Friday, September 30, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: REPLENISH

All of my early life was spent as the child of a pastor. Then in 1985 I became one and have continued to this day.

Lance Witt has written with accuracy about the struggles of people in ministry. As a pastor in small and large churches he experienced many of the normal feelings and weaknesses that come with living as public servants.

Lance has been called a pastor to pastors and with good reason. His vulnerability and willingness to confess his faults give room for others to follow. We know all too well what it means to feed others when our own soul is depleted.

I found his insights about building a healthy team insightful. Having served as the executive pastor at Saddleback Church with Rick Warren, he pastored a staff that was larger than many churches.

Christmas is coming and this would be a good one under the tree of your favorite pastor. (unless you attend my church. I've already read it).






____________________________


"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group".  



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SAVE US FROM THE EVIL ONE


King James translators said ‘deliver us from evil’. NIV and others speak about God delivering us from ‘the evil One’. Without going into the theological etymology about which is more accurate, it is fair to say that you do not experience evil without there being an evil One behind it.

John Calvin studied the original text and concluded that both ideas are synonymous. In praying the Lord’s Prayer we are confronted with our soul nemesis. Call it Satan, Lucifer or the Prince of Darkness- by any name we have a problem. The cosmic imbalance and destructive forces opposed to eternal life are wired to kill us off.

Jesus had been face to face with the Devil and knew all about his subtlety. Jesus did not want his disciples to be alone in facing the Enemy so he taught us to pray:


Matthew 6: (NIRV)
13 Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted.
   Save us from the evil one.'


Like a wise ranger teaching hikers how to avoid deadly snakes on the path, Jesus knew we needed God’s help to be saved from the Enemy’s poison. Jesus did not teach that we should lock ourselves up and hide in caves. In His high priestly prayer He spoke to the Father about us in this way:


John 17: (NIRV)
15 I do not pray that you will take them out of the world. I pray that you will keep them safe from the evil one.


Perhaps no one in the Early Church had more to experience and say about the perils of the journey more than the apostle Paul. He was beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, left for dead, bitten by a poisonous snake and harassed constantly. If you want to talk about trials, he had more than Judge Wapner.

Still, at the end of his life he rejoiced in having kept the faith and finished the race. He kept going through many great difficulties and discovered that Father had grace for him in every situation.

He told the believers in Thessalonica,


2 Thessalonians 3:
 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will strengthen you. He will guard you from the evil one.

What Jesus had prayed years before, Paul testified with certainty what he himself had experienced. God saves and guards us from the evil one. God is faithful and gives us strength and grace in the face of every unimaginable, rotten circumstance and its temptations.

To the believers living in the Sin City of Corinth, he said:


1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIRV)
 13 You are tempted in the same way all other human beings are. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted any more than you can take. But when you are tempted, God will give you a way out so that you can stand up under it.


While there are many ideas floating around about deliverance from demons, the main highway of consideration is knowing that Father wants you to ask for His assistance.


Matthew 6: (NIRV)
13 Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted.
   Save us from the evil one.'


Jesus Christ died and rose again to deliver us from evil. He is our deliverance. Where do we go in the face of every kind of evil? We go to our Father who can keep us from falling and save us from the evil one.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

TEMPTATION AND LIVING UNDER MURPHY'S LAW


Just as you can learn to read signs and understand road systems, there are spiritual directions that can aid you greatly in choosing the right road. Should I turn left or right and where will that take me?


Matthew 6: (NIRV)
13 Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted.
   Save us from the evil one.'


The word ‘temptation’ in Greek is peirasmos, which has the root meaning of ‘to test’ or ‘to prove’. It can mean trial or it can mean temptation, both of which are occasions when a Christian may be enticed to sin.[i]

It is not only temptations that can mislead us. We can be going through difficult circumstances and trials that cause us to question the road we’re travelling on. We ask our Father to keep us heading in the right direction when we are faced with temptations.

We also need to ask Father to guide us when difficulties and troubles overwhelm us. You may have stayed on the right road for hundreds of miles and be tempted to venture out in another direction or go back because the traffic is moving slowly. You cannot always understand why your progress is hindered. You need guidance when things slow down and get difficult.

Practically speaking, lost jobs, poor health and money troubles can tempt you to abandon your directions from God. Trials and tests can sometimes challenge you more than the temptation to get drunk or steal from your workplace.

You may have heard of Murphy’s Law. Murphy says that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Another name for this is pessimism. It is a nagging belief that all things are destined to fail and there is no cause for lasting hope. You will be disappointed in the end.

Jesus invites you and Murphy to ask Father for help in dealing with temptation and troubles. Mister Murphy needs to know that Father has a road through the wilderness and that you are not destined to fail.

In prayer, we discover that God’s directions are true. We need God’s help in our journey.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

GETTING DIRECTION


I have a fair understanding of how Ontario road systems work. Usually the north and east sides of streets have even numbers. South and west sides have odd numbers. County concessions usually travel parallel to each other. Most roads are marked and a few main highways can take you a long way in the right direction. Signs are posted to help you navigate.

With a quick look at a map, I can usually travel several hundred kilometers without the fear of being lost.

I have encountered detours and road closures and occasionally had to guess at a route based on a few ideas about how road systems are mapped out. Usually a few back roads will lead me to a sign or road that brings me back on the desired route.

I have also been self-confident and on rare occasions got a long way in the wrong direction and had to get help finding the right way. I do learn from my navigation mistakes and will rarely make the same mistake twice.

If only navigating life was that simple. I wish I were more capable in steering clear of sin.

God wants to help us along the journey. He wants to give simple directions and guide us away from the dead ends and washed out bridges. You may drive along endlessly following your own ideas and run out of fuel miles from nowhere. How did I get here? If I knew where I was, I might be able to find a way back to the right road.

God knows we have a lousy sense of direction and will get lost easier than sheep. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus tells us to ask Father to help us with this problem.

“God, can you help us in taking a safe and direct road? We know how to get lost and turn onto dangerous highways that take us away from where we are going. There are wrong turns that turn into wrong attitudes. More than once, we have taken short cuts that turned into disasters. Help us God. Lead us in the right way.”

Do we want God’s help or do we prefer to follow our instincts, however misguided they may be? You can follow a compass or you can rely on your instincts to find your way out of the woods. The more lost you become, the more you realize you need direction.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I MADE YOU SAY UNDERWEAR


I think I first heard the joke in grade three.

“What’s under there?”

“Under where?” 

“Ha, ha! I made you say underwear.”

This kind of word play is known as double entendre. One thing is said with an obvious meaning while a secondary, subtle meaning is added. Usually double entendre is ironic or risqué. The use of similar sounding words and puns play into this game.

We say ‘under where’ to ask about a location, but our grade three brains giggle because of the same sounding word ‘underwear’. We think about the item of clothing under our pants.

How something is worded can have a great effect on how listeners respond to it. Often in the work of translating speech or text from one language to another, essential meanings can get lost in translation. The aging of language and current usage of words affect how we understand what is being said.

I still giggle when my 73-year-old dad talks about putting on his rubbers to go out in snowy weather. I realize that I still have a grade three brain in some respects.

Words change their meanings and we sometimes have to sort out what is being communicated.

So what do English Bible readers in 2011 think it means when they read a verse like Matthew 6:13? In the King James Version it says:


Matthew 6: (KJV)
13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: 


This part of the Lord’s Prayer inspires a characteristic response.

“Why would we ask God to not lead us into temptation? I thought God did not tempt people to sin.”

Atheists and skeptics love to take verses like this and say, “See? Aha!” At the website www.skepticsannotatedbible.com the column note for this verse reads, “Does God tempt people?” [i]

The joke is on us poor believers who cannot read the Scriptures and see the contradictions. They made us say underwear. Okay, so I may be resorting to grade three logic on this one, but my point is that people do not always go past the text to understand what is being said.

If the less accurate meaning suits our purposes we will settle for it. A misguided believer and a skeptic may have much in common when it comes to their concern for knowing the truth.

In this verse of the Lord’s Prayer, I wonder how far we really want to go in understanding it. Is Jesus telling us to bring the dark secrets and bad habits into our prayer life? How do we ask for God’s help in parts of our nature that we want to covered up or ignored?

Millions of English speaking believers have prayed, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

But, what does it mean?

The New International Readers Version says it this way:


Matthew 6: (NIRV)
13 Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted.
   Save us from the evil one.'


Thursday, September 15, 2011

THE DIFFICULTY OF FORGETTING


Perhaps you are one who approaches forgiveness with a short list of demands that must be met. Some of the common qualifiers include:

  •           If they want me to forgive them, they have to admit they were wrong. I do not have to forgive them unless they repent.


  •        I’ll forgive them because it’s the right thing to do, but not because I want to.


  •         I’ll forgive them but they still owe me.


  •        I can forgive, but I don’t know if I can forget what they did.


It’s interesting the whole idea that forgetting is somehow linked to forgiveness. I think you can make a case that we will forget and a case that we will remember. What does memory have to do with your forgiveness?

God says that He will remember our sins no more when we turn to Him in repentance. But does God actually forget? Is it possibly a choosing to not bring the offence to memory?



And what about the things that you forgive others of? Are you expected to have no recall of events? Or is it something else?


Lewis B. Smedes wrote, “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.’ [i]


I like that. Forgiveness creates a new way to remember. We let go of the past and hope for the future.

Maybe you still are holding out. Why should I forgive them after what they did to me? You my friend may be suffering from resentment.


‘Studies show that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments.[ii] People who were generally more neurotic, angry and hostile in life were less likely to forgive another person even after a long time had passed. Specifically, these people were more likely to still avoid their transgressor and want to enact revenge upon them two and a half years after the transgression.’  [iii]


Do you have symptoms of unforgiveness?

  •         Knot in your stomach and other physical ailments

  •         Painfully rehearsing every detail of offense

  •         Idealistic about what you expect from the one who hurt you

  •    Habit of defending your actions and needing others to understand your innocence

  •         Blaming the offender for your current state


Are you sick? There is a doctor in the house. His name is Jesus.





[iii]  Maltby, J., Wood, A. M., Day, L., Kon, T. W. H., Colley, A., and Linley, P. A. (2008). Personality predictors of levels of forgiveness two and a half years after the transgression. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 1088-1094.

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