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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.