GO SEARCHING FOR ONE WHO RIGHT

Every time I read the Book of Jeremiah I am amazed at the things God told the prophet to do and how Jeremiah, even when discouraged, depressed and afraid, continued to do what God told him to do and proclaim the messages God gave him, when he had to have known it was going to lead to very challenging times for him. Jeremiah calls himself just a boy when God called him. But God told him that he had called him for the mission while he was still in his mother’s womb. He was one with a tender heart. Yet he was a man of boldness who spoke the message God gave him to proclaim to the people even when he knew it was going to bring rejection, not just of his message but of him and the desire to kill him.

In Jeremiah 5:1-2 God commanded him to “Roam about through the streets of Jerusalem, and look and take notice. And seek in her public squares, if you can find a person, if there is one who does justice, who seeks honesty, Then I will forgive her. And although they say, “As the Lord lives, certainly they swear falsely.” Let’s face it, Israel at that time was going through some great challenges, in many ways like all the nations of the world are going through right now. Can you imagine God telling you to search for a person of justice and honesty and if you can find such a person then He will forgive this nation and all of the sins, failures and lack of integrity? Does that really mean that that honesty, integrity and justice were so rare among the people of Israel that God knew that Jeremiah wouldn’t find such a person?

,How many people do you know that you would trust what they told you on anything they talked to you about? Is there anyone in the political world that you truly trust whatever they say? What about where you work? Is there anyone at your work that you so trust their honesty and integrity that whatever they tell you would be accepted without question or doubt? What if I changed it to would you trust completely that they were telling you what they really believed to be the truth? Would that be easier to accept? I know there isn’t anyone on this earth that knows everything correctly. But who do you know that you trust that they are saying exactly what they believe to be right and true all the time? What if we changed it from politics and work to the church? Who do you know at church that you totally trust what they tell you as being what they honestly believe is right in all situations? What about at home? Do you totally trust what your husband or wife or children or parents tell you is the honest truth as far as they know it?

God had both Jeremiah and Ezekiel to go searching for such a person. One part of it that I find challenging is that neither of them spoke up to say to the Lord, “What about me? Am I not such a person?” Perhaps both men knew that if they looked closely inside their own hearts you would find too many times they had failed to speak up for what is right or to stand for the truth when they saw it being abused.

While we certainly won’t reach perfection in this life, we can grow to be more and more like Jesus, more real, more honest, more people of integrity than we have been before. The truth is, we can’t grow in our own integrity as long as we are pretending we have arrived already. God, help us to be people who are real all the way to the bone. When we become pretenders, help us to see it and to turn from such ways to be the people you call us to be. Father, the next time I go searching for integrity, help me to start by looking in the mirror and being real with myself.

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DON’T BE AFRAID

I’m amazed as I read the Bible at how often God tells his people to not be afraid. If you go back to the Old Testament and read as God spoke to the Nation of Israel, He told them that he didn’t choose them because they were large or strong as a nation. He chose them and loved them even though they were not strong or mighty. As they prepared to enter the Promised Land, he said to them, that he knew the nations they were going in to drive out of the land of Canaan were stronger, and far more numerous than them. They had bigger armies, walled cities and much greater weapons of war. Yet his challenge to Israel was to not be afraid of these nations. Even if there were giants in the land, they had nothing to fear as long as they leaned on Him. He constantly reminded them that He wasn’t depending on their power or strength to drive the enemies out. Instead he said he would send the hornets in before them who would drive out the people of the land. He promised them that he would go before them into the Promised Land and would drive out their enemies before them.

When you begin to read the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament the situation has changed a great deal. It isn’t the nation of Israel that He now promised to deliver. He tells them he will establish the church and that He will be with them every day in all aspects of their lives. What stands out against that is that his most frequent command relating to any sin they were to avoid was the command not be be afraid but to trust Him. He said, “Don’t be afraid little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Think of the day when Jesus and the apostles were in a boat in the Sea of Galilee. A huge storm arose and they were horribly afraid that the boat was going to sink and they would all perish in the storm. Jesus, during the storm was sound asleep in the bow of the boat. They seemed to have to shake him to get him awake. When they have his attention they shouted, “Lord, don’t you care that we are about to perish in this storm.” Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and the waves and the storm calmed down, the waves stopped and the water became tranquil. Then Jesus turned to them to say, “Why were you so afraid? Where is your faith?” Their response was to be amazed and say, “What kind of man is this that even the wind and the waves obey his voice?”

I suspect that if God spoke to us from heaven right now, his strongest challenge to us would be, “Don’t be afraid. Trust me. I am with you.” Let’s be honest with ourselves, FAITH AND FEAR CAN’T SHARE THE SAME SPACE. If I am living in fear all the time, something is dreadfully wrong with my faith in the Lord. Remember the basic meaning of the word “Faith” is to trust, to believe and to live my whole life depending on the love and care of my Lord. We must choose in daily life, shall we live by faith or by fear? In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul explained that when the body is decayed and destroyed, our soul or inner being doesn’t perish with it. When the body is destroyed, the soul goes on to be with the Lord in glory. While our outward man is perishing our inward man is being renewed day by day. When the body dies, we have a building with God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens. In this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon by our house which is in heaven. He even said that this is what we are made for to begin with. As long as we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord but that we are well pleased to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. “For we walk by faith and not by sight.” He then challenged us to make it our ambition to be pleasing to the Lord whether in the body or out of the body since we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive our rewards for how we lived in the body.

What are you afraid of today? The truth is people struggle with fear on every level in life. Some are so afraid of catching some disease that they can’t enjoy the health they have for fear of losing it. Many live in constant fear of being killed by someone who has a gun and is under the influence of some drug or alcohol and will murder them. Others live in horrible fear of catching the Covid 19 virus. Many fear war or some terrorist attacking us in some way. Some live in fear all the time of someone revealing some secret in their lives that will lead to people not trusting them anymore. The truth is that fear can so overwhelm our lives that we can’t enjoy even the very best of times and situations because something horrible might happen and take it all away. Do such tragic events take place? Yes they do, because we live in a world stained horribly by sin. The Bible called Satan the “god of this age.” The devil loves to cause you problems and lead you into the valley of despair.

What are we to do to overcome the fears of life? Think about a verse of the Bible found in Revelation 2:10. “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, so that you will be tested and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” This was written to the church in Smyrna. Jesus identified himself as the writer who is the first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life. He tells them, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the slander by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” Then he gave the plea for them not to be afraid. The reality was that many of the things they were so afraid of were actually about to happen. They were going to face persecution and many would die in the process. Yet God’s plea was, “Don’t be afraid.” Well, why not be afraid when such horrible things were coming upon them? Because the trials were temporary. They would last ten days. Many would die in the process. But that certainly wasn’t the end of the matter. What was waiting for them was a crown of life! All they had to do was to conquer their fears by being faithful and true to the Lord. Lean on Him, not your own powers or abilities. This plea for us to be faithful, true, dependable to the Lord wasn’t just until we finally die, but even if it means our death on this earth. The reason we can face it all without fear is that we never face such things alone and whatever happens we have a crown of life awaiting when we stay faithful and true to the Lord.

You choose all along whether you will walk by faith or by fear. Which do you choose? I hope it is to put your faith in the Lord and trust him no matter what happens in this world.

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DO YOU FIT IN?

Have you noticed what an amazing difference it makes for us when we feel like we fit in with a group of people and when we don’t feel like we fit? If we feel secure and sure that we fit in, we tend to be comfortable, as ease and without tension. But if we don’t feel as though we fit into a group, we are tense, uncomfortable, and anxious to get away from the group as quickly as possible. One reason why a person falls in love with another, is that they feel loved, accepted and part of the group. What was the name of the television series that was set in a bar and the opening song talks about it as a place where everyone knows our name, and people are glad we came? I’m not at all sure that a bar is such a place. But I know this, everyone wants to find that kind of place. The truth is that tons of people are looking for that kind of church, where people know their name and are always glad when they come.

Look in your Bible at the 16th chapter of Romans with this in mind. Paul was writing to a church where he had never been before. He planned to go there and spend some time with them. He wanted to build some anticipation for his coming and was hopeful that they would be a home church for him who helped him travel on to Spain to preach the gospel in a new area where the gospel message hadn’t been preached so far. He had written to them his most comprehensive letter, laying out the very nature of Christianity and how it fit into the whole scheme of God’s plan from the beginning. Of all his letters, this is the one which worked to show some connection with different members of the church more than any other. He wanted to demonstrate that even though he hadn’t been to Rome and had never met with the church there, he was connected to them, and admired lots of things about them and their work. As you look down this list of people he knew and was connected to, think about the church where you worship God. Think of the connections you have and if you could write a chapter like this about people in the church where you have been a member for years. Then consider Paul writing about these people in a church where he had never set foot. Did he do some research on the church to be able to talk about all these people? I suspect it was simply the reality of him having connections with them and when he began thinking about going there, these people naturally came to mind.

He began by introducing them to Phoebe, by whom he was sending this letter to them. She was a servant of the church in Cenchrea. The word for servant here is the same word that is translated “deacon” in Philippians 1:1 and I Timothy 3. I don’t know if it meant she was one of the deacons at Cenchrea or is just a way of saying she was a great servant of the church there. But Paul wanted to make certain that she was received well by the church in Rome. So, he pleads for them to “receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.” If the church where you worship received a letter from a very well known preacher that you loved, introducing a woman just as Paul introduced Phoebe to them and asked of the church that they receive her, and help her in any need she has, what kind of response do you think she would get? I suspect people would be lined up to help her and to invite her into their home.

But notice as he turns to the people in the church in Rome with every mention, he not only tells their names, he laid out the work they were doing in Rome and how they had blessed his life in some way. Prisca and Aquila were presented as “My fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house.” Paul had met them back in Corinth when the Jews had been driven from Rome and worked alongside them as tentmakers. Wherever they have traveled since that time, there is a church meeting in their house. This was long before there were church buildings. There were no signs out front with the church’s name on it. Instead small groups met in different people’s homes to worship and grow.

After Prisca and Aquila he listed Epaenetus the first convert to Christ in Asia, Mary a hard worker, Andronicus and Junia, his kinfolk and fellow prisoners, who were outstanding among the apostles and were Christians before him. He told of Ampliatus as one he loved. Urbanus was a fellow worker along with Stachys his beloved. And the list goes on to tell of ones who worked hard in the Lord. I would guess that many of these people, when they received this letter were amazed that Paul knew their name, much less knew about their work in the church.

This whole segment shouts a message that I believe is desperately needed today. It is vital to know people, to know their names and to recognize what they are doing in the kingdom of Christ. They weren’t earning their way into heaven. But what they were doing mattered in the kingdom of God. Everybody needs encouragement and are blessed when someone recognizes what they are doing in service to God. You can bless the cause of Christ today and every day by recognizing what someone is doing in the church and telling others about it. It wasn’t that they were doing the work to be recognized. But it blessed them and the church for what they did to be told of by God’s man, Paul. I want to be like Paul in that regard and tell of the good deeds done by people I know, in Christ, don’t you. What if, instead of telling of good things we have done, we all took the time and energy to tell some good deed done by another person and we told the world of their deeds? I think it would make this whole world a better place to live in. Why not start today by telling of a good thing you have noticed someone doing?

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FINDING YOUR CHURCH HOME

Language changes. Our ways of thinking about even the most important things in life change. As you read the Bible today, try to imagine the stories you read in the context of your life right now. Or try to imagine a conversation we might have at church today taking place some 2,000 years ago with Paul or Peter or James taking part in the conversation. It was while thinking along this line that I began to wonder how those people who lived and participated in church life in the first century would react if you transplanted some of our church conversations into their culture or how we would react if you brought their conversation into our church life today. It is pretty common to hear people in church talk about their home church in our time. It may be someone who is traveling and stops in to worship with us on a given Sunday. They are from some other part of the country or world and out of loyalty to Christ make their plans to be part of the worship gathering with us on a given Sunday. As would be normal, we would go to them and introduce ourselves and do our best to make them feel welcome as part of our gathering. In the conversation they explain they are from a distant state and city. They explain that their home church is in that far away place, where they have lived for the last several years. We understand they are talking about the church they normally worship with when they are home. It is the church that counts on them and that invest in their spiritual life and growth.

While we never read of anyone referring to a particular congregation of the Lord’s people as their home church in the New Testament, it is clear that people did identify with particular congregations in that time. Paul and Barnabas became so firmly established as part of the Antioch congregation that they would return to that church at the end of each of the missionary journeys to report what had happened during their last journey and to spend time with the church there to both have time for renewal in their life and to encourage them in their spiritual development. Think about what happened when they returned from the first missionary journey and found that teachers had come to Antioch from Jerusalem and were disturbing the church by telling these Gentile Christians that they had to be circumcised and obey the Law in order to be real, fully Christian. Paul and Barnabas were so frustrated by what they saw that they went to Jerusalem to confront the false teachers and try to stop such actions from happening anywhere else.

While the New Testament doesn’t refer to a home church, it does demonstrate it’s value and that it was a concept that mattered deeply. In Colossians 4:12 Paul tells about Epaphras, “Who is one of your own, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus.” He said he sent them greetings and noted that he was “always striving earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis.” Epaphras had made his way to Rome to be able to minister on behalf of the church to Paul who was a prisoner there. But it is obvious that his heart was with the people in his “Home church.” He certainly cared for Paul and wanted to help him. But his prayers and concerns were for the people back home. In this incident there is a strong point that I think we need to learn. It makes a difference in our spiritual life if we have a “home church” for which we feel a strong bond of love and concern. I know that when one becomes a Christian they become a member of the body of Christ as a whole and not just the local congregation. One might argue that since they belong to the body of Christ there isn’t that great a need to be deeply committed to the local body of believers. But it would be a futile argument.

We all need to be part of a local body where we feel deeply a part of everything that goes on. We need the bond that declares how much we are needed in that local body. We need the closeness that develops there, so that people care about us and what happens in our life. It is typically in the local church where we are able to get involved, where we pray for each other and reach out to help one another. Without that local church where we feel at home, we can drift away from God and His will and no one know the difference. But in the home church, where we feel like family and have close friends, we are missed and people reach out to us when something goes wrong.

Is there a church that you consider your home church? If not, what in the world are you waiting for to become committed to a home church? You haven’t found the perfect place yet? Well, stop looking for it, because if there was such a place you would mess it up when you got there. Just as our personal families aren’t perfect, yet a place of love and fulfillment, the local church isn’t perfect, but they serve a perfect Lord and Savior and that is enough.

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REMEMBERING

It’s Memorial Day, a time to remember all those who gave their lives in battle for our country and it safety and survival. I sincerely hope that people will remember and think about the reason for this holiday, instead of simply using it as a time to grill, go to the lake or the beach or all the kinds of things that are part of life.

It is always vital for us to remember people and things from the past. One of the saddest things that tends to happen in life as people get older, is the loss of memory. Most of the time when such happens, at least at the start, they can remember things that happened many years ago and tell you in detail about those times, but when it comes to what happened yesterday or even earlier today it is a totally different story.

It is vital for our health that we remember the right things. Imagine growing up where all your memories are haunting to you. How do you think it would affect your life? It is usually in remembering our mistakes and seeing the consequences that leads one to change their ways of doing thing.

The Bible says a great deal about remembering. I suspect the challenge Jesus gave to remember his death in celebrating the Lord’s Supper is one of the great commands about memory. If you picture Jesus on the night before he would be executed by the Roman soldiers, and He knows what is coming, he is having the last meal with the disciples when he took a piece of bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to all the people there saying, “This is my body that is broken for you, do this in memory of me.” Then he took the cup of wine that was there for the eating of the Passover meal and said, “This is my blood of the New Covenant, that is shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins, do this in memory of me.” So when Christians gather to take of the communion or fellowship time in taking of the Lord’s Supper we proclaim his death until he comes again. It is to lead us back to the cross which brought us forgiveness of sins.

But what about other commands to remember? Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:1-2 challenged younger people to “Remember now your creator in the days of your youth before the evil days draw near when you have no pleasure in them.” In youth especially, even though it can happen at any point in life, I can become so engrossed in all that is going on around me that I lose sight of the Creator. It is vital for young people to remember God, to remember He created us in his image and like and gave us responsibility in the care of the whole creation. If you take God out of the picture, we have little motivation to treat others with respect and honor, not even those who paid the highest price for us.Today as you celebrate Memorial Day, REMEMBER Your Creator as well.

We are challenged to remember where where we have fallen and do the things needed to get back on track in our lives, especially when we stumble or fall completely away from God. What will it change in the life of a person for them to remember the mistakes and go about changing our lives? As I look back on all the failures and mistakes of life and at the same time, see how God has delivered me from all kinds of wrongs in life, it changes me. It leads on to repent of past mistakes and failures and it should lead to one determining from here on I will not be involved in that kind of life.

Let’s face it, we live in dangerous times but not many people remember all the things God has blessed us with in our life. Think today for all the people that have changed your life in a good way. If they have gone on to their reward, you might contact some family member to tell them how you miss their loved on. If they are still alive, why not today take the time to call that person and tell them how much you appreciate what they had meant to you in life. It will likely make their day and give them a good start for a week of good things.

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GOD’S FAMILY AND OURS

One of the most amazing pictures God gave us of the church as He planned it, is that it is his family and that we are all brothers and sisters in the body. Paul told Timothy he hoped to come to him soon but in case he waited for a time he was writing him instructions on how to behave himself in the household or family of God, which is the church of the living God. One of the greatest problems we face today and to some degree in every other time, is that too often the church is seen as an organization, a club or some kind of institution. The result is that when we become part of a church family we are disappointed about something that happens or fails to happen in the church and then decide we will just take our membership and go somewhere else and join their group. What if we did that in our families? Can you imagine a new member of the family, perhaps through being married to one of the family members leaving a family gathering and saying to her husband or his wife, “I didn’t feel loved and accepted in this family today so I’ve decided to not return. I am going to do some research on families in the area and decide which one I will join.” How would you react if your son or daughter called you after such a family meeting to give you the information that they had decided to look around to see if they couldn’t find a family they felt better as a part of?

After the year of dealing Covid, let’s face it tons of people are deciding to look around and are questioning whether or not they will continue as part of the church they have been a part of for some time. I do understand. It is so easy to feel like you have been mistreated or ignored or even that no one really cares about us. I am certain that a part of the whole thing is the times we have been away from meeting together and even when we do meet, people are wearing masks and are afraid to get very close to anyone else for fear of either upsetting them or making unwanted contact. The result is that far too many feel like they are not accepted, loved or wanted in the family any more.

Think about a couple of things right now please. First, family matters. It is vital that every member of the family feel loved, accepted and very much a part of the family. Anytime one feels somehow different from the rest of the family it is easy to get extremely discouraged and down. Yet we are all equal parts of the family we are in. If the family isn’t functioning correctly, it is much my responsibility as anyone else’s to do what I can to make it right. If one of the grandchildren called me up tonight to say, “Papa, my wife or my husband, doesn’t feel loved and accepted in our family.” Do you think for a moment that I would say, “Well, that’s their problem.” Or, “Maybe they will find a family somewhere else they like better.” Not on your life. I would be doing everything in my power to reach out to that one that felt unloved or unaccepted to let them know how much I love and appreciate them. I realize that there are times when a person just will not allow themselves to fit into a family. But that isn’t the norm and it isn’t true with people who want to be a part of the family. In God’s family he tells us that there are no big “I’s” or little “you’s”. We all are equal parts of the body. Remember Jesus telling the apostles back in Matthew 23 to do what the religious teachers told them to do but not to follow their lives because they said and didn’t do. He challenged them not to call anyone “Rabbi”, “Master”, or “Teacher”. He said we are all brothers and sisters. When the church makes distinctions between people, whether based on race, age, education or anything else, it fails to be the family God wants us to be. When God is our Father, Jesus is our older brother and the Holy Spirit is given to us to lead us as His family members.

What if, instead of thinking of the church as something to accept or reject, to place membership in or be part of the family, I saw the church as fellow brothers and sisters who were trying hard to be the ones God called us to be? What if I realized that every single member of the church was struggling with problems and issues of different kinds and are carrying a heavy load all the time and that they needed me to show them love just as I need them to show such love to me? What if we stopped thinking about the church as the staff or the elders and started thinking about every member as part of my family? What if I thought of every person that visited as a perspective daughter in law or son in law? Don’t you think we would all be about making certain we showed them love and acceptance every time I saw them?

We are living in a difficult season. People are hurting and feel needy. May I challenge us all to be that Christian who is constantly looking for someone who is alone and make my way to them to talk, to listen and to show care and compassion. It will change us and it will change the lives of others around us. Let’s face it, there are no perfect families. There never has been and I don’t think there ever will be a perfect family or perfect church. If you read the New Testament letters to the different churches it is obvious they had serious problems all around and yet God loved them and pleaded with them to love and encourage each other. Let’s do it!

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ARE YOU PARTIAL?

What does it mean to show partiality? If you asked just about any parent of more than one child if they showed partiality to one of their children over the others they would tell you no they did not. But if you asked the children in most situations you learn they felt like their parents were partial to some over others. Quite often it is the case that the Father shows partiality toward one and the Mother to another. I suspect every person who has gone to school for more than three days in their life has been in a class where it was obvious that the teacher had a pet in the class that they showed great partiality toward. Sometimes it is a whole group of students who are given preferable treatment. One of the most common complaints at workplaces is that the boss or bosses show partiality toward some or some group in the business that upsets the ones who feel they are not in the elite group. Even in church, one of the huge problems that we face all the time is some people feeling strongly that they aren’t a part of the “IN CROWD”. They feel that some in the church can complain about just about anything and get the attention of the leaders and force some kind of action while others have equally strong feelings in the opposite direction but feel no one cares or pays any attention to their strong feelings. One thing is obviously true, the only people who enjoy another person showing partiality is the one who is being shown the partiality. If one isn’t in the select group they feel empty, left out and insignificant.

By the way, this isn’t a new problem. Back in I Timothy 5 Paul had been giving Timothy instruction on how to behave himself as the evangelist in the church at Ephesus. The discussion had started about the widows who were to be taken in and helped by the church if they were widows indeed or widows who didn’t have any other family to take care of them. Paul told families that if they had widows in the family they were to take care of their needs. But if one was a widow, over 60 who didn’t have family to help and they were godly ladies who had served well in the kingdom to bless the lives of others they were to be taken in and provided for. He turned from that discussion to say, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” Then in verse 19 he said, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep the instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.”

Obviously, Paul wanted Timothy to see the elders in the church as men with authority and who were trying to do the best for the church. He was to respect them as a whole enough to show extreme care about any accusations made against an elder. In all times there are those who are sitting ready at any time to accuse those who are striving to lead the church in the right way of having wrong attitudes and wrong motives in life. But it is vital for one working in the situation Timothy did, to not play favorites. You must treat everyone, even the elders, in the same way, respectfully and with consideration. Don’t allow people to come to you and gossip about an elder or pastor in the church. But there are times when even these leaders in the church are wrong and need to be corrected. So, Paul’s challenge is not to accept an accusation unless there were two or more witnesses that come to you saying that this person who serves as a leader is moving in the wrong direction and you know it to be true, you are to take the personal responsibility to go to the person to rebuke the sin.

Two things stand out in this segment of Paul’s teaching. One if that instead of rebuking the leader in the church as one would another member just between the two of you alone, you are to rebuke them before all, that others will get the warning as well. I don’t know if this means before everyone in the church or before all the elders. I tend to think it is before all the elders instead of just with you and the individual. Is this risky for the evangelist? Certainly it is and very difficult to do. Yet it is the way God planned for it to happen in the church to keep everyone on the right path. But, notice, it is imperative that such actions be taken without partiality or favoritism. If we are showing favorites among the elders or shepherds in the body, we are harming them and the church as a whole.

Notice how Paul draws this point to a head. “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgement ahead of them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.” Partiality is a bad thing everywhere. But don’t rush to rebuke others. Take your time and see what comes out. Not everything comes out quickly and be careful not to look for things against someone you don’t like anyway.

I do wonder as I read through this if Timothy’s stomach problems weren’t tied to the whole thought of rebuking an elder who was involved in some sin. It would certainly bring turmoil and cause your stomach to get upset.

It is worth a lot in life to constantly check ourselves to make certain we aren’t showing partiality in life. Thank God he doesn’t respect any particular groups of people over others. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did the same?

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THINGS ARE CHANGING

Isn’t it amazing how quickly things all around us change all the time? There is hardly an aspect of life that you can consider that isn’t different today from what it was like a year ago. I’m sure much of the change in our own time has been pushed forward by the Covid virus. But the reality is that things are constantly changing whether we have a pandemic or not. I noticed this morning as I passed a gas station that the price of a gallon of regular gas had jumped twenty cents since yesterday afternoon. Go to just about any store of just about any kind and you will be amazed at how different it is today from what it was a year ago. Go to church on Sunday and you will likely notice the amazing amount of change that has taken place since the last time you were there. I sometimes try to imagine what it would be like if our grandparents could come back from the grave long enough to just spend one day in our home, going to a store and going to church with us today how they would react. Can you even begin to imagine what it would be like for those disciples of Christ that lived in the first century and went to church in a place like Corinth or Ephesus, if they returned today and went with us to church one Sunday. Can you imagine the confusion that would fill their minds? Can you imagine how we would react if we went back 2,000 years and went to church one Sunday in Rome with the first century believers in Jesus? Can you imagine what it might be like if we could drop back in one Sunday fifty years from now to visit a church we had worshiped with in 2021? I suspect we would be as shocked as the Jews from Jerusalem 2,000 years ago would be if they dropped in on us this Sunday.

As you think of that whole scene, let me remind you of some verses from the Bible that should be important to all of us. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.” “I the Lord do not change.” “Wherefore we are receiving a kingdom that cannon be shaken so let us serve acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” “The word of God is alive and powerful and sharper than any double edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joins and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.” When judgment Day comes, the standard of that judgment will be the word of God. Jesus told the people who heard him in John 12 that the very words he had spoken would judge them in the last day.

So, while there are worlds of things around us that change every day and many of them change more than once a day. We, personally, and as a group of people change all the time. If you don’t think so, get a picture from ten years ago and put it down beside one made this morning. Whether you want to admit it or not, it is obvious you and I change all the time. Even how we see things in life changes based on what is going on in our lives at any given time. I wonder how many times I have said something to the effect, “I will always believe that.” Or, “That is the way I will always see things.”

In a world of swift transition, it is vital that we keep clearly before us what is changing all the time and what doesn’t change and must not be changed if we are to be the people God calls us to be. There are tons of things that can change all the time and there be no harm or no foul. But there are also things that must not be changed if we are to be who God calls us to be. One of the reasons God told us the stories of the Old Testament was to try to get us to understand that while many things in life change with the circumstances that there are many others that must not be changed if we are to be God’s people.

I try to imagine what it must have been like for Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron when they came to burn their incense before the altar of God. They didn’t make a huge change. I am sure that if you had asked them they would have said it was a minor adjustment in how they burned the incense that God had commanded them to burn. Yet, God reacted to their disobedience with strong judgment that destroyed them with fire immediately. I imagine on that day when the Israelites were bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and David was so excited that he was dancing around in joy at the scene, when the oxen stubbled and Uzzah reached out to steady the ark, he would have said, he was just reacting naturally to save the ark of God. But God had given a strong command that no one but the Levite could carry that ark or touch it. Even though Uzzah’s motives were pure, his action was one of disobedience to God and it cost him his life. David was frustrated. But the next time they moved the ark, they made certain to carry it the way God commanded and everything went great. But those were Old Testament events. Surely God doesn’t act the same way in the New Testament times. He has changed hasn’t he? Well, consider Acts 5 and the story of Ananias and his wife lying about their gift to the church. When Peter confronted him about his lying to the Holy Spirit he fell dead immediately. Later when she came in and lied all over again she likewise fell dead on the spot. God took the whole matter of lying to the Holy Spirit of God very seriously then and I assure you, he still does.

It is vital to make a clear distinction between the things that are changeable and be willing and ready to change in those areas all the time. But be clear that God doesn’t change. Jesus doesn’t change. The Holy Spirit doesn’t change. the Bible or Word of God doesn’t change. Change what is alright to change and don’t fuss about it. But if it is one of God’s unchangeables leave it as it is. Don’t try to play God! You nor I are built for it.

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A Mother’s Day

I am thankful we set apart a day each year to celebrate mother’s. I’m glad that neither Mother’s or Father’s Day are used to get another day off from work. It seems to me that to celebrate either one by laying out of work would be totally missing the point. If there is anyone that doesn’t get a day off from their duties in life it is a mother. Can you imagine a mom refusing to feed her baby or change their diaper because it is their day off or that it is a holiday. A mother’s job just goes on. It changes from year to year as the children grow. But I’ve noticed that now that our children are all at least fifty years old, their mother hasn’t stopped being concerned about their welfare or what they are going to be doing next. In some ways, roles reverse as we get older and the child becomes the one taking care of the parent but it just seems to me that the mother’s heart never changes toward her children.

I’ve heard some say that they dislike Mother’s Day because they haven’t been able to have a child of their own even though they have tried or that because they aren’t married that they don’t appreciate having a Mother’s Day when they would like to be married and have children. But one thing is certain, we all have had a mother. Someone went through the birth pains to bring us into the world and sacrificed much of their life to provide for our needs. We may not think that our mother was a great one. But they did give birth to you rather than aborting you. You owe them something always. Most of us owe our mothers more than we could ever even begin to repay. My mother has been dead now for half of my life. But that hasn’t changed at all the feelings of appreciation for all the love and care she offered all the days of her life on this earth.

I think it is significant that in giving the Ten Commandments God didn’t say, “Honor your parents.” But said, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land the the Lord your God is giving you.’ God was so concerned about this point that he made the law that if one disrespected parents their punishment was severe and went as far as being executed if the disrespect went far enough. Jesus used the failure and the excuses among the religious leaders among the Jews, for not obeying the command to honor father and mother as an illustration of how they were rebelling against God and living like hypocrites in the world. They were fussing at Jesus and the apostles for eating without washing their hands, thus failing to follow their traditions. Jesus said that by their traditions they were rejecting the law of God. God said honor your father and mother but you declare that if one dedicates their money to the Lord and His work they aren’t obligated to take care of their parents any longer. He told them their whole worship was useless or vain because by their traditions they rejected the word of God. Paul in discussing the same point in I Timothy 5 said that if one didn’t provide for his own, especially those of his own family they denied the faith and became worse than an unbeliever.

How do you honor your mother? In many ways how we show honor depends on age, circumstances and what their needs may be. When we are children we honor parents by being obedient to them. In Ephesians 6:1-3 Paul commanded children who were old enough to be Christians to obey their parents and referred back to the command to honor father and mother as the first commandment with a promise. As we grow into adulthood ourselves and get married there is a real sense in which our loyalty is to change. We are to “leave father and mother and be joined to our wife and the two will become one flesh.” It isn’t so much about leaving them physically as it is a change in loyalty. Now we are joined to a mate and our primary loyalty is to them rather than parents. Yet our honor of the father and mother doesn’t stop. There will come a day for most of us when the mother or dad will leave this world in death and our ability to honor them in a way that blesses them won’t be there any more. But we can certainly honor their memory by how we speak of them and our living the way they taught us to live.

I’m not certain that there is anyone in the world that has a greater effect on their future of the world and of their own family than godly mothers. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 God reminded the people of the greatest command of all, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and might. He told them to keep these words in their heart. Then he tells them how to live it out in their family day after day. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” I know we need quiet time in life. I know a great and godly mom needs time to read the Bible and pray alone. But the future of the world hangs on how well mothers and dads live out the love for God and talk about it with their children all along and in all parts of life.

A friend of mine who died several years ago along with his wife and two daughters drove from North Little Rock to Clarendon, Arkansas every Sunday for over twenty years for him to preach the gospel and her to teach Bible classes. During a whole lot of that time they also drove down on Wednesday nights to have Bible classes with them. It was a distance of about 100 miles each way every week. I was talking with him and his wife and later with one of their daughters about those years and each of them said it was some of the greatest times of their life. They spent it talking about God and His will just about life and how to live in the world as a Christian. They made a massive difference in the life of the church in Clarendon, but I suspect an even greater difference in the lives of their daughters as they shared with them their devotion to the Lord.

Honor your mom Sunday, but also on every other day this week and this year and throughout your life. Great mom’s are a massive treasure that God has given us.

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HE KNOWS

I was reading this morning from Matthew 6 and noticed in the last half of the chapter how often Jesus made the point that God knows what we need before we ever ask or even think about it. Actually the point started back near the beginning of the chapter when He was talking about not doing our spiritual deeds before others to be seen by them and noted that when we give to ones in need, not to make some show of it or we already have all the reward we are going to receive. He turned to the topic of prayer and challenged us not to pray in ways to be seen by others and not to go on and on in our prayers thinking we will be heard for all the things we say, “For the Father knows what you need before you ask him.” It was out of this point that he told them to go into a private place and pray so that it is between you and God. From that came the challenge on what to pray about as a follower of Jesus.

“This, then is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Do you pray like you believe God already knows what you need before you ask? I’m afraid, too often I pray as though I think I need to inform God about what is going on in my life and among the people I love.

Think about how deep God’s knowledge of us and what is going on in our lives, really is. Over in Matthew 10:29-31 Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a Penney? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Do you remember the song that was popular many years ago, “My Jesus knows just what I need?” I think I know my wife, Linda quite well after we have been married for 56 years now, but I can tell you for certain I don’t know how many hairs she has in her head. I don’t even know how many come off into the shower when she washes her hair. If I can’t count those, then I am nothing to compare with God and his knowledge of us.

Jesus told us in Matthew 6:28ff. not to worry about clothes. He pointed to the flowers in the field and how beautiful they are, yet no-one sows them or tends them. Yet Solomon in all his glory wasn’t dressed like one of these. “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘what shall we eat?’, or ‘what shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

God knows! God cares! And God acts in harmony with his knowledge and care for us. Why then is it so difficult for us to trust that he will take care of us in life? Why is worry a constant problem? Why, when we look back on life and see how God has moved and taken care of us down through the years, would we be worried that it might change tomorrow and we will be left alone? I have no doubt what Jesus would say to us in such a situation. He said it far too many times to the disciples who walked with him day after day and observed his amazing miracles. “O you of little faith! Why did you doubt?” If I think for a moment of our friend, Simon Peter, the rock, I am reminded of how he could go from an amazing act of faith like getting out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water and doing well with it as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, but when he noticed the size of the waves and began looking at them, he sank like a rock. Jesus responded, “Why did you doubt?”

It is easy to say, “Trust God.” It is easy to claim, “I trust Jesus to take care of me.” It is easy to proclaim that we know the Holy Spirit is in us and helping us all the time. Yet in the middle of all such statements we too often live in worry and fear of what will happen next. God knows, God cares and God will take care of us. Our challenge is to “Seek first the kingdom and righteousness of God and all these things will be added to you. Don’t worry about tomorrow for tomorrows will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34).

God, help us to really put our full trust in you and let our weight down in your arms of love.

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