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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Speechless

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

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

I sat entranced.

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

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

Monday, March 26, 2018

Not a Solo Flight

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 24, 2018

In?

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

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

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

He did.

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

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

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

Friday, March 23, 2018

Proclaim What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Preach or Proclaim?

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Ground of Prayer

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

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

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Fake it or Ask

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

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

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

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Scandalized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Fabulous Hard Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

Standing Alert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

What He Promises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Our Choices

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

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

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

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

Ponder that.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Focus and Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personally, I need continual reminders of that truth.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Overcoming Resistance

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Abram’s Folly

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 2, 2018

Sarai’s Folly

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

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

Sarai’s folly becomes ours.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Quickly Fickle

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

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

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