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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Interruption – Part 4

In the last post we looked at how the Word of God is representative of the person of God.  It reveals His nature and character.  To such an extent that Peter tells us that when we base our lives on His Word we become partakers of that divine nature.
Interruption – Part 4
One aspect of God’s nature and character is His immutability.  He does not change.  Further, He is eternal.  The Word of God reflects this aspect of His nature and character.  Consider:
Both the Father’s and the Son’s Word is represented as lasting forever.  As the Father, Jesus is represented as immutable, Hebrews 13:8 (here @ Bible Gateway).

So the picture we have developed in these posts:
With that as a foundation, it would be reasonable to suspect that those who identify themselves as leaders of those who worship the Lord would revere and deeply engage in that Word.  We would expect to see the Word of God in a place of central prominence in all Christian ministries.

However, that does not seem to be the case.  Nor has it been.  We will explore some of the implications of that in the next post.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Interruption – Part 3

Last post we saw that the psalmist used language normally used to describe worship of God to describe his relationship with the Word of God.  So, he was essentially suggesting that he worshiped the Word.  How is this not idolatry?  How does the use of that language and that practice not raise the ire of a Holy God?
Interruption – Part 3
The answer, I believe, is found in 2 Peter 1:2-4 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Follow the logic of Peter’s presentation.
Verse Thought
2

Peter prays that our knowledge of God and Jesus is multiplied through God’s grace and peace.
3



Through God’s power we have been granted all we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him mentioned in verse 2. That is given by the one who calls us by His own glory and excellence. That is a key concept that is explored in the next verse.
4











The verse starts, “for by these…” these can refer to all of 2 and 3 or more specifically “His own glory and excellence”. I tend to come down on the second option because of the content of this verse.

Either way one takes the referent, the precious and magnificent promises are based on God’s nature. Described as glory and excellence, and if you choose, His power. If we are to base our life on His promises, we are basing our life on His nature and character.

When we do so, we are in effect personally validating the divine nature in our experience as we see the Lord faithful in fulfilling His promise. We partake of His nature.

The implications of this passage informs our understanding of Psalm 119:48 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The Word of God reflects the nature and character of God.  It reveals Him to us.  In a real sense when we open the pages of the Book and begin to read, those words are reflective of who He is.  We are in His presence.

So the psalmist, is on solid ground when he worships, lifts his hands to the commandments.  For in so doing He is honoring and worshiping the Lord which the commandment represents.

There is more that supports this.  It will be in the next post.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Interruption – Part 2

The next passage that came to mind yesterday morning was Psalm 119:48 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Psalm 119 (here @ Bible Gateway) has a nearly irresistible pull on me.  I find myself continually drawn to the richness and creativity of this masterpiece.  The concept of alliterating ones meditation on God’s Word through the Hebrew alphabet is stunning.
Interruption – Part 2
Verse 48 (here @ Bible Gateway), though, always brings me up short.  I am taken aback by what the psalmist pens here.  Specifically, the phrase, “I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments…”

Why?

Lifting up ones hands is an act of worship.  Consider:

Each of these deal with worship of the Lord or, in the case of Psalm 28:2 (here @ Bible Gateway), the Lord’s sanctuary.  The point is this level of worship, lifting up of ones hands is focused on the Lord.  One would think that to do so to His Word, His commandments, His statutes, would or should incite His jealousy.

But, here it is clear is does not.  Why?

I believe there is a very good explanation.  We will consider that in the next post when we look at the third passage that came to mind yesterday.

Hope you join me on this journey.  I am convinced it is vitally important.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Interruption

Normally in the morning, I get out my journal open my Bible program, open my copy of M’Cheyne Reading Plan, jot down the passages for the day, pray something like Psalm 119:18 (here @ Bible Gateway), and dive in.
Interruption

Not often, but sometimes, God interrupts my routine.  He did so this morning.  Before I even got to my desk, there were issues pressing in on my thoughts.  I think it has something to do with things that are going on in our community of faith as well as multiple interactions I have had with pastors overseas in the past couple of weeks.

So what went into the journal today was vastly different than what normally finds its way into those pages.

After several hours of contemplation, it appears that I need to share some, if not all, of what I worked through this morning.

Part of this is probably driven by a need I feel to change the introduction to the seminar I do with men.  Well, here it goes…Not sure how many posts this is going to take.

Look in your Bible at Psalm 50:1 (here @ Bible Gateway).  In the original the text looks like this, right to left…

אֵ֤ל׀ אֱ‍ֽלֹהִ֡ים יְֽהוָ֗ה דִּבֶּ֥ר


This is a powerful statement, and that does not do it justice.  We will consider this word by word.

אֵ֤ל – “El”, the mighty one.  This is one of the words that is used in relation to the Father.  This is the word that is coupled with other Hebrew words to describe God such as El Shaddai.  Books have been written on the use of this name of God, I cannot hope to expand on that here.  We will go with, “The Mighty One.

אֱ‍ֽלֹהִ֡ים – “Elohim”, the first word that is used to describe God in the Bible, see Genesis 1:1.  The creator, the source, He with whom all of us will answer, He who created all of the elements that both make us who we are as well as all that we encounter.  By itself this is a word that should get our attention, but here it is paired with “El”.

יְֽהוָ֗ה – “YHWH.”  The Word that God chose to use as His name when commissioning Moses.  The children of Israel refused to pronounce it, instead choosing substitute the word Adonai (my Lord) when they encountered YHWH in the text.  Using the vowels in Adonai, with YHWH, we get the word Jehovah.  The best translation of YHWH is probably “He who is”, “I will be who I will be”, or simply “I Am.”  The last which Jesus spoke multiple times inciting claims of blasphemy from the leaders of the Jews.

Each of these words are incredibly powerful.  Here the Psalmist uses all three in succession.  To say that he would be making an emphatic point would be a massive understatement.  And what is the point of the emphasis?  Is the next word…

דִּבֶּ֥ר – “Has spoken.”  The mighty one, God, the Lord, has spoken…  The implications are vast but at the very top should be we better listen.  Listen closely.

Consider this.  For many treat the Bible, the Word of God, as a good, interesting book.  Based on the psalmist’s perspective, it is THE book.  It is the very word of God.

We will explore that more in the next post.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Prayer and Biblical Interpretation

A couple of posts ago I shared some verses that were the result of dialog with pastors on the subject of prayer.  There are current positions which in part seem to hold that since we have been adopted into the family of God through the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord, then we essentially have current possession of a virtual carte blanche in terms of receiving positive answers to our prayers whether they be for healing or luxury personal jet aircraft.
Prayer and Biblical Interpretation
Notice anything about the size of the stones?
Oh, there is one caveat, those who hold this position stipulate that one has to have enough faith to cover the request.  I will not comment on that in this post.

A mentioned in that same post I have received, it is now 3000, multiple friend requests on facebook to which I have responded to about 2000.  Some are immediately asking for money, even conveniently providing routing and account numbers to expedite my response.  It did; I immediately defended and blocked them on messenger.

However there have been many who have shared prayers that they say they are praying for me.  Several follow the pattern one of the earlier requests.  The pastor offering that prayer assured me that I would be healed based on that prayer.  At the time it was at the outset of the deluge so I responded to him.  I asked if he could give me Biblical support for his assertion that his prayer would be answered.

He immediately responded with John 14:14 (here @ Bible Gateway).  When he responded I did not have time to process that passage with him, so I set a time the next day when I could focus on him, at which time we agreed to meet.  I then posed a question for him to ponder prior to the next day’s meeting.  I asked, “What constraints on answer to prayer does Jesus present to us in John 14:14?”  I then signed off

The next day, we met at the prearranged time and he had come to the conclusion that what he had said was incorrect.  Which was good, but the problem was he had come to the right conclusion using faulty logic and flawed interpretation of Scripture based on incomplete observations.

For the next hour and a half we worked through the issue by text on messenger.  It was incredibly tedious.  But at the end he understood that yes his answer was right, he understood the shortcuts he took getting there, the long term implications of approaching scripture in that way, and was grateful for the time.

The intriguing thing is that I have seen the similar prayer based on a similar approach to Scripture more times than I can count in the messages I have gotten from the new facebook “friends”.  More striking, I have encountered the same thing everywhere I have traveled to lead workshops, including home.

2 Timothy 3:16 – 17 (here @ Bible Gateway) reminds us of the powerful ministry of the Word of God in our lives.  It is preceded in the same letter by 2 Timothy 2:15 (here @ Bible Gateway).

The combination of those passages begs the question “If we do not handle the Word accurately, will it be effective in our lives?”

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Source of Perseverance – Part 2

If you have read this blog much you will see that either “chuck” or “unknown” has commented fairly regularly.  Chuck is not unknown to me.  He is one of the more important mentors I have had in my life.  I met him soon after becoming a believer while I was still in pilot training.  You would do well to read and ponder his thoughts…
The Source of Perseverance – Part 2
Last post I suggested that you take a look at the following passages:
Romans 5:3 – 5 (here @ Bible Gateway)
Romans 15:5 – 6 (here @ Bible Gateway)
James 1:2 – 4 (here @ Bible Gateway)
1 Peter 1:6 – 9 (here @ Bible Gateway)

The thrust of these – and before I start down this road, I want to clearly state that it is much easier to understand what the scripture says about this than it is to live it out.  It is impossible, in our own strength to walk through pain, suffering, or persecution; perhaps, in fact, that is the point…

Even a cursory reading of those passages suggests a rather difficult assignment.  We are to exult in our tribulations.  We are to consider all trials to be joy – it would be appropriate to pause a moment to explore the word “consider” more closely.  The lexicons, considered as a whole, describe this as an intentional setting of one’s mind in a chosen direction.  Thus when we are faced with difficulty it is our charge to think differently about that challenge.  We are to embrace it as from the Lord.  Peter reinforces this reminding us and agreeing with James that the difficulty is intentional to perfect our faith.

So there is purpose in what the Lord takes us through, it is to refine our faith.  However, there is another purpose.  Consider, 2 Corinthians 1:3 – 7 (here @ Bible Gateway).  One of the things that we learn through the fire of trials is to trust in the faithfulness and love of God.  That brings us comfort.

That comfort is not for us only, it is to prepare us to more effectively share the comfort of Christ with those who He brings in our path.

There is a lot more here, I am sure that you have seen more or have more questions.  However, that bit is, as I said before, hard to actually live out.

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Source of Perseverance

I am struggling with where to go with this post.  Some weird things have occurred in the last couple of days, I may share those later.  Further, I have sustained ministry in sub Saharan Africa in the past year, in doing so I have encountered strong elements of the Word of Faith heresy.  It surfaces in many places but primarily in multiple discussions I have had about prayer.
The Source of Perseverance
I am sitting in the Rotary House Hotel across the street from MD Anderson.  You have to be a patient or have family that is in the hospital to stay here.  I have stayed here for both reasons, this time it is the first.  There have been multiple obstacles in our path in the past several years.  It would have been reasonable, I suppose, to quit and just coast for the rest of our lives.  Neither my wife nor I am wired that way.

Why?  What is it that equips one with perseverance?  What is it that gives one the desire to keep going when it is difficult?

Look at these passages:
Romans 5:3 – 5 (here @ Bible Gateway)
Romans 15:5 – 6 (here @ Bible Gateway)
James 1:2 – 4 (here @ Bible Gateway)
1 Peter 1:6 – 9 (here @ Bible Gateway)

Now consider these passages on prayer:
Mark 11:22 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway)
John 14:13 – 14 (here @ Bible Gateway)
John 15:16 (here @ Bible Gateway)
John 16:23 – 26 (here @ Bible Gateway)
1 John 5:14 – 15 (here @ Bible Gateway)

I couldn’t resist putting in that last list, it is too fresh.

Focus on the first if you have time look at the second and make observations.  I will share mine in the next post.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Walking Difficult, Dangerous Paths – Expanded

Yesterday, I shared several passages that have meant a lot to me over the past couple of years.  Today, I am going to depart from the usual practice here and share the passage and then some thoughts about the way that passage impacts me walking a difficult, dangerous path.  This is essentially copied from my journal, as is – I have added to it a bit because in my journal I write in a personal form of shorthand…
Walking Difficult, Dangerous Paths – Expanded
Psalm 142:3a (all passages will be NASB95)
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, You knew my path…
In the midst of all, anything we are experiencing, this path, regardless of how dark it seems you know.  There is nothing that I am encountering that is not known to you.

I wrote Psalm 139:3 under this passage: You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways...
He not only knows my path, He has examined it, scrutinized it, knows every twist, turn, bump, crack, hazard on that path.

Then I referred to Psalm 139:5 without writing it out: You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me...
While on this path, the Lord has surrounded me and has me in His hand.  I cannot be separated from Him however difficult the trial.

The next Psalm also dealt with this – note that when I put a letter after a verse, 8c I am referring to a later portion of the verse.

Psalm 143:8c –…Teach me the way in which I should walk…
I am dependent on the Lord to lead me through whatever I am facing.  I cannot navigate it in either my own strength, or with the knowledge I have now…

Psalm 143:10a –…Teach me to do Your will…
Reinforces the previous thought…

Psalm 143:10c –…Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground...
Again reinforcing my absolute dependence on the Lord to traverse – really anything – but especially difficult times.

And then the kicker – it seems that whenever I am struggling with something, either in prayer or in the Word I am always led back to this…
Psalm 143:11a – For the sake of Your name, O LORD, revive me…
When the Lord delivers, when He leads, it is not for my sake, it is not because of my will, it is for His glory.

We are taught, we are revived, not for our benefit but for the Lord’s glory.

The anchor here for me is that nothing that I encounter in this life, be it cancer, the death of a loved one, financial difficulties – whatever, fill in the blank – comes into my life without the Lord’s knowledge.  Further, He has enclosed me and has His hand on me on that path.

I know that there is a purpose for whatever happens on that path.  He scrutinized it, He is using it in my life to bring me closer to Him and to sharpen and mold me into the man He wants me to be.

Caveat – it is really easy to write all of this down in a journal or here in a blog.  It is also easy to read and agree.  Living it, is another matter.  One has to have come to an understanding of both the Love and Sovereignty of God to navigate this well, even then…it’s very hard.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Walking Difficult, Dangerous Paths

For the past season I have been reading three books essentially in parallel; they are not really happy books, light reading.
Walking Difficult, Dangerous Paths
Like I said, not light reading.  A long term, good friend sent Verhey’s book about two years ago when this season of our life started.  In the midst of what we have been walking through for the past couple of years I picked up Keller’s book.  I have read about 9 of Carson’s works, I deeply appreciate his commitment to good theological method; plus he is quick to get to the point.

The interesting thing about these three books is that they align with what I have seen in the Word about dealing with suffering, difficulty, and evil.

One of the main, if not the main, things that I have found to be critical in dealing with really difficult, hard times, is a good handle on both the sovereignty and love of God.

As I have said before much of the content of this blog comes from my journals.  I review what I wrote there, in this case last summer, and then respond to it here.

Look at Psalm 142:3 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Based on the prefix to the psalm David is running for his life and hiding from Saul.  He states that the Lord knows his path.  In Psalm 139:3 (here @ Bible Gateway), David shares a similar point of view.  The Lord not only knows but scrutinizes, knows in detail, David’s path.

Now look at Psalm 143:8 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway).  David is asking the Lord to be led through his path.  Look at how he frames the request, the basis from which he approaches the Lord.  David asks to be led, revived for the sake of the Lord’s name.  It wasn’t for the David’s sake he wanted to be revived, it was for the Lord.

Think through these.  I want to share some of the things I have thought about this in the next post.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

On the Death of Jesus

This morning a friend of mine spoke to a men’s group about the crucifixion of Christ.  He spoke in some detail.  He told me at a meeting last week he was going to do so.  It so happens that I heard a similar talk by a Young Life leader sometime around April of 1966.  The Young Life leader’s talk was graphic.  It got my attention and that evening at home I asked Christ to be my savior.
On the Death of Jesus
In March of 1986 an article was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), entitled "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ”.  The article closely paralleled my Young Life leader’s talk.

A few years ago I tracked down a copy of that article.  After listening to my friend’s presentation this morning, it seems appropriate that we should review what actually happened in AD 33 to Jesus.

So, I have uploaded the article and you can read it here.  It is not an easy read.  Which is appropriate.  What Jesus experienced was completely voluntary for the purpose of paying the penalty of my and your rebellion, sin against His Father.  The pain, as I alluded to last week, is indescribable, so much so that a new word, excruciating (literally “out of crucifixion”), was coined to inadequately describe it.  However, the real pain, was the separation from His Father.  As my friend pointed out this morning, of all the possibly million people that were crucified, only one could have stopped it, only one had a choice, and He chose to be crucified.

So, read this.  As I experienced in high school, realize that this was done intentionally, voluntarily, for both you and me.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Life

Consider Deuteronomy 32:47 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Note how the Word of God is described.  It is not an idle word – it is your life.
Life
If we are ones that claim to follow Christ, to seek Him, to want to know more about Him, how can that be done apart from His Word?

Further, if we are ones that claim to be followers of Christ, then are we not expected to share that reality with others?  How?  With our own ideas and words.  I have seen men meeting together about the Christian life with no Bible in evidence.  I have been to “Christian” workshops in which no single reference to the Word of God was made.  I have been to a men’s event at a church where the speaker shared a vision out of a dream he had to a room full of men, no Bible.

Unless I am reading the Bible incorrectly, which is possible, we are to abide in Christ's word, John 8:31 – 32 (here @ Bible Gateway).  In Colossians 3:1 – 4 (here @ Bible Gateway), Paul reminds us that our life is in Christ.  Deuteronomy reminds us that we learn about that in His Word.

If you really want a dose of this spend some time in Psalm 119 (here @ Bible Gateway)…

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Hors Catégorie

Pain.  For the past few days I have experienced the most physical pain in the span of years the Lord has allowed me to be here.  Had a cortisone shot between L4 and L5.  The end result is supposed to be good, but the day after the shot was not much fun.
Hors Catégorie

Laying down – which was all that I could do – the pain level was 4 or 5.  If I moved, tried to turn over or, stand up, the pain in my left leg immediately spiked to a hard 10.  Things have settled down.  My left leg is really weak, but that is supposed to clear up in week or so.

This experience got me thinking.  We are looking at Easter.  Good Friday is in six days.  One of the things that Jesus says on the cross in Matthew 27:46 (here @ Bible Gateway), was “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

When we consider what the Bible says about Christ, the pain evident in these nine words emerges.  Christ was unified, one with the Father and the Spirit.  That reality permeates the Gospels especially the Gospel of John (here @ Bible Gateway).  During His time on the cross Christ was separated, ripped away from that relationship.

I am a fan of the Tour de France.  The climbs are rated 1 – 4 with the largest rated HC or Hors Catégorie, “beyond categorization.”  We are asked to measure pain on a scale of 1 – 10, ten being described as “unspeakable.”  It occurs to me that what Christ suffered was Hors Catégorie, beyond categorization.  He did that so that we could be restored to a relationship with His Father from whom He was separated, which caused that Hors Catégorie pain.  He did that voluntarily.  He did that for you and me.

We should probably respond.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Survival Kit

I am a backpacker.  My definition of relaxation is to drive 20 or so hours into the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, or hopefully this summer Montana, throw on a pack of 40 – 60 pounds, and walk through those mountains for a week or two.
Survival Kit
This love of sweat, pain, freezing cold, rain, snow, sleet, and blisters started during ground survival training in the Air Force.  I love it.  Somewhere in my pack is a first aid kit.  I always have what I need to survive with me.  Food, water, means to purify water (3 different ways), shelter, clothing (appropriate for the conditions), maps, compass, and someone knows where I am and when I am supposed to come out.

I plan the trips.  Can’t eliminate the pain and the sweat, but I can work to minimize it.

I have learned that these trips are some of the best training I have had for the trips I make overseas to equip pastors in the Word of God.  They also are good for life in general.

I have mentioned in this blog several times, that the past couple of years have been hard for our family.  There were a lot of weeks and months that we were in survival mode.  Reviewing my journal just now Psalm 119:92 (here @ Bible Gateway) emerged in the midst of those times.  That verse describes the means of our survival most accurately.

Our son who was most impacted by the past two years clung tightly to Romans 5:3 – 5 (here @ Bible Gateway).  It was a daily touchstone and comfort.

It is my conviction that David nailed it.  If we do not delight in God’s Word, when – I repeat – when life seems to be going down the toilet, we will sink with it.  It is not enough to be exposed to the Word.  To listen to gifted people’s messages or read gifted people’s books about the Word.  As good as they may be, they are not inspired and by definition will have errors in them if not glaring, subtle.

The only thing available to us that is inspired by God is His Word.  Further, He promises in John 14:26 (here @ Bible Gateway) and John 16:13 (here @ Bible Gateway), that the Holy Spirit will come and help us understand His Word.  Further we are told in John 15:7 (here @ Bible Gateway) that we are to abide in His Word.  We are not told to abide in commentaries, sermons, messages, video presentations about the Word, or books about the Word.  We are told to abide in His Word.

That, like David reminds us in Psalm 119:92 (here @ Bible Gateway) is our survival kit.

BTW this is not an April fool’s joke.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Source of Chaos

This afternoon a man with whom I have both served overseas and worked through the various methods of Bible study covered in the seminars.  We talked for about an hour.  The subject was one about which I have some relatively deep convictions.
The Source of Chaos
My friend had spoken with a Christian leader about the type of study I have been sharing on 4 continents.  That is Inductive Bible study.  Essentially this type of study has four elements and essentially four questions.  They are Observation, What does the text say; Interpretation, What does the text mean; Correlation, What other parts of the text shed light on this portion; and Application, What does the text say that I need to do.

The leaders response to my friend, while not totally surprising, was extremely disappointing.  He told my friend that it was the wrong approach to scripture.  He said that my friend should be going to his pastor to listen to what the pastor says and then go to the Word.  There is so much wrong with that last sentence, I literally could write a book about it – oh, I did.

I am trying hard to resist listing all of the Bible passages in which that statement is in conflict.  If you were to scan this blog you will find most of them.

But I want to go in a different direction.  In Deuteronomy 28 (here @ Bible Gateway), Moses is nearing the end of his life.  He has led the nation to the edge of the Promised Land for a second time.  He cannot enter.  In the first 14 verses (here @ Bible Gateway) Moses tells the people the benefit of following the Lord.  In 15 – 68 (here @ Bible Gateway), he warns them of what will happen when they disobey.  Look at Deuteronomy 28:28 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Disobedience, not following the Lord, results in madness, blindness, and bewilderment of heart.

Something that is crystal clear in the Bible is the Lord’s command, expectation, that we each, individually, embrace, engage, and abide in His Word.  Unfortunately, the leader to which my friend spoke, is not unique.  His tribe is legion.  Rather than following the command of the great commission, these refuse to accept the clear assignment of Ephesians 4:11 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway) with its implications.  Rather, they set themselves up as the expert, the professional, and place themselves between those they serve and the Word of God as the arbiter and dispenser of truth.

Is it any wonder then that in the Church today, there is madness, blindness, and bewilderment?  Chaos.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Arrogance or Passivity

In June of 2017 I was praying through what the Lord had been doing in my life over the past several years.  I was working on several fronts.  Meeting with men on a regular basis here in the US, and I still am, and also working with the pastor in Morocco, some men in Russia, some church planters in Nepal, a pastor in Pakistan, and a pastor in Uganda.
Arrogance or Passivity
At the same time I was working with some groups here in an attempt to engage the members of those groups in a more personal and abiding relationship with the Word of God.

Working through that it became obvious that those in Africa, Nepal, et al were responding differently to the Word than those here.  There was a hunger in the other countries that was not present here.  There are many exceptions to this, there are men here who are ravenous, but the numbers are skewed to the other countries.

I was talking to the leader of an international organization about this and he had made a similar observation.  I had recently met with a man who when seeing new things in the Word was not at all moved, excited, or either over or under whelmed.  It was just “meh.”  In contrast those with whom I had had the privilege to work overseas were excited about what they were seeing in the Word.

In talking through this with my friend he characterized it as arrogance.  “I know all that.  That came up years ago.  That is nothing new.”  I suggested that it was passivity.  As I consider the conversation, it occurs to me that passivity is a subset or an effect of arrogance.  I don’t need the Word or what it tells me about God so I am not moved by it.

It is difficult to comprehend that when faced with the revelation of the creator of the universe, the one who holds all things together, the one whom apart from Him nothing exists, that one would react passively to Him or His Word does seem to indicate extreme arrogance.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Trusting Love

Trusting LoveLast post I shared that there were two things to which we held fast during the past difficult season.  The first was the certain knowledge that God was sovereign.  That He was in control.  That what was coming into our lives was not coincidence or fiat, but was with purpose.  We may not yet understand that purpose, in fact, we don’t.  However, we are certain of purpose.

The second anchor was knowing that God is Love.  That all He does is consistent with His character and nature and as John declared in 1 John 4:8 (here @ Bible Gateway), “God is love”.

I do not understand yet, how the immediate past journey was a product of His love.  In fact there are many things in our lives which do not seem to align with my perception of what His love for me would produce.  Nevertheless, the Word is clear.  The demonstration of that Love is stark.  He died for me.  He died for those for whom we grieve.  We still may not understand, in fact we don’t.  But as one with whom I have recently become acquainted, Flannery O’Conner, said, “A God you understood would be less than yourself.”

He is not.  Isaiah 55:9 (here @ Bible Gateway) reminds me that His thoughts and ways are not mine.

There were many times that my prayer was reduced to, “I trust You, and I love You.”

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Trusting Sovereignty

Read through Psalm 105 (here @ Bible Gateway), Isaiah 45:7 (here @ Bible Gateway), and Isaiah 46:10 (here @ Bible Gateway).  What do you see?
Trusting Sovereignty
In Psalm 105 (here @ Bible Gateway), I see that the Lord did what He said He would do with Israel’s relationship to Egypt.  He controls, He is sovereign.

In Isaiah 45:7 (here @ Bible Gateway) I see – well a lot.  A lot with which many of us, me included, may struggle.  The Lord causes both well-being and calamity.  Whew.  But he is the one who also forms light and creates darkness.

Then in Isaiah 46:10 (here @ Bible Gateway), I see that His purpose and “good” pleasure is going to be accomplished.

When I consider the last couple of years, which included 5 deaths in our immediate family, it is hard to reconcile those passages with my experience.

That is the challenge is it not?  We tend to evaluate what the Lord does from our perspective.  We grade Him based on how what He does makes us feel.  We seem to think that the only reason that God exists is to make us happy, fulfill our needs, give us a great life.

We put ourselves in the center of the story.  All revolves around us.  That does not seem to be what the Bible says about God.  This is His creation.  We are His people.  Yes, He redeemed us from the devastating impact of sin in our lives.  But that was His choice, not ours.  He did it for His purpose.

There are two things that allowed us to navigate the last couple of years.  This is the first.  God is sovereign.  He is in control.  He has perfect reasons, good reasons for what He does.

The next thing we held onto will be in the next post.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Importance of the Word of God

If you have even skimmed through this Blog, or read a few of the posts, it is probably obvious to you that I have an agenda.  It is probably also obvious that I consider the Word of God important – no, check that – essential, critical for one who claims the label Christian, regardless of the community of faith in which they choose to worship to personally engage with the Word of God.
The Importance of the Word of God

By engage I do not mean only read.  While that is important and I read the Bible each year, we need more than that.

This is emphasized over and over in both Testaments.  Psalm 119 (here @ Bible Gateway) is 176 verses, the longest chapter in the Bible, and it is all about the Bible.  In Deuteronomy 17:14 – 20 (here @ Bible Gateway)(about which I have written here and also here) the Lord placed so much importance on the Word of God that he required every King to write out a copy for themselves by hand and to continually keep it with them.

Full disclosure, I have not hand written a personal copy of the Word of God.  However, if you pick up one of my journals, you will find that I have written out the verses which have struck me during my personal time with the Lord.

A side note on that – I find that when I do write out the passages, that the observations which initially got my attention are both reinforced and expanded.

There is a product available that encourages this discipline.  It is called Journables.  The idea is that you write out the passage you are reading on the left page and make any observations on the right hand page.  You don’ have to use those you could just do it in a Molskine or Leuchtturm1917, I suspect it would be cheaper to get the Journables.

It would certainly increase your engagement in the Word.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Mercy

If you have ever wondered about a good definition of mercy, may I suggest Psalm 103:10 (here @ Bible Gateway)?
Mercy
Personally, I rejoice in that verse.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Stamina

More frequently in the past couple of years I find myself tired during the day.  I am used to working 12+ hours a day.  Sometimes late into the evening.  I find that I cannot do that as much.  I can’t tell if this is normal for being old and decrepit or an oncoming symptom of the cancer.  They say getting tired faster is one of the things that will happen.
Stamina
It appears that the Lord is setting up three trips to serve men in three different African nations this year.  A couple of them are close to back to back and those two are close to a vacation trip with my wife that is also overseas.  When I look at the schedule I wonder if I am going to have the stamina to make that work.

In reality sometimes I am struggling to get through the schedule here.

Last week part of my reading was Matthew 11:28 – 30 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The Lord tells us there – you know the passage – that His yoke is easy.  He got tired though.  Look at John 4:6 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Processing this, I was drawn to Isaiah 40:28 – 31 (here @ Bible Gateway), Colossians 3:1 – 4 (here @ Bible Gateway), and Romans 6:8 (here @ Bible Gateway).

The thing I have known is that He is our life.  He is our strength.  John 15:5 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells us that we cannot do anything apart from Him – that theme shows up at least 12 times in John.  What I need to do is learn to live in His strength.  To function in Him.  I suspect that more often than not, I am possibly doing the right thing in my own strength.

As I write this 2 Corinthians 12:9 – 10 (here @ Bible Gateway) leaps to mind.  I have to function in Him, in that way it is only He who gets credit.  So in a real sense I am looking forward to learning how to serve – the Lord just brought 1 Peter 4:10 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway) to mind – “by the strength which God supplies.”

This is going to be a great adventure.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Proclaim or Passive?

Look at Psalm 96:10 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Does that seem vaguely familiar?  Compare with Matthew 28:18 – 20 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The imperative in Psalm 96:10 (here @ Bible Gateway) is “Say”: in Matthew 28:18 – 20 (here @ Bible Gateway) it is “make disciples.  It would seem that one precedes the other.
Proclaim or Passive?
Now look at Isaiah 39:8 (here @ Bible Gateway) and Psalm 78:9 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway).  How does the attitude expressed in these two passages align with Psalm 96:10 (here @ Bible Gateway) and Matthew 28:18 – 20 (here @ Bible Gateway)?  The obvious answer is, they don’t.

Hezekiah was informed that his sons would be taken into exile, signaling the end of the nation.  His response?  Well at least that won’t happen on my watch.  Ephraim is depicted in Psalm 78:9 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway) as and archer, a warrior, an equipped archer.  But when they were needed for battle, they were nowhere to be found.

Are there many like this in the Body today?  Are there those who have been commanded to both “say” and “make disciples” who like Ephraim are nowhere to be found?  Not engaged?

Seems so.

One of the leaders in a church I know quips that many in the church cannot be bothered with engaging in what the Lord wants them to do, because they have a Netflix account.  I’m not sure that their reasons are that compelling.

How do you imagine the Lord will respond to this level of passivity in His people?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Equipping the Heart

Yesterday looking at Deuteronomy 4:39 (here @ Bible Gateway) and other passage we say that it is possible to engage in the Word and not take it to heart, that is not have it change or transform our thinking or behavior.
Equipping the Heart
In the past I have used a three step illustration on how to move people intentionally toward the Lord.  You can see it below.  The idea was you engage them in the process, establish them in the disciplines, and then equip them to engage others in the process.

I have learned in the past three or four years that I left out a couple of steps.  Before one can be engaged in something they have to know that something exists.  So I added Expose prior to Engage.  Further, one will not really work at engaging others in the process if they are not aware that is the intent of the Lord.  Paul speaks of the Gospel being entrusted to him which he in turn entrust to Timothy and Titus with the expectation that they would entrust it to others.  2 Timothy 2:2 (here @ Bible Gateway) is the clearest example of this.

So I added Entrust between Equip and Expose.
Equipping the Heart
But there are two other things that have to happen with an individual.  To be established they have to learn to consistently apply the Word of God to their lives.  In order to bear fruit, they not only need to be equipped, but they have to abide in the Word.  One might argue that learning to abide is part of being equipped, but I wanted to emphasize it.
Equipping the Heart
This is the model I am pursuing at the moment.  I will probably learn more as I go.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

To Heart

If you were to read Deuteronomy 4:39 (here @ Bible Gateway), it seems to indicate that it is possible to engage in the Word of God, to read or study it and not take it to heart.
To Heart
As cross references take a look at these passages as well:


The clear message is that hearing, knowing the Bible is not enough.  We have – further, exposure is not enough – one has to take it to heart.  To use the word that Jesus and Paul used, we have to abide, live in, continue in the Word.  So we have to essentially, live by or apply the word to our lives.  Romans 12:2 (here @ Bible Gateway) describes that as being transformed, having our minds renewed.

If I am reading my Bible correctly, our assignment, that for which we will be held accountable, does not stop there.  We are to not only take the Word to heart, abide, we are to equip others to do the same.

More on that next…

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Equipping to Abide

Last post considered 2 John 9 (here @ Bible Gateway) and some of its implications for us as believers.  At the end I suggested that there are those in churches who are not equipped to abide.  Some have been trained not to.  As an aside, Exodus 20:19, 21 (here @ Bible Gateway) was in my reading this morning.  You will note the newly freed Israelis refused to come near to God.  They asked Moses to speak to God and then tell them what to do or believe.  Seems in many cases we are still following that old covenant model.
Equipping to Abide
Back to equipping believers to abide.  My wife and I reared 4 children, so far they have produced 8 grandchildren.  Both our kids and theirs are following the identical pattern.  That pattern is found in 1 Peter 2:1 – 3 (here @ Bible Gateway), Hebrews 5:12 – 14 (here @ Bible Gateway), and 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:4 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Their intake of physical sustenance roughly followed the following steps:
  1. Predigested and processed liquid – milk
  2. Pablum
  3. Pureed and strained vegetables 
  4. Solid food cut up into small pieces – the child eats with their hands
  5. Learning to use a fork and spoon
  6. Learning to use a knife to cut one’s own food
  7. Learning to prepare one’s own food
  8. Leading another through this process
If you consider the sequence, one is completely dependent on others until the 5th step.  Then still dependent for the meal until the 7th step.  There are those who never reach the 7th step.  They continue to purchase prepared food at either a restaurant or grocery.  They never learn to cook for themselves.  That leads to a break down between 7 & 8.

It is not a big stretch to see the parallel for spiritual food, or in the case here, abiding.  Much of what we consume in the church is preprocessed.  Someone else has predigested the Word either topically or on a book of the Bible.  Then they have served it up to us in either a message, a Bible Study Guide, a commentary, or a book on a spiritual topic.  So we are abiding in their Word, their work, we are dependent on them for what we see in the Word.  Which has significant implications for step 8.

It is not until we learn to use the tools of personal study; learn to prepare our own meals that we can truly abide in His Word.  To effectively help others, we have to do so.

Those of us who know how to feed ourselves are tasked by the Lord to equip other believers to do so, Ephesians 4:11 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Those of us who do not know how, need to find someone to help us become equipped.  Based on  the passages above, it appears certain that the Lord will hold us to account regardless of which side of the equation we fall.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Abiding in Christ’s Teaching

2 John 9 (here @ Bible Gateway) raises some questions.  If someone who claims to be a believer does not abide in Christ’s teachings, this passage seems to indicate that one is not actually a believer.
Abiding in Christ’s Teaching
One of the first questions then should be what does it mean to abide in the teaching of Christ?  Maybe then, am I doing so?

John is fond of this word.  Here is a list of all the verses in which the word “μενω”; which is the Greek word that is translated abide, remain, or continue in our English versions; is used by John.  Scan through these passages, it will give you a sense of what John means when he uses the word μενω.

It seems like he means that we are to stay in the teachings.  That would seem to indicate that we are to stay in His Word, John 15:7 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Abiding in His Word is not engaging in secondary sources like messages, books about the Bible, commentaries, or even second hand studies.  Rather it seems that the expectation is that we are abiding, living in, continuing in, remaining in His Word, the Bible.

The word is used in 78 other places by other authors, for example Paul uses it 17 times.  One of those places is 2 Timothy 3:14 (here @ Bible Gateway), which is the first verse of the second charge Paul gives Timothy in light of his heritage, assignment, and environment.  I spoke on this at our church.

Each of us needs to be equipped to abide.  Most new believers are hungry to do so.  It is the case that many are not helped to follow through.

I want to explore that in the next post.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Dealing with the Hard Stuff – Conclusion

The point of all of these posts has been to bring to the fore observations from working with pastors, church planters, and laymen here in the US and in seven other countries.
Dealing with the Hard Stuff – Conclusion
We tend to think that the problems we face, regardless of our cultural context, are unique.  There is much literature about the need for us to be sensitive to culture in our ministries.  At some level that is true.  However, if Romans 12:1 – 2 (here @ Bible Gateway) and 1 John 2:15 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway) are true; if how we see the ministry of Christ impacting the Jewish culture is any indication, then it seems that two things emerge as truth.

First, people are people.  By that I mean the struggles that they have, wanting their own way, fighting for what they think is right, whether it is or not, is universal or better, cross cultural.  The deeds of the flesh, Galatians 5:17 – 21 (here @ Bible Gateway) are omnipresent, permeating every culture.

Which truth, leads to the second.  The Bible is against all of man’s cultures, it is cross all cultures.

These have implications for those of us who are committed to put the Kingdom of God first.  We are all products of the environments in which we emerged, all of which are counter to the Kingdom.  We are wont to incorporate some of that from which we came into our understanding of the Word.

When we find Scripture that challenges those roots, we tend to either justify or morph the Word to fit.  That has to stop.  If we are going to have a significant impact; we need to be, as Romans 12:2 (here @ Bible Gateway) reminds us, transformed in our thinking.

We have to approach the Word allowing it to not only bring to light what we hold in error, but we have to be willing to release the error and allow Scripture to be true.  Further we have to equip all of those to whom we are privileged to invest to study the Word with the same skill and integrity.

If we do not, if we continue to hold the study of the Word in the domain of the “professional” Christians and dole out studies and tomes in prepackaged containers of homogenized milk.  We are crippling the Body and frankly committed to disobedience to the Lord’s clear commission.

Personally, I do not wish to be numbered with that lot.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Dealing with the Hard Stuff – Part 6 cont.

Last post, I shared a long quote from an article about the church in Ethiopia.  I suggested that the problems there were similar to what we face in the US.  I also suggested that the solution to their problem set was not translation of Bible study materials.
Last post, I shared a long quote from an article about the church in Ethiopia.  I suggested that the problems there were similar to what we face in the US...more at DTTB.
I am not against Bible study materials, per se.  I have used them.  I have written some.  What I am against is continual use of Bible study materials.  The problem with continued use of these is that they are secondary sources.  Like commentaries or books about the Bible or about a Bible topic, they are the result of one or more individual’s work on a topic or a passage.

When you are using a study guide you are being led through the author’s study.  By the questions you are answering and the passages you with which you are asked to interact, he or she is walking you through the work that they did moving you toward the conclusions, positions, and applications which they discovered during their time in the Word.

That can be and is helpful.  We can learn how to study using those types of studies.  We can begin to see the joy and benefit of studying our Bibles.  However, those types of studies limit us.  They make us dependent on another’s work.  As good as some of those are, unless we have develop the tools and confidence to question or expand what they have done, we are forever dependent on other’s work to engage with the Bible.

That does not seem to be the intent of the Lord when He gave us the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18 – 20 (here @ Bible Gateway); or when Paul essentially repeated the Great Commission in 2 Timothy 2:1 – 3 (here @ Bible Gateway); or his exhortation, which again aligns with the Great Commission, in Ephesians 4:11 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway).  As leaders we are to equip disciples, followers of Christ, with all that we have been taught.  That would include, at a fundamental level, the ability to independently study the Word of God.

So rather than coming up with questions for small groups to use in going deeper in the Sunday message; rather than translating Bible study materials from English into whatever; perhaps it would be better to equip believer to come up with their own questions, to study the Bible with nothing more than a blank sheet of paper and a pencil.

Otherwise we continue to make those disciples dependent on our study.  Further, we rob ourselves of the benefit of benefiting from their insight as they engage with the Lord in His Word.  It is sure based on Ephesians 4:16 (here @ Bible Gateway) that those whom we equip with see things that will build us up and encourage us in the Lord.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Dealing with the Hard Stuff – Part 6

I have an on again off again subscription to Bible Study magazine.  The latest issue (March/April 2019) has an article about the current state of the Church in Ethiopia.  I was intrigued by the article because I have a trip tentatively planned there in the fall.
Dealing with the Hard Stuff – Part 6
Some personal context.  The Lord has allowed me to be engaged with leaders in three countries in North Africa.  I meet most every week with a pastor of several underground churches in Morocco, I have met regularly with one of the recent graduates of the Bible College I visited last April in Togo, and I am still in contact with several of the men and women who were at the events in Cameroon.  That is in addition to meeting regularly with pastors and lay people at home.

The article, the conversations with the men overseas, and conversations with pastors and men here converged this week.

The article stated what was seen as a pressing need in the Ethiopian church:
Beyond Bible translation is the need to create and translate resource for Ethiopian Christians…to ensure the church is grounded in sound doctrine and teaching.  We have vibrant evangelical churches-very strong, committed, and large…However, misuse of Bible through questionable interpretation is a huge problem.  The prosperity-gospel movement has spread like wildfire across Africa.  Although many evangelical churches have the Bible available in their languages, they’re still relying on Sunday preachers for interpretation.  People are easily led astray.  So having Bible study materials available to people is essential for the church…Especially in semi-literate communities, you need the proper tools to read, understand, interpret, and apply the Bible. (emphasis added)
Later in the article…
…the uncertainties face by African Christians don’t have a clear parallel in the West… (how do they) make sense of the devastation of drought and famine, epidemics and civil unrest; how to deal with systemic corruption.  These things are not readily addressed by materials designed for the modern, middle-class Western church.
Both in the conversation with the leader and Cameroon and the pastor here, similar pressures to create material, guides for sermons or leadership development were discussed.

I do not agree that the development of materials is the primary need.  In fact the problem with that approach is evident in the article.

This is getting long.  What do you think I see as the problem?  I will finish this, maybe, in the next post.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Dealing with the Hard Stuff – Part 5


I have been struggling with how to end this series on Dealing with the Hard Stuff.  There are two things left to say, I may be able to get that done in one post.
Dealing with the Hard Stuff – Part 5
In Matthew 15:8 – 9 (here @ Bible Gateway) and Mark 7:6 – 8 (here @ Bible Gateway), Christ, quoting Isaiah 29:13 (here @ Bible Gateway), rebukes the Pharisees by pointing out that they are teaching as doctrine the tradition of men.  That is closely similar to the rebuke of the leaders of Judah by the Lord in Jeremiah 23:16 (here @ Bible Gateway).  In both Israel and now in the Church, we tend to codify what works or what we understand and teach it or pass it on as important as the Word of God.  Spend some time in Jeremiah 23 (here @ Bible Gateway) and consider what the Lord thinks about that approach.

In the first year of this blog I wrote a post, “Glasses”, take a minute and read that and come back.

Too often we come to scripture with “certain” knowledge.  That is, we know what we believe.  Much of that “certain” knowledge has come to us through the messages we have heard in our churches, the Christian books we have read, or conversations we have had with other believers.  None of those things are bad in and of themselves.  They just are not the inspired Word of God.

That “certain” knowledge functions for us much like the tradition Jesus refers to in the passages above.  It colors what we read and study, in a sense it distorts the text.  We have to acknowledge these biases.  It is not easy to do so.  Still, we need to “take off the glasses” and allow the text to speak to us directly.

The good thing is that we have a promise, John 16:13 (here @ Bible Gateway), that the Holy Spirit will lead us into truth.  Further we have the model of David’s prayer in Psalm 119:18 (here @ Bible Gateway) to guide us.

There is an example I wish to share and on which I wish to comment.  So I will not finish in one post.  Probably two more.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Dealing with the Hard Stuff – Part 4

In these posts we have been looking at how we can deal with difficult issues – hard stuff.  So far we have said that we need to:
  • Be willing to question what you believe
  • Have a proper view of the Bible
  • Commit to the authority of the Bible
Dealing with the Hard Stuff – Part 4
But that is not all.  Further we have to decide if we are going to live and engage with the world in a manner consistent with that proper view of the Bible.  That step is a subset of the last one.  We have to commit to apply or incorporate what we learn in our examination of the Bible to our thinking and behavior.

That may seem obvious.  However, there are many who know much about the Bible whose behavior does not align with what they “know”.  In a sense they do not practice what they proclaim.

Romans 12:1 – 2 (here @ Bible Gateway) speaks to this does it not?  We are not to be conformed to the norms of the world but we are to be transformed.  Paul specifically speaks to the way we think.  If it is the case that the Bible is what it says it is, the revealed, inspired, Word of God, then the only way I know of to align my thought more closely with God is to study and apply His Word.  The entirety of Psalm 119 (here @ Bible Gateway) speaks to this.

However changing our thinking is not enough.  We are also to have the Word of God change our behavior.  James speaks to this in James 1:22 – 26 (here @ Bible Gateway).  We are to not just be those who hear or read the Word, rather we are to do the Word, apply it, follow it, and do what it says.  Otherwise, to echo James’, our reading, studying, or listening to others talk about the Word is worthless.

Peter reinforces this in 2 Peter 1:2 – 10 (here @ Bible Gateway).  He tells us first that we have been granted all that we need for life and godliness in the Word – which here he refers to as “His precious and magnificent promises”.  Which Peter emphasizes by explaining that the purpose of His Word is so that we can become partakers of His nature.  Spend some time considering Peter’s words here.  It is an overwhelming statement.  Then Peter goes into some detail on how to accomplish partaking in 5 – 9 (here @ Bible Gateway).

When we come to the Word, before we can deal with difficult passages well, we have to have committed to do what we find.  The Lord did not give us His Word to intrigue or interest us, or to make us smarter; He gave it to change us, to transform us more closely to His nature.