Category Archives: The Believers Walk

Focus

I can be a terrible listener.  My wife and kids will attest to that.  When I am watching a TV show and they try to talk to me, I won’t hear them.  Especially if it’s a really good movie.  I want to hear every word and see every action on the screen because I know that each word has its own importance.  I could easily mis a key element of the movie if I don’t concentrate fully.  Or maybe it’s a football game.  I want to see every play, every replay and hear what the commentators are saying.  I can’t be bothered with interruptions.  If they try to talk to me, they can’t get through unless they turn my head to listen.

I’m the same way when with a bunch of people.  If someone tries to talk to me, and does not get my attention first, I hear every conversation in the room and can’t distinguish one from the other.  It all becomes a muddled mess, In most instances in my life I can multi-task, but when it comes to words, I cannot get them from multiple sources at once. I have to focus my attention on one aspect at a time, whether it be the movie, or the football game, or the conversation that wants to include me.  Once I focus my attention, I do fine.

Many times, when we think of focus, we get a visual picture of what that is.  We focus a camera to get the best shot, or a telescope to see further into space.  Without that focus in our visual image, it comes out all blurry and we can’t define the better points of what we are looking at.  The picture is not what we really want because we want to see that smile or those beautiful eyes, or that gorgeous sunset.  If it’s not in focus, what good is it?  The focus has to be to the right depth in order to get the picture we want.  If we focus too much on the background, our image is blurry.  The same is true if we focus on one feature and not the whole picture.  Our focus has to be completely on the image we want to see clearly.

Focus also means the center of interest or activity.  It is what we spend the most time thinking about in our daily lives, whether it be the next lesson in our school work, or a detailed job we need to get done for work.  Recently I have been focused on getting the weeds out of my garden in preparation for next year’s garden.  Every day I do a little more to make sure those pesky weeds won’t shed their seeds into the soil and give me a bumper crop.  If I don’t focus on that goal, I won’t get the job done.  It is tedious and won’t show results for a whole year.  Why bother??

In my spiritual walk, focus is just as important.  What exactly do I focus on one day to the next.  I know that I am a sinner saved by grace, and every once in a while, that sin creeps back into my life and sets me back.  I repent and ask God for forgiveness only to have it rear its ugly head again.  I often don’t think to ask myself why it came back up.  I just repent again and God, in His mercy, forgives me and I go on.  This seems to be a recurring cycle that I don’t have the power to control.

Or do I?  I heard a message the other day that talked about focus and realized what my problem was.  After I sin, and after I repent to God, and after He forgives me, I have a tough time putting out of my mind that sin that I committed.  I know I am forgiven, but I just think about how much I disappointed God and how disappointed I am in myself.  I think about how much I want to give it up and never do it again.  I think about why I got into that mess in the first place.  In other words, I think about my sin – I focus on my sin.  When I am focused on my sin, it is bound to come back again.  It is bound to overtake me again.  It is inevitable because that is where my focus is.

Instead, I need to change my focus. I need to put that sin behind me and put it out of my mind.  In Philippians 3:13, Paul says he forgets those things that are behind and reaches to the things which are ahead, and he presses toward the mark of the High Calling of Jesus Christ.  God says he separates are sin from us as far as the East is from the West. (Psalm 103:12).  It is not God that keeps our sin alive!  When God cleanses our sin, He cleanses us as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).  He cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  How does sin remain if God takes it away?  We keep it alive by focusing on it, even if that focus is to try and get rid of it,

My focus needs to go to something else.  Paul said “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” in Philippians 3:14. He focuses on Jesus!  That is how you overcome sin!  Not by avoiding the sin, which puts the focus on your sin.  NO.  We defeat sin by turning our focus to Jesus.  We are victorious when we forget the sin, forget that we have sinned, forget that sin ever had us in it’s grasp.  It is what is before us that matters.  It is where God is calling us to that makes the difference.  There are so many admonitions to this in the Bible that I can’t begin to scratch the surface here.   I think of Matthew 6:33, Philippians 4:6-8, Proverbs 3:5-6, Joshua 1:8, Psalm 23, Psalm 91.  I think of the words of Jesus when He says “In this world you will have tribulation.  But be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Or the words of James in James 1:2-4.  “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

You can leave that sin behind.  You can clear up the muddled voices that speak inside your head and confuse you.  You can go toward God instead.  Change your focus and you will be an overcomer.

Able To

I find it is often the case that God’s timing simply amazes me. I can go through life ignoring this fact and counting everything to chance, or I can acknowledge that God has his hand on every minute detail of my life.  Many times, I simply miss the connection between God’s providence and my current situation.  I don’t see His hand in it and therefor I conclude that my life is just rolling along like a ball in a slot machine, bouncing with wild abandon.  I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that God would bring me to the ups and downs that fill my life in order to show me my weakness and draw me to His will.  I think to myself that this sequence of events is just a coincidence – surely God could not have brought them about, or been in control through it all.  But then I look back and see how carefully He brought them together to help me understand that I need Him more than I know.

This truth became so evident for me over the past two months. On June 22 I received a phone call from a lady named Anna.  She explained to me that she was a counselor working with a company called Able To.  This company had contracted with my Medicare Advantage provider to bring their program, free of charge, to a select group of its members.  I had been randomly selected out of the thousands who are on this plan.  The program consisted of eight weeks working with both a counselor and a coach to help me look into myself and understand more about why I do the things I do and make the decisions I make.  These sessions would each be 45 minutes long, and the counseling session would always precede the coaching session.  I took very little time to determine I wanted to embark on this journey with them and we set up a schedule.  I would talk with Anna every Tuesday morning for the counseling session and Iesha every Thursday for the coaching session.  Anna did an assessment of my current situation and the results were positive, which I figured, but showed a level of anxiety that I was surprised at.  We would start the following week, June 29.

The first week was goal setting.  What goals did I have for this program, and for my life in general? Well, I am all for goal setting, so I set a bunch of them.  Lose 10 pounds during the eight-week program, walk 12,500 steps a day, read an hour a day, turn off all electronics an hour before bed, eat healthier meals, get 7 hours sleep a night, adjust my schedule to be more like my wife’s.  All good goals.  We also discussed things that trigger different moods in my life.  What caused me to get upset when I did?  Why did I get discouraged over certain things?  Was I feeling depressed or anxious over situations in my life?  I am a very positive person and could not get a sense of these particular emotions, but the discussion was interesting.  The coaching session reinforced these things but also led me through some breathing exercises that would help relax me if any anxious moments arose.  I cam out of those first two sessions knowing I was going to enjoy this program and headed out to reach my goals.

All went well for the first two weeks.  I was losing the weight (5 pounds in two weeks), I was walking over 15,000 steps a day, sleeping better, turning things off and generally rolling along.  But then July 12th came along.  I woke up that Tuesday with no drive, no vigor, which is so unlike me. I just didn’t want to do anything – I was tired.  I could not identify anything wrong as far as physical symptoms except just a slight fever, I talked to Anna about it, and my wife was very sympathetic.  Speaking of my wife, she learned that her workplace was moving 39 miles away in Mid-July, and she was not going to commute.  At this time, we were also in discussions at out church about closing the doors due to lack of attendance and finances.  There was a lot going on in our lives.  But this tiredness persisted Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, when I finally went to the doctor.  She found nothing wrong and I went home to face a weekend when I continued to feel the same.  The coaching session with Iesha contained more breathing and calming therapies.

Early Monday morning I woke up with pain in my chest that I just knew was pneumonia.  I told my wife I needed to go to the emergency room where they confirmed my suspicions and put me in the hospital.  I’ve had pneumonia 4 times before this so knew what it was when it came.  When I talked with Anna Tuesday morning, the realization came to me that I had been way to aggressive in my goals.  I told her I was the type that liked to impress others, and that pride was a big problem in my life.  I had stretched myself too thin in order to reach my goals and impress her with my enthusiasm.  Now I was feeling a little down and blue.  We discussed the moods and triggers that brought them on and I felt good about the discussion.  She thanked me for my candor.  I was out of the hospital the next day and told to take it easy.  There went my goals – out the window.

The program continued as I slowed myself down and did what the doctor said.  A few sessions on meditation were very helpful.  One particular one was a joy to me.  It was called guided meditation. The aim was to take my mind to a place where I had learned to relax and enjoy life.  This was simple for me.  I knew immediately where that place was.  It’ the Old Stone Church in West Boylston, Mass. (Look it up online).  To me, this is about the most beautiful place in the world, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I see it.  This was my calm place – a place I could take myself to anytime and be at peace.

On July 24th, out church closed its doors.  We had been going to this church for 25 years and had many friends there who lived up to an hour and a half away.  This not only hurt us emotionally, but financially, as I had been preaching every Sunday since the first of the year.  We did not know where we would go after this, but decided we would take some time to decide and enjoy the campground, where we are the hosts.  This also hurt us emotionally as. we were not asked to become the pastors of the church, but instead they chose to give up trying.  Having the counselor and coach in place right now was very helpful as I had someone to talk to about all these things.

On August 9th I woke up with a nasty cough, fever and runny nose.  On top of that my breathing was very shallow and it was hard to catch my breath.  I made an appointment with my doctor and when I got to her office, she immediately sent me to the ER.  My blood pressure and heart rate were both high.  I had never experienced symptoms like this before.  It was pretty clear I would be admitted to the hospital. and I was. I had what is called a COPD flare-up.  Several years ago, I was told I had marginal COPD, but I had never had any kind of issue with it.  This was nasty and took 4 days in the hopital to get regulated.  At the same time, my mom went into the hospital with a twisted bowel. At 96, she decided to have the surgery to fix that problem, but she now had a much lower quality of life and would have to go to a nursing home.  Talking to Iesha that Thursday morning from my hospital bed was soothing as I talked out what I was feeling.

Friday brought release from the hospital and my entire family to my house.  All three daughters, 6 grandchildren and a boyfriend came to spend the weekend.  It was a joyous time although I had to wear a mask most of the weekend and could not do a lot of activity.  We only get together about once a year, and I was so glad I got out of the hospital in time to enjoy it.  They left on Sunday, except for my oldest daughter, who stayed until Tuesday morning.  We always liked to walk and talk, but I was limited to ½ and ½ mile stretches.  But we sure enjoyed having them all and got a great family picture.

Tuesday morning when I talked to Anna, I finally realized how amazing it was that their counseling came along at this time.  Our spiritual life had been attacked with the closing of our church.   Our finances had been attacked as we lost $800 a week in income between my wife and I.  My physical life had been attacked with two stints in the hospital and new restrictions on activity.  Emotional tolls had been taken as well.  These emotional tolls were exacerbated by my mom passing away on August 22nd.  Although her passing was expected in a way, it still put a hole in my heart.  I would soon learn that she had left some inheritance that would help us greatly in our financial position.

God has a way of bringing things into our lives when we most need them.  This Able To program was one of those things.  All the events that happened during that time I had the program available is just incredible.  Tow hospital stays, loss of a substantial amount of income, church closing, mom passing all in an eight week stretch.  These were two of the most difficult months of my life, ranking right up there with my cancer treatments.  In fact, they were in many ways harder than going through cancer.  But God, in all His wisdom, brought Anna and Iesha into my life when I needed them the most. He knew what was coming – He always does!  In the final assessment of the program, it turned out my anxiety level was down from where it had been in the beginning.  Imagine that!  With all that had happened, I was less anxious about life.  God surely had His hand on me!

I love the writings of Fenelon. If you have never read His work, I highly recommend it.  In one of His books, “The Seeking Heart”, He makes a statement that we all should take heed to.  He says “See only God”.  In these simple words, He shows us what is the best way to have victory and joy at every turn in life.  When we see God working in everything that comes into our lives, we will always feel victorious.  It reminds me of my favorite passage of scripture.  Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and he shall direct your path.”  In all your ways, in everything that comes along, know that God is there and He is bringing you closer to Himself.  Acknowledge this at all times and you will find yourself in His arms even in the hardest of times.

If you’d like to learn more about Able To, visit their web site at www.ableto.com.  If you’d like to know more about God, well, you know where to look.

More on Widows

1 Timothy 5:9-15

9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.
10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.
11 But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;
12 Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.
13 And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.
14 I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
15 For some are already turned aside after Satan.

I have held off on writing about this next [portion because frankly I was not sure what to say. I always rely on the Holy Spirit to give me insight, but Paul goes on and on about widows once more, and as I prayed I did not come up with a reason he did this. Oh, I could go to countless commentaries and get their ideas, but that is not my way. I .pray you’ll be patient with me as I write, relying on the Spirit to guide my words. Right now, I am not sure where this will go.

Paul begins by mentioning the older widows, those over 60. This was an old age ion those days as the average life expectancy in Israel at the time was 35-40 years old, with the rich usually living longer. So someone over 60 was rare, especially a widow. Widows had no one but their own children to care for them as women did not work in those days. If the widow did not have any sons, it would be even worse for her. So Paul is admonishing Timothy to accept the older widows into the church.

Notice the list of good works listed associated with widows. The wife of one man, raised her children well, lodged strangers, washed the saints feet, relieved the afflicted and diligently followed every good work. To me this is a picture of someone whop is faithful and has a servants hears. Remember what Jesus said to the disciples when He washed their feet? He said the greatest among you shall be servant of all. This woman served her husband, her children, strangers, the saints and the afflicted. She did not turn her back on anyone. Can you say the same thing? Do you give of yourself until there is no more to give? It would have been easy for this widow to just sit back and take care of her own and not worry about others. But she rose above her hardship and continued to serve others faithfully. God loves that!

We must take every opportunity to help others. If someone comes across our path who needs help or prayer or transportation or food if it is in our power to provide that than we should. This is the main way we witness to those who do not know Christ and also to uplift others in the body of Christ. Colossians 3:23 tells us that whatever we do we should do it with all our heart, as if we are doing it to the Lord Jesus Himself. This means buying groceries or washing someone’s floor for them. 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us God loves a cheerful giver. How much He must love it when we cheerfully give of our time and resources to those that need it. Let us all be like this elderly widow and do what God asks us to do.
Contrast this praise of the elderly widow to the stern warning about the younger widow. He warns that if they do not remarry quickly, they will be come busybodies and gossips. Our world is full of people who backbite and speak degradingly about other people. A Christian should never do these things. Gossip and backbiting are just as much of a sin as rape and murder. We tend to forget this fact. Paul says not to give any occasion to the enemy to speak reproachfully. In Ephesians 4:29 he states this thought even better.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

I have a strong desire to live by this verse. I never want to say anything harmful or hurting to someone. I desire that my speech ministers grace to the one hearing it. Now I admit, I am not doing great at this, but I keep growing. This is a very powerful scripture and one we should all pay careful attention to. If the church could just accomplish this, so many more would come to us and desire Christ in their life. The gossip and backbiting would stop within the church and all would be uplifted by one another. This may sound Utopian, but I think it is possible.

The last line talks of those who do not speak with this grace but are always backbiting, gossiping, arguing and complaining. He says they have turned aside to Satan. These are powerful words and present quite a condemnation to those who just can’t seem to say the right thing. They are full of put downs, jabs and satirical remarks. They think it’s funny to poke fun at people. You may think it’s funny to and be drawn in to the conversation. Please don’t let that happen! Serve God with your tongue as much as with any member of your body. You will find that tour not only being a blessing to others, but to yourself as well.

 

Overturning the Wrong

Elias sat at his booth in the marketplace with great anticipation. This was the best season of the year for business. His family had owned this place right inside the front door of the market for years. His father, and his grandfather had brought him up and taught him the way to help people with their offerings to the Lord. They were shrewd merchants who knew exactly what was needed to make a good living. Elias had learned well.

He was a small man, standing 5’3” short and stocky. His mustache rolled over his lips so it was hard to see the top one as he spoke with his rough, gravelly voice. His eyes were bright and looked very honest as he would look out over the people coming into the marketplace. He had a wife and three children to care for, so was hoping for a good day on this bright sunny morning. On a normal day he would help over 500 people with their offerings, but this was no normal day. It was only 10:00 AM and he had already sold 300 sheep and 200 pigeons to people who had imperfect offerings, or so he said. In reality, he had tricked those people by telling them their offering was not pure enough for the sacrifice, and sold them one of his sheep. But then once the people were out of sight, he would sell their lamb to an unsuspecting couple, calling it pure. He did this all day long and made good money as a result. His table sat with a large balance to weigh the money, which was much faster than counting it. However, his weights were slightly altered in his favor, so he made a little extra money with his unjust weights also. And being right inside the temple gates made him one of the first merchants people saw.

It was three days before the Passover, and Elias knew there would be throngs of people in Jerusalem for this blessed time of year. He was daily in the temple, and business was always good. But this year was different, and Elias knew this different was going to be a boom for business. He had heard the commotion the day before as a man named Jesus came into town bringing a huge throng of people. There must have been 10,000 who greeted him at the main gate. They shouted Hosanna and laid palm branches before him. It seemed they thought he was some kind of King. Elias had heard stories of him healing people and teaching extraordinary lessons. There was even a rumor going around that he had raised a man named Lazarus from the dead. It seemed many were running after him, hoping he would set up some kind of kingdom. Elias scoffed at the idea. It was ludicrous. But he knew all those people would eventually have to come and offer their burnt offerings to the Lord during Passover, and he was grinning ear to ear.

A young mand walked up to his booth without a sacrifice, and Elias knew he would need one this day.

“How can I help you, young man.” Elias softly said.

The young man looked excited. “I need a pigeon for the offering today, sir”

Elias went over to his pigeon cage, opened the door and was about to take one out when a herd of people swarmed into the marketplace, led by a man with a white tunic on. All the people were shouting “Jesus, Jesus” like he was something so special. They were a wild bunch and the birds in the cage starting flying around like crazy, making it hard to get one out. Jesus stood there, looking out over the marketplace and all the booths that were set up to sell sacrifices to the people. People were buying and selling just like he was about to do. It was an eerie scene; one he had never encountered before. The whole crowd had stopped behind him, yelling his name and holding out their hands to him. For a moment it seemed time stood still as Elias reached in to get one of the pigeons for his customer. Before he could grab one, this man called Jesus walked up to his booth, picked it up and turned it over. The balance and money went flying all over the ground. Elias, shocked and furious turned to try and save things and the birds starting flying out of the cage. There was no hope to recover them as they scattered far and wide. He scrambled on the ground, looking for his money as others in the crowd started to pick it up and run off with it.

He heard the commotion as Jesus proceeded through the marketplace doing the same to every table. The noise was unbearable. Merchants screaming at him to stop, people scurrying to try and get the money that fell to the ground, sheep running all over bleating as they were freed from their cages and pigeons everywhere, cooing and making a mess. Total chaos took over the marketplace. But above all the noise and ruckus I could hear Jesus shout out “It is written: my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” How dare he make such an accusation, Elias thought. Elias was helping people get what they needed to present an acceptable offering to God. So, he made a little profit. That was what fed his family. Now He would have to try and find all his sheep and pigeons again – an impossible task. His money was gone to the hoards that grabbed it off the ground. What he thought was going to be a great day turned into a disaster.

I wonder how many of us need our lives overturned. We are busy in the church doing what we have always done not realizing God has a bigger task for us. We have become so tuned into our own little way that we don’t realize we have walked out of the will of God for our lives. Sin has crept in and we have allowed it to, justifying our deeds by our seemingly righteous acts. While we teach Sunday School, or lead worship, or serve on the church board, or lead the ladies’ group in the background we are satisfying our own selfish sinful desires. No one around us knows what is going on beneath the service of our seemingly holy lives. This was Elias. This was me.

There was a time that I was so eaten up with pride that I could easily defy God and justify it in my own mind. I served in many roles within the church and no one knew that sin knocked at the door on a daily basis, and that many days I let it in. Elias sold lies on a regular basis, justifying it as providing for his family. I lived a lie, justifying it by the good works I was doing. There was no excuse for my behavior, but I gave plenty of excuses. This went on for years and then was discovered. After a period of repentance and renewal, I turned right back to it, as dog returns to his vomit. 5 more years of deceit went by before it was discovered again. This time God overturned the tables in my life. My marriage nearly ruined, fired from my job and rejected from my church, I went on a sabbatical that changed my life and set my course straight again. God redeemed me once again through His overwhelming mercy and grace.

If you have sin inside the door of your life, don’t wait for Jesus to come and overturn the tables. This can cause deep losses on your part. Tackle the problem now. Ask for forgiveness now. Repent now. Turn your own table. You will thank yourself for it. Because if Jesus comes in and overturns the wrong, you could lose everything, just as Elias did.

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.