Archive for the Scripture Category

Compassionate Advice

Posted in Love, Scripture on January 6, 2015 by nmpreach

The last few months, I’ve been convicted to have more compassion for others.  My wife and I were having the discussion again regarding compassion and she asked, “So what makes you think you’re not compassionate?”  My answer: “I just want to see people the way Jesus saw them.  Were there people who pushed His “buttons”?  Most likely.  Yet He never sinned.  He was never cynical regarding their circumstances.  He wasn’t short with them.  In fact, He often took a longer time with those who were struggling with something.”  Sadly, that’s not the case for me.  I desire deeply to love the way Jesus loved.

I had another thought regarding compassion.  Too often, many of us view compassion, love, etc. as speaking into another’s life.  For those of us who have a gift of encouragement or discernment, we’re quick to offer what we would do in the given situation.  At first glance, that seems commendable.  In other words, when we counsel we rationalize it as ministry.  But is that the case?

The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to be clear.  “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” (3:1, 7 ESV).  It seems to me we act upon the latter while disregarding the former.  We speak quickly but are rarely silent.

An example might be helpful.  A man named Job is described as wealthy before losing virtually everything.  He was considered “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8).  Yet Job experiences loss and extreme suffering.  Job’s friends eventually arrive and perhaps we expect them to solve the issue or at least minimize the pain.  But that’s not the case.

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, …They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him…And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great (Job 2:11, 13 ESV, emphasis mine).

No one spoke a word to him – for at least seven days.  That’s sympathy?  It appears so.  Sympathy.  Compassion.  Love.

Once Job speaks and describes his pain, his friends begin to offer advice.  But if you know the narrative, you know their theology and the advice they give is flawed.  Job remains on the defensive and eventually has his own dialogue with God.  It’s as if his friends would have been more helpful if they would not have spoken.  Sit with me.  Be here.  Show your concern.  But maybe it’s better you don’t speak.

Here’s the point:  We’re quick to speak because we equate busyness with good things.  What if we were just there?  What if we showed our concern and support by sitting and saying nothing?  What if we thought it was okay to say, “I don’t know why, but I know God is faithful.”?  What if we really believed God is good all of the time?  Sure, there are times we should speak.  But there are times when speaking is not compassion, nor sympathy or love.

His Plan or…?

Posted in Scripture on November 4, 2014 by nmpreach

idolsWhen the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, ‘Up, make us gods who shall go before us.  As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'”

Because we know the end of the story, most of us know what will happen in just a few short verses.  This might be a challenge, but think with me for a second.  What if all we knew was Exodus 32:1-2?  What if the only thing we knew was what the narrator recorded for us regarding the Israelites dilemma in the first two verses of the chapter?

Here’s what we know they understood:

1)  We know the Israelites had knowledge of Moses going to Mount Sinai to speak with YHWH.  Check out Ex. 24:14-18

2)  We know they were concerned about worshipping a God/gods.

3)  We know they were an impatient lot.

4)  We know it sounds as if they put more faith in Moses than in the God he was meeting with.

Often times, we read Old Testament texts and are quick to condemn.  How foolish!  How dumb could they be?!?  Why didn’t they just wait for Moses – one they considered their deliverer?  If they don’t know what has become of him, is anyone willing to go look?

Consider these:

1)  Any parallel between Moses going up on the mountain and Jesus praying to His Father in the garden?  In the Old Testament text, the elders were told, “Wait here for us (Moses and Joshua) until we return to you” (24:14).  In Luke’s Gospel, the physician records Jesus withdrawing to pray and returning only to find His disciples sleeping (Lk 22:41-46).  Prior to withdrawing, Jesus warned them of temptation.

2)  The Israelites had spent four hundred years in bondage.  However,  once provided their freedom, they weren’t concerned so much with God’s direction and timing as much as their own.  They might be considered religious by tradition.  But what does that have to do with a relationship with YHWH?

3)  Be still and know…!  Psalm 46:10 is a verse we like to quote from time to time.  Life experience tells me it’s a bit harder to live consistently.  We’re quick to chastise our ancestors for their lack of patience while believing our timeline to be flawless.  Not many have the gift of patience.

4)  “As for this Moses, the man…”  I don’t want to read too much into the text, but I’m led to believe because of their lack of relationship with YHWH, they focused too much on Moses rather than the God they should serve.  In fact, they were quick to write him off, consider him missing, and replace him with someone/something else.  In the Church today, how much faith do we place in a preacher, elders, a committee, or a program – rather than the one true God?  If something goes wrong, let’s replace the preacher, obtain new leadership, and/or start a new program.

Bottom line, is we’re much like the Israelites who left Egypt.  We’re quick to forget God’s faithfulness and revert back to our plan.  Thoughts?

 

There’s Just One Answer!

Posted in Scripture on October 24, 2014 by nmpreach

The way we read Scripture makes all the difference in the world – literally. All too often, well-intentioned Bible students turn to their favorite verse and begin explaining why it holds such prominence for them.  Although there’s nothing particularly wrong with having a favorite text within Scripture, often times it is quoted out of context.  How many times have you or others you’ve heard quote Philippians 4:13?  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (ESV).  But what is the context?  What challenge is Paul facing as he writes that text?  Chances are, our scenarios are much different from his.  But how often do we (I include myself) clumsily quote a verse not knowing the circumstances surrounding the words?  We put them on t-shirts, share them on social media, and locate them on refrigerator magnets.

Think with me for a second.  Could it be that we miss the forest for the trees?  Here’s what I mean:  Is there a chance that we fail to interpret Scripture as a whole?  In other words, when I turn to my favorite chapter or verse and quote it out of context, I miss the bigger picture.  Let me give you another example.  Pick your favorite book of the Bible.  Obviously, you’ve read the book, you may know it well, and perhaps you’ve even quoted it a time or two.  Maybe your favorite book is one tree in the midst of a large forest.  Here’s the point:  Often times, we live compartmentalized lives.  Bible study is no exception.

There are two “Testaments” – Old and New.

There are 39 “books” in the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is made up of the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets.

There are 27 “books” in the New Testament.

The New Testament includes Gospels, the beginning of the Church, some letters, and a weird book at the end.

I’ve heard some claim, “I’m a NEW Testament Chuuuuuristian.” – Read it with the included emphasis.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.  I’m not intending to beat a dead horse.  But here’s the thing:  The Bible is one story.  It’s the story of how much God loves man.  In other words, as you read Philippians 4:13, what has Paul been talking about before it?  Who are these people called the Philippians?  Why would Paul write what he did?  How does the letter fit into the New Testament?  What does it say about Christ?  You see.  That’s the crux of everything in the Bible.  Jesus is the beginning and the end.  That includes the middle.  Whether it’s an Old Testament history book or a New Testament pastoral letter, the question must be, “What does this say about Jesus?”  If you can’t determine the answer, keep looking, get some wise counsel, mine the depths of the text.  But I can assure you.  Jesus is the answer!

 

 

Blessed Despite…

Posted in Scripture on February 6, 2014 by nmpreach

…my cup overflows.  Psalm 23:5

It’s already February 6!  It seems like yesterday that we were talking about resolutions, turning the calendar, and attempting to get used to seeing “14” on our checks and other paperwork.  Yet here we are in February.  As our folks said, time seems to go faster the older we get.

I was reading through Psalm 23 this morning and ran across the phrase above.  My cup overflows.  My.  Cup.  Overflows.

It’s really amazing what David writes.  He’s recognizing his blessings.  If you’re aware of David’s life, and particularly his running to survive, this phrase is even more impressive.

I’m convinced that because we are so focused on internal things – things that impact us, things that are close – we lose sight of our blessings.

I’ve been blessed to be busy these past few weeks.  But I’m not any busier than many of you.  Yet, if I’m not intentional about recognizing those blessings, I’m quick to look around me and eventually whine about those things that impact me.

God knows what I need and has always provided.  I pray I will always see the blessings clearly.  And the challenges, may they be seen as opportunities to grow as well.  My cup overflows!

A Struggle

Posted in Jeremiah, Scripture, Sin on January 21, 2014 by nmpreach

israelWhile reading through Jeremiah again, I’m struck at the brusque message the prophet shares time and time again.  I thought I was a slow learner, but it appears the Israelites were as well.  We turn our attention to chapters 26-30.

There comes a time when judgment cannot be stopped.  In other words, God has been gracious for a lengthy time, hoping His people would repent and be obedient.  Because they refuse, a righteous God has no other option than judgment.

Jeremiah speaks of judgment coming from Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  Any attempt to thwart judgment on the Israelite’s behalf would only lead to greater turmoil.  It’s intriguing that God would declare a time of judgment and only God could decide when that time was passed.  In chapter 28, readers are told of Hananiah and his false prophecy regarding peace.  Because he spoke lies, he died.  Irony?  Here’s a prophet who speaks of rebellion and judgment, only to rebel himself and die.

This is a great reminder of discernment.  People will always give advice.  Some of the advice is obviously better than other advice.  But how do you know what to follow?  If one doesn’t know the Word of God, hasn’t spent time in prayer, and is not seeking God with all that he/she is, they’re prone to follow bad advice!

In chapter 29, we run across a verse that many of us quote from time to time, yet we aren’t aware of the context.  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope  (vs 11).  The context is the people have been removed from the Promised Land.  They’ve rebelled and are facing the consequences.  God says His punishment will last 70 years, at which time they will be able to return.  Perhaps we should remember that the next time we’re tempted to quote this verse.

Chapter 30 speaks of the judgment that seems unbearable.  The intentional rebellion (apostasy) is the reason the Israelites are being judged.  They cannot plead innocent or ignorant.  They know better!  Despite all of their choices, God continues to reach and rescue them.  His original choice of Israel being His people stands.  After all, Israel means “He who struggles with God.”  Seems right, doesn’t it?  Is that you – one who struggles with God?  Sadly, I see myself.

Seek And Find

Posted in Scripture on January 7, 2014 by nmpreach

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Heb 4.12 ESV

I’ve wondered over recent months if we take the Word of God for granted.  I’ve seen news reports (you probably have as well) where new believers in third-world countries would give up everything for one page of Scripture.  It seems they know what’s contained in what they fight for.  Although I don’t advocate violence, I believe there is a lesson for many of us.  I have several Bibles (different translations) at my office and my home; whereas one page is fought over if it can be understood in places far away.  Translators work round the clock in an attempt to provide translations in foreign languages.

That’s a big problem.  But the issue goes deeper I think.  I read the Bible, but I catch myself just reading words on a page.  That would never do justice to Ezekiel being told to “Eat this (God’s Word) book.”  Most of us know the text above.  But what does it mean that the Word is living and active?  We are prone to answer, “It is God-breathed.”  And it is.  Or we say, “It’s written by the Holy Spirit through mankind.”  And it was.  But could it mean more?

In other words, we read the Bible at one level where so much more is contained in “lower levels.”  Have you ever chewed on John 3.16?  I know you’ve memorized it.  But have you taken it apart?  Have you meditated on it?  Have you read it?  That’s just one example, of course.  If Scripture can pierce soul and spirit, if it has the ability to know me more than I know myself, if it comes from God, (I believe all of these) then I must move past just reading words on a page.  I have to mine the depths and discover the “pearls.”  Laziness and reading God’s Word can never co-exist.

Scholar J. P. Fokelmann pens, “A text only starts to function when it receives attention – only then does it affect someone.”

 

I Choose Responsibility

Posted in Jeremiah, Scripture, Sin on January 3, 2014 by nmpreach

While reading through Jeremiah, we’ve reached chapters 16-20.  Taking sin seriously, idolatry, etc. continue to be the theme of the weeping prophet.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 17:9

Then chapter 18.  Chapter 18 is a bit controversial – the interpretation, I mean.  I will spare you many of the details but let’s just say one interprets what the text says about God.  Is He a God looking to destroy or is it about consequences?  In this case, the latter would be God punishing for the nation’s wickedness?  In other words, the promises in the chapter are conditional.  Blessings for obedience.  Curses for disobedience.  It seems we’ve passed this way before.

The lesson rings true for individuals as it does for nations.    The same consequences await my decision to follow God’s will or my own.  At first glance, that may sound obvious.  However, understanding the concept has tremendous effects on how we live, how we interpret Scripture, etc.  I can’t blame Adam and Eve.  It’s not the Jews or Romans fault.  It has nothing to do with politicians on either side.  My choices are my choices.  My sin is my sin.  And because I have the ability to choose, no one else can do it for me.

Our society seems to cater to victims.  “It’s the way that I was raised.”  “Do you know where I grew up?”  “I can never get past ___________.” “You/They/Everyone owes me.”  Truth is, you can’t choose many of your circumstances.  But you can choose how you respond to those circumstances.

We can never have the full life (Jn 10:10) God intends if we remain victims of anything.  Regardless of the broken world in which we live and the circumstances we live in, through Jesus Christ all things (including you and I) can be restored.  So quit blaming everyone or everything around you.  Take responsibility for what you do or don’t do.  Choose not to be a victim!  It leads to less chaos.