Category Archives: Commitment to God

You Shall Face Persecution

2 Timothy 3:10-12 King James Version

 

10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,

11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.

12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.  We don’t want to hear that.  We want to hear that life is rosy, that all will be well and that we will not suffer at all.  We want to hear that we will be healthy, wealthy and wise.  Jesus even said that in this world we shall suffer tribulation.  Sao why do we resists it?  Why do we run away from it?  Why do we do everything we can to get out of it when it comes?  If trials, texts, persecution, tribulation and such things are going to be a part of our life, they must also be a part of God’s plan for our life.  And if they are God’s plan, why not embrace them and walk with God through them.  Doesn’t that just make sense?  Hard? Yes! Needful? Yes! Good for us? Yes!

I did a podcast with a friend of mine last week.   He wanted to know more about how I get the inspiration from God for my poetry.  How do I hear from God?  How does subject matter come to me?  Why do I write them all down?  He did a good job with the interview

 And in the midst of it I learned a lot about myself and what God was doing within me during that time.  One of the things I told Him was that, outside of my salvation and marriage, cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me.  He asked me to explain that.  I told him that because of the silence in that hospital bed for 21 days, when my wife had gone home and the TV was turned off, I could better hear the voice of God.  I learned to tune into that and write down what He was speaking to me.  As a result, almost 1,500 psalms, hymns and spiritual songs were written during that time, a few books of the Bible were studied and commented on, a book was written and people around the world were touched.  I truly believe if I did not have cancer, I would not be typing this right now.  I would not be contemplating publishing my poetry.  I would not be as close to God as I am right now.

 

Consider what Paul went through for a minute. In 2 Corinthians 11, he lists his trials.  He was in prison a few times, received 39 lashes on his back three times, stoned on, three shipwrecks during one of which he spent a day and a half adrift at sea, perils from robbers, his own countrymen, by the heathen, in the city, in the wilderness, in the sea.  He had been hungry and cold and thirsty and naked.  But he says it was all worth it for Christ.  None of us have suffered anywhere near what Paul suffered.  We are rich by comparison, and live lives of comfort, free from men who would pout scars on our body and display us as strange and deranged.  Could we withstand such tribulation, such trials as Paul did?  I hardly think so, for most of us.

 

Then look at what Paul accomplished.  Dozens of churches started, with hundreds more by people he put in place.  Half of the New Testament written by his hand.  Much of our doctrine is derived from his writings.  His affliction brought him the ability to do great things for God.  They freed him from the worry of being loved by the world because he was only concerned with being loved by Jesus!  Ost of us, on the other hand, are much more concerned with being loved by others and figure God loves us anyway.  We take God’s grace for granted so often!

 

I plan on living a Godly life.  I plan on serving Him with all my heart.  I need to get my priorities straight because if I am going to give Him my all, I am going to see trouble coming to me.  I have to know in my heart of hearts that he will work all things for my good.  I have to know that He will deliver me out of them all.  I have to know that he will direct my path if I trust Him and not try to understand things and if I acknowledge He is in it all.  There is nothing that gets by Him and nothing He cannot use to make me a better disciple.  One I get those truths through this thick skull of mine, I will be well on my way top serving Him as I should serve Him with all my heart soul, mind and strength.  That is the true will of God and it translates into loving my neighbor as myself.

 

Come one church!  Let’s show the world we are not afraid of them. Let’s show the world that we are unabashedly lovers of Jesus Christ.  Let’s get on our knees in prayer when we can so we can show the world we are a praying church.  Let’s fast and pray so the world can see the church in action, as people are healed, delivered, saved and set free. Let’s do this!

I Know Whom I Have Believed

2 Timothy 1:8-12

8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

AM I as affective a witness as I should be? That is a question I ask myself almost every day. I walk by someone on the local bike trail while walking my dog. Shouldn’t I tell them about Jesus? I see someone in the grocery store. Shouldn’t I ell them about my Savior? The mail man delivers a package. I must tell him about Jesus! Why do I not speak up more often about my Lord?

It’s pride that keeps me from saying more. Pride makes me fear rejection. I want to be loved, or at least liked. What if they just don’t want to hear it or had a bad experience with religious zealots at some time? What if they decide they just won’t come near me anymore if I am going to talk that way. What if they yell, or snub their noses at me? I don’t want to be rejected!

Pride makes me ashamed to speak out about the one who saved my soul. It makes me ashamed to say that I could not do it on my own. It makes me ashamed that I had to have Jesus to take away my troubles. It makes me ashamed to speak out about my Savior and friend. Pride is an evil master!

But I should not be ashamed! I should be willing to endure all these things for His names sake. I should be willing to face persecution, or backbiting, or turning away so-called friends. Those things should not matter to me when it comes to my witness for Jesus Christ. Jesus should have that kind of preeminence in my life that he rises above all else and I am just his humble servant. A humble servant will do the will of his master regardless of the perceived dangers.

And why should I be willing? Look at what He has done for us, for me! He saved me. Saved me from the pit of hell. Saved me from sin and shame. Saved me from pain and misery. Saved me from sorrow and guilt. Saved me from the storm and the waves. Saved me from the trials and tests. Saved me from all my enemies and most importantly saved me from myself. He saved me!

What should I be willing? He called me. He called me to be His disciple, wretched sinner that am. He called me out of darkness into His glorious light. He called me out of the put and set my feet on the rock. He called me out of weakness and gave me His strength. He called me out of ignorance and gave me wisdom and knowledge. He called me out of sin into redemption. He called me away from wandering aimlessly around and gave me a purpose. He called me!

To think that He did all these things according to His purpose and His grace is beyond my ability to comprehend. To think that He had a purpose for me when I was lost in sin, using His name as a curse word, and denying His existence is beyond me. To think that He had a purpose for me when I was an alcoholic, a drug addict, a pervert and a wretched person is beyond me. To think that he would have grace on such a soul as I is beyond me. It just goes to show me how much further I have to travel on this journey to the perfection he calls me to. His grace. His amazing grace that brought me to the cross. His amazing love wrapped up in that grace. I am so undeserving yet He loved me just the same.

Paul says he was appointed to be a preacher, an apostle and a teacher unto the Gentiles. He was appointed by the one who saw that purpose in Him and moved by His grace to bring that purpose to fruition. Paul was a willing vessel, a vessel ready to face any persecution that might come his way. I know that God has appointed me to be a Psalmist, a songwriter, a preacher, a teacher, a worship leader, a writer and a trusted advisor. He has appointed me! The King of Kings and Lord of Lords has appointed me! There is no authority higher than Jesus and he has appointed me! No one can take that away, or dismiss it as worldly, or say it is not so. It is true in every way. The world can mock me and torment me and persecute me but it does not change my appointment. What has he appointed you to do?

You see, I know whom I have believed. I have believed the one who raised the dead, who opened blind eyes and deaf ears., who made the lamb to walk and the leper to be cleansed. I have believed the one who taught the multitudes who the Father was and brought down the religious ruler for not following him. I have believed the one who was beaten and scourged and mocked. I have believed the one who was crucified for my sins and who rose from the dead. That is who I have believed.

And because I believe Him, I am persuaded that He will keep those things that He has committed to me, those appointments He has put into my life. He is able to move me further ion those appointments as I continue to draw closer to Him. He is able to give me the words to write, the melodies to sing, and the avenue to got the words out. He is able to bring the right people along to read or hear the words He has given me. I do not have to worry about a thing. I just need to continue to do as he asks me to do. He will do the rest.

What has God committed into your care? What have you committed to Him? He will keep it all. He will uphold His promise to you as you uphold your promise to Him. The best position we can take is to commit ourselves, in our entirety, to Him. Give Him your all. Don’t hold back. He promises that the more I give, the more He will give. He promises top always be with me and to walk through the valleys with me. He has committed to keeping His promise. I pray we will all keep our promises to Him!

The Office of a Deacon

1 Timothy 3:8-10

8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

Paul now turns his attention to the deacons within each church. Most of us have deacons in our churches today and hopefully we are using Paul’s criteria to choose those people to fulfill this office. I would hope that deacons are not just thrown into office without consideration of their spiritual walk and their character. Not following these guidelines could prove to be a problem for our churches today just like it would have for the churches in Paul’s day.

The first characteristic listed is translated grave in the KJV. In other translations the words dignified or honorable are used. This is also the same Greek word used in Philippians 4:8 for honest. I find it fascinating that one word can carry so much meaning and be translated so many different ways, all with an emphasis on the character of the man. Dignified shows a man who conducts his life in such a manner that people respect him. He is composed and serious about life, not joking around all the time but showing a true concern for others. Honorable is used as a defining word for someone like a judge. This man is deemed worthy of honor and carries himself in such a way that shows he makes wise decisions. Honest shows us a man who does not mince words. What he says is what he believes. All of these characteristics should be found in a deacon.

A deacon should not be double-tongued. They should not be one who says one thing but means another, or that dodges the question and vacillates between both sides of the issue. He should not be someone who changes his mind from one day to the next. He should not be one who will say one thing to one person and something just the opposite to another person just to appease them. He must be stable in his speech and his decisions on all issues. This attribute comes up later when Paul says the man must be proved. He must show that he is not double minded and tossed about with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). What he says is solid and serious.

A deacon should not be given to much wine and they should not be greedy of filthy lucre. These were both covered in my last post about bishops so I am not going to go into them again. I am glad Paul repeated these attributes though. It show us that this was a big problem with the people back in those days, as it can be today.

A deacon must hold the mysteries of the faith in pure conscience. I love the way Paul describes this particular attribute. This person needs a good understanding of the scriptures and he must live by them. This is what Paul means when he says the deacon holds the mysteries of the faith. They are always at his hand. He lives the life Christ has asked us to live. He shows that he is blessed by living out the qualities shown in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). He is salt and light to those around him (Matthew 5:13-16). He abides in Christ continually and bears much fruit (John 15:5). To him, these are not mysteries. They are a way of life. He is ready to give an answer for the hope that is within him (1 Peter 3:15). He is instant in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). He displays and distributes the fruit of the spirit continually (Galatians 5:22-23). There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he loves the Lord and serves Him with zeal.

He holds these truths in a pure conscience. He follows them daily, wrapping his life around them as they guide him on the path God lays out for him. He knows God has a plan for him (Jeremiah 29:11). He knows that he will be held accountable for every word he speaks (Matthew 12:36) so he speaks words that minister grace to the person who is hearing his words (Ephesians 4:29). He is quick to forgive others because he knows how much God forgave him (Matthew 6:14). He walks in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) so he will not fulfil the lust of the flesh. He is a cheerful giver of his time, money and even himself ( 2 Corinthians 9:7). He puts others before himself (Philippians 2:3-4) and ministers life to them. Because he lives the word, he can hold it in a pure conscience.

A deacon must be proved. He must be watched to see if he is doing the above things. There can be no blame placed on him. The community must think highly of him. The church members must think highly of him, not finding any fault within his walk with Christ. We know we are all sinners, but there must be a clean spirit about a man that wants to be a deacon. This is not a task for a novice, or for someone who has just joined the church. A deacon has to prove himself worthy of the office because this is a leadership role that is essential to the church. It is a role of service to others, so this person must be one who has shown he is willing to serve,

It is no light thing to be a deacon. I am sure many of my readers have been in this position at one time or another during their journey with Christ and they will attest to the fact that it carries a lot of responsibility. This brief description offers some insight into who Timothy should look for when asking men to be deacons in the various churches he was in charge of. Let us also search out such men to lead our own churches.

The Office of a Bishop

1 Timothy 3:1-7

3 This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

The word bishop here is most often translated overseer. It denotes someone who oversees more than one particular church or group of churches. In our modern language an overseer is someone who watches over the work of others. The person Paul is addressing here is Timothy whom he had left in charge of making sure many churches were taken care of and that the pastors of those churches were preaching the things they are supposed to preach. Thus he was the overseer, or bishop, to those churches.

There are some protestant groups today who believe there should be a bishop in each church. I am not sure that is an appropriate use of this word. Although a pastor does oversee the workers of the church the way Paul uses this word denotes a larger responsibility for a bishop. The bishop is not the pastor and the pastor should not be called a bishop. They are two distinct offices within the church. This is one place where the Catholic Church does get it right. Their use of Bishops to oversee the work of the priests is exactly how this word correctly applies. In my church, we are affiliated with Kingsway Fellowship International, not a denomination. We have one bishop who oversees the fellowship and makes sure things run the way the fellowship is intended to run. He is not so involved in day to day operations as he is in visiting the churches in the fellowship and discussing things with the pastor. The bishop is someone our pastor can turn to when he faces troubling situations and wants some advice.

This is why the bishop must have a character that is above reproach. If a bishop does not have the type of character Paul goes on to describe he will bring dishonor to all those who he oversees because leadership is seen to reflect the people who report to that leader. Again using the Catholic Church, many bishops have been charged with troubling accusations and we can easily see how that affects the view of the Catholic church by society. The men who did these abhorrent acts did not understand their duty to what Paul describes their office to be. They forgot the solemn responsibility they had to maintain their job description and it is sad. They used their office to influence young people to do things that are unthinkable. May God have mercy on their souls.

A bishop must be blameless. There can be no hint of impropriety with him. There can be no reason to find fault or blame him for anything that would even remotely be considered sinful behavior. This is not an easy thing. In fact, it is easily the hardest thing on this list. In our society today people are always looking for fault,. They are looking for the least little thing to find wrong with us. There are numerous ways we can access information so anything we have done in the past is readily available for someone to find out. There is a very good reason for this attribute and I outlined that in the above paragraph. The bishop is at the top of the fellowship or group that is accountable to him. If there is found to be something at fault then the whole group can be brought to shame. In reality, we all should be blameless.

A bishop must be the husband of one wife. This shows a quality of faithfulness and commitment. We all know the condition of marriage in our country and our world. Divorce is rampant, many people marry a second, third or even fourth time and there is a loss of the whole idea of a covenant relationship. It takes commitment to make a marriage work. Commitment to each other, commitment to God and commitment to our vows. But people today do not want to make that type of commitment. Instead, they desire to be unfaithful. Extra-marital affairs are everywhere. In fact they are almost to the point of acceptance. Many people consider you abnormal if you are not “fooling around.” A bishop must be above all this. So should all of us that call ourselves Christians. Unfortunately even in the church divorce is on a par with the world around us. Let us pray the church can start getting it right. Because in all reality, we all should only have one spouse for life except when death interrupts that possibility, or when one of the pair becomes physically abusive. Come on church, let us be more faithful!

A bishop should be vigilant. Vigilant is defined as keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties. A bishop is much like a shepherd, always keeping guard over those in his charge. If he senses danger or trouble coming he warns those who may be affected by it. If trouble rises up within a church assigned to him, he is to do whatever he can to be a peacemaker and bring things to a good conclusion. In light of this, he also must be keenly trained in scripture, knowing false doctrine when it arises and able to bring his flock back in line with scripture. One of the biggest dangers facing our churches is false teachers and false doctrine. We all must be vigilant against this creeping into our house of worship.

A bishop should be sober. This speaks of more than just not being a drunkard. It also means not given to frivolity and irreverent jokes and conversation. He does not have to be a prude, but he must keep an even disposition in all circumstances and present himself as one who takes his position seriously and his task as important to God. One who is constantly joking around would not be considered a sober person. Sobriety is having control of ones demeanor in a way that shows others this person has everything under control. We should all be sober as Christians.

A bishop should be of good behavior. His driving should be lawful, not speeding, weaving, texting, calling or anything else that might cause him to get a ticket. His manners would be immaculate, with please and thank you topping the list. This is a lost art in our society today. He is one who would open a door for a lady or anyone else for that matter. He would be careful with his words and his actions not to cause offense or trouble. He is not careless in any way, always seeking to do what is best for others. Actually, we should all be doing these things.

A bishop should be given to hospitality. He would be willing to have people in his home and joyfully treat them to the best things he has. He would be one to visit the churches under his care regularly and greet them with a smile and kind words. He would join in a meal with them if invited and would make the dinner seem like a wonderful time, with good conversation and fellowship. He would do anything to make others feel welcome and comfortable. We should all be hospitable like this.

A bishop be apt to teach. He should instant in season and out of season. There should be a lesson in his heart wherever he goes. If called upon, he should be ready to share with the people and churches that he visits at a moment’s notice. There should never be any hesitation if asked to share a few thoughts with the people, but there should be an air of knowledge and wisdom surrounding a bishop. Not that he is arrogant or prideful, but that he speaks with authority and the people recognize that. He is one who is well taught and who teaches well. He is not only apt to teach, but is also teachable. He will give good comments to anyone who brings a lesson to him, knowing that all souls need to be edified. The scripture says we should all be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15), and that we should be instant in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). We should all be apt to teach.

A bishop must not be given to wine. This does not say he should not drink wine at all. I know there are many who think a Christian should never drink wine, but I do not see where the Bible says no wine. It says not given to wine, which means that he does not have a need for it. It would be best if he did not drink at all, but then a bishop would not have been able to partake after Jesus changed the water into wine. Let us not be too strict in our legalism!

A bishop should be no striker and not a brawler. I put these two together because they talk about similar things. He should not be known for hitting people, either with his fists or with fiery darts of words that cut to the bone. Remember our words can do much more damage than a physical blow can ever do. A brawler with words is one who argues regularly and disagrees aggressively. A bishop should be temperate in all things.

A bishop should not be greedy of filthy lucre. His goal should not be money. He should not be able to handle his own finances without having to find money in questionable ways. He should not be one who is always looking to make money, but rather one who is willing to give what God has given him. He must also be sure any money he does gain is in a righteous way. There is no place for taking what he did not earn.

A bishop must be patient. I would have listed this attribute earlier because many of these character traits must be carried out with patience. I only know of one true bishop and I have been aware of many things that have come before him that take much patience to sort out. Decisions cannot be reached too quickly, but must be thought out and all sides carefully considered before making a judgment, which a bishop often has to do. Without patience, I can see one drawn into arguments, poor behavior, and lack of vigilance. Patience is a must in our lives as well.

A bishop must not be covetous. This is a man who comes to the place that Paul came to in Philippians 4:11. He has learned in all situations to be content. He does not have to have what others have, or do what others do, or be gifted the way others have been gifted. He knows his purpose for the Lord and he knows the Lord has equipped him for that purpose. There is no need for more because he knows God will give him what he needs when he needs it. There is not a constant search for bigger and better because he knows God will provide that when His time is right. There is a confidence in God that he has supplied all the needs in his life. We should all be in such a state!

A bishop must rule his own house well. Paul even gives the reason for this. If the bishop cannot rule his own house, how can he have authority in the church? There would always be a question of what goes on in his house if his children are out of line. This is an area where I fell short. I did not raise my children to love the Lord. I was not an effective priest in my own house and my children now waver in and out of church. They all know their dad loves the Lord, but they were not taught how important that was in their lives. We continually pray their lives will be drawn back to a deep relation with Christ. A bishop has done those things that have instilled a love for the Lord in their children.

A bishop should not be a novice in the Lord. He should be one that has been through the fire of trials and temptations and has learned from those things. He should be one that has studied to show himself approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth. He should be one that has served the church for years and knows many of the pitfalls that can happen to a person of authority in the church. He should be one who has put aside pride for humility in all things and who prefers others before himself. Paul says that if someone is raised to this position too early, pride can sweep in and become a big problem. Young people need to sit under the authority of a pastor before beginning their ministry, I believe. This is prudent for all.

A bishop should have a good report outside the body of Christ as well. We have touched on this before. People look on any Christian with increased scrutiny. They expect us to be above reproach. A bishop is even more so because they represent several churches. If the bishop goes down, the churches are all looked upon as dirty as well. This should never be so. A bishop must keep a good report among everyone, not just the church.

Timothy was charged with appointing bishops and deacons in the churches. He was a bishop himself in a way. These requirements, and the ones that follow in the next lesson on deacons, are needed today just as much as they were back when the church was first forming. It is essential that our leaders put forth an image of Christlikeness that is not tainted and not corrupt in any way. Our world needs such leaders. I am glad our fellowship is led by Bishop Jenkins, who fills this role to the biblical standard every day. May he be blessed in all he does. And may we all strive to be as a bishop, living the lifestyle that a bishop must live.  This would bring glory to God and His church.