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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.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Creating Cripples, Part 2

Two days ago I suggested that we are not doing well as a Body in equipping the saints for the work of service, Ephesians 4:11 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway).
Creating Cripples, Part 2
I used the example of pilots, doctors, engineers, and accountants as examples of how people are equipped for their professions.  I closed the last post by suggesting that professionals are not the only career paths that are equipped in the way I described, essentially instruction, observation, critique.

Consider any job, any task that is performed for a wage.  Regardless of its complexity, the one who performs it will be told what to do, their work will be checked, and they will be given feedback on how they did.  Whether they are a mechanic or a garbage man, that process will be followed in some form.

Now ask yourself, when was the last time that happened with you in your community of faith.  Let’s consider a simple basic of the Christian life.  Say, having a consistent devotional.  Were you shown how to do that, instructed?  Did someone do it with you to show you how, instruction?  Did someone ask or sit with you to see how you were doing your devotional, observation?  Did they give you encouragement or suggest ways to make your devotional more effective, critique?

Yes?  You are in a significant minority.

No?  Your experience is normal.

If we are not equipping in this manner, what then are we doing and how is it working out?

We will consider that in the next post.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Creating Cripples

One of, if not the core, passages in Ephesians (here @ Bible Gateway) is Ephesians 4:11 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway).  In no uncertain terms, Paul declares the purpose of leadership in the Body of Christ.  It is not to do the work of service, ministry, rather it is to equip those in the Body, the saints, for that ministry.
Creating Cripples
How are we doing on that?

Much of what I have experienced in the western church has been lecture based.  Whether it be a Sunday morning message, a Sunday school, a Wednesday night meeting, or a small group, there is often one who shares and the others either listen and take notes or else respond to what he says.

That seems to be what serves as equipping in the minds of many leaders.

However, I am willing to wager my next year’s wage (truthfully, not a big wager) that is not the way they were equipped to earn their livelihood.

For example.  I was, for a time, an instructor pilot in the Air Force.  To train pilots we gave them a book to read (true), and then sent them out on the flight line to fly the planes (true or false?).

Should we have followed that process, we would have created multiple smoking holes at the end of the runway.  That is not the way pilots were equipped, trained to fly.  Sure they were given a book that explained how the plane worked.  They also had multiple classes that included tests on the material.  Then, an instructor gets in the plane with them, demonstrating, and walking them through each task they needed to complete to successfully fly the plane.  Then, when they were performing those tasks, the instructor would correct their mistakes as well as offer other techniques for completing the task successfully and safely.

In all of the disciplines of which I am aware be it medical, engineering, accounting, the equipping, training is similar.  Men and women are taught, they practice, and they are given feedback about what they did correctly, what they need to do to correct, and thoughts on what they could do differently to make their practice more effective.  By the way, all of their careers are called practices.

But it is not just “professional” careers that follow this model…

This is getting longer than I anticipated.  We will finish this tomorrow…

Thursday, June 7, 2018

God’s Intention

If you do not journal, you should.  Why?  To remember what our Father has done in our lives as well as the context of what He did and how you initially responded.
God’s Intention
I was just reviewing some of last year’s entries in my journal.  Last year contained a violent swirl of emotion.  Three births, two deaths.

I was reading through the entries in March.  Two months after my dad passed away and seven days prior to the birth of our fourth granddaughter.  Her mother had just been readmitted into MD Anderson, she was getting aggressive chemo, and we were in prayer for her and for the baby, not knowing how any of this was going to play out.

It was a hard, emotionally difficult and draining time.

I wrote, “He only takes us through that which makes us more like His Son and equips us for what He has us to do.”

As I read and write that, three passages come to mind.  Psalm 139:3 (here @ Bible Gateway), Ephesians 2:10 (here @ Bible Gateway), and Hebrews 12:10 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway) – just glanced back at the journal and two of those passages are written out after what I wrote with a third, Ephesians 1:4 (here @ Bible Gateway).

What comforted us, what settled us, was the certain knowledge that the things that the Lord brought into our lives were intentional.  They were intended to shape us, to mold us, to equip us for the tasks He had prepared for us.

That was and is informed by studies we have done on God’s sovereignty and God’s love.  For us, those two attributes of God were an anchor through some very difficult times.  Reflecting on this, it occurs to me that we need to equip our children both physical and spiritual with the certain knowledge of both God’s sovereignty and love.

It seems to me that is what will equip them to navigate the painfully difficult paths of this life.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

For Your Sake

Have you ever done something really good in order to get noticed?  Or have you ever wanted to know how you performed as you shared something you found in the Word?  Wondered if you made an impact?  Wondered if anyone noticed?  Probably not, but you may know people who have.
For Your Sake
1 Thessalonians 1:5 (here @ Bible Gateway) is the last three clauses in one of Paul’s famously long sentences.  This one runs from 1 Thessalonians 1:2 – 5 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Three words riveted my attention this time through.  The last three in the NASB translation:

“…for your sake.”

That prepositional phrase modifies – well, I have been mentally diagraming the sentence for the past several minutes…  It either modifies “proved” or further modifies the phrase “to be among you”.  Not sure without spending a lot of time working on the structure.

The point is, Paul was not there for accolades.  He wasn’t interested in recognition for his service.  He wasn’t looking to gain brownie points from the Lord.  He was in Thessalonica for the sake of the Thessalonian people.

They figured that out.

They figured out that they should have the same attitude as the one who brought them the good news of the gospel.  So, following Paul’s example, they became an example to the surrounding areas, Macedonia and Achaia.

It wasn’t about Paul when he was engaged in equipping the Thessalonian believers.  It wasn’t about them as they shared with their neighbors.

The truth of the gospel, the incredible offer of the absolution, forgiveness of our intentional, consistent rebellion against a holy and loving God; is too valuable to tarnish with a misplaced hunger for recognition for sharing that lifeline to one who is condemned.

Yet it seems there are some who are engaged for their own credit.

Truth be known.  I have fought that internal struggle myself.  Still do.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Misled

Job 12:16 (here @ Bible Gateway) is an intriguing passage.  On the one hand, the rebuke of Job at the end of the book could call into question the truthfulness of Job’s assertion here.  On the other hand, there is other evidence in the body of Scripture that what Job says is true.
Misled
For our purposes here, we will stipulate that what he says here is the case, that both those who are misled and those who mislead them belong to Him.

That being the case, what are some implications?  One implication would be that He is in control of the misled and the misleaders.

We see this in the “trial” and crucifixion of Jesus.  The false witnesses, the high priest, Pilate, were are either misled or misleaders and yet were instrumental in bringing about the sacrifice of Christ which was necessary for the forgiveness of our sins and the restoration of our relationship with our creator.

We are to be diligent in studying, practicing, and proclaiming the truth both to our families and to those in our spheres of influence.  In that process, it will be the case that we will encounter those who are misleading or have been misled. 

Personally, I need to remember these are His.  It does not serve any purpose for me to be angry with them, James 1:20 (here @ Bible Gateway).  What I am to do, what I am directed by the Word to do is to gently correct them, 2 Timothy 2:24 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Truthfully, that is not my normal first response.  The less effective anger is what seems to be my default.

Working on that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Ripples

Do you or did you have grand plans for your life?  How is that working out for you?
Ripples
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut.  I made it to instructor pilot in the Air Force.  Didn’t last long at that, the end of the Viet Nam war meant that overnight there was a surplus of pilots.  So I was released from my six-year commitment three and a half years in.

I came to Christ shortly after I started pilot training.  It soon dawned on me that the planes would burn, but the men in them would live eternally either in hell or in the presence of the Lord.  My focus changed.  I gave up the idea of flying reconnaissance and instead chose to be an IP so I could be around the men who were helping me in the Christian life.

When I left the Air Force I moved into the basement of a Navigator rep’s house and begin to work as a cost engineer and to help him start the ministry at UAB.  I had no idea how to do that.  A year and a half into that project I married my female counterpoint in that ministry.  Shortly after we were married we moved to East Lansing, Michigan to be trained at the Navigator training center there to be collegiate staff.

Two years later we moved with the director of the training center to Knoxville to help him start the training center at the University of Tennessee.  Our first child was born there.  I had the first few of seven sinus surgeries there.  The Air Force called and asked if I wanted to come back and fly tankers; I said no.

I could go on, we were at another campus, had two more kids there.  I took at ThM at Dallas Seminary, where we had our fourth child.  I have been to Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago (multiple times), Morocco (multiple times), Nepal, Cameroon, and Togo.  We are pursuing opportunities in other African countries, and I have been asked to consider a return trip to Nepal…

My kids are all married.  They all, but the youngest, have at least one child, the youngest has a dog.  One of my son’s wife passed away several months after she had her child.  My parents and my wife’s parents have all gone home to be with the Lord; we buried her father last Sunday.

When I reflect on this, nothing has really turned out as planned.  In the process of this journey thus far, my wife and I have encountered and been in various depths of relationships with hundreds if not thousands of people.

It is impossible, or perhaps better, impractical to measure the impact we have had.  We had hopes, plans, vision, but those all changed.

At some level, some significant level, it feels as if we are pebbles that have been cast into a pond.  The impact creates ripples.  We do not see how far those ripples spread.  We do not see the impact or result of the ripples.  In a real sense we didn’t cause the ripples.  The one who cast us into the pond did.

Our responsibility is to trust and abide in the one who cast us into the pond.  There are days that that is easier than others.

I’m not an astronaut, I’m a pebble…

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Death Unnatural

My father in law is dying.  His will be the fifth death in our family in the last couple of years.  He is 93, His wife was 91 when she passed.  My dad was 94.  One of the deaths was a miscarriage; one was a new mother of 32 years. 
Death Unnatural
People will say about my wife’s parents and my dad that they led a full life and that their deaths in their 90’s were normal.  They do not say the same thing about my daughter in law or the miscarried child.

The facts are though that death is not normal.  It was never meant to be our experience.

In Genesis 2:16 – 17 (here @ Bible Gateway) the Lord commanded that Adam not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The Lord promised that in the event that Adam did this, he would surely die.  In Genesis 3:19 (here @ Bible Gateway), after Adam had disobeyed the direct command of the Lord, He fulfilled His promised result, “…you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Death is the result of the fall of the race; sin.  It may not be a particular sin in the case of a person.  But, the fact that we are human, descendants of Adam, whose nature changed when he disobeyed, we will experience death.

That is one of the reasons that we grieve so deeply.  At a core level, we know that it is wrong.  I watched life leave my father.  It was obvious that he was no longer there.  We talk of dying with dignity.  There is no dignity in death.  It is a result of our condition as sinners before a holy God.

The great news is that we have been offered a remedy.  Christ died for us to pay for our sin.  That allows us the opportunity to be restored to the life we were meant to live.  To have eternal life with Him.  We will still, should He delay His return, go through this physical death to be sure.  However, if we trust Him, if we choose to follow Him, we will receive the gift of eternal life in His presence.

What we experience here was not the intention.  What we can experience through Him is the gift.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Continually Stunned

The workshops that the Lord has allowed me to conduct over the past 10 years focus on 2 Peter (here @ Bible Gateway).  Depending on the amount of time that is scheduled we cover from one to seven methods of investigating the text.  In the process of interacting with those who are participating in the various workshops, one of the points I share is that even though I have the book memorized, have read it more times than I can count, and have studied it over a hundred times, still, every time I read it, come to its pages, I see something I missed previously.
Continually Stunned
This morning 2 Peter 1 (here @ Bible Gateway) came up in the reading plan I have been following for the past three years.  True to form, the Lord showed me something I had never seen before.  This time, however, I did not make it much past the first 4 verses (here @ Bible Gateway); which depending on how the version you read deals with the Greek, is the first couple of sentences Peter pens to the recipients.

What I saw is not the point.  The fact that I saw it, that it was new to me after so much engagement and exposure to this letter is.  As I turned to the book I wondered if, in fact, my experience of seeing something new would again hold true.  As I shared, I didn’t make it past the first two sentences.

In Psalm 119:18 (here @ Bible Gateway), David prays that the Lord would open his eyes so that he could behold wonderful things from the Law, His Word.  That’s the point.  This Book, the Bible, is unique.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, revealing the nature and character of God, with unfathomable layers of knowledge of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I am continually stunned at its depth.

Dive in.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Giving Up

Giving Up

Mark 15:1 – 15 (here @ Bible Gateway) is painful to read.  The last verse particularly.

Pilate was pressured by the crowd to give up Jesus.  To satisfy them, to get them off of his back, he surrendered Jesus.

We are pressured daily to follow Pilate’s example.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Purpose of Pain

I have shared of late about some of the painful things our family has experienced over the past almost two years.  Just now, I am reviewing a journal entry from February 2017.  It was a response to Genesis 45:5 – 9 about which I wrote a couple of posts back.
The Purpose of Pain
If it is the case that God is sovereign.  If it is the case that He has scrutinized my path and knows all that I am thinking before I think it, Psalm 139:1 – 5 (here @ Bible Gateway).  If it is the case that He disciplines me in order to make me more like Him and His Son, Hebrews 12:10 (here @ Bible Gateway).  If it is the case that He has work that He for which He has designed me, which He established prior to the foundation of the world, Ephesians 2:10 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Then, it follows that all that He has brought into my life was intentional, purposeful, to equip me for that work.

In that journal entry, I listed 14 events that changed the course of my life and significantly impacted both my walk with Him and my understanding of the Word, myself, people and mission or ministry.

While there are many more that could be listed, and there are lessons ongoing, as I consider what the Lord has on my plate now, I can see how each of these events has conspired to prepare me for the current tasks.  At least seven of the events were deeply painful, they involved separations, betrayals, and relocations.  Some, including the painful events, were deeply confusing and disorienting.  Some removed “settled” life directions, and rattled deeply held convictions.

Now, as I ponder the list on the pages of my journal, as I consider how in the past few years I have drawn deeply on and from lessons that I can identify from each of these events on an almost daily basis, I can begin to see the sovereign hand of our sovereign, loving, faithful Lord shaping, pruning, and guiding through all of those to bring me here.

It reinforces for me that I can trust Him with all that will come next to continue to move and shape me into what He wants.  The reason that is important for me to remember, is that based on the past, some of those coming events will not be something for which I would gladly and quickly volunteer.

I am beginning to understand Hebrews 11:6 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Monday, May 14, 2018

Abiding Pain

Yesterday was mother’s day.  Jenny lost her mother last year to a stroke, mine passed away about 10 years ago, the result of a fall.  Yesterday was painful.  But it wasn’t because of our mothers.
Abiding Pain
Yesterday our one-year-old granddaughter was dedicated at my son’s church.

Her mother died last November after a 14 month battle with cancer.  Her daughter was born five months into that battle.

Both of the extended families live here.  All but 5 were at the dedication, so 29 adults and children.  The pastor charged the parents of the children and then the assembled congregation.  He then invited those who wanted to pray for a family to come forward.

The first person at my son’s side was the senior pastor of the church.  All 27 of the rest of us were next as well as a number of those who have been walking with my son through this past year and a half.  I was in tears.  Frankly, I had been most of the morning.  So was most if not all of the 29.

After we went back to our seats.  The pastor departed from what he was going to say to speak to my son’s situation.  The church and many around the world prayed for the baby as her mother was getting chemotherapy.  We prayed that the Lord would protect her from the effects of the chemo.  So far, it looks as if that prayer was answered in the affirmative.

The pastor said she was a miracle.  She is.  But, in fact, all children are…

The pastor commented on the support my son is getting from both sides of the family.  He is… He is also being supported by those in the med school and the practice where he is completing his fellowship.

All of us, the 34 in the family and those in the church body, know the truth.  We know that my son’s wife is in the presence of the Lord.  We know also that our current lives are a vapor.  We know that soon, very soon, we will be with her.  But more importantly, we know that we will be with the Lord.

We grieve, we deal with the abiding pain, but as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (here @ Bible Gateway), we grieve, we walk through the abiding pain, in hope.  For, as Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 4:14 (here @ Bible Gateway), this life is not the end.

It still hurts.  We still weep.  At times the ache is deep.  But, the hope is real, the hope sustains.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dealing with the Curve Balls of Life

Do you ever reflect on difficult times in your life?  Situations where you were betrayed by one you considered a close friend?  Times when you may have experienced a strained relationship to the point it has been permanently broken?  Or perhaps the loss of a job unexpectedly?
Dealing with the Curve Balls of Life
How do we handle those types of things in a manner that glorifies our Lord?

Joseph may give us a clue.  Read through Genesis 45:5 – 9 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Note especially how Joseph describes his being in Egypt.  He attributes the fact that he is in Egypt not to his brothers selling him into slavery, but to God moving him to Egypt for the purpose of the preservation of his family.

He looked for and saw the hand of God in the suffering he endured for a purpose which at first he did not understand.  However, it was the integrity of his trust in God that led him to understand the purpose of what was happening to him.

I do not suggest here that we will always understand what God has or is taking us through.  I am still processing the last two years.  So far I have no clue.  However, events that happened 30 years ago are becoming clearer and clearer.  Devastating, life-altering events then, are proving to be the foundation of much in which the Lord is assigning us now.

The key lesson for me in considering Joseph’s story and attitude is that in whatever I am experiencing, I must continue to trust my loving, gracious, sovereign Lord.  I must trust that He is acting in line with His purposes and character.  I may eventually understand; I may not.  Regardless, I am to trust.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Credit

You remember the story of Joseph.  He was sold by his brothers into slavery.  Yet became the manager of the house of his master.  Thrown into jail when the master’s wife lied about him; because of his character, the chief jailer put him in charge of the other prisoners.
You remember the story of Joseph.  He was sold by his brothers into slavery.  Yet became the manager of the house of his master.  Thrown into jail when the master’s wife lied about him; because of his character the chief jailer put him in charge...More at DTTB.
Two of the king’s servants, the cupbearer and the baker were jailed because they did not please Pharaoh.  They had dreams which Joseph accurately interpreted, much to the pleasure of the cupbearer and dismay of the baker.

Two years later Pharaoh has a dream and the cupbearer tells him about Joseph interpreting his and the baker’s dream.  Pharaoh calls for Joseph and asks him if he can interpret his dream.

Joseph has been in jail for at least two years; more likely three or more.  He had been unjustly incarcerated.  He had helped the cupbearer but it took the cupbearer two years to speak up for him.  He is called before Pharaoh who has the power to release him or else make his life more difficult still.

Yet when Pharaoh asks if Joseph can interpret his dream – well, read Joseph’s answer for yourself, Genesis 41:16 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Joseph gives the credit to God.

Now consider Paul.  He has been smeared by the Judaizers, by the “super-apostles”, his teaching has been trivialized.  So he is having to write back to a place at which he sustained significant ministry to reprove that group of believers and at some level to defend himself.  Read 1 Corinthians 15:10 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Paul, says he labored more than others, but it wasn’t him, it was the grace of God working through him.  Paul, like Joseph, is giving credit for his work, his effort, to God.

I tend to want to take credit for what I do.

But, the reality is that whether you like him or not when Rush Limbaugh declares that he has “talent on loan from God,” he’s is in good company with Paul and Joseph.

Jesus reinforces this, does He not?  John 15:5 (here @ Bible Gateway), “apart from me you can do…” a little?  Great things?  Some things?  The stuff that doesn’t matter?  No, “nothing”!  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.

But, there are times I take credit…  Pathetic.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Don’t Speak, Listen

In Mark 9:5 – 7 (here @ Bible Gateway) we encounter Peter once again.  He had just seen the glorified Christ and was speechless, did not know what to say…So he spoke…  Peter’s default position was to say…  Whether he knew what he was talking about or not, he spoke.  He felt the need to fill all of the breaks in a conversation.
Don’t Speak, Listen
God’s instruction to Peter, was to listen to Jesus.  Don’t speak listen.

There are many times that I felt overwhelmed by a situation.  Overwhelmed but pressured to speak to whatever issue was being discussed.  I have been in conversations where it became obvious that one or more parties did not understand or comprehend whatever issue was being discussed but still tried to dominate the conversation either by seeming to talk without breathing or else increase the volume of their sharing to drown out any challenge to their position.

I am learning that silence when I do not understand is a much better choice.  The certain reality we face is that there is much about God that we do not and frankly cannot know.  There are things that He does that we cannot explain.  Some, though, still try.

It is much better to keep our mouths shut, pray, and listen to God’s answer rather than stating our position more forcefully.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Forgetting about Food

In Mark 8:1 (here @ Bible Gateway) we read about the beginning of the feeding of the 4000.  While I am aware that in John 6 (here @ Bible Gateway), Jesus rebukes the crowd for following Him for the wrong reasons, there are, I believe, some things we can learn from the people, the 4000+ who had gathered to hear the Lord.
Forgetting about Food
These people were intent on hearing, being in the presence of, Jesus.  They wanted to hear Him.  They were so intent, so captivated, that they did not bring any food, they did not plan, they just came.  The Lord was so compelling that they stayed for three days.

Not all of them were redeemed.  While they were enthralled here and when He came into the city, they soon turned on Him demanding His crucifixion.

But their hunger to hear, to be in His presence challenges me.  It forces me to ask when is the last time that I lost interest in food just because I was in His presence, much less for three days.  Hasn’t happened.

There is probably more that we can learn from this, but being convicted already I will stop there.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Maintaining Integrity

Job 4:3 – 8 (here @ Bible Gateway), is an accurate description of many people.  In this case, it was not.  Eliphaz was declared incorrect by a fairly reliable source, God.
Maintaining Integrity
The passage, however, got me thinking about some of our responsibilities as believers.  The thinking took me to 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (here @ Bible Gateway) and Psalm 139:23 – 24 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Two things filtered out of this exercise.  The fact that someone has invested in ministry or has had an impact on people’s lives does not guarantee that people will, carte blanche, consider that the person has integrity.  Nor, does it mean that the one who has had this impact actually has integrity.

We have to continually come before the Lord to be searched and prodded by Him.  Our hearts are to be concerned with what He thinks about us.  We are not to consider other peoples’ opinion over His.  Thus if He validates our integrity while others question it, we rest in His evaluation.

However, if we are considered one of integrity by the masses, and He points out that we fall short in that area, we have work to do, things to change.

It is His evaluation that matters.  We have to continually come before Him, the word abide comes to mind, so that we can walk in integrity through His strength.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Invalidating the Word of God – Again

I have written about this before.  There is an ever-increasing list of passages that I find personally challenging and troubling.  The list is long and they are passages that seem to penetrate my attitudes and actions showing them to be lacking in some major way.
Invalidating the Word of God – Again
Mark 7:8 – 9, 13 (here @ Bible Gateway), is hovering around that list.  The indictment Christ serves to His listeners is stark in its clarity and implications.  They have placed and consider their tradition as more important than the Word of God.

I have seen this with groups of people going through our workshops.  They share practices that are common, traditional, in their congregations for which, as we begin to observe the text of the Bible, they can find no support.

Seeing that in those people, alerts and warns me to the reality that I may be doing the same thing.  I am becoming more and more aware of things believers say; practices we hold dear, teach, and recommend that frankly cannot be supported by scripture. 

It scares me.  I do not want to hear from the Lord that I have invalidated His Word.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Rootless

One of the passages of Scripture that I love, to which I continually return, is Mark 4:1 – 20 (here @ Bible Gateway).  You know it as the parable of the sower or the parable of the soils.  The parable shows up in Matthew 13:1 – 23 (here @ Bible Gateway) and Luke 8:4 – 15 (here @ Bible Gateway) as well.
Rootless
I am particularly drawn to Mark 4:16 – 17 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Jesus is explaining the parable to the disciples.  He tells them that those who fade away in the midst of affliction or persecution “have no root in themselves.”

Why do they fade?

So I begin to consider how a root functions.  Not being a botanist, this is by observation and experience in cultivating a garden and landscaping around our different houses.  It seems to me that there are at least two functions the root of a plant serves, anchoring the plant and feeding the plant.

Living in Oklahoma I have seen the result of severe storms on vegetation, particularly trees.  Those with shallow root systems do not withstand the strong winds of thunderstorms or tornados.  Plants that do not have deep roots wither and die in the midst of the heat of the summer.

It is the second function, the feeding of the plant though that really has captured my attention.  The Lord has given me the privilege to work to equip pastors and leaders in Bible study over the past several years.  One would think that would not be necessary.  However, my experience has been that many, if not most, of those who speak or lead, are not in the Word regularly for themselves.  Rather, they depend on the work of others to sustain them.

Many of those who have been through a workshop or who I have helped individually have shared that they have not been personally engaged in the Word on a regular basis.

This last weekend during one of the pastors at our church shared a similar experience that he has with some other local pastors, they were struggling to get into the Word.  He also shared that studies show that most evangelical Christians do not spend more than 5 minutes a day in the Word or prayer.

It occurs to me that those who are only receiving the Word from others have no root.  There is no depth, no ability to process life Biblically.  One has to have the ability to do so.  Otherwise, as Christ said, they will immediately fall away when things get hard.

If you need help with this.  Let someone you know, a pastor, or a teacher you respect, know.  In lieu of that let me know.  I will help.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Simple Faith

My third granddaughter was born blind.  After some months and an operation, she is now able to see.  In the past few months though she has begun to have trouble again.  One eye is not tracking as well as it has been.  So twice a day she wears a patch over one of her eyes to help correct that condition.  She will likely have another surgery.
Simple Faith
Jenny and I are keeping her, her sister, and one of her brothers this weekend.  This evening before they went to bed I read them two stories out of the Read Aloud Bible Stories vol. 1, The Man Who Was Too Little and The Man Who Couldn’t See.  The granddaughter who was born blind – she’s three – asked for the second.

After we read the story Jenny asked her if she thought that Jesus could heal her eyes.  She responded He does every day.”

We prayed that He would continue to do so.

I was reminded of the faith of a child.  It was matter of fact.  He takes care of me.  Not an issue. 

Makes me wonder when and why we start making things so complicated.

By the way, there are now 5 volumes of the Read Aloud Bible Stories.  We have just about worn ours out.  We used them with all of our kids.  We have given them all sets to use with their children.  We read them to the grandkids when they are here.  Highly recommend them.  You can get them here.  I just bought Volume 5.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Renewed not Retired

Things hurt today.  Neck, back, etc.  It is probable that I am paying for things, like rugby, that I did when I was younger.  As we mature, things change, work differently or not at all…
Renewed not Retired
However, there is another perspective.

Consider 2 Corinthians 4:16 – 18 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The great news there is, though our bodies may deteriorate, the outer man, we still have growth to pursue in the inner man.  There is no end to what we can learn, what we can experience of our Lord, what we can share with others, what we can observe and apply in the Word of God.

There are no sidelines in the Christian experience.  There is no retirement.  There is no finish line other than being in the presence of the one that enables us to run this race.

That is a journey, an adventure, to which it is worth our complete commitment.

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.