Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Foundations Study Bible. Yes, I Got Another Bible

If you know much about me, you know I'm a Bible junkie. I love them, buy them, read them and use them for study. In finishing up a sermon I preached on Sunday, I had 6 Bibles and a commentary, that was to finish the message that was mostly written. I use multiple translations, notes, helps and references. I love Bibles, and I got a new one, so let me tell you about it.

The Foundations Study Bible from Thomas Nelson. It's a nice hardback, good looking Bible. The layout is good, and it's pretty usable. The version I have is NKJV, which is a good translation, great for OT text. It's a pretty decent Bible, but I don't think it's in my top 10 when it comes to the study material.  It's called the Foundation Study Bible, it could be called "Stuff you can probably figure out with a few things thrown in that may be helpful, but good if you are new to this Bible reading thing" study bible. Ok, that might be a bit unfair, and there are good notes and good information. If you are wanting to get depth of study, this isn't it. If you want lots of good notes, then look elsewhere. If you want to get a Bible for someone who is new to the faith and has some basic questions, this one would be ok.

It's hard to go wrong when buying a study Bible from Thomas Nelson, and this one would be helpful to some young believers. If you are in the market for a Bible that hits the basics of the faith, check this one out. Solid study without the devotional material that doesn't really belong in a Study Bible.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Bald Prophet and The Angry Bears

I want to look at an interesting passage today and tie it into where we seem to be in our country and world. The passage is one that isn’t preached or discussed too often about Elisha, some young men and a could of sow (female) bears.  Let’s look at the passage.

He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord . And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.
2 Kings 2:23-24 ESV

From a quick reading it appears we have some kids making fun of a bald guy who gets mad and God sends out a couple of bears to maul the kids.  Doesn’t seem right,  does it.  After all, shouldn’t we turn the other cheek? Let’s unpack more, and remember our context. This is Israel,  God’s chosen nation and He has given them the law of how to respect Him and His prophets.  These kids were probably more young men,  late teens or early 20s. Since from the story there are 42 mauled,  it seems this was a pretty large group.

They were not so much teasing Elisha for being bald,  but they were rejecting him,  his office and his messages. Telling him to go up was probably referring to the situation his mentor,  Elijah had when he was taken up by the chariot of fire.  These weren’t kids teasing an old bald man,  these were the young men of Israel rejecting a Prophet and ultimately God.
They scorn God’s commands that once came from the prophets and now comes from the scripture. They rejected the truth and didn’t want to listen to anything Elisha said. We sound like that in our culture, rejecting what is being taught in the Bible and embracing whatever winds of change we want. When I say we, please understand who I’m talking about. I am not talking about our country, but our churches. Those people who God has called,  just like He set Israel apart,  the church is those who have been called out by God.

The church has thrown out God’s word in lots of places. We run the church by group vote instead of God’s word. We give seats of honor to the wealthy, we abuse those who aren’t as affluent. We condemn some sin while turning a blind eye to other sin. We play church on Sunday but show no change during the rest of the week. It’s true we struggle with sin,  but that’s not the issue as much as we ignore the sin,  justify the sin and even celebrate the sin. We ignore the parts of the scripture we don’t like,  can’t really get excited about and don’t want to tell people. We ignore things in the community because we are afraid of the backlash, so we just ignore that part of the scripture.

I’m not calling out anyone or any church in particular,  just sharing something I know is even true in my life. Enjoying the things I know I should reject and pretending like it’s ok.  In the end,  I am rejecting God and His Word. It’s only by His mercy that a bear hasn’t shown up at my front door.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

No Sheep Left Behind

In the US Marie Corps they have a motto.  No Man Left Behind. If a man is wounded in battle,  the other men in his platoon will make sure to get him out. Saving the life of another is honorable,  but for the Marines,  it’s part of their nature,  it’s who they are. It’s mine that maybe the church learn from this lesson.

As a leader,  my job is to lead others. Church leaders somehow have forgotten that,  we are made the goal to grow, to build and to progress. We have bigger stuff, better ministries and a longer reach. Those things are great,  but they are not the goal. The goal isn’t to have 50% or 75% of the sheep make it into the sheep fold.  The goal is to get all 100 sheep.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep.  A shepherd had 100 sheep,  and all but one made it to the pen. Instead of saying “I got 99% of the sheep”,  he goes out to find the one that is missing.  He searches all night to find the lost sheep,  and when he does,  he rejoices. He rejoices over the 1% who is problematic and wanders off. He rejoices over the 1% who didn’t listen,  was stubborn and didn’t stay with the rest of the flock. He rejoiced over the problem sheep.

Do we rejoice over the church member who complains and gripes?  Do we celebrate the youth who disrupts every activity and lesson? Do we go and search for the church member who never agreed with the direction and stops coming? It sure is a blessing that God doesn’t deal with us like we deal with people in our church. Imagine if God lost His patience with you when you argued,  fussed,  whined or complained.

Are we willing to slow down our plans and our vision to make sure everyone gets to come along? Are we going to slow down the time line, stop to go look for the one and go off to bring that one along? Will we refuse to leave no sheep behind?

May we all follow the example of the Good Shepherd and go after the lost sheep.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Reflections on the Occasion of my 39th Birthday

I'm 39 today. I have 365 days left to be in my 30s before I turn 40. It's been a great decade and a not so great decade. I got my master's degree, we had my youngest, moved half way across the country, got and lost the job I always wanted. I learned a lot of new things, like how to make soy protein isolate and I'm currently learning how to bat proof a house. Had some surgeries, wrote a lot of stuff and had a roller coaster of a time. I have one more year of my 30s, I guess I should make it count.

I never imagined this is where I would be at the verge of 40. I assumed I would be teaching in a church someplace, or in a school or both. I never imagined I would be a wildlife tech. Maybe I would be planting a church, but I'm happy I am working with a new church plant. I thought I may have a book published, hoping that still happens before I'm 40. The thing I put on Kindle doesn't count. Still, I think things are going ok as I move towards midlife.

I have some regrets and some heartache. There are things I wish for and hope for and long for. I'm not in the career that I want, and not where I wanted to be, but I know God is sovereign. It might be that I will never really do much of significance in my life, but it will be significant in the Kingdom. No one will really know or care much of who I am or what I do, but that's ok.  In the same way, if I do something that changes the world for the better and advances the kingdom, I am open and excited for that too.

Here is to 39, to the grey hair, teenage kids, creaky knee and sore back. Here is a couple of degrees that are doing me little to no good, and the bills that come with them I still have to pay. Here is too the short weekends, long weeks, unanswered questions and unfulfilled dreams. More than that, here is too a year full of God's grace and mercy for me, to looking for Him for my sense of worth and my joy and peace. I don't know what this year will hold, but I'm excited to find out. Thanks for coming along with me.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Review of My God and My All

I recently finished My God and My All: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi by Elizabeth Goudge. This book was a little out of my normal reading,  I love biographies but don’t read them as often as I’d like.  I also tend to lean more towards Puritans,  Separatists and Evangelicals.  Reading on a Catholic mystic isn’t in my usual reading,  but perhaps I should more.  I think I gained a great deal from reading this book,  and it’s inspired me to think outside the box a little more.

I think what struck me the most about this book is the way Goudge highlighted and focused on the love of God and the devotion to Christ that St.  Francis had,  it’s what drove and motivated him. The mystic and miraculous was talked about,  but not focused on.   The focus was how Francis loved Christ and sought his entire life to focus on Jesus. His power and influence came from this love. That message was repeated over and over and had a very positive effect on me. More than anything else,  I was encouraged how the love of a man for God could change people and change the world.

This book did have it’s mystical qualities,  stories of Francis talking to animals among other things are included,  but they are well written.  I cannot say if Francis talked to brother wolf or sister sparrow,  but the stories seem to match the character of who Francis is portrayed.  A simple,  humble man who loves God and His creation.  This love included people, creatures and nature.  His love went so far he would risk his life.

I would say this was an enjoyable book and had a great message.  The theme and tone was that of love for God and love for people. If some of the miracles are true or not true, does not take away from the thrust of the material. It’s a book about a simple man of faith living extraordinarily,  taking the mantle of poverty to be closer to his savior.  If I took anything from this book,  it’s that I need to be willing to give my all for the love of Christ.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fixing the Broken System

So I’m sure you are wonder what system I’m referring too.  The political system?  The educational system?  The church system?  I’m talking about pretty much every human system in the United States. This begins with the family and goes all the way up the line to the country and government. They are all broken for one, simple and almost obvious reason.  We have misplaced our values.

It’s not a long,  complicated reality,  It’s quite simple.  We have taken the value off of “us” and placed it solely on “me”. We don’t value others,  or the group or community or society,  we only value ourselves.  In politics,  we call this entitlement,  we want to be equal,  everyone should have the same access to the same things.  The problem is we don’t live this out. Know why most politicians are rich?  You have to be rich to run for office,  otherwise you don’t have the connections,  network,  support and resources to get out there. It takes money and fame to get elected,  and most people don’t have it. No one knows me,  I couldn’t get elected for public office.  I don’t have the money or the public influence.

Instead of voting for those who are most qualified,  we vote for the most famous who will provide me with the things I want.  Promise hope and change,  free stuff and equality and you win the popular vote. Our government is flawed because politicians have learned to play to our selfishness. They have learned to manipulate our sense of want and our feelings that we deserve to be taken care of.

The ideas of sacrifice are out the window. The good of the many over the good of a the few are gone. We want to be indulgent to the minority in rebellion while smashing the historical majority. We will tolerate any form of individual sexual expression, but not any form of religious expression. We don’t even see the issue with the lack of consistency.

We have become so focused on the self and the ability for the self to do whatever it wants,  the concept of “no” is gone.  Everything is acceptable without thoughts to the consequences. We don’t think about the implications of giving a transgender award after award,  letting anyone use any restroom, celebrating the death of authorities and rioting over the death of minorities. The breakdown of society is inevitable because of the push for rebellion against the establishment.

The reality is,  the rebellion is a march for selfishness and self serving. We don’t seem to care about our neighbor, our community,  even our country if we don’t get what we want. This slide seems to be gaining steam and momentum.

The system is broken at the source.  We don’t teach kids to be good sports and good team mates.  We teach them to be arrogant,  prideful and to complain until they get a prize.  The concept of cooperation have gone by the way side. The workplace has become full of laziness and self seeking. You can’t seem to find good customer service anymore. Everyone wants to be served,  it’s hard to find those who are willing to serve.

The times of gone when good men and women would rise up and build the community. It’s not cooperate driven individuals who combine politics with greed and the best interest of lobby and corporations. It’s a legacy build on gain.

The good men and women have become so rare that they are often marginalized and ridiculed when they try to get involved. The entire system is broken.
Want to fix the system?  Fix the family and the home. Fix the concepts of cooperation, sacrifice and commitment. Repair the education system, bring back consequences,  failure,  bad grades and losers to teach the importance of cooperation and effort. Stop the Idol worship of celebrities, especially those celebrity athletes and celebrate the team as a whole.

Fix your town by making laws and rules that make sense, that reward good behavior and punish law breakers. Do the same things in the state and federal government by electing officials who care about the country and not their own political and economic agenda.

Until we are able to do the hard things  that build unity and community, we will continue to devour one another in our quest to be what we want.  Until “me” become “our” and “I” becomes “we”,  the system will stay broken.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Review of The Colson Way

I recently finished The Colson Way by Owen Strachan.  I knew some about Colson going into this book,  but I had no idea that I would enjoy this biography as much as I did.  Colson had an extraordinary life and ministry.  He did a great deal in spreading the gospel in places that need it most.

You may know about Watergate,  maybe about Prison Fellowship or Angel Tree ministries,  but Strachan does a masterful job of tying these things together into a great story. Charles Colson’s life and story is a great example to those who want to live a Christlike life.

I highly recommend this book. Looking at the life of great men of faith is a huge encouragement.  It’s good to look at the lives of those who have plowed so much ground. It’s also very well written and enjoyable to read.  Check out The Colson Way,  you won’t regret it.