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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.