Friday’s Column: Learning From Lehman
How many of you have ever sat at a red light in traffic only to realize when that light turns green there’s still no place to go… and then before you get through the intersection the light turns red again. Frustration at its finest.
Who has ever been seated to eat somewhere and it takes over 15 minutes for a waiter or waitress just to come take your drink order? I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it!
I can’t be the only one who has ever lost my cool with my kids or other family members. Sometimes what seems to be for no apparent reason at all? Hopefully you’ve taken the time to at least realize you reacted poorly and made your apologies.
I’d like to share with you my struggle with being a patient man. How I always need to consciously work on it, what works for me, what doesn’t work for me, and maybe open your eyes to the reality of what true Christian patience looks like.
My wife, Rebecca, always tells me, “Don’t ever ask God for patience, or else He’ll give you something to be patient about.” I can see that. To a certain point, I believe it too. But let’s take a second look at it in James 1:2-8.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” So let’s look at this. I have faith. My faith can be tested.
This doesn’t mean I’ve lost faith, just that I’m being tested for how strong my faith is.
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – Here I see my struggle with patience as the wisdom aspect. Maybe I’m not feeling wise. Maybe I’m having trouble figuring out this patience thing you all speak of. Is it wrong of me to at least let God know, hey I’m struggling with this… No! Absolutely not. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Let me be clear, I’m not disagreeing with my wife. I would never do that honey… I’m simply saying that asking God for patience and asking God for grace and understanding while I figure out what I need to change in my life to be more patient, are two completely different things. Verse 6 says,
“But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
So we have some ground rules here. James tells us, “you must ask in faith. You cannot doubt God. For if you have any doubt, any doubt at all you can expect to receive nothing.”
Maybe my best course of action does not stem from asking God for help. What I have done and learned to do lately is called connecting the dots. If I am unhappy, frustrated and struggling to find joy at home, I ask myself why? Where did that come from? There doesn’t seem to be anything that my family is doing wrong. Sure, dishes pile up in the sink,kids room is not picked up, laundry room is overflowing… Those things happen, they’ve happened before and it didn’t bother me that much in the past. Maybe all those little things just seem like big things now because something else is bothering me, but what? What’s changed? Connecting the dots for me almost always leads back to work. A bad run I’ve been on, problems with co-workers, added duties and responsibilities to an already stressful job. I have had to learn to be more aware of my stressors. I’ve had to do a hard reset on what I bring home vs what I leave at work. Most of all I’ve had to remember to lean on Jesus.
“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my Yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Learn to lean on Jesus. Learn to do it early. Learn to do it often. I urge you to join a private Bible study. Find an elder, find a deacon, or find a friend and ask them to study the Bible with you. Studying the word of God is the biggest stress reliever I have ever found. I am so grateful for those that have taken the time to study with me.
If you are not a Christian, you have a choice. Don’t wait. Learning to be a disciple takes time. But making the decision to desire discipleship takes no time at all. Be baptized into Christ Jesus and rest easy knowing your soul is in safe hands.
If you are a Christian, perhaps you’ve let your anxiety, stress or impatience get in the way of being a solid Christian, a rock star husband or wife, a nurturing mother or father, or a fierce friend. We are here to help you, guide you or pray for you. Do not be weary, whatever you may need.
Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
The Index Librorum Prohibitorum was a Roman Catholic list of prohibited Bible versions. Anything other than the Vulgate was illegal to possess. Violations had severe penalties. No lay person would ever want to be caught with a common, modern translation while the Index had force of law.
While not nearly as dramatic as a forbidden book list, some have inadvertently created similar prohibitions. Their reasons are different, their motives less nefarious, but the outcome is equally destructive.
Are translations like the ERV and NIV perfect? No! But no one translation is perfect. Read multiple, but be sure to include versions like these in your study. If and when something comes up that seems different, investigate it! Spend some time figuring it out! Look at context, consult multiple translations, see how it fits with the author’s overall message.
This is a difficult statement, but true: many Christians do not understand the Bible. Some equate memorization with knowledge, but could not accurately elaborate on what a passage means. Secularization and hectic schedules are partially to blame, but difficulty understanding their translations is often the culprit.
(ESV): Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
(KJV): God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
(ERV): In the past God spoke to our people through the prophets. God spoke to them many times and in many different ways. And now in these last days God has spoken to us again. God has spoken to us through his son. God made the whole world through his son. And God has chosen his son to have all things. The son shows the glory of God. He is a perfect copy of God’s nature. The son holds everything together with his powerful command. The son made people clean from their sins. Then he sat down at the right side of the Great One (God) in heaven. God gave him a name that is a much greater name than any of the angels have. And he became that much greater than the angels.
Which was easier to read? Which was easiest to understand? The last probably shed some light on the ESV and KJV. How? It’s translated the way people actually communicate. It removes an obstacle to understanding that formal equivalence has kept in place for some time.
This quote is famously attributed to Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” The same readily applies to the Bible, which was originally written in the recipients’ common language.
The translation committee for the English Bible for the Deaf include this statement at the beginning of their work:
“The main concern of the translators was always to communicate [the message] of biblical writers as effectively and as naturally as the original writings did to people in that time. Faithful translation is not just matching words in a dictionary. It is a process of expressing the original message in a form that will not only have the same meaning, but will sound as relevant, attract the same interest, and have the same impact today as it did thousands of years ago.”
Reading a modern translation that utilizes dynamic equivalence (alongside other translations) in personal Bible study is extremely helpful. Doing so can have no other effect than enhancing one’s understanding of God’s word!
Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments
We can work towards growing as Christians, but if we aren’t studying properly, or have the wrong mindset, our work and effort will never produce the outcome we are looking for. 2 Peter 3:18 tells us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” We are told by Peter through inspiration from God to “grow” and this isn’t a suggestion. It’s an imperative we are commanded to obey.
If you’re like me, this seems like a general command that can be overwhelming. If we want to grow a garden we have to do several things in order to be successful. We have to prepare the soil (no rocks or weeds) in order to give the plants what they need to grow and produce. There’s maintenance work to be done once the plants begin to grow. Keep weeds from choking out the plants, and make sure they are watered. Keep animals and bugs from destroying the plants. Make sure they get enough sunlight. And depending on the type of plant we will need to trim and cut excess leaves and stems to help it produce more produce (see what I did there?). Having a garden takes time, effort and patience.
Gardens don’t just magically appear. But there are some rare exceptions. I was burning some old clothes and furniture last year and I decided to throw some spoiled corn in the fire. When summer came around guess what I had sprouting out of my fire pit? Stalks of corn! And I got a great harvest of about 9 kernels. I ate them and it was pretty good! As Christians we will grow to a point without having to work too hard. We can learn from the lessons we hear at church, we can grow from what our parents teach us, but there will come a time when that won’t be enough. The corn in my fire pit only grew so much before it started turning brown. Turns out the roots were only surface deep because there was a sheet of metal keeping them from growing deeper. This in turn affected the produce that came from the plant. Hopefully as Christians we want to produce more than 9 kernels, and in order to grow properly we need put in the work.
Peter tells us that as Christians we must increase in grace (Eph. 2:8-9; Col. 3:16; 2 Pt. 1:2), grow in knowledge (Eph. 4:15; Col. 1:10, 2:19; 1 Pt. 2:2), and be motivated by a desire to glorify Christ (2 Pt. 3:18).
Our effort should produce results. In order for this to happen we must know the proper steps to take. We should never be satisfied with our knowledge of scripture. There’s no such thing as knowing too much Bible. We should never settle for the small amount of growth we encounter at services 3 times a week.
Am I willing to put in the work?
Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments
- Divine tradition is binding while man-made is not.
- Look for the source of the tradition in order to clarify fact number one.
Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
Have you ever heard “chimney corner Scriptures”–those things that sound like or we think that are in the Bible but are not (“Let your conscience be your guide” or “confession is good for the soul” or “God works in a mysterious way”). It is not as funny when our hearts and minds are not adequately protected from a teacher or preacher who promotes something as biblical that is not. It may be someone who touts a thing as acceptable to God which the Bible teaches is not. It may be someone who asserts that something must be believed or done, though the Bible does not bind it. Either way, God holds each of us accountable for knowing His will. We are cheating ourselves and our souls who allow a teacher or preacher to dictate to us how we should feel or think about a given matter. I am not saying we should be suspicious or distrusting. Instead, I am saying we should be like the Bereans. One of the most powerful, positive statements made about any group of people is said of them in Acts 17:11: “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” You have likely read that passage before, but what is the Holy Spirit saying about them?
They Were Characterized By EXCELLENCE. They were noble-minded. Notice that it began here. All else positive that is said about them began with their mindset. Jesus praises people who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Mt. 5:6). These people were predisposed to accept God’s Word. What higher praise can be lavished on anyone?
They Were Characterized By EAGERNESS. The antithesis of this would be apathy and indifference. These were “word-receivers.” They were sponges, anxious to know God’s Word. The Bible, from cover to cover, touts itself as the message of salvation. Doesn’t it deserve our greatest enthusiasm?
They Were Characterized By EXAMINING. But, they were not uncritical, undiscerning students. They were listening to one of history’s greatest Christians, borne along by the Holy Spirit, but they still checked after him. Every man who purports to be God’s proclaimer deserves that same level of scrutiny.
They Were Characterized By EVERYDAYNESS. They were not content to wait for the next Bible class or sermon. They were daily devourers of these Divine dictates! Aren’t there things you feel compelled to do on a daily basis (eat, sleep, brush your teeth, check social media)? We prove to God we are serious about the blessing of having a relationship with Him by constant, consistent consultation of His revealed mind and desires–we only find that in His Word!
How can we tell whether something is just a man’s conviction or is God’s command? How do we know that some strange, new doctrine is true or false? Do not be content to let somebody be your sole source of gauging that! Be a Berean!
Thursday’s Column: Third’s Words
Wednesday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
When I take the time to pause and think about who God is, it blows my mind. He’s all powerful, loving, righteous, faithful, and just. When we look at His character and the perfection that surrounds Him, it can almost seem overwhelming. A God with that much power and glory takes the time to listen to me. He hears the prayers that each of us pray.
If you’re like me, this can be very intimidating. Every time we bow our heads and pray, we are talking to the creator of worlds, the one that spoke everything we see and know into existence. We pause and reach out to God, and He listens to us. The creator listens to the cries of His creation. What a wonderful God we serve.
On our own we could never reach out to God and build our relationship with Him. We lie, cheat, steal, and lust after that which is darkness. God is the Father of light, and darkness cannot be found near Him. But God gave us a way to be justified, a way to petition Him and strengthen our Father to Son relationship.
Have you ever struggled with prayer? Maybe we fail to understand the tremendous blessing that it is. Maybe we fail to set time aside each day to talk with God. Maybe we feel like we aren’t holy enough to pray to God. Or maybe we feel like we don’t know how to pray.
Many Christians already know that it’s important to pray. We’ve heard that prayer is vital in the Christian walk. Thing is, we don’t know how to pray. And there are three main reasons why this is the case.
We are weak. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Paul uses the word “likewise” which tells us that what he is about to say is tied to what he has just mentioned. And so we must ask, what weakness is Paul referring to? In context, the earth is made weak because of sin (18-22). We ourselves have been made weak because of sin (23-25). Therefore since we are not strong, the Spirit helps us pray to God, even in our current state of weakness.
We pray for the wrong things. Continuing on in verse 26, “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought…” James tells us something similar in 4:3. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” We have a tendency to pray for the wrong things, and this ties directly into our weakness. We are weak because we pray for the wrong things. We say things like, “take this problem away” instead of saying “help me to use this problem to grow my faith.” We pray for things like, money, physical blessings, and selfish desires. We don’t know how to pray.
We confuse our will with God’s, and expect Him to change His mind and agree with us. We fail to see God’s perfect plan. We are short-sighted and selfish in our prayers. Because of this, we are weak and don’t know how to pray.
We use the wrong words. The last part of verse 26 says, “but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” “Intercede”, “to plead on behalf of another.” We may be weak, we may ask for the wrong things, but the Spirit pleads to God on our behalf. It should be a comfort knowing that one of the Godhead helps us in our prayers to God. Paul gives the Spirit a unique description. He says the Spirit “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” When I hear the word “groan” I think of the sound I make when I eat too much food. Or the sound someone makes when their football team fumbles the ball. This word groan is far from this. It means “an involuntary expression of great concern or stress.” The concern that the Spirit has for us is so strong that it cannot be described with words. When we go before the throne of God, we are using the wrong words. There is no way that we can express to God what we feel. The Spirit then intercedes (pleads) on our behalf, expressing so great a concern, that words cannot be used to describe it.
We may not know how to pray, but God in His perfect love has provided for His Children. What an awesome God we serve.
Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail
The concept of Biblical mediation is viewed as a mystery to many of us. The simple answer to “How do I do it?” can seem frustratingly vague. Common answers are—
“you read a passage that stands out over and over and then you think about it.”
“you find a verse and then pray about it.”
Here’s what you should know about true Biblical meditation.
Three Facts About Biblical Mediation
1. It does not involve emptying your mind, but rather filling your mind with God’s mind.
2. It’s not a complex ritual in which you must reach a higher “spiritual place” to accomplish. It’s a simple act that God intended for everyone to be able to do— in order to bring you to a better spiritual place.
3. It is an intentional act. You won’t find yourself meditating accidentally. We must make time for God.
Here’s why we should all be doing this.
Four Reasons To Meditate
1. For Improved Worship
2. For Perfect Instruction
3. For Needed Encouragement
4. For Spiritual Transformation
Here’s what you will need to accomplish it.
Three Tools For Great Meditation
OBSERVATION – What does the text say?
INTERPRETATION – What does it mean in context?
APPLICATION – What does it mean for me?
Note: Combine With Prayer before and after for best results.
Here’s what you will get out of it.
Ten Benefits Of Biblical Meditation
1. Proven to lower blood pressure
2. Decrease anxiety
3. Improve heart rate
4. It enables your to relax
5. It brings peace
6. It draws you closer to God
7. It gives us confidence
8. It offers an escape from temptation
9. It provides helpful correction
10. It makes us better Bible students (Psalm 119:11)
Finally, here’s an exercise to help us see the many categories on which we can mediate. Simply answer the questions in your mind, and try to develop a habit of asking yourself personal questions about what you’re reading.
A Meditation Exercise From The Psalms
You could meditate…
On His rules (Ps. 119; look up in the ESV)
• What rules do you tend to break?
• Why do you break them?
• What’s the point behind His “rules”?
On His Promises (Ps. 119:148)
• Which of His promises bring you the most comfort?
• Has God kept His promises to you? How?
On His mighty deeds (Ps. 77:12)
• Which specific mighty deeds has God performed in the history?
• What mighty deeds do you believe God has performed in your life?
• What could God do with you today if you allowed Him to?
On His unfailing love (Ps. 48:9)
• There has never been a moment in your life when God hadn’t loved you.
• What does that tell you? What does it expose about yourself?
I hope this helps clarify what real mediation is— and how it can change your life!
Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail
COVID19 may be a serious problem, but the real damage is the affect it has had on congregations who are tempted to just throw in the towel. These congregations are just hoping that next year will be a better one. It’s this mindset that makes some feel like God has somehow lost control over this year— is God smaller or weaker than the virus? Absolutely not.
Here are TEN creative congregations that have decided to adapt and overcome some of the challenges of 2020— and they’re working! Who’s to say it won’t work for your church family?
- The Hebron church of Christ in Grant, Alabama, despite a smaller building, bought new microphone equipment so that they are able to have drive-in services and members are able to listen through their car radios. An un-intimidating way for visitors to be able to drive up and hear the gospel preached from the comfort of their own vehicles. Many other churches are also doing this, bringing people from the community to hear the gospel preached.
- The Chase Park church in Huntsville, Alabama, has implemented the local police force to help people exit in and out of the building in an orderly fashion. This has developed a great relationship with the police officers who have shown interest in the church after meeting some of the loving members.
- The Farley church in South Huntsville, Alabama, had a food drive for those in the community who have fallen on hard times. Gloves and masks were worn to load the groceries up in people’s cars. Some church pamphlets were given, emails and phone numbers were written down, along with any prayer requests they might have. It has resulted in several local contacts.
- Many of the Lehman Avenue church members in Bowling Green, Kentucky, led by the elders, have been driving around every Sunday afternoon to visit shut-ins. They deliver bread, sing, and pray with them. It has made a great impact on the morale within the body there.
- The Wisconsin Avenue church in Huron, South Dakota, have come up with a creative way to reach out to the community by building what they call a “Blessing Box” in front of the building. In this box the locals have access food and Bible study material.
- The preacher of the LaFollete church, Ben Shafer, in Tennessee, has been producing daily devotional videos to help the members stay connected and in the Word. This is also being done by Bud Woodall, the preacher for the Northeast congregation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Andy Miller, a minister for the Southern Hills church in Franklin, Tennessee, and in countless other congregations.
- The hispanic minister, Chase Turner, at the Jackson Street church in Monroe, Louisiana, has discovered that posting videos/messages in Facebook groups that locals are a part of is a great way to get people interested in spiritual conversations. It has proven to be very effective!
- Colt Mahana, who ministers at the Dahlonega church in Georgia, has started a daily college Bible study over Zoom. This daily study has made the college group there more engaged than they were before the pandemic.
- Dr. Bob Turner had this to say about a church in Mannford Oklahoma: “I visited with several elders from numerous congregations over the last few months…I wanted to share what an eldership in Mannford, Oklahoma, has done over this period of time. While they do their classes over Facebook live, they have done additional things to help the congregation. First, they spend their Wednesday night time for prayer. Instead of teaching a class, they invited people from the community to submit prayer requests and they spend Wednesday evening praying for all the requests they receive. Second, they make special use of each holiday. For example, at Easter, since they could not host an Easter Egg hunt at the park with a potluck, the elders and wives stuffed eggs and the elders went to every home with children in the congregation and hide eggs for all the kids to have their own hunt at home. For Mother’s Day, they made a customized card and personally wrote a note and signed each card for every mother in the congregation. These are a few of the areas they have been creative to do and help members know they are cared for, thought about, and prayed over during this time. They have also emphasized that when they get back together, they want to do it right in order to make a good impression on anyone that might visit. They have constantly communicated with everyone in the congregation each week to make sure they have opportunity to share anything they might be dealing with.”
- Chuck Ramseur is working with a congregation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This church family set up the Marco Polo app and encouraged everyone to share anything and everything going on during the day in their lives. It has helped them stay connected daily. Another area they took up working on is helping with the Crisis Pregnancy Center (alternative for woman thinking about abortion).This ministry has been one of the best outreach programs for the church. They’ve also planned services in the park on Sundays when they could not meet in the building, but could meet with social distancing in an open area.
So, there’s the proof! God is bigger than COVID19.