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.