What Is God Waiting For?

In Judges 10 the people have rejected the Lord and chased idol after idol. 18 years of oppression and their hearts were so hard that they still hadn’t repented of their sin. When they finally do, God tells them that he isn’t going to help. Instead, they need to ask their idols for deliverance. Then the people get desperate. Judges 10 tells us they finally got serious and paired their cry for deliverance with personal action and responsibility…they finally put aside their idols. How did God respond this time? The Bible says God responded “with impatience over Israel’s misery” (10:16). That was when God’s heart and attitude toward his people turned.

Sometimes we ask “What is God waiting for?” The answer may be that we aren’t really ready for Him to show up yet. We cling to our idols, as if they have anything to offer. In those times, God is unwilling to show up because He doesn’t really have our trust yet. We talk like He does but He knows the reality of what is in our hearts and it doesn’t line up. So God waits until it does. If you want God’s deliverance, it often takes action on your part and more than just a cry for God’s help while keeping a few idols in your back pocket for comfort. Deliverance comes to the repentant and true repentance comes through complete and unequivocal trust in the Lord.

ACU Summit 2012 Videos Are Up on Youtube!

I am sure many of you will enjoy watching everyone from Randy Harris to Walter Brueggemann…Enjoy!

ACU Summit 2012 Video

Here is one to get you started, Mitch Wilburn’s “Children of the Living God”

Gideon’s Weakness and the Grace & Peace of God

We usually associate “grace and peace” with Paul’s letters but grace and peace show up in other places in scripture. One of those places is in Judges 6. Gideon was told to deliver Israel from the Midianites but Gideon is concerned because the days he lived in weren’t like the days of his ancestors. He knew the story of the parting of the sea and deliverance from Egypt. He knew God was present with his people in those days because God acted in mighty ways. Gideon’s assumption was that God must not be present like he was because God isn’t acting like he used to act (see Judges 6:11-13). God assures him that he really was going to be the deliverer of Israel and Gideon’s response went like this,

“If now I have found grace in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.” – Judges 6:17

Gideon brings back an offering and it is consumed in flame. He then realizes he has seen the angel of the Lord and fears for his life. But God says,

“‘Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.’

So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace.”

Grace and peace go hand in hand. Without grace there is no peace because, like Gideon, we cannot stand in the presence of a holy God and live. So praise God that he is loving and graceful and we can have peace because he is the ultimate deliverer of his people! If you are going through something and lack peace or maybe you are upset because you just don’t have the power to fix the problems in your life…remember what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10,

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Do you know when God responded gracefully to Gideon in Judges 6? It was when Gideon said he wouldn’t be able to deliver the people because he was the least person of the weakest clan from among his people (6:15). God has a way of sorting these things out in ways that remind us that he is in charge, not us. So rest in the grace of God and find your peace there.

A Patriarch, A Judge and a Prophet Walk Into a Bar

I have been studying Gideon and I ran across some really interesting parallels he has with Jacob and Elijah.

They all were called on by God.

They all had personal encounters with God.

They all built altars to the Lord

Jacob and Gideon had their names changed.

Gideon and Elijah had encounters with the prophets of Baal.

Gideon and Elijah had their offerings burned up with divine fire.

Gideon stands at a point in Israel’s history that points back to the first Israel (Jacob) and forward to the prophet Elijah. In Gideon’s story we are reminded that God can do great things with weak people (Judges 6:15) and severely limited resources (7:1-7). We are also reminded that God is incredibly patient (the offering made sure it was God’s voice, the fleece made sure it was God’s will and hearing the dream of the enemy confirmed God’s will) and graceful (6:17)…and that God hears the cry of His people and is a divine deliverer. Last, we learn that God is present even when it doesn’t seem like he is (6:13).

The Difference Between Eisegesis & Exegesis – Sounds Boring but It is Something Every Christian Should Understand

sherlockholmeswatsonA crime has occurred. The investigator arrives on the scene. He sees the body, the weapon and the footprints leading away. This is nothing new. He has seen similar scenes a million times and knows exactly what has happened. Without any further questions he determines exactly what all of this means, exactly how it happened and the identity of the killer.

What is the problem with this? The problem is, there was more investigating to be done of what this specific crime scene was trying to tell him. He already has his conclusions in mind before he has all the information. The biggest problem was either ignorance or arrogance…he assumed that based on past experience that he would be able to figure all this out based on a cursory glance of the scene. If he really wanted to know what happened, he would be asking more questions, finding more evidence and not assuming that he already had the answer. Remember, a lot is on the line here…an innocent man may get convicted and a murderer walk free! It is important that he gets this right. That is eisegesis.

A second investigator arrives on the scene. She doesn’t come to the scene thinking she already knows what happened. She takes each crime scene (text) by its own merits, requiring a careful study of the background of the crime through asking good questions (as any good investigator knows how to do): Who was this person? Who did they know? Who were they talking with moments before the died? Those things are not readily apparent just glancing at the scene/text. It takes work. It takes an investigative spirit. It all starts with humility. There is a humility that comes when you believe that Scripture is God’s Word to humanity and if we are to understand it and faithfully apply it, it is going to take some work. Remember, there is a lot on the line here. In Biblical interpretation that is called exegesis.

What I have laid out here is the background for biblical “Exegesis”, a Greek word that means “to draw out” or “to guide/lead out”. When you read scripture, you are drawing the meaning from the text into your life. Eisegesis, on the other hand, means “to guide/lead in”. The thing that is being lead in are your own presuppositions, preconceived ideas, biases, culture, etc. Eisegesis reads Scripture solely through what those words mean, stripped out of their historical context (point #3 below) and plopped down in front of someone, pointed whichever way they want to point it and do with it what they want to do with it. Here is how Mark Strauss puts it,

“In the same way, every time you read the Bible you are already interpreting it. The only question is whether you will interpret it well or poorly—that is, whether you will hear the text as the author intended it to be heard, or whether you will impose your own ideas onto the text. Exegesis means drawing out the author’s original meaning. “Eisegesis” refers to the opposite: misinterpreting the text by reading into it your own assumptions and meaning.” – Strauss, M. L. How to Read the Bible in Changing Times: Understanding and Applying God’s Word Today, p. 44.

None of us can read Scripture in a vacuum that is able to remove all preconceived ideas and culture from our minds. It is just impossible. But we must be aware of that potential and recognize it when it influences us strongly enough that we might be missing the actual meaning of the text. When we read scripture we should always come to it with a few things in mind:

  1. Scripture is the Word of God. That means it has authority over us and it is truth.
  2. Scripture has an absolute meaning and intention by the original author that he wanted his audience to understand.
  3. In order to get to that meaning you have to understand the context of the passage (audience, occasion/situation, author, etc).
  4. Because God’s Word is truth and we need that truth to inform our lives, the purpose of Bible study is determining what God’s Word means and applying that to our lives to partner and participate with God in spiritual transformation and renewal.
  5. We do not come to scripture to bend it to our desires or predetermined ideas. That would undo #1 by giving us authority over scripture rather than the other way around.

Review of Logos “How to Read the Bible” Collection – Part 2

BibleProphesyThe second book in Logos Bible Software’s “How to Read the Bible” collection is “A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy: 60 Predictions Everyone Should Know” by Stan Guthrie. This is book is an introductory level book that is designed to put some of the most important (and often misunderstood) prophesies all in one place. The introduction gave me the impression he was going to cover 60 misunderstood prophesies. Honestly, I think that would have been a better book! He could have explained the common misconception and then done solid exegesis to show us what he thinks the verses are really saying.

I wasn’t nearly as impressed with this book as I was with Strauss’ book in the previous post. If you ran across these prophesies in study you would probably already be looking in some sort of commentary that is dealing with the verse in context. I was also confused by the “Application” section at the end of each prophesy. His application was a single sentence principle derived from the prophesy rather than an actual application. In other words the application was just a single truth to remember about the prophesy and not anything about how the prophesy actually applies to us. “Key principle” would have been a better label for those. The last thing I wasn’t as impressed with is that his presupposition, stated in the beginning of the book, is that every prophesy of scripture ultimately points back to Christ. I don’t really agree with that. There are many prophesies about many other things that don’t find fulfillment in Christ.

The best part of the book are his illustrations to help you wrap your mind about the prophesy. Other than that, I don’t think this book offered up too much that was unique that you couldn’t get anywhere else. It was more about putting these prophesies all in one place than anything else. I would rather study them in context. Just my two cents. His book (also in this series) “All That Jesus Asks” appears to me to be far superior to this one.

Making Spiritual Disciplines More Than Just Another “To Do”

Spiritual disciplines aren’t just one more thing to keep us busy. They don’t exist to occupy our mind. We don’t do them as penance. Spiritual disciplines are here for us as tools to focus on God, put him first and find our ultimate delight and fulfillment solely in God. Too often in the past, I have taught the “how to’s” of the disciplines without teaching the “Why”. The key ingredient to making the spiritual disciplines (things like prayer, fasting, scripture reading & rest) effective is identifying their purpose.

Why do these things? We do them because they draw us closer to God. Left to ourselves, doing the things that come natural to us, drawing near to God is difficult. It takes us doing things that at first don’t come natural to us (like abstaining from food!) in order to get in tune with God on a level that goes beyond the ordinary. Once we understand that these practices draw us closer to God they more easily become a natural and regular part of our lives. But before that can be true we have to really, really desire God. If we don’t desire God, we won’t desire to be closer to Him. If we don’t believe we can actually find fulfillment in God we won’t desire to draw closer to Him.

The effectiveness of the spiritual disciplines rest solely on our desire for God. Without that we are just going through the motions. Once we understand that and FEEL that draw and that desire, the disciplines become powerful, transformative and normative in the Christian life. What once felt so unnatural becomes a natural part of our lives. So before we teach the disciplines, let’s make sure we start with the “Why” otherwise we are just teaching more “to do’s”. More on the disciplines in some upcoming posts.

P.S. – As I have been studying through the disciplines I have been convicted that one has been missing from many lists is the discipline of waiting (read Psalm 37 and see if it doesn’t come across that way to you). It is also one of the most needed disciplines in Western culture today.