Category Archives: The Believers Walk

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.

Ordained to Preach

1 Timothy 2:7-8

7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
8 I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

What are you ordained to do? The word ordained here means to put or place. Where have you been put or placed by God. I bet you never even knew you were ordained! Well, think again! God has ordained you as well.

Now Paul mentions three things he was ordained as: a preacher, an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles. We will get to these later. This shows that we can have several different callings. So now I want you to think about your different callings, your different ordinations! How many are there. Can you think that big.

Let’s start with your family. What are you called to do in your family? If you are the head of the house, whether male or female, you are called to provide for your family (2 Timothy 5:8). You are called to raise your children in the ways of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6). You are called to teach your children as you rise in the morning and sit to eat and walk by the way (Deuteronomy 6:7). If you are a husband you are called to love your wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). You are called to not provoke your children to wrath (Ephesians 6:4) or discourage them (Colossians 3:21). Husbands, you are called to understand your wife and honor her (1 Peter 3:7). Wives, you should respect your husband (Ephesians 5:33). Proverbs 31 lists 17 characteristics you should be following on a daily basis. Children of any age you should honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12).

Each family member has a different call on their life. Living within this dynamic group so closely knit together can be very rewarding and very trying. Similar personalities usually clash, and similar callings will do the same. We must all recognize the gifts, talents and callings of the other in order for the family to fully function. We must also realize that one person can bring dishonor to the whole family, and the father especially can bring the whole family down (see Joshua 7). Let us all search out the best in each member of our family and edify them in a way that makes them want to share their calling with the world. Your work is never done.

What are you called to in your community? You are called to witness to the lost, to heal the sick, to deliver those that are oppressed and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord (Isaiah 61:1-2). You are called to clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty (Matthew 25:34-40) and do unto others as you would want them to do for you (Leviticus 18:19). You are to work as unto the Lord, not unto man (Colossians 3:23-24). You are to honor and respect those in authority over you (Romans 13:1-10). You are to pray, intercede, supplicate and give thanks for everyone around you and for all those in authority over you (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Your work is never done.

How about in your church? Usually we think this is where our calling lies. Are you on the worship team, the worship leader, the one who runs the overhead projector or puts together the bulletins? Do you teach Sunday School, play the piano, help in the nursery or greet at the door? Are you an usher, a deacon, an elder or the church secretary? Do you help clean, cook, wash dishes or do yard work? Work around a church is never done.

We are all called to many types of ministries. We all have many types of gifts. We are all able to minister in many different ways. Yet we all must function together. Romans 12 talks about many gifts the body of Christ should be endowed with. 1 Corinthians 12 does an excellent job of showing the various gifts and talents the body of Christ is empowered with and explains well why we should work together similar to the way our human body does. Yet even after this description Paul says love is the more excellent way (1 Corinthians 13).

I challenge you this morning or evening or whatever time of day you are reading this, to make a list of the ways you are ordained, or put or placed in a position to serve God. I’ll start. Psalmist, writer, dishwasher, clothes washer, house cleaner, chauffeur, grocery shopper, lay minister, evangelist, worship leader, songwriter, edifier, peacemaker, witness, neighborly, husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, friend– I think that does it fairly well.

Paul lists three things. First he says he’s a preacher. The word used here is one that denotes a person like a town crier in the old days. Someone who goes around the street telling them news items. In Paul’s case, he was heralding the wonderful news about Jesus Christ and the salvation He offered. I can about see Paul walking down the streets of a city saying “Jesus Christ died for your sins” or “Get saved today” or “Be filled with the Spirit of the living God”. The crowd would gather as he walked along reciting various things to get them interested in what he had to say. And by the end of the day he had a crowd to preach to and he would share the wonderful gospel message. He was a master preacher.

Second, he was an apostle. This denotes someone who is sent by another. In Paul’s case, he was sent by Jesus himself when travelling on the road to Damascus. He received a clear calling when his eyes were opened that day in the house of Ananias. Jesus told Ananias Paul would suffer much for the kingdom of God that he had put through such suffering. He was sent by Jesus Christ to deliver the message to the Gentiles. He went to city after city taking the message to the Jews first and they rejected him. The stoned him, the mocked him, they left him for dead. But the Gentiles heard him, repented and were saved. He was a master apostle.

Lastly, he was a teacher of the Gentiles. Who of us can argue with that statement. Paul’s writings are used by every denomination and every church at some time or another. Countless books and blogs and sermons have come from his teachings. He wrote more of the New Testament than any other author. We who are not Jews are all considered Gentiles and he has taught us for centuries. I would guess Paul had no idea what his words would be used almost 2,000 years later to instruct newlyweds, used at communion, to save the lost, to give instruction in righteousness, holiness and Godliness. If you told him then that his words would still be teaching non-believers to accept Christ, he probably would have said “Yeah- right!” He was and still is a master teacher.

Do you have any idea how far your legacy will reach? What have you produced that can last that long? Have you trained up your children to love the Lord, and are they training their children? Perhaps generations down the road they will look back and point to their great-great-great-great-great grandparents as the ones who started them off right. Do you write a blog that teaches Christian principles? Perhaps decades down the road someone will come across one of your writings and give their heart to God. We need to reach out whenever and wherever we can to touch hearts and minds for Jesus Christ.

Lastly, Paul charges us to lift up holy hands and pray without wrath or doubting. I am curious here why he says without wrath. I understand the part about not doubting. We should never pray in doubt, but always in faith. Prayer is our faith put into action! Doubt has no place in prayer. It also has no place in worship and the lifting of our hands. Those who come to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Doubt has no place here. Neither does being angry at God, and perhaps that is what the wrath stands for. We can be angry at God, just don’t pray to Him or praise Him in the middle of that anger. Pray when you have cooled down and have a level head. We do not effectively communicate when we are angry, do we? How can we expect anything from God if we don’t come to Him on His terms? That would be like walking into your bosses office when he was in the middle of a very important meeting and arguing with him that you deserved a better raise then you got. That would not sit well, would it? It might even get you fired! God is not going to fire anyone, but He also will not respond to your prayer if you come presumptuously. It’s easy to come on His terms. Why do so often refuse to do that?

This day might be a day of discovery for you. Perhaps you never thought much about all the various ways you serve God. Maybe you have never looked at your family like I have described. Maybe you have never taken into consideration your role in the lives of those around you. We are all ordained into His service. He has put us where we are for a reason. Find that reason and then do it with all your heart. There is nothing in this world more satisfying than know ing you are walking in the will of God!

Does God Count You Faithful?

1 Timothy 1:12-14

12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

I like to take credit. I like to think I did something myself. It was me who read the Bible and gained the knowledge I have. It was me who began to understand how the Old and New Testament worked together., It was me who figured out how the scripture applies to everyday life. I wrote all these poems and songs through the years. The moving of the Holy Spirit is due to my ability and expertise in putting a worship service together. All these years, I have been slaving away for God and coming up with these thoughts and ideas on how God works in our lives. I did it. Me!

That paragraph is the definition of pride. I did it. I accomplished it. I figured it out. This is where I lived for years, and truly believed the sayings in that paragraph. It caused me to start top think I could disregard all that I had learned and do what I wanted to do. After all, I had done it all for God!

But I soon fell hard, lost my job and almost my family and had to take inventory on my spiritual life. What I found out was what Paul says here. God has enabled me. I do not have the ability within myself to do the things above. It is God in me and through me. That is the only way these things can minister the way they do. That is the only way the right words can get on paper that will touch hearts and heal up wounds of the soul.

You see, I was once very much like Paul. I certainly was a blasphemer, a breaker of all the commandments, a drunkard and drug addict and a person who could care less about God. My own way was the way I would go and no one could tell me I was in the wrong. I had walked away from God in high school and had no plans on coming back to Him. I was a persecutor, maybe not of the saint, but of everyone around me. I would put down, speak badly of, and try to hurt with words anyone that wronged me. I was a smaller guy and not a physical specimen, so I relied on a quick wit. This also made me injurious, like Paul. My words could injure peoples spirits and hearts quicker than a dart being thrown at them. The bigger problem is that they could dodge a dart, but could not avoid my stinging words.

Then grace came in. Love came in. Faith came in. Somehow I found myself driving to Iowa to see my best friend. Clear out of the blue I had decided to make the 1300 mile drive from Massachusetts to Iowa. When I arrived at his house, we had a great reunion, having not seen each other for over a year. He was a Christian, and had tried to sway me a year earlier at our high school reunion. It didn’t work, but it also did not hurt our friendship. Here I was on His doorstep in Iowa. Through the last year we had sent letters back and forth and each one of his letters had a scripture address on it. I had to look it up to see what he was saying. He was a sly old fox (well, not that old. He was a week older than me).

Then he said come to church with us tonight, and I said OK. I had no problem going with him, just don’t give me any of that salvation stuff. Don’t tell me I need saving. I was doing just fine. And I was so wrong. That minister, who was a missionary home on leave, told me I was headed for a burning hell. I did not want to go there! Then he told me there was only one way to avoid it, and that was Jesus Christ, I wanted Jesus. Jesus took me into His arms later that week and saved my soul. His grace covered me completely.

Now He enables me. I do everything I can to keep my thoughts out of this blog, out of the poetry, out of the songs that fill the pages of my web sites. I seek God’s wisdom and His words for these pages, not mine. I have nothing of value to give except my life. These are His words, His thoughts, His songs. I claim no ownership.

Since He has enabled me, it is now up to me to be an open conduit. He has put me into this ministry and now I need to allow His message to flow through me out to you. Paul tells us that the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet (1 Corinthians 14:32). This means God gives us the ability to shut it down or make it flow. We can muzzle the message God gives us to share. We can say “God gave this to me and I’m not going to share it!” We absolutely can. But I do no want to be that person.

My heart’s desire is to be counted faithful. Jesus said that to whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). The words, songs, melodies and so on come from God. He has given them, for some reason I will never understand, to me. He entrusted me with the ability to hear His voice, and I for one want to make sure He will say I did it well. I could care less if anyone on this earth says the same. I am aware that very few hear God the way I hear Him. Very few have learned to listen as He has taught me to. He holds me accountable for those things He has entrusted to me.

What about you? What gift, or gifts, has God given to you? What talents do you possess? What are you doing with them? I suggest you make a list of all the gifts and talents God has bestowed on you. Some will have just a few items they can think of, others might have many dozen. Pray about it and be thorough. Once you have compiled your list, take each item one by one and ask God if you are doing a good job with that talent. If you’re like me, there are some you are doing well with and others you need to do better.

After this is done, ask God to help you do a better job of ministering in the areas where He has gifted you. Ask Him to enable you to reach more, teach more, love more and touch more. Ask Him to make your light shine so that you might bring Him glory. Give yourself as a living sacrifice for Him so that you might prove the will of God is alive in your life. Be vigilant in your ministry and never back down. This world needs you!

The End of the Commandment

1 Timothy 1:5

5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:

What a mouthful this little verse is. It seems Paul wanted to sum up all of the commandments regarding our relationship to one another with one sentence, and I think he did a superb job. The words penned in this verse resonate to every aspect of our interpersonal relationships and we would do well to practice these simple things every day. He even says this is the “end of the commandment.” This means that once you put them all together the result is found in three simple steps. As we go through these steps, evaluate how you are doing with each one. Ask God to help you do better if you struggle in one area or another.

First we have charity out of a pure heart. As you all know, charity is the same as love when it comes to the Bible. Charity is the word used in 1 Corinthians 13, where love is defined as well as any college textbook or psychologist has ever defined it. Practicing love out of a pure heart takes into account all the attributes of love found in that famous chapter. Let’s take a quick look at what Paul says there.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8:

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. We use all kinds of flowery words and sound so sentimental when we tell someone we love them. In our world today, love is one of the most overused and misused words in the English language. “I love that dress you’re wearing,” I love the way you did your hair,” I love the Patriots (Yes, I really do), or ” I love meatloaf.” Love is used to lure women and men into doing things they would rather not do. An old saying days that men use love to get sex and women use sex to get love. It is a word that has no meaning behind it when used in this context. It’s just a sounding cymbal, a noise amidst all the other noises of the band. Unless there is loving action with it and expects nothing in return, the word love is misused.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. I can have all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, walk around performing miracles in Jesus name. I can have all the knowledge in the world and a vast knowledge of the Bible and it’s implications for life. My faith can be as powerful as possible, able to move obstacles that are in my way because I believe it can happen. All these are great things, but if love is not attached to them they are nothing to God.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. I can give away all that I have to help others in their time of need. This is a good and honorable thing to do. Or I can give my life for the Gospel. But if I do not have the love of God as my driving force, these things will only add to my pride, and they are not profitable to my spiritual life,.

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, People with love are patient with others. They does not get anxious or upset if someone else is blessed and they are not. They wait on God without demanding of Him. They do not think of themselves any more than they think of others. They understand that they are supposed to put others before themselves and do not get boastful about their accomplishments.

5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; The kind of love we should have will never behave in a crass or vulgar way. It will not cuss or speak rudely at any time. This love will look out for the other person before thinking of themselves and will not get offended or upset very easily. It also will not even think of bad things about people.

6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; This kind of love does not take pleasure when someone else falls into trouble, and does not think kindly to any type of sin in their own lives. They strive after the truth in all things.

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. This love bears with anything that might happen around them because they believe and have faith in those people around them and hope for the best at all times. They endure anything that might come their way without offense.

8 Charity never faileth: This charity that we are supposed to have will never fail to do what it says it will do in light of all these characteristics. It will always be there for our friends and our enemies. It will not fail to reach out to someone else with a pure heart.

This charity Paul is speaking of is a high calling to all who take the name of Christ. We cannot do it in ourselves, but only by His strength and with His love shining through us like a beacon. Jesus said the world will know we are His disciples by the love we show to others (John 15:35). I personally have a lot to work on when I look at this list.

The second point Paul makes to Timothy is that he must have a good conscience. There should be nothing he is doing that would need repentance or forgiveness from someone else. We get a guilty conscience when we wrong someone or deceive them. This should never be done by a Christian. We should walk in such a place that all can know what we do day to day. God knows! Does He approve of everything you do, or is there an area of your life where you have a guilty conscience?

This pure conscience extends to the people around us. When we do good deeds, do we do it to gain favor, or to hold it over their heads or to make ourselves look good? None of these type of acts are done with a good conscience unless your conscience has been hardened through repeated defiance. If the love you are extending to others is for greedy purposes and you are not hearing that still small voice in your head saying you must repent and make it right, I think you better examine yourself. You should feel guilty when you take advantage of someone else. If you don’t, something is wrong.

The third attribute Paul wants to see is faith unfeigned. Unfeigned means that there is no hypocrisy or impure motives. It is faith in other people that is genuine and authentic. No one will question the sincerity of this person to minister the Gospel only for the sake of helping other people see the way to Christ, not for reasons of self-indulgence or self-promotion. I have a real problem when I hear countless advertisements for books or CD’s or teachings from a preacher on the radio. I know that is how they make the money to be able to do the shows, but sometimes the promotion is longer than the actual message. They could keep these promos separate and short. The constant harping for funds is one of the main reasons people are turned off by the church.

We need to step back and see ourselves as the world sees us. We need to look in the mirror and understand exactly what others see in us and in the actions we take from day to day. Then we need to compare what we see with these three simple things Paul asks of Timothy. I have a lot to work on in order to be seen ion the pure light of the gospel. How about you?

No Other Doctrine

1 Timothy 1:3-4

3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

Paul faced a constant battle with false teachers everywhere he went. He would set up a church, explain to them that salvation is by grace through faith, and they would all rejoice that they did not to do anything to earn their salvation. After he left the area, false teachers would come in and tell them they were not saved until they were circumcised or baptized or some other work of the flesh that was needed. It was happening all over the new church and it was deceiving many into thinking they actually had to do these things to be part of Christ’s church.

As we explained in the last post, our salvation was secured at Calvary. The only thing you have to do is accept the free gift. Jesus paid the price. He took the penalty for sin once and for all. There is nothing you can do, or have to do, to earn your salvation. It can’t be earned, It can only be taken as the free gift it is. If you are depending on anything else, or any work of the flesh, to obtain your salvation, then you have been listening to false teachers.

Paul decided to leave Timothy in Ephesus so he put down some of these teachings. He specifically mentions two things. Endless genealogies and fables. Timothy had a task ahead of him. The teachers in the church were teaching these things and Timothy had to put a stop to it. Paul wanted to make sure that the teachers were teaching things of God that would edify the people and their faith. Paul went on to Macedonia to check on the churches there and possibly start more.

Endless genealogies points to teaching that says our lineage is what makes us acceptable to God. In those days, being a son of Abraham was a big deal, and claiming that you were a son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was an even bigger thing. There are many places in the Bible where God is described as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We have top remember that Jacob was later named Israel, and thus the father of the nation. Isaac was also the father of Esau, who was the father of the Edomites, arch enemies of the Israelites. We could spend days hashing out genealogies and get nowhere.

The fact is that we are part of the faith covenant with Abraham. Abrahams seed includes all who by faith accept Christ’s sacrifice since Christ was the fulfillment of the law. We are blessed, just as the nation of Israel is blessed, when we have this faith in God because without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). The Bible says that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6). This is the faith we must have. Not faith in genealogies, but faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ.

In today’s world, many think that they can hang on the coattails of their parents and grandparents. They think that their genealogy can get them into heaven. The believe that because they go to their parents church and have been good all their lives, they are assured a place in heaven. This could not be further from the truth. We all make heaven our home by our own personal decision. We must believe that Jesus died as an atonement for our sins and that he rose again to give us eternal life. We must act on that belief by accepting the sacrifice He made and making Him the Lord of our lives. We must relent of our sins and leave them at His feet. This is what brings salvation into our lives. Once saved, we must obey His commandments in order to even see the Kingdom of heaven. Nothing in your genealogy can save you. Your parents cannot take you to heaven. Only you can make that decision.

Fables speaks of things made up that falsify the truth. One of the chief examples of this in Paul’s time was the Judaizers. They preached that circumcision must be done to those who accepted Christ. This was a subversion of the truth of the gospel. Paul tells Timothy here that anything that ministers questions in the mind of the believer should not be taught, but things that minister grace.

We have to remember the times they were in. The gospel was preached to the people, not read by the people. The heathen, or Gentiles, did not know the Old Testament either. They had to take the word they were told and process it. It is so different today. When Paul preached, people took him at his word. It was all they knew about what happened. When false teachers came in and told them something different, it raised questions in their minds whether Paul was telling the truth. This is what Paul was trying to stop.

Today we have a lot of examples of false teaching that raises questions. Some would say that all Protestants are following a fabrication of the truth and that Catholicism is the only way to God. Of course, I disagree because Christ is the only way to God, not any church organization. Some would say that once you are saved you are always saved and cannot lose your place in heaven. Jesus clearly says otherwise (Matt 7:21). Some would say if you want something, anything, just claim it from God and it’s yours. If you don’t get it, you don’t have enough faith. I do not believe that for a minute because God is sovereign and He will decide what is best for you. You really don’t know what is best for you at any given moment. God knows you better than you know yourself and he will always do what is best for you.

Then there are some who say once you get saved, grace will cover anything you do after that. Jesus also contradicts that belief by saying we should be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matt 5:48). As stated above, He says that not everyone who calls Him Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of the Father. What is that will? It is found in Matthew chapters 5-7. We are under grace, but we are also told we must do you best to follow Christ’s commands. We can’t just go and do anything we want and expect grace to cover us. Even Jesus knew this as shown by His testing in the wilderness. Satan came to Him three times tempting Him and Jesus did not fall for his charms (Matthew 4:1-11). If anyone would have been covered by grace it would be Jesus. Paul says God forbid that we should continue in sin so grace can cover us (Romans 6:1-2). Let’s not fall for the grace covers all gospel.

These and many more “fables” are around in the church today to lure even the very elect away from the gospel message (Matthew 24:24). The NAR (New Apostolic Reformation church is the latest in trickery. I am not going to get into all the various ways that this cult is drawing people away from the gospel, but I suggest you study it out yourself. It is very deceptive and is sweeping through churches around the globe. I am saddened by how easily people are drawn away from Christ and the pure Gospel message.

Let us be ministers of grace. Grace that leads people to repentance. Grace that tells people of the cross and the price that Jesus paid for them so many years ago. Grace that says you can accept this sacrifice of love by faith if you’ll only believe. It is a simple message that is as profound in so many ways. Christ crucified, the hope of glory. Let us never forget the Gospel message and let us preach it wherever we go.