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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Dead Serious

Choosing to engage with others in sharing God’s Word with them is dead serious.  Read Numbers 25:4 (here @ Bible Gateway).
Dead Serious
The serious aspect of this – check that – the dead serious aspect, is that the leaders had abandoned the Word of God.

Rather than leading the people to the Lord through His Word, the leaders led them to worship false gods, idols.  The same theme permeates the book of Jeremiah (here @ Bible Gateway).  The climax of that behavior is recorded in Jeremiah 23 (here @ Bible Gateway).

As leaders, and note that as believers all are leaders, the core of what we share with our families, our friends, those in our communities of faith, and those outside the faith with whom the Lord allows us to share the truth, is His Word.

James 3:1 – 2 (here @ Bible Gateway), 2 Timothy 2:15 (here @ Bible Gateway), and 2 Timothy 4:5 (here @ Bible Gateway), support and remind us of this.

Sure there are really good Christian books as those that are really bad.  The Word of God, however, is always good.  It is always appropriate.  It is always true.

In this age there are many who are claiming to have the truth.  They are promoting themselves over the Word of God.  Churches and organizations that were once effective in spreading the Word of God, have abandoned it.

That is dead serious.

Monday, November 12, 2018

It is a Lock

This last week I was asked to resend an excerpt of a book I am reading to a friend.  The book is, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, by Tim KellerThe excerpt is an extended quote from a book by Elizabeth Elliot, No Graven Image.
It is a Lock
One of the individuals who got the excerpt responded, “Difficult stuff.”  I asked him why.  His response was – and I am paraphrasing, and at some level expanding here – That it is hard to live a life following Christ when things do not seem to be working out according to our understanding of God’s promises to care for us.

First my friend is right.  It is hard.

There are a number of passages that come to mind as I reflect on his response.  One is Numbers 23:19 (here @ Bible Gateway).  I know that he has this passage memorized, you may as well.  The import of this passage is that if God has said something, it is essentially a promise, it will be done, it is a lock.

Sometimes though, it doesn’t seem that way.

We pray for our friend who is critically ill, and they die.  We struggle with paying the bills, we pray, and still struggle.  Yet we read in His Word that He will meet our needs.  What is going on?  (Obviously this paragraph can be expanded nearly infinitely, but I will leave that to you.)

Perhaps we need to alter our perspective.  When things do not work out the way we want them to, the way we have prayed, what do we learn?  For one thing, what we were asking for was not the will of God.  We can know that from 1 John 5:14 – 15 (here @ Bible Gateway).  That is a data point for us.  We should learn from what God does that doesn’t align with what we think He should do.

The reality may be that we, like Elliot suggests in the excerpt, expect God to do for us what we want.  We expect Him to fulfil our will, not His.  In fact, that theology, or perhaps better, that idolatry, has permeated and impacts many of the countries in which the Lord has allowed me to serve.

Perhaps we should remember Numbers 23:19 (here @ Bible Gateway).  He does not change.  What He does is always consistent with His nature.  He is faithful, He is love, He is sovereign.  He is also eternal.  His purpose and provision for us is not limited nor is it focused on this world.  Remember John 14:1 – 4.  It is a mistake, I think, to evaluate God by what He does for us in this world.

Note: This post marks the start of the eighth year for this blog.  So far, 1853 posts and counting…

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Consider Summary

We have been examining Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The import of this passage cannot, I think, be over emphasized.  We have seen that the notions of holding fast our hope and considering one another are not suggestions, not optional, not something that is merely good to do.
Consider Summary

The use of the hortatory subjunctive makes these prescriptive for a community not suggestive.  It is the intention of the writer of Hebrews and through His active inspiration, the Holy Spirit, that this level of engagement of people, the increasingly intensifying and urgent encouragement to hold fast to their hope and to stimulate them into love and good works, is normative, commanded in our communities of faith.

This understanding of Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway), builds on and sheds light on several other passages in the epistles.  Together, these passages begin to suggest a pattern of behavior that intentionally moves new believers into mature believers who are capable and committed to in turn lead others through the process through which they have progressed.

If this understanding of this sentence is accurate, it begs the question, is this your experience in your body?  If not, why not?  Frankly, it has not been my experience.  That reality is challenging me to pray differently for those with whom I am in fellowship.  If this is accurate, my responsibility is to increasingly, urgently engage with those whom God has placed in my life.

I would challenge you to consider how this impacts what you do in your fellowship.  Further, I would challenge you to look at the following passages in light of this understanding of Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway):
If you do, let me know what you see.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Consider – Part 4

Continuing observations on Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway):
Consider – Part 4

The last clauses of the sentence (verse 25 in our Bibles (here @ Bible Gateway)) modify the two commands, the two hortatory subjunctive clauses.  The first clause starts with a negation: “not forsaking our own assembling together.”  This reinforces for us that the Christian life, is not a solo effort.  Proverbs 18:1 tells us that those who separate themselves are foolish.  A cursory reading of the New Testament will note the abundance of repetition of the concept of one another.  We are to be engaged with one another; engaged intentionally, for a specific purpose which will be address below.

The second part of this negation is, in a real sense, a commentary not only on the reality of the Body when the author penned Hebrews but a reality that persists today, he says: “as is the habit of some.”  Unfortunately there are some who ignore the admonition of both the Old and New Testaments.  They attempt, foolishly, to live the Christian life aloof, on their own.  The writer acknowledges this reality and warns against it.

The next clause is placed in contrast with the negation of forsaking assembling signaled by the structural marker, “but”.  We are to be about “encouraging one another”.  Combined with the previous commands to hold fast and to consider, as members of a community of faith we are to be about thinking intentionally how to encourage those in our communities both to hold fast the confession of their hope and to increase in their love and good works.

The last phrase, “and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” suggests increasing intensity and urgency in the application of these imperatives in the Body.

The outworking of this sentence in a community of faith, assumes that those in the community are engaged in one another’s lives at a level that allows them to both know the individual personally and spiritually.  One has to know someone well to be able to engage with them effectively in the manner contemplated in this sentence.

In the next post I will attempt to pull all of this together and ask some questions that may help lead to application.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Consider – Part 3

Continuing to look at Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway):
Continuing to look at Hebrews 10:23 – 25...more at DTTB.

“and” – the copulative connects the first hortatory subjunctive to the second.  The two are both then a response to the nature and character of God.

“let us consider” – this is the second hortatory subjunctive.  The word, “consider”, has a sense of thinking through, observing closely an object or a person.  Here there is a sense that we are thinking specifically on something.  This is not cursory.  If one skims through the uses of the word in the NT text we see the idea of contemplate, look at more closely.  This is giving serious thought to something.

NB.  Our English translations miss the emphatic nature of this phrase, partially because the literal translation is emphatic but stiff in English.  Literally the Greek reads: “Let us consider one another into love and good works.”

Thinking through what has been established above about “let us consider”, this is an imperative and as a believer in a community of faith, one is to think, to ponder, to intentionally engage with other members of that community to specifically build them up in love and “good” works.

Consider, if you will, whether this is, or has been your experience in your community of faith.  If so, how?  If not, why?  There is more about this in this sentence, continue to observe.  It helps to write down what you are seeing.  Doing so will help you focus and will also lead to other observations.

I will continue sharing my observations on tomorrow.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Consider – Part 2

Yesterday I suggested that you take a look at Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway) and make observations.  Here are mine:
Consider – Part 2

“Let us hold fast” How do you read this?  It reads like a command.  However it is not in the imperative mood in Greek, rather it is subjunctive.  But there is no first person imperative in Greek.  Since this is the case, this hortatory subjunctive has the force of the imperative here.  So holding fast is a command what follows is that to which the writer wants the recipients to hold fast.

“the confession of our hope” – one of the central themes of Hebrews is “better.”  We have a better high priest, a better sacrifice, a better hope.  That confession, which hope is based on the person that provided better, Jesus.  The import of this phrase is that we are to hold fast to, cling to the truth of the gospel.

“without wavering” – this emphasizes the notion of holding fast.  The sense of holding fast seems to include the notion of intentionality and unwavering, it is a settled decision, firm in both intention and execution.  The repetition of one of the core elements of that thought adds strong emphasis to the command to hold fast.

“for” – this structural marker signals reason.  The author is substantiating the imperative to hold fast.  What follows is the reason, substantiation for what he has commanded.

“He who promised is faithful” – The reason, substantiation for us to hold fast unwavering is presented as the nature and character of the one who provided the better hope in the first place, the Lord.  The unchanging nature of the one who promised is again one of the key themes of Hebrews, see Hebrews 13:8 (here @ Bible Gateway), and in fact one of the themes of the New Testament, consider 2 Timothy 2:11 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Since our hope is based on Him and He is unchanging, our hope and our confession and expression of that hope should be, like Him, unchanging, unwavering.

I will stop here for now.  Continue to observe Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway) and compare what you see to what I shared today and for the next few days.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Consider

Not sure how you respond to most of the messages you hear at church; for most of the week I have been writing to sort out my response to what I heard last Sunday measured against the response I detected in the congregation.  I am up to 13 pages.  Not going to share all of that here, but I do want to share some.
Consider

First, though, I would encourage you to do something similar.  That is, when you are struggling or thinking through an issue, write about it.  Doing so will do at least a couple of things for you.  First, the discipline will force you to think through the issue.  Second, it will help you codify and crystalize your thinking, making it easier or more effective for you to communicate your thoughts should you need to do so.  As an encouragement to engage in this, I would recommend you listen to John Piper’s message about David Brainerd.

The issue I was struggling with led me to consider Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway).  That part of my paper is 2.5 pages single spaced, so I will have to share it over several posts.  It will be an example of what I mean by writing out your thoughts and questions.

In preparation, why not spend some time reading and reflecting on Hebrews 10:23 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Write down your observations.  I will begin to share mine tomorrow.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Not Void

Isaiah 55:11 (here @ Bible Gateway) is a passage to which I return often.  I have written about it often here.  Many times I couple the verse with Hebrews 4:12 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway).  It has been, and it still is, my belief and conviction that God’s Word does not return void. 
Not Void

In part I have been applying that by getting men into the Word and allowing the Word to work in their lives, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  My conviction and experience is if men get in the Word and I get out of the way, the Lord will lead them into truth.

Problem.

I read a lot.  Theological journals and some scholarly works are part of that reading.  I benefit from reading those – caveat: my primary time for input for my walk with God, is time with Him in the Word, I read the journals to understand what they are dealing with, but I do not accept anything I read without validating it Biblically.  The challenge I have encountered in reading these is that I find men who are “scholars” who are espousing some incredibly unbiblical positions.

How does that align with the Word of God not returning void?  How does that align with the Word being piercing?  Why are they not led into truth?

Thinking and praying through this over time I think an answer may be emerging for me.  You may already have figured it out.  But, I am a slow maze learner.  The last portion of Isaiah 55:11 (here @ Bible Gateway) states that the Word won’t return, “Without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

If the Lord’s purpose in a person’s life is to draw them to Himself, the Word will do that.  If it is His purpose to push them away, the Word will do so.  It is His purpose that is important, not mine.

It is a further reminder to me, a rebuke, that I am not in control.  It is His Word, His ministry, His gospel, His choice that matters.  He determines what is void and what is not.  My role is to still get men into the Word and get out of the way and let Him do with them what He desires.