Category Archives: Bible

The Cost of Mere, Dull Existence

I am reading Radical by David Platt again as a part of my morning reading and devotion time.  I finished the first chapter this morning.  In that chapter, he wrote a section about the cost of non-discipleship.  I think it could accurately be called the cost of mere, dull existence.

Honestly, I don’t know how one could live with the monotony of working toward goals of a bigger house, a nicer car and career promotion, only to reach those goals and make new goals that involve a bigger house, a nicer car and a career promotion. I can’t imagine the disappointment of stepping into eternity and looking about to see that none of those accomplishments came with me after I died.

Living for God with eternity in mind is so much more exciting.  For us it has meant living in different places in different parts of the world.  When I am in the USA, some react to our lifestyle by expressing regret that we have lost out on so much.  But we would have never have gained what we have by living merely for ourselves in the American rat race for bigger and better.  And what we have isn’t measured materially.  There is a certain happiness and adventure found simply in travel and being exposed to other cultures, but when God and His glory is the focus of doing it, the happiness becomes joy and the life of adventure becomes a life of meaning.

Not every follower of Jesus can or should do what we do.  Doing what we do is not a requirement for eternal significance. As long as the glory of God is the focus of your life, you can find joy and meaning in whatever place God has placed you.  And if you are a Christian and that joy and meaning is still missing, there are some things that you can do, and really, they aren’t very radical or at least shouldn’t be. One is be an active part a church that teaches the Bible as God’s Word and focuses on the needs of the world and not just the felt needs of the people nearby.  A church that is truly global in its concern to spread God’s glory will be local in that concern as well.  Second, truly get into God’s Word and learn how to read it and to study it to find God’s meaning behind it.  There are many resources out there to help you learn to do that.  Third, be a person of prayer, and disciplined prayer at that. If you pray only when the urge hits or ‘the Spirit leads’, you are likely not to have the urge and not to take time the hear the Spirit leading.  And finally, read books such as Radical by David Platt, Desiring God by John Piper and Heaven by Randy Alcorn to help you see further down the road and to encourage you to live with God’s glory and eternity in mind.

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What Prayer Does

This morning, I read Psalm 13.  Written by David, it reflected a painfully trying time in his life.  Some scholars believe that he wrote while fleeing from Saul. Others put it at the time of his flight from Absalom.  No matter when he wrote, his words probably convey the way many believers have reacted to their circumstance.

“How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day?” (Psalm 13:2 HCSB)

It seems that David was imagining every conceivable worse outcome to his situation. He felt that God had forgotten him and that God was hiding from him.  His prayer request was simple in such circumstances.  “Consider me and answer me, Lord.”

That does not sound life much of a prayer.  One can’t even get half a blog out that. No one, except those most extravagant with words, could write a book about it.  It doesn’t seem like a power prayer, or something that will result in mountains being cast into the sea.  But, it moved David’s heart, and that was what mattered, because when you ask God to think about you and believe that he does, all the reasons you have to fear and to worry seem smaller.

No longer feeling abandoned, David trusted in God to deliver him.  He heart rejoiced because he had hope of deliverance. David sang because God had been generous to him.

What changed between verse one and the end of the short Psalm?  Nothing changed in David’s outward circumstances.  The only change came in his perspective.  He saw God for who God was. Prayer does that.

Mother of Samson

Recently, I read through the book of Judges, which a very interesting book of the Bible, depicting when everyone does what is right in their own eyes.  One of the common criticisms of the Bible is its depiction of women.  According to some views, the Bible depicts women in two extremes, Jezebel or the Virgin Mary.  There is not room for the “real woman.” Jezebel and Mary were both real, and there are many other depictions of real women facing life’s challenges as well.

I found one such depiction in the story of Samson.    The story of Samson begins in Judges 13.  Samson’s mother was not named.  She was Manoah’s wife.  They lived in a time when the people of Israel had sinned again and God had handed them over to be ruled by the Philistines.  They had no children.  Scripture says that she was barren.  An angel appears to her, not to her husband, and tells her that she will have a child who will be a Nazirite.

And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”
(Judges 13:3-5 ESV)

She tells her husband, Manoah, who asked the “man of the Lord” come back and explain what they are to do again.  Apparently, he has to hear it for himself.  The angel does so, but once again, he appeared to the wife, not the husband.  She went to get him and when he returned, he asked the angel once again, what they are to do?  The angel basically tells Manoah the same thing he said before, but twice, he emphasizes ‘let her.’  The bearing of the child is the wife’s mission, not Manoah’s, and he is to support her in it.  The rest of the story is interesting, and it is where the wife stands our strongly as a woman of faith, and a faith based logically on whom God has revealed Himself to be.

Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.) And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.

The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the LORD blessed him.
(Judges 13:15-24 ESV)

Notice Manoah’s reaction compared to her reaction.  He was the one who overreacted.  She was the one who spoke with the calm assurance of faith.  It was because her faith was strong that God could use her for the task.  Being Samson’s mother would be no small task.

Sometimes being the husband means being man enough to admit at any given moment that my faith or understanding of God’s will is weak, and that I need to listen to my wife.  It also means that I should be supportive of her as she seeks to fulfill God’s purposes for her life, just as she is supportive of me in my endeavors.  I don’t see this view as opposed to complementarianism, which I think is the most Biblical understanding of the roles of men and women in the Bible.  I see it as a realistic application of what the Bible demonstrates about those roles in different situations.

Panic on the Journey

Our family is in the midst of packing and getting ready to move back overseas.  We have done this several times, and my wife has become an expert at packing.  If I fold a sheet, it takes up a large box.  If she folds a sheet, it fits inside my wallet.  Needless to say, I stay out-of-the-way until something heavy has to be moved or until it is down to those things that don’t fit.  Then, I try to find the space.  But up until those points, I usually just get in the way.

What I do is trying to take care of the other things such as calling airlines about baggage allowances  and the business details of making a move.  I should have an easy life during this time.  It shouldn’t be so difficult, but there is something about my character that makes this stressful.  I am a worrier.  If I don’t have something to worry about, I panic, because I must have forgotten something.  And if something happens to cause me to think that plans won’t work out, I almost go into a panic.  No one around me may realize it, but inside I foresee scenarios which have end results similar to a massive meteor striking the earth.

That is what happened to me this past week.  An e-mail came that made me wonder if the plan for travel was going to work out.  I panicked.  I worried.  I stayed up late at night so I could worry longer.  Within a couple of days, another e-mail came that indicated that I had misunderstood the other one.  All was well.  I had no reason to worry years off my life.

In the book of Exodus, the Israelites had just crossed the Red Sea and had seen God deliver them from Egyptian slavery.  Things seemed to be going well until they got to Marah.  There, they found water that they could not drink.  They complained and griped.  They began to have nostalgia about the good old days of Egyptian slavery.  God showed Moses a tree which Moses threw into the water to make it drinkable.  They all drank water and moved on to a wonderful place called Elim where they found 12 springs of water and 70 date palms. (This story is found in Exodus 15.)

They were on the path that God put them on, faced a set back and panicked.  That patterns sound familiar to me.  It sounds like me.  We often read these passages and think, “Silly Israelites.  They never learn.  If they had just waited on God, they would have water.”  But, they did not know that.  They had to learn to trust.  They had to learn to see set backs as a time to wait on God and not a time to panic.

And I have to learn that lesson also.

 

 

God’s Word in the New Year

Yesterday, the most momentous news in the South was the release of the Southeastern Conference football schedules for 2012, which proved beyond any shadow of the doubt that the powers that be like Georgia better than South Carolina.  And that’s just fine with me.

It was also the day that I tried to figure out how to approach my reading of the Bible for 2012.  Each year, I like to change things up  a bit, and sometimes it takes me a while to figure it out.  Last year, I focused on reading the Gospels and learning about Jesus.  That has been very helpful and I plan to continue to do it through at least the first nine months of last year.

I also hope to read the Bible through the year chronologically in the order that the events related in it happened.  I’ve never done that before, and I want to try something different this year.  I am an odd person who both needs routine and gets easily bored with routine, so I have to change the way I do the routine to keep up the routine.  (That last sentence should convey just how weird it is to be such a person.)  Anyhow, I plan to incorporate lectio divina as I do this.

Lectio divina is really just a fancy way to say something that is really simple so that I can feel smarter.  It describes an approach to reading Scripture that keeps it from becoming, well, too routine. (You probably wish I would use a thesaurus by now.)   There are four parts to lectio divina.

1. Read.  Read a portion of Scripture. To read the Bible through in a year, I will need to read 3-5 chapters a day.  It is important to read an extended portion to understand things within their context.

2. Think.  Pick out a certain part of that and think about it.  Ask questions about it.  Try to really understand it and what it is saying about you.

3. Pray.  Pray the Scripture back to God.

4. Live.  Decide a specific way to obey what God has said.

I will usually write out these things in a journal that I keep.  Keeping a journal is a practice that I hope to do better in the coming year.  Many of these blog post come from my journal.

I hope that all of you will make a practice of reading the Bible in the coming year.  If you need a good plan to do so, you can find several suggestions where this hopefully links. If you are a new Christian or have never read the Bible through before, I suggests that you choose a plan that combines reading from the Old Testament and New Testament each day.  One reason I plan to continue reading a chapter from the Gospels each day is that with the chronological plan, I will not begin readings in the New Testament until October.

I hope that you have a blessed New Year.