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“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15  (KJV)

I really like that Title, Study! So do lots and lots of other Bible students.  Awana’s programs all around the world, quote this verse weekly, a quick perusal of the Internet shows most people who site this verse keep the KJV rendering of the word Study, even if they change out all the Old English verbiage.  Only problem is that it is incorrect.  Sure if you have a King James Version Bible, you will see that word, Study! in 2 Timothy 2:15 (Won’t find it in any other version today!).  However, after some lengthy study on the use of this word throughout history and the Bible, a better and more accurate interpretation would be, Be diligent! or Make every effort! the TDNT even makes the statement, “Any attempt to construe σπουδή as “study” or “teaching” is to be resisted. There is too little support for this in Greek (and especially contemporary) usage.” So why is it there?  Not sure…Maybe we could ask King Jimmy!

This word is an Imperative, it’s a command!!!  And then it is followed by this phrase which reveals why Paul is telling Timothy to Be diligent…to present yourself approved. But not to man, rather to God. I think we all can agree that we, especially me as a pastor often work very diligently to show ourselves approved to those in the congregation of the church.  But Paul makes it clear we are to be diligent, make every effort, to present ourselves approved to God.  Interesting how important this adjective approved, really is when we understand who it points us to.  We can and often do look really good, and quite easily I might add, in man’s eyes.  Today in this attention starved culture that feeds more and more off of self validation this just isn’t too hard to do!

But Paul goes on to feed us a little more detail about what we are to be diligent about, “a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” We are to be like “one who has caused no disgrace to God,” unashamed before the face of God, specifically in how we “handle rightly” the very word or words of God.  The Greek word used here is where we get our term ortho as in ortho-dontist.  It simply means to make straight (cf., Pr. 3:6).  Furthermore,  it is in the Present Active so for Paul he is telling Timothy, “Be diligent, make every effort to keep straight the word of truth as you study and then teach.  And in doing so you will not dishonor God, regardless what man thinks.” The context prior to and especially after this passage helps us understand that there is a tendency to get off course if we are not cautious and don’t remember what we have been taught and learned.

Precisely, Paul goes on to tell Timothy in v. 18, ”Hymenaeus and Philetus… have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. Paul shows Timothy and us what a lack of diligence and study will lead to…making crooked the straight, perverting that which is absolute truth.

So all of this exegesis to get to this point…I have heard so many Christian laity make comments about how further and or even some theological training is of little to no value for men who are called to be pastors.  The reasons are varied and span the whole field of pastoral work.  Things like, “Seminary will just fill your mind with so much theology that you become difficult to understand in the pulpit.” Or, “learning all those biblical languages just keeps you from being relevant to us simple folk in the pew.” These vocalizations have become so loud and prolific that often those called into the ministry both young and old seem to struggle to hear clearly the call of God to seek wisdom and knowledge from Professor’s and teachers who have dedicated their lives to their respected studies and who now fill our six conservative Southern Baptist Seminaries.

Think about this…Why is it demanded that the person about to cut into our heart or our brain, to perform surgery in an attempt to SAVE our life, have as much schooling, training and internship as can possibly be done by one man or woman? Then they have to go back year after year and do continuing education so they can continue to seek to save lives, even though they still fail from time to time and people die.

But in our culture today it is absolutely OK that a pastor not have much more than passing knowledge of the Bible and then be allowed to stand in the pulpit, and be expected to proclaim with all Wisdom (Col. 1:28) and all Authority (Ti. 2:15) the very Gospel of Jesus Christ. Wielding the Word of God, which is sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow (Heb. 4:12). That which ALONE is the power of God for Salvation (Rm 1:16). That which when heard and believed will ALWAYS SAVE souls from an eternity separated from the Love of God.

Interesting perspective isn’t it!  I grow tired of listening to those who choose of their own free will to neglect the deeper knowledge of God.  Knowledge which only comes through study and effort, time spent in the Bible, yet they push their shallow mentality of what they believe a pastor should be upon those seeking to follow God’s call.  If you are reading this and contemplating God’s call in your life to vocational ministry, and if God is opening doors for you to go to seminary, Go! At least start walking and God will direct and guide.  I struggle to ever understand why God would say No to someone seeking to know more about Him. Often times I don’t think it is God saying NO! Rather, I think it is man thinking about all the sacrifices he will have to make, and then once his judgment is good and clouded by doubt, that man says no…the costs are just too much.

I write all this in response to a Facebook post by a godly and devoted Christian brother of mine confronted with this very situation.  So I close with this, I love you Brother…and I know you are an intelligent and capable pastor today and  I would love to be a fraction of what you are in the pulpit, but I look at theological training as, we can ALWAYS be better, rather than it will make me too smart to be a good preacher!  I mean, come on…it’s only Eternity that’s at stake, right?

Study to know Him,

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Logos Software

Logos Software

Let me start this post by saying, I am not addicted to Facebook, I am just adamantly committed to friendships!  There, makes it kind of hard to refute that argument, doesn’t it.  Today I was reading through status updates and Logos Bible Software posted their Great Bible Giveaway premium Bible winners for the month of August.  I’m thinking, how awesome that Logos would give away such expensive resources.  Logos by the way is completely committed to providing, for those willing to study God’s word, electronic resources which are invaluable.  Using tools such as Logos we can study God’s word to depth’s never even dreamed of decades or centuries ago, and do so with accuracy and speed our forefathers would love to have had.

Anyway, as I was reading their updates I noticed a post by a gentleman condemning Logos and others for their apparent gluttony over the production and distribution of these “extravagant” Bibles.  His words were, and I quote, “whenever I see a Bible priced over $50 and advertised as “premium”, the Scriptures prohibiting gluttony immediately come to mind. N.Korean Christians use hand-written scripture on balloons floated in from VOM workers, yet publishers crank out these ridiculously extravagant Bibles? How is God honored by this excess I wonder?”

Now, I applaud this individual for his perspective.  His apparent purpose is to seek to answer this question; Are we in our extravagance here in America neglecting those in countries where God’s written word is not allowed? My hope is that he will not simply ask the question, like most people do, and never struggle through to an answer, but in his own heart and mind will evaluate his life and seek to answer for himself how he can best fulfill this need to spread the truth of God’s word to these very people!  Well this is the purpose for my post, I too want to seek to answer the question, and what remains here in this post is a beginning…

First off, I applaud Logos for seeking to put into people’s hands the resources needed to help us study God’s word. So that we can seek to fulfill the words found in them. Passages like Romans 10:14-17 comes quickly to mind.  

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him uof whom they have never heard?3 And how are they to hear vwithout someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent?

u Eph. 4:21; [John 9:36; 17:20]
3 Or him whom they have never heard
v [Acts 8:31; Titus 1:3]
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ro 10:14-15). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

(The scripture and its footnotes are possible thanks to Logos Bible Software)

Regardless of the cost of a Bible, the thing each and everyone of us will have to answer for one day is what we did with what God blessed us with! Reminds me of Jesus’ parable in Luke 12:48 when he says concerning these servants who were given care of the Master’s house, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.”

Be careful condemning God’s provision of his written word to us, and be more concerned about how to use this provision to bless the billions who are lost and dying, who even if they had the word, might be like the Ethiopian Eunuch who though reading the Scriptures himself needed someone to guide him. Acts 8:31 (The Eunuch needed someone to lead him, instruct him, someone who was knowledgeable).  In other words God sent Philip because Philip most definitely knew the way!  God’s word is best understood by those who have been blessed to sit under and study under those who know the way.  Hence God’s OT command to the Father’s, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deut 6:7

One closing thought, which I struggle with in my own life at times.  People complain about the “extravagant” packaging of God’s precious words to us in leather and ink, yet they claim to have the very precious living word of Christ in them, and they could care less what its packaging–how they live, talk and act–looks like to the world around them.  Now that is a waste!

11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:11-12

Study to know Him,

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sanctity-of-lifeMy prayer for all of those who might read this is that as we walk through our day tomorrow we might have a better perspective on the life we have been given and the life we are able to live because our parents chose life for us. More importantly, I also believe that we are absolutely unable to fully understand the blessing of the life we live today, unless we understand the TRUE Life that we are offered through Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

1 John 5:12-13 tells us, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Make no mistake Scripture teaches plainly that without the Son (Jesus Christ) we are like Dead men walking.  We look alive and well as we live out our days here in this world, but death is coming…last I checked the mortality rate of humanity was still at 100%.  Once we breath our last in this life, the grave is not the end.  If so scripture would be lying to us and eternal life is just a dream.  Each and every one of us have one opportunity to get it right in this life and from the point of conception we begin dying.  In other words our days are numbered and there is so much work to get done, in such a short amount of time.

Time is short, I know it seems like we have eternity when we are young–er, but James reminds us that this life, well it is just a vapor, a mist that is here and gone in an instant.  Even Solomon, the wisest man this world has ever known tells us this life is but a shadow.  My point is that many of us believe we have all the time in the world to get eternity, and that kind of gamble…well its like grabbing for fog…it sure looks good, but it is impossible to grasp.

Many of those who will fill the pews in churches across America this Sunday are living this kind of life.  They want True Life, they want the assurance of eternity, but they don’t want to pay the price that God requires.  Oh Oh…”pay the price…”  that can’t be…My Bible tells me eternal life is a free gift!  All I have to do is pray this little prayer, walk down to the front of the church and sign a card, and “poof” I’m good to go!  I like that kind of salvation!  Doesn’t cost me anything, and just like the Good Book says, its free.

Well, your right, it is free.  As a matter of fact Paul used those words “free gift” 12 times in Romans.  Romans 6:23 which most of us know and can quote freely tells us, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of  God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Maybe scripture can explain what I mean by “those who are not willing to pay the price God requires…”

John 5:39-40 says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

Jesus’ words should wake us up out of our complacency and sleep!  Oh we will go to church on Sunday, we will sing the songs and we will drop some money in the offering plate and somehow feel satisfied as we struggle to concentrate as the pastor drones on, silently anticipating lunch, and who we will go eat with, or who might ask us to go eat with them.  Then we will leave the church, and silently return to the life we choose to live, not the life God desires for us to live.  The entire book of Amos has a sad commentary on this very kind of lifestyle.

The Northern Kingdom truly believed that just because they went to “Bethel” (House of God) and sang songs, and offered sacrifices to God that he was pleased with them, and furthermore that he had to be pleased with them because they were Hebrews, and therefore God would never destroy them.  Oh how horribly wrong they were.  God so despised what they called “Service” because what they were doing on “Sunday” looked nothing like what they were doing every other day of the week!  As a matter of fact, by the time we get to Hosea, less than 30 years later, their place of worship is no longer called Bethel, but instead the prophet calls it “Beth-aven” or (House of vanity, house of nothing).

True “Service,” true “Worship” is living a life of holiness and godliness Monday through Saturday, not just Sunday morning from 11:00-12:00.  That is what “Sanctity” really means.  Sanctity of Life therefore is choosing to live a life of “holy character” every day. But just like Amos, John 5:39-40 paints a vivid picture of the failure of so many today who profess to be Christians.  You search the Scriptures because you think in doing it, that it makes you a Christian…“yet You refuse to come to me…”

You see the price that is required?  Yes grace exists for us when we fail, and all of us will fall from time to time.  No one is perfect in this life.  But think about this, if you fall, make sure that you fall looking at the face of Him who died so that you might live.  Falling forward into the arms of Christ, well it happens from time to time.  Falling backwards away from Christ, because we were looking at the world behind us, well that is not good.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us we can live a Sanctified Life if we “fix our eyes on Jesus…”

I urge you this week as you seek to live out your Christian faith, Fix your eyes on Jesus and him alone, because he paid the price required to purchase you out of death,  and then do pick up your Bible and read.  John tells us one last time why we need to read God’s words…

John 20:31  “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Study to know Him,


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“If the Bible is considered merely to contain the Word of God, rather than actually to be in toto the Word of God, there is naturally a decreased sense of responsibility to study its text minutely, or to systematize its theology, or authoritatively to declare its message.”  –Merrill F. Unger  Principles of Expository Preaching

What you believe about the Holy Scriptures, in their entirety, will or has already become for you the foundation of how you live, teach and or preach, in this life, and eternity to come.

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Relevant Discord

bible_starbucks.jpg 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:15-21

My time here in Nashville, TN is coming to a close. Both my wife and my son are looking joyfully for my return, and I am no less joyful to be going home. The past eight weeks have been fruitful, both for me, the company I have been working for, and for those God has placed in my path. It has been a short repreave from my studies in seminary, and it has been a wonderful time of “tent making.” More importantly God has given me an opportunity to step out of the somewhat sterile bubble of the Christian environment of both the church and seminary, and step back into the current culture of the corporate IT life. Although I have spent the past twenty years immersed in the culture of the corporate world, it is amazing to see how quickly one can find himself out of step, both intellectually and culturally once you move into full time vocational ministry in the church.

During my time here in Nashville, the couple I have been blessed to stay with have given me ample opportunity to worship together and be a part of their church family at Woodmont Hills, Church of Christ. For me it was interesting since I have not seen much of any other denomination outside of the Southern Baptist. (I have definitely lived in a denominational bubble.) Let me say, that I have been blessed to be a part of such an incredible body of Christ. Dean Barham and the rest of the teaching staff at Woodmont uncompromisingly preach the gospel message of Jesus Christ. In my eight weeks of attending I have found that within the Body of believers at Woodmont there is no lack of giftedness in both their musical and teaching abilities.

From the first moment on the job, I have been forced to dive back into the culture of IT and Information Security. In doing so I have found it is imperative that you identify and mesh with the current culture or you will not be of any impact whatsoever, and communication will be difficult. I have been out of this culture for only two years, and I realized very quickly that much has already changed. That which two years ago was relevant in IT is in many ways “old technology” today. In the same way, our culture isn’t static, it is dynamic and in constant change. However, the gospel message is unchanging, yet has the incredible ability to adapt itself throughout history so that it continues to impact and change lives without compromise.

Woodmont’s preaching minister Dean Barham presents a unique perspective into this same kind of need to identify with the current culture of today in order to better communicate the gospel message. In a series of five sermons Dean identifies and provides insight into different environments where our culture is trying to speak today, and how we can better understand them. In doing so we gain the ability to speak clearly and relevantly into culture the gospel of Jesus Christ. Dean’s web blog is active and can be found here, http://companionsonjourney.blogspot.com/.

Podcast’s are available as well, Woodmont Hills Podcasts, and I invite you to go and listen as Dean along with the help and insight of some of the staff at Woodmont dialog together and help us better understand how we must step out of the four walls of our church, evaluate the culture surrounding us, understand it, and then clearly speak … The Gospel in Culture.

Study to know Him,

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Churchbuilding.jpg 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching-25.” Hebrews 10:23

 

A good friend of mine who is an avid BBC news reader, recently sent me an article from the BBC News about Christians in the UK and church attendance.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6517807.stm

Interesting article, and I am sure the same thing has been written here in America. The wonderful blessing of the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution is that we have the freedom of religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

–Oh, and by the way, you can thank Baptist leaders like Isaac Backus and John Leland for this amendment. Thomas Jefferson is always mentioned as leading in this addition to the Constitution, but it was because of the requests of others that he acted.

Because of this we have the freedom to choose whether or not we want to attend church, and which denomination we want to believe in. For Christians no one can deny the fact that church attendance is in decline. Why? Shouldn’t our love for Christ compel us to follow him, and be obedient?

According to the SBC’s website, there are more than 42,000 Southern Baptist churches in the United States. Using the Leavell Center’s findings, fewer than 13,000 of them are growing churches. In other words, 70 percent of Southern Baptist churches are still plateaued or declining. (http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=19542)

That study is three years old, and from studies dating back to 1998 it is only getting worse. Being a pastor in this day and age is not an easy task, but then I am not sure that God ever intended the pastorate to be easy. Considering that the pastor is often likened to a shepherd, I can see why it can’t be easy. It is a job fraught with struggles, loneliness and the constant attention required of sheep wandering to close to danger at every turn.

However, the pastor can only do so much. Interestingly enough, Jesus made it clear that for the one who would follow him, life wouldn’t be easy either, and it would constantly require that the faithful disciple would have to forfeit his own personal desires for the will of God.

24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

That is really what God’s Kingdom is really all about anyway. The Kingdom of God isn’t just a physical place, but often when Jesus used this term, he was speaking of God’s rule in our lives. Therefore, if God’s rule in our lives is sovereign, we have to look beyond ourselves. It becomes for us a choice. Maybe that is why Jesus often began his teachings on following him with the condition “if.”

There are several quotes from the BBC article that got my attention, they are statements that reveal one of the fallacies of following God. That I can be a Christian and do it my way.

But is an expression of faith with no commitment to going to church just religion for the “me” generation? In today’s “post-modern society” people want everything on their own terms – that includes Christianity, says Dr Elaine Storkey, a Christian academic, broadcaster and president of Christian charity Tearfund, which commissioned the study. “People are used to instant gratification, they are used to having what they want, when they want and without putting in too much effort. Some view religion in the same way.” Having a connection with Christianity is not a problem for most people, it’s when something is asked of them that they start to struggle, she says.

Justification in God’s eyes is the easiest thing we can do, because it is a gift from God that Jesus Christ purchased for us on the cross. Not only do we not have to do anything except believe in Jesus Christ to receive it (Romans 10:11), but we can do nothing in and of ourselves to earn it. (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, ongoing sanctification and following Jesus as a disciple is seldom easy, and it demands, that we move from a “me” centered thought, to a thought of “others.” The church in Acts was formed through persecution and struggles. It became a body of believers, that did “life” together. Scripture tells us plain and clear, that some will choose to not meet together, but as Christians let us encourage one another, meeting together so that we can spur each other on towards love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:25) These things can only become reality when we are worshiping together with God on a regular basis. The church building doesn’t make the body, but I have never seen a body continue to live and exist separated and spread apart.

Honestly, it seems to me that most often those calling themselves Christians would be most happy joining themselves together, every opportunity they have in sporting events, bars, Nascar races, and any number of events where people spend hours on end, but they will find any number of reasons, most of them biblically incorrect as to why they don’t need to join their Christian brothers and sisters for a few hours every week together in God’s presence, lifting one another up, and finding hope and healing from the previous week, for the next week. Maybe that is why the statement, “Sin separates,” is so true.

Study to know Him,

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Worth Reading

images.jpeghttp://cyleclayton.wordpress.com/2007/03/22/eye-candy-part-2/ Passing through the blogger world, and struggling to find something good to read? Sojourn in Cyle Clayton’s current blog for a while … bring your lunch while your at it!!!

Sure, my motives are partially self-centered, since he is blogging right down my alley in this post, but what he has to say about Truth and our culture today is a much better reason to read his posts. I am fairly resolved now-days after reading plenty of Cyle’s posts to know that I don’t go to read unless I am prepared to be convicted of some miss-step or weakness in my spiritual life. I pray that as you read, you will be greatly encouraged to hold fast to the Christian faith, and that his writings will embolden you as a believer in Christ to seek the only Truth, that which is found in God’s Word.  Then be salt and light to those lost and dying in this world.

Study to know Him,

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