Posts Tagged With: motives

Writing With Purpose Part 2

In my previous post, I shared some thoughts about Luke and John’s reasons for writing their Gospels. They were not alone in their mission and purpose. Peter likewise wrote with a mission. After reminding his readers about some characteristics associated with spiritual growth, he wrote:

And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (II Peter 1:15–21)

First, he wanted them to be able to recall the things he taught them. Second, he assured them that his teaching was grounded in facts, not opinions or guesses. Jesus was not just an abstract concept, an idealized character to represent noble virtues. Peter knew this Man. He had seen Him. He had a personal relationship with Him. He knew Jesus was the Son of God because the Transfiguration was a real, unforgettable experience. Peter had experienced the humanity of Jesus, and he had beheld His divinity. He had denied Jesus, and he had received words of forgiveness from Him. Peter’s teaching was genuine and real because it was grounded in a historical experience with a real God-Man, not a fantasy.

Such an orderly, structured understanding of Scripture remains as necessary as ever. It has been nearly 2000 years since someone walked on planet Earth who could say with absolute certainty, “I knew Jesus when He was ministering in the villages of Galilee.” We are left with His Word, the Holy Spirit, and the teachings that have been passed down through the church over the ages. In 2018–19, it is tempting to replace certain, orderly biblical truth with opinions and feelings. Many Christians say they follow the Bible, but they choose to follow only those parts that they like. Or, they use the Bible to justify their feelings, opinions, biases, and desires.

Over 20 years ago, I began to compile a concise summary outline for Bible studies that would guide people from the basics to a more in-depth knowledge of Scripture. That outline has evolved over time and is now about 20 pages long, summarizing 25 major topic sections, each with multiple subsections. (Each of those subsections may require several blog posts to cover.) I think it will take years to complete it, but if I succeed, readers will be able to learn about some of the key teachings of Scripture and see them in a broader context.

I say “if I succeed,” since life, ministry, and the Holy Spirit can be full of surprises. I may find myself led by circumstances or passion to change directions and cover a different topic. Also, after years out of pastoral ministry, I am in postulancy to be considered for ordination as a deacon in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. Seminary classes and other studies may take priority. I may share insights from such studies on these pages.

One can spend a lifetime studying God’s Word. I have been a follower of Jesus for almost 35 years, reading the Bible heavily all of those years. I am still learning. There is a lot to learn, a lot to reflect upon, and a lot to study.

I look forward to sharing this journey through 2019. May God’s Word and these meditations bless you as we continue along this journey together. Over the next few weeks, we will examine what it means to know God, how we can know Him, and the Bible’s role in this.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing With Purpose

Writing has been a hobby for me since I was very young. I wanted to be an author since I was in elementary school. In college, I majored in journalism, since that would be one career where I could make a living by writing. Although I did not become a reporter, words and writing have been the center of much of what I do: I work as a content editor at a scientific publishing company, and I grab opportunities to write whenever they appear in ministry. When I was in pastoral ministry, I would often write my sermons word-for-word (mainly to avoid that horrible habit of punctuating my main points with such theological mumbo-jumbo as “um,” “like,” and “you know”).

A page from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Photo by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

This blog serves as an important outlet for my writer’s itch. It also gives me an incentive to continue studying the Bible so that I can share its insights with anybody who takes the time to read the articles I post. Writers put pen to paper or finger to keyboard for a purpose. Here on Darkened Glass Reflections, one of my goals is to ensure that the purpose and intent of my writing coincide with that of the biblical authors:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1–4; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Two words jump out in that last verse: orderly and certainty. Luke had a mission as he wrote: He wanted to make sure his reader (or readers) knew the truth about Jesus. He lived before mass media. The Gospel was spread by word of mouth, not by websites or 24-hour cable news channels. It is possible that conflicting accounts about Jesus may already have sprung up. Speculation, fantasy, and myth may have mingled with true accounts about the Messiah. Rather than relying on rumors, Luke wanted to pass on what he learned from eyewitnesses and others who had direct knowledge of Jesus. (The first two chapters strongly suggest that one of those eyewitnesses was Jesus’ mother Mary.)

He wanted his readers to be certain about what they had learned. Scholars disagree about the identity of “Theophilus.” Was he a Christian? Was he a government official who wanted to know whether Christianity was a threat to Roman rule? Could “Theophilus” have been a code name Luke made up for an entire church, to avoid problems with any Roman authorities who might intercept his document? All we know is that his name means “lover of God,” so all true Christians can accept it as our code name. Luke wants the lovers of God to know for certain the truth about Jesus and what He taught. Whether Theophilus was an actual person or not, the Holy Spirit ensured that this Gospel would be preserved in the Bible so that all lovers of God could have certainty about the things we have been taught.

Other New Testament writers agree that they wrote with a similar motive:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31)

Some people wrestle with the fact that John’s Gospel does not overlap much with Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Most of the stories he shares do not appear in the other Gospels. But, he makes it clear that he was very selective about what he wrote. Perhaps he thought, “You have heard those parables and about those miracles. Jesus did and said a lot more than I can fit on this scroll. Here are some important teachings by Him.” The teachings and signs John recorded were gathered for a clear purpose: “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Luke and John were not writing history for history’s sake. They wanted to make sure people knew Jesus and received salvation through faith as a result. They wanted their readers to have confidence and certainty in their faith.

Ancient writers always wrote with a purpose. As a writer, I need to remind myself frequently that everything I write—whether on this blog or elsewhere—should pursue a goal (even if that goal is “I am bored and want to write something silly just for laughs”). This post has a purpose. That will be more clear as we follow up in the next article.

Copyright © 2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Understanding the Deep Waters of the Heart

“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out” (Proverbs 20:5).

When studying the topic of “renewal of the mind” and its impact on a believer’s life, it is easy to think of Christianity as something that goes on purely within one’s brain, disconnected from the rest of the world. However, nothing can be further from the truth. Renewing our minds is simply one part of the Christian life, intertwined with other aspects. Our minds are renewed not only through Bible study and prayer, but also through corporate worship, ministry to others, and fellowship.

Proverbs 20:5 is a difficult Scripture to understand, mainly because we are forced to begin with this question: Is the man in the first part of the verse the same as the “man of understanding” in the second part? I believe they are two different persons, and will write from that perspective. (While the ESV uses the word “man” both times, it might be better to say “person”; we can just as accurately speak about the purpose of a woman’s heart and a woman of understanding.) Even great men need wise counselors, and King Solomon (to whom God gave wisdom and understanding “beyond measure,” according to 1 Kings 4:29) realized he needed such counsel.

The Amplified Bible translates this verse slightly differently, hoping to make the first half of the passage more clear:

“A plan (motive, wise counsel) in the heart of a man is like water in a deep well,
But a man of understanding draws it out.”

The Hebrew word “etzah” (“purpose” in the ESV) is usually translated “counsel,” but can also mean “plan” or “advice.” It refers to what a person hopes to accomplish, including his goals and strategies. These are closely intertwined with one’s motives. What one hopes to do, how he hopes to do it, and why he wants to do it are important questions.

However, such things are often “deep water.” John Wesley said this means that such things are “secret and hard to be discovered.” The Amplified Bible envisions someone who trying to water from a deep well.

 

hirondellea_gigas

Hirondella gigea, a native of the Mariana Trench. By Daiju Azuma (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Mariana Trench is the deepest underwater location on Earth. In the Pacific Ocean, it is 36,000 feet below sea level (more than a mile deeper than the height of Mount Everest!) and hosts some of the most unique lifeforms on Earth. Until scientists could develop equipment capable of descending to that depth (the water pressure would crush most undersea probes), we had no idea what kind of creatures were there. Men needed understanding and wisdom to find out what lived there.

A person of understanding will draw these depths out of your soul. He can give good advice. He can hear what seems to be lacking in your explanations and ask you the tough questions that you need to think about while you pursue your goals.

I remember a time when I was in college, when I ran into a friend at a Christian group’s meeting. I asked how she was doing, and she began to talk about a situation in her life that had her troubled. I asked her a few questions; she kept talking about the problem. I asked something else; she talked further. After a few minutes, she said something like, “You know what? I think I should….” Then, she thanked me for my advice. At no point did I give her actual advice or tell her what I thought she should do. I had simply asked a few questions and listened. As she thought about her situation while speaking, she realized what she needed to do. (I can think of a few times when I have been on the receiving end of such “advice that was not really advice,” when I encountered someone who was willing to listen and care.)

Often, that is all that a person needs. We are tempted to tell people what they must do, when instead we simply need to ask questions, listen, and silently ask the Holy Spirit to give wisdom. The person of understanding may ask questions about why they want to do something, how the situation developed, who will be affected by its outcome, or what options they have considered. The list can go on. We can often look back at our own experiences to provide wisdom, not by telling people what to do, but simply by remembering what a similar situation was like for us.

Finally, “deep water” can make us think of one of Jesus’ images for the Holy Spirit:

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37–39).

The deep water reminds us of the “rivers of living water” flowing with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, which we often have difficulty discerning. Some Christians are particularly gifted with wisdom and can help others discern exactly what the Holy Spirit is saying to them. We would be wise to seek such counsel, even when we think we have heard from the Holy Spirit. A person of understanding can provide clarity and perspective, and help us see when we are allowing our own selfish carnal thinking to pollute divine guidance.

This is why “renewal of the mind” must occur within the context of fellowship. Left to our own devices with the Word of God, we can be tempted to simply reinforce harmful thought patterns, plans, and motives by distorting Scripture to suit our agendas. However, a trusted person of understanding can help us confront the negative thinking and fine-tune our perspective.

People in Twelve-Step programs often speak of “sharing our experiences, strength, and hope with others.” May we each find people who can compassionately share their experience, strength, hope and wisdom with us so that that we can grow in our knowledge of Christ. Furthermore, may we all find the wisdom that we can share with others. This is how we grow as believers and become transformed by the renewing of our minds.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Renewing the Mind Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ministry and Motives—John 12:1–8

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”

—John 12:1–8, NASB

mary annointing jesus feet clipart

Image from clipartfest.com

Which is the most important ministry on this list? (a) Emotional worship; (b) hospitality ministry (serving food to guests); or (c) feeding the poor? My first choice would usually be (c). The church needs to share God’s love with the world. I would normally put (a) at the bottom of the list: Too many people seek only an emotional high from their religion.

However, as John 12:1–8 shows us, maybe the question is not so simple. Why do we do the things we do? Motives matter. Why we do things is usually more important than what we do. If our motives are consistent with the will of God and are pure, even if our efforts are headed in the wrong direction, we can be guided onto the correct path. If our motives are selfish and impure, even good efforts can fall astray.

In John 12:1–8, we see a contrast of motives. Mary and Martha were two devoted followers of Jesus. They were sisters with very different personalities. I have written previously about how they reflected the “two sides of discipleship.” Mary was a worshipper, one who preferred to spend time at Jesus’ feet, hearing His teaching and worshipping Him. Martha was a “doer,” always eager to serve (and perhaps a little too anxious about it). Luke 10:38–42 shares that story.

Luke’s story occurred earlier in Jesus’ ministry. Now, just a short time before Jesus’ crucifixion (perhaps little more than a day or two before He would enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday), He had dinner with Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. It must have been a big celebration, since Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the grave.

Martha celebrated as she knew best: Let’s have a party with lots of food! We will have a banquet to celebrate Lazarus’ return from the dead. I can imagine her returning to the table repeatedly, bringing more food for Jesus, Lazarus, and the rest of their guests (including the 12 apostles).

In the midst of the celebration, Mary brought something different. Martha probably hoped Mary would bring some roasted lamb or bread, but instead, she brought a pound of expensive perfume and started wiping it all over Jesus’ feet. We can only wonder why she chose to make such an extravagant spectacle. A pound of aromatic oil, worth one year’s wages for a common laborer, drenched Jesus’ feet.

Mary was motivated by gratitude. Jesus had raised her brother from the grave. More than that, she knew Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness. The other Gospels point out that she had a reputation as a sinner (see, e.g., Matthew 26:6-13). Others would remind Mary about her past, but she knew that Jesus offered her a future where her previous sins did not matter.

Mary felt that only her best would be appropriate for Jesus. She was willing to make an extravagant sacrifice to show her love and gratitude to Him. What about us? Do we give Jesus our best? Are we willing to surrender our most treasured possessions for His glory? Are we willing to surrender our reputation or popularity for His sake?

If Mary was motivated by gratitude, Judas Iscariot had different motives. His logic sounded reasonable. After all, a year’s wages could feed a lot of hungry people. Why pour all of this oil on one guy’s feet when it could be used to gather food for countless widows, orphans, and handicapped persons?

Yet, Judas’ motives were in the wrong place. Judas was motivated by money. Perhaps the other disciples saw his financial expertise early in the ministry and persuaded Jesus to make him the treasurer of their group. Unfortunately, that was misplaced trust. Judas would pocket a few denarii at times for his own purposes. Even now, he was not really concerned about the poor. He wanted to make himself look good to Jesus, and was disappointed that he missed an opportunity to profit from one of his good-sounding ideas.

This would be a turning point in the lives of Judas Iscariot and Jesus. After Jesus corrected him, Judas decided to betray Jesus. (See Matthew 26:14.) After three years of friendship and discipleship, Judas would sell Jesus out. What about us? Do we try to promote our own agendas at Jesus’ expense? Will we put things, projects, or ideas ahead of Him? Even good ideas, project, ministries, and activities can become dangerous when we place them ahead of worshipping Jesus.

Not long thereafter (maybe about one week later), Jesus would meet with His disciples for a final meal together. As Mary had washed Jesus’ feet with her perfume and tears, and dried them with her hair, Jesus would wash the disciples’ feet with water and dry them with a towel that He wore around His waist. He would describe it as an illustration of how we serve one another, thereby tying Mary’s worship with every other ministry we can do in His name. Shortly thereafter, Judas would leave the meal in pursuit of 30 silver pieces. The man who verbalized a scheme to feed the poor would commit suicide, and his money would go to help the poor by providing a burial place for them.

Motives matter. For Judas Iscariot, wrong motives led him on the path to the grave.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Scripture Sabbath | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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