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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Worship of the Giver

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

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

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

Perhaps a new source of worship.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

No is an Answer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Incremental Victories

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

Overstating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Hiding

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

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

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

The point?

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

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

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

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

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

The answer to that should be obvious.

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

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

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

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Waiting

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

Waiting and impatience are not compatible bedfellows.

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

Look at the advantages of waiting:

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

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

Friday, August 3, 2018

People not Parchment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I need to do better at this.