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Monday, December 17, 2018

Speaking At Our Church

For the past several days I have been preparing to speak at our church.  That is one of the reasons that there has not been a new post.
Speaking at Church
You may want to watch this.  I am covering 2 Timothy 3:10 – 4:8 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Some of this has been written about here.  But this puts most of it together.  Click here to hear and watch the message.

Look forward to any comments you may have.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Turmoil

Life has been interesting for the past few weeks, months, and years.  I was on the phone this morning with a friend who has been dealing with a family crisis for the past few days.  He found out this morning that his father is probably in his last hours.
Turmoil
This friend is in the midst of leading a ministry that is going through some changes.  The changes seem to be aligning the thrust of the ministry more closely to the purposes of the Lord described in the New Testament.  Since this effort has begun, all kinds of turmoil has erupted in that community.

The Scripture warns us of this.  1 Peter 5:8 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells us that the enemy is about destroying us.  He isn’t in the business of distraction or irritation, no, destruction is his end game.  But, there is a way to avoid destruction, don’t do anything that would get his attention.  That is don’t be engaged in making disciples or seeking first the Kingdom of God.

He will leave you alone then.  You are not a threat.

Step in the direction of obedience, expect turmoil.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving
Yesterday I got a newsletter from Jim Dobson.  In it he gives a really good overview of the pilgrims’ choices to come to America, their struggles when they got here, and the first Thanksgiving.

Why not read this to your family tomorrow? (click here to get it)

Happy Thanksgiving from Entrusting Truth.

Monday, November 19, 2018

What’s Your Job Description?

When you are asked what you do, how do you respond?  I am a consultant…  I am a salesman...  I am in IT…  I am a doctor...  I am a lawyer…
What’s Your Job Description?
The apostles were a special group.  They were described by Peter in Acts 1:21 – 22 (here @ Bible Gateway), as men who accompanied them all the time they were with Jesus.  Peter may not have been entirely correct with that as Paul did not fit that definition, Jesus came to him directly after the resurrection and ascension.  Regardless they were special and few.

How did they view themselves?  Was the title apostle quick on their lips?  Based on the picture we have of Peter in the Scripture, he would be one that we might think would use that title first.  Check 2 Peter 1:1 (here @ Bible Gateway).  That is not the term, or job description, with which he leads, rather he calls himself a bond-servant.

Paul uses the same designation in Romans 1:1 (here @ Bible Gateway); Philippians 1:1 (here @ Bible Gateway); and Titus 1:1 (here @ Bible Gateway).  James echoes Peter and Paul in James 1:1 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Look at Deuteronomy 15:16 – 17 (here @ Bible Gateway).  There we have the law of the bond-servant.  It is voluntary, it is a lifelong commitment, it is based on the love of the servant for the master, and the reality that the master is very good to the servant.

These men, two of which are designated apostles lead with bond-servant to describe their “job descriptions”.

We are told to imitate them.  So that should raise several questions for us:
  • Why do I do what I do in my church?
  • Why do I share Christ with people?
  • Why do I study His Word?
  • Why do I join in fellowship with other men?
There are probably more but those are enough to get going.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Peace of Dependence

I reviewed Psalm 71:6 (here @ Bible Gateway); 1 Peter 5:10 (here @ Bible Gateway); and James 4:14 (here @ Bible Gateway) just now.
It occurs to me that regardless of what has happened in our life or what will transpire, there is solace, peace, rest in the knowledge that it is from the Lord who is sovereign, holy, love, and unchanging.

Coupled with Psalm 139:16 (here @ Bible Gateway), I can trust Him, resting in the knowledge that He is in control of my path and my life.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Prayer?

For the past 4 years I have been dealing with a health issue, for the past two weeks another was added to the mix.  I had a test yesterday that took about 3 hours – partly why there was no post yesterday.
Since November of 2016, the Lord has been challenging me more and more in the area of prayer.  It is still not a strength.  While I can spend hours engaged in His Word, I struggle to do the same in prayer.

The thrust of the lessons from the Lord on prayer have centered on the prayers of Paul, I wrote about that earlier.  I have been struck by the content of Paul’s prayer.  He does not focus on illness rather he prays the ministry with which he has been entrusted into the communities he is called to serve.

I have noticed that most of the time when there is a request for prayer in many communities the focus is the health of the individual or a friend or relative.  The focus on Paul’s prayers had changed the way that I ask for prayer and has dampened my asking others to pray for illness for me.  There are still those for whom I pray that are sick, but even the way I pray for them has changed due to the challenges I have experienced from the Lord.

However, Psalm 70:4 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells us that we are to rejoice and be glad continually, magnifying the Lord for His salvation.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 – 18 (here @ Bible Gateway), exhorts me to pray without ceasing and give thanks in everything.  This notion is repeated in Philippians 4:6 – 7 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Further, Hebrews 11:6 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells me of the attitude I must have in prayer.

My conclusion is that prayer is the acknowledgement of my absolute dependence on a sovereign, loving, and holy God.  I am to come to Him with everything.

Then I read James 5:13 – 18 (here @ Bible Gateway) and I am challenged in the dampening of my asking for prayer for illness.

It seems the more that I pursue Him, the more I don’t know, or better have to change what I think and what I do…

I guess that is why this Christian life thing is a journey not an event.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Dead Serious

Choosing to engage with others in sharing God’s Word with them is dead serious.  Read Numbers 25:4 (here @ Bible Gateway).
Dead Serious
The serious aspect of this – check that – the dead serious aspect, is that the leaders had abandoned the Word of God.

Rather than leading the people to the Lord through His Word, the leaders led them to worship false gods, idols.  The same theme permeates the book of Jeremiah (here @ Bible Gateway).  The climax of that behavior is recorded in Jeremiah 23 (here @ Bible Gateway).

As leaders, and note that as believers all are leaders, the core of what we share with our families, our friends, those in our communities of faith, and those outside the faith with whom the Lord allows us to share the truth, is His Word.

James 3:1 – 2 (here @ Bible Gateway), 2 Timothy 2:15 (here @ Bible Gateway), and 2 Timothy 4:5 (here @ Bible Gateway), support and remind us of this.

Sure there are really good Christian books as those that are really bad.  The Word of God, however, is always good.  It is always appropriate.  It is always true.

In this age there are many who are claiming to have the truth.  They are promoting themselves over the Word of God.  Churches and organizations that were once effective in spreading the Word of God, have abandoned it.

That is dead serious.

Monday, November 12, 2018

It is a Lock

This last week I was asked to resend an excerpt of a book I am reading to a friend.  The book is, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, by Tim KellerThe excerpt is an extended quote from a book by Elizabeth Elliot, No Graven Image.
It is a Lock
One of the individuals who got the excerpt responded, “Difficult stuff.”  I asked him why.  His response was – and I am paraphrasing, and at some level expanding here – That it is hard to live a life following Christ when things do not seem to be working out according to our understanding of God’s promises to care for us.

First my friend is right.  It is hard.

There are a number of passages that come to mind as I reflect on his response.  One is Numbers 23:19 (here @ Bible Gateway).  I know that he has this passage memorized, you may as well.  The import of this passage is that if God has said something, it is essentially a promise, it will be done, it is a lock.

Sometimes though, it doesn’t seem that way.

We pray for our friend who is critically ill, and they die.  We struggle with paying the bills, we pray, and still struggle.  Yet we read in His Word that He will meet our needs.  What is going on?  (Obviously this paragraph can be expanded nearly infinitely, but I will leave that to you.)

Perhaps we need to alter our perspective.  When things do not work out the way we want them to, the way we have prayed, what do we learn?  For one thing, what we were asking for was not the will of God.  We can know that from 1 John 5:14 – 15 (here @ Bible Gateway).  That is a data point for us.  We should learn from what God does that doesn’t align with what we think He should do.

The reality may be that we, like Elliot suggests in the excerpt, expect God to do for us what we want.  We expect Him to fulfil our will, not His.  In fact, that theology, or perhaps better, that idolatry, has permeated and impacts many of the countries in which the Lord has allowed me to serve.

Perhaps we should remember Numbers 23:19 (here @ Bible Gateway).  He does not change.  What He does is always consistent with His nature.  He is faithful, He is love, He is sovereign.  He is also eternal.  His purpose and provision for us is not limited nor is it focused on this world.  Remember John 14:1 – 4.  It is a mistake, I think, to evaluate God by what He does for us in this world.

Note: This post marks the start of the eighth year for this blog.  So far, 1853 posts and counting…

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Consider Summary

We have been examining Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The import of this passage cannot, I think, be over emphasized.  We have seen that the notions of holding fast our hope and considering one another are not suggestions, not optional, not something that is merely good to do.
Consider Summary

The use of the hortatory subjunctive makes these prescriptive for a community not suggestive.  It is the intention of the writer of Hebrews and through His active inspiration, the Holy Spirit, that this level of engagement of people, the increasingly intensifying and urgent encouragement to hold fast to their hope and to stimulate them into love and good works, is normative, commanded in our communities of faith.

This understanding of Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway), builds on and sheds light on several other passages in the epistles.  Together, these passages begin to suggest a pattern of behavior that intentionally moves new believers into mature believers who are capable and committed to in turn lead others through the process through which they have progressed.

If this understanding of this sentence is accurate, it begs the question, is this your experience in your body?  If not, why not?  Frankly, it has not been my experience.  That reality is challenging me to pray differently for those with whom I am in fellowship.  If this is accurate, my responsibility is to increasingly, urgently engage with those whom God has placed in my life.

I would challenge you to consider how this impacts what you do in your fellowship.  Further, I would challenge you to look at the following passages in light of this understanding of Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway):
If you do, let me know what you see.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Consider – Part 4

Continuing observations on Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway):
Consider – Part 4

The last clauses of the sentence (verse 25 in our Bibles (here @ Bible Gateway)) modify the two commands, the two hortatory subjunctive clauses.  The first clause starts with a negation: “not forsaking our own assembling together.”  This reinforces for us that the Christian life, is not a solo effort.  Proverbs 18:1 tells us that those who separate themselves are foolish.  A cursory reading of the New Testament will note the abundance of repetition of the concept of one another.  We are to be engaged with one another; engaged intentionally, for a specific purpose which will be address below.

The second part of this negation is, in a real sense, a commentary not only on the reality of the Body when the author penned Hebrews but a reality that persists today, he says: “as is the habit of some.”  Unfortunately there are some who ignore the admonition of both the Old and New Testaments.  They attempt, foolishly, to live the Christian life aloof, on their own.  The writer acknowledges this reality and warns against it.

The next clause is placed in contrast with the negation of forsaking assembling signaled by the structural marker, “but”.  We are to be about “encouraging one another”.  Combined with the previous commands to hold fast and to consider, as members of a community of faith we are to be about thinking intentionally how to encourage those in our communities both to hold fast the confession of their hope and to increase in their love and good works.

The last phrase, “and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” suggests increasing intensity and urgency in the application of these imperatives in the Body.

The outworking of this sentence in a community of faith, assumes that those in the community are engaged in one another’s lives at a level that allows them to both know the individual personally and spiritually.  One has to know someone well to be able to engage with them effectively in the manner contemplated in this sentence.

In the next post I will attempt to pull all of this together and ask some questions that may help lead to application.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Consider – Part 3

Continuing to look at Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway):
Continuing to look at Hebrews 10:23 – 25...more at DTTB.

“and” – the copulative connects the first hortatory subjunctive to the second.  The two are both then a response to the nature and character of God.

“let us consider” – this is the second hortatory subjunctive.  The word, “consider”, has a sense of thinking through, observing closely an object or a person.  Here there is a sense that we are thinking specifically on something.  This is not cursory.  If one skims through the uses of the word in the NT text we see the idea of contemplate, look at more closely.  This is giving serious thought to something.

NB.  Our English translations miss the emphatic nature of this phrase, partially because the literal translation is emphatic but stiff in English.  Literally the Greek reads: “Let us consider one another into love and good works.”

Thinking through what has been established above about “let us consider”, this is an imperative and as a believer in a community of faith, one is to think, to ponder, to intentionally engage with other members of that community to specifically build them up in love and “good” works.

Consider, if you will, whether this is, or has been your experience in your community of faith.  If so, how?  If not, why?  There is more about this in this sentence, continue to observe.  It helps to write down what you are seeing.  Doing so will help you focus and will also lead to other observations.

I will continue sharing my observations on tomorrow.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Consider – Part 2

Yesterday I suggested that you take a look at Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway) and make observations.  Here are mine:
Consider – Part 2

“Let us hold fast” How do you read this?  It reads like a command.  However it is not in the imperative mood in Greek, rather it is subjunctive.  But there is no first person imperative in Greek.  Since this is the case, this hortatory subjunctive has the force of the imperative here.  So holding fast is a command what follows is that to which the writer wants the recipients to hold fast.

“the confession of our hope” – one of the central themes of Hebrews is “better.”  We have a better high priest, a better sacrifice, a better hope.  That confession, which hope is based on the person that provided better, Jesus.  The import of this phrase is that we are to hold fast to, cling to the truth of the gospel.

“without wavering” – this emphasizes the notion of holding fast.  The sense of holding fast seems to include the notion of intentionality and unwavering, it is a settled decision, firm in both intention and execution.  The repetition of one of the core elements of that thought adds strong emphasis to the command to hold fast.

“for” – this structural marker signals reason.  The author is substantiating the imperative to hold fast.  What follows is the reason, substantiation for what he has commanded.

“He who promised is faithful” – The reason, substantiation for us to hold fast unwavering is presented as the nature and character of the one who provided the better hope in the first place, the Lord.  The unchanging nature of the one who promised is again one of the key themes of Hebrews, see Hebrews 13:8 (here @ Bible Gateway), and in fact one of the themes of the New Testament, consider 2 Timothy 2:11 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Since our hope is based on Him and He is unchanging, our hope and our confession and expression of that hope should be, like Him, unchanging, unwavering.

I will stop here for now.  Continue to observe Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway) and compare what you see to what I shared today and for the next few days.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Consider

Not sure how you respond to most of the messages you hear at church; for most of the week I have been writing to sort out my response to what I heard last Sunday measured against the response I detected in the congregation.  I am up to 13 pages.  Not going to share all of that here, but I do want to share some.
Consider

First, though, I would encourage you to do something similar.  That is, when you are struggling or thinking through an issue, write about it.  Doing so will do at least a couple of things for you.  First, the discipline will force you to think through the issue.  Second, it will help you codify and crystalize your thinking, making it easier or more effective for you to communicate your thoughts should you need to do so.  As an encouragement to engage in this, I would recommend you listen to John Piper’s message about David Brainerd.

The issue I was struggling with led me to consider Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway).  That part of my paper is 2.5 pages single spaced, so I will have to share it over several posts.  It will be an example of what I mean by writing out your thoughts and questions.

In preparation, why not spend some time reading and reflecting on Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Write down your observations.  I will begin to share mine tomorrow.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Not Void

Isaiah 55:11 (here @ Bible Gateway) is a passage to which I return often.  I have written about it often here.  Many times I couple the verse with Hebrews 4:12 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway).  It has been, and it still is, my belief and conviction that God’s Word does not return void. 
Not Void

In part I have been applying that by getting men into the Word and allowing the Word to work in their lives, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  My conviction and experience is if men get in the Word and I get out of the way, the Lord will lead them into truth.

Problem.

I read a lot.  Theological journals and some scholarly works are part of that reading.  I benefit from reading those – caveat: my primary time for input for my walk with God, is time with Him in the Word, I read the journals to understand what they are dealing with, but I do not accept anything I read without validating it Biblically.  The challenge I have encountered in reading these is that I find men who are “scholars” who are espousing some incredibly unbiblical positions.

How does that align with the Word of God not returning void?  How does that align with the Word being piercing?  Why are they not led into truth?

Thinking and praying through this over time I think an answer may be emerging for me.  You may already have figured it out.  But, I am a slow maze learner.  The last portion of Isaiah 55:11 (here @ Bible Gateway) states that the Word won’t return, “Without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

If the Lord’s purpose in a person’s life is to draw them to Himself, the Word will do that.  If it is His purpose to push them away, the Word will do so.  It is His purpose that is important, not mine.

It is a further reminder to me, a rebuke, that I am not in control.  It is His Word, His ministry, His gospel, His choice that matters.  He determines what is void and what is not.  My role is to still get men into the Word and get out of the way and let Him do with them what He desires.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Illogic of Sin

In Numbers 14 (here @ Bible Gateway), we read about the nation rejecting the land the Lord has promised them because they felt they were unable to take it militarily.  In fact they were right.
The Illogic of Sin
In Deuteronomy 7 (here @ Bible Gateway), 40 years later, the Lord tells the children of those who rejected that land that the nations they are about to dispossess are greater than they are.  But we read there that it doesn’t matter that the nations are stronger, because as Joshua and Caleb said in Numbers 14 (here @ Bible Gateway), the Lord is the one that will cause Israel to be victorious.

That is the context.  I was reading through Numbers 16 (here @ Bible Gateway), two chapters later.  Look at Numbers 16:14 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Dathan and Abiram, complain that Moses and by extension, the Lord, had not followed through on the promise to lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey.  What?  They just rejected that land as unconquerable not two chapters ago?

Isn’t this the normal reaction we have?  We make decisions that have difficult or dire consequences and then we blame God for the result of our choice.

Doesn’t seem logical, does it.  What is true is that we go to great lengths to explain away our sin.  Including blaming others and blaming God.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Cost of Complaint

Numbers 11:1 (here @ Bible Gateway) outlines for us how God views complaints.  Israel was being personally guided by the Lord from Egypt to the land He had chosen for them.  They were not all that grateful.  They complained that the journey was not as easy as they would have liked.
The Cost of Complaint
He responded to their criticism.

The implications seem to be that we are not to complain about adversity.  The adversity we face is intentional.  It has purpose.  God is about molding us into the image of His son and into His instrument to accomplish that for which He prepared us, since the foundation of the world.

James 1:2 - 4 (here @ Bible Gateway) supports this, as do Romans 5:3 – 5 (here @ Bible Gateway), Ephesians 2:10 (here @ Bible Gateway), and Hebrews 12:4 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway).

I admit that at times I complain.  I do not understand what God is doing, so I complain.  That is when I have to be reminded to trust Him and not what I see or experience.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hope for Epically Short Memories

In Psalm 42:6 (here @ Bible Gateway) the sons of Korah are in despair.  I am not clear on why.  However the context of the Psalm gives some clues.
Hope for Epically Short Memories
The psalmist is in tears day and night, people are denigrating his belief in God, he is not finding the comfort in his personal worship with the Lord as he has in the past.

Ever experienced anything like that?  I have.

What is the cure?  How do we get out of that kind of tailspin?

In our verse, the psalmist gives us a way, remember.  Remember what the Lord has done.  He mentions Mount Hermon.  That is where the Lord met with Israel for the first time and gave them the Law (Psalm 133:3 (here @ Bible Gateway)).  So the psalmist suggests that the way out of despair is to remember what the Lord has done.

Problem.

Israel had a really short memory.  As did most of the people we read about in the text of the Bible including some of our “heroes” of the Bible like David.  So do I.  I forget what He has done.  I forget the grace that He has lavished on me.  I forget.

Judges 2:7, 10 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway), memorializes the short memory of Israel.  One generation after Joshua dies, Israel serves Baal.  They forgot.

Which highlights for us both their and our challenge with despair.  It is hard to remember what God has done for us when we are dependent on our epically short memories.

So what to do?

Write it down.  Record what God is doing in your life.  Record what He is teaching you.  Record what you are learning about Him.  In good times, in bad times, in all times.  In a real sense that is what David did with his psalms.  In a real sense we are reading his journal when we peruse the Psalms he wrote.

If we write down what God has done, what we have learned, we can review it.  When we are troubled, when we need help with despair, we can pick up an old journal and review the grace the Lord has poured out on our lives.

For me this has been a great blessing.  It has been a comfort, an encouragement, and at times a rebuke for my forgetting what He has done in my life.

Full disclosure, it took about three or four iterations of keeping a journal before it became a consistent discipline for me.  However, regardless of how many starts and stops it took me or takes you, it is worth the effort.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Accountability

You have probably heard of accountability groups.  You may be in one.  There is a lot of talk and a lot written on holding each other accountable.
Accountability
You may have heard about or experienced the use of questions in these groups.  Here is a list of several, here are five that I have experienced:
  1. Have you been with a woman anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising?
  2. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?
  3. Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material?
  4. Have you spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer?
  5. Have you given priority time to your family?
  6. Have you fulfilled the mandates of your calling?
  7. Have you just lied to me
This idea of accountability has gained a lot of traction in the Church.  One problem, the word “accountable” does not appear anywhere in the text of the Bible as a directive or description of the relationship between individual believers.  Instead the word is used to describe our relationship to God.  Check out:
You will note that in the Bible the idea of accountability in these texts, and they are the only places that the English word “accountable” appears, is toward God not toward man.  By the way these are all the passages in our English Bibles that have any Hebrew or Greek word translated accountable...

So what do we make of this?

The Bible does give us direction on how we are to engage with one another (not an exhaustive list):
The words used in these passages are words like build up, encourage, reprove, rebuke, exhort, teach, correct, and arguably the most important, love one another.  I ran across an article that had a paragraph that seemed spot on:
In The Duty, Owen writes that church members should, of their own accord, “assemble together, to consider one another, to provoke unto love and good works, to stir up the gifts that are in them, yielding and receiving mutual consolation by the fruits of their most holy faith.” During these gatherings, Owen tells believers to warn the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak (1 Thessalonians 5:14 (here @ Bible Gateway)), help one another understand the Word of God better (Acts 18:26 (here @ Bible Gateway)), help one another be on guard against the heart-hardening effects of sin (Hebrews 3:13 (here @ Bible Gateway)), gently restore those who have are trapped in sin (Galatians 6:1 (here @ Bible Gateway)), encourage and build up one another in the faith (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Jude 20 (here @ Bible Gateway)), and pray for one another (1 John 5:16 (here @ Bible Gateway)). – How John Owen Would Run an Accountability Group.  Links to Bible Gateway added.
It would seem from considering the text of the Bible that possibly the idea of holding one another accountable is a means of attempting to deal with sin by asking questions rather than building up one another in our relationship and dependence on Christ and the Holy Spirit.

What do you think?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Dealing with the Matrix

You may be following what is happening in the confirmation of the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court.  This is not going to be political, per se.  However, one of the realities that face us as believers is living in the midst of a broken world that is under the domain of a murderer and a liar.  How we react and respond to what we encounter in the midst of that reality becomes either a testimony to the glory of our Lord in and through our lives or else a blight on His name.
Dealing with the Matrix
Different experiences in the Word aligned this morning as I was working through my devotional, quiet time, and then as I turned from that to write this post.

I reviewed a journal entry from April of last year.  Psalm 33:10 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway) was the passage and it aligned perfectly with what the Lord showed me this morning in His Word.

Rather than tell you what I saw, here are the passages that the Lord took me through.  Spend some time looking at them and think through what is going on in your life and how they apply:
If you do work through this, let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Core Passages

Typically when I start to write one of these posts, I start by either reviewing past journal entries or by writing on a current Bible study.  After I choose the passage I review what was written in the past eight years to make sure that I have not covered the ground already.  This morning I was following the first practice, reviewing a past journal…
Core Passages
I was going to write on 2 Timothy 3:14 (here @ Bible Gateway), so I checked my files for other posts on 2 Timothy 3 (here @ Bible Gateway).  To suggest there were several, would be an epic understatement.

It took the better part of 30 minutes to scan through all of the posts on 2 Timothy 3 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Many focused on or had in support of the point of the post 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17 (here @ Bible Gateway).

In his work Having A Ministry That Lasts--By Becoming A Bible Centered Leader, Bobby Clinton shares the importance of mastering ones’ core passages and becoming intimately familiar with the rest of the Bible.

The thing that became obvious this morning for me was that 2 Timothy (here @ Bible Gateway) is a core book for what I do.  I was stunned on how much I have written on this book.  I also am aware of how often I refer to the book in conversations with men.

For me this experience validates Clinton’s work, yet again.  I highly recommend that you examine his work for yourself and work toward becoming a Biblically centered leader.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Emphasis on Why

This is an addendum or emphasis on the last post, “Why Engage with the Bible.”
Emphasis on Why
There are a lot of discussions, programs, projects, messages, podcasts, blogs, facebook posts, tweets, and whatever else that suggest that it is important for you to be engaged with the Bible.  My last post here included.

Engagement is more than knowledge about.  It is good to know details about the Bible.  Who wrote what, when it was written, purpose of the segment, and that sort of thing.  It is also good to know the technical stuff, being able to work in Hebrew and or Greek.  It is great to understand theology; all of those –logy words, hamartiology, soteriology, ecclesiology, etc.

But more important, no, most important, in Bible engagement is deepening one’s knowledge of.  Knowledge of the person behind the text.  God chose to reveal Himself in a book and in coming in person to deal with the problems that existed.  That coming is also revealed, to us, in a book.  That book was inspired by Him, 2 Peter 1:20 – 21 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Its purpose is to reveal Him.  His nature, His character, His heart, His passion.  It is for this reason that we should be engaged.  The other knowledge about, is only valuable to the extent that it leads us to knowledge of Him.  Otherwise it is just another empty arcane academic pursuit.

When brought face to face with God, Isaiah was undone.  He essentially was a partaker of the Divine Nature in that encounter.  Based on 2 Peter 1:3 – 4 (here @ Bible Gateway), when we engage with the Bible, we are, as Isaiah was, partaking of the Divine Nature.  Thus, we, as he was, should be shaken to our core.

When you engage with the Word, ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you.  Then fasten your seat-belt.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Why Engage with the Bible

In the midst of a difficult time I read Psalm 31:7 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The last clause, “…You have known the troubles of my soul…” comforted me.  It led me to review Hebrews 4:15 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The message is clear, regardless of what we are going through, the Lord not only knows but in fact has gone through much more than we are or ever will.
Why Engage with the Bible
This is a comfort.  But more than that, it is instructive on how we should be approaching our time in the Bible.  As we engage with His Word, we are not doing so in order to increase our knowledge.  While it is good to know which prophets ministered to either Israel or Judah and it helps to know some Greek or Hebrew, being expert on the prophets or the languages is not really the point.

In John 5:39 – 47 (here @ Bible Gateway), Jesus is confronting those who know the Bible, as it existed then, very well.  In fact they had the first five books memorized.  He informed them in no uncertain terms that they had completely missed the point.

It is not about knowing the content.  It is about knowing Him.  When we come to the Scripture, we are being exposed to God’s nature and character, 2 Peter 1:2 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway).  As we read we should be looking for what the passage tells us about Him.

That was my experience in the passages I mentioned above.  Those passages reminded me of the reality not only of His engagement with me personally, but also His empathy, care, and support in all with which we have to deal as we navigate our journey through this broken world.

If from time to time you are not moved to tears as you face this reality in the Scripture, you may want to spend some time praying through why you are engaged in the Word.  You may want to ask Him to reveal Himself to you through the Scripture.

Psalm 119:18 (here @ Bible Gateway) would be a good thing to pray.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Tears in a Bottle

How do you handle the difficulties of this life?
Tears in a Bottle
When I fly down to MD Anderson, I will use Uber to get to where I am staying or if I need to travel in the city while there.  I have found those trips to be an interesting opportunity to speak of Christ to the drivers.  One of them shared with me that his son was shot and killed while playing a pick-up basketball game.  I asked him how he handled the pain.  That led to a conversation that dealt with faith.

While I have experienced the death of close family members, I have not experienced the murder of a child.  You may have.  The reality of our lives here is that we are living in a broken world that is groaning under the effects of sin, our sin.  Not as categorized by those who champion causes in order to attempt to have man do the “right” thing for the environment or humanitarian issues.  No, it is the result of categorically rejecting the One who created this world and those of us who populate it.

In the midst of this broken reality, by His grace, some have come to trust Him.  However, all who trust Him are still resident in the reality of this sin ravaged world.

As a result, there is still struggle, suffering, persecution, illness, strife…

How do we handle that?

Psalm 56:8 (here @ Bible Gateway), may help.  Reading through this psalm this morning I was stopped by the words David penned.  Consider the import of what he shares there.  The Lord knows my wanderings, he puts my tears in a bottle and categorizes them. 

Think of that.  In the midst of both the suffering that we endure because we live in a broken world, and the consequences of our bad choices, our Creator collects our tears and categorizes them.  He is intimately engaged in our suffering.  He knows specifically what has caused that pain. 

This aligns perfectly with several other passages of Scripture, but two stand out.  Psalm 139:3 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells us that He knows the details of our lives.  1 John 4:7 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway), reminds us that He loves us so much that He died for us.  He died to relieve the suffering He is cataloging.

When we hurt.  When we are in deep despair.  We can know that our Lord not only knows, but is intimately familiar with what is causing that pain, and further has already acted to relieve it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Intentionality

It is one of the things that I have emphasized here over and over, the Word continues to yield insight even in intimately familiar passages.
Intentionality
Look for a moment at 1 Timothy 4:12 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway), note there are 8 imperatives, commands Paul gives his protégé:
  • Show yourself
  • Give attention
  • Do not neglect
  • Take Pains
  • Be in
  • Pay close attention
  • Persevere
All but the first are Active voice which denotes continual action.  The exhortation is to be continually functioning in this manner.  Intentional, focused, purposeful, engagement in the task that God has given.  Paul in a real sense gives legs, expansion to Matthew 6:33.

It would be easy to sluff this off as the role of an apostle, but that ignores Paul’s continual call to imitate his life and ministry as well as his consistent exhortation to pass on all that he has taught to the next generation of believers.

Thus, this list, these imperatives, apply to us as well.  We are to be intentional, focused, purposeful, in our engagement with the Lord and with what He has given us to do.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Shocking Source of David’s Greatness

Have you noticed that no matter how many times you have read a passage it is fresh every time?  I cannot count the number of times I have read Psalm 18 (here @ Bible Gateway), but its riches continue to emerge.

There is so much here that it will be impossible to cover it in a few sentences, even though I have written on this Psalm twice before, here and here.

Notice how David describes the Lord, He is David’s:
  • Strength
  • Rock
  • Fortress
  • Deliverer
  • God
  • Rock (again)
  • Refuge
  • Shield
  • Salvation
  • Stronghold
The Lord gave David the shield of His salvation and upholds David with His right hand.

Note also that the Lord equipped David by training his hands so that David could bend a bow of bronze.

This describes a warrior king.  One who was intentionally chosen to lead the people of God.  For the most part, except for some serious lack of judgement, David did that very well.  But it wasn’t really David that gets the credit.  It was the transforming, life renewing, intentional, unmerited work of God in David’s life that made him the man he was.

David was a strong leader, an incredible warrior.  But the overwhelming thing in this Psalm, this time through, is not all of the attributes listed above.  No, the attribute that David claims as the one thing about God that made him a great leader and warrior is not the strength, it is the gentleness of God.

Think about that.  Why would David focus on that aspect of God’s nature and character?  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Rich Struggle of Scripture Memory, Part 2

Last post I shared some of my journey in Scripture Memory.  Currently…well…for about the last year, I have been working on memorizing Psalm 119 (here @ Bible Gateway).  John Piper’s message on William Wilberforce was the impetus for this project.
The Rich Struggle of Scripture Memory, Part 2
As I mentioned in the previous post, it is much harder now for me to memorize scripture.  But the exercise is rich.  The effort to repeatedly go through a passage endeavoring to commit it to memory is essentially prolonged meditation on the passage.  In doing so, much more is revealed than I see in simply reading through the passage.

For example, look at the first four verses:
1 How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the LORD.
2 How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all their heart.
3 They also do no unrighteousness; They walk in His ways.
4 You have ordained Your precepts, That we should keep them diligently.

Do you notice the repetition?  These words are repeated: way, walk, and the concept of intentional sustained obedience; “with all their heart” and “keep them diligently”.

In Hebrew poetry the second phrase is repeating the first, reinforcing, emphasizing, and clarifying the point.
So in verse 1, a blameless way is to walk in the Law of the Lord.  In verse 3 to “do no unrighteousness” is to “walk in His ways.”  So to walk in the Law of the Lord is to walk in His ways.  The implications of this are staggering.

When we consider the way of someone, we are contemplating how they behave.  How they live their life.  How we observe their character played out in the way they relate to others and to the world around them.

How many times have we said, heard, or thought of someone in trying to deal or explain their behavior with something like, “Oh, that is just the way he is,’’ or “that is just like him.”  It is that person’s “way”, we know what to expect because we have observed a consistency in their behavior.

What these four verses are revealing is that the Law is God’s “way”.  It reflects His character.  It reflects how He behaves.  Thus, if we keep the Law, we are behaving as God does.  We are, as it says in verse 1, blameless.  Why, we are acting, behaving in a manner that is consistent with the nature and character of God.

Big problem…

There is no wiggle room.  We have to do that with all of our heart and keep them diligently.  The testimony of the Bible is that only one person did that, Jesus.

The good news is that through His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and immanent return we can be joined into His obedience and delivered from the reality that we do not diligently keep the Law or seek Him with all of our heart.

The other implication is that we can learn much about God by studying His Law.  Because it reveals who He is, His way.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Rich Struggle of Scripture Memory

At the first Christian conference I attended after committing to follow Christ as Lord, I met with a man who was on staff with the ministry and was somewhat older.  He challenged me to begin to memorize Scripture.  He suggested Psalm 27:4 (here @ Bible Gateway) as a place to start.

As soon as the meeting was over, I went to the materials table.  I purchased both blank verse cards and a copy of the Topical Memory System.
The Rich Struggle of Scripture Memory
Soon Scripture memory was part of my everyday discipline.  I finished the TMS, and begin to memorize passages.  Romans 12 (here @ Bible Gateway) was the first chapter I memorized.  Then books.

I found that my time in the Word, both quiet time and Bible study was impacted.  While studying or reading a passage, others that I had memorized came to mind as cross references.  A few years back I was leading an seminar on Bible study in Trinidad and Tobago at a Bible college.  During discussion on a passage that the participants had spent some time studying I suggested several cross references, I was asked how I came up with those parallel passages, I realized it was from memory work and study I had done over the previous thirty some years.

I am not blessed with a photographic memory.  Memorizing Scripture is hard work for me.  It is much harder now than it was when I was younger.  But that difficulty has, for me, a marvelous benefit.  That benefit is that in reviewing the passage, re-reading it over and over in the process of memorizing it, layers of meaning that otherwise would be overlooked are observed.

This happened again this week.  In the next post I will share those observations.  But, it seemed necessary to lay this as a foundation and context.

There is one other thing that seems to be important.  In the fall of 1987, I entered seminary in pursuit of a ThM.  At the time we had three young children, the fourth was born the next year.  I was working 30 – 40 hours a week, part time.  Going to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I committed to not study while the kids were awake.  With few exceptions I was able to do that during the four years it took to finish the degree.

The point is that that under that load, something had to give.  That something was Scripture Memory.  Every minute for that four years seem to be scheduled with either assignments from classes, something at work, or a commitment with my family.

It was a great time.  But, my discipline of Scripture memory has never recovered to the point that it was before that season.

Again, I share that for context.  I trust that it will deepen the understanding of the next post…

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Danger of Self-Promotion

You may know people who seem to be legends in their own minds.  They are impressed with either who they are or what they have done or perhaps both.  They are continually reminding themselves and anyone who will listen of their awesomeness…
The Danger of Self-Promotion
They show up in business, entertainment, and unfortunately in communities of faith.  They are incessant self-promoters.

If I am reading the Scripture correctly, the Lord is not really fond of this type of behavior.  Consider Psalm 5:5 (here @ Bible Gateway) and 1 Peter 5:5 – 6 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Those are not the only places the idea appears in the Word but they are good starting places to begin to follow the thread.

1 Peter 5:5 – 6 (here @ Bible Gateway) brings another thought to mind about the relationship between younger men and older men.  It is something that I have watched unfold over the past 30 years or so.  I will leave that to the next post.

Back to self-promotion – based on just the two verses above, those who are self-impressed, will not stand before God and are resisted by Him.

Based on what I have been able to glean from Bible study over the years, being in a position that the Lord resists renders pretty much all effort futile.

When I read passages like this, it drives me to my knees begging the Lord to deliver me from any hint of self-promotion.  David’s prayer in Psalm 139:23 – 24 (here @ Bible Gateway), is a good model.  I need deliverance from any notion of self-promotion.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Light in the Darkness

You may remember that these posts mostly come from my journals.  I have written about this particular post once before.  But, as I was looking through the journal this morning, the context of the post reminded me of another way in which the Lord sustains us.
Light in the Darkness
In January of last year, my dad passed away after a multi-year bout with cancer.  In April of 2017, my wife and I had just returned home from the reading and probate of his will.  At the same time, another close relative was battling cancer an hour south of dad’s house.  That situation was deteriorating.

In my journal I record the date and time I begin and the location.  Under that I record the passages I intend to read.  At times I will make a note directly after that about what may be going on, or something I am thinking about or struggling through.

This entry was different.

I wrote the note about the struggle before I wrote down the passages I was going to read.  That is so rare a practice as to be notable.

I wrote, “I have been numb for the past two three days.  Lord please revive my spirit.”

He did.

He did it through His Word.

While I did not pray Psalm 119:18 (here @ Bible Gateway) specifically, the intent, the plea was the same.  I am grateful and overwhelmed by the way the Lord will meet with us in His Word.  He meets us in our pain, our joy, through our tears, and in the midst of our laughter.

He uses His Word as a balm for our anguish.  He pierces the darkness of our despair with the light of His presence.

All we have to do is open the Book and admit we are in need.

Monday, August 27, 2018

CrowdSourcing

Crowdsourcing is a thing.  People are developing GoFundMe sites for many reasons, some really good, some not so much.  It’s a new thing, right?
CrowdSourcing

No.

There were at least three, by my count, in Exodus, without an internet...

Exodus 12:33 – 36 (here @ Bible Gateway) – The Egyptians crowdsourced the exodus of Israel.
Exodus 32:1 – 6 (here @ Bible Gateway) – Israel crowdsourced the golden calf.
Exodus 35:20 – 23 (here @ Bible Gateway) – Israel crowdsourced the Tabernacle

So like most of what we think we came up with, it was really God’s idea.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Escape from Troubling Times

Unless you are living in denial, you will have come to the realization that this life is difficult.  The difficulty varies based on multiple factors.  I have learned over the years that I would not trade the difficulty that I face for another’s.  It doesn’t matter what their socio economic status, what culture, whatever…  I would not trade.
The Escape from Troubling Times
It seems as if no matter what I do, however well I navigate trouble, there is still more on the way.

I was reviewing John 14:1 – 2 (here @ Bible Gateway) just now.  It seems to me that here in the Lord’s words we find some solace.  The respite from trouble is not some action I take.  It is not some strategy of coping.  Not an application of positive thinking.  Rather, it is in trust.

Trust in Him.

Further, the solution to the trouble, the end of it, is not going to be here.  Rather, it is with Him.  He is preparing a place for us.  Revelation 21:4 (here @ Bible Gateway) indicates that there will be no more mourning, crying, or pain.  No trouble.

We have to trust Him that trouble here is not only temporary, but in our lives for a reason, 2 Corinthians 4:17 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Further, we are to hold on to the truth that what we will have there, as Christ promises in John 14:1 – 2 (here @ Bible Gateway), so far outweighs what we experience here as to make it practically meaningless, Romans 8:18 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Just so you understand the context in our life, I am reviewing journal entries in the midst of a time when our family experienced 5 deaths in 18 months.  Each of those are still painful and have lasting impact on our family in different ways.

These passages, this realization, is one of the things that helps us navigate seasons like this.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Fruitful Old Friends

Are there passages that continually bear fruit for you?  Verses that seem to stop you each time you read them?  Words that challenge you at a different level each time that you encounter them in His Book?  There are several that do that for me.  Psalm 119 (here @ Bible Gateway) continues to draw me back to its 22 octets.  2 Peter (here @ Bible Gateway), 2 Timothy (here @ Bible Gateway), Colossians (here @ Bible Gateway)… probably should stop.  My kids say that I will be drawn to all of it…
Fruitful Old Friends
Exodus 33:13 (here @ Bible Gateway) is a passage that stops me just about every time I read it.  Consider it for a minute.

What strikes you about that passage?  For me, it reminds me that if I am interested in knowing the Lord better, I am completely dependent on His graciously granting that knowledge to me.  I cannot in any way, shape, or form attain more knowledge of Him unless He reveals it to me.

That reality, that notion, is not just in Exodus 33:13 (here @ Bible Gateway), no, it permeates one of the passages I listed above, Psalm 119 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Read through Psalm 119 (here @ Bible Gateway), note the number of times that David asks the Lord to teach him, or declares his dependence on the Lord to know Him and, or to learn of or obey Him.

As I have mentioned before, it has changed my perspective and the way that I pray.

By the way the other places I have written about Exodus 33:13 (here @ Bible Gateway) are here and here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Full Exposure

Take a few minutes and reflect on Exodus 33:7 – 8 (here @ Bible Gateway).
Full Exposure
Note the way that Israel communed with God.  One man, Moses, would go into the tabernacle.  The Lord would descend and talk with Moses.  One man.  Only one, spoke with God.  He then would relate what he learned to the nation.

Now take a few minutes and consider John 17 (here @ Bible Gateway); focus, if you will on John 17:21 – 24 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Now consider John 16:13 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Jesus, through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension has brought us into unity with Himself and the Father.  Further, He has sent the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.

We are unified with Christ, we have the Holy Spirit to lead us through the Book He inspired.  Through Christ we have immediate access to the Father.  Why would we want to revert to having one man meet with God and then tell us what He had learned?

Why would we insist on ecclesiastical layers of insulation between us and the Word of God?  Why would we turn to books about the Bible, when we have not only the Word of God, but resident in us the One who inspired it?

Is it fear?

If so, of what are we afraid?  We have a loving God who sent His Son to die for us while we were helpless, ungodly, sinners, and enemies (Romans 5:6 - 10 (here @ Bible Gateway)).  Do we think that He would react negatively to us trying to get to know Him better through His Word and His Spirit?

That seems to be either lack of trust, or maybe, just laziness.

Is it that we are not sure we know how?

That is easily remedied.  Contact me.  I will help you.