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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.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Worship of the Giver

Have you ever admired someone’s skill?  Looked at something that they have created and was amazed at their work?  There are a number of artists for which I have great regard.  Some of them work in the medium of drawing or painting.  Many in music.  Some in the written word both in fiction and non-fiction.  Some as actors.  Some as carpenters.  Some as designers of buildings, bridges, or other structures.
Worship of the Giver

There are others though who many would not consider artists, plumbers, electricians, welders, etc.  Artists, however, they are.

Exodus 31:6 (here @ Bible Gateway), the last part especially, tells us that any skill that we have was put there by God.  So when you admire someone’s work, you are in reality giving thanks to the One who gifted their skill.

Perhaps a new source of worship.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

No is an Answer

Typically I mine my journals to spark what I write here.  For the past several months I have been reviewing the last journal which covers from November of 2016 through February of this year.
No is an Answer
This evening I hit entries that surrounded a significant event for our family.  In the journal I recorded my prayer concerning what was going on.

Garth Brooks has a song, “Unanswered Prayers.”  I like Garth, but he got that one wrong.  There are no unanswered prayers.  We just may not get the answer we hope for.  “No,” is as much of an answer as, “Yes”.  Further, sometimes the answer is, “Wait”.

In the case of the prayer I recorded during the first part of last year, the answer was, “No”.

Reading the prayer, I had a visceral reaction.  My gut tightened up, I bent over, and began to weep.  The pain and confusion is still very real.  From where I sit, “No,” made no sense, no sense at all.  It does not matter how I parse the situation, from whatever angle it is contemplated, the continuing confusion, pain, and constant reminders of the answer, do not compute.

There are two things that sustain faith for me when these forceful reminders hit.  First, I know without any shadow of doubt that God loves us, loves me, loves all who were and are continually impacted by the “No”.

Second, my experience with other, “Nos,” helps me to know that I can trust Him.  Some of those have resolved into understanding over the years.  Some have not.  But I know based on both experience and the testimony of His Word than I can trust Him.

For this one, in this life, I may never understand.

But I know that He loves me, and I trust Him.  But, it still hurts.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Incremental Victories

There have been issues in my life and ministry that the Lord immediately changed.  One was my focus on what was ultimately important, not airplanes but people.  Another was an immediate and sustained hunger for His Word.
Incremental Victories
But other issues took time.  Swearing was one.

Some I was able to overcome, later attempted, with some success, to reassert themselves.

Some, like journaling, I was off and on with for years and now has become consistent.

In ministry engaging people in the Word is a strength, but prayer is a challenge.

The point is not everything in this journey is easy.  Further, things that we may have nailed down today, may break loose tomorrow.

Why?

There are probably more reasons than we can possibly cover in a short post.  Someone has probably written a book about this.  But I find help on this in some places in the Word.  First, in Exodus 23:29 – 30 (here @ Bible Gateway).  When the Lord was sending Israel into the land, it was not done overnight.  It was a process.  He wanted them to take the land incrementally.  The stated purpose was so that the land would not become desolate.

I resist allegorizing the text.  Detest is probably a better representation of my reaction to that type of reading of the text.  With that firmly in mind Romans 15:4 – 5 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells me that this passage is given for my instruction.

Now it is not the case that I am currently engaged in a war of conquest of a large land mass.  It is the case that I have been enlisted in a project to help change the culture of a number of communities in which I am involved.

In both the war and the project there is resistance.  In my case if there was not resistance I would find myself in a situation where people would want help and because there were not enough leaders equipped to give that help, the communities would become frustrated and much future opportunity would be lost.

Romans 15:4 – 5 (here @ Bible Gateway) reminds us that this is a journey, a mission that requires perseverance.  Facilitating change, is part of that journey both personally and in a community of believers.

From time to time I forget that.  When I do, discouragement surfaces.  I have to be reminded that this is a journey of perseverance.  That requires me to abide in Him, in His Word, and in fellowship with others that are pulling with me in the traces.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Overstating

Take a look at Job 42:1 – 3 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Job is responding to the Lord’s rebuke.  Note the elements of Job’s confession.
Overstating
He starts with God.  He acknowledges God’s sovereignty and power.  Then he turns to his own reality.  He had made confident assertions about things for which he had no understanding.  Things that were frankly far beyond his ability to comprehend.

From time to time I encounter folks who are certain.  At a significant level they suffer from what Prof called, “hardening of the categories”.  One cannot have a conversation with them.  They see Scripture through what they have decided is true.  In some cases they have taken positions that directly contradict what the text says.  But they are certain that they have not.

Both Paul and Jesus echoed this reality, the reality that there are many of us who are like Job.  In Matthew 15:8 – 9 (here @ Bible Gateway), Jesus decries those who teach their ideas rather than the truth.  In 1 Timothy 1:7 (here @ Bible Gateway), Paul reminds Timothy that there are still those who make confident assertions as Job did, but have absolutely no idea about that which they are expounding.  Unfortunately, their tribe is legion.

For the past 40 years I have been studying the Bible.  I have worked hard at increasing my ability to interact with the text and make better observations which lead to better understanding.  I know some things.  But, the truth is, I am relatively certain that much of what I think I know could be in error.  Why?  Because when we are studying God, we are studying the infinite with finite minds.  He alludes to this in Isaiah 55:8 – 9 (here @ Bible Gateway).  We do not, cannot, think like Him.

There are a lot of great books about the Bible.  There are great men who have written extraordinary works that have greatly helped me.  But, their works are not inspired.  They are not God.  They, as I am, are susceptible to error.  In fact, in some area of their study, I am certain they will discover they are wrong, as will I.

The point is, I have to hold what I “know” with an open hand.  I have to be open to being corrected by what the Text says, not what I want it to say.  I cannot, or better, I have to continually resist the urge to read into the text what I already “know”.

Job’s confession is a great model.  I have to acknowledge who is actually God, and admit that I need His help.  Then I need to follow David’s example in Psalm 119:18 (here @ Bible Gateway) and ask the Lord to open my eyes and help me to see.  Further, I have to be willing to change what I believe I understand.

It seems to me that is what Paul is talking about in Romans 12:1 – 2 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Hiding

If you look at Genesis 3:8 (here @ Bible Gateway), you will note that Adam and Eve had a personal relationship with God.  They walked with Him in the garden.  They knew His sounds.  The cadence of His stride.  The sound of His voice.  They probably knew His scent.  It was a close personal, somewhat casual, relationship.
When they disobeyed; when they violated His trust; when they heard their close friend, their creator, their Lord, coming; they hid.

In Exodus 20:19 (here @ Bible Gateway), when that same Lord continued His self-revelation through giving His Law, again the people, His chosen people, hid.  They wanted Moses to deal with God for them.

In what ways are we doing the same thing today?  During the time that the Bible was being written, those who wanted to follow the Lord were dependent on others, prophets, apostles, and others to whom God spoke directly.  They were dependent on circular letters that apostles wrote.  By the end of the first century the gospels and epistles were treated as a whole.  By the end of the second century all but 3 John had been quoted as Scripture.  By the end of the fourth century the books we have now are widely mentioned and recognized.

The point?

For the last 2015 years we have had the Word of God.  Now in our time, we have unbelievable access to that Word.  I have 27 different physical New Testaments.  I have over 3000 books about the Bible on my computer.  I have a program that will tell me all of the Greek or Hebrew words that are in any passage.  I can export that list to Excel and sort it anyway that I wish.  I can point at any word in the text with my mouse and find out the part of speech, the pronunciation, and with another click, get a hyperlinked list of all of the resources in my library that will give me insight into the development and use of that word.

That does not begin to address the resources we have on the internet.  There are free programs available that will do much of what I just described.  Further there is an uncountable number of messages ranging from extraordinary to heretical available in our browsers.  In church many are no longer carrying a Bible because they use the app on their phones.

So with all these incredible resources we should have incredibly Biblically literate believers, right?

I work primarily with leaders.  Both here and overseas.  That is not the case.  Many if not most of the pastors that I have worked with overseas spend more time reading books about the Bible to craft their messages than spending time in the Word of God.  Many download messages that others have given and share those.  Why?  They do not know how to study the Scripture, or do not have confidence that they are able to do so with any degree of accuracy.

If they do not know how, will the people in their communities?

The answer to that should be obvious.

I have had members of good, no great, churches tell me that they do not want to study the Bible for themselves, it’s too much work.  They want someone to tell them what it says, what to believe.  They are committed to allowing others talk to God.  Like the Israelites at Sinai hid behind Moses, to a great extent aren’t we, those of us who are not personally engaged in the Word, hiding behind pastors and teachers?

If this isn’t true of you, awesome!  If it is and it’s because no one has shown you how, let me know, I will.

That is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Waiting

I am not patient.  As a pilot I was trained to think quickly, precisely, and then to act immediately.  That does not translate well into life outside of the cockpit.  Further, it does not translate well into following the Lord.
Waiting
Psalm 27:4 (here @ Bible Gateway) was the first passage I ever memorized.  Later I memorized all of Psalm 27 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Psalm 27:13 (here @ Bible Gateway) is one of my wife’s favorite verses.  Psalm 27:14 (here @ Bible Gateway) is one of those verses that I love but are a consistent challenge to walk out in my life.

Waiting and impatience are not compatible bedfellows.

Yet, throughout the Word we are called to wait.  Consider this list (click here).

Look at the advantages of waiting:

  • Salvation
  • Strength and Courage
  • Rest
  • Inheritance
  • Honor
  • Hope
  • Favor
  • New Strength
  • No Shame
  • The Goodness of the Lord
  • Being Heard by the Lord
  • His Return

So even for one like me who is not patient and has been trained to act quickly, the lesson is clear.  I am to wait on Him.

Friday, August 3, 2018

People not Parchment

In the past several weeks issues have surfaced at churches, with individuals, and with groups concerning what is right or correct in either our understanding of what our Lord requires, or our understanding of what the Bible says.  One could describe these as doctrinal or theological issues.
People not Parchment
I have seen a myriad of ways in which people have attempted to address these types of issues.  In some cases organizations craft detailed doctrinal/theological position papers by which they attempt to define and control the understanding of those involved in said organization.  Others will have seminars or classes to teach what they believe.  Some will share a message or series of messages intended to “correct” misunderstanding of one or many facets of the group’s theological understanding.

From a Biblical point of view I am not sure that any of those are effective means of transmitting either correct doctrine or understanding of the Scripture.

In the past year or so, in four different Bible studies, the books of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus have been the focus.  In each study the three books were studied as a unit.  The idea was to look for common themes, directions, or suggestions which Paul shared with his protégés.

At the beginning of each book it is clear that one of the major issues Paul addresses is the engagement of his key men with false teaching and false teachers.  Throughout the three books there is a consistent call to engage and refute false teaching.

In several of Paul’s epistles, he explicitly calls his readers to imitate him (click here for a list of references), implicitly in 2 Timothy, he exhorts his closest coworker to do so (2 Timothy 2:2, 3:10 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway)).

So what is Paul’s charge to Titus and Timothy?  How does he exhort them to combat false teaching and false teachers?  There is much in these three books that is worthy of our attention concerning this crucial aspect of leadership, much more than can be addressed here.  There is one aspect of Paul’s instruction to which he invests proportionately more of his exhortation, which is to invest in the equipping of others in the truth.

In all three books Paul gives explicit instructions on the types of men Timothy and Titus are to select, and the importance of building into them the truth that was to be preserved.

In 2 Timothy 3:10 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway), Paul exhorts Timothy to follow Paul’s example.  If you scan through Acts 16 – 20 (here @ Bible Gateway) you quickly pick up what it was that Timothy experienced as he accompanied his mentor for six and a half to seven years in their journeys around the Mediterranean.

Paul’s answer to how to deal with false teaching, seems to be to invest in people not parchment.  That is, rather than writing down what is the true doctrine, impart it, entrust it into the lives of those whom you are called to serve.

For those of us who are fathers, that certainly includes our wives and children and if we have them, grandchildren and the spouses of our children.  But it also include anyone in our sphere of influence.  We are called to put His Kingdom, His Truth, first in our lives.  That suggests that we are to make the proclamation and transmission of those our first priority.

I need to do better at this.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Running out of Time, Part 3

I’ve been sharing some thoughts on the shortage of time we all have, this is the third post so far…  The last one suggested that there are some other considerations other than how much time we may have left that inform our actions…
Running out of Time, Part 3
In one of my weekly studies we are studying the Thessalonian epistles as a unit.  One of the observations, or better, things that challenged me in that study in the last weeks was the emphasis that Paul placed on the second coming of Christ.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:1 – 2 (here @ Bible Gateway), Paul states that he knows that the Thessalonian believers already know the truth about the second coming of Christ.  There are several important implications of that statement, but for my purpose here I want to focus on one in particular. 

Paul, as one of the first things that he shared with new believers was the reality of Christ’s return.  We know that because of the record in Acts 17:1 – 10 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Paul was only in Thessalonica for about three weeks, possibly only two.  Yet in 1 Thessalonians 5:1 – 2 (here @ Bible Gateway) he states that he knows they already are aware of Christ’s return.  Thus, he must have covered that topic with them.

This is important, probably for several reasons, primarily because of what Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:11 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway), we are to be diligent to live in light of Christ’s return.  Here, in the western church, we do not normally live with that in mind.  The ease of our lifestyle, the benefits our economy, insulates us from the difficulties that many, if not most, of our brothers and sisters face on a daily basis.  As a result we do not hunger for His return.  We are comfortable in this world as it is.  Peter, though, tells us we are to be diligent to be found by Him prepared for His return. 

If you knew He was coming today, how would that change what you do, your attitudes, your choices?  In Matthew 25:1 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway), Jesus uses the parable of the 10 virgins to emphasize that we are to be always alert, always ready for His return.  In this culture, we are concerned about many things.  We are terminally busy.  We are caught up in living a comfortable life and all that entails.  We are concerned about politics, national, local, school, and church politics.  We are working to get the best life we can for our families.

I have heard, read, and know people who have focused on really getting down to the business of the Lord in the second half of their life.  Two thoughts, first, that seems to be counter to Christ’s explicit instructions in Matthew 6:25 – 34 (here @ Bible Gateway), we are to seek His Kingdom – first.  Second, we do not know when He is returning, the Scripture tells us that we will never know.  Should He return before we have decided we are ready to seek His Kingdom first, how then will He respond?

There may be one more of these before I summarize… We’ll see…

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Running out of Time, Part 2

Yesterday I shared some of my thoughts since our last trip to MD Anderson.  In the next however many posts, I want to explore some of the implications of the realities that we all face.
Running out of Time, Part 2

Psalm 90:12 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells us that we are to number our days so that we can present to Him a heart of wisdom.  For most of us, it is difficult to consider or think through how much time we have left.

Earlier in the same Psalm we are told that we will live for 70 years or if we are strong, 80 (verse 10 (here @ Bible Gateway)).  In about a week and a half, I will be 68.  Now if I were to go by the Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia Foundation (the type of cancer I have) I have about 11 years after diagnosis which was 2015, so based on that metric I have 8 years left, 76.  There may be more time, they are making strides every day.  Further that is an average, could be more or less and it is the type of cancer that some never know they have.

When I consider those numbers several things come to mind.  The first is how can I maximize the utilization of my gifts in the tasks that the Lord has given me in the time that it seems I have left?  Isn’t that the implication of Psalm 90 (here @ Bible Gateway)?  That we are to intentionally follow Him with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength to the end of our days?

However, there are other considerations should color our responses to these exhortations in Psalm 90 (here @ Bible Gateway).  On that, next post.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Running out of Time

This week I had a checkup at MD Anderson.  The typical stuff was the 24-hour urine collection, always a hit, and blood work.  The new thing was a PET Scan.  The purpose of all this was to see how or if the cancer had progressed to the point that treatment was appropriate.
Running out of Time
Wednesday my wife and I met with the doctor to hear and review the results.  We discovered that yes, the cancer had grown, but not enough to warrant treatment.  The new thing that was a surprise, there was a spot on my left lung that had lit up.  It is too small to biopsy and it did not light up much but it seems to be there.

Yesterday I was chatting with a friend in another country.  He asked how things were going and I shared all of this with him.  His response caught me off guard, “Oooh my, your courage is one of the things I admire about you.”

What shocked me about that response was his attributing courage to this situation.  I don’t see it that way.  I think that I shared earlier that when I first heard about having cancer my initial response was, “Hmm, that changes things.”  Followed closely by, “No, Psalm 139:3 (here @ Bible Gateway) was true yesterday, it still is today, this is just another part of the path.  This just changes the logistics.”  As it has turned out thus far, the logistics have changed but are not too difficult.

Further Psalm 139:16 (here @ Bible Gateway), informs me that all my days were set before I started this journey.  Matthew 6:27 (here @ Bible Gateway) and Luke 12:25 (here @ Bible Gateway) inform me that there is nothing that I can do to extend that time by even an hour.  Psalm 49:8 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells me that it is foolish to try.

So it is not so much courage as trust.  It is my conviction that the Word of God is accurate, reflecting the thoughts, nature, and character of the Lord.  It was committed to us in its current form by the Holy Spirit inspiring men to write the words that we read.  Yes, I know that applies to the original autographs which we no longer have.  However, I have studied enough Hebrew and Greek as well as text criticism to know that what we do have is very close to those autographs. 

So, I trust it.  I trust Him.  So, what do we do with all of that?  ...More on that tomorrow...

Friday, June 15, 2018

Creating Cripples, Part 3

In the last two posts, we have considered how people are trained, equipped to successfully carry out the responsibilities of their work.  Whether it be a professional, such as a doctor, lawyer, or accountant; or whether it be one who works as a mechanic, mowing lawns or digging ditches; all are equipped following a similar process.  They are told what to do, instruction.  Someone checks their work either as they are doing it or else after it is complete observation.  They are given feedback on how that work was done and possibly given pointers on how it can be done more effectively critique.
Creating Cripples, Part 3
The contention here is that the one place that does not happen consistently is in the Body of Christ. 

So what do we do instead?  We lecture.

Whether it be Sunday morning, Wednesday fellowship or Bible study, a small group, etc.  A pervasive pattern is that one teaches and the others listen.

So what happens if there is no one to teach? 

What happens if the pastors and teachers are all arrested and either jailed or executed?  That does happen.

What happens if you are not able to go down to the local Christian bookstore and purchase a commentary on a book of the Bible?  In much of the world that is not possible.

If all we do is proclaim the Word, teach from a lectern, a chair, a book that leads someone through a study that we have already done, or have them watch a video on a device, then we are not equipping them to stand on their own in the Scripture.  Those whose only input is what has been described, are not able to open their Bible and with a blank sheet of paper and a pen begin to successfully study God’s Word.

Teaching a person this way makes that person dependent on more of the same teaching.  In a real sense that dependency has crippled their ability to independently walk with God.

If I am reading the Great Commission correctly, Matthew 28:18 – 20 (here @ Bible Gateway); Luke 24:46 – 49 (here @ Bible Gateway); John 17:18, 20:21 (here @ Bible Gateway), and 2 Timothy 2:2 (here @ Bible Gateway) – and at a significant level the passage we started this with, Ephesians 4:11 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Then it is the responsibility of leaders not to share what they know, necessarily, rather, it is to equip those to whom the Lord has called them to serve to be able to learn what they know through personal engagement in the Word of God.

To do otherwise, it seems to me, is to perpetuate the creation of dependent cripples in the Body of Christ.