Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Thoughts

As I type this, I am sitting in the truck with my wonderful man on the way to Dallas. Thanks to modern technology, I have spent a good part of the trip surfing the net and reading blogs and Facebook posts about Good Friday. As I read, the thoughts kept coming and of course I felt compelled to write. 

The most profound thought that I have meditated over on this Good Friday is one that John Piper wrote about today: God created the universe for Good Friday. Wow.

Revelation 13:8 "Everyone [will worship the beast] whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain." 

Please read that passage again! The book of life of the Lamb that was slain was written before the creation of the universe. God made this universe with the purpose of displaying his glory supremely and ultimately in the crucifixion of the Son to provide propitiation for sinners. This leaves me humbled and speechless. How awesome is our God?

Secondly, I have thought about the cross. The cross is a symbol of the torturous death Christ endured.  I have become far to comfortable with this symbol, using it as a house decoration and jewelry adornment. Sometimes I forget the blood, pain and gruesomeness that should be associated with the cross. I would never put an electric chair on my wall or around my neck  because I understand culturally what it represents. I am not saying it is necessarily wrong to have a cross in your home or on your neck, but I don't want to forget what the cross really was, and in effect forget the suffering of the Savior.

I pray that you have taken time to meditate on the death of Jesus today, because it is by his stripes that we are healed. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

What Makes Jesus Glad.

What makes Jesus glad?
I promise to return to the “Digging Deeper” posts, but I just had to share something from my reading/studying this week.
John 11:14-15 - Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to them.”
Stephen and I had the privilege of being present when his grandfather passed away in November 2007. It was such a very special, sweet time. Sitting there as our loved one took his last breath was awesome. Standing around him and praying with the family was beautiful. I am so glad I was there!  Jesus told his disciples, that he was glad he was not present when Lazarus passed away! John 11:5 says that Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary and Martha; so, why was he glad that he was not there for them during Lazarus’ final moments?
Jesus cares more about the opportunity to grow faith. The verse above says He was glad because the disciples would be able to believe.  Oh, I hope you get this: Jesus cared more about growing his disciples’ faith than sparing Lazarus from experiencing death. For us, that means He cares more about our depth of faith than our pain, unhappiness, grief and even life itself.  He would rather us grieve if it means having our faith strengthened. He would rather us see and experience trials to the point of death if it means that our faith would be grown.  Jesus was glad he was not there, becuase if he was there he would have kept Lazarus alive. Though keeping him alive would have spared many from mourning, it would not have provided such an opportunity to strengthen the faith of His followers.
If we jump back to John 11:3-4, we see that the sisters told Jesus about Lazarus being ill. Jesus responded, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the Glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified though it.”  Now, imagine the thoughts that went though the sisters’ and disciples’ minds when Lazarus DID die.
"But, He said Lazarus wouldn't die! I don't undersand!"
Imagine the faith it took to believe that what Jesus said was still true.  Imagine how their faith was grown when they saw Lazarus resurrected. Imagine how they realized that Jesus keeps His word no matter how impossible it seems.
Dear, sweet friend, I don’t know what you may be facing right now, but I believe there are two important applications that we can make from this passage. First, God will keep his word, but his deliverance may come when all hope seems to be lost and it is humanly impossible. Second, he wants to grow our faith more than he wants to spare us from any trial, pain, or grief.  He values faith above and beyond the breath of life.
Remember, Jesus is glad when our faith is strengthened!
“…you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that parishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  1 Peter 1:6-7

Friday, April 8, 2011

Digging Deeper into God's Word: Hermeneutics

Yesterday, I told you that a class called Biblical Hermeneutics (her –men-new-tics) changed my life. I did not, however, tell you what hermeneutics means. Hermeneutics is the science of studying God’s Word. It is the method we follow to find meaning in the scriptures. Good hermeneutics is essential to good theology.
Today, I came across a forum discussion of John McArthur’s on bad hermeneutics. I wanted to share what I read with you to further convince you why good hermeneutics is so important:
“Those who take God’s Word seriously spend many hours in study. Coming out of diligent study are lessons, sermons, articles, and books that are deep, weighty, sober, doctrinally coherent, and theologically consistent.
Sadly, today’s evangelicals aren’t known for being profound, sober-minded, or consistent; instead they’ve developed a reputation for being superficial, trivial, doctrinally erratic, and theologically naïve. Want proof? Walk into your local Christian bookstore, sample the preaching online, survey the blogs—the shoe fits.”
One of the individuals who responded on this forum shared two examples of bad hermeneutics:
“I heard a local pastor preach a sermon from Mark 6:6-13. In this text is Jesus sending out the twelve to preach the gospel. His sermon was about accepting one another in marriage. He said Jess accepted and used the disciples even though they were just ordinary men. Therefore, we must accept one another in the marriage relationship. That is absolutely foreign to the intent of the author.

Recently, at our state convention preaching conference, a man used Isaiah 49:2 as his text. He took one phrase from that text, "a polished shaft," and preached a sermon on how God selects preachers. His whole sermon was built upon the way American Indians selected and made arrows. For instance: the shaft is selected; the shaft is shaped; etc. He never discussed the text at all. He never even referred to it again after the initial reading. It was sad. The worst thing is the poor model he put before young preachers at the conference. Again, it is an abandonment of authorial intent. The interpreter must have as his goal discovering the intent of the human author.”
Without good hermeneutical skills, we miss the point of the passage. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss the point that God wants me to get. I can’t afford to!  So, let the hermeneutics begin!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Digging Deeper into God's Word: Meaning

I yearn to dig deep and find meaning in God’s word.
But, how do we know what the Bible means?  I am not talking about the pragmatic “this is what it means to me” point of view.  I am talking about understanding the meaning that God himself put in His Word and wants us to know.
I have decided to write a series of blog posts on the topic that is most near and dear to my heart: understanding God’s word.  My quest for understanding all began several years ago, in college, in a class called Biblical Hermeneutics. To say that this class turned my world upside down would be an understatement.  This class inspired me to search for meaning in the Bible, and fueled a passion for the Word of God that I did not even know was possible. This class taught me to dig deeper into the Word of God and search for its meaning.  The things I learned completely changed how I think about, read, and understand the word of God. Yet, I still have so far to go, and so much to learn!  So, I invite you to come along with me on this journey as I seek to find an absolutely priceless treasure: meaning.
I am assuming that you accept that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God. If you believe that, then you must believe that this is a journey worth taking. It is hard work, but is there anything else more valuable than knowing and understanding the Word of God? I think not!  
 So…. Let’s start digging!
The first step is to recognize that there is some intended meaning in the words that the author wrote. (For clarification, from now on, when I speak of “author” I am referring to both the human as the physical writer and God and the spiritual inspirer.) Without recognizing this, there is no point to our quest; there is nothing to dig for. However, if there is intended meaning, then there is something specific God wants us to know, and something worth digging for.
The basis of meaning is that when God inspired men to write his word, there was something specific that he wanted to communicate to a specific group of people. Did God know that we would read the Bible some 2,000+ years later? Of course he did!  But, he still chose to reveal his word at a specific time in history to a specific audience for a reason. For us to completely ignore this is arrogant and dangerous. It is arrogant because we assume our contemporary lives are more important and more meaningful that the first audience’s, and dangerous because this opens the door for anyone’s interpretation of the Word to be as good as the next person’s.
At first glance, you may think this would steal richness and depth from what we read, but it actually has the exact opposite effect. By recognizing that there is an author-intended meaning, it gives us something to dig for, and in our earnest digging we find more truth, depth and meaning!  This also brings us to a more humble approach to interpreting God’s word. Realizing there is an author-intended meaning leads us to stop asking, “What does this mean to me?” and begin to ask, “What is God saying?”  For now, we will try to take the “me” out of our understanding (as best we can), but don’t worry, we will reinsert “me” later when we discuss application, where it rightfully belongs.
I hope you are still with me here. I know that some of you may think this isn’t your “thing.” Maybe you think it sounds too nerdy or scholarly, but I plead with you to take this journey with me.  The rewards are far greater that you can imagine.
So, are you ready for this quest?  Do you believe there is meaning in God’s word, waiting for you to dig deep and find it? I believe there is; which is why I started this journey, and feel so compelled to blog about this. Tomorrow, I hope to share with you a little bit more.  I hope you stay tuned as we dig deeper into God’s Word.

Monday, April 4, 2011

An Awesome Sunday Night.

Last night, we had the iMiTATORS, our church’s high school drama team, over to hang out. It was such an awesome time. Stephen led us to do something called the “encouragement seat.” We all sat around in our living room, with one chair in the middle. Randomly, people took turns sitting in the middle seat. While they sat there, it was everyone else’s time to offer encouragement to that person. This was an absolutely beautiful thing. We laughed, cried, and shared. The neatest part was the fact that it was a bigger blessing to offer encouragement to someone than to receive it yourself.
I shared with the entire group last night that they were one of the “perks” of our ministry here.  I thanked them for letting me be a part of their lives. I have watched several of these high schoolers take their faith to the next level over the past year.  I have seen God bring some of them though incredibly devastating circumstances, but seen their faith strengthened as a result. The best part of ministry is seeing God change people’s lives.  I am so humbled to be able to see that happen.  Nothing compares to seeing God’s power radically change someone.  I am so blessed.