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Showing posts from April, 2014

Reading God's Word, pt 2

When we read the words of Scripture do we mainly seek wisdom and inspiration for living a better life? That is a good motive but not totally the end of God’s purpose for us.   God wants his word to not simply improve, inform, or reform us. He wants his word to transform our every thought and action. 
Forty years ago the Lord taught me a vivid lesson in how I should approach his word. At the end of my time in Seminary I was 25 years old and at the crossroads of my life. As a student I had also been involved in pastoral ministry and teaching in the college attached to the Grad school.  As I approached graduation, I thought I had a pretty clear idea of how I could best serve God. I saw myself as a professor – ready to pursue a PhD and become a my passion in Church History and Theology.   The question in my mind was simply “Where do I go next?”  It wasn't, “Lord, where can I best serve you?”
“My thoughts are not your thoughts”
As I thought about what to do, I knew God wanted me to pra…

Reading God's Word

“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10, ESV)

The Word of God has been my life’s work.  I went to Seminary in 1972 convinced of God’s call to enter into vocational service.  I did not know what I was being called to, but I knew that I wanted to serve God with my life in whatever field He determined.
One day in our Seminary chapel, a now long-forgotten chapel speaker who was speaking on a now long-forgotten subject read from the text in the Old Testament book of Ezra
“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10, ESV).  
Immediately my heart and mind were warmed and I knew this was my call.  I would give my life to teaching God’s word.

It has been my joy to do this now for 42 years.  I have done it as a Pastor in our church fellowship.   I have done it on the Mission field training local Pastors.   I have done it i…

Reading Scripture - Narrative and Context

I usually select a passage of scripture that either has intrigued me, or makes the point I am making.  The question anyone should ask is:  "What drives this, my point to make, or the scripture?"  The answer is always the scripture.

As I often look at passages I muse and think about what the writer is saying.  It's my job to figure out what the writer was saying when he wrote this - i.e., I need to go back and figure out what the writer was communicating, not the opposite of dragging his writing into my world to make it fit here.  That is done after Interpreting the original writing and making application later.

The task of the Bible teacher, theologian, student is simply this:
1.  Go back to the original time of writing and ask - "what was he writing about?"  "who was his/her audience, and what did they understand the writer saying?"

2.  Make a bridge from the past world to the present day...this is the struggle of language and meaning.  For example, …

Practicing Resurrection

One of my favorite authors over the 40 years I've been reading and studying is Eugene Peterson.  I first ran across Peterson in the book "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction - Discipleship in an Instant Society". It made me realize that our faith is lived day in and day out over a lifetime.  We are not measured by our momentary successes, or victories; but rather by the willingness to submit ourselves to growth and decisions to walk out our faith every single day...moment by moment...relationship by relationship.
It's now Monday, the day after Easter.  We celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus...Jesus is Risen!  He Lives!  Yes. The problem with something like Easter is that - as Christians - we're use to the doctrine.  Yet, the key thing to realize is that is NOT the fact of the Resurrection that is crucial; but rather that the LIFE of the Resurrection is what is crucial.
Jesus' death and resurrection is the basis for the beginning of our Eternal Life.
Romans…

Easter Sunday - He is Risen

We say it in fellowship together:
HE IS RISEN
HE IS RISEN INDEED!
We say it with Faith, with Confidence, With Boldness…but reading the various accounts makes us realize it was still a confusing, bewildering time for all involved.
John 20:1-18 1  Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
2  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
3  So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.
4  Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
5  And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.
6  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there,
7  and the face cloth, which had…

Day 40 - Between Death and Resurrection

Saturday is the final day of Lent.  Forty days have passed and we’ve sojourned through Lent to arrive at the day it ends.  It is the day between Christ’s death and His Resurrection.
It is a Silent day – Silent Saturday.
The Gospels say little about Saturday.  The death of Jesus on the cross occurs right before the beginning of the Sabbath;  so the burial is done quickly, with a view that the final things will have to be done on the first day of the week – Sunday.
John 19:38-42 38  After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body.
39  Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.
40  So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.
41  Now in the place where he …

Day 39 - Good Friday, Six Hours to Finish

For Jesus, midnight did not lead to sleep.  Jesus’ day begins with His arrest following Judas’ betrayal.  Judas leads the band of Jewish authorities to the garden and there Jesus arrested.  They take Jesus first to Annas, who had turned over His High Priestly duties to his son-in-law, but he was still the power behind the Jewish leaders.
John 18:12-14 12  So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him.
13  First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.
14  It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.

John 18:19-24 19  The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
20  Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.
21  Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what…

Day 38 - Maundy Thursday: The Last Night

Thursday was a day of preparation for the Passover meal.  It was a “Seder” meal with many symbols that went back to the original Passover when God delivered the nation of Israel from the slavery of Egypt.
Matthew 26:17-19 17  Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
18  He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 
19  And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
Preparation would have consisted of several things…and the meal was highly embraced by the Jewish faithful.  As they gather in the Upper Room, no one realizes it’s Jesus last night, or last meal with them.
John 13:1-5 1  Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, h…

Day 37 - Wednesday: A Silent Storm

As the week progressed Jesus retreated from Jerusalem for a day, staying in Bethany with his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  The storm that was about to occur was quiet – silent.  Yet what happened was clearly a picture of the rest of the week.
Matthew 26:1-16 1  When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples,
2  “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
3  Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas,
4  and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.
5  But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
6  Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,
7  a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.
8  And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why …

Day 36 - Tuesday, Conflict and Contrast

On Tuesday, Jesus had several encounters with religious leaders…Scribes, Pharisees, members of the Sadducees…and none of them turned out well.  It was an encounter near the Temple, later in the day that changed the tone to one of contrast with a humble faith.
The day began with a parable that spoke of what the Jewish leaders were doing to the nation.  Then in a series of encounters, that Luke records, we see Jesus facing His accusers and with wisdom  he deals with their attempts to embarrass him in public and exposes the nature of “religion” over faith.
Luke 20:9-47 9  And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while.
10  When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed.
11  And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away emp…