Meanderings of a Minister


On Earth As It Is In Heaven or In Heaven As It Is On Earth?

I know that I have written on this topic before, but recently, I was reading the description of the throne room of heaven in Revelation 4 and 5.  Here is what I noticed about heaven.

First, John is shown heaven, but the first thing that catches his eye is the throne and God seated on that throne.  John is nearly overcome with the scene.  He noticed the colors, sounds, and focus of heaven as being totally about God on the throne.  From rainbows, to thunder and lightning, to creatures and lamps of fire, John gives the picture that all of heaven is focused on the worship of God Almighty.

Next, John mentioned the cries of the living creatures as they proclaim the holiness of God when they say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, Who was and Who is and Who is to come.”  They all give God glory and recognize the focus of heaven is God.

Additionally, John mentioned the twenty-four elders joining in on the worship.  They cast their crowns before the throne as they confess, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

Lastly, even when it came time to begin to open the scroll, all of heaven was focused on God the Father and God the Son as Jesus was the only One worthy to open the scroll that would mark the end of times and the judgments and deliverances that were to come.

As one looks at this version of heaven, one is left with a sick feeling that much else we have heard of heaven may or may not be accurate.  For many people, the idea of heaven is them finally getting everything they want.  They will be comforted, pampered, served, catered to, and never expected to do anything.  God will exist to serve their needs.  This is not heaven as God has described it to us.

It seems that in heaven, we will realize what it was we wanted all along.  We will finally get to see God on the throne of heaven!  We will no longer worship an invisible God, but will see Him as He is.  We will get to join in the activity of heaven and worship God for eternity.  We will know that we are in heaven because of God’s will and we will be challenged as we see Him high and lifted up.

Now, you might be thinking that this version of heaven does not sound appealing because it is not focused on you.  Perhaps the problem with much of our lives now is that we think too much should be focused on us.  As it is, we think we are owed respect.  We think we have a right to be honored.  We think others should serve us.  That is what causes a lot of the heartache we experience.  People disrespect us and we get mad.  They devalue us and we feel hurt.  They demand that we serve them and we feel cheated.

If heaven teaches us anything, it teaches us of the holiness of God and His rightful, ruling place over all creation and beyond.  We are not the focus.  He is.  For many, this is hard to take.

So, what do we do with this knowledge?  Perhaps, it is as simple as putting others first and serving them.  Perhaps it is as simple as honoring those who faithfully serve us.  There may be many other applications, but they would all seem to indicate we need to be changed so that our focus on earth is as it will be in heaven, if we know Jesus as Lord and Savior.



My Bible Adventure: Much More Than A Book of Children’s Bible Stories

I recently received a copy of My Bible Adventure Through God’s Word.  I anticipated being a bit underwhelmed by yet another simplified and dumbed down children’s Bible, but I was completely pleasantly surprised.  This Bible is so much more than that!

First, you actually get some Bible.  Many of these Bible books don’t actually give you any Bible.  They just give you a pre-digested version.  This one actually gives you some text.  Additionally, the book gives you an explanation or commentary on the Bible passage.  It is written on the child’s level, but does not assume the child needs things so watered down as to not be recognizable.

After the commentary, comes a prayer that you can pray with your little one.  You can either have them read it and pray it or, as we do with my 7-year old daughter, you can pray the prayer together.

Lastly, the Bible has a feature that I have not seen before.  It is a section called, “Take It With You”.  This is a short restatement of the key truth from the passage you have read that night.  This helps to make sure that you can remember and restate what you have read.

The book is broken up into 52 weekly readings, but we have used it nightly and it has not been too much.

I would say this Bible is usable and helpful for preschoolers up to about 8 or 9 years old.

I received this book from Book look in exchange for my honest review.



Ever Wish You Knew the Bible Better?

Have you ever wanted more out of your Bible reading, or have you ever wondered why it seems that others get so much when you get so little?  Perhaps you should do more than read.  Perhaps you should think deeply about scripture, spend time with it, replay it throughout the day, or meditate on Scripture.

I know that you might be thinking, “That is too hard or complicated!   I wouldn’t even know where to begin!”  Actually that is the very reason that Robert J. Morgan wrote the book, Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation:  Find True Peace in Jesus.  Morgan’s book is like having a master walk beside the reader to help with Biblical Meditation.  The book is a treasure trove of information, inspiration, illustration, and rumination, with absolutely no condemnation for any who have not tried to spend more or more serious time in God’s Word.

Each chapter is designed to give the reader a benefit of Biblical meditation.  In the chapter, Morgan tells the reader why they should meditate on scripture and gives examples that flesh out the ideas into actual life lessons.

In addition to the chapters, there is also scattered throughout the small volume, on the green pages, specific suggestions for how to get started.  This helps to make sure that the whole process does not seem to be just for the professionals, but puts the cookies on the bottom shelf for the rest of us.

Additionally, there is a 10-day meditation guide at the back where Morgan walks the reader through the method with helpful pointers and suggestions along the way.  Each day gives the reader a scripture, context, and some thoughts to help with the meditation process.

As bonus, at the end of the book, Morgan gives the reader an additional list of scriptures so that the process can become a habit for life.

I have been meditating on scripture for years, and I found this book to be simple, yet helpful.  I found it to be inspiring without being so far above everyone’s heads to make it unreachable.  I also found it so immediately applicable and practical that there really is no reason that a person could come away from the book questioning the importance, impact, or impassable process so crucial to Christian Growth.

This would be a great book to read on your own or with your children.  It would also be great to be used in church or in a small group setting.  It could also be incorporated into a discipleship strategy for new believers, but that is only the benefit to be had outside of the reader’s heart and mind.  Inside the heart and mind, there is no way to estimate its value or exhaust its uses.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



What Makes A Great Leader?
May 5, 2017, 2:48 pm
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Over the years, there have been some fantastic works on this subject.  Oswald Chambers’ Spiritual Leadership, Henry Blackaby and Henry Brandt’s Power of the Call, Henry Blackaby’s Spiritual Leaderhsip, Aubrey Malphurs’ Leading Leaders, James Garlow’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tested by Time, Os Guiness’ When No One Sees and Tony Morgan’s Killing Cockroaches are just some Christian examples.  But when you get down to the basics of leadership, you really only have to deal with one definition.  What is that definition?  Simply…are people following?  If they are, you are a leader.  If they are not, you are not a leader.  It is that simple.  It actually has nothing to do with degrees (and, yes, I do have some of these).  It has nothing to do with how many leadership books you have read (I have those, too!).  It also has nothing to do with how many positions of leadership you have found yourself in (yep, this is also me!).  The simple question is…are people following?

Jesus was a great leader.  He had followers.  Paul was a great leader.  He had followers.  Peter was a great leader.  He had followers.  James was a great leader.  He had followers.  John was a great leader.  He had followers.  These men were all great leaders.  In our day, Billy Graham was a great leader.  He had followers.  Beth Moore is a great leader.  She has followers.  Anne Graham Lotz is a great leader.  She has followers.  John Piper, John MacArthur, Luis Palau, Crawford Loritts, Chip Ingram, Stormie Omartian.  All great leaders.  All have followers.  But what does it take to be a great leader?

Gordon MacDonald, in his book, Building Below the Waterline, lists four key strengths of great leaders.  I find these helpful and would encourage all of us that lead to look for these in our own lives.

Are you able to communicate vision?  Jesus told His disciples about the Kingdom of Heaven in terms they could understand.  He described it as a field to farmers, as a net of fish to fishermen, as sheep and goats to shepherds and so on and so forth.  What Jesus was doing in this was casting vision to His followers, so that they would get of glimpse of what He could clearly see.  Perhaps the reason that we don’t have more people following as leaders is because we can’t communicate vision because we have none.  We just want to get through the week without killing anyone or losing our jobs.  The height of the Christian experience for most Christian leaders is simply measured by how many times I gave in to whatever temptation I am struggling with at the moment.  A great leader sees a great vision with great clarity and communicates it the same way.

Are you sensitive to people?  This is another trait of a great leader.  Too many times, we see people as an interruption to the ministry we could have.  We tend to think they need to lead, follow or get out of the way.  While this might be right for them to wrestle with, a great leader is also sensitive to their needs, fears, limitations, etc.  Perhaps that person that seems like a wet blanket to all of your plans just can’t see your vision and maybe it is because they have been in this situation before and were hurt through it.  Maybe they need time to process what you have communicated.  Maybe they are just afraid of the unknown.  A great leader with be sensitive to these possibilities and will consider them when communicating his vision.

Can you assess situation accurately?  A great leader must be able to walk into a situation and realize who is in charge by title and who is in charge by personality.  A great leader must be able to recognize people whose expertise puts them in charge and who is simply in charge because they draw their self-esteem from being in charge.  He or she must also be able to recognize when the ship is driving itself because no one is in charge.  Additionally, a great leader must be able to look through the smoke and mirrors and see what is really going on.  (Notice how these competencies complement each other?)

Lastly, a great leader must also know him or herself.  Too often, we don’t know ourselves very well and that lack of knowledge makes communicating our visions tough.  It keeps us from being sensitive to people and it prevents us from properly assessing our situations.  We need to know if we are leading from some of the motives listed earlier.  We need to know our physical, emotional and spiritual strengths and weaknesses.

Leadership is simply defined as…is anyone following; however, people will want to follow leaders that can effectively see and communicate vision.  They will gravitate to those that are sensitive to people.  They will get on board with those that can assess situations with clarity of purpose.  They will be drawn to work with and serve a leader that knows his or herself with honesty to keep from using others to simply achieve their purposes.  Know of any leaders like that?  Are you one?  Would you like to be?  I would like to be some day.  How about you?



Character or Characters?
March 3, 2017, 1:46 pm
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You might have been intrigued by the title for this article.  You may have thought, “What would he mean by that?”  I am glad that you wondered this or I would not have a purpose for writing the rest of this article.  We could just stop with a title.

When reading Job recently for my quiet times, I came across a verse that really struck me.  Let’s see if it registers with you.

“Have I rejoiced at the extinction of my enemy, Or exulted when evil befell him?” (Job 31:29, NASB95)

In this verse, Job was defending himself.  He had gone from having lots of wealth, comfort and ease to having no of any of those things.  His friends had joined him and, after sitting with him for a week, they began to correct him.  Their assumption, because they did not know what happened in the throne room of heaven in chapter one, was that Job had sinned and therefore he was facing difficulty.  They accused him of many serious crimes and told him that the reason he was having difficulty was that God was judging his sin.  They were wrong, but they didn’t know it, yet.

By the time we get to this chapter, Job had heard from most of his friends and although they had different ways of arguing their cases, they had all accused him of wrong and felt the need to justify God’s actions by their accusations.  Job defended himself by stepping through each of the sins most prevalent in their day and denying involvement in any of them.

I read Job’s defense and I think that I do pretty good with most of what Job is using to defend himself.  He talks about not gazing at young women and lusting after them, check.  He talks about not running after deceit as a means of gaining greatly, check.  He talks about not having an affair, check.  He talks about not cheating those who work for him, check.  He talks about not withholding help from the poor who have asked, check.  He talks about not cheating orphans, check.  He talks about not trusting in gold, getting a little nervous.  Lastly, he talks about not being inwardly and secretly pleased when my enemy goes through a difficult time, ouch!

As I read his comment, I was challenged to search my heart and ask if I have ever felt smugly about the failure of someone who has been rude or mean to me.  I wonder if I have ever secretly smiled when someone passed me on the highway and then I see them pulled over, or when a criminal is caught or goes to jail.

What he is talking about is not about following just the characters or letters that make up the word of God, but about having the character of the Word of God.  Which do I spend more time pursuing?  The characters on the page or the character of the One about Whom the pages talk?  Do I measure my Christian life by the experiences of others I read or by what God is doing in my life right now?

As I read this passage, I was made immediately aware that I needed to repent.  I have certainly and often gloated over the difficulties that my enemies have gone through.  Jesus said,

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27–28, NASB95) Do I do that?  Or do I secretly think that they are getting what is coming to them?

This is a character issue.  This is what God is about changing in your life.  He wants your character to match yours.  He wants you to have a family resemblance to Him.  Do you?  Do I?  If not, will we tell Him, turn away from it, and follow Him?  Or will we attend the next study and think that is good enough?  Good question.  God question.



What English Bible Should I Read?
February 20, 2017, 12:16 pm
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I have a friend that pastors a church in Nebraska.  The other day, a man called his church and asked which version of the Bible my friend preaches from.  He informed the caller that he preached from the English Standard Version.  The caller asked why my friend had adulterated the Bible and why he would give up on God’s word.  When my friend attempted to explain to the man that God inspired the original writers of the Bible and that translations translate those original writings and that no translation is perfect, the man hung up on him.

So, how did we get the Bible in English?  While it is beyond the scope of this article to delve into the translation of the original autographs into the various languages until we get to English, know there is much more to the story.

The first full English version of the Bible was translated and copied by John Wycliffe in 1382.  He became concerned about the corruption that had entered the church and saw that the average Englishman had no access to the Bible from which to judge these corruptions and took it upon himself to study the original Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin manuscripts to produce an English version of the Bible.  His original version was published in 1380 and was a word for word translation of the Latin Vulgate produced by Jerome for the Roman Catholic Church.  Anyone caught reading Wycliffe’s bible was to forfeit their cattle, land, life, and goods.  Wycliffe, himself, was killed for the work.

The next English version of the Bible came on the scene in 1534.  The New Testament had been released in 1526 and the Bible was completed and published in 1534.  Its translator was William Tyndale.  He was born in Gloucesterhire and went to Cambridge.  He was convinced that the clergy and the laity alike knew little of scripture because the Wycliffe version was hard to read and many of the day had little education.  Again, Tyndale was found guilty of heresy and condemned to death for his translation work.  His last words before dying by burning at the stake were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

Next in the line of translators was Miles Coverdale, and Augustinian friar, but was influenced so strongly by the Reformation that he left the order and worked on an English translation of the Bible.  He used Tyndale’s English Translation, Luther’s German Translation, the Zurich Swiss Translation of Ulrich Zwingli, the Latin Vulgate or Jerome, and Pagnini’s Latin Version to produce the Coverdale Bible in English.  Threatened by Henry VIII, who was still sympathetic to the Roman Catholic Church and opposed to an English version of the Bible, Coverdale ran away to other parts of Europe to produce his new Bible.

The next years saw an explosion of English versions, some better, some not so much.  In 1537 John Rogers produced the Matthew Bible.  This time, Archbishop Cranmer of the Church of England, appealed to Thomas Cromwell to embrace the English version and he did so.  This began a desire for many to own an English bible for there was no persecution for doing so.

In 1539, Miles Coverdale, encouraged by the reception of the Matthew Bible, produced the Great Bible.  This time, Coverdale was not run away, but was embraced by the king and engaged for the work of an English Bible.  Originally printed in Paris, the Bible took some time to get into the hands of the people due to the tensions between France and England in that day.

The Geneva Bible was next in 1560.  A complete revision of the Great Bible, this was the first translation of the Bible into English that involved a committee of translators.  It was also the first English bible to include chapter and verse designations.  Using the original languages, the translators used the Great Bible as a starting point and amended it where needed to produce the new version.  With Queen Elizabeth sympathetic to the Protestant Reformation, the work proceeded uninterrupted and the results were widely embraced.

The Bishops’ Bible was produced in 1568.  Matthew Parker, the archbishop of the Church of England, was tasked with another English translation.  He made the translation with a conscious attempt to produce a version that would be safe for public reading and was written to support the power and position of the bishops within the Church of England.  Queen Elizabeth I and her chief minister, Sir William Cecil, approved the version and made it the only authorized version of the English Bible to be used in churches in chapels throughout the land.

The Roman Catholic Church responded with their own English version of the Bible in the Douay-Rheims Bible.  The New Testament was produced in 1582 and the completed Bible was produced in 1610.  This version was a direct translation of the Latin Vulgate version produced by Jerome many years earlier.  This version included the Apocryphal books which were considered scripture by the Roman Catholic Church, but not recognized by the Protestant churches.  The Apocryphal books were interspersed with the other Biblical books to reinforce that they were considered scripture.

After all of this, came the King James Version of 1611.  Also called the Authorized Version,  King James I came to power and was no friend of the Puritans of his day because they had constantly refuted his claims within the Anglican Church of his day.  Dr. John Rainolds made a motion at the Hampton Court Conference in 1604 that a new English version of the Bible be produced.  Richard Bancroft, future Archbishop of Canterbury opposed the translation of the Bible saying, “if every man humour were followed…there would be no end of translation work…”  The work was overwhelmingly recommended by the Court and authorized by King James with the following requirements:  (1) the Bishops’ Bible would be used as the basis for revision, but that the Hebrew and Greek of the original would be consulted.  (2) A variety of English words would be used for the same Greek and Hebrew so that the Bible did not appear too stilted.  (3) Words necessary in English, but not present in the original languages would be in italics.  (4) Name of biblical characters were to be those in common use.  (5) Old ecclesiastical words were to be retained.  (6) No marginal notes were to be used.  (7) Chapter and verse division were to be retained and headings added for pericopes or sections.

The King James Version of the Bible was produced in 1611.  Almost immediately, revisions were made, but were not given new names or designations.  A major revision was released in 1638.  Another revision came in 1729 as was the Greek New Testament.  Another revision would come in 1762 the Cambridge Bible of the Authorized Version was released by Dr. Thomas Paris with over 360 changes.  In 1768, John Wesley released The New Testament with Notes, for Plain Unlettered Men who know only their Mother Tongue.  This included thousands more changes.  1769 saw another revision by Dr. Benjamin Blayney with over 75000 changes.  The changes would continue, but it was in 1881 that the translations began to move away from the Authorized Version and would get new names for each Bible produced.

If you are still reading this article, you might wonder what all of this means or why I would bring it up.  This brief history shows that the Bible has been translated over and over, even prior to the English King James Version of the Bible.  So, what is the best translation?  Rick Warren is quoted as saying the best translation of the Bible is when we translate it into action in our hearts, lives, and relationships.

If you cannot study Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the best thing to do is to use the version of the Bible your church uses.  To study it personally and corporately and pray for God to turn it into action.  But that’s just my opinion.



Loving the Christ of Christmas
December 9, 2016, 3:47 pm
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i-love-jesus

During the Christmas season, I find it interesting that many people who never give much thought to Jesus or to why He came to live a perfect life and die a substitutionary death begin to look into these things.  It is almost like God knew this would happen.  (If you saw my face, you would see me smiling as I typed that.)  They don’t actually get a theology book and study them per se, but they begin to think about the truths of the Christmas carols.  They begin to hear snippets of scripture.  They begin to think about the things of God.  But is this enough?

In Ephesians 6:24, Paul ended his letter to the church at Ephesus by saying,

Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.” (Ephesians 6:24, NASB95)

What did Paul mean by this and what does that have to do with Christmas?  Thanks for asking!  First, people at Christmas want to talk about God’s grace as though it were something universal.  This is an unfortunate misunderstanding of the proclamation of the angels to the shepherds.  Here is what they actually said,

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”” (Luke 2:10–14, NASB95)

Our Christmas carols, and our universalistic tendencies to not want to offend anyone, have taken these verses and changed them a bit.  They have changed them to “Glory to God in the highest and peace, goodwill to men.”  This makes it sound as though Jesus coming meant everyone goes to heaven, but this is not the case because the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  (Romans 6:23) But in order for a gift to do you any good, you have to accept it.  In order to accept the gift of eternal life, one must turn from their sin and place their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Many simply will not do this.  Many who live right next to us in a free land where they could believe with little opposition simply will not do this.  Many who sit in our churches every Sunday simply will not do that.

Back to Paul.  He was asking God for His grace to be with a certain subset of people.  Who were those people?  Those who love Jesus Christ?  Yes and no.  What do I mean?  First, to love God means to obey God.  (1 John 5:3) To love Jesus is to obey Him.  (John 14:15) So, to love Jesus is to obey Him, but Paul had more in mind than begrudging obedience.  He went further to describe that love as incorruptible.

In the Greek language in which Paul wrote and communicated, the word that we translate as incorruptible actually meant to spoil, to ruin, or even to kill.  What is a love for Jesus that would be incorruptible?  It would be a love that cannot be spoiled, ruined or killed.  It is a love that says, “No matter what you ask of me, it cannot be compared to the Cross on which you died for me, so I will obey because I love you.”  It is a love that would say, “I work for You.  You don’t work for me.  Let’s do what You want today and every day.”  It is a love that would say, when the world asks why we don’t give up on the “Jesus thing”, “Where would we go for He alone has the words of Life!”  It is a love that is not just in word or deed, but from a changed, redeemed, grateful, and amazed heart.  And that drives the words and deeds.

Do you love like that?  Do I?  Do we love the Christ of Christmas?