Monday, December 19, 2011

Tis’ the Season for Fear!

We don't normally associate fear with Christmas.  But, as you read the Christmas story you will see that almost every participant in the birth of Christ experienced fear, uncertainty, or danger.  And, many times they were told to not be afraid.

Here are some examples, in chronological order:
Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.  But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.”  Luke 1:12-13

But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”  Luke 1:30

But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”  Matthew 1:20

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;”  Luke 2:8-10

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled and all Jerusalem.  Matthew 2:3

And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.  Matthew 2:12

Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”  Matthew 2:13

But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”  Matthew 2:22-23

We’ve taken the FEAR out of Christmas.  After all, the birth of the Christ was an amazing event that was both wonderful and fearful.  We should, on one hand, remember the terrifying sight of the angels proclaiming Christ’s birth.  And, we should not forget the murderous rage of Herod. 

On the other hand, we should “not be afraid” as we trust God and marvel at His awesome plan to bring salvation to earth through the birth of His Son.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What if Joseph played for the Denver Broncos?

During the past few weeks I've read many articles about Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.  It seems like people all over the country have an opinion regarding the cause of the Bronco's success.  Success being defined as winning seven of their last eight games.

Some people believe the offensive line or the defense should receive credit.  Some people believe the changes made by the coach are the reason for the improvements.  A few people have said that they think God is on Tim Tebow's side. 

Wayne Hanson, identified as "a pastor at a Colorado church with ties to the Tebow family"* went as far as to say that God is the source of the victories.  According to Hanson, "God has blessed his hard work."  The pastor believes Tebow is winning games because God is blessing him for being a strong believer.

In many articles and reader comments I have seen people express a wide variety of reasons for the recent success of the Denver Broncos.  With all this discussion I find it curious that no one has mentioned Joseph.

That's right, Joseph.  If you are looking in the Bible for some indication that God is involved in our daily work efforts, you need to look no further than Joseph.  You do remember Joseph, right?  Young boy, colorful coat, envious brothers…And, an unexpected trip to Egypt.  Yep, that Joseph.

Here is the passage that talks about Joseph, and God's blessing in his life:
The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man.  And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian.  Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand.  So, Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him quarterback over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge.  It came about that from the time he made him quarterback in his house and over all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptians's house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD's blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field.  (Genesis 39:2-5)

That's right, you read it with your own eyes.  The LORD blessed the Egyptian's household “on account of Joseph.”  Sometimes God's grace-blessings are so great that they extend beyond one person of faith to include an entire household, business, perhaps even city or nation.  In this case, God chose to bless not only Joseph, but his Egyptian master and his entire household and fields.

So, are the Broncos winning because God is making it happen?  How about we change the question a little.  Are the Broncos winning because God is grace-blessing many through the faith of one man?  I think there is evidence this happened in Joseph's life.  So, maybe the real question is, "What would happen if Joseph played for the Denver Broncos?"

Scripture taken from The New American Standard Bible, except I changed “overseer” to “quarterback.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Acknowledging God’s Good Gifts

On Father’s Day it’s a new tie.  On Valentine’s Day it’s a box of chocolate.  And, on Christmas it’s a Lifesavers Hard Candy Sweet Storybook.  These are the gifts you receive, but they might not be the perfect gift.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17, NASB)

Without using the exact word, this verse gives us the essence of being thankful.  The Greek words that are translated “thankful,” “thankfulness,” and “thanksgiving” are derived from a compound word consisting of “well” and “grace.”  When we say that we are thankful for a gift, we are acknowledging the appropriateness of that gift.

God’s grace gifts to us are always the exactly right gift, at the right time, given for the right reason.

When we receive a tie or a box of candy we say “thank you” because we appreciate the act of giving.  When we say “thank you” to God we are also saying, “This is the perfect gift and your timing is perfect.”

Beyond just expressing our thanks for God’s gifts, we need to acknowledge that they are good gifts.  Here are a few verses from the New Testament that teach us to be grateful to God.  For the purpose of illustration, I’ve added a phrase whenever we are told to be thankful.  There is no intention to diminish being thankful.  Rather, I hope to show you the power of continually acknowledging that God’s gifts are always perfect.

Ephesians 5:20
Always giving thanks (acknowledging the goodness of God’s gifts) for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.

Colossians 3:17
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks (acknowledging the goodness of God’s gifts) through Him to God the Father.

1Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks (acknowledge the goodness of God’s gifts); for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude (acknowledgement of the goodness of God’s gifts).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hope and Faith

Whenever I read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in Daniel 3, I am impressed with their courage.  Standing before the king, facing certain death in a fiery furnace, they made this statement:  “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”  (Daniel 3:7-8, NASB)

In writing our study guide on the Full Armor of God it occurred to me that this is a great example of wearing the Helmet of Salvation.  These three men had certain hope that God would deliver them no matter how hopeless the situation seemed.

This is also a great example of using the Shield of Faith.  The men placed their complete trust in God.  Even though they could not see God’s plan, they were trusting in His love and power.

What then, is the difference between Hope and Faith?  And, how do we practically apply them in our daily lives?

1.  Certainty of a future event
2.  Includes an element of expectation
3.  In the Bible, especially the New Testament, hope often is related to deliverance or salvation

Here are some examples of Hope in the New Testament:
And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.  (Romans 8:23-25, NASB)

But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.  (1 Thessalonians 5:8-11, NASB)

1.  Assurance of things not seen
2.  May refer to something in the past, the present, or the future
3.  In the Bible faith is often related to our relationship with God, who is unseen

Here a definition of Faith from Hebrews:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.  (Hebrews 11:1-3, NASB)

It is interesting to notice how often Hope and Faith appear in the same passage:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  (Romans 5:1-5, NASB)

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.  (1 Corinthians 13:12-13, NASB)

Hope is the certain expectation that is often related to our knowledge that God will deliver us in this life, and for eternity.  Faith is the assurance of things that we cannot see at this time.  Our hope gives us CONFIDENCE in our ultimate deliverance.  Just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, we do not fear death because we know our God can deliver us.  Our faith gives us CONVICTION that there is a God, and that He rewards those who seek Him.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Offensive or Defensive?

In our Sunday morning class we are discussing the Full Armor of God.  The study is based on one section of our new study guide, “The Full Armor of God In Action.”  Each week we have an in-depth look at one of the pieces of armor listed in Ephesians 6:10-20.

One of the main points of emphasis in our study is that the armor has both offensive and defensive benefits.  For instance, the Breastplate of Righteousness provides protection for our vital organs.  This protection is necessary when we are under attack, on defense.  But, we also need this protection when we are attacking, on offense.

During the class discussion this morning, this question was raised:  “Is there an offensive and defensive application for every piece of armor?”

From my studies of the Roman army, and of Ephesians 6, I believe the answer is “yes.”  Different pieces may have different primary functions, but I think they are all necessary for both offensive and defensive conflicts.

Maybe answering a question with a question will help make the point:  “Which piece of armor would you take off if you were in attack mode, rather than a defensive mode?”

Would you take off your helmet if you were going to attack an enemy formation?  Would you leave your shield behind if you were marching on an enemy fortress?

Think about each of the pieces of armor listed by Paul:  belt, breastplate, sandals, helmet, shield, sword, and prayer.  I think you will find that all of these pieces are equally important whether you are on the attack, or being attacked.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Three Men, Only One Stood Firm

While working on our new study guide, “The Full Armor of God In Action,” I found three men who were enticed by a seductress.   Although they lived in different times, the temptation they faced was very similar.

Two of the men gave in to the temptation.  One of the men stood firm.  From the three passages below see if you identify the men:

"There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?" As she spoke to him day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her.

Then she said to him, "How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have deceived me these three times and have not told me where your great strength is." It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death. So he told her all that was in his heart.

With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter.

The challenge is really more than just identifying the three men.  The real challenge is to determine why two entered into sin and one stood firm.  That is the purpose of our study guide on the Full Armor of God.  By knowing how to use God’s armor we can gain victory in every situation. 

Joseph (Genesis 39), Samson (Judges 16), A Young Man Lacking Sense (Proverbs 7)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Full Armor of God

A few days ago I finished reviewing and correcting the first proof of our newest study guide, The Full Armor of God In Action.  Hopefully, it will be released by the end of October.

While I was working on the project I began to wonder how many people give any thought to “spiritual warfare” in these modern times.  With all the new technology and scientific advancements that impact our daily lives, do people think about or even believe in a spiritual conflict?

It’s clear that the Apostle Paul believed in spiritual warfare in his description of the Full Armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-20.  He warned his readers about forces that are not “flesh and blood,” but are in the heavenly places.

I’m interested in your thoughts.  Do you think there is a spiritual aspect to …

The war on drugs?

The war on poverty?

The war on terrorism?

The war on crime?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Observation, Imitation, Proof

Last week I finished reading a book entitled “Renaissance Engineers – From Brunelleschi to Leonardo da Vinci,” written by Paolo Galluzzi.  The main theme of the book is that during the Renaissance there were many engineers who built upon each other’s work.  The magnificent gains in architecture and mechanical engineering were the result of many people, not just one man working in isolation. 

The author describes the exchange of ideas in a mentoring fashion as “a transcription-assimilation process.”  Each engineer kept a journal in which he copied the work of others, and made changes or improvements based on his own knowledge and insights.  The process steps included:  Observation, Imitation, and Proof. 

The first step, Observation, included copying the work of another engineer and studying the design.  Imitation involved taking the design and applying it to your own project.  And, finally, you would work to either prove or disprove the integrity of the design.

This description of this process made think about modern education.  How many times are students taught the facts, and then just told to repeat the information on the tests?  It seems that standardized tests are, by nature, limited to the Observation phase of learning.

Then I started wondering about our Christian education.  How many times do we go to church and listen to a sermon, and then go home and forget everything that was said?  How hard do we work at progressing to the Imitation stage of taking what we learn and applying it in our own lives?  And, what about Proof?  Are we committed to our Christian education enough that we take time to validate what we are taught by searching the scriptures?  Do we test what we are taught by both investigation and implementation?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Two Young Men

This weekend I’ve been working on our next study guide that will be based on Ephesians 6:10-20.  In the process I found an interesting comparison between two young men.

Genesis 39 tells the story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery.  He ended up a slave in the house of Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh.  His master’s wife pursued him on a daily basis, but Joseph rejected her advances.

Proverbs 7 tells a story of a “young man lacking sense.”  He too, like Joseph, was pursued by a married woman.  She is described as being “dressed as a harlot and cunning of heart.”  After listening to her passionate pleas, he followed her home and surrendered to her seduction. 

In comparing the two tales, you have to wonder what made the difference.  Joseph had every reason to reject God after being kidnapped by his brothers and sold as a slave to a foreign country.  And yet, he stayed faithful to God.

In the study guide, we will look at both of these stories and evaluate them based on the Full Armor of God.  How did Joseph stand firm while the young man lacking sense sinned with the wayward wife?  I believe one major difference is that Joseph was wearing the Breastplate of Righteousness.  That is the piece of armor which protects our heart.

Hopefully, we’ll have this new study complete and read for publication by the end of September.  It’s going to be a very interesting study!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Is It The Best?

A few days ago, when announcing the release of our new study guide, Wisdom – The Next Step, I posted on Facebook that this book is “the best study guide ever written on Proverbs.”  A family member immediately challenged me, and warned that Proverbs has something to say about pride.

So, please let me explain why I think this is the best study guide ever written on Proverbs.  In general, Proverbs is a difficult book to study because it is a collection of wise sayings.  There is no historical narrative, as is common in the Old Testament.  And, it is not a letter, as is common in the New Testament.  There really is no pure outline as we tend to prefer in Western Culture.

Wisdom – The Next Step begins with the last poem found in Proverbs, and then uses that poem as a launching point from which to explore the rest of Proverbs.  There are six major themes found in Proverbs 31:10-31 which are also found throughout the entire collection.  By building a foundation from the poem located at the end of Proverbs, you gain insight into the entire book.

Is it the best study guide written on Proverbs?  That’s hard to prove.  But, I do guarantee that once you have completed the study you will have gained valuable insight into Proverbs 31:10-31, the entire book of Proverbs, and how to apply wisdom in your everyday life.

All our study guides are available on

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Words that have lost their meaning

This morning I got my basketball out of the garage to go shoot some hoops.  Glancing at the label on the ball I noticed it is an “Official Indoor/Outdoor Basketball.”  Really?  Seriously?  In who’s opinion?  Is there an official indoor/outdoor basketball committee?  Or an official indoor/outdoor rating criteria?

That got me thinking about words we use every day that have lost their meaning.  “Official” is a good example.  Everything these days is “official.”  But, they never tell you which organization determined that it is genuinely official.

“Love” is another good example.  People “love” their dog, their car, their kids, their food, their hair color.  We “love” so many things and events and people that the word has lost its meaning.

How about “free”?  What is the first thing you do when you see “free” in any advertisement?  Look for the fine print!!  “Free, with $500 purchase.”  “Free, when you sign up for 2 years of service.”  “Free, when you pay $20 for shipping and handling.”

Oh, there’s so many more.  “Fresh” means that at some point in time, this product was baked.  The exact point of time being … Maybe in the last 24 hours, or 5 days.  “Homemade” is another good example.  Every restaurant in the world has food that is “homemade.”  Really, they live in their restaurant?  Or, they cook it in their kitchen and bring it to the restaurant?  Either way, that doesn’t sound healthy.

Maybe you can think of some other words that have lost their meaning.  If so, write them in the comments section!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Invest, Improve, Increase

Third of a series of three posts.  Warning!! Before you read this post, it is absolutely essential that you read the previous posts from May 19 and June 4.

Here are some final thoughts on the quote from Jesus, “It is better to give than to receive.”  This post is following-up on the idea that there is a 3X the blessing in giving because you first receive, second develop, and third give.

In the previous two posts we talked about teaching.  First you learn, then you combine what you know with this new information, and then you share it with someone else.  You benefit from learning, you benefit from processing, and you benefit from giving.

Here is another example I like that shows the 3X increase.  You met someone new and benefit from the new relationship.  You develop that relationship, getting to know the person and sharing adventures.  You benefit from a growing relationship.  Then, you introduce that person to another one of your friends.  Blessings all around!

The struggle, I think, is when you apply this principle to money.  For some reason, some people think we should not benefit from money.  However, the same 3X factor applies to money and material resources.  Let’s say you receive a gift of $100.  You could just give the entire amount to someone else.  That would be a 2X benefit. 

Instead, let’s say you have some computer skills, so you buy an old computer for $100 and a few extra parts.  You spend a few days fixing up the computer and adding new programs.  Then, you donate the computer, now worth $400 to your local charity.  Do you see how you can add value to what you have received, and then bless others with this improved gift?

Some people feel like our monetary giving is limited to “giving back to God” our 10% tithe.  No thought, no added value, no personal investment … just put your money in the plate and you’re finished.  Not that I’m opposed to tithing.  But, I hope that people will begin to see the power of personal investment in their giving.  Receive, invest/improve/increase, then give.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blessed - The Third Element

Warning!!  Before you read this post, it is absolutely essential that you read the previous post from May 25.  Failure to do so will result in brain overload because the math equation presented in this post is dramatically more complex than the math in the previous post.  And, the math in the previous post is the starting formula for today’s post.

OK, moving on now that you have read the May 25 post.  The equation in the previous post was really only part of the formula.  There’s more to the story.  To be more precise, there is another element in the equation.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  (Acts 20:35)

The whole equation:  1+1+1=3

There is a blessing that comes from receiving.  There is a blessing that comes from giving.  And, in between, there is a blessing that comes from processing and producing with our own personality, experiences, and talents.

Let’s go back to the teaching example.  When you learn something new, you are blessed to receive more knowledge.  When you teach something to someone, you are blessed by sharing that information with someone else and watching them learn.

The additional element is the processing and preparation time between learning and teaching.  You take the new information, and add it with your previous knowledge and your previous experiences.  Then, through your own personality, goals, and talents you create what you will share.  You decide when to teach, identify who the students will be, how you will teach, and what you will include and exclude.

This middle step is what allows us to add our own impact on the act of sharing.  God has given each of us a unique set of talents, experiences, and level of understanding.  It is this unique personality that influences when and how and what we share with other people.

We are blessed when we receive + we are blessed with talents and knowledge and experiences that we use to prepare what we will share + we are blessed when we share with others = blessing upon blessing upon blessing!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It is more blessed to give...Mathematical Proof

A few weeks ago our pastor gave a sermon based on Acts 20:35.  This is a quote from the Apostle Paul, spoken to the elders in Ephesus:  “…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

There are several things interesting about this quote.  First, this is the only recording of these words being spoken by Jesus.  So, how did Paul know Jesus made this statement?  Did he actually hear Christ speak these words while He was on earth?  That raises some interesting thoughts.

Second, what exactly does this mean?  In his sermon, Pastor Dave defined blessed as being “happy.”  The statement then can be interpreted to mean that “we are happier when we give.” This being the title of the sermon.  You can listen to the whole message at

Finally, why is this true?  Personally, I’m pretty happy to receive a gift.  So, why is it true that we are happier, more blessed, when we give?  Well, I have a theory, but it involves some math, so try to follow along.  Here’s the math:  1 + 1 = 2

Here’s the word problem to go along with the math.  If receiving equals one unit of happy and giving equals one unit of happy, then the entire process of receiving and giving equals two units of happy.

My theory is that you cannot give until you have received.  Therefore, both elements are present and the act of giving is equal to the blessing of both receiving and giving.

Before you click and run off to another website, let me try putting this into a practical example.  How about teaching?  That should be a good example.

It is more blessed to teach than to learn.

In order to teach you first have to learn.  And, you get the blessing of learning.  Then, when you share that information with others, you get the blessing of helping them learn.  Teaching is a double blessing.

What happens if you teach without first learning?  That’s fraud.

What happens if you learn without sharing with others?  That’s selfish greed.

To receive the double blessing you must first receive/learn.  And, then you must share/teach.

Mathematically, it is more blessed, 2X, to give than to receive.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Passion for Partnering with God

Over the weekend we released our fourth book, “A Passion for Partnering with God.”  This study guide is very different from our other three publications.  This is not a Bible study guide.  Instead, the study is based on the autobiography of R.G. LeTourneau.

A few years ago a member of our college group, who attended LeTourneau University, told me some interesting stories about the founder of the school.  Eventually, I read “Mover of Men and Mountains.”  After just a few pages I was hooked!!  The life and trials and accomplishments of R.G. LeTourneau are amazing.  Even though he lived several decades ago, the events in his life were very similar to modern day events.

For example, as I was reading about the “Swine Flu” on the Internet, I was reading about the Spanish Flu epidemic that killed 25,000,000 people in 1918.  R.G. survived the Spanish Flu, but his first born son was one of millions of infants who did not survive.

As I was reading about R.G.’s business ventures during the Great Depression, we were experiencing the Great Recession.  How encouraging it was to read that the sales of R.G.’s business grew in dramatic ways during the years of the Great Depression.

About half way through the book I realized that the life lessons of R.G. were lessons we all need to learn.  I contacted the publisher, Moody Publishers, and asked for permission to extensively quote the autobiography.  They agreed, and so I created a study guide for the book.  Each question in the study guide is linked by page number to the autobiography.

You can learn more about the study guide at  Just click on the button labeled “Partnering with God.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Same Parable, Different Perspectives

The “beta” version of “The Parables of Jesus: A New Perspective” will be released this week.  We will be using this new study guide in our Sunday School class.  And, we will be making corrections as we study, in preparation for the “First Edition.”

One of the things we really stress in the study guide is looking at the parables from many different points-of-view.  Most of the parables were spoken in the midst of a crowd.  Different people in the audience would have heard the parables from different viewpoints.

For instance, take the parable which is often called, “The Prodigal Son.”  There is no question that the younger son is a main character in the story.  For those who focus on the younger son’s role, the story is a warning about squandering money, fast living, and the consequences of sin. 

But, what about those who see these events through the eyes of the father?  For them the story is one of heartbreak, unconditional love, forgiveness, restoration, and hope.

What if there were servants in the crowd who heard Jesus teach this parable?  What do you think they would have focused on that may be different from our traditional, modern interpretation?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Studying the Parables

As mentioned in the very first post (February 14), we are working on a new study based on the parables of Jesus.  We are taking a somewhat different approach to the parables and hope to share some new insights into the parables.

In this post I want to give a little background on our approach.  Each parable has a physical or natural element.  For instance, it really does help to build on a solid foundation, rather than sand.  When the literal storms arise you need protection from the flooding waters.

Next, the parables also have a spiritual or eternal component.  A solid foundation for life is to obey the teachings of Jesus.  When the storms of life gather, you need protection from doubt, discouragement, and hopelessness.

In our study guide we are also going to consider the kingdom aspect of the parables.  These lessons taught by Jesus helped prepare His disciples for a major change in God’s work on earth.

Up to this time God’s people was the Nation of Israel.  After the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s work on earth would be through the church.  As Jesus prepared His followers for this change He used parables to help them be prepared.

What was the change in the parable of the solid foundation?  Before this time the people had the Law, the Prophets, books of History, and books of Poetry.  Jesus made it clear that those building a solid foundation would be “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them.”  (Luke 6:47)

This is just one simple example of how we can see Jesus preparing His disciples to be leaders, followers, and workers in the coming Kingdom of God.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Afflicted, but not crushed

Just a few more thoughts about the “Lone Survivor,” written by Marcus Luttrell. 

As his story continued, after his capture/rescue by the tribesmen, he was taken to their village.  They cared for him in a small house.  He was safe with them through the tribal law of Lokhay, as mentioned in the previous post.

However, the Taliban were still searching for him with a vengeance.  Unknown to Marcus, they had surrounded the village.

 “I opened my eyes in time to see eight armed Taliban fighters come barging into the room.  The first one came straight over to my cot and slapped me across the face with all his force.”  (p. 926)

Over the next six hours the Taliban fighters viciously beat Marcus while demanding information.  And, yet, they did not remove him from the house or from the village.

Eventually an elder of the village entered the room and spoke with the Taliban fighters.  Marcus later found out that this man was the chief of several villages in that area.

“I was not certain what he was saying, but I found out later he was forbidding them to take me away.”  (p. 939)

The Taliban left after the village leader told them they could not take Marcus.  The power of Lokhay saved his life.  For the next several days the Taliban fighters maintained a watch on the villages.  They threatened and tried to intimidate the villagers.  They even entered the village again, but never caused Marcus any more harm.

Some people believe that once you “become a Christian” all of your troubles are over.  They expect a blessed life without any struggles.  Jesus himself said that there would be troubles while we are on earth.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."  (John 16:33)

Even though Jesus is the “village chief,” there will still be times when our enemies attack, discourage, try to defeat us.  There will be times when the enemy surrounds us and demands our surrender.  It’s times like these that we have confidence in our Lokhay with God.

“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. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  (1 Peter 5:6-11)

Book quotes from “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell, iPhone version.  Bible quotes from NASB.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

God's Lokhay

Two weeks ago I finished reading “Lone Survivor” a book about a Navy SEAL operation in Afghanistan.  After being inserted into a remote mountainous region, the four man team was attacked by a large force of Taliban fighters.  Three of the men were killed, while a fourth was pursued relentlessly for many hours.

The “Lone Survivor,” Marcus Luttrell, was severely wounded, dehydrated, and emotionally drained when he spotted three men approaching him carrying rifles.

“The guy behind the tree was now back out in the open and still yelling at me, standing there with his rifle lowered, I guessed demanding my surrender.  But I couldn’t even do that.  I just knew that I desperately needed help or I was going to bleed to death.  Then I did what I never thought I would do in the whole of my career.  I lowered my rifle.  Defeated.”  (p. 889)

Instead of being captured by the Taliban, the Navy SEAL was taken to a nearby village.  According to the historic Pashtun-walai tribal law Marcus was not their prisoner, but instead, he was their guest.  Their tribal law, known as lokhay warkawal, demanded that they protect their guest at all costs.

“Lokhay means the population of that village will fight to the last man, honor-bound to protect the individual they have invited in to share their hospitality.”  (p. 92)

In this amazing story I see some interesting parallels to our relationship with God.

First, we were trespassing in God’s territory.  “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”  (Ephesians 2:1)

Second, God lowered His “rifle” first, while we were still hostile.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)

Third, God willing welcomes us into his village.  “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”  (John 14:3)

And, finally, God has promised to protect us for eternity.  His honor demands that He protect us from our enemy.  “I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.”  (John 10:28)

Book quotes from “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell, iPhone version.  Bible quotes from NASB.