was bringing up to speed on the workshop that started this week that one of the reasons he thinks that men, him included, do not engage with the Bible is that they are too concerned with their careers.  That echoed exactly what the men in the workshop said on Tuesday night by the way.

Lastly, and this may bring all of these into focus, I was reading the introduction to Scalia’s book, Reading Law during lunch in there I read:
Is it an exaggeration to say that the field of interpretation is rife with confusion?  No.  Although the problem of tendentiously variable readings is age-old, the cause is not: the desire for freedom from the text, which enables judges (and Christians) to do what they want.  (parenthesis added)
He goes on to say:
Distortion of the text to suit the reader’s fancy is by no means limited to the law…The practice of injecting one’s own thought into texts has long been given free rein in some schools of scriptural exegesis – so long, in fact, that scholars have given the practice its own disreputable name: eisegesis.  The antonym of exegesis, the term eisegesis denotes the insertion of the reader’s own ideas into the text, making the reader a full collaborator with the original author and enabling the introduction of all sorts of new material.  For eisegetes, the possibilities are endless.
Think about that and I will comment on how these all relate tomorrow, or you can tell me how you think they relate in the comments.