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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Don’t Believe – So What?

You may have read or heard in the past few days that the philosophical and scholarly paragon, GQ, has deemed that you would be better served not to bother reading the Bible.
Don’t Believe – So What?
Set aside for a minute that they have, based on Psalm 14:1 (here @ Bible Gateway), which, no doubt they have not read, proven themselves fools.  Instead, take a minute and review 1 Timothy 4:1 – 3 (here @ Bible Gateway) and 2 Timothy 3:1 – 9 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Think through how the GQ editors fit into Paul’s description of the attitude of those of “later times”.

As believers, we tend to get exercised when people reject our beliefs.  Why?  Somehow their rejections seem at some level to call into question the validity of our faith.  But this is not a new phenomenon.  Spend some time reading and pondering Romans 1 – 3 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Specifically consider Romans 3:3 – 4 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Some don’t believe?  Some don’t consider the Bible important?  So what?  That doesn’t disprove, invalidate, trivialize, or otherwise diminish God.  He doesn’t change.  Frankly, their unbelief doesn’t catch God by surprise.  He already knew.

Through the years I have had many tell me that the Bible is irrelevant.  Ok.  I share it with them anyway.  Why?  They don’t have to believe that the Bible is relevant for it to work on them any more than someone has to acknowledge the existence of a sword before it can run them through.  The sword, by the way, is that to which the writer of Hebrews compares the Word of God, Hebrews 4:12 (here @ Bible Gateway); Paul also, in Ephesians 6:17 (here @ Bible Gateway).

So people do not believe and trivialize the Word of God.  Not new.  Not unexpected.  Has zero effect on God or the value of the Bible.  Just reveals their need and condition.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Some Observations – Part 3

There are more observations, more lessons, but for now, this will be the last and perhaps the most important.
Some Observations – Part 3
There is a danger in equipping people to more effectively observe the text of the Bible.  It is subtle.  One can become so engrossed in the process of observation that one misses the point of doing the observation.

The purpose of any engagement with the Word of God is ultimately to know the Lord, John 5:39 – 40 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The purpose of equipping people to be more effective in making observations, enhancing the effectiveness of their Bible study, is not to give them more to say or share in their small group or Sunday school class.  It is not to increase their ability to connect thoughts and topics in the Word of God – though that may be a side effect.  No, if that is the outcome of equipping people to do more effective Bible study, the effort is an abject failure.

If when we ask what are the most important take aways from this study, and the answer is centered around the structure of the text or some interesting turn of the grammar or vocabulary, we need to reexamine how we are either asking the question or equipping the person.

What we should hear is a clearer understanding of one’s relationship with and grasp of the person of Christ.  Or, a clearer understanding of how He desires to use the way He designed us in the building of His Kingdom.

When I hear a recitation of the structure of the text rather than a personal and heartfelt response to the result of that structure, I am saddened.

All of the methods we can learn, all of the questions with which we pepper the text, are ultimately tools for us to partake more richly in the divine nature that is revealed in the sumptuous feast that is the Word of God.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Some Observations – Part 2

The Word of God continues to astound me.  Consider for a moment 2 Peter 1:1 – 4 (here @ Bible Gateway - it’s one sentence).  The astounding part for me is in verse 4 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Peter states that we can become partakers of the divine nature through His promises.
Some Observations – Part 2
Of course, it is in His Word that we find His promises.  The implications of this continually amaze me.  When we are in His Word, He is revealing His nature and character to us through what is written.  Luther was amazed by the reality that the Creator of the universe reveals Himself in a book.

If and since that is the case that seems to add near incalculable importance to each of us that claim to know Christ and follow Him to spend not only quality but a significant quantity of time partaking of His nature in His book.

Because I use 2 Peter (here @ Bible Gateway) as the central text for each of the workshops, I am really familiar with the book.  I have studied it over 200 times.  I have the book memorized.  I have outlined and charted the book more times than I can count.  But, as I tell those in the workshops each time I read the book, I see something I have not seen before.

In the past few days, I have been wondering about that.  How is it that there is something new each time?  Some new insight, some connection that I have not seen before?

I think there are at least two factors that contribute to that consistent experience.  First, Hebrews 4:12 (here @ Bible Gateway) reminds us that the Word is living and active.  We know that the Holy Spirit inspired the text (2 Peter 1:20 – 21- here @ Bible Gateway); 2 Timothy 3:16 - 17 - here @ Bible Gateway), is tasked with leading us into truth (John 16:13 - here @ Bible Gateway), and indwells us as believers (Romans 8:9 - 11 - here @ Bible Gateway).  So, perhaps it is the case that the Spirit working in us shows us more and more as we return again and again.

Second, as I engage in the Word, applying it to my thought and behavior, when I return to its pages I am a different person than I was the last time I was there.  2 Peter 1:1 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway) speaks to this at a significant level.  Peter tells us there that when we start with true knowledge and build our life on that knowledge it increases our true knowledge.

There are probably other factors in play here.  Those are the ones that have come to mind.

There is a bit more I need to share.  I will do so in the next post.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Some Observations

The Lord has had me in two countries in Africa in the last three months.  The purpose of the trips was to expose and equip pastors, couples, and those training to be pastors in making the Bible their primary source for both their messages and their personal walk with God.
Some Observations
That may sound like an elementary goal.  What pastor or aspiring pastor would not view the Bible as their primary source?  The answer is many.  Not only in those countries.  Men that I have worked with in other countries have focused their study on commentaries, books, and messages by other well know pastors or authors.

There are several reasons for this.  One of the primary reasons is that they are not confident that they can effectively study the Bible for themselves.  They do not trust what they see in the text.  Further, there are many who have not been shown how to study the Bible.  Or they start with the wrong questions.

What I have seen in six different countries that included people from three more, is that if we give men simple tools with which to engage in the Word, they not only make good observations but their confidence in their ability to make those observations soars.  Helping them to stay in the text rather than quickly moving to or starting in secondary sources, allows the Holy Spirit to do what Jesus promised He would do in John 16:13 (here @ Bible Gateway), He leads them into truth.

Prof always said that “In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are stuttering.”  It is my belief that the reason for the stutter is Biblical anemia caused in part by an abandonment or misunderstanding of Ephesians 4:11 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway) by many who lead churches, ministries, and organizations.

We seem to be living in an environment where we have delegated the responsibility to study and understand God’s Word to a select small group of people.  Those people seem to be using secondary sources first.  Which makes me wonder if they have forgotten or ever known how to do the work themselves.  It seems to be apparent that they are not passing on how to study the Scripture on one’s own.

There is more to say on this.  I will continue to share some thoughts in the next post.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Deep Waters

Deep WatersReviewing my journal just now.  I was reading an entry three days after we buried my dad.  My son’s wife was in the middle of a battle with lymphoma she would ultimately lose almost 10 months to the day.  At the time I wrote the entry she was 25 weeks pregnant.  Another one of our children had recently experienced a miscarriage. 

I was praying through all that was going on.  One of the notes was “God is sovereign over…conception, growth, death, life, birth, and vitality.”

There were times in that 18 month period that all I could come up with in prayer was “I love You; I trust You…”  That was usually through some deep emotion and accompanied by tears.

As I review the requests I made of the Lord, all were answered.  The family with the miscarriage now has another healthy child.  My son’s critically ill wife gave birth to a healthy baby about six weeks later.  The Lord took the baby’s mom home 8 months after she gave birth.

I do not pretend to understand why He answers prayer in the way that He does.  I do know…

I love Him; I trust Him.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Demonstrated Power

Saturday night I returned from Togo.  For the past couple of days, I have been emerging from jet lag.  The trip was really good.  In two trips the Word has had an impact on five countries.
Demonstrated Power
Towards the end of the time at the Bible School in Lomé, once again the depth and power of God’s Word were demonstrated.  Know that during these seminars it is not my intent to push or advocate any particular theological position.  Rather, the objective is to give the participants tools with which to increase the quality and quantity of their observations.  The second objective is to refocus them on the text of the Bible as their primary source of data rather than on secondary sources.

So as we neared the end of our time, I asked what the most important lesson they would take away from our time together.  One pastor said that he was convicted to share, teach, and proclaim the Word from his own study of the text rather than using the work of others as the basis of his messages.  Another pastor stood before the group and said that he now knew that he had been a false teacher.  Up to this point, he had believed that false teachers referred to those who were members of cults.  He now realized that one who misrepresents the Word of God, one who may take a passage out of context, or one who reads a text and then uses that text as a springboard to say whatever one wants is a false teacher.

That came from studying the text of 2 Peter (here @ Bible Gateway) not from a direct challenge.

That response is a demonstration of at least two passages of Scripture.  First, Hebrews 4:12 (here @ Bible Gateway) and second, John 16:13 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The Word penetrates and the Spirit leads into truth.

When we give people simple tools with which they can begin to personally probe the depth of Scripture.  Then if we will direct them to the text and get out of the way, the Holy Spirit, who inspired the text (2 Timothy 3:16 – 17 (here @ Bible Gateway); 2 Peter 1:18 – 21 (here @ Bible Gateway), will lead them into truth.

It is a powerful and joyous thing to witness.

Monday, April 2, 2018

So Grateful

We celebrated Christ’s resurrection yesterday.  I am so glad.
So Grateful
My reading plan has had me in Leviticus (here @ Bible Gateway) for the past several days.  Chapter 5 (here @ Bible Gateway) was today’s reading.

This time through I have been struck by how grateful I am that I live on this side of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  The amount of work that had to take place – the detail of that work.  In order to come before the Lord to ask for His forgiveness is nearly beyond my comprehension.

I am, you are, able, because of Christ’s sacrifice, to come immediately into His presence with our confession, worship, requests, and intercession.  There is no separating veil.  There is no mediating high priest.  I do not have to look through the catalog of appropriate sacrifices to determine what I have to bring to the tabernacle or temple.  Knowing me, I would mess that process up somehow.

No, I do not need to go anywhere to be with Him.  He is in me and I am in Him.  I just begin to pray.  No preamble, no sprinkled blood – His took care of that requirement.

The most amazing thing is that I can do it myself.  It is personal.  I can know Him.  I can talk to Him.  He hears.  He responds.  I do not have to depend on some consecrated mediator.

This is so much better.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Speechless

I am going to have trouble expressing this.
Speechless
I have met with men over the years that knew the Bible.  They knew theology.  They had the right answers.  They could even quote verses to support their positions.  At times they saw things in the Word that I missed and I was helped by their insight.

However, with all of the knowledge of the Bible, the ability to express sound doctrine, having all of the right answers, something was off.  There seemed to be a disconnect between what they knew and – this is where I struggle to put this into words.  It was if what they knew did not affect them.  There was no joy.  All was matter of fact.  There was no sense of wonder or awe when they shared or were exposed to the incredible depth and riches of the Word of God and by extension the majestic nature of the Lord that Word reveals.

I sat entranced.

I was not overwhelmed with their knowledge, which in some cases was vast.  I was shaken by the little effect that knowledge had on their demeanor, their emotion, their wonder.

I am at a loss.  I cannot fathom how the lavish grace of our Lord does not render us speechless with inexpressible gratitude.  I am in pain wondering how to help one such as these move from the deadness of codified truth to the utter joy of basking in the presence of the unvarnished nature of God.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Not a Solo Flight

Ten days from now I will get on a plane and fly to Togo, West Africa.  Four days later I will work with students in a Bible school equipping them to study their Bibles more effectively in a four-day seminar.  But that is not the only goal.  The time is designed to give them tools for their own study that are transferable to the people to whom they will minister.
Not a Solo Flight
They speak French.  I speak Texan.  Since Friday I have been reconstructing the handout into French from a translation of the material that was done by a faculty member at a seminary in Cameroon.  I ran into some challenges with the translation and asked questions of Ben, my host in Cameroon four weeks ago.  He communicated with the translator and got me an answer within an hour or so.  That interaction was through Facebook Messenger.  At the same time, I was contacting Pierre, my host in Togo, for information through Skype.

Earlier this morning I got three emails from men in three different states.  One was sharing what they would be specifically praying for me; one was checking to make sure that I had all of the finances I needed for the trip, one, a long time mentor, was writing to strengthen me for the challenge.

That’s six men in three different countries, three different states unified in helping me engage in that for which the Lord designed me and provided opportunities to steward His design.  That does not count the literally hundreds of others who have invested in this financially, in prayer, and in equipping me to fully utilize the gifts and design of the Father.

We live in a culture that values independence.  We celebrate the maverick, the solo artist.  Proverbs 18:1 (here @ Bible Gateway) does not celebrate independence.  There the Holy Spirit labeled flying solo, foolishness, the opposite of sound wisdom.

We desperately need each other.  In multiple passages, the Bible makes it clear that we are dependent on the gifts of others.  Ephesians 4:14 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway) is one of those passages.  There Paul clearly states that each member of the Body contributes to the growth of the Body.

I may be the one leading the seminar 15 days from now.  But there are hundreds of the members of Christ’s Body who have placed me there.  The fruit of this project is theirs.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

In?

Yesterday I shared some results of the struggles I have with the way that some of the versions render some words in Greek.  I shared how that struggle led me to look up how a particular word was used through time and what would some possible implications be of using how the word was used differently than how it is currently translated.  The point was that we often take for granted that we know the definitions of the words we read in the text.  The reality is that there are shades of meaning that can amplify or clarify what a passage may say.
In?
In meeting with men in the Bible and in the seminars I do on Bible study; one of the things I recommend is that the men should look up keywords in the passages they are studying.  The recommendation is to do so in the oldest dictionary one can find.

Friday morning I was meeting with a man and we were discussing a study we were beginning on the believer’s position in Christ.  The initial assignment is to look at Ephesians 1 (here @ Bible Gateway) and Colossians 1 (here @ Bible Gateway) and make several observations about what that phrase “in Christ” means to each of us who have trusted Him.

This gentleman had been through one of the seminars last fall.  So, applying what he learned, he looked up “in”.  Frankly, as many times as I have done this study, as many times as I have suggested that one look up keywords, I had not looked up “in” in relation to this particular study.

He did.

He used Google and got these definitions that he saw had an impact on our topic (click the down arrow at the bottom where it says “Translations, word origin, and more definitions”):
As a preposition
1.  expressing the situation of something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded by something else.
5.  expressing inclusion or involvement.
As an adverb
1.  expressing movement with the result that someone or something becomes enclosed or surrounded by something else.
2.  expressing the situation of being enclosed or surrounded by something.
3.  expressing arrival at a destination.

There were several more.  He considered the nuances as they applied to the believer in Christ.  Some of these do not fit grammatically, but the exercise caused him to slow down and think more thoroughly the implications of our being in Christ.

It is a fairly good way to extend one’s meditation on a passage or a concept.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Proclaim What?

A couple of days ago I shared my struggle with the Greek word κηρύσσω (kerysso), I mentioned that when I encounter the word in the text I tend to render the word, “proclaim” or “herald.”  Mark 1:14 (here @ Bible Gateway) is an instance.
Proclaim What?
Reading through this the other day, after changing preach to proclaim, I asked, what is being proclaimed.  The object of the verb is “gospel”?  The next question, based on the timeline of Mark, was what gospel?  Christ has not died, thus He has not risen from the grave, so what was He proclaiming?

We, or at least I, tend to gloss over words like this that are familiar.  I “know” what gospel means.  However, the exercise of recasting “preach” to “proclaim” led me to question if I really knew what was Christ was communicating here.  So I looked up the word, εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion), in one of the tools I have that allow me to see the meaning of Greek words throughout the classical and koine period.  I found that the word meant, good tidings, good news.  It especially was used in the announcement of an emperor’s accession to the throne.

Consider that for a second.  In the first century that is how the word was used.  Now think about the implications of using that understanding of the use of εὐαγγέλιον in Mark 1:14 (here @ Bible Gateway) along with my rendering of κηρύσσω.

“Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the accession of God to the throne.”

In the context that sheds a different light on Mark 1:15 (here @ Bible Gateway).  It may explain why the kingdom of God is at hand.

However, there are multiple other implications if this is a correct understanding of the language.

The point of all this is not necessarily the meaning of Mark 1:14 – 15 (here @ Bible Gateway), rather, it is a thinly veiled encouragement not to take any of the words in the text for granted.  That does not assume you know the meaning.

This was reinforced this morning when I met with a man to discuss our study on “in Christ”.  But I will share that in the next post.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Preach or Proclaim?

While I will not characterize myself as a Greek scholar, because of studying the language at WKU and at DTS, I have a working knowledge.  I study with the Greek and English in parallel.  In the past year or so I have been struggling with the way that some of our translations render some key terms in our versions and translations.
Preach or Proclaim?
Κηρύσσω (kerysso) is one of those words.  In your version it is probably rendered “preach”, 2 Timothy 4:2 (here @ Bible Gateway), is an example.  Through history up to 2 AD, the word meant “herald” or “proclaim.”  It had the sense of an ambassador or page, crying out the message of the king.

One of the challenges of translating the word “preach” is that when we read “preach” what generally comes to mind?  Right, a preacher, behind a pulpit, at a church meeting.  However, if we think of the word as “proclaim” then that image is not as prominent.  All of us, regardless of our understanding of the Word, the length of time we have been believers or any training we have had in public speaking, can share, proclaim, what we know about Christ.  John 9 (here @ Bible Gateway) is a prime example of this reality.

So in my study, when I encounter “preach” in a passage, I think of it as “proclaim”.

That led me to consider another word in a study in January.

I will share that word and the impact of its combination with κηρύσσω tomorrow.  The thoughts have intrigued me for the past couple of months.  I look forward to your input on how it impacts you.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Ground of Prayer

If you are like me you struggle with prayer.  For the past couple of years I have been helped greatly in my anemic prayer life, by considering the prayers of the men and women that are recorded in the Word.  This started for me in 2 Thessalonians 1:12 (here @ Bible Gateway).
The Ground of Prayer
Genesis 32:9 – 12 (here @ Bible Gateway) is one of those prayers that encourages me, or better, gives me a clearer understanding of the attitude I need to have in prayer.

Jacob’s appeal to God has three elements that instruct me in prayer:
  1. He comes to God in the midst of obedience.  He is currently doing what the Lord had told him to do, namely, return to his own country. 
  2. He does not claim to be worthy of God’s attention.  He acknowledges his dependence on God and the lavish grace with which God has blessed him.
  3. He reminds God of His promise to Jacob to make him a mighty innumerable nation.
So three things it seems that would be good for me to check as I come to Him:
  • Am I currently in obedience to Him?
  • Do I recognize that this is not about me but rather about the plan of God, His purposes?
  • Am I approaching Him based on what He has promised?
This probably needs some more thought, but that is a start.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Fake it or Ask

Have you ever been in a situation where you were not sure what was going on?  How did you respond?  Were you nervous?  How did you deal with the emotions that uncertainty created in you?  Did you withdraw?
Fake it or Ask
In Mark 9:2 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway), Peter finds himself in a situation for which he has no categories.  Read the passage and note how he deals with being uncomfortable.

This reads to me like a catalog of how we handle situations where we have no clue what is happening:
  • Not knowing what to say, we speak.
  • We talk about side issues rather than what is really going on.
  • We are afraid to ask questions, we would appear ignorant.
  • We become invested in tangential issues that we can “understand” rather than engaging in trying to understand what we are really experiencing.
While I am not a psychologist by training – just about as far from that discipline as one can get – I have both done some of these and observed others doing these in situations that were difficult to process.

It seems that what we can learn from Peter here is that when things are confusing, we need to ask the Lord for direction.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Scandalized

Mark 6:3 (here @ Bible Gateway) is an interesting verse.  The folks in Jesus’ hometown, were offended by Him.  The word can be translated “scandalized”.  I like that better.
Scandalized
Passages like this make me ask myself. “In what ways am I offended, scandalized, by Christ?

It would be easy to dismiss that question out of hand because after all, we are really spiritual.  But think about that for a while?

Paul was a persecutor of the Church.  Jesus not only saved Paul but placed him as an apostle to the Gentiles.  The Jerusalem church had a difficult time with that.  It was a scandal.

Speaking of the Gentiles, the notion that they could become followers of Christ without becoming Jews, was a scandal.  It took a council to determine that was ok.

What offends you?  Is it that a mass murderer trusts Christ just before he is executed?  Is it that your enemy, the one who has betrayed you and your family is prospering in business and in life?

Is it that the sovereign God allowed your loved one to contract cancer and die after a long and excruciating fight?

If I am honest.  There are things that God does about which I am scandalized.  Things He does that I do not understand.  Things with which it takes me much time to come to grips.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Fabulous Hard Time

You may remember that I get most of these posts from my journal.  I review past entries and determine if I have written on that passage by looking through my records on the blog. 

I am reviewing my journal from last year.  I am in January.  It was about the time that my father passed away and my daughter-in-law was about 25 weeks pregnant and fighting B-Cell lymphoma. 

Yesterday was her daughter’s first birthday.  She, however, was not there.  It was a great party.  It was fun to watch my granddaughter eat her smash cake.  It was fun to see the icing all over her face and arms.  It was fun to see her try to eat all of her presents.  It was great to see all 12 of the pictures recording her growth this year.

It was hard looking at the picture of her the month her mommy went to be with the Lord.  It was hard that her mommy was not with us.  We had pictures of my son and his wife at one year old to compare with her.  That was fun.

The evening was a fabulous celebration of my granddaughter’s first year.  For me, there was an undercurrent of sadness, grief, for a number of reasons primarily that my son’s wife was not physically with us. 

We know she is with the Lord.  That does not completely remove the underlying pain.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Standing Alert

If you are like me, there are times when you just need to check out.  Yesterday was like that.  For some reason, perhaps it was the cumulative effect of the last several weeks, I was out of it.  I did not want to do much of anything.  Pretty much vegged out.  It doesn’t happen often, but it happens.
Standing Alert
At some significant level, I fear those times.  I fear they will become more frequent, normal.  That scares me.

I also fear that there are more and more people who live vegged out.  They do not think for themselves, they accept what the “experts” tell them.  They do not stretch or challenge their thinking, they opt continually for entertainment, fiction, movies, TV series.

This afternoon I was reviewing a journal entry from early last year.  The passage that started the thought was Matthew 24:42 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The phrase in the passage that caught my attention was “be on the alert”.  I jotted down several other passages that echoed that imperative. 

That caused me to look for other places that word showed up in the text.  So I searched in Logos for instances where the Greek word that was translated “be alert” showed up.  Here is that list.

The command to be on the alert seems to be a relatively consistent theme in the New Testament.  It seems that there are two primary reasons for this consistent exhortation.  First, we have a Lord that will return for us, and we are to be alert, looking for His return, being about His business, not, as I was yesterday, vegged out.

Second, we have an enemy who would love nothing more than to take us out.  Which will be easier for him if we are, like I was yesterday, vegged out.

It is almost as if the Lord is calling us to stand watch.  We are to stand watch over ourselves, our families, our communities, and the Truth.

It is an assignment that I need to take more seriously.  What do you see in those passages?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

What He Promises

The workshops that I do are built around 2 Peter (here @ Bible Gateway).  There are a number of reasons for this.  One it is a short book, 61 verses, so participants can read it quickly, usually I give them 20 minutes.  Second, the content is incredibly deep.  There is one aspect of that content on which this post will focus…
What He Promises
First, look at Genesis 21:1 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Note the focus of the verse.  God did as He said, God did as He promised.  He was faithful to His Word.  He did what He said He would do.  Numbers 23:19 (here @ Bible Gateway) echoes this truth.  He says, He will do it.  He speaks, He will make it good.  He is consistent.  He is faithful.  He does not lie.  He always does what He says He will do.

Now look at 2 Peter 1:2 – 4 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Take a few minutes and make as many observations as you can about those two sentences (2 – 3 is one sentence).

There is a ton in these two sentences.  Focus on this for a minute, what does the near demonstrative “these” refer to in verse 4 (here @ Bible Gateway)?

I would suggest “these” refers to “His own glory and excellence”.  The promises of God are based on His nature, His character.  His Word, reflects who He is.

You know those whose word is not good.  You can be fairly sure that they will not do what they said they will do.  You also know those whose word is gold.  If they say something will be done, you do not have to ever wonder again if it was.  Their word is good.  For both, their word, or better their actions based on their word reveal their character.

It is the same with God.  Peter is telling us not only that we can trust God to do what He says, but also that what He promises us reveals His divine nature to us in that as we build our lives around what He has said and promised, we actually partake of His nature, it becomes part of our experience.

This is just a short intro into a profound truth of Scripture.  I have shared this more times than I can count.  However the reality of what Peter is sharing with us here, continues to overwhelm.

Do not gloss over this.  Spend some time praying and thinking through the implications of what Peter is saying here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Our Choices

Genesis 28:6 (here @ Bible Gateway) is interesting to me.  This is a subset of one of Abraham’s follies.  Kim shared another a couple of days ago.
Our Choices
Here it is the second instance of Abraham asking Sarah to misrepresent her relationship to Abraham.  As a result Abimelech took Sarah.

God stops Abimelech in a dream from having any relationship with Sarah.

Then in Genesis 28:6 (here @ Bible Gateway), God speaks to Abimelech.  Two observations
God’s sovereignty extends to the choices men make on baser issues, like sex.  The Lord can prevent or, as an implied corollary, cause a man to choose a course of action.
Abimelech did not sin against Abraham by taking Sarah, he sinned against God.

We may choose, but our choice is under God’s sovereignty.  If we choose to sin, our sin is against Him.

Ponder that.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Focus and Truth

Take a minute and read through Matthew 16:13 – 23 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Focus and TruthPeter both gets it right and wrong in the space of a few minutes.

In the first case the Father revealed the truth about His Son to Peter.  He got that right.

In the second case Peter rebuked Jesus when the Lord told the disciples that he would be killed in Jerusalem.  He got that one horribly wrong.

What was the difference and what are some of the implications for us?

In the first case Peter’s understanding was illuminated by the Father.  The Father allowed him to understand the truth of who Jesus really was.  Jesus said Peter was blessed to know this.

In the second case, Peter was focused on his interests, man’s interests, not God’s, not the Father’s.  Therefore rather than being illuminated with the truth, he was dead wrong.

I might suggest there are at least two implications of these moments in Peter’s life for us;
  1. Just because the Lord has given us illumination and we understand better a portion of His truth, we are not immune from error in the next sentence we utter.  We have to be hard after the Word of God to make sure that we do not deviate from its revealed truth.
  2. A primary source of error, if not the primary, is to set our mind on man’s, our, interests rather than seeking what God wants.
Unfortunately, I have made the error.  I have heard others do the same.  There are some

Under the reality of living in a fallen, broken world, it is all too easy to consider that our needs, wishes, and desires are what God wants to fulfill.  When we do that, it escapes our notice that what he wants us to do is focus on seeking His Kingdom, not our wants, needs, or desires.

Personally, I need continual reminders of that truth.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Overcoming Resistance

If we choose to obey God, no matter how trivial the obedience may seem, the enemy will resist our obedience.  He will use others to distract us.  He will use circumstances to dissuade us.  He will use our environment to discourage us.  He wants us to fail.
Overcoming Resistance

Nehemiah faced all three of these.  Frankly, if you study all of those who followed the Lord, you find similar stories in all of their lives.  For Nehemiah the enemy used Sanballat to accomplish these three d’s.  Sanballat falsely accused Nehemiah – oh, you do remember that the enemy is a liar and the father of lies?

Look at Nehemiah 6:9 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Here the Lord reminds us how to deal with those who wish to deflect us from following the Lord.  This, by the way, was Nehemiah’s default action in the face of all that he faced.  He prayed.  He specifically prayed that the Lord would strengthen him.

Yesterday I spent an extensive time in my quiet time looking at passages that validate that all that we are able to do we do through His strength.  Take a look at Psalm 119 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Note all of the places in the psalm that David asks for or acknowledges his dependence on the Lord for anything that David understands about the Lord or His Word.

Both Nehemiah and David give us good clear examples of how we can deal with the enemy.  We can’t.  Apart from complete dependence on the Lord strengthening us to do so.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Abram’s Folly

Shortly after last night’s post was published, my wife suggested that I needed to point out that Abram was also engaged in folly…she was right.
Abram’s Folly
It could be argued that Abram’s folly was worse because he did it twice.  Look at:
In both cases Abram in the first case and Abraham in the second, rather than trusting the Lord for protection, schemed to preserve his life at the expense of his wife.  He was willing to put her into a situation where she could have been violated in order to preserve his life.

The first time he did this was just after God had called him and Abram had responded.  The second time was after the Lord had promised Abraham that Sarah would have a son.  It was after Abram had believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, Genesis 15:6 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Think of that for a bit.  Abram, Abraham, had followed God, believed in His promises, and yet in the matter of Sarai, Sarah, did not trust God to protect them.

It leads me to think that no matter the closeness of our relationship to God, the fidelity of our obedience to Him, that there will always be those areas of our lives we hold back from Him.  That may be why we read David’s oft repeated cry for the Lord to revive, teach, lead, and instruct him in Psalm 119 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Regardless of how close we are to Him, we are completely dependent on Him to trust and follow.  Not to recognize this and proactively pray against this type of behavior, leaves us open to duplicating Abraham’s folly.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Sarai’s Folly

It is often hard to trust God.  Especially, if we are associated with one whom God is leading and we are charged with following.  Abram’s wife, Sarai, faced this reality.  Read Genesis 16:2 (here @ Bible Gateway).
Sarai’s Folly
Sarai knew what God had promised Abraham.  She came up with a scheme to help the promise along.

Here are some observations about this situation:
  • The promise was to Abram
  • Sarai was a part of that promise
  • Sarai was not the primary recipient of the promise
  • Sarai could not see how the promise could be fulfilled
  • Sarai came up with her own solution
  • Sarai thought her solution was in line with the promise
  • Sarai convinced Abram to follow her plan
  • She did not trust God, she trusted her scheme
Sarai’s actions parallel Eve’s actions in the garden (the enemy’s hand is all over this)
  • Question the Word (Promise) of God
  • What He said will not happen
  • Take matters into her own hand
  • Create a mess
If we are honest with ourselves, that pattern has repeated itself multiple times in our lives.

Sarai’s folly becomes ours.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Quickly Fickle

There have been times in my life when I wanted to be recognized, wanted people to notice what I had done, what I had accomplished.  Not proud of that, but it is the case.
Quickly Fickle
Acts 14:18 – 19 (here @ Bible Gateway) reminds me of one of the reasons that it is not a very good idea to desire recognition.

One sentence after Paul and Barnabas have a hard time restraining people from sacrificing to them as gods, the Jews turn the crowd against them and they attempt to stone Paul to death.

It is a quick, short distance from praise to hatred.  Seeking praise then would seem to invite that quick hate.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

He Believed

Genesis 15:6 (here @ Bible Gateway) is one of those passages in the Bible that forms the basis for others, for example:
He Believed

You remember the context.  Abram is childless, he points that out the Lord, reminding the Lord that one that is not his son will inherit Abram’s wealth.  God responds to Abram by telling him that his descendants would be too many to measure.

Genesis 15:6 (here @ Bible Gateway) records Abram’s response.  Note the focus of Abram’s faith.  He does not believe in the promise, he believes in the Lord.  His faith was not on what was promised but on who promised.  The person of God, not the promise of God.

The implications for us are profound.  We are not to believe or trust in what God has promised we are to believe and trust in Him.  Abram desperately wanted a child, an heir.  God promised an heir.  Abram believed in the Lord.

I have heard messages that focus on what God can do for us, how He can meet our needs.  Ok.  In John 6 (here @ Bible Gateway), people were following Christ because He fed 5000 with five loaves and two fish.  So they began to follow Him around.  In John 6:26 – 27 (here @ Bible Gateway), Jesus rebukes the crowd telling them they are following Him for the wrong reason.  The bread they wanted perished.  He was what they needed.

The trap is subtle.  When pain and distress overtake our lives we cry out in desperation.  We cry for one to meet our needs to ease our pain to solve our problems.  The reality is we will have more needs, more pain, and more problems.  We need Him long term more than we need what He can “do” for us in the short term.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Not Empty

Isaiah 55:10 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells us that God’s Word will not return to Him empty, it will accomplish that which He desires.  Hebrews 4:12 (here @ Bible Gateway) reminds us that the Word of God is powerful, piercing.
Have you ever wondered if the Bible is really all that powerful? Thoughts at DTTB.
In the past 11 years I have seen the reality of these passages played out in 8 nations.  I have seen men and women respond with joy to the reality that they could understand the Word of God on their own.  Given some simple direction, they were able to ask some general questions of a passage, thereby opening up their understanding of the text.

I have seen excitement, confidence, hope, and commitment to share their experience with others.

For the last two weeks I saw it again in Cameroon.  Through five events in 15 days many responded the same way.  It is my conviction, and I saw it again over the last two weeks.  If you get people into the Word of God, having given them some simple tools on how and for what to look, and then get out of the way, in every case the Spirit of God does just what Jesus said the Spirit would do.  He leads people into truth, the truth that He inspired (John 16:13 (here @ Bible Gateway); 2 Timothy 3:16 - 17 (here @ Bible Gateway).

It is more fun to watch that than I can possibly explain.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Anxious, Troubled, Worried

Thursday afternoon I leave for Cameroon.  I will be there for a little over two weeks.  I will work with pastors, a group of parents, some men who are training to be pastors, and I will speak at a launch of a media ministry’s missions event – that last one is on the radio. 
 Anxious, Troubled, Worried
I have been sick with the flu for the past week.  So I am really behind getting ready for this trip.  I was going to have the material printed there but it was going to be too expensive, so I am printing 200 booklets here.  Problem.  Not sure how I am going to get them there.

I have been all day trying to get caught up and ready to go.  I am making lists to keep from forgetting something.  Probably will.

Woke up this morning at 0300, grabbed my phone, started planning…

A few minutes ago I was obsessing about something and the Lord called forth Lazurus like Philippians 4:6 -7 (here @ Bible Gateway) out of the darkened tomb of my Scripture memory.  I had to confess, anxious.  Troubled.  Worried.

He is in control.  Regardless of the cost overruns.  Regardless of the logistic challenges.  He is in control.  Nothing that is happening is news to Him.  I just need to pray and stop being anxious.

That is really easy to write in a blog.  Not so easy to actually live.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

By Faith – In What?

Genesis 15:6 (here @ Bible Gateway) is not only a key passage for our relationship with God, but also a key concept that threads its way throughout the Bible.
By Faith – In What?
Consider these passages (it would be a good idea to read a few verses before and after each passage to get a sense of the context):

What do you see as the key?

For me, the phrase that is key is in Genesis 15:6 (here @ Bible Gateway), “…he believed in the Lord…”  Abram believed in the person.  He was not focused on the promise but the one who promised.  He believed, trusted, that God could do what He said.

That is the thrust of how Paul describes Abram’s response in Romans 4:20 - 22 (here @ Bible Gateway) is it not?

The implications for us are significant.  We do not believe or trust the promise; we trust and stand on He who promised.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Second Aspect of Navigating Pain Well

Yesterday we started unpacking some lessons on how we are to best navigate pain, difficult stretches of our lives.  The premise yesterday was that the first thing that we have to have a firm grasp on is the sovereignty of God.
Second Aspect of Navigating Pain Well
It seems to me that the second thing we have to have settled in our faith is the nature and character of God.  Hebrews 11:6 (here @ Bible Gateway) seems to capture the thought most succinctly.  We have to believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Consider the implications.  To live like that we have to be comfortable, settled really, with not only God’s sovereignty, but that sovereignty, that power, is exercised consistent with a nature and character in which we can, using the book of Hebrews term, “rest”. 

We have to know that we can trust Him. 

There were times in this past year that my prayer in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances consisted of, “I love You, I trust You.”  That was all.  The rest of the time was spent in tears.

There is only one way of which I am aware to understand both the nature of God and His sovereignty.  That is to devour His Word.  There is no other way.  We cannot survive on the work and understanding of others.  We have to have firsthand knowledge of Him.  Our minds have to be renewed, Romans 12:1 - 2 (here @ Bible Gateway).

The only way to do that is by spending much time with Him in the Word, prayerfully.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Navigating Pain Well

[Note: As many of you already have discovered, the flu shot this year was not all that effective – I have been learning that by firsthand experience since early Tuesday morning.  Basically did not get out of bed Wednesday or Thursday.]
Navigating Pain Well
The diagnosis of cancer we received two years ago I have written about twice, here and here.

In light of some of the things that we have experienced as a family in the last year, and are in fact still experiencing, reviewing a thing or two may be useful.

We have experienced 4 deaths and three births, and last Tuesday, our extended family experienced another death.  Lee was my wife’s cousin’s first child.  As we have navigated these months, as I have begun to experience some of the minor side effects of the cancer, as I have watched my son learning to be a doctor and a single father after burying his wife of six years, as I have seen another son lose his third child through miscarriage, I have wondered what is the one thing that allows us to walk through times like these and emerge with not just our faith intact but stronger, fuller, and closer to Him?

I listed three things a couple of posts ago.  One of those seems to me to be the most important – in truth they all play a part – but on the first, the sovereignty of God, I would like to share some thoughts.

If we are not settled on who God is, that He is in control, then it seems that we only have two options when tragedy is part of our path.
  1. First, we must consider that the tragedy is completely random.  There is no rhyme or reason to how it occurs in our lives.  
  2. Our second option, and it is closely aligned with the first, is that God is unable or unwilling to deal with the randomness of tragedy that continually occurs in our world.
Take a minute and read:
There are many other passages we could consider, but think through these.  Consider what they say.  By that ask the primary question in reading or studying the Bible or for that matter any book or document, “What does it say?”

John says nothing has come into being that has come into being apart from Him.  Nothing.  Consider the implications of that.

Paul in Colossians echoes John and extends the argument to include that He holds all things together.

If we embrace that reality, if we live in the certainty of what John and Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit penned for us, while it does not ease or diminish the pain or grief, it give us a solid anchor on which to grasp.

This in my floundering estimation is the more important truth.  But there is at least one more.  We will consider that tomorrow (unless the flu reasserts itself – under the sovereignty of God of course).

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Consume or Contribute?

Tonight there was a meeting at church.  We met to celebrate that several of the groups have multiplied.  During the discussion that ensued, a consistent thread became evident.  There were many in the group who were consumers.  They come to be taught.  They do not really engage in the process.
Consume or Contribute?
The image of the plant in Little Shop of Horrors leaps to mind.  “Feed me, Seymour!”

Toward the end of the meeting I asked what would some options for a contrast to consume.  One of the men immediately said, “Contribute.”  He nailed it.

There were several conversations about how to move from consuming to contributing in the groups.

Nehemiah 3 (here @ Bible Gateway) came to mind.  The passage is a list of names and the part of the wall on which they worked.  A great work cannot be brought to fruition without many hands coordinated and joined by the same vision.

The Body is a great work.

Ephesians 4:11 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells us that the growth of the Body is a function ALL of the members contributing based on the exercising of their gifts in the Body.

It is not an easy transition from consumer to contributor, but it is a transition for which we are all called to make.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Timeline of Training

Genesis 14:14 (here @ Bible Gateway) is striking. 
The Timeline of Training
What interests me here is that Moses had built an army capable of defeating four kings.  He had trained them, equipped them when he did not need the force.

Leadership seems to train people for what may, will come and not what is on their plate now.

Some of the things that I have seen in the past year that people needed to know to navigate well the circumstances of their lives:

  • The Love of God
  • Trusting God
  • The Sovereignty of God

If you need help with these.  Let me know.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Responding to Sin

Look at Ezra 10:6 (here @ Bible Gateway) and Nehemiah 1:4 (here @ Bible Gateway).  .
Responding to Sin
The response of the Ezra and Nehemiah over the sin or circumstances of others was to mourn and pray.

To be honest, that is not my first response.  My first response may be something like, “They should have known better.”

That’s certainly helpful.  It’s a thought with such eternal significance and effectiveness.

Truth is, when I catch myself in sin or difficult circumstances, my first response is not to mourn and pray either.  Probably, it is to justify.  Claim special circumstances, blame shift, or try to figure a way to solve the problem.  (We come by blame shifting genetically – check out Genesis 3:12 – 13) (here @ Bible Gateway).

It occurs to me that Ezra and Nehemiah had it right, I have it wrong

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Why Journal?

About this time last year I was working through Genesis 11:6 – 7 (here @ Bible Gateway).  I was struggling with the “same language” and therefore they can do anything concept.
Why Journal?
I write out the passages in my journal along with those with which I use as cross references.  For Genesis 11:6 – 7 (here @ Bible Gateway) I also looked at:
I was confused.  I wrote out that confusion.  It was clear that one of the reasons we have difficulty getting things done is communication.  Yet it was God who confused the speech and He wants us to be unified.  But we don’t have the same language and when we do sometimes we do not define the words in the same way.

In the middle of the next sentence I got it.  There is a break on the page in my journal with “OH” written.

I saw that the real issue was that the Lord wanted us to trust Him in what we do rather than our ability to figure it out or communicate clearly.

That is one of the benefits of keeping a journal.  Writing out your thoughts helps to clarify your thinking.  You do not have to do it like I do.  Do what works for you.

But try it.  Stick with it.  It will be of great benefit in your understanding of Scripture and your relationship with Christ.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Means or End

I was able to finish the search I started yesterday, this time without tears.  The passage I was looking for is Acts 4:13 (here @ Bible Gateway).  While it turns out I have written on it before, this time it is from a different perspective.
Means or End
In the last weeks and months there have been several conversations with which I have been involved that focused on some sort of discipline of the Christian life.  For instance, Bible study, Scripture memory, quiet time, prayer, how to make the most out of Christian meetings, and other basics in which those of us who are pursuing a relationship with Christ, should be engaged.

While these disciplines are important they are not the end.  However, at times there are those of us who will measure how we are doing in the Christian life by how we are doing in these disciplines.

Take a look at Acts 4:13 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The passage is striking for a number of reasons.  Peter and John were not educated men.  They were fishermen.  They knew boats, weather, fish behavior, how to read the water, and how to find the fish.  They were brought before the educated, the priests, the rulers, the elders, and the scribes.  Men who knew the Bible, men who studied, men who had been mentored, taught by others the intricacies of the Law.  From and education standpoint Peter and John were far outclassed.

Then Peter spoke.

He blew their minds.  It was not a small explosion.  The priest, rulers, elders, and scribes recognized that they were “untrained,” but were nevertheless amazed.  They attributed it to their having been with Jesus.

That’s the point is it not?

That is what the Lord told the Pharisees in John 5:39 – 40 (here @ Bible Gateway).  For the Pharisees and by extension the priests, the rulers, the elders, and the scribes, it was about the Word of God.  These had the first five books of the Bible memorized.  Jesus told them that this was not sufficient.  They studied, they memorized, they probably spent time in personal devotion in the Law, they prayed, they were regular in the synagogue, some even taught there.  Jesus said they missed the point.

It wasn’t about knowing all of those things or engaging in all those disciplines.  It was about knowing Him.  Coming to Him.  Following Him.

It is the same for us.  Those disciplines are important, key, and indispensable in our walk with Him.  But engaging in those disciplines to the extent that they are what we measure, keep track of or revel in is missing the same point that the Pharisees missed.  They are tools.  Essential tools, but tools nonetheless.  If through them we are not learning more of Him, if we are not growing closer to Him through our engagement with those tools we are missing it.

The whole point of engaging in these, even in reading this blog or Christian books, is to get to know Him better.  If it is not working that way for you.  Something needs to change.  If you are in a group of guys, or if you are meeting with someone regularly to talk about your Christian life, tell them you are struggling with this.  What you are doing, rather the amount of it, is not the issue.  The issue is through what you are doing, are you increasing in your relationship with Him.

I have to continually check this.  It’s kind of like the scheduled maintenance on your car.  If you do not pay attention the car will wear out and not work as well.  Same thing with us.  We need to continually ask are we knowing Him better or has our focus drifted on to the means rather than the end.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Homesick

I search through the blog before I write to see if I have already written on a verse or a topic before I write.  Did that tonight and ran across “Sorry for Your Loss” and changed what I was going to write.
Homesick
As I read through that post, I began to weep.  It has been a hard 18 months.  We have experienced 4 deaths and 3 births.  The last death was of my daughter in law.  We came close to losing the newest grandson a few weeks ago.

Last year I started reading How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil, 2nd ed. by D. A. Carson.  On page 130 he says:

Christians ought to be developing a kind of homesickness for heaven. Some want to warn us against being so heavenly minded that we will be no earthly good. I suppose that is possible, but I haven’t found anyone like that yet. Puffed up piety and sentimental religion can make one think much of heaven and love no one down here, but those who are genuinely heavenly minded have the highest incentive to serve well here: they are laying up treasure in heaven.

I wrote about that at some level in “Sorry for Your Loss”.  I have heard that some were looking forward to going home, dad was.  In the past I have wondered at that.  I do no longer.  At a significant level, I long to be reunited with those I know, to meet the siblings I never knew, and the grandchild that is already there, and to talk with my daughter in law and see the joy when she sees her daughter again.

I think that I am beginning to understand.  I am getting homesick.