Thursday, July 30, 2009


Many people "study" their Bible like they tour an art museum. Perhaps you've stood in front of an Expressionist masterpiece--paint splatters and unrecognizable forms--scratched your head and left without any idea what the painting means. You know there's a truth hidden beneath the color, shapes and textures, but you have neither the tools or the patience to discover it. The same applies to our approach to God's Word. God is the Master Artist who has left us with a marvelous work/Word filled with life-changing truth. What we need are the tools to make sense of the meaning.

The first step to appreciating God's Word is "Preparation." It's the work before the work. We prepare to study our Bible by inviting the Holy Spirit to lead us. In 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, we learn that the Spirit of God reveals the heart and mind of God. And, Jesus said that He would send His Holy Spirit as a counselor (aka "advisor" or "teacher") to lead us into truth. So, apart from the Spirit's influence, I cannot make sense of the meaning of the Scriptures. On the other hand, because of the indwelling Spirit, I may discern God's leading.

It makes sense, therefore, that I prepare my heart before I dive into my study. I want to read with the "mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16). So, I start my study praying: "Holy Spirit, open my eyes that I may see; open my mind that I may understand; open my heart that I may receive what You want to show me; and open my hands to do what I learn."

The first step to Bible Study is to get in step with the Spirit.

Friday, July 24, 2009

right tool, right way

I remember a fellow once using the phrase "Right tool, wrong way." This was probably his response to me using a hammer to break rocks or a screwdriver to scrape dried paint off a table. For a tool to be useful, it should be used as it was designed.

This week, our Bible Study looked at 2 Timothy 2:15: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." These words were penned by the Apostle Paul who was warning his young disciple to use the tool of God's Word in a way it was intended. Included in this verse are several coordinate truths.

First, there is an incorrect way to handle God's Word. It is possible for me to read, study and use my Bible the wrong way. While it might sound strange [don't we all get credit for simply opening our Bibles up this morning?!], I must remember that the worst of heresies were forged by people with the best of intentions. They just didn't handle the Word correctly.

Second, to be cavalier in the way I handle God's Word may lead to my shame. The word literally means "accusation." Flippant interpretation and application of spiritual truth makes me guilty. When life doesn't "work," I've got no one to blame but myself.

Third, I am accountable before God in the way I wield His weapon [the Bible is called a "sword in Ephesians 6:17]. Because the Bible is God's Word[s], I want to make sure I represent God accurately. A seminary professor once told our class, "You better not say 'Thus sayeth the Lord unless the Lord thus sayeth'!"

In the coming posts, I will spend a little time writing about how to study the Bible well. A few great resources for those who want to go deeper include Dr. Howard Hendrick's Living By The Book and Fee and Stuart's How To Read The Bible For All It's Worth. I hope you'll follow the next few posts to learn how to use the right tool the right way.

Friday, July 17, 2009

from kislev to nisan

Four months to respond. If it took my kids that long to obey, they'd be grounded for a very long time. Yet, that's the distance from Nehemiah 1:1 to 2:1. In that time, God's servant sensed a calling to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls. But, it took a while for him to actually pack his bags and head west. Four months.

I sat outside this morning, studying my Bible and noticed this interesting delay. Then, Jenna joined me and we had a brief conversation about "impulse purchases"--the temptation to buy last-minute mints, batteries and tabloids at the checkout counter. I counseled her about the value of waiting. Wisdom is born out of the time spent to make good decisions.

Perhaps this explains Nehemiah's delay. He could have immediately saddled up the royal camels and followed his heart to his homeland. Instead, he waited--perhaps to confirm God's direction, perhaps to complete his commitments, perhaps to gather his resources or perhaps to simply let any residue of self-serving impulsivity evaporate. Whatever the reason, his waiting seemed to be the right thing to do.

When God calls, I don't want to delay in doing what I know I should do. Still, I don't want to foolishly move forward without taking time to pray, seek godly counsel, gather my resources, and exercise wisdom. In the end, the time between Kislev and Nisan may just be what enables me to not only do God's will, but do it well.

Monday, July 13, 2009

peacefully over-par

I picked Pearson up from his golf tournament today and listened as he described every stroke for his short, nine holes of play. He found himself trapped in several bunkers and even got caught in the weeds once or twice. Yet, surprisingly, his spirit was positive, optimistic and looking forward to a second round of play tomorrow.

In their book, The Mulligan: A Parable of Second Chances, Wally Armstrong and Ken Blanchard highlight the "NATO" principle. It affirms that, no matter what, I am "not attached to the outcomes." In other words, I am not my score. No matter how many shots I strike poorly or where I land, who I am isn't ultimately determined by how well I perform [which is really great news if you've ever seen me on the golf course]. With God, there is no scorecard.

This fits my focus on position and condition in yesterday's sermon [Colossians 3:1-4]. Some days, I'm on my game. Every mechanic of my spiritual life comes together and I play like a pro. I'm loving God, serving my family and making great choices with my time, money and resources. On other days, I feel like a Christian amateur, failing at all the fundamentals. My life is in the weeds or out of bounds. However, because of my position Christ, I am not my score. My condition may change, but my position is always par for the course. That truth keeps me coming back to the tee box, hoping to play a better hole each day.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

deep[er] thoughts

Since I began "tweeting" a few days ago, I have found myself thinking more deeply. I know the networking function is intended to be more casual, but I have chosen to use it primarily to "spur others on to love and good deeds" [Hebrews 10:24]. While I do occasionally post random notes about my sometimes random life, I am finding that many tweets are causing me to stop and ask "What's important?" or "What do I see?" or "What does it mean?" This is a great way to invest my mind.

For a pastor's view on the value of Tweeting and a huge motivation for my new practice, see this article.

I hope you'll follow me.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

tweet tweet

We had an amazing meeting at PBC today with Matt Powell who led our staff through some of the basics and benefits of social networking. So, I jumped aboard Twitter and will probably find myself in the deep end soon. Follow me at: @Pastor_Daniels or click on "Follow Me" on the Twitter list in the margin below. Hopefully, I'll figure out how to start tweeting before any of you wake up from your nests in the morning.