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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Overwhelmed

Have you ever felt overwhelmed, helpless, and useless?  Faced with a circumstance that, regardless of any effort, looked insurmountable?

Overwhelmed

Read Judges 6:11 – 12 (here @ Bible Gateway).

If you look at the context, the Midianites were treating Israel like their corner grocery store.  They were coming in at harvest and taking everything they saw.  Judges 6:5 (here @ Bible Gateway) compares them to a plague of locusts.

In the midst of this the angel of the lord finds Gideon – now Gideon was hiding in a wine press beating out wheat.  I do not have any experience with growing and harvesting wheat, nor have I ever been involved in the making of wine.  That being said, I am relatively certain that a wine press is not a normal wheat harvesting implement, nor is beating out wheat a regular task in the making of wine.  The text backs this up.  Gideon was hiding what he was doing so the Midianites would not get the wheat.

It is in this context that the angel of the Lord addresses Gideon as a valiant warrior.

He’s hiding in a wine press to beat out wheat so the bad guys won’t get it – hiding, valiant warrior – the math doesn’t seem to work.

Gideon does turn out to be a valiant warrior.  But, he wasn’t at the moment – or perhaps the better way to say that is that he was not functioning as he was designed.  Perhaps the Lord views us through the lens of Ephesians 2:10 (here @ Bible Gateway).  We are made to do His work.  We are His workmanship to accomplish what He wants.  So, He sees us how He made us.

So, when confronted with the overwhelming, perhaps our best course of action is to seek the Lord as Gideon did and tackle the overwhelming in His strength.

Monday, December 30, 2019

No Surprises

As I have studied the Bible for the last 46 years, one thing has come into sharper and sharper focus, God is in control.  We saw that in 1 Peter 1, His foreknowledge is the operating standard which informs all of the instruction Peter gives on suffering.

No Surprises

2017 was a hard year for our family.  We were in the midst of experiencing 5 deaths.  I was reviewing a journal entry I made in July of that year after dealing with some of my Father’s estate.  I was reflecting on Judges 3:1 – 4 (here @ Bible Gateway), take a moment and read those 4 verses.

You will remember that Israel was tasked with removing all the inhabitants of the land the Lord had given them.  Israel did not do so.  There were four groups of people left.  What struck me reading through this was that the text says that the Lord left these nations to test Israel.  Israel didn’t drive them out; the Lord left them.  Ponder that.

Israel was disobedient by not driving those nations out.  God used those nations to test Israel’s obedience and to train them for war.

There are areas in my life where I have been disobedient.  There are areas in which I have failed the Lord.  It is no surprise to Him.  2017 was not a surprise to Him.  He not only knows we fail, knows we have faults, He uses those failures and engages those faults to test, train, and equip us for His purposes.

He is in control.  He is not surprised.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Remember

As we near the end of this year there is another discipline in which we should engage.  Look at Ephesians 2:11 – 12 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Note that the word “remember” is repeated in both verses.  Repetition is one of the literary devices that gives us a clue as to what is important.

Remember

It is important that we remember, review, what God has done in our lives.  We tend to forget and forget quickly.  If you have read the Old Testament, you will know that is not a unique or recent problem for those who follow the Lord.

For instance, consider Joshua 24:1 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Here Joshua reminds Israel what the Lord has done for them.  But then look at Judges 2:7, 10 – 11 (here @ Bible Gateway).  In a relatively short time, Israel forgot.  When they forgot, they turned away from God.  That sequence, reminder, remember, forget is repeated over and over not only in Judges but also in 1 and 2 Kings (here @ Bible Gateway) and 1 and 2 Chronicles (here @ Bible Gateway).

It is not a new challenge.

It seems to be something that we need to continually battle.  Other places in this blog I have recommended journaling (in 57 posts, type journal in the search box to the top right of this post or click the tag journal below to see some of those if you wish).  That is a discipline which, if one chooses to engage, helps one to remember what God has done.  In fact, much of this blog begins with a review of my journals.

It does not have to be complicated.  Simply during your quiet time, or some other regular time, jot down the date, record what the Lord is doing.  It may be passages that He has taken you through.  Note those and what you learned.  Or it could be a life event and what you were thinking and learned.  Or it may be a prayer you record.  Some or all.  Do what fits you.

Then on a regular basis, turn back to earlier pages or volumes, and review what the Lord has done.  You will be encouraged.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Spiritual Discipline – Personal Testimony Analysis

Yesterday we looked at two times Paul shared his testimony.  In both cases there were three elements, what he was like before he met Christ, how he met Christ, what he was like after, as a result of meeting Christ.

Spiritual Discipline – Personal Testimony Analysis

The content of the testimony is simple.  The means of conversion is the same.  The focus is on Christ as a person, Lord, one whom Paul followed.

There are several things though that are conspicuous by their absence.  Paul does not share either with Agrippa or with the Philippians how or when he was baptized.  Nor does he mention what church, denomination, or system of theology under which he was converted.  Further, there is no mention of the role of the Holy Spirit, the need for him to be baptized in the Spirit, or for him to speak in tongues.  Paul doesn’t refer to any form of confirmation in his testimony, nor does he mention being allowed to join in a communion.

Those things are important to many, they were not important to Paul when he was given an opportunity to share his faith with Agrippa and wrote about the effects of his conversion to the church at Philippi.

The single focus of Paul’s testimony was that he had met and accepted Jesus as his Lord and savior.

That makes it simple for us.  We share what we were like before we met Christ.  Share how we met Christ and that we accepted Him as He is, Lord and savior.  We share how that has affected our life.

Simple.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Spiritual Discipline – Personal Testimony Content

Yesterday we looked at the importance of the personal testimony. We saw that it is more than an evangelistic tool. I suggested that you look at Acts 26 (here @ Bible Gateway) and Philippians 3 (here @ Bible Gateway) to see how Paul shared his testimony. In both instances Paul shares what his life was like before he met Christ. He then shares how he met Christ. Lastly, he shares what is life was like after he chose to follow Christ.

Spiritual Discipline – Personal Testimony Content

Steps Acts 26 Philippians 3
Before He was a Pharisee who was committed to punish Christians to the full extent of the Jewish law including death. He was on his way to Damascus with authority to continue this practice Paul describes himself as a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, a persecutor of the church, blameless as to the la
How Christ stopped him with a bright light on that road blinding him in the process and telling him what He wanted Paul to do. Upon meeting Christ all that he thought was gain for him, he now counted as manure.
After Paul accepted what he was told by Christ. He turned from persecuting the church to spreading the message of the gospel primarily to the Gentiles. He now focused all of his zeal to know Christ Jesus his Lord. He lived to be found in Christ having Christ’s righteousness. His repeats that his focus is to know Christ. He wants to know the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, and be conformed to His death. Rather than viewing himself as having made is as he did as a Hebrew. He views himself as one who needs to continually strive to know Christ.

Spend some time considering that content.  It is a really excellent model for your or others personal testimony.  What were you like before you met Christ?  How did you meet Him?  What difference, what are you like after you met Him?

There is more to say about this.  There are some significant things missing from Paul’s testimony.  We will look at that more closely tomorrow.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Spiritual Discipline – Personal Testimony

Note: This is a couple of days late, got sick Christmas Eve and felt bad all day Christmas – So, belated Merry Christmas…

Spiritual Discipline – Personal Testimony

We have been examining the value and means of some spiritual disciplines.  In the past few weeks there is one discipline that has gained much in value for me.  Further, it seems to be a discipline that is neglected in many churches.  That is the personal testimony.

Look at Revelation 12:11 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Look at the context.  The devil and his angels were thrown down to earth.  He accuses the brethren day and night.  1 Peter 5:8 – 9 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells us that this same enemy is seeking to devour us.

What overcomes him?  The blood of Christ and, emphasis here, the word of their testimony.  That is huge.  When the enemy accuses us, makes us feel less than acceptable to our Lord, or tells us that we can’t possibly be redeemed, it is the word of our testimony that overcomes him.

The testimony is much more than a evangelistic tool, it is a first line of defense against the enemy.

So how do we equip someone to share their testimony?  There are two examples of Paul’s testimony in the Scripture.  One is in Acts 26 (here @ Bible Gateway), the other is Philippians 3 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Spend some time looking at those.  Paul’s example is a good one to follow.

Think through how he presented his testimony and tomorrow we will look at how to apply that both personally and in equipping others to share their personal testimony.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Spiritual Discipline – Study

A couple of days ago I suggested, as an exercise, to read through the book of Ephesians (here @ Bible Gateway) and to write down what we have as a result of being in Christ, what we have as a believer.

Spiritual Discipline – Study

That exercise could be either a quiet time, however, it is also an example of a Bible study.  You are analyzing a passage, writing down your observations, and in so doing you are understanding more about your relationship to Christ.

That also works with journaling.  The act of writing down what you see in the Scripture does a couple of things.  It slows you down and allows you to think about what you have seen as you record it.  Second, it sets up a place for you to return to see what you found in the Word.

Tomorrow, we will examine the notion of a personal testimony.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Spiritual Discipline – Pause

Before we go any farther in looking at these disciplines, there is something I think we need to clear up.

Spiritual Discipline – Pause
These disciplines we will be exploring are not the end.  The Christian life, discipleship, is not about being good or consistent in spiritual discipline.  No, the Christian life, discipleship is about knowing Christ more deeply and growing in our love for Him.

That is what is important.

The things we will be talking about are means.  They are the means we have to get to know Christ and thus be more and more in love with Him.

This is an important distinction.  I know those, many in fact, who have focused on getting the disciplines correct, to the point that the disciplines become the end.  Paul was like that.  He shared his journey through that into love for Christ in Philippians 3 (here @ Bible Gateway).

It would be profitable for you to invest a few minutes and read that chapter.  Notice how Paul describes how his attitude changes and especially the contrast between how he describes himself as a Jew as opposed to how he describes his pursuit of Christ…

End of pause.  Tomorrow I will pick up where we left off yesterday.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Spiritual Discipline – Abiding

Last couple of days we have looked at the notion of discipline.  Paul addresses it in 1 Timothy 4:7 – 8 (here @ Bible Gateway).  He reminds us that while bodily discipline has a little profit, spiritual discipline profits now and in eternity.  We also saw that Jesus said in John 8:31 – 32 (here @ Bible Gateway) that if we are to follow Him, we must abide in His Word.
Spiritual Discipline – Abiding

How does that work?  Well I have written on that before.  Read this earlier blog post and then come back here.

So, to begin, why not try that out.  If you are already doing something like that, here is another idea.  This was a great idea that was presented in the film “Overcomer”.  Read through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (here @ Bible Gateway).  Write down all the things you see in there that you are in Christ.

We will consider that in some detail tomorrow.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Spiritual Discipline

Yesterday we learned from Paul that while we need to take care of ourselves, physical discipline, spiritual discipline is much more important.

Spiritual Discipline
The Wheel Illustration
So, what is spiritual discipline?  The answer will depend a great deal on who you ask.  Since this is my blog, you will get my answer.  My wife and I were on the staff of the Navigators for about 10 years.  We served in the collegiate ministry.  Much of my view of spiritual disciplines comes from our experience with the Navs from being involved in the ministry before we were on staff, and as leading ministries as staff.

The founder of the Navs, Dawson Trotman, developed over the years an illustration that helped him communicate what it meant to be spiritually disciplined.  Its last form was the Wheel. 

Christ is the center and the four spokes are areas of discipline.  The rim speaks to the need of believers to obey the Lord. 

Space in one blog post doesn’t allow covering all the spokes.  In John 8:31 – 32 (here @ Bible Gateway) Jesus tells us that if we are going to be His disciples we must abide in His Word.  So, we will start there.

To abide in the Word means simply to live in it.  Practically, that suggest that we are in an intentional habit of daily engaging in the Word of God.  There are several different ways to do so.  Some are:

  • Quiet Time or Devotional
  • Reading
  • Study
  • Memorization
  • Meditation

Another may be to hear.  I omitted that one from the list because in my experience those who are believers don’t have much of a problem hearing the Word and frankly it is the least effective way to engage. 

This intro has gotten longer than I anticipated.  I will extend this to tomorrow’s post and focus on Quiet Time or Devotional then.

If you have a moment, reply and tell me what you are doing in your Quiet Times.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Physical Discipline

At the moment I am in the worst shape of my life.  It is a combination of several back to back illnesses, and two back to back overseas trips.  The combination has made it difficult to stay on my diet and exercise regimen.  Physical therapy has been a twice weekly reality for me for the past three months.  This morning was the last for a while unless my surgeon orders more.

Physical Discipline

Most of my life I have been active, running, swimming, playing and coaching soccer, playing rugby, backpacking, and riding bicycles for instance.  But that has not prevented me from heart issues, partially clogged arteries.  Doesn’t matter how much you run, one cannot outrun one’s genes.

It takes hours of exercise to keep one’s body in somewhat reasonable shape.  That process gets more difficult as we, as my dad used to put it, mature.  Sickness or injury can quickly reverse gains that we have made physically.  If you have experienced this, you know how hard and frustrating it is to start again.

Paul speaks to this.  Look at 1 Timothy 4:7 – 8 (here @ Bible Gateway). Note his evaluation of physical discipline.  Physical discipline is of little profit.  He contrasts physical discipline with discipline for the purpose of godliness.  That sort of discipline, Paul insists, is profitable not only here but in eternity.  Hebrews 12:4 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway) reinforces this.

What would that discipline look like?

We will examine that in some detail, tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Dealing with Suffering Biblically – Conclusion

For the past three days we have looked at dealing with suffering from Peter’s perspective in 1 Peter (here @ Bible Gateway).

Dealing with Suffering Biblically – Conclusion

We have seen that Peter sees what we go through in the Christian life under the umbrellas of both God’s foreknowledge and great mercy.

Further we have seen that the anchor or focus of our lives, in order to persevere in suffering to the glory of God, is the sure inheritance we have in heaven and the salvation for which we are protected.

The main idea here is, contrary to some current teaching, our focus is not to be on our time here, rather it is to be on eternity.  All suffering here is, by definition, temporary.  As we are reminded in James 4:14 (here @ Bible Gateway), our lives, our time on earth is a vapor.  It is critical then that we focus on what we have been promised by the Father through the Son and Holy Spirit, an imperishable inheritance and a certain salvation.

There are other passages that support this understanding of 1 Peter:
  • Romans 5:3 – 5 (here @ Bible Gateway), we exult in our tribulations producing perseverance, proven character, and hope.
  • Hebrews 11:39 – 40 (here @ Bible Gateway), those in the Faith Hall of Fame did not receive what was promised, because like us, it is in eternity we receive the inheritance and salvation
Further the testimony of the lives of the saints in both the Old and New testaments describe lives that are difficult and yet faith that is focused and informed by trust both in the foreknowledge of God and His great mercy.

It is my hope this series has challenged you to think and encouraged you at the same time.  I would welcome any comments about how you have processed this.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Dealing with Suffering Biblically – Anchor

For the last couple of days, we have looked at 2 Peter 1:1 – 9 (here @ Bible Gateway) to see how Peter begins to instruct us in dealing well with suffering.  We have seen that all that Peter is covering is under the umbrella of the foreknowledge of God Further, we have looked at the actions of the Lord and the purpose of those actions.


Today we will consider the means He has provided to navigate suffering well, for His glory.  First though, look at 1.3 (here @ Bible Gateway).  You will note that there is another “according to” in the text.  If you will review the first post were we considered the Greek word κατὰ (kata) we have here another criterion, standard, or norm – in other words, an umbrella under which we, in this case, are caused to be born again.  So, the two operative umbrellas for this letter are the foreknowledge of God and His great mercy.

What then do we have to make it through suffering?

In verse 4 (here @ Bible Gateway) we are promised an inheritance.  In verse 5 (here @ Bible Gateway) we are protected for a salvation.  Note when we will realize both the inheritance and the salvation.  The inheritance is reserved in heaven and the salvation will be revealed in the last time.

Wait!

I am experiencing suffering now!  However, Peter is telling us that the means to glorify God through that suffering is to focus not on the suffering but on the promised inheritance and our certain salvation for which we are protected.  There is not a sense here that the suffering will be lifted.  It may be.  But that is not the promise.

We are to trust the foreknowledge and great mercy of God, knowing that He has promised an inheritance and that we are protected for a certain salvation.  It is not the suffering, it is the promise of eternity to which Peter directs our focus.

Verse 13 (here @ Bible Gateway) reinforces this focus.  As do several other sections of the first three chapters.

Consider this, ponder it, let me know how you are processing it.  We will conclude this tomorrow.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Dealing with Suffering Biblically – Context

Yesterday we began to look at a Biblical view of suffering.  The conclusion was that all that Peter addresses in his letter is under the umbrella of the foreknowledge of God.
Dealing with Suffering Biblically – Context

Moving on.

Consider the actions of the Father cataloged by Peter in 1:1 – 9 (here @ Bible Gateway):
Then consider the purpose of the Father’s actions:
Peter then notes that our response to these realities is that we greatly rejoice (1:6) (here @ Bible Gateway).  However, in the same sentence he, for the first time, brings up the topic of suffering.  He brings it up in a conditional clause.  The original is treated differently in the various English translations.  Note, that when you see differing treatments of a verse, it is a clue that you need to dig deeper into what the text says.

In many of the versions the text is rendered “if necessary,” this may be a bit weak.  The construction is a first-class conditional sentence which means that for the sake of argument it is assumed that what is stated is true.  So, Peter is assuming that they are going to be experiencing suffering.  The further context of the letter would seem to support that conclusion.

That is enough today, consider in 1 – 9  (here @ Bible Gateway) what is it that Peter suggests is the anchor to persevere well through suffering.  We will, perhaps, finish this tomorrow.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Dealing with Suffering Biblically

In the past few weeks much of my time in study has been in 1 Peter (here @ Bible Gateway).  There are several threads that permeate the book.  Many of them combine to form an encouragement for Peter’s readers to handle suffering well.

Dealing with Suffering

In the past couple of years, I have been privileged to serve believers in Morocco, Cameroon, Togo, and Ethiopia.  A few days after I left Ethiopia there was a riot that resulted in the deaths of over 75 individuals, additionally Christians have been murdered by Boko Haram in the northern part of Ethiopia in the past few days.  In one of these countries the rise of Islamic fundamentalists has resulted in believers being more and more cautious to attend underground churches.

In all of these countries and many other in which I have either engaged or spoken with those who have firsthand knowledge, a brand of “Christianity” is widely taught that promises that if one comes to the Lord, one will have a life of prosperity, will be healed of all disease, and essentially be protected from suffering.

A cursory reading of 1 Peter (here @ Bible Gateway) would suggest that those who promotes that brand of “Christianity” have not read Peter’s work.  Consider 1 Peter 1:1 - 9 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Verse 2 (here @ Bible Gateway) begins, in most of the translations some form of “according to the foreknowledge of God.”  The phrase “according to” is the translation of the Greek word κατὰ (kata).  In his work, Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament, Murry Harris tells us that “κατά specifies the criterion, standard, or norm in the light of which a statement is made, an action is performed, or a judgment is passed.”  In other word it is the domain under which action is taken or something happens.

In the immediate context consider what Peter says happens “according to the foreknowledge of God,”
  • Chosen (this is at the beginning of verse 1 in the Greek)
  • Scattered
  • Residing as Aliens
In fact, the placement of this at the beginning of 1 Peter (here @ Bible Gateway), indicates that all of the topics that Peter touches on in this letter are under the umbrella of God’s foreknowledge.

We will start there.  Spend some time working through the text and observe what else Peter says.  Look for the other use of kata in this passage and consider how it works with the usage in verse 2 (here @ Bible Gateway).

I will continue this in tomorrows post.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Reboot

There is still much to say.

The long absence here this year is the result of a year that has been full of both travel and challenging health.

RebootMany times, I have started to write again.  Topics that drew me were the intersection of homosexuality and Christianity and the ordination and inclusion of women in the proclaiming pastorate (it was the controversy surrounding the changing position of Beth Moore that was the impetus).  I began to write on both but after starting the first, realized that it would consume weeks or months of posts to handle well.  On the second in talking it over with my wife, who has benefited greatly from Mrs. Moore’s ministry, it was clear that, again, the topic would consume many weeks.  It was not and has not been my focus to deal directly with issues as these.

So, I will start again.  My focus is the requirement the Lord has stated for us, if we are to be His apprentices, to abide in His Word.  It is my settled conviction that if one is truly pursuing His requirement to abide, the issues above about which I was tempted to address will resolve.

It is a further settled conviction that for the most part many if not most believers are not abiding in the Word as our Lord has commanded.  Rather they have become dependent on others to study the Word for them and to tell them what they found.  The vast number of Christian books published each year is a testament to this reality.

So, the purpose here, mostly to remind myself, is to both encourage us to abide and in some small way attempt to equip those who engage here to do so.

So, we will reboot, there is still much to say.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Review of the Quest Study Bible

Review of the Quest Study BibleLast week I was asked to review the NIV Quest Study Bible because this blog is a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid.  After agreeing to do so, I kind of forgot about it.  Then Monday, there was a package from Zondervan in my mailbox, a free copy.  Those of you who know me well know that there are two words in the title of this book of which I am not a fan.  However, I promised to write and honest review of the work.  We will address the good and the not so good.

The Good
There are several things I really like about this edition of the NIV Quest Study Bible.  First, in the front matter there are several helpful tools for a new or established believer.  The first is a set of “graded” (my word) reading plans that lead the reader through three two week, one six month, and full year reading plans.  These are helpful regardless of how long one has been in the faith.

Second, immediately following the reading plans is a five-page summary of the Bible.  This consists of one short paragraph for each of the 66 books with a short introduction to each section of the Bible, the Pentateuch, the Historical Books, the Poetical books, etc.

Third, in the back matter there is a “Study Helps” section that should be a help, again, for any believer.  I was especially intrigued by the list of prayers from the Bible.  This list is not exhaustive but gives a solid starting point for a significant study on this incredibly important topic for individual believers and their engagement in their local Body and their responsibility to lift up those in the extended Body.  There is also a section listing some of the promises of God followed by a section that suggests passages to read when faced with different issues in your walk.  For instance, assurance of salvation or a struggle with lust.  There is an excellent topical index and an acceptable set of maps as well.

Fourth, and from my perspective this is what sets this work apart from other study Bibles.  Zondervan and Christianity Today sent passages to over 1000 people and asked what questions they had about the passage.  Further, they researched the top 100 questions people ask while reading the Bible and have attempted to answer those questions throughout the Work.

The Not So Good
One of the goods, becomes one of the not so goods.  The questions that Zondervan and Christianity Today identified and are good, become a distraction in their implementation.  From my perspective the text of the Bible is the most important portion of any Bible regardless of whether it has notes or not.  The NIV Quest Study Bible’s layout highlights the questions on every page drawing the reader’s eyes to the side columns or the bottom of the page (where the 100 questions are answered).  This layout does not encourage engagement with the text of the Bible.

Secondly, there are no cross-references.  I find that odd in what is presented as a “study Bible”.
Review of the Quest Study Bible
Third, the paper on which the Bible is printed is extremely thin.  I would not expect this Bible to travel well.  Highlighters I tested did not bleed through but could be seen through the next page.

Lastly, I have never been a fan of the NIV.  Since its introduction in 1973, I have struggled with the dynamic equivalence approach to translation.  While the text is easy to read, the choices made by the committee seem to insulate the reader from some of the struggles in the text from which one who is studying the Bible would benefit.  Those who do not have access to the original languages already are one degree of separation from the originals, in that they are reading a translation.  When the version choses to make decisions, which may or may not be accurate for the reader, that choice adds a further layer of insulation from the text.

In the preface starting on page xxxiii, the current state of the NIV is explained.  Paragraphs 2 and 3 on page xxxiv catalog the approach that the committee took in approaching the use of gender-neutral language to render either Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek use of the masculine to refer to humanity.  The choice to follow the trends in the use of the English language adds a further layer of insulation between the reader and the texts.

The Holy Spirit used the masculine.  Apparently, the committee feels the need to correct the Spirit’s work.  We are commanded in Romans 12:2 (here @ Bible Gateway) to not be conformed to the world.  It seems that the choice to allow the world to dictate how the vocabulary of the original languages is translated is in direct conflict with Paul’s command.

Conclusion
There is good here.  The front and back matter is useful as an aid to one who is either new to the faith or, in the case of the back matter, is interested in pursing topical studies on prayer or the promises of God.  The Q&A approach is an interesting and helpful way to approach questions one studying the text may have.

However, the good does not, in my view, outweigh the not so good.  I would not recommend this Bible as a primary study Bible.  I would instead suggest that if it is used at all, it is used as a commentary that one checks after one has done original work in a passage.

Comment
The Lord has given me the privilege of equipping pastors and lay men and women on four continents to study the Word of God for themselves.  That is to approach the text without aid.  To make more and better observations of the text.  In the seminars study Bibles are not allowed.  The reason is simple.  The notes or comments, as good or as well thought out as they may be, are not inspired.  The text is.  We need to abide in the text, the Word, not comments about the Word.  Sure, after we have studied, the comments can be helpful, in a sense those that are writing the comments are sharing the results of their study.  However, too often rather than struggling with the text, we go too quickly to the comments or the commentaries.

John 16:13 (here @ Bible Gateway) promises that the one who inspired the originals, will lead us into truth.  If we abandon the struggle, the study, observation, too soon, could it be that we are short circuiting the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our study?

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.