Saturday, August 19, 2017

Think about what Paul said- "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you..."

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. (Colossians 1:3-5).

One of our pastors preached on Colossians last Sunday. He noted the above introduction in Paul's letter. Paul prayed to Jesus in thanks for the saints.

Our pastor said, 'What if we prayed like that? Instead of when we pray and getting straight to our petitions, or even instead of getting straight to thanking Jesus for what He's given ourselves or done for us, we thank Him for our brethren?'

When was the last time I prayed in thanks for the saints around me, the saints around the world, the saints that have come before on whose works I rely? Hmmm, it's been a while I think.

I am thankful for our elders. We have a Teaching Pastor, an Associate Pastor and two elders who lead us in preaching, confession time, prayers, and devotionals. They are Godly men, humble, and filled with a heart of love for Jesus and service to Him. I know I am blessed to be growing under such men, and I do thank Jesus for them. Therefore I say,

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.

We have a cadre of elder folks who are seasoned, mature, kind, doctrinally solid, and constant in their attendance, devotions, and service. They aren't coasting, they take nothing for granted, and they are always willing to lead, teach, encourage, or just silently be present. Therefore I say,

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.

Some of our folks on a retreat. http://nacathens.org/
In a most remarkable blessing, the largest demographic of members and attendees in our church are youngsters. These are youths aged from upper teens to mid twenties. The college crowd. Many are in undergraduate or graduate school in the area. Their eagerness and fervor is a boon to us elder folks. Their zeal to serve is refreshing. Most of all, they love Jesus and devour His word. Despite a heavy class load or demanding work schedule, they arise before dawn or stay well after dark to attend Bible groups. They faithfully attend church services. They drive 40 minutes and stay two hours just to seek advice from an older member. They happily jump in to serve by setting up or taking down, the drudge jobs. They love each other and they joyously submit to leadership. They are amazing. Therefore I say,

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.

Next time, I won't lightly skim the intro to a letter, but as our elder preached, I'll stop and truly ponder what the writer is saying. Paul dwelled on praise to Jesus for the brethren, and I want to adopt that same mindset in prayer by thanking Jesus for them in my sphere and across the world.



Thursday, August 17, 2017

Something positive, cute, and endearing

Today, a little something different. We're all used to the world's dark news. The negativity of the world and the evil that is all around us can be discouraging. Here's something I hope will lift your day and bring a smile to you.

From the internets:
The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him! (Proverbs 20:7).



From the BBC, their new kids' network CBeebies- this is 2 minutes-




Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. (Luke 18:17).

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28).

Even though there is persecution, false teachers, racism, riots, and evil, there are still fathers who love their children, and there are children with a child-like perspective that someday we will all be blessed with. The faith of children, pure, unadorned, unadulterated, and loving. May I be like a child!

Always remember, as long as there is Jesus, there is Hope!

Have a blessed day!


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Can we interpret the Bible by finding out what this verse means to me?

Have you ever gone to a Bible study and either they use a curriculum or the Bible itself, and the teacher reads a passage and then opens it up for comments by saying "What does this verse mean to you"? What is happening here is the teacher is confusing interpretation and application. There's a book called Multiply from Multiply Movement, which is David Platt and Francis Chan, written in 2012. Here is an excerpt from link to chapter 9 of their free book-
Know the Difference between Interpretation and Application 
Maybe the most common mistake made in Bible interpretation is when people focus too much on "what this verse means to me." It’s not uncommon for Bible study groups to go around the circle as each person shares an individualized interpretation. Often these interpretations are made with little study and are heavily influenced by opinion and desire. Many times, the various interpretations are incompatible with one another. In this type of setting, the focus is not on what God is saying through the Bible. Instead, each person is focused on what he or she thinks the verse means. Whether it’s clearly articulated or not, this approach reveals the assumption that the Bible has a personalized meaning for each Christian. It might mean one thing to me, but another thing to you.
I'll use an exaggerated example here, by saying, one man might respond by saying 'Yes, this passage says to me that I can sin with impunity." And the other man says, " What it means to me is that I have to follow the Law." Can it be both? No. As with any text, the author had one thing in mind when He wrote it. The fact that there are many different interpretations doesn't mean that we can sow our own agenda into the Bible, come out with different interpretations, and think that that's OK. It isn't.
Sometimes when we talk about "what this passage means to me," we are actually talking about application, rather than interpretation. With interpretation, we are asking what the passage is saying and what it means. With application, we are applying that meaning to our specific situation. Ultimately, each passage has one meaning, but it might have many different applications.
Application depends on our specific life situations, so we may all read the same passage and walk away with different applications. Interpretation, on the other hand, is all about discovering what God has actually said and what He intended to communicate. We should all read the same passage and walk away with the same meaning. Source: Multiply.
The Multiply book is free in pdf format and there are also 24 videos to match each week's lessons.

In the Ligonier online class Principles of Biblical Interpretation, lecturer RC Sproul always says that there is ONE intended meaning for each passage in the Bible. There might be many applications, but the Author intended one meaning. I can give an example of this. In the passages describing the rapture and in the larger context of God's plan for humankind in history, some interpret the rapture to occur before the Day of the LORD, or during the Day of the LORD, or after the Day of the LORD. Since it is one event and it happens only once, there can't be an interpretation of the rapture that includes 'what it means to me' with three different timings.' Only one of those timings is right and the other two are wrong.

John MacArthur at Grace Community Church preached against personal revelation and preached how to interpret the Word properly in this sermon from 2013.

And here is a general lecture on How To Study Your Bible: Interpretation from MacArthur.

Can we understand the one meaning the Author intended? With study, prayer, and the aid of the Holy Spirit, yes. Some passages are admittedly more difficult to understand. Also, we know we can't understand all of the Bible in the same way the LORD does. However let me end with this story I've told and re-told. It fascinates me. Shortly after the Soviet Union fell, John MacArthur was asked by some pastors in the split-off nation of Kazakhstan to come give them a crash course in theology on various topics. The Communist Soviet Union had banned Christianity and when it fell, the secret pastors, new pastors, and new believers needed to get a good foundation in the open. MacArthur came.

At the end of the week, they asked to be taught on eschatology. MacArthur spent 8 hours teaching them from the Bible about last things. At the end of the teaching, they said, "Good. This is what we believe." Having no access to commentaries, external sermons, or other teachings, and relying solely on the Bible, these pastors on one part of the world believed the same thing as another pastor in another part of the world, because they had interpreted rightly and understood the one intended meaning.

Won't it be wonderful when we're there and we all understand the same, and have a strong union in Christ with no error or sin? Meanwhile, in order to reduce the possibility of error, pray fervently and often, study diligently and well, and do not fall for the 'what this verse means to me" claptrap. Stay true to discovering the wonders of the single, intended meaning of the passage you are reading.
Onward and upward!


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The arrogance of self-sufficiency

"I'm self-sufficient. I'm proud of it."

That was me, before I was saved. I was saved by grace of Jesus Christ. My parents were intensely interested in raising their children as "self-sufficient" and "independent". I heard those words so often. I had to 'figure it out' or 'do for myself' more times than not. By the time I reached adulthood, I was proud of all the things I could do by myself, for myself, leaning on no other. Asking for help was anathema.

Of course all the instilling of self-sufficiency was a stumbling block to bending the knee, realizing how hopeless I was on my own, and asking Jesus for help. The fact that He calls us and we don't choose Him is a grace that will manifest itself in untold aspects throughout all eternity. I never would have asked. He chose me.

The pagan heart builds many idols. Any and all idols are in opposition to God. Idols are an enemy of God, and at enmity with Him. For me, the root of all that vaunted self-sufficiency is pride. I was proud of all that I could do. I was proud that I needed no one. I was proud of my capabilities- capabilities I'd cultivated and no one else.

Anything can be an idol. Self-sufficiency is one.

The Chaldeans were swimming in self-sufficiency. This idol permeated their actions and drenched their hearts in evil. Habakkuk proclaimed against it in chapter 2 of the book of Habakkuk. This prophet pronounced 5 woes on the Chaldeans (though they were not named, this was the original target audience.) As scripture has one meaning but many applications, these verses can and do apply to us today as we learn object lessons about doing for ourselves and not bowing to God's will for us.

The fifth woe was the woe upon idolators (2:18–20). In poignant verses, God asks if idols can speak-

What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.(Habakkuk 2:18-19).

Oh! How terrible for the idolater who asks dead wood and stone to speak! How sad we seek instruction from dead objects and not the Living God!

Any and all idols in our hearts teach us lies. We are the maker of the idol, so because of our sin nature, it teaches us the lie of sin. Can stone awaken and instruct us in the ways of righteousness?

"But I don't worship idols," you say. "I don't ask stone or wood to speak."

Do you seek instruction from horoscopes? The sun? "Mother Nature"? Do you rely on your intellect? Your capabilities? Your money? All idols! All dead!

The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23a). God speaks of this New Testament truth in the Old Testament in Habakkuk 2:8, 2:17...

The Good News is that the rest of the Romans verse continues after speaking of the wages of sin, by a glorious promise.

but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:6b)

The antidote to self-sufficiency is humility. As this woman spoke so eloquently on Twitter this week,

Anna Crouse‏ @annacrouse_
Humility isn't a burden or humiliation or oppressive weight but is the only posture that can receive the wondrous grace gifts of God
Instead of "I can do it" we say "I can't do it. Lord I need you!"





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Resources

Elyse Fitzpatrick: Idols of the Heart
Do you feel discouraged, even defeated, in your battle against habitual sin? Are you dismayed or surprised by the situations that bring out your fear, anger, or distress? Elyse Fitzpatrick delves into the heart of the problem: deep down, we're all idol-worshippers who put our loves, desires, and expectations in God's place—and then suffer the consequences of our misplaced affections. Yet God loves his people and can use even our messy lives and struggles for his glory. Fitzpatrick shows us how to better search and know our hearts, long for our gracious Savior, and resist and crush our false gods. Includes questions for further thought.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Tongue is a Rudder: A Sailing Story

I lived on a sailboat and cruised up and down the eastern seaboard for two years. Just as there is with any lifestyle, there are niches within that lifestyle. The circumnavigators go around the world, traveling for weeks across the seas from one continent to another. These folks are serious, and they generally have sold all they own and permanently live on their boat.

Then there were people like us who lived aboard and cruised along the shoreline. Live-aboard cruisers don't usually venture far out to sea, though we may be without sight of land for hours or a day or so on an overnight passage. We usually keep our houses and relationship attachments, live this way for a period of time, and then return to life on shore. This is called "swallowing the anchor". For liveaboards like is cruising is more of an adventure than a way of live.

Then there are the folks who own a sailboat and dock it at a yacht club and sail for a few hours on the weekend. Many of these folks dream of living aboard or circumnavigating but haven't been able to do so yet.

Though there are tiers of sailors with varying levels of commitment and skill, the Sea can be kind or cruel to each one of us. When an emergency happens while sailing on the ocean it's just as life threatening whether you're near shore or in the middle of the ocean.

Annie C. Maguire wreck. Portland ME. EPrata photo
photo Collections of ME Historical Society. FMI on the wreck-Source
My husband and I had sailed from Maine to Florida with a variety of passages that included motoring down the Intracoastal Waterway,sailing across huge Rivers and Sounds, and making some offshore overnight ocean passages. We'd finally arrived at Fort Lauderdale's Las Olas anchorage, the traditional launching off point to cross the Gulf Stream to the nearby nation of The Bahamas. It's 50 miles, but a tricky 50 miles.

The Gulf Stream is a fast moving river of water atop the ocean. The Gulf Stream is about 60 miles wide and runs at an average surface speed of 5.5 mph. Since the boat can sail at around 5 mph it means that the combined speed plus the Gulf Stream's fast northward push means you have to make exact navigation maths and be on constant vigilance. You could get pushed to Ireland if you're not careful. A worse disaster would be pushed a few miles, or even a few feet off course and wind up on the rocks, shipwrecked on the shores of a foreign nation or in hazardous waters.
You need to stay on your toes regarding weather. You'll be traveling in open ocean, the islands are low, some anchorages will be exposed on one or more sides, and there will be potentially rough passages through reefs and cuts between islands. Source
The warm waters of the Gulf Stream (red). FL is at bottom,
the topmost island left side is town of West End, Grand Bahama Island.
So you start off from Ft. Lauderdale and let the Gulf Stream push you north and your sails push you east toward the intended harbor. The biggest danger is a wind that flows from the north tot he south, and meets the Gulf Stream waters moving from the south heading north. The collisions of southerly flowing air and northerly flowing fast water makes for a steep waves. Steep waves are rough because the front part of the boat (the bow) goes up and then down fast. At least with a rolling wave the boat can roll with it. A steep chop makes the boat pound. Pounding is hard on everyone and is hard on the boat.

Because crossing over the Gulf Stream is a bit dangerous and not for the fainthearted, mariners usually take off from the anchorage in little groups. Safety in numbers. Not that if anything happens we can go from one boat to another to troubleshoot the problem, but if the worst happens we can rescue a person from the water or call for the Coast Guard for help and stand by.

So our little clutch set off in the dark hours, so we would arrive at a time when the rising sun would be over our shoulders and not in our eyes. The weather report was for gentle winds flowing north, which would actually help flatten the Gulf Stream waters.

All was well ... sailing over the bounding main ... for a while.

The wind unexpectedly shifted from the south to the north, creating that dreaded sharp, steep chop. The boats took a pounding. Then the rain and thunder and lighting started. It was dark and it was rough.Then...one of the boats' rudders broke.

I think you know how important a rudder is. It is a tiny thing, relatively speaking, a small part of the boat. Not heavy like the motor, not showy like the sails. However it's the most critical part, since it steers the boat. Without the rudder, our friend's yacht was drifting helplessly in the storm, in the Gulf Stream, toward the reefs. They were at the mercy of waves, rocks, and winds. They had no control and it was terrifying.

When we put bits into the mouths of the horses to make them obey us, we can guide the whole animal. Consider ships as well. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot is inclined. In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things! James 3:3-5

A small rudder can guide the whole boat. A small muscle like the tongue can guide the whole body. With the rudder not guiding the boat, it was at the mercy of other more destructive things than the pilot's inclination. Just like the tongue. The 'pilot' must be in control of the tongue so it does not become subjugated to other, more destructive things like slander, gossip, tale-bearing, and criticism. These are the rocks and reefs of relationships, as Jude describes in Jude 1:12-13, using the same sailing metaphors of waves, reefs, and winds.

I was busy handling our boat and my husband was on the VHF radio in contact with the stricken vessel. We all had slowed down and were kind of trying to circle around them and stay close. It was hard to do so in the storm. Eventually the other men talked him through and somehow he got his rudder fixed.

We were off course by then so we had to regroup and figure out how to get back on track. The winds were still high and we were in the hump of the Gulf Stream, the current was flowing fast. Entering West End Grand Bahama was a tricky maneuver of sliding between reefs through a narrow channel. We were off by a few feet. However you can see the destruction ready for the unwary in the Annie C. Maguire vintage photo above. They were only off by a few feet also.

Providentially, there was a Good Samaritan who happened to be carrying a VHF radio who happened to be walking the beach who guided us in. If he had not been there we would have ended up on the rocks. It's another example of how the Lord protected me until the appointed time for salvation, 13 years later.

I'll never forget the terror of our friends losing their rudder. Even though the James verse about taming the tongue by using marine metaphors is vividly alive for me, I still failed in this last week. I've repented. After listening to a lecture by Justin Peters on the importance of wholesome talk and the destructive inclinations of the tongue by gossip, I will do better this week. I do not want to end up on the rocks for correction. I am the pilot. I am in charge of my boat. With the Holy Spirit to guide me safely to port, I know I have all the help I need.

EPrata photo
The dark blob in the foreground is a coral head. Their sharpness can rip the keel or underside of your boat like a razor. The boat with two men on it is grounded. The water gets shallow very fast in The Bahamas. In the middle horizon, those brown humps are the land, which is just a few feet above sea level. Now picture trying to find the right channel, in the dark, in a storm, on 0 sleep in the last 24 hours.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Bible is so amazing

In my Bible reading there are some verses that have 'jumped out' at me lately:

do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. (Romans 11:18).

He supports me. Isn't that a lovely thought? I do not want to be arrogant and take HIS glory away.

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Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16).

As a writer, I admire the beauty among this economy of words. Only the Spirit could inspire such gorgeous writing that proclaims such truth!

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For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. (Psalm 11:7).

To behold such glorious righteousness is a thought that both encourages me and makes me tremble. What a day that will be!
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Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. (Proverbs 11:4).

I praise the Lord I do not have a lust for riches. I know people who do (did). Some spend their entire life accumulating, lusting for expensive things, hoarding wealth. Unless there was a miraculous deathbed conversion, they are languishing in a place where their riches do not profit them. Thank You Lord for Your righteousness that is indeed riches beyond measure.

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Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:35).

How amazing that we will personally hear Him speak these words someday!

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The Bible is so rich, so beautiful. The many verses and passages and stories convict, inspire, point to the glory of the Lord...it's staggering that this Book contains so much and is so everlasting.


Think about what Paul said- "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you..."

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the lov...