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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

False Vines?

The Bible continues to reveal itself to me.  Example: I cannot count the number of times I have read John 15 (here in Bible Gateway).  I memorized verse 5 probably 40 years ago.  John 15 (here in Bible Gateway) is one of the central passages in the workshops that I use to equip men to study the Word of God.  I have diagramed the sentence.  I have done a verse analysis on that passage.  I talk about the verse with men at least once each week.
False Vines?
Yet earlier this year I saw something I had never seen before.  You probably have.  It is a blatantly obvious observation.

In John 15:1 (here in Bible Gateway) Jesus said that He is the true vine.  The implication is, again obvious, there are vines that are false.

That begs at least one question, how do we identify false vines.  The answer that could leap to mind is anyone that does not agree with our understanding of the Scripture.  While that is an easy answer, it may not be the best, for it may be too narrow.  I wonder if 1 John 4:2 – 3 (here in Bible Gateway) gives us some guidance on this.

Many different perspectives on the Scripture exist in the Body of Christ.  Some positions that some communities take make it difficult if not impossible for me to regularly engage in those communities.  But, should I consider them a false vine?  If they confess that Jesus came in the flesh, according to John, they are from God.  They are part of the larger Body of Christ.

I am still processing what to do with that.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Critical Need in Leadership Development

The Critical Need in Leadership DevelopmentThere is a lot that has been written in both the secular and Christian press about leadership.  Much of it is very good.  Much of it, even if not acknowledged in the secular, is Biblical.  While in seminary, Dr. Howard Hendricks taught a course on leadership which I took and subsequently graded for him for two years.  One of his tenants was that the best learning on leadership development was in the business community.  Based on his recommendation, I began to read all of the secular leadership material that I could get my hands on.  It was very, helpful, much of it, as I stated above, Biblical.

While I continue to benefit from much of that literature, there were some assumptions that Prof made that were not voiced but implicit based on his audience.  He assumed, since he was talking to seminary students, a grounding in the Word of God through which the secular business literature would be filtered.

That is key.

I have been reminded of this critical assumption as I have observed some leadership development in the Body that does not place much emphasis on the importance of that essential grounding in the Word of God.  Further, I was reminded in 2 Chronicles 29:20 (here in Bible Gateway), of the clear need for a spiritual leader of men to focus on the Lord and His Word.

In the context, Hezekiah, after taking the throne of Judah, cleanses the temple and restores proper worship of the Lord, highlighting his regard and obedience to the Word, Law of God.  Then he assembles the princes, leaders, of the city and leads them to the house of the Lord.

Hezekiah got it.  He understood clearly that those who are to lead the people of God have to have a dependent relationship on Him.  He responded as the leader of leaders by insuring that they were coming to the Lord.

Paul tells us in Romans 15:4 (here in Bible Gateway), that Hezekiah’s example is instructive.  If we are charged with developing leaders, and if I read Matthew 18:18 – 20 (Bible Gateway) correctly, we are, a critical part of that charge is to insure that those who would lead are well grounded in the Word of God.  It is not enough that they know the strategy and tactics of leadership.  They first and foremost have to be established, grounded fully in the Word of God.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Dealing with Stress

How do you respond to stress?

Ahaz was one of the worst kings of Judah.  Look at 2 Chronicles 28:22 – 23 (here at Bible Gateway).  Note Ahaz’s response to stress.  Rather than turning to the Lord for help, he went farther away from Him.
Dealing with Stress
He sacrificed, worshiped, other gods.  Not only other gods, but the gods of one of the enemies that had defeated him in war.  His reasoning?  Their god must be stronger, because they beat me.

Ahaz had god envy.

He did not get that the reason he lost was that the Lord had caused that defeat to discipline him, 2 Chronicles 28:19 (here at Bible Gateway).

Thinking through this I wondered if and how I do the same thing.  How do I turn to my enemy’s god when I am in distress?  My enemy is the ruler of this world, Satan.  He has set in place systems that reward those who seek them, wealth, power, influence, popularity, immorality, escape through mind numbing pharmaceuticals or “brain candy” entertainment.

Pursuit of one of those might constitute god envy...

Rather than turn to the Lord when he was under stress, Ahaz sought relief from other sources.  If I do not immediately turn to Him, when I am in distress, I am doing the same.  Regardless of whatever I choose to do to ease the stress other than turning to Him, I am following Ahaz’s example.

There have been a multitude of opportunities to deal with stress in this past year.  In many of the cases I have, by His grace, turned to Him.  But there are times that I have chosen to escape by reading essentially useless books, or watching movies that require no thought.

By His grace, I will choose better.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Strength from Where?

Strength from Where?Look at three passages:

  • 2 Chronicles 27:6
  • 2 Samuel 22:36 – 37
  • Ephesians 6:10

(You should be able to hover your mouse over those to read the text, if not you can use Bible Gateway.  Start here for 2 Chronicles 27:6, http://tiny.cc/ndszny)

There is a pattern isn’t there?

We are not strong apart from abiding in Him.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Despicable Me…

There are times when the Word of God is stunning to me.  Two days ago reading 2 Samuel 12:9, the Word of God not only stunned but filleted me.
Despicable Me…
The writer under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit describes disobedience as despising the Word of God.  It occurs to me that to despise God’s Word is to despise Him.

Concurrent to my devotional and Bible study I have been working through How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil, by D. A. Carson.  When I read 2 Samuel 12:9 this passage came to mind:
The ultimate measure of evil is the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18ff.), and that wrath is so resolute that it issues in the cross. We are all “by nature deserving of wrath” (Eph. 2:3): apart from the cross, there is no hope for any of us.
In this primal sense, then, evil is evil because it is rebellion against God. Evil is the failure to do what God demands or the performance of what God forbids. Not to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength is a great evil, for God has demanded it; not to love our neighbor as ourself is a great evil, for the same reason. To covet someone’s house or car or wife is a great evil, for God has forbidden covetousness; to nurture bitterness and self-pity is evil, for a similar reason. The dimensions of evil are thus established by the dimensions of God; the ugliness of evil is established by the beauty of God; the filth of evil is established by the purity of God; the selfishness of evil is established by the love of God.
(D. A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 42.)
For me to disobey, lust, covet, not to love, is sin, despising God’s Word, and by extension, God.

James 4:17 reinforces this.  In Psalm 51:4, David declares that his disobedience is against God, he despised God and His Word.

This is hard.  It is especially hard when someone sins against or betrays me.  I have to respond to them in God’s grace or I become engaged in despising Him and His Word.

I am in dire need of His grace to live like this.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Producing Love?

This morning 1 Corinthians 13 was in my reading project.  You know the chapter, love.  Chances are if you have been to a wedding you have heard the passage read.
Producing Love
One of the things about the Word of God that continues to astound me, is how it continues to reveal more in passages that are “familiar”.  Today was no exception.  When I have read or studied this chapter in the past, and if I were pressed the number of passes may be in excess of a hundred, I have always viewed it as an exhortation and a balance to the surrounding chapters on gifts.

While I am still processing what I saw this morning, it was different.

As I was reading through the passage, again, 1 John 4:8 came to mind; specifically, “…God is Love”.  Hard on the heels of that thought, Galatians 5:22 forced its way into my consciousness, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love…”  Now, I may be courting heresy here, but it seems like the love in 1 Corinthians 13 is not something that we can do on our own.

John 15:5 joined the other verses clamoring for attention.  If I do not abide in Christ, I cannot do anything, which would seem to include love.

John 8:31 – 32, and John 15:7, seem to suggest that the Word of God plays some part in our abiding in Christ.

If this line of thinking is correct, one would expect that a person who is not regularly abiding in the Word, abiding in Christ, is incapable of love.  That would also seem to suggest that the things that are presented as love by those who are not so abiding, are not actually love.

Believing Men, who are charged with loving their wives, with raising their children in the Lord, and loving others as themselves, who are not consistently in the Word of God, have no hope of doing any of those assignments.

Even when we are consistently in the Word, if we are not allowing the Word to impact us, to change the way we think (Romans 12:1 – 2), if we are not trusting Him to love through us.  We are pretty much guaranteed to fail.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

From Strength to Weakness

Uzziah’s life is instructive.  We find him in 2 Chronicles 26.
From Strength to Weakness

Look at the contrast between 2 Chronicles 26:4 - 5 and 26:16 - 21.

Verses 4 – 5 describe Uzziah as:
  • Doing right in the sight of the Lord
  • Continuing to Seek God
  • Prospered by God
But verses 16 – 21 describe him as:
  • Strong
  • Proud
  • Corrupt
  • Unfaithful to the Lord
What happened?  How did Uzziah move from following hard after the Lord to proud, corrupt, and unfaithful?

He succeeded.  He did so well that he begin to take credit for what the Lord had done for him.

There is a harsh lesson there for us.

John 15:5 reminds us that we are not able to do anything apart from Christ.  We are completely dependent on His grace for all that we do.  So, say that our kids are turning out OK.  Say that our marriage is clicking on all cylinders.  Say that we are effective in leading people in our workplace to the Lord.  Say that we are helping others to grow in their relationship to the Lord.

Say we start to think that we are doing really well in this Christian life thing.

As Uzziah we begin to take credit.  When things are going well, it is easy to forget who is really behind those good times.

Uzziah may counsel that is not such a good idea.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Meeting Us Where We Are


Most of what is written here, upwards of 85% (swag) comes out of my journal.  Typically I review something I wrote some months back, double check the passage to which I was responding – to make sure I did not write down something really stupid – and then transfer it here, usually somewhat expanded.
Meeting Us Where We Are
Just now I was reviewing the next section of the journal.  It was the middle of last December.  Since last August many difficult things have happened and continue in our family.  I wrote, as a prelude to my time with the Lord, “Lord there is much on my mind and heart now.  I do not know where to start.  At some level I feel overwhelmed by what you have…”  At that point there is a note that my dad, who would pass away 37 days later, called with an issue concerning his 24 hour health care and a challenge with insurance…it left me with a task to do for him…then I continued, “…yet something else on my plate, Lord how do I proceed?  I feel like I am getting crushed here.”

I don’t always record my prayer, I did this time, “I cast this on you and thank you for this series of circumstances.  Lord, please glorify yourself in this and…glorify me in you.  Father please help me through this.  Help me to pray and trust you in this.  Help me where I don’t trust you.”  Next to this was written Philippians 4:6 – 7 and 1 Peter 5:7.

Then I picked up my reading for the day, 2 Chronicles 14 – 16; Revelation 4 – 5; Haggai 2; Zechariah 1; and John 4.  Those passages just so happened to deal directly with my being “crushed”. My response filled 4 pages, about 8 times more than usual…

At times like these, and this has happened more than once, I will start with the reading and the Lord will bring other passages to mind that reinforce.  For example I started in 2 Chronicles 14:11, which took me to 2 Corinthians 12:10, James 1:2, Romans 5:3 – 5, and then back to 2 Chronicles 15:2b – 7… “the Lord is with you when you are with Him, and if you seek Him, He will let you find Him…in their distress they turned to the Lord…they sought Him, and He let them find Him.”

Part of my response to that chain, “Lord I rejoice in my weakness, I rejoice in all of the affliction…” what guarantees a strong finish “is my continual trust in Him.  My abiding in Him.  But I cannot do that on my own, I have to trust you for that as well…”

The point is – well there are several – If we come to Him admitting our desperate pain, He responds, He comforts, He meets us where we are.  He does that through His Word and through His Body.  All we have to do is seek Him, He will let us find Him.

If you are not recording your walk with Him in some form of journal, start.  I had forgotten this.  However, as I was reviewing this entry, it came back, and reading through the entry I was overwhelmed by the grace with which the Lord met with me on that day.  I wept as I read through how He responded.

If I hadn’t recorded it.  It would have been forgotten, a sweet time with the Lord passed and not remembered.

Do yourself a favor.  Write it down.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Drifting Away

The importance of the intentional development of leadership, both in the home and the church, has been a constant focus for some years now.  Sometime back Jeremiah reinforced that with the emphasis on the abandonment of the Word of God by the leaders of Judah in favor of their own dreams and ideas.  The impact was the destruction of the nation.
Drifting Away
Zephaniah 3:2, 4, echoes this theme.

The failure of the “city” to not cling to the Lord was laid firmly at the feet of those who were charged with teaching and leading them.  They did not teach them to cling to the Lord nor did they exhort them do so.  So, they did not.

It is the case that if we are not in community that encourages us to be in the Word, to “draw near to God”, then we will drift away.  Hebrews 3:12 – 13 reinforces this from a New Testament perspective.

It is imperative that we abide in the Word and intentionally continue to encourage one another to draw near to God through His Word.

Not to do so will, as with Judah, have dire consequences for our communities.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Chosen and Consecrated

2 Chronicles 7:16 closely follows the passage that we all memorize, frame, and cross stitch on stuff.  The statement puts special emphasis on the temple as far as God’s relationship to His chosen people.
Chosen and Consecrated
He has the same commitment to the New Temple.

  • 1 Peter 2:4 – 5
  • 1 Peter 2:9 – 10

While the temple that Solomon built was grand, magnificent, it was man’s work.  It was built with earthly stones, dead.  It was done in obedience, but, because of the frailty of the material that was used, did not endure.

This temple, the Body of Christ, the Church, is built of sterner stuff.  It is built not by man, but by God.  Build with regenerated souls assembled with purpose and intention.  Each stone serving an intentional function and place.

It is built on the cornerstone of the Son of God who purchased forever the individual stones, which live.

This Temple will endure.  Even in the context of the reality of the oppression and hatred of the enemy and the world it will stand bridging all ages to eternity.

(See also 1 Corinthians 3:16 – 17, 6:19; Ephesians 2:21)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Football Player or Activist

Lamentations 3:24 was in my reading project this morning.  I was stunned by the first phrase of the verse (hold on I will get to the title in a moment).  Jeremiah, whose life was constantly challenged, threatened, contradicted, and ignored, said his portion was the Lord.  Not his reputation, not his role as a prophet, not his wealth, not people believing what he said, and not even his life.  His portion was the Lord.
Football Player or Activist
He put the Lord ahead of all else in his life.  He valued the Lord more than anything else.  This attitude was and Old Testament embodiment of Matthew 6:33.

How does that tie into the picture?

A day or so ago I was listening to Rush Limbaugh driving between appointments.  He was comparing Kaepernick and Tebow (scroll down to the picture of Tebow and read that paragraph if you do not want to read the whole thing).  He acknowledged that they were opposites in their motivation.  Rush pointed out that both of their choices had consequences.  They are free to make the choice, but the choice they make has implications.  His evaluation was that no NFL team would want either of them because of the circus, the chaos that they created by their actions.  He quoted Football hall of famer, Jim Brown, as saying about Kaepernick, “He needs to decide if he is going to be a football player or an activist.”

The quote stuck.  I thought about Tebow’s stand, Rush called him “a born-again proselytizing Christian,” which is an apt description.  Thinking through this I was struck by the parallel to our lives as believers in a world that is hostile to Christianity.

We have a choice as well, are we going to be Christian or join the team, the world.  Is the Lord our portion, our life or are we compromising our walk with God to fit into this world.

Is my portion my family, my wealth (or pursuit thereof), my job, my reputation, my ministry, the regard with which others hold me, or is my portion, as with Jeremiah, the Lord.

My immediate response was, “Well I have to live here!  We have to eat, pay bills, educate our children…”  Matthew 6:33 is the culmination, the last verse of Matthew 6:25 – 33.  Jesus tells us that we are not to worry about those questions.  We are to trust Him and seek His Kingdom first.

On a minute by minute basis, the world fights against this.  It never tires of working to squeeze us into its mold.

Both Jesus and Paul (Romans 12:1 – 2) tell us to resist.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Know any Liars

Take a look at these passages:
  • 1 John 1:10
  • 1 John 2:4
  • 1 John 2:22
  • 1 John 4:20
  • 1 John 5:10

Know any Liars

What is repeated?  Right, “liar”.
John tells us that a liar is one who:
  • Says he has come to know Christ but doesn’t keep Christ’s commandments.
  • Denies Jesus is the Christ
  • Says, “I love God!”  Yet hates his brother.
  • Does not believe God (the passage says that we make God a liar, which is, a lie).
  • Says he has not sinned.
That is a large, fine meshed net.  At one time or other, I have said or thought at least one of those.  My suspicion is that I am not alone in that reality.

The good news is that God is in the business and habit of redeeming liars.  All I have to do to wipe the slate clean is ask (1 John 1:9).

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Starting Prayer, a Model to Follow

The Bible not only gives us knowledge of God, who He is, a glimpse into His eternal character, it also models for us how we can both live in relationship to Him and each other.
Starting Prayer, a Model to Follow
The Psalms of David, give us examples of prayer when we are in desperate situations.  Jesus and Paul model how to engage in the process of walking in obedience and building into the lives of others.

Some time back I found yet another example.  Look at 2 Chronicles 6:40.  Consider the requests that Solomon makes:

  • Let your eyes be open
  • Let your ears be attentive

Solomon approached God asking Him to engage, to listen, to see.  We know from Scripture that we cannot give God information.  He knows, He hears, He sees.  Solomon, asking this, acknowledges both the Lord’s authority and Solomon’s dependence and submission to Him.

Seems like a good way to start our own prayer.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Certainty of Forgiveness

Take a look at 2 Chronicles 6:36 – 39, note the requirements for forgiveness.
Certainty of Forgiveness
Now look at 1 John 1:8 – 10.  What is similar?  What is different?

The contrast is stark.  Under the law there are more requirements.  Under grace we acknowledge our sin and are forgiven.

Why?

The Law demands a sacrifice for sin.  Christ paid that sacrifice.  Once for all.  Earlier this week I was talking to one of my friends and he shared his amazement with the atonement.  On the cross and in the tomb Christ suffered hell for all of us.  Think of that, he suffered as all of the people that have been born such that they will not have to spend eternity in hell.  Billions of eternities of suffering in three days.

Thus, we can acknowledge our sin and He can righteously forgive.

Last week one of my Uber drivers was Muslim.  We got into a long conversation about forgiveness.  He shared that he had to pray over and over and over and over etc., and hope that god would hear.  He will not know until he dies whether he has been forgiven or not.

I shared with him the completed work of Christ for his forgiveness, which he summarily rejected.  Perhaps the seeds will sprout.

The grace given to us, bought with a horrendously high price by Christ, gives us the unimaginable access to our Lord personally and a certainty of forgiveness before him that no religious system offers.

Be thankful.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Discarding the Aged

There are Christian organizations of which I am aware, that have jettisoned their older staff to make room for younger staff to move into leadership.  As a consultant in business I have seen businesses run into the ground by the sons and daughters of the founders.  There are exceptions, certainly.  One local company had each of the children of the founders paired with an older mentor as they took the reins.  That business is thriving in a very competitive environment.
Discarding the Aged
One of the men I admire, called last week.  He is approaching 80.  He shared with me his wonder and excitement that he is now learning more about the Lord both in quantity and quality than he has in his life.

I am experiencing similar richness.

I think it is for both of us a result of many years in the Word seasoned by multiple attendant struggles.  When we read or study a passage, we are seeing and experiencing the Lord through the lens of years and years of extended time in the Word through a lifetime of struggle.

At some point, all of us must step aside to allow those with more physical energy to assume their place in leadership.  In doing so we need to ensure that those who are stepping in have been under the influence and equipped by one who has walked the same path they will walk.  Those who are stepping in would be well advised to hang on tightly to those who went before, to honor and continue to seek their wisdom honed by experience.  One cannot be 60 when one is 30.

Isn’t this the pattern of Scripture?  Isn’t that what Paul exhorted Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 2:2?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Brokenness Obvious or Hidden

I was at MD Anderson Cancer center earlier this week.  I had some tests and a visit with my doctor, plus I got to see some people that I wanted to see but was sure I would not be able to visit.
Brokenness Obvious or Hidden
On the second floor of the main building (the picture is the main building one of several that make up the complex) there is a large atrium named “the Park.”  It is in an L shape.  It has ceilings at least three stories high with large translucent skylights.  There are large planters throughout with trees, flowers, and shrubs.  There is a “café” where one can purchase coffee, soft drinks, smoothies, and a hot or cold meal.  Tables and chairs are everywhere.

Tuesday afternoon I went over to get a smoothie for lunch.  I was going to spend some time in the Word and do some other work.  I was waiting for my mango kale vegan smoothie; a boy about 12 walked by, his left arm was gone.  In line to get their lunch or something to drink were one or two people pulling their IV trees with several bags hanging.  Off to my right there were several people some walking some sitting at tables with their care givers, with several bags hanging.  One man was in a hospital gown laying on his crossed arms at his table, IV tree behind him, obviously not feeling well.

Monday afternoon while I was waiting for my turn in the CT scanner, a woman came in with her care giver, she was in obvious distress.  She was moaning, holding her head, could barely get from her wheelchair to a chair.  She was obviously nauseated.  A close member of my family is still a patient there.  They have been going through what this lady has been experiencing for the past 10 months.  My father passed away at MDA in January after a 4-year battle with cancer.

So being there is a reminder…

Sitting in the park, drinking my smoothie, every direction, nearly everyone in sight was in obvious brokenness.  It was all around.  Inescapable.  As I pondered this it occurred to me that it is the same at church.  The difference is, at church it is dressed up, covered up.  Instead of moaning and IV trees; smiles, coffee, and everyone is “fine”.

I shared this with a friend Thursday.  He observed that the people that go to MDA are going for a cure, while those who go to church are going for a shot.  Most who make the trek to Houston – and they come, literally, from all over the world – are coming committed to do whatever the doctors say.  I am not sure that – yeah, I am sure, that not all that come to the church are committed at the same level.

I am still processing this.  I do not have solid answers, not even sure that I have the right questions.  However, the seed thought is that we are doing something wrong about the brokenness in our communities.  We are not good at acknowledging the reality of the cancer of sin and the brokenness it creates in our communities.  Canned programs and mass-produced curriculum doesn’t seem to be making that much of a difference.

Where is the passion to cure and to want a cure?  Why aren’t people flocking to the Church from around the world in desperation?  Why don’t they know that the answer, the cure is in Him?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Building the House – Summary

The last nine posts have considered 1 Chronicles 29:1 – 2.  The point was comparison of David’s passion to build a house for the Lord and our assignment to be involved in building the Kingdom of God through making disciples.
Building the House – Summary

Here are some of the questions that pondering this comparison raises for me:
  • There is nothing that I can accomplish apart from abiding in Him.  Am I engaged in anything that I am depending on me rather than Him?

  • Jesus said that I am to seek His Kingdom first.  What have I placed before Him and His assignment for me in my priorities?

  • God gave me gifts for the benefit of the Body.  However, I need others in the body to build me up in my gifts.  Where have I isolated or cut myself off physically, emotionally, or spiritually from those in the Body who are there to help me grow deeper in the knowledge of Christ?

  • The assignment I have been given, to make disciples, is difficult.  However, there are clear models in the Scripture for me to follow.  How well do I understand and follow those models?

  • The assignment I have been given is not so that I am recognized or exalted, but so that the Lord is shown as the glorious strong Lord that He is.  Where have I wanted to, or taken credit, or sought credit rather than pointing those who would praise me to the Lord?

  • The Lord equipped me to serve Him.  Where have I been tempted to use those gifts for my benefit or my glory?

  • David was all in, in his commitment to the Lord.  Where have I reserved portions of my life for me rather than completely surrendering to the Lord?

  • David provided for work that he would not see finished in his lifetime with all of his ability.  Where am I holding back?  Where am I looking to provide for me rather than trusting the Lord’s provision?
Those are some of the questions that goad me as I work through this passage.  I am not particularly fond of any of them.  In fact, I don’t much like it when I am challenged in that way.  However, I am reminded that the Bible was not given to us to coddle us but rather to move us toward our Father.

That requires dealing honestly with difficult questions.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Building the House – Providing for the House

The last phrase in 1 Chronicles 29:1 – 2 we will consider here is David’s summary before he lists the materials he stored up for the temple.  We saw yesterday that he engaged in this with all of his ability, he was all in.  He did not hold back.
Building the House – Providing for the House
It was in providing material for the building of the temple that he did not hold back.  It was his focus.  The first thing on his do list.  The highest priority.

As we have said, David was prevented from building the house.  But He still pursued provisioning the construction with all that he had.

Unlike David, we are called to build God’s church, we are not prevented.  We are commanded to do so.  We are to provide material for that construction.  What could that be?

The material for the temple included gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, onyx, antimony, precious stones and alabaster.  The material for the Church is people.

The first provision we have to make is us.  We have to give ourselves to Him and to His work, His Church.

Following that we are to proclaim the good news of the gospel to our sphere of influence.  It is through that proclamation that others are invited to engage and become members, material, in and for the Church.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Building the House – All In

David wanted to build a house for the Lord.  The Lord told him no and assigned the project to David’s son Solomon.  But David was still completely invested in his conviction that the Lord deserved a magnificent house.
Building the House – All In
We have examined David’s attitude toward the work.  David was not content, though, to completely release his desire to honor his Lord.  He provided the materials for the temple.  He stated in 1 Chronicles 29:2, that he did so with all of his ability.

He was all in.

This wasn’t a project that he was doing on the side.  In his words, he invested all that he had in preparing for a project the Lord not only forbid him to start but he would never see completed.

Think of it.

We have been given a similar charge.  We have been commanded to put Christ’s kingdom as the number one priority of our lives.  We have been commanded to make disciples.  We have been commanded to be diligent in our engagement with our communities of faith.  Unlike David, we have not been forbidden to start, just the opposite.  Like David, we will not see the work complete.

Still we are to be all in.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Building the House – For the Lord God

Yesterday we saw that David stated that the work of building the temple that was assigned by God to his son Solomon was not for man, not for Solomon.  The second part of David’s statement is that the assignment is for the Lord God.  The point of these posts, is that David’s statements about Solomon’s assignment are true of the assignments each of us are given by the Lord.
Building the House – For the Lord God
Paul reinforces David’s thoughts in Colossians 3:17, 23 – 24.  You probably have those verses memorized.

Our purpose, our gifting, our opportunities to serve and to worship are not for us, not for men.  Rather, the purpose, the reason, is for the Lord.

How does that impact all that we do and expect from the Lord?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Building the House – Not for Us

Continuing the journey through 1 Chronicles 29:1 – 2, David gives the reason Solomon needs help and the work is so great.  The reason is twofold.
Building the House – Not for Us
The first part of the reason is that the temple, and by extension the Church, is not for man…we’ll pick up the second half of the reason tomorrow.

What we do in the Church, in the Kingdom of God is not about us.  We tend to forget this, well, I do.  It seems like there may be others who do as well.  There seems to be those who expect that being an apprentice of Christ will be of great material benefit for them; or they believe that it will give them great recognition.

There are those who then will promote themselves to the Body at large.  1 Peter 5:5 – 7 seems to suggest that self-promotion may not be a wise choice.  1 Timothy 6:3 – 10 also warns against this.

This is not about us.  This work we do, the gifts we are given, the opportunities we are given to serve are not for us, not for man.  Just like the assignment to build the temple was not about Solomon, not for man.

It is important to remember that.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Building the House – The Work is Great

The work in which his son Solomon was given to do, for which David said, in what we looked at yesterday, Solomon was in need of help, was a great work.
Building the House – The Work is Great
The temple was the center of worship for Israel.  It was the center of their relationship with the Lord.

We have been tasked with a great work.  We are to make disciples.  We are to seek His kingdom first.  We are to build His Church.  Not buildings.  Not organizations.  People.  We are to invest our lives in building up people in the Lord.

We have models.

We can look at the gospels and see how Christ built people up in the Lord.  We can read Acts and see how four generations of believers were built.  We can read the epistles and see how John, Paul, and Peter continued to work to encourage and build up believers.

That great work has been passed to us.  As David provided the materials for Solomon, so we have been provided the materials by the Son of David.

It is a great work.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Building the House – We Need a Lot of Help

Continuing the trek through 1 Chronicles 29:1 – 2, David observes that Solomon is needy.
Building the House – We Need a Lot of Help
Pretty much describes us.  Even with the gifts we are given, John 15:5 is absolutely still true.

Being chosen by God does not in itself equip.  There has to be experience and time involved in preparation.  David knew this from experience.  He was anointed king in 1 Samuel 16.  David did not take the throne of Israel until 2 Samuel 5.  During much of that time he was fighting for his life.

Knowing what he knows, David petitions the Lord for the people and for his son Solomon.  That the people, of which Solomon is a part, will have their heart directed to Him.  For Solomon specifically, David prays for a heart perfect in obedience.

There are examples in for us in the New Testament as well.  In Acts 18:24 – 28, we read of Apollos, gifted, accurately teaching what he knew.  He just needed more guidance.  Pricilla and Aquila, pulled him aside and gave him direction.

Paul wrote 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus to encourage and strengthen the hand of two of the best me he trained.

We are the living stones, we have been gifted, we have been assigned to build His Church, but we cannot do it alone.  We cannot, do it without the input of those who have and are going before us.

There is much more that can be said, but rather than writing it here you may want to take a look at the “one another” passages in the New Testament.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Building the House – Our Assignment

We are still looking at our role as members of Christ’s Body, especially as it pertains to building His Church.  We are looking through the lens of 1 Chronicles 29:1 – 2.  The next thing David says about Solomon, is that he is chosen by God to build the temple.
Building the House – Our Assignment
That is the case with us as well.  We are chosen by God to build the Church.  Look at these passages:

  • Matthew 28:18 – 20
  • Romans 8:28 – 30
  • 1 Peter 2:4 – 5

It is not only our commission, we are called, and we are part of the building material.

Ephesians 4:11 – 16, reminds us that we are also gifted for this assignment.  Spiritual gifts are given not for our benefit but to build up the Body of Christ.

If we have an assignment from God, which based on these passages seems to be the case, then that should take priority over everything else in our lives should it not?  As a matter of fact isn’t that what Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33.

I don’t know about you, but I need constant reminding of this.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Building the House – It is His House

The preamble to this journey was Psalm 127:1.  I am not into allegorical interpretation.  It seems that this Psalm has bearing on the building of the Church, the house of God.
Building the House – It is His House
There has been a lot written about church growth.  I worked for a time with one of the authors of three of those books.  We talked through the issues for many hours sometimes late into the night.

My wife and I have been in churches that are struggling and those that are thriving.  We have and are currently involved in efforts to create an infrastructure and a means to intentionally build leadership in churches both in our community, in the US, and in other countries.

One of the major lessons I am learning – I obviously haven’t learned it yet, because I keep having to be reminded – regardless of the size of the fellowship, if the Lord is not engaged in the “building” nothing is going to happen.

That is not, or should not be a shock to us.  After all Jesus told us in John 15:5 that we can do nothing apart from Him.  That probably applies to building His Church.

So in all of the previous and following posts on this subject, the baseline, the absolute necessity, whether we are considering building up our children in Christ, meeting one on one with another person, starting a small group, or starting a church dependence on, abiding in, prayer and petition to the Father through the Son is the starting point.

After all, this is His house, His story.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Building the House

Ever experienced getting launched into a topic or a line of thinking by reading one verse in the Bible?  That happened with Psalm 127:1 a few months back.  You know the passage, probably have it memorized.
Building the House
When I read it this time the building of the first temple came to mind.  I went to 1 Chronicles 29:1 – 2.  That is where David is explaining to the nation the assignment his son Solomon has from God to build the temple.

This is going to take more than one post to unwrap.  Here is what we will cover:
  • The relationship between these passages and the Church today
  • The people as the building blocks
  • The work is great
  • The work is not for man
  • The work is for the Lord God
  • The work is done with all our ability
  • We provide for the house of the Lord
  • Final thoughts

Look at the passages and think through what David says.  Let’s compare notes.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Dealing with Unfortunate Divisions

The chapter and verse divisions in our Bibles are necessary to both more effectively navigate the text and communicate with one another.  However, many times, they break up the train of thought, the logic of the passage.  1 Peter 1:22 – 2:3 is a good example of this.
Dealing with Unfortunate Divisions
Many of us have memorized 1 Peter 2:2.  It is a key passage on the importance of the word of God for growth in our Christian life.  However, first, it is the middle clause of one of Peter’s sentences.  Second, the first clause of the sentence begins with, “therefore”.

We all know that we do when we see a “therefore,” we look to see what it is there for.

The previous sentence, 1 Peter 1:24 – 25 begins with “for” which suggests it supports the previous sentence, 1 Peter 1:22 – 23.  That sentence begins with “since” which functions similarly to “for” but also sets up a cause and effect, since ________, therefore __________.

Look at the content of 1 Peter 1:24 – 25.  Notice – well there is a lot in there, but note the last phrase of verse 23, “through the living and enduring word of God”.  “Through,” is another one of those signpost words that indicates how something is done, the means to an end.  In this case, our being born again, purified.

Now back to 1 Peter 2:1 – 3.  Notice the last phrase of verse 2, “so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.”  “By,” functions as “through,” it describes the means to an end; in this case, growth in our salvation.

There is a strong connection between 1 Peter 1:22 – 25 and 1 Peter 2:1 – 3.  The function of the Word of God is in focus.  First, in bringing us to faith.  Second, causing us to grow in that faith.

We must remember as we read and study to look past the chapter and verse divisions.  If we do not, we can miss some crucial truth.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Distorted Cost

I am currently reading Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking, by D. Q. McInerny.  Against that background I was reviewing my journal, remembering my reaction to 1 Chronicles 21:24 (if you haven’t memorized that passage you should).
Distorted Cost
There was a significant confluence between what I was reading in Being Logical and what I see in 1 Chronicles 21:24.

The context of 1 Chronicles 21:24 is David desiring to thank the Lord for stopping the plague that was the result of David’s sin which the Lord used to discipline Israel – there is a lot more that can be said about that, but it lies beyond the scope of this post.

The plague was stopped at the threshing floor of a Jebusite by the name of Oran.  David wanted to buy the site, build an alter there, and offer a sacrifice of praise to the Lord.  Oran offered to donate the threshing floor.  David refused the offering.

The key words that David spoke were, “…I will not take what is yours for the Lord, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing” (emphasis added).

There is a whole book to be written about David’s words, attitude, and heart based on that sentence.  There is much that we can learn about how as disciples of Christ we should live.  It is fair to do so.  David is held up as an example for us in the New Testament.

The section in Being Logical, stresses the need to avoid the use of evasive or euphemistic language.  Using terms that mean something else or else have not been defined well or else have been stripped of their meaning.  It was these words from the book that got my attention:

First, and obviously, it can deceive an audience. Second, and more subtly, it can have a deleterious effect on the people who use it, distorting their sense of reality. The user shapes language, but language shapes the user as well. If we consistently use language that serves to distort reality, we can eventually come to believe our own twisted rhetoric. Such is the power of language.

In our communities, we use the term “disciple” very loosely.  We speak of disciple making, without defining what that would look like in practice.  We come up with clever logos and phrases to assert and proclaim our commitment to this “disciple making”.  However, it is difficult to find out what it means to be a disciple in many of those communities.

The assumption becomes, “If I come to this community, I must be a disciple.”  So the word “disciple” has been stripped of its meaning, its New Testament context, in 1 Chronicles 21:24 terms, its cost.

Discipleship has a cost.

There are more passages than I am willing to cover in this post (search the blog for the word “disciple” for a taste), but look at Luke 14:26 – 35, as a starting point.  Christ says some hard things there.

If we continually use disciple loosely, it will have what McInerny calls a deleterious effect on the people in the community, distorting their reality.  It is one thing to distort the reality of some portion of our temporal, worldly existence.

It is of dire consequence to distort the reality of that which has bearing on the eternal.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Ashamed of Christ?

Pretty sure that I have mentioned before that repetition in the Word is one of the means of emphasis.  In Hebrew parallels are used for emphasis; sometimes to emphasize a comparison or a contrast.  The human authors of the New Testament had Jewish backgrounds.  Many times, the elements of both repletion and parallelism appeared in their work.
Ashamed of Christ?

Look at Luke 9:26, notice what is repeated.  In the NASB, ashamed and glory.  Note what is the object of shame for each use.  In the first clause, the object of shame is Christ and His words.  In the second clause, the object of shame is the one who held Christ and His words in shame.

That raises some questions.  What does it mean to hold Christ in shame; to hold His words in shame.  It would seem that if I were to ignore, discount, trivialize, or disobey Christ’s words, that would be tantamount to being ashamed of His word.  If I am ashamed of His word, doesn’t it follow that I am ashamed of Him?

Have you ever withdrawn from someone because of something he or she said?  Have you ever ignored someone because you did not view them as important or what they said as weighty?  Isn’t that what Christ is describing here?

Now consider Matthew 6:33.  Christ commands that we seek His kingdom first.  If we do not do so, is that being ashamed of His word?

If that is the case is not the effect what Christ describes here?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A 33% Effort

Read Jonah 3:3 – 4.
Note that Nineveh, Jonah’s assignment was a large city requiring three days to walk across.  Also, that Jonah’s “message of salvation” to the people of this great city consisted of eight words.  Lastly, Jonah only walked 1/3 of the way into the city.

We do not have all the data.  We do not know if Jonah said those eight words more than once or if he repeated them as he trudged along 1/3 of the way into Nineveh.  Neither do we know if he went out of the city the same way or went out another gate.

However, based on Jonah’s attitude in the first couple of chapters, it seems to me that it is possible that Jonah walked into the city 1/3 of the way, said his eight words, and turned around and walked out.

Minimal effort.

Maximum effect.

Why?

This seems to highlight the power of God to deal with an issue regardless of the commitment or passion of the instrument of His grace.

God does not need eloquence.  He does not need overwhelming effort.  He does not need a full commitment or passion.  He can use our halting, 1/3 hearted, stumbling, and minimalist effort to create a revival and change the hearts of a city.

This is not about our effort.  It is about His power to change the hearts of people.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Problem Solving 101

Problems are a fact of life.  Either in our personal life, our business, or our communities of faith.  In 1 Chronicles 19:8, 10, 13, the writer outlines how David dealt with a significant problem.  David’s approach seems to set for us a good example of how to deal with difficult problems.
Problem Solving 101

There seem to be three steps to David’s plan.
  1. David sent his best people to deal with the issue – he sent his best general, Joab, and his mighty men.

  2. David did not micro manage the problem – he let his best people deal with the issue based on their experience and gifts.  They dealt with the problem by:
    1. Subdividing the issue into manageable or rational parcels.
    2. Assigning the best people to deal with that subset.

  3. All, David, Joab, and the mighty men were strong and courageous in dealing with the challenge.
    1. They were not focused on getting glory for themselves.
    2. They were focused on:
      1. Getting glory for the Lord
      2. Protecting the People
This seems like an approach that will work for many of the problems we face in our personal, business, and communities of faith.

Friday, August 4, 2017

On a Mission from God?

If you have seen the Blues Brothers, you know that Jake and Elwood tell people they are on a mission from God (the movie is crude, the music is great); if one were an objective observer, one would probably come to the conclusion that they were perhaps mistaken.
On a Mission from God?
1 Chronicles 17:6, David and Nathan made a similar error as Jake and Elwood.  David feels like he should build a house for the Lord.  Nathan thinks that is a great idea.  One the way home from David’s, Nathan hears from God, “Not so fast!” (it’s in the original).

1 Samuel 13:14 refers to David as a man after God’s heart.  Here, he was wanting to do something for the Lord which the Lord did not want him to do.  Nathan, is the one that confronts David about Bathsheba; he gets it wrong as well.

That made me wonder.  How many times have I engaged in something I thought that the Lord wanted me to do and yet He was not that interested in my doing that for Him?  I suspect that I have.

Two things emerge from thinking through this.  First, the need to seek Him and His heart fervently before I act for Him.  Second, I may, and probably will, like David, get it wrong at times.  The amazing and wonderful thing?  God’s lavish grace covers my errors, just as it did David’s.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Finding the best teacher...

This morning Judges 17:13 was on my reading project.  A couple of days ago someone posted a video on facebook of Francis Chan that I found fascinating (note while the heading mentions Jehovah’s Witnesses, that is not what I found interesting, the core of what Chan is saying starts with about 2:30 left in the video.  I highly recommended checking out that last 2:30).  The passage and the video reinforced each other.
Finding the best teacher
Reading through Judges 17:13 it seemed as if I was reading a commentary on what is wrong with many of our fellowships today.  Micah was thrilled that he had a real Levite priest.  He knew that the Lord would prosper him.  Never mind that he had built an altar to an idol he had created out of silver he had stolen from his mother.

How many of our fellowships are excited that they have a great pastor?  We have search committees to find someone who can really deliver.  Or we look for the best books, the best speakers – like Chan, Maxwell, Keller, Piper,etc…

But it isn’t about having the best preacher, the best teacher, the best author…  Their relationship with Christ, their study of the Word, their personal knowledge of Him, does not substitute for our relationship, our study, our personal knowledge of Him.

Jeremiah is also in my reading project this month.  In Jeremiah 31 we begin to be told about the new covenant.  You may know Jeremiah 31:33.  But look at Jeremiah 31:34.  Part of the new covenant is that we are not dependent on teachers to know the Lord.  It is His idea that we are personally engaged with Him.  He expects us to engage with Him in and through His Word.

Teachers, those who proclaim the truth of the Word, and great authors are valuable to us only if what they say supplements and drives us to dig deeper into the Word to validate what they have said.

To revel in having the best teacher like Micah reveled in having a Levite, an official priest, is a bit like ignoring the new covenant and returning to the old.

Not a plan that seems to align with the completed work of Christ.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Drifting Focus

Hebrews 13:13 – 14 got my attention a while back.  I tend to lose sight of the reality that what we have here, our homes, our cities, our countries are not eternal.  All of those are transient.  They will not last.  All one must do to validate that truth is travel to some “ancient” places in the world.  One will be there confronted with the ruins of those homes, cities, and in fact countries and empires that are no longer among us.
Drifting Focus
I forget that.

Matthew 5:6, 6:33, and Philippians 3:20 serve as a clear reminder of what our focus is supposed to be other than our current possessions and where those possessions reside.

Shortly after I trusted Christ this was made clear to me.  I was in Undergraduate Pilot Training in the Air Force.  I desperately wanted to fly RF-4 aircraft.  After trusting Christ, I became aware that the planes would, and in some cases literally, burn.  However, the people in those planes would exist eternally, either in the presence of the Lord or eternally apart from Him.

The Lord through time in His Word and the result of fellowship with others who were pursuing Him, changed my focus from the planes to the people, from the temporary to the eternal.

I find that there is a strong tendency for my focus to drift back to that which is temporary.  Based on what I seen in Paul’s epistles, that tendency is not limited to my experience.

If my experience as a new believer is instructive; then what we all need is to continue to abide in His Word and engage with a fellowship of people who are pursuing the eternal.

I need that.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

United in Battle

Earlier this year I was reading through 1 Chronicles 12:23 – 40, it was part of the reading plan I use for my devotional.  One of the things I have notices over the years, as my skill in Bible study increases; specifically, as I work at making more and better observations in Bible study, that “skill” spills over into all that I do in the Word, including my reading during my devotional times with the Lord.
United in Battle
One of the keys in observation is noticing repetition.  Read quickly through 1 Chronicles 12:23 – 40, what do you see repeated?

I saw three things that seemed to describe an effective group, body, division of an army:
  1. They came together – they worked as a team.  They each know how they fit into the whole.  They each have a crucial role to play.  They are not acting apart or against the objectives of the group.

  2. They have a multitude of weapons which they can wield expertly – they are not just in possession of these weapons, they are equipped.  That word is repeated often in this passage.  These are tried soldiers, not those who are not sure how to use what they have.  Rather, they are equipped, trained to be effective with their weapon.  They have a multitude of ways in which they can do so.

  3. They have an undivided heart – they are focused, not distracted, they know their assignment and are committed to seeing it through.
Reviewing this entry in my journal, Ephesians 1:22 – 23 came to mind.  Wouldn’t it be good if the elements of 1 Chronicles 12:23 – 40 described our local bodies?  That we would come together, equipped with a multitude of weapons, tools to expand the kingdom, and we were undivided in that focus.

The gates of hell would tremble.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Who is it for?

The Tuesday morning group is studying Ephesians.  This week we are in Ephesians 3.  It has been a great study thus far.  One of the overwhelming themes has been the lavish grace that God has poured out in our lives.
Who is it for?
After doing the overview of the book – by the way with any book it is best to start with an overview, that way when one is studying the parts, one can relate them to the whole.  Then end with a summary of the book.  So the movement is from the whole to the parts and back to the whole.  While this method will not completely eliminate errors in one’s approach to the book, it will greatly reduce the tendency to take a passage out of context.

After doing the overview, we have been working through the book essentially a paragraph at a time.  These past few days I have been working through Ephesians 3:1 – 13.  While the truth is in other places in Paul, Ephesians 3:2 has impacted my thought and actions this week.

At first I struggled a bit with Ephesians 3:2.  Why would it be a condition of Paul’s effectiveness with his gentile audience that they have heard of his calling to them?  There are times when a passage does not make sense to me that I will let the struggle go, knowing that I will come back to it later in another study.  This time Ephesians 3:2 would not let go.

I am still struggling with the first conditional phrase, however, the rest of the passage has refocused my thinking and understanding our assignment as disciples and fathers.

As mentioned above, the outpouring of God’s lavish grace on us is one of the main themes of the book (results of the overview).  In Ephesians 3:2b Paul describes his ministry, his service to the gentiles, as a stewardship of that lavish grace.  It would be worth your time to look at the other passages that use this word (here is the portion of my study that does that).  He is to steward, manage, and I believe entrust that grace to others.  It is a solemn assignment.

The striking thing though is in Ephesians 3:2c.  Paul states that that grace was given to him for the ones he is called to serve.  It is not given to him for his benefit but for the benefit of the people with which, for which, and to which he stewards the lavish grace of God.

As disciples we are to be about making other disciples, Matthew 28:18 – 20.  In so doing we are, as Paul, to steward the lavish grace we have been given.  That stewardship entails getting the gospel right.  But, the purpose, the reason, the aim of the grace we steward is not for our benefit, our reward, our exalutation, or recognition.  No, the purpose of the grace given to us is for the benefit of those with whom we share it.

As fathers, what the Lord does in our lives is for the benefit of those who are our closest disciples, our kids and when and if, our grandchildren.

Many of us, at times myself included, tend to focus on what we need, what we want, what is important to us, whether we get the recognition that we think we deserve.  Here Paul is reminding us that when God is working in our live it is not just about us.  His purpose is that grace He lavishes on us is stewarded into a lavish grace through Him into the lives of our children and others.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Last Brick – Part 4 (Firewall cont.)

The last imperative in 2 Timothy 4:5 is “fulfill.”  Paul commands his apprentice to “fulfill your ministry.”  Like many of Paul’s sentences, the word order in the original is emphatic placing the imperative at the end and the object first.  So literally, “the service (ministry) of you fulfill.”
The Last Brick – Part 4 (Firewall cont.)

Why would Paul stress this to his protégé?

If you read ahead in 2 Timothy 4:6 – 18, you will note that people left the ministry and deserted Paul in his time of need.  The implications are that though Paul finishes well, 2 Timothy 4:7, there are many who do not.  One of my friends points out that we find many in their 20’s and 30’s on fire for the Lord, but, he observes, there are few in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s that do more than slide for home.

Paul wants Timothy to complete (the root of the word here translated fulfill) fully the assignment that the Lord has given him.

This last imperative is particularly important for all of us.  2 Peter 5:8 reminds us that we have a faithful, intentional, murderous enemy.  Success, completion, fulfillment in and of our Christian life and ministry to others is under constant attack.  This stark reminder by the apostle coupled with the similar warning by Peter in 2 Peter 3:17, should serve to keep us diligent to continually rely and depend on the Lord to finish this race.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Last Brick – Part 3 (Firewall cont.)

The third command for Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5 is “do the work of an evangelist.”
The Last Brick – Part 3 (Firewall cont.)

Consider that for a moment.  I have heard many times that some people have the gift of evangelism.  I have heard some pastors tell their congregations that evangelism is getting people to come listen to the pastor share the gospel.

I cannot find evangelism on any of the lists of spiritual gifts.  That is on any of the lists in the Bible.  I am sure I have seen it on lists that man has produced.  Paul does not mention it as a gift in any of his lists, Romans 12:3 – 8, 1 Corinthians 12:4 – 11, or Ephesians 4:11 – 16.

He just tells his key man to do the work.  Share the gospel.  It is not a gift.  It is a command.

Making disciples is not a gift either.  In Matthew 28:18 – 20, make disciples is the main verb and it is imperative.  Christ commanded us to make disciples.  Part of that process is to share the gospel.

It is not a gift.

It is a command.  A command that has been given to all of us who have trusted in Him.

You may say that you don’t know how.  You may say that you don’t know what to say.  May I suggest you read John 9 and Acts 26.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Last Brick – Part 2 (Firewall cont.)

The second command that Paul gives his protégé in 2 Timothy 4:5 is “endure hardship”.  This specific word, κακοπαθέω (kakopatheō) shows up only 3 times in the New Testament, and once in the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint:
The Last Brick – Part 2 (Firewall cont.)

Verse Translation
2 Timothy 2:9 suffer hardship
2 Timothy 4:5 endure hardship
James 5:13 is suffering
Jonah 4:10 you did work (negated by the Greek word for “not” so it reads “you did not work”)

However, there are other instances of a compound word συγκακοπαθέω (synkakopatheō) that appears twice more in 2 Timothy, the only occurrences of the word in the New Testament:

Verse Translation
2 Timothy 1:8 join with me in suffering
2 Timothy 2:3 suffer hardship with

2 Timothy 1:8; 2:3; and 4:5 are all commands, imperatives.

So what?

There is a thread here throughout Paul’s letter to his disciple.  Paul is calling Timothy to work hard at the task of entrusting the truth of the gospel to those to whom he has been sent to serve.  This command is repeated three times in 83 verses.  One could get the impression that Paul is serious.

But doesn’t this only apply to Timothy?  Or shouldn’t it only apply to those who are in leadership in our communities of faith?  Is it not our pastor’s job to work that hard in and for the gospel?

Perhaps.  But, consider:
  • Matthew 6:33
  • Matthew 28:18 – 20
  • John 13:15
  • Philippians 3:17
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:7
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9
  • 1 Timothy 1:16; 4:12
  • Titus 2:7
  • James 5:10
  • 1 Peter 2:6
It seems like the expectation of the New Testament is that all believers are subject to that imperative, does it not.

Why then, do you think, many do not seem to do so?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Last Brick - Part 1 (Firewall cont.)

The third and last command Paul gives his protégé is in 2 Timothy 4:5.  There are four elements, four imperatives, four commands:
  • Be sober in all things
  • Endure Hardship
  • Do the work of an evangelist
  • Fulfill your ministry
The Last Brick - Part 1 (Firewall cont.)
The first, “be sober,” is strong.  The word appears only six times in the New Testament, of those six three are imperative: 2 Timothy 4:5; 1 Peter 4:7; and 1 Peter 5:8.  If we consider those passages in context, we see that the Spirit used the term in the imperative in the face of evil and false teachers (2 Timothy 4:5), the need to pray based on the reality of the ending of this world (1 Peter 4:7), and a solemn reminder that we are continually under attack by the enemy of our Lord (1 Peter 5:8).

In this passage, by starting with this imperative, Paul is adding enormous weight to his charge to Timothy.  This is not a casual assignment.  It is not optional.  It is deadly serious.  It is not one of several things in which we dabble; it is central to our life and calling in the Lord.

Many believers tend to delegate.  It is fine to delegate.  It is an essential business practice.  It is an incredibly important tool in the training of men and women in all walks of life.  However, there are some things that we cannot, or better, should not delegate.  Primary on that list is our walk with God.  We cannot live the Christian life by proxy.  We cannot know God through other’s study.  It is not OK to have several degrees of separation between us and our Savior.

Paul’s commands to Timothy are commands to us.  These are not marching orders for “professional Christians”.  We are called to be sober, serious, centered in our lives and relationship with Christ.  It is not ok for us to delegate that relationship to others.

The word accountability is much overused in the Body.  If you do a word search in your Bible app on your device or look in a concordance, you find that we are accountable to God, not each other.  In this matter, the word applies.  We are accountable to the Creator of the universe, the One who sent His Son to die in our place, the One who called us to Himself and gave us life and gifts for His purposes to be sober, serious about our relationship to Him and the work for which He designed us.