Digging at Diligence

The Path Less Traveled Final

Our walk on the path less traveled is not to simply gain knowledge for ourselves for the sake of gaining knowledge. It is to gain knowledge, tempered with wisdom, to pass on to those who desire it a deeper, much more personal knowledge of just who God is and what His word states.


Does God’s Church care about learning the deep things of God’s Word? I don’t know the answer to that question. For sure we are busy these days. We have jobs that usually require us to commute, political tensions, wars and rumors of wars. We have lots of distractions in the form of entertainment that vie for our attention and time. Where do we spend our time? Where do we invest ourselves? How we answer those questions tells the story of our desire to be be disciples of Christ and not just associated with Him.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15 NASB

There is quite a bit to unpack in these few words of Paul to Timothy. Let’s give this a shot and see what we need to do to be disciples – disciplined ones – of Christ.

Be Diligent

Paul begins with a command to be diligent. The Greek word here is spoudazoThis word means to proceed quickly, hurry, hasten or to be especially conscientious in discharging  an obligation. The second definition fits best with the context here in 2 Timothy. Think of the word zealous and you’ll have a good understanding of the word spoudazo. Getting a bit more technical, this context has it as an aorist present imperative. It is a command that, unlike the present active imperative, is expected to be done once. It also has the nuance of a completed task. So taking this all together, we have a command that is supposed to be completed and that thing to be completed is a basically a mindset. It is an attitude that we decide to have. But what are we to be diligent about?


Present Yourself

Our decision to be diligent is with the end being presenting ourselves to God. We are to be zealous to present – offer, or appear before – ourselves to God. That is our mindset. But this isn’t just showing up in front of God and saying “Here I am, God.” No this presentation of ourselves is with a caveat: as an approved workman who does not need to be ashamed. We are to show ourselves to God unashamed. We are to show ourselves as approved workmen. The word for approved is dokimos which has the idea of refinement having taken place. The verb for of this word, dokimazo, is also used of the process of refining silver to rid it of impurities. In that process the silver becomes more valuable and stronger because  the impurities are burned out of it under increasing heat.

This is THE picture I want in your head: a pot of silver bubbling over the ever-increasing heat of a furnace.

The silver is you and me. The heat from the furnace are the trials of life that put us under pressure. But  who is tending the fire? The master craftsman Himself – God – is stoking the flames. He is increasing the heat on use to purify us so that we can present ourselves to Himself as approved – having been tried, purified and sanctified by the flames and heat of His furnace. This is the meaning of dokimos.

The idea of approved here is just that: there is no chance of failure. When God begins the process, you will be approved.

Accurately Handling the Word of Truth

The final clause in this very important verse is a really neat one. It stresses why we should not be ashamed and why we are approved. It is because we accurately handle the truth. Now this word accurate is  an interesting one. The Greek word is orthotomountaElsewhere it describes a tentmaker who makes straight rather than wavy cuts in his material.That is interesting because Paul, the author of this letter, was a tentmaker. It can also mean a builder who lays bricks in straight rows and a farmer who plows a straight furrow.

So we gather from all these uses that it means to be accurate or straight with what we are doing. But are we doing this?

I’m saddened by what seems to me to be the most anti-intellectual movement in the Church’s history. Just about anyone with a computer, internet connection and a search engine can become an instant expert on all things biblical. Those who have worked diligently to understand the Word of God and the best way to study and interpret it seem to be cast aside.  This ought not be. Not all opinions are equally valid or authoritative. I’m sorry if this upsets you. But that is the truth. I would no more entrust my physical health to a self-trained “doctor” who read a few books on medicine than I would entrust my spiritual health to someone who read a few books on theology.

I’m all for Christians working through the Bible and not just accepting someone else’s interpretation of Scripture. But when a Christian decides that they know the Bible because they decide they know the Bible, well, that is just dangerous. If there is no one providing a check against a person’s bias (and we all have a bias) bad things can happen.

If we are serious about knowing the deep things of God we will be diligent to study. Being diligent means keeping at it when it is difficult. Being diligent also includes the idea of checking ourselves against those who know more and have experienced more. If we are serious about being diligent in our study of the word of God, we will zealously seek out those who have studied at a greater depth than ourselves. And if we are zealously seeking those who have studied at a greater depth than ourselves, then we will be working hard at knowing Him so that we may become a resource for another.

Our walk on the path less traveled is not to simply gain knowledge for ourselves for the sake of gaining knowledge. It is to gain knowledge, tempered with wisdom, to pass on to those who desire it a deeper, much more personal knowledge of just who God is and what His word states.


Pursuing Honesty

The Path Less Traveled Final

Are you pursuing honesty all the time or just when the bright lights of life are on you? Is the person people see the same as the person you and I actually are?

A number of years ago I was living in California. I went to Hollywood to walk around and hopefully meet some movie stars. I met one. Well, I was in the same store as one. This actress was a “girl-next-door” type in movies. She always seemed like a sweet person in all her movies and the interviews she did on TV. Well as I was working up the courage to speak with her was able to observe her interaction with another fan. It wasn’t good. How she presented herself in-person was totally different than how she portrayed herself on the big screen and in TV interviews. I was crushed. The person she was with the lights on was totally different than the one she was when they were off.

Our character – who we really are – must match with the person we project to others.

How are you doing with that?

What kind of a person are you?  Notice I didn’t ask you what others saw in you or how you acted towards others. Do you look the same regardless if the room is full of people are the room is empty? Sometimes – perhaps oftentimes – our public reputation and our private character don’t match. This is a basic issue of being holy. Being holy, first and foremost, means we must practice integrity in every area of life. Our character – who we really are – must match with the person we project to others. How are you doing with that?

Someone once said A person is not given integrity. It results from the relentless pursuit of honesty at all times.

 I think this captures the source and definition of integrity. A person of integrity pursues honesty – runs after it – all the time. Now this is not an easy thing to do. There are temptations to cut corners in being honest all the time. But we must try to resist falling to those temptations. Honesty is not the best policy…it is the ONLY policy.

Another aspect of integrity is the character – reputation issue.

A person’s character is who that person is. It isn’t necessarily how they are seen by others but who they are. It is the distinguishing characteristics of that person. Like my intro to this article, the actress to whom I referred had a character that was, well, not that good.

A person’s reputation is how they are seen by others. A person’s reputation is what is projected to be seen by others. It is the person we want others to think we are rather than who we really are.

So who are you? When it gets down to it, what is an accurate description of just who you are?

If we are honest (that word again!) with ourselves we all have issues with the character – reputation thing. We all change our behavior to fit our audience to one degree or another. Our choice to improve this area of life on our path of holiness is whether we recognize the problem in our lives. This is a hard truth to admit. We all do hypocritical things – things that may look good but all the while the real me or you is vastly different.

Pursuing holiness – at least in our present state –  isn’t about having none of these issues come up. No it is about being aware and wanting to change those things.

A story from the early Church

The church began in the book of Acts. During the early days of the church, all the members of the church had to rely on each other for support and help. They were viewed as weird, betrayers of Judaism or as gentiles invading the world of Judaism. To say they faced opposition is an understatement. And the opposition wasn’t just from the religious class. The State – Rome in their case – also didn’t really like them either since the Church pledged their allegiance to Christ, not to Caesar. It was an interesting time. Consider this

And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:32-37 NASB

So Joseph sold some his land and gave it to the Apostles for their use. That was pretty cool and sacrificial, huh. He certainly lived up to his name the Apostles called him (Son of Encouragement). Now lets turn our attention to chapter 4 and two folks names Ananias and Sapphira.

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.

Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things. Acts 5:1-11 NASB

This is the first instance of lack of integrity in the Church. Sadly it isn’t the last. But let’s consider what happened in this episode. So Joseph decided to sell a possession and give the apostles the proceeds from the sale. If you read before that episode, you won’t find any command to do so. Joseph simply chose to do this wonderful deed.

Apparently Ananias and his wife Sapphira saw this and the blessing of Joseph’s actions. So they decided they would do the same. Well, not the same. They would simply ACT like it was the same. They evidently thought they would be considered encouragers as well. So what did they do?

They sold a field of their own for a price. They kept some of the proceeds of the sale for themselves and gave the rest to the apostles for their use. There was nothing wrong with what they did. However, they allowed others (or actually told others) that they had done exactly as Joseph did. They wanted their reputation to be of giving people who put others ahead of themselves. But their character was different. They chose to deceive others about their true identity. they were interested in projecting a good image – an image of sacrificial givers – rather than being sacrificial givers. They were caught and God judged them harshly for their lack of integrity. Peter hit the nail on the head when he said You have not lied to men but to God.” Our lies – whether in words or deed – are lies to God, not man. 

So how are you doing with integrity? Are you pursuing honesty all the time or just when the bright lights of life are on you? Is the person people see the same as the person you and I actually are? These are tough questions. They deserves honest answers. Before we can ever make strides in holiness, we must be first honest with ourselves and God about what we do and why we do it.

Integrity is the first step on the path of holiness. Be sure your first step is on solid ground and not on shifting sand.

The Hard Choice

The Path Less Traveled Final

the spiritual life is a choice between a smooth path that everyone else uses and a rough, seldom-used path. The choice is not between good and better. No, the choice is between being just like everyone else or being like Jesus Christ – a holy person. Yeah, the choice is THAT stark. Which person do you want to be?


Do you like to hike? I do. Well, sort of. I’ll go for a nature walk with my family at a local park every once in a while. I like to know where we’re headed so I tend to like the trails where I can get a map and see where we will end up when we are done.

I also like to take it easy on these nature walks. Because of this I tend to take the beaten path…I figure that if everyone is taking a particular trail, it can’t be all that hard. I use the excuse that I’m 51 with bad knees to justify not taking the challenging path. This, of course, isn’t always the best thing to do. Every now and then I feel I should be taking the more challenging though seldom used trails. Those trails would provide adventure, a physical challenge that would help me get in good shape and new discoveries. Sadly, I rarely take these paths.

You know, taking the easy road is often the road we take in our spiritual journey as well. We choose silence if our words would cause us discomfort in the world. Even if those words are truth that the world so desperately needs to hear. We choose to criticize others instead of evaluating ourselves because that make us feel better. We choose to be brave with our our words yet timid with our actions because words are cheap while actions are expensive. Some do these things more than others. But we all do them. But this should never be.

Like my hiking analogy, the spiritual life is a choice between a smooth path that everyone else uses and a rough, seldom-used path. The choice is not between good and better. No, the choice is between being just like everyone else or being like Jesus Christ – a holy person. Yeah, the choice is THAT stark. Which person do you want to be?


Holiness: The Way of Life

The Bible is full of examples and admonitions for the Christian to be holy. Included in this series will be both positive and negative examples. We’ll take time to look at examples of what holiness looks like (positive) and what it does not look like (negative). I’ll be sharing stories from my own life and experience as a pastor, pulpit-filling preacher and a layman to drive home the points made. I trust this will be as convicting as the Nehemiah series was (to me at least).

With the pressure to conform to the world’s way coming not only from the world but also from some in the church, holiness is needed more than ever. I’m not talking about what appears to be holy behavior. Anyone can fake it for a while and fool people. I’m talking about true holiness as a character trait that will show itself as behavior.

There is a big difference between those who behave in order to look holy and those who are holy. For those who change their behavior to look holy are simply washing the outside of their cup before drinking out of it. It looks good on the outside but inside it is still as dirty as ever. Someone who is holy has his cup washed from the inside first then the outside. To truly change one’s behaviors, one must truly change their character. It isn’t easy. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

If we choose to be holy – not through behavior modification but through life change – then the behaviors will take care of themselves. But if someone simply changes their behavior, well, they’re still the same person. They just appear to be different. And truly that is not different at all. The choice is between the easy path and the hard path. One is often used because it is wide, paved and easy to walk. The other is seldom used, unpaved, rocky, pothole-filled and a difficult climb.

Which way?

A choice is set before us. It is a choice of the easy way and the hard way. The easy way is paved, slopes gently downhill, is fairly straight and has plenty of room to navigate it. The difficult way is unpaved, filled with potholes, ditches, exposed roots, is a pretty steep uphill climb and is narrow and difficult to navigate. Which one will I choose? Which will you choose? I know which one I SHOULD choose in order to live the fullest, most God-pleasing life. But WILL I choose it?

Will I – and you – chose it?


In with a new year and out with the old. No this isn’t a list of new year’s resolutions that I have no intent on keeping. This is a discussion of some changes coming to this website. These changes will take time, effort and money. But, at some point in the future, they will happen. So, without further ado, here we go!

My next series of articles will be more thematic in nature. While I will be dealing with themes, each theme will be developed mostly from one area of Scripture and not cobbled together from a verse here and a verse or two there. The theme must be found in a section of Scripture in order to be included. If you have a particular subject you would like to see on the website, shoot me an email and I’ll do my best. For now, I plan to do a series on the vanishing disciplines of Christianity. Things like holiness, discipleship and other things that have faded in favor of the more emotional expressions of faith will be addressed. And yes, I do advocate a return to the fundamentals of the faith. I’m working on a title, but that series will start next week. I hope you profit from it.

This blog, which has been THE website for its life, will become PART of the website. It will still be a prominent part, but it will be only a part.

I will be offering downloads of equipping material. I am in the process of placing all the Nehemiah articles in book format, adding a little more content and getting it professionally edited. One all that is done, I will assemble the book and offer it as a download from the equipping section of my website. The price will be reasonable I think. It will be free to anyone who wants it. It will be copyrighted to protect its content but it will be distributed for free.

I am working on a seminar on the Bible. I have a tentative title and content outline. This will be presented to churches and groups who desire to acquire a fuller understanding of the origin, transmission and preservation of the words we call Scripture. When I present this, I plan to videotape it, edit it and offer it for streaming or downloading.

I am also converting a room in my house into a recording studio. I will be offering courses on everything that I have been blessed to learn. I will divide the course into bite-sized segments probably an hour long each. When a course is completed, it will be offered for streaming or download. I may add DVD’s as well. Along with these video lessons I will provide class notes in pdf format. It will be like a college class but you won’t get the college credit. But you will receive the equivalent instruction and knowledge.

I hope to recruit some who have also received an advanced education in the Bible/Theology to share their knowledge as well on my website. I trust, with God’s blessings, to offer courses to cover the entirety of the Bible and theology.

So why all this stuff for free? I have been disturbed about a trend in Christianity. It seems more and more Christians are about building their brand rather than building into the Body of Christ. This is especially true in the area of Christian websites. More and more Christians peddle useless junk and fritter their time away promoting themselves as the Church struggles to educate believers so they will be equipped to take on the day.

I have decided that, for my website and those who share their knowledge on my website, our focus will be the building of the Body not the building of our brand. All material will be copyrighted (mainly to protect the content) but it will all be offered without charge. I begrudge no one if they charge for their content. I simply won’t. I am convinced that for me to profit monetarily off the gift Christ has given me is wrong.

All this activity will cost money. But I’ll never ask for yours. I’ll never charge you to equip you. You see, this series on Nehemiah has convicted me. My fear has collided with my faith and my faith has won.

And now I am acting on my faith.

So I ask for your prayers as these changes occur. I ask that you pray as I transition to a 501 (c) 3 non profit corporation. I ask that you pray that God will bring multiple talented teachers, webmasters, graphic artists and editors to join me in this task. This isn’t about me. This isn’t about growing thebaldtheologian.com. This is about glorifying God with every fiber of my being.


Remember us, O God, for good.