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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Spiritual Obstacle Course

In Paul’s final letter to his protégé Timothy he proclaims that he has fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7 (here @ Bible Gateway)).  Have you known those who have not done so?  Have you known those who have stumbled in their race, fallen and not returned?  I have.

Spiritual Obstacle Course

There are other passages that challenge us in this.  1 Corinthians 9:24 – 27 (here @ Bible Gateway), Hebrews 12:1 – 2 (here @ Bible Gateway), and 2 Timothy 2:5 (here @ Bible Gateway) are a few.

We know that the race is such that some do not finish.  In Paul’s circle Demas deserted, he loved the present world more than he loved Christ (2 Timothy 4:10 (here @ Bible Gateway)).  John speaks of those leaving the race, 1 John 2:19 (here @ Bible Gateway).

It is not only in the New Testament that we see this.  A cursory reading of Kings and Chronicles will yield a list of those who started and did not finish well.  Focus for a moment on Genesis 49:15 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Jacob is prophesying over the 12 sons.  Note what he says about Issachar.  He found a resting place that was pleasant, bowed his shoulder to bear the burdens of that place, and became a slave to it.  He chose to rest rather than to fight.

Peter shares a similar warning in 2 Peter 2:19 (here @ Bible Gateway), by what a man is overcome, he is enslaved.  Issachar was overcome by a desire to rest in a pleasant place.  Demas was overcome by a love for the world.

This journey is a long obstacle course.  We continually confront distractions, difficulties, detours, that would take us out or take us off course.  In a competition if we fail to win, fail to finish, there is always the next race.  In this race, this journey, there is not.

What must we do to finish, and finish strong?  We will look at that next time.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Resisting Falsehood

Truth is resisted.

Resisting Falsehood

You may have experienced this either by personally resisting truth or by having one resist you as you shared truth.  There is another level to resistance.  The enemy of the Lord resists truth in any form.  He is a liar and the father of lies.  So where there is falsehood, he is there.

2 Timothy 2:24 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway) gives us instruction on how to confront falsehood.  A bit of context, in 1 Timothy (here @ Bible Gateway), 2 Timothy (here @ Bible Gateway), and Titus (here @ Bible Gateway), Paul calls his proteges into continual conflict with false teachers.  It is one of their main purposes as leaders.

What we find in 2 Timothy 2:24 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway), is Paul’s prescription for confronting falsehood:
  • Be kind
  • Be able to teach truth
  • Be patient when wronged, read resisted, ignored, or worse
  • Be gentle in correction of those who oppose you
That is our assignment.  Note that we are not responsible to change the liar’s mind.  Note that it is God that does that.  He grants them repentance.  He grants them the ability to acknowledge and embrace the truth.

It is not about how well we cast our argument.  Rather, it is if God engages with that person.

Our only assignment is that outlined above.  We speak truth in kindness, with patience and gentleness.  The Lord is responsible for the impact of what we say.

Remember, the resistance to truth is unceasing.  Therefore, our assignment to meet is as Paul outlines is as well.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Leadership Training

The training of leaders is a continual source of research, effort, and courses.  In 1 Samuel 16:1, 7, 13 (here @ Bible Gateway), we find Samuel replacing the failed leader, Saul, with his hand-picked replacement, David.

Leadership Training

Samuel was directed buy God to go to Jessie’s domicile and to review Jessie’s sons, one of them was to be king.  Samuel was told not to look at their appearance or stature, it was the heart that the Lord was after.

Thinking through this it seems that the selection of David as king was not for David’s benefit, it was for the Lord’s purpose.  We tend to view position personally.  That is a position is mine.  That does not seem to be the case in the Lord’s economy, a position is for the Lord, for His glory.

The Lord’s standards are different than ours, mine, or the world’s.  It is not about education.  It is not about leadership traits as taught by the business schools.  It is about heart.

Anointing David in the presence of his brothers, set up a similar dynamic as that which Joseph faced.

It may be that the sibling were used to shape David as king.

Regardless, one thing that is clear, God does not follow good leadership theory in choosing the leaders of His people.

Monday, January 13, 2020

God Revealed

In 1 Samuel 3:21 (here @ Bible Gateway) we read that the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel by the Word of the Lord.  In John 5:39 – 40 (here @ Bible Gateway) we read that the Scriptures, that is, in context, the Old Testament, reveals Christ.  2 Peter 1:1 – 4 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells us that we can become partakers of the divine nature through the promises of God.

God Revealed

Reflect on those passages.

In both the Old and New Testaments, we find that if we want to know the Lord, the Bible is the means to do so.

So, if someone says they want to know God, and they are not in the Word, it is going to be very difficult for them to achieve their goal.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of people who are attempting to know Him by other means.  They will fail.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Crumbling Foundations

Ever have your faith tested?  Ever been challenged by someone who is not a believer?  Ever been attacked for what you believe?  For many Christians in the world those are daily realities.  How does a believer cope?

Crumbling Foundations


Psalm 11:3 (here @ Bible Gateway) sheds some light on this.  In the context David is under attack, the wicked are loading bows with arrows with which to fire at him.  Note the response.  If the foundation is destroyed there is little hope.

There are seemingly two elements to the foundation.  First, Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11 (here @ Bible Gateway)).  Second, the Word of God (John 8:31 – 32 (here @ Bible Gateway)), if we do not abide in His Word we are not disciples.  Further, if we do not abide we do not have with which to fight (Ephesians 6:10 – 20 (here @ Bible Gateway)).

It may not be a stretch to suggest that if we do not build those foundational elements into our communities, they will fail.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Christian Life by Proxy

If you own any stock or participate in a 401k or retirement fund, you may from time to time receive proxy statements.  You are asked to vote on issues pertaining to the management of the entity and then send that in to be presented to the annual meeting by proxy.  Someone else casts your vote for you.

Christian Life by Proxy

There are times when it seems that some in the church choose to live the Christian life by proxy.  They want someone else to live it for them, that usually means the leaders of their church.

That is hardly a new behavior.  Look at Jeremiah 37:2 – 3 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The leader Zedekiah couldn’t be bothered to listen to Jeremiah share the Word of the Lord.  Yet, they did not have any hesitation to ask Jeremiah to pray to the Lord on their behalf.

Not interested in obedience or following the Lord.  No problem letting someone else do that for you.  Just want the benefit and not the bother of the obedience.

At the end of the seminars I do to equip men to study the Bible on their own so they can more effectively lead their children in their walk with the Lord, I have had men tell me that they did not want to do the work, they just wanted someone to tell them what to believe.

In John 15:1 – 16 (here @ Bible Gateway), John, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, repeats the word abide 11 times in those 16 verses.  It might be important.  We find that we are to abide in Christ, and we are to have His word abide in us, so that we can produce fruit that abides.

There doesn’t seem to be a proxy arrangement for any of that.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Out of Touch

Ever feel abandoned by God?  Ever feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling?  You are not alone.  Read Psalm 10:1 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Out of Touch

In reaction to this verse I jotted down several passages, Jeremiah 23:23 – 24 (here @ Bible Gateway), Psalm 139:7 (here @ Bible Gateway), and Hebrews 11:6 (here @ Bible Gateway).

This is the dilemma, on the one hand it seems, as the psalmist says, God is nowhere to be found in times of distress or trouble.  On the other hand, He permeates the universe and beyond.  I cannot, we cannot, escape Him and cannot hide from Him.  So what is the deal with the feeling of abandonment?

It may be that it is the Lord’s desire that we learn to trust Him in the midst of the silence.  That we rest in Him when He seems far off.

How?

How do I rest in Him, trust Him, when it seems as if He is not there?  Here the psalmist prays.  He shares with the Lord through prayer the feeling of abandonment.  He codifies and shares with the Lord his doubts and fears.  Perhaps Psalm 73:17 (here @ Bible Gateway) is a partial guide.

It seems that an approach might be:
  1. Pray
    1. Acknowledge the problem.  Tell God how you feel – all areas, frustrated, angry, hurt, etc.
    2. Ask why
  2. Remember what the Word says - Here is where passages that we have covered, or the Psalms may be of great benefit
  3. Review what He has done for you - Here is where a journal will be of benefit.
There are probably other approaches that will help.  These seem to be what is suggested by the passages we covered.

Let me know what you have found.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Models of Prayer

Do you struggle with prayer?  I do.  I have been helped by studying the prayers in the Bible.  That started with Paul as I shared some time ago, as I shared here.

Models of Prayer

There are also prayers in the Old Testament.  Psalms, of course, are full of great examples.  There are others as well.  While I will not attempt to catalog them here, there is one which I have found really helpful in praying for those who have chosen to serve the body as leaders.

Ruth 2:12 – Its worth the time to read so:
“May the LORD reward your work,
and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel,
under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” 
The content of Boaz’s blessing on Ruth, seems to me to be a great model of prayer for those who serve.  I would especially pray this for those who are laboring in situations that are challenging and or personally dangerous.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Same Lessons

Do you find that the Lord keeps taking you back to the same lessons, the same passages?  I was reviewing a journal entry from the first part of August 2017.  It was three months before our daughter in law was taken home.

I found myself drawn to the entries in the last month of her life.  I won’t, can’t share what I wrote, other than the entries were full of confusion, pleading, and trust.  It is that last word, trust, I wish to explore.

Late last year I wrote on a Biblical view of suffering.  It starts with this post.  Scanning through the entries from August – November of 2017, it was clear that the Lord was dealing with my heart in trusting Him.  Trusting Him in the process of helplessly watching my son walk through the excruciating pain of losing his wife amid the joy of beginning life with his new daughter.

Psalm 9:10 (here @ Bible Gateway) was one of the passages the Lord was using to shore us up during that time.  If we know Him, we will put our trust in Him.  It is not in doctors.  It is not in our ability to pray the right way for the right things.  It is not about anything we can do in the midst of a helpless situation.  It is to trust in Him.

Hebrews 11:6 (here @ Bible Gateway) reinforces this.  We believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.  There are times when it seems like His definition of reward is vastly different from ours.  We still trust.

There are two other passages, well there are more actually, but these may help here, Deuteronomy 4:29 (here @ Bible Gateway) and Matthew 5:6 (here @ Bible Gateway).

The point here is that like we covered in the previous posts on suffering, the way to navigate suffering in a way that honors Him is to trust.  We trust Him and seek Him continually.  I would suggest that one needs to have a life that includes that discipline prior to entering into a season of challenge.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Loss

Have you ever had loss in your life?  Fired from a job?  Betrayed by people you considered your friends?  Had a financial reversal?  A difficult diagnosis?  Had a loved one taken from you?

Loss

Consider Psalm 3 (here @ Bible Gateway).  David was betrayed and exiled by his son.  That is loss at a level that is hard to wrap one’s head around.  From being a king placed by God, David is reduced to fleeing for his life.

David though, does not value or hold on to his reputation, his wealth, or his position.  Rather he holds onto the Lord.

When all seems against us, like David, we need to hold on to the Lord, no one, or nothing else.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Benefit or Not

Jeremiah 23 (here @ Bible Gateway) is a chapter to which I have referred a lot in this blog, 23 different posts.  There are a couple of other passages I have referenced more often, but this one is important.

Benefit or Not

Note Jeremiah 23:32 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Look at what the Lord is against:
Those who prophesy false dreams – you could read prophesy proclaim or preach
Those who lead people astray with those false dreams
Those who boast recklessly

The phrase that floors me is that these people, who are not sent by God, do not furnish the slightest benefit too the people.

In contrast, verse 28 (here @ Bible Gateway) states that the leader should be sharing the Word of God with those in his charge.

The benefit of what we share with our family or those whom the Lord has put in our orbit to help is not our ideas or thoughts, like the false dreams of the prophets, that does not provide the slightest benefit.  What does have benefit is the Word of God.  The onus seems to be on me to engage, abide in the Word to the extent that it is natural to share what I have seen to my family or others I have been given the privilege to help.

That may seem obvious.  However, I have witnessed and experienced Christian meetings and seminars in which there was little or no Bible content.  If I am reading Jeremiah 23:32 (here @ Bible Gateway) correctly, those meetings and seminars did not have the slightest benefit.

Personally, I want to make a difference.  It seems to be what the Lord wants of me.  If I want to do so, it seems clear that I must saturate myself, John calls it abide, in God’s Word.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Stealth Christianity

Ever know someone who wanted to be a stealth Christian?  You know, keep it a secret?  Jesus tried sneaking in somewhere once.
Stealth Christianity

Look at Mark 7:24 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Jesus entered Tyre and wanted no one to know.  He failed, He could not escape notice.

That last phrase challenged me.  Do I escape notice as a believer?  If so, is that right?  Peter tells me that I am supposed to be always ready to give an account to anyone who asks about the hope that is in me.  It seems like Peter expects it to be obvious that I am a believer.  At the moment there is not a line of people at my front door clamoring to understand the hope that is in me.

Jesus, couldn’t meet with friends in a house without folks ripping a hole in the roof to get to him (Mark 2:1 – 13 (here @ Bible Gateway)).  So far, my roof is intact.

I realize that I am not Jesus.  While I have prayed for people to be healed; I do not know of any miraculous healing that resulted from my prayer, well maybe one.  The point is, there seems to be a thread through the New Testament, that our faith should not be a secret.  There are some possible exceptions to that in some countries.  But, the “normal” situation would seem to be that my relationship with the Lord would be obvious to people.

For me, I am not sure that it is.  That is troubling.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Subtle Snares

Gideon was a judge of Israel, the fifth mentioned in the book of Judges (here @ Bible Gateway).  The Lord led him to save Israel against Midian with 300 men.  We looked at that a couple of days ago.

Subtle Snares

Read through Judges 8:22 – 27 (here @ Bible Gateway).  There is an interesting lesson here.  Gideon was asked to lead Israel.  He was a hero.  He had earned the people’s allegiance.  But when asked he refused.  Instead he asked for one gold earring from each.  That resulted in Gideon having about 70 pounds of gold.  In todays dollars that works out to be about 1.7 million.

Gideon brings the gold back and makes a 70-pound ephod which is the part of the priestly garment that is over the robe.  He places it in his home town and it becomes an idol that Israel and Gideon worship.

There is a lesson here.

Success and devotion to the Lord does not insure finishing well.  Things we do to honor Him may become, like it did for Gideon, a snare for us.  We can become focused on those things rather than the Lord.  For instance:

  • Worship – Our worship, or how we do it, becomes the focus, not the Lord.
  • Bible – The knowledge of or about the Scriptures becomes the end not the means of knowing Him.
  • Religion – We work hard as pleasing what we think is God rather than living in His grace.
  • Service – Our service to Him, be it missions, teaching, serving, whatever our gift or what He has equipped us to do becomes the end, our focus and not Him.

There are probably other ways we can get off track, those are just a few.  Gideon’s means of remembering his defeat of Midian became his god.  We have to guard daily against making what we do well for Him a similar thing for us.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Burning Fire

Jeremiah 20:9 (here @ Bible Gateway) is a passage that both challenges and encourages me.  It also seems to provide a metric of sorts for us.

Burning Fire

The context is telling.  Jeremiah has been sharing the Word that the Lord has given him.  The result, in the immediate context, he is beaten and put in the stocks.  Throughout the book when Jeremiah shares the Word of God he is rejected, beaten, imprisoned, or worse.

Regardless of the result, Jeremiah cannot contain himself, he has to share the Word the Lord has given him.

That is a challenge.  Do I have such a love, reference, and heart for God that I am unable to refrain from sharing what I have learned from Him?  A better question may be, am I learning anything?

In no way would I suggest that I have the attitude that Jeremiah had.  There are times though that as a result of my time in the Word there are things that I want to share; actually, must share.

I wonder if that is the measure of abiding?  We spend time with the Lord in His Word to the point where we can’t wait to share with someone what we saw in our time with Him in His Word.  If that is the case, think of how the command to build one another up might be impacted.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Control

The Bible continually intrigues me.  For instance, Judges 7:2 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Here the Lord tells Gideon that is army is too big.  The Lord doesn’t want Gideon and the nation to reason that they had won on the strength of the army.  It was God who was going to deliver them.

Control

The Lord then takes the army through a two-phase process that took the army down to 300 from 32,000.  Significant difference.

Now look at 2 Chronicles 20:17 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The Lord instructs Jehoshaphat that he doesn’t need to fight with those who are coming against him.  He tells him to take the army out and stand and see what the Lord does.  He essentially is having the army as an observer.  He then routs the enemy without Jehoshaphat’s army lifting a finger.

He doesn’t need us.

But in some cases, like Gideon, he allows participation.  In others, like Jehoshaphat, the Lord lets him watch.  In both cases the Lord did all the work even though in one case he allowed participation.

This contrast, this reality, raises at least one question for which I have no inkling of an answer.  Why?  Why does the Lord act differently in each of these cases?  On the one hand He allows Gideon minimal participation, on the other He forbids Jehoshaphat to engage.  What were the reasons for the difference?  Was there something about these men that caused the Lord to act differently?  We do not seem to have any data to come to a reasonable answer to any of those questions.

That is frustrating.  Being trained as an engineer and pilot, I have difficulty with uncertainty.

One thing here though is certain.  If we think we are in control of what is going on, if we think we can affect the outcome of a battle, be it spiritual or in a human war, we are mistaken.  Throughout the text of the Old Testament and supported by the descriptions of God’s nature and character in the New Testament, this is His story.  He is firmly in control.

That is the one clear thing.  It is also a bright, unwavering beacon of hope.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Earmarks of Apostasy

If you have spent any time in Jeremiah (here @ Bible Gateway), you will note that, from the way we normally measure success, Jeremiah’s ministry was not a success.  However, it is not our normal measure that counts.

Earmarks of Apostasy

Look at Jeremiah 18:18 (here @ Bible Gateway) for a minute – note that if you haven’t been with Jeremiah for a while, I would recommend spending some time with him.  It was a privilege a couple of years ago to be able to study the book four times in succession.  On one of the overviews as I was reading the book for the second or third time, I began to weep.  It seemed I was reading a commentary on the current state of the Church.

In 18:18 (here @ Bible Gateway) notice the list, priest, sage, and prophet.  That is a partial list, a subset of a longer list that includes kings, rulers, princes, priests, prophets, sages, and the people.  Some form of that combination appears about 25 times in the book.  In all but one or two cases the reference to the group is negative.  It is negative in the sense that the leaders of the people, the first six on that list, have abandoned the Word of God for their own ideas, visions, and dreams.  Chapter 23 (here @ Bible Gateway) is God’s analysis and unfiltered opinion of their behavior.

Back to 18:18 (here @ Bible Gateway), these leaders are plotting together to discredit the one person in the book who is holding fast to God’s Word.  They are sure that they are right that they have the law, the appropriate counsel, and the divine Word.  However, we know from the rest of the book, they do not.  They have substituted their ideas or perhaps read their prejudice into God’s Word.

The result?  When the people are called to repentance, there is no foundation for repentance because their leaders have fed them on lies and not the Word of God.

We are starting a new year.  But we are dealing with this old problem still.  There are many in leadership who have abandoned the Word of God for their own agenda.  I am not thinking primarily of secular leaders but of those who are identified as Christian leaders.

Issues on which the Bible is clear have been called into question and we see churches embracing the world’s view rather than staying with what the Bible says.  Sure, it makes them more acceptable to their communities, but having compromised on one issue, it becomes much easier to abandon the next.  So we see ordained homosexuals, churches are embracing more than one gender, translation committees are changing the translation of Greek and Hebrew to be more acceptable to non-Christians, Churches and Christian organizations are placing women in authority over men, the list could go on…

One of the ways one can tell that there is a problem with a position is the amount of ink that it takes to explain why the Bible doesn’t really mean what the words say.  The more books, articles, blogs, etc. that are written explaining away, say 1 Timothy 2:12 (here @ Bible Gateway), you can bet there is an agenda driving that volume.

The other sign is the same thing that happened to Jeremiah.  Those who have taken a position counter to the Word of God attack, attempt to discredit, and get people to ignore those who still hold positions that are stated in the Bible that they don’t like.

Some things do not change.