Saturday, May 30, 2015

Asking is the first step towards wisdom—but only the first

Generic Brick Reference

James 3:13–15 — Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.

Here we learn that wisdom is rooted in humility and shown through actions. For James, these actions are obvious: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).
When I fail to have discernment—when I lack wisdom and neglect asking for it—the problem is usually rooted in the selfish ambitions of my heart. When I act in wisdom, by caring for the hurting in our world, I have my eyes opened to the ways of God. This offers clarity; my vision is corrected and I walk in the light. Suddenly, the difference between God’s way and every other way is obvious. Wisdom is present. Asking is the first step towards wisdom—but only the first.

John D. Barry, “If You Lack Wisdom, Do This,” in Study Like a Pro: Explore Difficult Passages from Every Book of the Bible, ed. John D. Barry and Rebecca Van Noord (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

Friday, May 29, 2015

Because we are people of habit

A curious sight to the eyes of American tourists in the Holy Land is the Bedouin tent-dwellers. The dirty, worn tents with holes near the top for ventilation stand determinedly in the stark, arid desert. Usually a woman tending a small herd of sheep and goats will be nearby.
It seems that a number of years earlier the government decided to improve the lot of these wanderers. They built and furnished nice apartment houses for the Bedouins, and officials assisted them in moving into their new homes—the height of luxury in comparison with their battered tents. Everyone was pleased with the way the nomads had been helped to improve their way of living.
Several days later the officials went back to check on the Bedouins and see how they were doing. To their surprise, the apartments were full of animals. Where were the Bedouins? Back in their tents, living exactly as they had for centuries. They refused to give up their old ways for a better life. But they did decide that the apartments would make good pens for their sheep and goats.
This story illustrates the resistance to change that seems to be built into human nature—in every culture. Consider how many people sit in the same pew every Sunday at church and become visibly upset if a visitor happens to make the terrible mistake of sitting in their place. And how many of us drive exactly the same route to and from work every day, not varying our path by even one turn?
Because we are people of habit, successfully moving a church to a new location presents some of the greatest challenges in communicating effectively. Certainly there are many opportunities for excitement and elation, but there are also numerous chances for misunderstanding and conflict.

Wanda Vassallo, Church Communications Handbook: A Complete Guide to Developing a Strategy, Using Technology, Writing Effectively, Reaching the Unchurched (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Resources, 1998), 141.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I thought winter was over

Here it is about 10 days to June and there is snow on the car.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

When we don’t experience clarity through prayer

Black Speech Bubble Quote






James 1:6–8 — But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

With this context in mind, we see that in times of difficulty, we can ask for wisdom and God will grant it; he will help us discern the situation. But we must ask in faith, without doubting, for otherwise we will lack focus on God, being tossed back and forth like the surf of the sea. Thus, it is through focus on God that we are granted what we need. It is this focus that dispels the darkness, allowing us to see—with glasses on, in the light.

When we don’t experience clarity through prayer, it’s because we are either doubting or not understanding the ways of God. When we don’t hear from God at all, that actually could be an answer; perhaps we are meant to stay put until we hear him speak into the situation. If God wanted us to change our direction, and we were patiently waiting on his answer through prayer, then we would hear from him.

John D. Barry, “If You Lack Wisdom, Do This,” in Study Like a Pro: Explore Difficult Passages from Every Book of the Bible, ed. John D. Barry and Rebecca Van Noord (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Connecting Historical Dots


1 Chronicles 4:24–5:26; 1 Timothy 4:1–5; Psalm 78:1–12

Biblical lists can be annoying, but they’re also a testament to God’s faithfulness. It’s a true gift when someone in a faith community records the history of the group and their work—particularly when God has answered prayers. By looking through a recorded history, like a prayer journal, faith communities can see how God used them both collectively and as individuals. They can see where He interceded and begin to see how He intends to use them in the future.
God’s past faithfulness points to His future faithfulness. His specific dealings in the past point to likely dealings in the future: they show us what He has gifted us to do and thus the type of thing He is likely to call us to down the road.
First Chronicles 4:24–5:26 records God’s acts among His people and points to His future faithfulness. Similarly, Psalm 78:1–12 calls God’s people to hear their story told, but it’s really God’s story. The first account focuses on the individuals, whereas the second (Psa 78) recalls God’s work among a group of people. All of God’s work—among individuals and groups of people—is unique, but it is also interconnected. It is all a manifestation of His presence. Paul makes a similar remark to Timothy: “everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thankfulness” (1 Tim 4:4).
Although God may manifest Himself in different and unique ways among individuals and groups, everything He does is for good—from the beginning until now (compare Gen 1; John 1). God desires for us to experience Him, as individuals and as members of faith communities, doing His good work. In being both, we come to understand what it means to truly follow Jesus.

How can you embark more fully into God’s great work, both in your own life and in a faith community?


John D. Barry and Rebecca Kruyswijk, Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Where’s The Power?

Quote Marks Quote

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Stories, analogies, anecdotes, or discussions of current events do not have the power or authority of the Word of God. Power in expository preaching comes from the Word, not from slighting it in favor of other themes.

David C. Deuel, “Expository Preaching from Old Testament Narrative,” in Rediscovering Expository Preaching (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992), 298.