Friday, 31 October 2008
We find a lot in the word of God about older people, and virtually every instance that I know of it mentions wisdom, respect, and honour. Here Paul addresses Timothy on how to deal with people of different age groups in the church. He starts out with the older men.
Don’t rebuke an older man. That seems simple enough doesn’t it? Does that mean that older men can just do whatever they want and never be questioned or called up, even when they sin? No, of course not, but Paul addresses that as well. Instead of rebuking an older man, exhort him as you would a father.
The difference here is one of attitude. We rebuke with one spirit and we exhort with another. Older people earn our respect because of their age. We cannot let an older person simply walk in sin, but when we confront them we should do it with same spirit that a father is due, and that is always with respect and honour.
We need to be careful in our fervency to deal with sin, that we don’t miss the method of dealing with it, and older people deserve our respect.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
I am so glad for the constant reminders in the word of God to stay at the task. It is no accident that a recurring theme in Paul’s letters to churches and to people is to just continue on. Why? Well, I think it is obvious. At times we are all tempted to quit.
Paul’s reminders here are simply brilliant in their simplicity. Keep a grip on yourself and the doctrine you hold. Don’t let them slip. Keep at it. Stay at the stuff. Because at the end of the day your will grow in your sanctification and draw others to salvation by dong so.
When I read passages I like this I am reminded of William Carey. He is one of my true heroes (if I believed in heroes). He was pure and simply a plodder. Year after year went by and he saw ‘nothing’ happening. He had doubts and fears about his calling. He had opposition on the field and back ‘home.’ He had physical and family struggles, but he just could not bring himself to quit. He just continued on keeping his life right and staying true to the scriptures. Eventually, after many years, he was able to see the results of just staying at it.
May have a, if I may coin a neologism, carian heart of service.
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
Today’s verse is a follow on to the yesterday. Yesterday we were reminded of the importance of giving ourselves to reading, exhortation, and doctrine. All through this section Paul is talking about the importance of diligence in serve with phrases like ‘stir up the gift,’ and ‘don’t neglect the gift.’
Here is tells Timothy how to do all of this – mediate on these things and throw yourself into them. Give yourself wholly, give yourself entirely, there is no room for half-heartedness.
I know some avid sports fans. These guys go crazy for their team. They have all the clothing, accessories, knick knacks, toys and gadgets to go with their team. Their emotions wise and fall with how their team plays. They throw themselves headlong into supporting their team.
Others throw themselves into their work. They seem almost workaholic at times ans everything in their lives goes into work.
Athletes can do the same, becoming obsessed with the next big game, match, or event, All that matters is succeeding in their sport.
This is the kind of intensity Paul encourages Timothy to have in his walk with the Lord. Give yourself fully Timothy, throw yourself into the ministry. Stay at the stuff, give it your all, don’t back off, and keep the fires burning.
I am challenged by this. Too often my ministry is just what I do. May I learn to throw myself into with the kind of fervour and intensity God desires.
Tuesday, 28 October 2008
I like how Paul fills in the gaps. "Okay Tim, I have told you all this stuff, and I am coming, but in the meantime, keep yourself busy. Pay attention to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine.'
I am away for home and my tools, so don't know if he is talking about exhorting yourself, or exhorting others. But either way - he tells Timothy to keep himself busy.
We all have idle times, and I think it is clear that the Bible indicates that we do need to take time to come away and rest, but for me that is not the problem. My problem is that when I have idle time I tend to idle it away.
I am challanged to day about what to do with that time. Read, exhort myself or others, and study doctrine. I don't think Paul intended these words for a young preacher first century named Timothy, but also for a middle aged twenty-first century preacher named Roger.
We don't have time to waste. When we do, we have a way to fill it.
Praise God for filling in the gaps.
Monday, 27 October 2008
Sadly I am no longer a youth. However the truth here applies to everyone. No one likes to he despised. We all hate that. But we rarely relate being despised to our behaviour.
Here God says that we have an option and a waybto avoid being despised. We make sure that our lives a the right example. We must make sure that our words, our conduct, our love, our faith, and our purity are so far above reproach that no one fan question them.
Our actions, if right, will always silence the critics.
Sunday, 26 October 2008
What do we do to make our lives and ministries profitable? Most of the time ‘profit’ has one meaning and it usually means our own gain. We do not always seek monetary gain. We often seek our own gain through power, popularity, and prestige. The more we have of that the more we are tricked into thinking we have gained.
It appears that God has a different view. God says that godliness is the one thing that is always profitable. No matter what the situation or the circumstances we always profit by choosing godliness.
When we are facing a difficult financial decision – the great profit comes by making the godly choice. The same goes for ethical dilemmas, family choices, and just everyday living. No matter what we try to reason in out own heads, the godly choice is always the most profitable one, even if we know that the choice is going to have a negative immediate effect in our eyes.
Always choose the godly response to insure the best profit.
Saturday, 25 October 2008
- 1 Timothy 4v7
We all know the benefits of exercise. Even if we don’t do it, we know we should. If we want to improve our physical health and well being we must be disciplined enough to exercise our bodies. There are no tricks or gimmicks that are going to work. Energy tablets and power drinks are only distractions.
Paul writes of the latter days when false teachers are going to come along and tell us all kinds of gimmicks are going to make us godly. Don’t do this or that and you will be godly. In essence this kind of stuff it rubbish, a bunch of old wives’ fables, even profane. Who are we to prohibit things that God has created for us? Paul uses the example of marriage and foods here, but he also says, ‘For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.’
Clearly Paul is not talking about sinful activities. He is talking about foolish additions that do nothing to make us godly. There is one way to develop godliness. It is not with some kind of spiritual power drink, it is not by taking spiritual vitamins, it is not by sanctimonious self deprivation. Godliness comes with exercise.
Exercise means just what it sounds like. It was used to describe training for the Olympic Games. Exercise is not easy. It is hard work, it is tiring, it requires discipline, and it never comes without pain. Exercise hurts, and whenever you exercise new ‘spiritual muscles’ it hurts again.
For an athlete to stay fit he must keep exercising. To win the competition he must keep finding ways to push his body. For the Christian to develop godliness he too must keep exercising. When opposition comes our way we can either roll over and play dead or we can grab the opportunity to exercise godliness.
Marathoners speak of hitting the wall in training. It is the point when you just can’t go any further. The training is too much, you just can’t do it. But, to succeed you have to push on through the wall. You work through the pain for the ultimate goal of getting to the finish line.
There come times when we all hit the wall spiritually. That is when the call to exercise if difficult. Do we quit? Do we stop the training and leave the race? Or do we press on, exercising new muscles of godliness?
If I want to be godly there is a way – don’t hope for a shortcut, don’t look for a miracle, and don’t try to get it by osmosis.
Exercise. No pain no gain. Push on through the wall. As verse nine says ‘godliness is profitable for all things.’
Friday, 24 October 2008
This is an interesting passage. On one hand we read how we are not going to be accepted by the world, how they are going to reject us, and how we are not citizens of this world. We read about how we are pilgrims and wanderers and strangers in a strange land. We get the impression sometimes that we are going to be totally at odds with the world.
Then we come to a passage like this where we are told that pastors are to have a good testimony to those on the outside. Paul says that if our testimony is not right, we may fall into reproach with them, and the devil may grab us into his trap.
Reconciling these two things might seem difficult. How can we have a good testimony when we are supposed to be despised?
That’s where it gets tough. People may reject me because of my Saviour. They may reject me because of my message. They mat reject me because of my stand. But, God forbid that they ever reject me because of me. One of Satan’s traps, apparently, is for Christians, especially pastors, to have such a rotten reputation that they bring shame to the body of Christ, and bring reproach on His name just by their reputation.
We don’t have to compromise our stand for Christ to have a good testimony to the lost. They may hate every thing I stand for, and I when I cannot tolerate sin or false teaching, but I need to stand firm in such a way that I am still the best citizen in my community. They may say of me, ‘There goes one of those crazy born agains,’ but hey had better not be able to say, ‘That guy is a real jerk, if that’s what being a Christian is all about, I want no part.’
God help us from thinking that being an arrogant, pompous, holier than thou jerk is part of standing for Christ.
Thursday, 23 October 2008
This, admittedly, is a tough one for any pastor. He must rule his own house well, his children, must be in submission, and they must honour his position as their father. I think it is interesting to note that this is the pastor’s responsibility, not the children. There is all kinds of debate about the age of the children, in or out of the home, etc. I think part of this is the phrase ‘his own house.’ That would seem to indicate the children that are in his own dwelling, but I am not sure of that.
Let’s look at the principle here – if a pastor cannot preside over his own household properly, how is he supposed to take care of the church. How can he oversee the church when he can’t even maintain his own family?
It is far too easy to get our priorities backwards here. We tend to think that the church is our important work. If someone from church needs us we will drop everything to run out and do our duty. We have to look good to the church so they will respect us, or so we think.
Meanwhile pastor’s families fall apart at the seams. If we can’t keep our kids in decent shape, what makes us think we are going to do it for the church?
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
It is interesting that these words about greed and coveting are including right in the words about fighting and brawling. There is clearly a connexion. Those who are greedy of money and not content are going to do what it takes to fulfil their desires.
My heart breaks, and I don’t want to go into a rant here, at how much greed and coveting I have seen in pastors and preachers that I have known. I will admit, I like stuff too and materialism is a battle that we all face, but some seem happy to live in their money hungry ways.
I have seen pastors bring what amounts to wage demands before their churches. I have seen preacher with a minimum fee for speaking engagements. I have seen pastors base their decision on where to pastor on who makes the highest offer. I have seen pastors change churches because they had to do without in a current situation. In many churches the pastor drives the best car(s) and lives in one of the nicest houses in the church.
When a man makes a decision, even in part, on salary and stuff, is does he really meet this qualification? God forbid that I will make such a decision. May I keep sight of my service for Him, and let Him worry about the rest.
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
For most of my saved life, almost 35 years now, I have been convinced that part of being a good pastor was being a tough guy. Most of the pastors I have known have been tough guys. If you are going to lead, you need to be tough, after all. The tough guy image was perpetuated and promoted in my circles. Seeing a pastor angry in the pulpit was a mark of his fire for the Lord.
In my circles we tended to fight at the drop of a hat. We fight over anything and everything. As a matter of fact we like phrases and titles involving fighting and militancy.
That is all well and good. We need to earnestly contend for the faith and we need to fight the good fight of faith. That is all true.
But let’s return to the character of a pastor. What is required of him? As we look at 1 Timothy 3v3 some words stick out. (I find it interesting that they are interspersed with words about covetousness, but I may deal with that later). The words that jump out today are ‘not violent…gentle…not quarrelsome…’ I like the way the KJV translators used the word, ‘not a brawler’ because it draws to mind a particular image that always causes me to stop and reflect.
When I think of a brawler one image comes to mind. Mickey Rooney played a character named ‘Whitey’ in the film ‘Boys’ Town.’ Whitey was a brawler. Inside and outside Boys’ Town he walked about looking for a fight and would lash out, with or without provocation. Everyone had to walk on eggshells around him.
Sadly, I have known far too many ‘Pastor Whiteys’ in my life. Much like the character in the film they seem to be looking for a fight. Everyone is afraid to cross them or stand up to them. Deep down, just like Whitey, they really are decent chaps, but that is not the image they portray.
Why are we caught in that trap? As pastors (and indeed all believers) we should desire to me seen as gentle folks. Gentleness is a not a mark of weakness, it appears instead to be a mark of godliness.
Not violent? Gentle? Not a brawler? How do we measure up to these standards?
Monday, 20 October 2008
Rather than look at every single topic, I decided to just deal with those qualifications that ‘jump out at me’ and grab me on the day. I hope it is the Holy Spirit directing me, but maybe it is just something I feel the need to pause and consider in my own life.
‘Hospitable’ is the next word that grabbed my attention. The Greek word – philoxenos is easy enough. Xenos is a stranger, an outsider, or an alien. Philos, of course is a word for love. A xenophobe is one who is afraid of strangers. A xenophile is one who loves strangers, guests, or outsides.
It is obvious that the translators could have used the word xenophile here to describe the qualification for a pastor. A pastor must love ‘outsiders.’
This is not always easy, and it does require discernment to know the difference between those with needs and professional takers. I suspect however that most of us tend to ignore strangers than to be taken advantage of by them.
The key here though is a character trait. A pastor’s love must go outside both his own family and his own church. Both our homes and our churches need to have ‘open doors’ to receive those who have needs.
Obviously, there are limits to what we can physically or emotionally do, but being a xenophile must be part of a pastor’s character.
Sunday, 19 October 2008
A bishop, an overseer, a superintendant. All of these words describe part of the role of being a pastor. This is the part of the office for the one who watches over others. Being in this position now it may take me a while to get through this section. These reflections are an honest report though of my personal time with God every day, so we will trust the Holy Spirit to use them as He will.
In the first verse Paul reminds us that the office of a bishop is a good work. In Ephesus he used the title for the pastors of the church there, reminding them to ‘oversee’ the flock. Throughout the New Testament it refers to the leaders in the local churches whose, as part of their task, superintended the church and its people.
Right at the top of the list of qualifications is the word ‘blameless’ Of course, this word cannot mean ‘perfect’ else no one would ever be qualified for the position. The word means that the person is un-rebukeable. There is nothing in his character that disqualifies him or that he can be called out for. It means his identifying character is such that nothing about him can be called into question.
What does all this mean when it comes right down to it? I will apply it to me. When people hear my name, as the pastor of this small local church, what comes to their minds? Is it an angry man? Is it a man who is proud, arrogant, self-centred, and haughty? Is it a man who is greedy or materialistic? Is it a man who is angry and short tempered? Is it a man who is fleshly and enamoured with the things of the world?
If these kinds of things are what people think of then I am not blameless. If this is my reputation I am not qualified to represent Christ or oversee any believers. I am not fit for the good work of a bishop.
What should people see? They should see a man who is Christ-like. Their first thought, inside the church or out, should be something like, ‘he is a decent chap.’
Blameless. Does that really describe my like? If not, it must be my desire and my goal, or else I am not qualified to superintend others.
Saturday, 18 October 2008
If there is one topic that I need all the help I can get on it is prayer. I pray, of course, but my prayer life is often weak and insipid. My prayer can be half hearted at times. I have been a Christian for more than 34 years, but I still get all the teaching I can on prayer.
Here Paul mentions three things about prayer.
It is to be offered by lifting up holy hands. The lifting up of hands, either physically or symbolically, pictures a helpless, willing supplication. It means we have taken our hands off and we are totally dependent on God. Along with that the hands that are lifted up to God must be holy hands, without spot. We must be able to show that our prayers are offered up from a holy heart, and the only way to show that is with a holy life. Our prayer must be made with a supplicant and holy life.
Prayer should also be offered without wrath. God expects our hearts to be free from anger, wrath, and bitterness toward others. We cannot pray properly when our hearts are occupied with wrong thoughts toward others. Prayer must be made after we are cleared our hearts toward others.
‘Without doubting.’ What good does it do to pray if we don’t believe that God can answer? If fact, in reality what good does it do the doubt God, full stop. Too often we doubt that God knows best and we want God to act according to our thoughts and plans. ‘Without doubt’ means that I don’t doubt that God is going to sort it all out. I trust that He knows best.
Prayer – lifting up holy hands, no wrath, no doubts. How do we measure up?
Friday, 17 October 2008
Ouch, and might I say double ouch? I have always love politics and living in one country while holding citizenship in another I get a double dose! There was a change in leadership in government in Ireland this year and of course it is an election year in the US, so I get to debate two different sets of politics!
We all know what happens in political discussions. When those who love the intrigue of politics I like do debate it is not long till we find something to disagree about, and things get heated. I, for one, can find myself attacking the political systems and the parties, but I can also find myself attacking the leaders and candidates.
For clarity, let me focus on the upcoming election in the US. In January Americans will have a new president. Frankly, I am not thrilled about either choice. I think either man is going to bring more of the same old politics, but at noon on the 20th of January, either Barack Obama or John McCain will be president (barring a tragedy or scandal of some sort).
I know now that I am not going to like a lot of what they are going to do, and that is fine. I even have the right to complain about it. But as a Christian I have another responsibility. First of all, I am to offer up, ‘supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks’ for them as I should for all men. Paul speaks of kings here. When Paul wrote this, probably sometime in the early 60’s A.D. Nero was Caesar in Rome, either Felix or Festus was prefect in Judea, and Agrippa II was king of Galilee. I doubt that any of us would campaign for any of these men, and yet believers are exhorted to pray and give thanks for their kings.
I do not want to stifle debate in a free society, but I wonder what our debates would be like if we had already spent time offering up supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanks for our leaders? What if I came into a discussion about the Taoiseach, or President Bush (or Obama or McCain) after praying and giving thanks for them? Do you think my demeanour would be the same as if I was just launching an attack?
Thursday, 16 October 2008
I don’t know where the church has picked up the idea that the Christian life was going to be easy. Perhaps, in the West at least, it is because we have not seen hard times for many generations. We somehow have adopted the idea that being a Christian is all about safety, security, comfort, and ease. In many parts of the West Christians are well respected, honoured, lifted up, and wined and dined by important people and politicians. Vehicles worth millions of dollars jam into multi-million dollar car parks surrounding opulent megaplexes to hold services in their plush climate controlled surroundings. Persecution means having to work on a Wednesday night and missing a mid-week prayer meeting. Persecution in America means that churches might lose their tax-exempt status. Persecution means being called a ‘Bible thumper, Jesus freak,’ or a ‘holier.’
Yet, in the New Testament we read things like, ‘all those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’ Here we read of the warfare of the Christian life. We are not going to ‘get along’ with this world – if we do there is something wrong. We don’t have to go out and pick the fight. The fight is going to come to us and we had better be ready to fight it.
There are indications now that the easy days may be drawing to a close. We ought not be surprised. The scary thing is that we may have become so comfortable and at ease that we are not able to fight the real fight. We have been infighting and shooting our comrades for so long that we have depleted our ranks. We had better heed Paul’s words and have the ‘faith and good conscience’ required or we too will be made shipwreck like Hymenaeus and Alexander.
Why are we shocked when the world hates us? Why are we surprised when laws threaten us? The warfare is coming; I now suspect it may even be in my own lifetime. Are we ready?
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
‘Man, if God can save Saul He can save anyone!’ That must have been the attitude of people who knew Saul/Paul. Paul, before salvation, was as bad as they come. Since God can save the chiefest of sinners He can save anyone. Paul was glad that God could save him and use him as an example to others.
This got me to thinking though about my own longsuffering toward others. Since God was longsuffering enough to save Paul, and indeed me, what does that say about my lack of patience toward others?
Since God saved me, and continues to me patient with me, what right do I, an imperfect man, have to be less than patient with those around me?
Monday, 13 October 2008
The Law is a fascinating topic. For most of my Christian life I was taught and believed that the Law still had some kind of power over the believer. I have read some things and talked to some who think that the Law is divided into two parts and that we are free from part of it and bound by part of it. I still don’t understand that concept.
Praise God that the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but now that I am in Christ I have no further need of the Law. Praise God for the truth of 1 Timothy 1v9 – ‘The Law is not made for the righteous person.’ As His children believers are declared righteous in Christ. Christ is our righteousness; therefore the Law is not for us!
P.P. Bliss captured the joy of this marvellous truth:
‘Free from the law,Oh happy condition,Jesus has bledAnd there is remission,Curs'd by the lawAnd bruised by the fall,Grace hath redeemed usOnce for all.’
I am concerned about the ‘law binders’ who seek to contain God’s children by insisting on maintaining the Law. That teaching will rob us of living in God’s grace. .
We have a new law; it is called the law of faith, the law of God according to the inward man, the law of the Spirit of life, the law of Christ, and the law of liberty.
Indeed, with can sing together with Bliss; ‘Free from the Law, oh happy condition!’
Sunday, 12 October 2008
I like a good discussion. I like to bounce ideas off other people and challenge traditional thinking. I like discussions where my thoughts are challenged. If we do this right I think it can be a profitable way of forming our thoughts and ideas and a vlaid form of learning. After all, Proverbs tells how friends sharpen each other like iron sharpens iron.
However, there is another area that I have to be careful about. One of my multitude of weaknesses is that I can be what one friend calls a ‘contrarian.’ I can get to the point where I like to argue just to argue. Even if I agree I may express the other side. This is not always bad, because it can help examine more sides of what we are talking about. But, believe it or not, my heart is not always right when I do this.
Paul tells us to pay heed and attention to those areas of doctrine that are important. Those must be defended no matter what. But he also says, ‘Don’t waste your time with fables and endless genealogies that only lead to fights.’
There is a fine line between learning through discussion and fighting over wasteful fables. Yet, I think those who have matured in the faith know the difference. I need to be careful that I don’t fall into the trap of causing disputes by paying attention to the silly stuff.
Saturday, 11 October 2008
Many years ago I read a series of political fiction by Alan Drury. He featured headlines as part of this story, and they were always big and bold. I almost feel like we are living in a Drury novel today with the headlines we have seen this week. All over the world banks are being bailed out by governments and economies continue to worsen. Stock markets are on the verge of collapse. No on knows what is going to happen, but it just gets worse and worse and worse.
This has brought things to my own mind. I have been tempted to fret over so much. I have worried about not owning a house. I have worried about how the economy is going to affect our support.
This of course expands to a pattern of worry where I find myself worrying about all kinds of things. Then I get unsettled and that slants everything and I find myself in all kinds of turmoil.
I prayed with a friend yesterday and as we prayed he mentioned the marvellous verse – ‘Be care-ful for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’
Then this morning I read, ‘May the Lord of peace, Himself, give you peace in every way…’
How can I fret over all this stuff when the Lord of peace, Himself, is my Lord? How can I fret when He tells me to cast ll my cares on Him because He cares for me? How can I fret when He tells me not to be full of cares?
I think it goes back to what my friend prayed yesterday. I fret when I forget to be thankful. I fret when I am not abiding in Him.
The very God of peace Himself will give us peace in the storms of life if we can just trust Him to carry us through.
Friday, 10 October 2008
Today is one of those days when I have been given more food for thought than anything else from my devotional study.
As Paul comes to the end of this short epistle he includes the note above. There is a lot to consider here. First, it seems that the condition for breaking fellowship is those who do not obey the words in this particular epistle. To be fair that may be a misreading on my part. Some scholars say that we should read it this way, ‘If anyone does not obey our word, note that person with a letter.’ That seems to make more sense, for why would a person only have to obey what is in this one letter?
What follows is clear though. Those who do not obey God and refuse to do anything about it are to be separated from. We are not talking about those who we differ from on the non-essentials, but those who refuse to deal with their sin. In that case we are to dis-fellowship so that they are fully aware of how bad their sin is.
Yet, in doing this, we are not to treat them like the enemy – we are to remind and warn them as a brother in Christ.
Obviously, Paul is not talking about the lost here – but erring brethren.
Well, I certainly have a lot to mull over on this one. How does this all play out in the everyday practice of a local assembly? At what point does someone dealing with issues and growing in Christ cross the line into disobedience?
Wow! A lot of things stirred up in my mind on this one.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Sometimes the Bible is just so practical. The issue are not always theological or heavy, but sometimes it just gives clear instruction. Here is one example. ‘If a man doesn’t work he doesn’t deserve to eat.’ If we are not careful we get the idea that because the church is charged to take care of each other that at ‘free ride’ is possible where one is able to live off the largesse of others.
Paul would have no part of that. He had every right, as God’s servant, to depend on the church to meet his needs. That was the right thing for them to do. But Paul decided to set an example for them that every one needs to do their bit.
I think the principle is clear. The body of Christ is no place for slackers. Everyone needs to do their part. If you don’t work you don’t deserve the benefits.
So often I have heard, ‘this church is not meeting our needs.’ And yet those same people are far too often not willing to do anything themselves.
We all need to do our part, or we have no right to expect anything in return,
I fear that today’s thoughts are not going to be of great theological depth and that is nothing profound or anything we don’t already know.
It is simply this – ‘The Lord is faithful. He will be your foundation and He will guard you from Satan’s attacks.’ (a rough parrowphrase)
Isn’t this all we need to know when things get tough? Isn’t this all we need when people or circumstances let us down? Isn’t this all we need when we are tempted to discouragement and despair?
The Lord is faithful, every single day and in every situation. When all else fails, the Lord is faithful.
We need to get over this idea that Christians in this world can expect to be prosperous, successful, and accepted. We need to realise that we re going to be seen as the ‘bad guys’ and the opposition is only going to get worse.
When that happens – remember, ‘The Lord is faithful.’
Monday, 6 October 2008
I have to admit I am facing one of those down times that come in serving the Lord. I don’t even know why. We are facing the typical challenges, but we are seeing some great things happening.
Yet, I think I do know the root of the problem. The issue is that what happens to me is far too important. I tend to base my emotions and my feelings and my perceptions on my circumstances and how things relate to me.
What do I mean? Well, it is pretty simple – I like to be praised. I like to be glorified. I like for people to say how wonderfully I am doing. When things don’t move as quickly as I, or others, think they should I don’t get much of that. I want to be a success, even in human terms.
Now, look back over the last couple of paragraphs. Without even thinking about it I have used the word “I” 15-16 times.
When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he had something else in mind. He told them that trials and testings and hard times and persecution and oppositions and so on and so on were to be a matter of course for believers. How were they to respond? With a pity party? With a ‘woe is me?” No, with an attitude that says ‘patiently, faithfully endure.’ And why faithfully, patiently endure? For one reason – that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified.
At the end of the day I get myself in a royal mess when I want me glorified instead of Him. If my goal is to glorify Him I can endure anything that comes my way. If my goal is to glorify me then I will never get enough, no matter what.
Note to Roger: Endure, stick it, stay at it, be faithful – let the name of Jesus be glorified in your life.
Sunday, 5 October 2008
One of Paul’s reasons for ‘bragging on’ the church at Thessalonica was simple enough – they endured. Under severe attacks and intense persecution, they simply endured. They held out, they put up with it, and they plodded along. They endured the challenges and just carried on.
Paul says a little later that this is the evidence of trusting in God’s judgement. I can see the reasoning behind that. If we know that at the end of the day God is going to sort it all out, we can put up with anything. If we have hope, we can endure whatever God allows to come our way.
What is the evidence that we are worthy of the kingdom of God (v5)? The answer is clear – enduring and staying faithful.
Paul praised the Thessalonian believers for their patient, faithful endurance. I hope that he could do the same regarding me.
Saturday, 4 October 2008
One thing I have learned through life is that is hard to depend on people. They constantly let us down. The truth is that we all fail. Sometimes our disappointment with people is not because are purposefully unfaithful, but because they just blow it, mess up, or forget.
I am certain that through the years I have let people down. There is no doubt about it. I have been let down by others over and over again.
But I can know one thing – the One who started my sanctification process will finish it. He will present me blameless.
One, and only One, is truly faithful. Praise God that He will do what He said and that is does not depend on me.
Friday, 3 October 2008
I have purposefully chosen the KJV rendering of this verse today for a reason. The NKJV renders this is a way that more accurately reflects the meaning for the 21st reader as ‘abstain from every form of evil,’ but that is not what we fundamentalists are accustomed to hearing so I decided to address it in familiar terms.
For most of my life this has been used as the be all and end all, kind of a stop gap measure when there was no Biblical reason for a rule or regulation. We have been told to not go here or there, do this or that, listen to this music or that music, dress this way or that way, and so many other things. When we ask the nearly unaskable question, ‘Why,’ and there is no Bible answer, we have been told – ‘Well, we need to abstain from all appearance of evil.’ I am not going to go into a long list, but those of us who have been there no what I am talking about.
There is a major problem with that though – who decides what has an appearance of evil? Who decides if it is an appearance of evil to listen to a certain Christian song? Who decided if it is an appearance of evil to go to a multiplex cinema? Who decides if it is an appearance of evil wear a certain style of clothes? At the end of the day it comes down to a man deciding that an activity ‘looks like’ it might be evil.
One may say it is an appearance of evil to wear a ball cap backwards. Another may say that it is an appearance of evil for a Christian to be grossly obese because they have no self-control. Who decides?
All of this points out the danger of using this verse the way it have been traditionally used, at least in my circles.
The answer is simple, even in the KJV rendering. Abstain from every appearance of evil. When evil appears, stay away. Don’t dabble with any form of it. Don’t play games with it. How do we know what evil is? God’s word is fully sufficient to tell us what evil is. He really doesn’t need my opinion.
Thursday, 2 October 2008
When I began these ponderings almost 3 ½ years ago I determined that this was going to be an a journey through the word where I would allow God to speak to me without my pre-conceived ideas and notions. I was not going to be bound by things that I have heard preached or things I had been taught. This may put some off, but remember – these thoughts are not a theological treatise, or an attempt to teach anyone, but my thoughts as I proceed through God’s word.
Don’t quench the spirit is a tremendous teaching. We can grab it out and talk about how we quench the spirit in many ways by our lives, actions, and attitudes. That is true and applicable. But look at the context here – ‘Don’t quench the spirit, don’t despise prophecies.’ I wish I could say that this word was the typical word for ‘preaching’ for that would make it so much easier. But that’s not what the word is here. The word means to ‘talk about what is going to happen.’
Maybe it is true that this was one of the sign gifts that God used in the early church and is not applicable to today, but that doesn’t really fit the flow of this passage, does it?
Does that mean that I think we just take to heart any time any ones says, ‘The Lord told me such and such is going to happen?’ That would be just plain silly – we have all seen that fail too many times.
Perhaps there is another answer. The word of God does tell us what is going to happen. If people do not repent and get saved they will suffer an eternity in hell. If we don’t resist the devil he will attack us. If we don’t deny the flesh we will serve it. If we don’t control our thoughts they will control us.
So what do we do? How do we know? Well, fortunately, we have the answer. First though, we need to examine the idea of quenching the Spirit. I think the answer is easy there; we quench the Spirit when we deny His word. When we allow our emotions and feelings to override His word, we exalt ourselves and quench Him.
What do we do then? “Test all things, hold fast to that which is good.’ Listen to what is being said, don’t reject it on the spot, weigh on the balance scales of God’s word, and cling to that which is good. If it doesn’t match up with the word of God we quench the Spirit by holding on to it.
If nothing else, this has given me something to reflect on today.
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
If we are not really careful verse divisions can make an understanding of what God is telling us very difficult. For some reason many of us think that verses are able to stand all alone just because they are listed as a verse.
Here is one such case – ‘Rejoice always.’ Taken all alone it looks like a ridiculous impossibility. Just rejoice, no matter what. Lose your job – just rejoice. A child dies – just rejoice. Worldwide economic collapse coming – hey, rejoice always! Teenage daughter pregnant – rejoice.
It is not quite that simple, and I wish the man-made verse division did not divide the verses here.
There is more to it than just rejoicing. ‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks. All of this together is God’s will for you.’
We can’t muster up joy all by ourselves. We choose to thank God that He is the one in control. We choose to accept that He is love itself and that He loves us. We keep the lines of communication with God open and we thank Him. Then, we can rejoice that though we don’t understand it all, the God of Love and the God who loves us is doing what is best.
Whose perspective am I going to trust? Mine, or the Loving All-Perfect Creator and Sustainer?