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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Under the Gun

Normally when I am about to be away from my computer, or out of the country, I work on writing the blog prior to leaving and then I schedule it to publish while I am away.  I will be pretty much out of touch all next week.  But not only have I not written ahead, I have not been able to write consistently this month.  I am under a tight deadline and nearly all of my energy is being expended on developing material for two weeks of meetings in another country.

I have not missed with this regularity in the past years.  Thus the reality of this situation is causing me to reflect again on why I am doing this blog in the first place.  Originally, it was an act of obedience.  It seemed to me that the Lord was asking me to do this, that has not changed – at least I do not sense that it has.  But…

Over time, I am beginning to wonder if I have lost who my audience was meant to be, the Lord.  My assignment was to write for Him.  In obedience to Him.

I was reading through Jeremiah 7 a day or so ago, the chapter rocked me.  The nation had slipped into a deceptive pattern.  They were following the Law, bringing sacrifices to the temple, they were doing what the Law said they were supposed to do, but the Lord was not pleased.

It seems that they got the means confused with the end.  This became clear for me in Jeremiah 7:22 – 23.  God reminds Israel that He did not ask for offerings and sacrifices when He brought the nation out of Egypt.  He just asked them to follow Him.

The Law with which they were obsessed came later.  Israel became focused on the Law, keeping it, and lost somewhere along the way the real assignment, follow God, be in relationship with Him.

I think at some level I drift into that mentality from time to time.  I go to church as an end.  Being there, singing the worship songs, listening and taking notes on the message or class becomes the extent of my activity.  It is about being in the building, doing the “Christian” things.  But God says He wants obedience, He wants me to follow Him, He is after and always has been after, relationship.  He wanted Israel’s heart; He wants mine.

So I will follow Him in the next four weeks.  I may not be here as much as I usually am.  But I will be with Him.

Friday, July 8, 2016

God’s Merciful Forgiveness

I am still in Joshua in my reading project.  This morning Joshua 9 – 10.  I came away astonished at the forgiving mercy of God.
God’s Merciful Forgiveness
In Joshua 9 we read of the Gibeonites con of the nation of Israel.  You know the story, they put on worn clothes, filled worn out tack with moldy provisions, and told the leaders of Israel they were from a far country.  Without inquiring of the Lord, the leadership bought the lie.

So both the Gibeonites and Israel sinned against God.  The Gibeonites by lying.  The leaders of Israel by not obeying God.

So they should both be disciplined, right?  Not so fast…

In chapter 10 Gibeon is attacked by an alliance of 5 kings.  If you have followed much of the OT you may think that God would use this alliance to discipline both Gibeon – which by the way was under a death sentence until they conned Israel – and Israel.  Instead, not only does the Lord give victory, He fights for Israel.  Joshua 10:14, tells us that this was unique in the history of Israel.

Here two nations sinned.  But rather than discipline them, God in His mercy, not only does not discipline them but rather goes to war to protect and save them.

That gives me great peace, comfort, and hope.  I blow it all of the time.  If my effectiveness as a husband, father, friend, leader of a ministry, or whatever depended on my ability to always do the righteous thing, I would be without hope in this world.

It is only through God’s grace and mercy that I am able to do anything positive at all.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Leadership (Not So) Secret

Years ago I memorized Joshua 1:8.  It was part of the Navigator TMS.  I have reviewed the verse and used it in conversation with believers multiple times.  Joshua 1 was in my reading project a couple of days ago and I saw something there that I had never seen before.  Read the first chapter; look for repetition.
A Leadership (Not So) Secret
Here is what I saw:
Verse Phrase
6 Be strong and courageous
7 be strong and very courageous
7 be careful to do according to all the law…
8 be careful to do according to all that is written in it…
9 Be strong and courageous
18 be strong and courageous
Four times Joshua is exhorted to be strong and courageous.  The first three by the Lord, the last by the people of Israel.

Between the second and third exhortations the Lord commands Joshua to be careful to obey the Word of God, twice.  In Hebrew – well actually, in the Bible – repetition is emphasis.  Here it is strong.

In the midst of four exhortations to be strong and courageous Joshua is commanded to be careful to obey the Word of God.  Think of the context.  Joshua is taking over the leadership of Israel from Moses.  He is about to lead the nation in battle to take the land that God has promised Israel.

The advice, the key for Joshua is to obey the Word of God.  Immediate application, if we are going to lead as a believer, we have to be continually – the book not departing from our mouth continually – in the Word of God.

It is instructive to me that this command is surrounded by the exhortation to be strong and courageous.  It is my experience in the past 40 years of being engaged in ministries of various types, that a leader’s being in the Word is continually under attack.  It takes dogged determination in the face of multiple assaults for one to remain in and obey the Word of God.

There are pressures, many pressures not to do so.  Pressures of time, pressures of others expectations, pressures of the culture telling you that the Word is no longer relevant, pressures of “Christians” telling you that the Word is no longer relevant, pressures to cut corners in your study in order to do “your job.”

This is not a trivial exhortation that God is giving Joshua.  We do well to take note.  If it is the case that we are to lead and we are not doggedly determined to be in and obey the Word, then what may I ask are we doing that is more important?  What is it that one could share from their own thoughts that would be better than the Word of God?  If I am engaged in ministry with or to someone and the Bible is not central in that interaction, what in the heck am I talking about?

Sadly, I know and have observed those who are in ministry who perhaps have not read this passage lately.  Pray for your leaders.  Pray that they would take this command to heart.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Can’t Resist

Psalm 119 struck again.  It has been a long day.  I was going to skip tonight but saw some things this morning in Psalm 119:153 – 160, Resh.
Can’t Resist
Look at this:
Verse Action Means
154 Revive me According to Your Word
156 Revive me According to Your Ordinances
159 Revive me According to Your lovingkindness
The parallel repetition is a device in Hebrew poetry.  It is emphasis and is telling us one of the reasons the Word and the Ordinances revive.  They reflect, are based on, the character of God, in part, His lovingkindness.  Peter picks this theme up in 2 Peter 1:3 – 4, the promises of God are based on the glory and excellence of God, His character and nature.  Through trusting, having faith in, those promises we become partakers of the divine nature.

Why?  Because we are basing our life on some aspect of God’s identity.  We are trusting in who He is.

There is much more here, just in this Resh octet, but that is enough for now.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Wiser Guy

There is much in Psalm 119 that is worth our time.  Do a search in this blog and you will note that I have written on Psalm 119 a lot.  I listen to the Psalm at least once a week and sometimes more.  I do not have it all memorized, but that is a goal.
Wiser Guy
You probably are aware that the psalm is comprised of 22 alliterated octets.  David writes each octet with the first letter of each line starting with the same Hebrew letter, working from aleph to tav.

Mem is the thirteenth letter and its octet is Psalm 119:97 – 104.  There are three verses that stand out to me in this octet.  They describe the impact of the Word of God on people, to say that the impact is significant would be a bit of an understatement…  The Word lifts David above three groups of people in three significant ways:
Verse Impact Group
98 Makes one wiser Enemies
99 Gives one more insight All of one’s teachers
100 Gives one more understanding The aged

Think of that.  Those are three significant groups of people for any of us, enemies, teachers, and the aged.  The older that one gets, the wiser one is supposed to become.  David is telling us that the Word of God accelerates that process and make us wiser than those who have been around a long time.

If it is your desire to be wise, to learn, and to deal effectively with those who oppose you, David’s suggestion would be to get into the Word.