Feeling Down

www.bible.com/1713/psa.34.18.csb

Are you feeling down today? Do you feel like your heart is broken? Working in the medical field, being broken-hearted is an actual medical condition. This surprised me when I found this out. A person can suffer from a broken heart, especially when experiencing profound loss. My belief is that doctors didn’t really have a better explanation than this significant emotional-physical connection, so they call it broken-heart syndrome.

But this verse holds a profound promise. These weep in the presence of God. Do you have a feeling come over you when your child weeps? Anger at those who caused it; dismay and empathy for the plight of my child. How do you think God feels when we weep? A God who knows every detail, the location of every quark and neutrino of our existence? Our God transcends our reality, but is able to be with us at all times. God is able to see the plane of our existence and be present at every point.

God cares for us. That is profound. The ultimate infinite God cares for us. He cares about the infinitesimal speck that we are to Him in the vastness of the universe. He cares for us. Let that sink in. Of all the things He has to think about, we are on His mind. His presence seeks us out. He cares for me.

Wow.

God bless you today.

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Major in the majors

www.bible.com/1713/eph.6.10.csb

Graduation season is here and many have taken their next steps into a larger world, sometime a more complicated world, where we wish we could step back and write that final paper than have to write checks to pay bills. I’m sure everyone who has ever been through college can attest to that some days. As I and many others have learned, our college degree doesn’t necessarily become our life’s work. In my case, having a major in Bible only pointed to my present career in Chaplaincy. But if you’d told me that Chaplaincy is where I would be in 25 years, I wouldn’t have believed you. We find that after a time, what we major in has little bearing on the real world.

However, our verse today points out that strength comes from the Lord. But what is strength? We often define it as ability. If you are strong enough, you are able to perform a task. But strength can also be defined as resiliency. Strength allows you to adapt and endure to changing situations and thus be resilient. Emotional strength points to enduring crisis and loss while strength of will translates into determination, even stubbornness.

What is the kind of strength that the Lord provides? Or as this verse suggests, being strong in the Lord? Having strength in the Lord is a major. We want to major in this major. That is, we want to exercise skill in this area as of undergirds many of the other areas in our life. If we are weak in the Lord, then our ability to fight temptation, overcome adversity and hardship and even exercise faith is hindered. So we major in working on the strength we have in the Lord. That strength is improved by spending time with Him in prayer and worship. That strength comes from assurance that He is with us. We always feel more confident when the bigger, stronger warrior is with us. And He is the strongest by far.

Put your trust in the Lord and in His strength and He will never fail you. He may let you fight on your own to test your mettle, but He will never leave your side. Fight and work in the strength of His might. He never runs out.

God bless.

You Aren’t Always Right

www.bible.com/1713/pro.3.7.csb

Recently I have been challenged on my interpretation of Scripture, and rightly so. I am not always right. I don’t know that anyone is. I also hate to be told that I am in error. Thus the warning of this verse. I make mistakes. I can be more right than I was yesterday, but i will never be perfect.

In fact, much of the truth we believe comes to us from others, who are also not always right. Parents, teachers, professors, managers, all flawed, imperfect human beings. Our best hope is that we get enough right to make good decisions about life.

Even the Bible, our most trusted source of information that ought and should be always right, still comes to us from the minds and pens of translators and scholars. Even if you know the Hebrew and the Greek, it still comes through that filter of training and discipline in learning those languages.

So can we know anything true? This is where Felix’s statement to Paul really comes true. “Your much learning is driving you mad.” You can go crazy trying to account for the error endemic to the human system. It truly challenges everything you think is true.

However, there are two notions in this verse that help us. One is to fear the Lord. The other is to shun evil. We cannot do either of these things if we cannot know what they are. I think it goes without saying that we can identify evil. We instinctively know what evil is. It does not have to be taught. We also identify the opposite of evil, good, and that of absolute good, the Lord. We can identify God’s handiwork with no formal education. He is transcendent.

Since we can know both God and evil, and favor the one and shun the other, then all other truths fall in line with these two poles. Fearing and respecting God helps us identify Scripture as God’s own word. The Bible speaks often clearly of what God wants from us. Our knowledge of evil agrees with what the Bible says about evil. Thus, except for very rare instances, the Bible even as translated, is a source of truth. Everything that agrees with the Bible can also be accepted as truth.

The sciences, for example, anticipate a world that is ordered and rational, because it was created by a God of order and logic. If the world evolved in a random fashion, it would be impossible to do science, because every scientific result would be different. It would, in that random world, be impossible to expect an aspirin to relieve pain every time, or even most of the time. Science expects the same result every time given the same set of circumstances. A random universe does not.

How can I know that what I know is right? Check it against your Bible. The Bible resonates with me, acts often as a mirror to my behavior showing me right and wrong. And the more I read it, the better I get. I am not always right, but I can learn.

You are Reading it Wrong

www.bible.com/1713/pro.22.6.csb

So amazing to see one translation actually get this right. Years ago I came across a book about Old Testament textual issues and this verse came up for discussion. For centuries we have understood it to mean that a child, properly disciplined, will stay a disciplined person for as long as he lives. But that isn’t what the Hebrew says. Rather, it is better translated as the above. Once a child finds his way, he will never depart from it. His way is his path of life, his habits and behaviors that define who he is. We also call this his “bent”. A strong-willed child will be strong-willed into adulthood. A passive child the same. There is confidence and danger both here. Once you discover your child’s way, you have to learn how to work with it, and help him discover God given his personality set. Strong-willed children can’t be told. They must discover. Passive child must be told, but also encouraged, and so on.

God did not make us all the same (do you hear that public schools?). We were not all designed to sit behind a desk and learn something by lecture. Some of us learn better with our hands, with our eyes, even with our feet. And it is hard to watch them grow, learn, and make mistakes. But they must make mistakes to learn. And we must let them. We cannot and should not help the butterfly out of the cocoon. It take time to mold a life into its adult form. We must give it even freedom to do so.

If you are a parent, consider what kind of child you have. If he needs to explore, give him space. Correct him when necessary. Be clear about the rules and where the guardrails to his exploration are. But always encourage him. Discipline is about sharpening the edge, that learning from the past is effective lesson for the future. If you are a mom, then I doubly commend you this week, for you have labored to bring this life into the world, both to birth him and/ or to raise him. For Dads, I would also commend you, for you are the one necessary to bring this child into adulthood, to teach him the ways of the world, but to also understand how his way works and interacts with the world. Be gentle but firm. Be loving but willing to be hard when necessary. You both are his first and best teachers.

God bless you both today.

Thoroughly Equipped

www.bible.com/72/2ti.3.16-17.hcsb

Is it possible to be thoroughly equipped for every good work? What people miss about this text, because they get stuck on the inspiration section, is that Scripture can thoroughly equip the servant of God for every work God calls us to do. I discovered this when I was getting some extra classes for counseling and this was pointed out. Biblical counseling doesn’t need the principles of psychology, based on man’s ideas, but the word of God.

Consider what “every good work” entails. Every work that God considers “good” toward advancing the Kingdom of God can find guidance from the word of God. Are you looking to make what you do something that God can use for His Kingdom, look no further than the word of God. Confused about what you can do in this world that matters to God? Apply the principles you find in the pages of this book. The Bible was written to equip you, not just in part, but thoroughly, so that you can do God’s good work.

Teaching, Rebuking, Correcting, Teaching in Righteousness. The Word instructs us in what is true. It rebukes is because we have sinned. It corrects us because we have made mistakes. It teaches us righteousness because it is showing us how to do it God’s way. The Word of God is a divine mirror, showing us not only our faults, but also the solutions. We cannot discern these things from science and nature. They have to be revealed to us. God has already given us what we need to do all He has called us to do. God will not call you if He has not equipped you for the task. The Bible equips you for every good work He calls us to.

There is in this a sense of priority. If the Bible has nothing to say about something I want to do, is it a “good” work? Am I spinning my wheels or wasting time? Am I expending valuable time and energy doing something God has not called me to? I know this is arguing from the silences of Scripture but it makes me wonder. Does everything I do need to have a divine decree behind it? I know Scripture says elsewhere, whatever you do, do for the glory of God. Is what I am doing glorifying God?

I can’t tell you what to do. But I can tell you that the Bible has something to say about everything we put our mind to doing, whether direct commands or passive ones. The Bible isn’t just a book on the shelf. It’s God’s express commands to us about how He says we need to live. Don’t let it collect dust.

God bless you today.

Selective Exegesis

www.bible.com/72/deu.7.9.hcsb

I “love” how many Christians read this verse for its first part, the part where God keeps His covenant throughout generations. But then they fail to add the last part of the verse, that this covenant keeping is with those who keep their agreement with God. This was true in the Old Testament system. Though God is a god of grace and mercy, especially when we don’t deserve, this verse very clearly dictates terms. We may lean on God’s grace for all things, but it seems disingenuous when we ought to know better, and have been told what He expects of us. We become selective in our exegesis, conveniently eliminating those pieces that we feel we don’t need anymore, because we are “under grace and not under law.”

Did we forget that under The grace of Christ, He still expects us to keep His commands as proof of our love for Him? He still expects us to make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey His commands. The New Testament is not a “do what you want! It’s all good!” But “do this and you will be saved!” “Do this because you are my disciples!”

When quoting Bible verses, quote them in context. Don’t pick and choose translations to best for what you want the verse to say. Study all of them, for they all contain nuance of the languages behind the translation. Study your Bible. Don’t just read it. This is the Word of God written down for your benefit. Don’t go praying to the heavens for a “WORD” from the Lord until you’ve exhausted the written word and wrung out all its meaning. Read. Pray. Study. Learn.

God bless you today.

As for me and my house

www.bible.com/72/jos.24.15.hcsb

I don’t know how much pull you have in your house, but in my family I am the head of household, at least until someone disagrees with me. 😁 I’ve been in ministry now for 25 years, and generally decisions about church have been settled simply by where I was preaching at the time. Here lately, we’ve been going where my wife feels more comfortable going since I’ve been out of the pulpit. It’s been an adjustment, but one that I am making because she has enjoyed church and worship far more than ever I’ve seen her. I love her and I love seeing her happy. The church preaches the Bible and really that’s what we need.

It is not a hard choice making Jesus Lord. It’s just hard to follow through. Becoming a Christian is easy. Growing as a Christian is hard. Being a Christian father of a home is even more challenging. Every one of us makes an independent choice and following Christ is supposed to be one of free will. Being a father who leads his family, especially with children who makes their own choices, requires both talking the talk and walking the walk. Kids see you when you are weak. They see you when you are in crisis. In other words, they see dad when he’s not in church.

I want to encourage you today, especially if you are a parent, to make the hard choices. You have a Father to look up to and Jesus to follow when you don’t know what to do. Your kids are looking to you, watching you when you face challenges and difficulties. Don’t give up. God has not given up on you.

My prayers be with you today. God bless.