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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Don’t Believe – So What?

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Some Observations – Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Some Observations – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Some Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Deep Waters

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

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

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

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

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

I love Him; I trust Him.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Demonstrated Power

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

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

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

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

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

It is a powerful and joyous thing to witness.

Monday, April 2, 2018

So Grateful

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

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

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

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

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

This is so much better.