Archive for February, 2010

Eternal Life (Part 3)

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

In our study of eternal life, the next occurrence of the phrase is Matthew 25:46. This is one of my favorite passages in Scripture; mainly because it kicks my butt every time I read it.

Many of you are probably familiar with the story. It’s the story of the sheep and the goats. For our purposes, the important part is the very last sentence. It says that those that did not care for Jesus by caring for those in need are sent to eternal punishment while the righteous enter into eternal life. In this story the righteous are those that cared for Jesus by caring for those in need. While I’d love to talk more about the sheep and the goats, that’s not the focus of this series. Here we are focusing on eternal life. What we see here confirms some of our earlier findings. Eternal life is an eschatological (last things) gift for the righteous.

What does this mean for you in your everyday life?

The CALL to Leadership (Care Relentlessly)

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

I recently heard about a communications company, Cbeyond, that lays out their character statement on their website. It is the acronym CALL; Care Relentlessly, Act Graciously, Lead Courageously, and Learn Continuously. Those same characteristics should be applied to all leaders. In particular they should apply to leaders that are also followers of Christ. Over the next several weeks we’ll talk about each of those characteristics in turn.

First, and I think most important of all of these characteristics is Care Relentlessly. As leaders, we must care about the people we are leading. Otherwise, we’re not leading we’re manipulating. I’ve been in many conversations regarding the characteristics of leadership in which we’ve tried to define leadership. In those conversations we often stumbled over the difference between strong leadership and manipulation. This, I think, is the difference. If you’re just using people to accomplish a vision (no matter how noble) and you don’t care about them as individuals, you’re not a leader. You’re a manipulator. And to be honest, I’ve been there more often than I care to admit. I’ve found myself manipulating rather than leading because I didn’t care about the people following me I just cared about the mission, the vision.

Yet, this does not reflect God at all. Every action of God recorded in Scripture is grounded in some way in his care for us. He loves us so much that He sent Jesus to dies for us. Because He cares for us He providentially holds all things together. If we are going to be godly leaders and not worldly manipulators we must Care Relentlessly.

What do you think? Do leaders need to Care Relentlessly to truly lead or am I hopelessly naïve?

Eternal Life (Part 2)

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

In part 1 we examined the only occurrence of the phrase eternal life in the Old Testament, Daniel 12:2.  In that context eternal life was a reward given to the righteous after they were resurrected.

Today we’re moving on to the first occurrence in the New Testament, Matthew 19:16.  It is part of the story commonly known as the Rich Young Ruler and occurs in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30).  One thing we need to remember here is that the focus of this story is not eternal life.  This story focuses on the things that keep us from experiencing eternal life because we value them above God.

Yet, we learn something about the nature of eternal life.  In Jesus’ answer to the man we learn three things.  These are adapted from Matthew: From Biblical Text to Contemporary Life (NIV Application Commentary Series)
by Michael J. Wilkins.  (1) Eternal life is a way of living different from the normal humans experience (Matthew 19:17).  Jesus doesn’t, at this point, clarify the nature of this life.  It is only clear that it’s different from the life the young man is experiencing.  (2) Eternal life is closely associated with the Kingdom of Heaven/God.  They are not one and the same, but you can’t have one without the other.  (3) Eternal life is part of salvation.

As you can see, the New Testament has expanded our view of eternal life.  The gift is not only received at the resurrection, all who are saved experience it.  It is a type of life different from the normal life experienced by humanity and is closely related to the Kingdom of God.

What other differences do you see from Daniel’s portrayal of eternal life and the Gospels’ presentations here?

Fiscal Spirituality

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

A couple of days ago @human3rror posted an interesting tweet.  “Look. If you’re fiscally responsible and your current job can’t pay the bills, then you need another job. It’s not a spiritual decision.”

I appreciate the sentiment behind the tweet but I have to disagree with the statement as it stands.  Many of us try to separate our fiscal responsibility from our spirituality.  But that’s simply inaccurate.  Every fiscal decision is a spiritual.  As a matter of fact, every decision is a spiritual decision.  Every thing you do, every choice you make has spiritual ramifications.

With regards to @human3rror’s comment, though his reasoning was faulty, his application is spot on.  It is not honoring God to stay in a job that cannot support you or your family.  The responsible, wise, godly choice is to put yourself in the best fiscal situation possible based on your experience, education, and ability.  It is not godly to stay in a bad situation when God is providing you a better opportunity.

Now, with that said, I know that right now jobs are scarce, particularly here in Michigan.  If you’re stuck in a job that can’t support you and you don’t have another opportunity available to you, be faithful to God; continue to work as if you were doing it for God, because you are.  And remember, every decision you make has spiritual ramification.  Do your best to make the decision that will honor God in everything you do.

Where have you seen people try to separate their spiritual life from another aspect of their lives?

Eternal Life (Part 1)

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

For those of you that have been following this blog for a little while, this series is going to be a little different from what you’re used to.  I’m going to give you a peek into my research.   The focus of my research is John’s use of the concept of eternal life in his Gospel.  This series is going to provide an overview of what Scripture says about eternal life.  We will look at each occurrence of the phrase in the Bible and try to understand what that passage says about eternal life.

The first and only time the phrase eternal life appears in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint abbreviated LXX) is in Daniel 12:2.  Daniel 12 is part of an apocalyptic revelation given to Daniel while he was in Persia.  It is part of a very long prophecy which culminates with these words:

1 “At that time Michael,
the great prince who watches over your people,
will arise.
There will be a time of distress
unlike any other from the nation’s beginning
up to that time.
But at that time your own people,
all those whose names are found written in the book,
will escape.
2 Many of those who sleep
in the dusty ground will awake—
some to everlasting life,
and others to shame and everlasting abhorrence.
3 But the wise will shine
like the brightness of the heavenly expanse.
And those bringing many to righteousness
will be like the stars forever and ever.
(Daniel 12:1-3 NET)

The phrase “everlasting life” in Greek is the same as “eternal life.”  Daniel tells us a couple of things about eternal life in this passage.  (1) Eternal life will be given to some after they are resurrected from the dead.  (2) Those that do not receive eternal life will receive eternal abhorrence.  The Greek word used here indicates a great disgrace.  In Ancient Near Eastern culture this was one of the worst things that could possibly happen to a person.  Honor was the most important thing in that culture.  Daniel is saying that some will be resurrected to eternal life and some will be resurrected to eternal disgrace.

So, Daniel 12:2 teaches us that eternal life is given to some when they are resurrected.  It appears here to be a reward of some kind and is the opposite of eternal disgrace.

How does this affect what you believe about eternal life?

Why Do I Still Need Deliverance?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Over the past several months I’ve been reading through the Psalms.  I’m reading through the Psalms because as I was reading through the Gospels last year I noticed how much Jesus quoted the Psalms.  So, I decided to spend some time immersing myself in them.

In truth, this has been more difficult than I anticipated.  I have found it hard to identify with much of what is said in the Psalms.  In particular, I find it hard to identify with the psalms of deliverance where the psalmist prays for deliverance from his enemies.  The main reason for this is that I don’t feel that I have any enemies to deal with.  I’m certainly not in the place of David as he was hiding from a vengeful king out to kill him.  No one is out to take my life.

As that thought came to me when I was reading Psalm 54 a couple of months ago it occurred to me that I do have an enemy.  I have an enemy who uses insurgent tactics against me.  The most effective aspect of his tactical approach is the fact that I forget he’s there.

Satan is always near tempting me to sin.  He is most effective when I forget that he is there.  When I forget that Satan is at work I forget to pray against him.  I start thinking that I can overcome sin on my own.  At those times, I forget that I need God.  I forget that I need the power of the cross.

I might as well be spitting on the cross because though I don’t say it with my words, with my actions I tell Jesus, “Thanks for dying but you didn’t need to, I can handle this.”  Yes, I’m that foolish.  And, I bet you can be sometimes too.

I’m grateful for the psalms of deliverance, because I still need God’s power to deliver me from sin and Satan.  I need the Holy Spirit constantly working in my life protecting me and transforming me.  The psalms of deliverance remind me to pray for God to continue to keep me from sin and lead me to praise him for sending his Son to die for me.

What have you learned recently from your time reading the Bible?

Superbowl Leadership

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

This Sunday we will see Jim Caldwell lead the Indianapolis Colts in the Superbowl as a rookie coach.  This season he had the best start of any rookie quarterback in the NFL.  His 14-2 season also tied his predecessor Tony Dungy for the best season record held by an African-American coach.  Jim Caldwell has proven himself to be a strong leader.

It’s his predecessor, however, that I want to talk about today.  As I was listening to the commentators during the AFC championship game against the Jets it was Tony Dungy’s not Jim Caldwell’s leadership that stood out to me.  One of the reasons Jim Caldwell is such a great coach is because Tony Dungy prepared him for it.  Tony Dungy knew that a good leader prepares the leaders that will follow him.  During his tenure as the head coach for the Indianapolis Colts he was preparing Jim Caldwell to take over.  In the summer Dungy had Caldwell lead OTAs to prepare him for the time that he would be leading practice as the head coach.

The best leaders lead leaders.  They find leaders in whom they can invest themselves.  They train leaders who will ultimately replace them as they move on to new vistas of leadership.

Who are you training to replace you as a leader?

Why I don’t Use Bible Reading Plans

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Last month there was a lot of talk about Bible reading plans.  I didn’t say anything at the time because I didn’t want to be perceived as attacking the people encouraging us to use them.  In fact, I appreciate what they were doing.  If you encouraged us in that way, thank you.Yet, I want to share why I don’t use one.  I have used them in the past.

Before I share why, I need to share something about myself.  I’m a rule follower.  It’s not my nature to challenge authority.  I don’t believe rules are made to be broken.  If a rule doesn’t make sense to me, I investigate the reason for the rule.  If the reasoning is faulty, I try to get the rule changed.  But, I don’t wantonly break rules.  Blame it on my military background if you like (I was raised by an Army officer and now serve in the Air National Guard), but I don’t break rules, I follow them.My rule following nature is the foundation my decision not to use Bible reading plans.

First, I don’t use them because I tend to feel like a failure when I try.  I have a hard time keeping up with the schedule.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the aggressive B90X or through the Bible in three years.  I have a hard time keeping up.  Because I’m a person that follows rules, I feel like a failure when I fall behind.

Second, I can be a little Pharisaical.  Usually people think that means hypocrite.  That was true of the Pharisees and can be true of me.  But, I don’t think that was the Pharisees greatest flaw, or mine.  The Pharisees greatest flaw, and one of my greatest weaknesses, was worshipping the Law instead of the Lawgiver.  Read the Gospel of Matthew again if you don’t believe me.  Anyway, the second reason I choose not to use a reading plan is that when I am faithful to the plan I find myself valuing my faithfulness to the plan more than my faithfulness to God.  I start to look at my time in the Bible as a task for which I earn favor with God rather than quality time with my Father in heaven.

So, I don’t use a Bible reading plan.  I schedule regular time with God in the morning.  I read the Bible in different ways.  I look to God to guide my reading.

This doesn’t make me any more spiritual or closer to God than those who choose to use Bible reading plans.  I choose not to out of weakness, not out of strength.  The use of a reading plan isn’t the issue.  The goal is time with God.

What do you think about Bible reading plans?