Category Archives: Bible Study and Research

Bible Study and Research notes, observations and things I have learned.

This Is My Story

I may have actually figured it out. Not to my credit, I should have seen it decades ago.
I have listened to many Bible classes, sermons, Gospel meetings, and seminars and lectureships. I have read so many articles on the matter, and perhaps it was spoken or alluded to, but I missed the point.

The question of how to be more effective in sharing the Gospel of Jesus to the lost souls around plagues many of us. It seems some can just open their mouths and the right thing comes out. Others study and prepare but can’t think through the process. Others may get stage fright with even and audience of one or two. Whatever the reason or situation, we need to be more effective.

If we look at secular and religious history, we see that storytelling and song was how to pass down history and knowledge.

Ancient Jews:
I had the privilege of being invited to Seder at the house of a friend. At the time of the meal, the eldest son ask why to the food symbols on the table. The meat, the bitter herb, etc.
This prompted the head of the house to tell the story of slavery in Egypt, the plagues, the Passover, and the Exodus.
This story told at tables all over the world near Passover.

Native American:
I had the honor of sitting at the campfire of Native Americans who were fighting forest fires in Northern California with me. 16 hours in the heat and smoke and then when they got back to camp….. they lit a fire.
I didn’t understand what they were saying, many of them used chants and the native tongue. I was told they are going over the events of the day and the week and learning to tell the story.
The history and language of this people were not in first grade textbooks, but around the fire listening to, and learning to tell the stories.

I know that many cultures used storytelling as a way of preserving the past.

We are blessed to be the most communicative era in history. I can converse with almost anyone in the world and usually get almost any translation very quickly at little or no cost. I can even see their face and expression as we talk.
I can look up almost anything and usually watch a video about it, visit an expert, email a professor, or ask a question to an audience of thousands and get input from everywhere.
I watch a video on a car repair before starting to learn from someone elses’ busted knuckles.

All this, and yet we have become poor in the art of storytelling. Orson Wells, Mark Twain, Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie are among some of the well known storytellers a generation gone.  Some tell the stories in song, others write, or tell it live.
Now Garrison Keillor is great to hear delivering an anecdote or a tale of Lake Wobegone.  (follow the link if you wish)
We just don’t practice it in the home so much. We let the internet and the television tell the story for us.

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Have we become a generation that observes, but doesn’t pass on? (excluding #tweets, viral videos, and gossip)

I believe this is what is missing in personal evangelism. Simply learning to tell THE STORY. We are involved in a Bible class which has been reviewing basic teaching so we can share with others with more confidence, but knowing the facts isn’t enough, we need to learn to share our story face to face with another.

We will be effective evangelists when we realize that the evangelism of the first century was done walking between towns with other people for safety. On the journey, you start talking. Before long, you are telling of the wonderful things you witnessed at the Sea of Galilee. Maybe, that you were in a house to hear a man speak and someone tore a hole in the roof and let in a lame man. The speaker healed him just by speaking aloud!

I imagine Jesus telling the parables in a wonderful story.
We think of a preacher standing up to the microphone and tapping it a few times, then delivering a carefully assembled outline. Perhaps an anecdote to get the situation and application set.

The Master Teacher told stories that engaged his audience. Sometimes with anger, but always engaged.

I would encourage all of us to learn to tell The Story.
Maybe an example: I was having a bad life, and then a wonderful thing happened to me. Someone told me about Jesus, and how valuable I really am.

Your story may start with . . . I had lost everything and presumed that God had nothing to do with me. I learned that I was valuable enough for him to send his divine son to suffer pain and shame then die so I can have a relationship with The Creator.

Yours is probably different, but it deserves to be told. Practice it and tell The Story!

dm

Get Ready!

Yesterday, while waiting for our car at the valet (Hilton Grand Vacations in Las Vegas)  I saw a man and woman arrive.  He was along in years and she seemed older.  Maybe his mother.  I really couldn’t tell.  He got out of the mid-sized pick-up and got the wheel chair out for her.  It was one of the long term chairs.  It could not be operated by the occupant.  (no big back wheel)

My brain decided to try and guess what the occupant would be like, but could not have built the actual scene.  He weighed about one hundred pounds and was small.  He reached in and picked her up out of the truck and put her in the chair.  If I had a guess, she was near the century mark in age.  She was very small and frail.  She had limited use of her extremities and may have been seventy or so pounds in weight.

It was clear that he had placed her in this chair countless times.  It was one easy motion.  This was a bit surprising because he was so small himself.

My guess is that they were visiting relatives for the holidays.  (like us)  He turned her around and I made eye contact with her.  I gave a little wave and a smile.  She returned a really nice smile.

I had one of those shuddering emotion moments and could have fallen on my knees to pray, cry, or both.  It took several guy points to keep some composure.  I have always been emotional, but more now in my older years.

There were so many observations here…….

  • There, even with the discomfort, pain, frustration of immobility, and a century of life, was a place for a giving smile.
  • There was a man (whatever relation) who loved this woman and cared to get her out to see family and remain a part of the world.
  • There was an old soul who has seen so much, and has yet to quit.

I see so many who give up once their physical life is altered.  Guess what?  Age and gravity do that.  I hope I can remember this incident when I feel stiff, sore, or tired.  I should be blessed to live so long and still have my wits about me.

Also awakening,  I thought how she didn’t have much time left.  Then reminded myself that I might not be here in fifteen minutes.

The Bible warns us about being prepared for that time because it comes like a thief in the night.

1 Thessalonians 5:2  For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

Whether we are young and starting out in life’s adventure, or seeking what to do in retirement,  we should make ready for what lies beyond.

I hear people say that “A loving God would not punish anyone eternally.”  He clearly wants no one to perish.

2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is long suffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Our Great God has made provisions for each of us to be set for eternity with Him.  He calls us to repent and bind ourselves to the blood of His Son so we can enjoy the benefits of adopted children with inheritance.  (

Ephesians 3:6 to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,

 

Stay Ready and Live..

Desert Beauty

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Seems like an oxymoron.  Desert and beauty in the same sentence?  Absolutely!  Most of the time the desert is bleak and neutral in color, but when it blooms it is a beautiful place to see.

The purple flower above and the green that supports is is smaller than my hand  It’s a tiny thing.

The prickly pear cactus is a hazard to get near, but it flowers this beautiful and fragile bloom which is stacked with pollen to propagate and assure other species feed and live.

Desert in Bloom
Desert in Bloom

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Seems the blooms of the desert look like Fire orange or Saffron.  All the beauty for only a short time then back to conservation and survival mode.

Psalms 19:1
(1)  . . . The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament showeth his handiwork.

Is Thy Heart Right With God?

This fine old hymn was penned in 1899 by Elisha Hoffman, a Presbyterian preacher who seemed to have a great way of expressing his faith in poetry and song.  This is a bit out of the norm, because he was not trained in music.  He wrote some excellent hymns which are still in the major hymn publications and are favorites of song leaders, acapella directors and groups.

Some of his other works include:

  • Are You Washed In The Blood?
  • I Must Tell Jesus
  • Glory To His Name
  • To Christ Be Loyal and Be True
  • Leaning On The Everlasting Arms

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s song writers and poets were commissioned songs of a theme to accompany a tent meeting or “Revival.”  Prominent evangelists would seek the likes of Fanny J. Crosby and others to come up with lyrics / poetry and a music composer to provide a suitable tune for an upcoming meeting.

Many of our great old hymns were penned this way.  Mr. Hoffman, however, wrote from the heart and not for a commission. Most of his songs are teaching Biblical principals and attitudes.

I’m certain he found his “hook” for the song in Acts 8:21 when Simon the sorcerer was trying to buy the ability to bestow powers.  He was sharply rebuked because his heart was not right.

Acts 8:20-21
(20) But Peter said unto him, Thy silver perish with thee, because thou hast thought to obtain the gift of God with money.
(21) Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right before God.

It seems Mr. Hoffman understood the meaning of Ephesians 5:19.

  • (19) speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

Our singing is not for the purpose of entertaining the congregation.  It is to praise God and to encourage and teach one another.

In this song, we are encouraged to consider our priorities and self discipline.

It want’s to know if we have emptied ourselves of the sin which has separated us from God.

It uses questions to inspire thought and provides the answer by the way the question is asked.  By asking “Have thine affections been nailed to the cross?” and “dost thou count all things for Jesus but loss?” He is coaching us to nail our affections to the cross and count all things for loss for Jesus sake.

The overall message of the song is:  Have you surrendered your behavior to our Lord?

Consider also that his message in the song is Biblicly accurate and true.

Romans 6:6-13
(6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin;
(7) for he that hath died is justified from sin.
(8) But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him;
(9) knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death no more hath dominion over him.
(10) For the death that he died, he died unto sin once: but the life that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
(11) Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.
(12) Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof:
(13) neither present your members unto sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

Also consider:

Ephesians 5:1-17
(1) Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children;
(2) and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell.
(3) But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becometh saints;
(4) nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, or jesting, which are not befitting: but rather giving of thanks.
(5) For this ye know of a surety, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
(6) Let no man deceive you with empty words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience.
(7) Be not ye therefore partakers with them;
(8) for ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light
(9) (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth),
(10) proving what is well-pleasing unto the Lord;
(11) and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them;
(12) for the things which are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of.
(13) But all things when they are reproved are made manifest by the light: for everything that is made manifest is light.
(14) Wherefore he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon thee.
(15) Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise;
(16) redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
(17) Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Check the outline for this text:

  • Be imitators of God 1
  • Walk in love 2
  • Get rid of filthiness, covetousness, foolish talk and jesting, fornication, etc. 4-6
  • Your right walk proves what pleases God 10

Finally:

Galatians 2:20
(20) I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.

  • Galatians 5:22-24
  • (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
  • (23) meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.
  • (24) And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.

I think Mr. Hoffman understood all of these texts.  Our behavior should have us visible to the world around.  We should act differently than the world.  It’s not popular, but living a Godly life manifesting the fruit of the Spirit is a great life with a promise of eternal life for obeying your God and being “right” with Him.  You can’t be perfect, so the blood of His son, Jesus is there to bridge the gap when we fail him.

So:    Is Thy Heart Right With God?

 

 

 

 

 

Observation of a Felon

I saw an interview today from San Quentin.  Several prisoners were “testifying” of their experience between SQ and other institutions.  As we know, prison life can be harsh and dangerous.  Not many nice stories are published outside.

This, however told of a very simple incident which changed the life of one inmate.  He came from another institution which was like Attica from the old days.

When he came to SQ he was in the dining area at meal time.  A guard came nearby as he headed to a seat.  The guard looked him in the eye, smiled, and said “How are you today?”

The new inmate didn’t know how to take this….. Was he being “set up?”  Was it sarcastic?  He went on to the table, and looked back.  He saw that the guard was greeting others and turned and gave him a nod and smile again.

“He really wanted to know how I was doing!”  This small act of grace and humanity changed his outlook on life.  Not just prison life, but life.  His whole demeanor changed.  He started asking others how they were.

He saw the awesome power of kindness and felt how it changed him.  He passed it on, because it was good.

Engagement with individuals can be so powerful.  I wonder if he might not be a felon if someone had taken this approach earlier in his life.

Sometimes,  the best “grace” we can offer is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:) called kindness.  The “Good Samaritan”  Jesus feeding the 5000.  All the healing and teaching.  And finally the gift of his life to keep us from eternal pain and desolation.

Lonliness

When Loneliness O’ertakes Me . . .

Lines from a hymn by L.O. Sanderson and Thomas O. Chisholm from 1935 strike memories of my youth.  “Be with me Lord, when loneliness o’ertakes me . . .”  If I might make an opening statement . . . loneliness is real, it’s powerful, it’s dangerous.

Perhaps the true weapon of the “bully” is the alienation of an individual by rude behavior, slander, physical and mental abuse of an order which is difficult to understand.

It is a weapon of the narcissist.  “The world revolves around me and you are not worthy to be in my orbit.

It is how a child feels when self-absorbed parents berate them and take away their self-esteem by calling them “stupid,” “worthless,” “a mistake.”

The lonely feeling can be the worst of the worst lows.  It hurts in an undefinable space and can lead a weaker soul to end their existence to end the pain.

Its’ fruit is sometimes terrible marriages made of desperation to not be left alone when all the “gang” is getting married and having munchkins.

It is one of the reasons young people join gangs and do unspeakable things to “fit in.”  

The Evil One (Satan) uses loneliness to temp people to seek evil companionship.

It seems like an endless spiral into oblivion because a lonely person sees time moving faster as they get a bit older and still are by themselves.

Back in the 1970’s a popular music group called “Bread” had a song which is a narrative of a father urging his daughter not to get anxious, but to wait for the right, best man to come along.  “Daughter, don’t give your love to the first man you see.  Just bide your time and your heart will be free to find the one,  girl you don’t have to run.”

The lonely person might not realize that others are lonely also.  It’s the reason online dating sites are money makers.

I remember when my older sister started dating.  Then she was engaged.  Then she was married.  Then, though we weren’t best buddies, or anything like that, I now was the only sibling left in the house.  Who would I torment now?

Through all the pain that there is in the world,  there is one man who became the most lonely for a short time.  His Father turned his back on him at His lowest hour.  He had no one to console Him or hold His hand.  His cry was “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

This is the one the song calls for …”Be with me Lord.”

The Lord of the 23rd Psalm  is with us if we have Him as our Lord.
(4) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

The Lord of Matthew 28:20 (and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. ) is with those who are His disciples.

It is good to remember: We sing “be with me Lord,” when He has promised to be with us already.  Maybe our cry should be to be with Him.  He’s done His part.  He endured the loneliness of separation from God in the darkness of the grave.  He arose victorious so that we could have a hope of the friendship of the Son of God!  We can again commune with our Creator!.  We can be called “Sons of God!”  Heirs to the promise of eternal life with Him!  God be Praised!

The Lord has reached out His hand to pull us out of the loneliness of the world.  He stretched it out when he endured the cross for us.  “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down His life for a friend. Ye are my friends , if you do the things which I command you.”  John 15:13,14

  • You are loved,
  • You are valuable.
  • You can be a friend of the Son of God.  Children of God!
  • Our Lord loved you enough to die for you so you would not have to endure eternal loneliness.

The call is for you to be a friend to Jesus.  Be His disciple, and loneliness will no longer have power over you.