Thursday, December 31, 2009

What Do The Kids Do When Their Parents Are Away?

I Timothy 3:14-16

Periodically we see reports of Albuquerque’s Party Patrol breaking up underage parties where the parents have gone out of town and the children have taken advantage of their absence to host a party. Illegal drugs, booze and promiscuous sex are prominent features of these parties. Often what started as a friendly impromptu party is taken over by drug dealers, or older organizers, necessitating the police involvement to get things back under control.

Kids who have well established principles of behavior are far less likely to sponsor such an unsupervised party than those who have less clear guidelines. In addition, kids with more established guidelines usually have parents who are more involved with their children, who have clearly established expectations of their children, and who are more likely to check to see if everything is like it should be. They progressively build the child’s level of responsibility, teaching him to handle it, not suddenly dumping it on him.

Paul has taught Timothy, and the church their basic responsibilities, but now he is writing to remind of the responsibility. He would prefer to give the instruction in person, but is unsure when he can come, In the meantime, they are responsible for the church, and it’s testimony to those around. He is writing these things so they will know what is expected of Christians and members of the church.

“These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. “ (I Timothy 3:14-15)

Just as the home is owned by the parents, who have the right to determine what goes on in the home by right of ownership. The children are not owners, but they have a part in the home because they are the parent’s children. They are subject to the parent’s wishes, not the parents to their’s I Corinthians 6:19-29 describes the Christian’s relationship to God. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.”

The behavior of the children reflects on the character and lifestyle of the parents. The children have a responsibility to maintain the standing of the parents in their community by their example, in return for the parents provision and care for them. The Christian has an even greater responsibility to God. The Church belongs to him, not to the people, not to the pastor, and not to an organization. We have a part in it by reason of being his children, but we are not the owners.

I remember listening to a relative get angry all over again as she described her father telling her that as long as she put her feet under his table, she would obey his rules. At the time I was offended by her attitude, and as I listened, I was more convinced that he was right. He was not only supporting her, but what he was demanding protected her reputation, although she refused to recognize it. All too often we find the same selfish attitude in the church, that it isn’t fair that God set such demands, ignoring what he has done for us, and what such behavior does to our reputation and to his.

The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth, the very foundation and main support of truth. It’s actions determine what people know of God, and their attitude toward him. Kids who sponsor unauthorized and unsupervised parties can cause damage to the house itself, conflicts with the neighbors, and loss of respect and financial burdens in the form of fines and clean up charges for the parents. The present attitude of the world toward God and the church is largely an outgrowth of Christians behaving improperly in the church.

Christian behavior becomes especially important as we realize what a mystery God is to most people. Their concept of him is based almost entirely on what those who claim to know him exhibit. As has been said repeatedly, a Christian’s life is the only Bible many will ever read. What do they see?

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (I Timothy 3:16)

Christian behavior is based on our belief in what God has done. The first two chapters of Timothy are specifically about demonstrating Christian faith. Christian faith is based on Jesus being God, as John 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:14 states that he became human, although he was still God. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

By the power of the Spirit, he lived a sinless life in order to serve as our high priest, though as Hebrews 4:15 points out, he was tempted just as we are. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” He was identified by angels as the Messiah, and preached to those who were not Jews as well as to the Jews, making it clear that his message was not for Jews only. He had a following of people who believed his teachings, and had spent the time to learn what he taught, and finally was seen ascending into heaven in Acts 1.

Why should anyone believe a person who is unfaithful to their mate or abuses them really loves them? Actions speak louder than words, and the actions say it is not true. Why should anyone believe a person loves God who refuses to honor him by either word or action?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Requirements For Deacons

I Timothy 3:8-13

The office of deacon is a much misunderstood office. Some churches ordain deacons for life. Others don’t have any. The deacons control some churches, while they seem to serve no purpose in others. The church in acts had over eight thousand members before they selected their deacons, but they provide the only scriptural example.

“And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Ac 6:6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.” (Acts 6:1-6)

When the church became so large that the Apostles were not able to adequately handle the business, they selected deacons to take care of the physical aspects so that the Apostles could devote their efforts to teaching of the word, whether by counseling, witnessing, or preaching. In the listing of offices given in I Corinthians 12:28, deacons appear to fall into the categories of helps and governments. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”

The apostles specified that the deacons must be of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom. The requirements for pastors include the fruit of the Spirit, as well as the reputation and demonstration of wisdom in performing the office. As a result, they give a good idea whether the man is filled with the spirit or not. The standards for deacons are slightly less stringent because the deacons should have less direct impact on the spiritual development of the church since their office is more connected with the physical than with the spiritual operation. Nonetheless, they need to be spiritual in order to administer the physical aspects in a manner that supports and compliments the ministry of the word.

“Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.” (I Timothy 3:8-10)

It is just as crucial that the deacons meet the spiritual standard as it is that pastors do. Like the pastor, they are to epitomize the ideal Christian. They must be grave or serious minded, and thoughtful, just as the pastor is. Their life should be orderly, not just bouncing from thing to thing as Romans 13:13 tells us. “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.”

They must not be habitual liars, telling what ever suits at the moment. Revelation 21:8 makes it clear that habitual liars are not Christians. “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

They are not to be drunken. Like lying, drunkeness indicates a person who does not know Christ as savior, as Galatians 5:19-21 makes clear. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

They are not to be seeking to make themselves rich. Money becomes a snare that destroys and turns away. I timothy 6;9-10 warns, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Some churches have picked deacons because they have a good head for money. It isn’t a good choice.

They must be true believers, not just professors of faith. Sound faith is to be expected from every Christian, and deacons ought exemplify it. “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.” (Titus 2:1-2)

Until these things have been demonstrated, a man is not to be given the job, just as a pastor must have demonstrated his faith over a period of time. He ought not be a novice. Like the pastor, the deacon, if married needs a wife who will compliment his ministry. She also needs to be orderly, not focused on her own pleasure. She mustn’t be one who gossips or lies about people, and must not be frivolous in her talk or behavior, and she must be dependable in everything. Her faith must be sound, and she must be able to be trusted with confidences. As a pastor’s or deacon’s wife, the woman is in a position to do irreparable harm if she isn’t trustworthy, or begins to gossip, to be unfaithful, or irresponsible in her talk or other behavior.

“Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 3:11-13)

Like the pastor, the deacon’s home life and family indicate his ability to perform his office. If he can’t do the job in his own home, he surely won’t be able to do it on a larger scale with people he doesn’t have the same level of control over.

Many pastors have stories of deacons who have caused trouble in their ministries. In every case, either the pastor or the deacon has not been held to biblical standards.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Demonstrating One’s Qualifications as a Pastor

I Timothy 3:4-7

In our day, great pieces of work are often called Masterpieces. It is a corruption of the original meaning of the word. A man would be apprenticed to a master in a certain trade or craft, when he completed the course of training, he would be expected to demonstrate his mastery of the trade or craft to others of the same trade. The master piece was the piece which earned him the title as master of his craft. The craftsman usually kept the masterpiece to demonstrate his mastery to prospective customers.

Today, a craftsman takes an exam to demonstrate his physical ability to do the job, and is issued a license, rather than building a masterpiece. He then shows the license to prospective clients to demonstrate his qualifications. It is illegal for an unlicensed person to practice most trades.

The pastor’s family is a demonstration of his ability to teach and lead people. If he is unable to teach his own children how to behave, when he has unlimited time to teach them, how will he be able to teach those he has for only one or two hours a week. His family showcases his skill or lack of it in the various requirements for a pastor. It is his masterpiece, his practical exam. Notice the standard.

“One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (I Timothy 3:4-5)

Hebrews 13:7 stresses the same concept. “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” We ought to examine the results of our leaders way of life and follow their example accordingly. Similar actions will undoubtedly produce similar results.

Most professions require a period of internship. It may vary from a few weeks to several years, but the goal is to demonstrate the skill to take proper action in a variety of situations, not just to perform properly under ideal circumstances. Before he is allowed to take his exam, he must meet the internship requirements. The same is true for those who want to be a pastor.

“ Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” (I Timothy 3:6)

Unless the pastor has had an extended period of serving God, he is likely to fall into various sins and improper practices, leading to embarrassment and reproach on the church. A variety of experiences gives the opportunity to learn how to apply the needed skills in various situations.

Before a plumber can get a license, his references will be checked. He can be rejected for a license if he has a history of defrauding people, of violating the plumbing code, of doing substandard work, or of not paying his bills. Complaints by customers, inspectors, and creditors are investigated and if verified may cause a license to be revoked. Paul said that the pastor must meet a similar scrutiny.

“Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (I Timothy 3:7)

If the business world requires such standards, why would we expect God to accept a lower standard? In reality, the demands for pastors are only the norm all Christians are to be striving for, not some extreme set of requirements.

Specific Requirements For Pastors

Timothy 3:2-3

The testing program for plumbers tests for minimum knowledge of what is required and the practical skill to do the actual work. One would not care to have a plumber install sewer piping that would not carry away waste, or waterlines that leaked. A pastor that doesn’t know how to be saved, or doesn’t walk in the spirit can’t show others how to do so. Let’s examine each requirement.

“A bishop then must be blameless,” II Peter 3:14 describes the goal for the Christian. “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” A pastor will never be able to lead people to such a state who hasn’t attained it himself. I Corinthians 6:9-10 states that people who habitually do certain things are not saved and will not be in heaven. They are not Christians, and cannot lead others to heaven. Notice how many are forbidden in the requirements for a pastor.

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Corinthians 6:9-10)

“the husband of one wife,“ In talking to Christians, It seems that this is the only requirement most know, and it is most often used to try to prove a woman cannot be a pastor. Some insist that a pastor must be married, ignoring Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 9: 1-6. Others insist that he cannot be married, ignoring the same passage and the statements in I Corinthians 7:32-38. Divorce is an issue in our day, and Paul deals with it in I Corinthians 7:10-15.

“And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

Paul states they can either remarry their spouse or remain single. Jesus emphasized the same thought in Mark 10:11. “And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.” Further study of biblical teaching about marriage reveals that a one time fling disqualifies one under this requirement.

“vigilant,” Watchful or alert are the meanings of this word. I Peter 5:8 warns, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” He must be careful not to give Satan an opening to destroy his life or ministry.

“sober,” Meaning thoughtful and serious minded. Titus 2:2,4&6 stress that the pastor is to teach others to be sober minded. It is an attitude that should be characterize every Christian. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” (Titus 2:11-12”

“of good behaviour,” Certain types of behavior should not be found among Christians. Sexual sin, suggestive talk, clowning around, or joking are just some of the things Ephesians 5:3-4 demands all Christians put away. “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.”

“given to hospitality,” Titus 1:8 says he must be a “lover of hospitality, a lover of good men.” He ought to enjoy having people around him, but especially to have a love for associating with other Christians. It ought to go to the point of sharing what he has with others. His love ought to be of a practical nature, as James 2:15-17 describes. “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

“apt to teach;” It amazes me how many churches are worried about how well the man can preach. His teaching ability is the standard God set. The ability to teach requires thorough knowledge of the subject, and the ability to convey that knowledge to others. Titus 1:9 reveals the necessity of this ability. “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” Sound teaching is the only way to defeat false teachers. Fabulous preaching can leave a church vulnerable to false doctrine.

“Not given to wine,” There are numerous verses prohibiting excessive usage of alcohol. Ephesians 5:18 indicates that it is counter productive to the spiritual life, and should be avoided by all Christians. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;” We have seen failures of alcohol counseling programs because the counselor didn’t live up to the standard he set. The pastor will fail for the same reason if he will not control his drinking.

“no striker,” The concept is of one who goes on strike to force others to give him his way. Titus 1: 7 says he is “not selfwilled.” I Peter directs, “Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” In Matthew 20:27, Jesus said, “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:” A servant does not demand his own way, but yields to those he serves.

“not greedy of filthy lucre;” Money ought not be a major focus. They ought not be striving to get rich. “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows,” (I Timothy 6:9-10). The desire for money will turn one away from God.

“but patient,” The Christian ought not be quick to jump to conclusions or to lose his temper James 1:19-20 says, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” The pastor especially must be “not soon angry” according to Titus 1:7. He cannot be a man who gives up easily, but must continue even when he sees no immediate results. Galatians 6:9 advises, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

“not a brawler,” He must not be a man who loves to fight. “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;” (II Timothy 2:24-25). A pugnacious attitude will hinder efforts to get people to change.

“not covetous;” The Christian cannot be focused on physical belongings. It is a form of idolatry, and Indicates that one has not placed Christ as Lord in his life. “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Ephesians 5:5)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

So You Want To Be A Pastor?

I Timothy 3:1-7

In order to be qualified to work as a plumber, I was required to demonstrate that I had at least two years training at the job. Once I had proven that I was required to take a test demonstrating my knowledge of the legal requirements for doing plumbing, and a test demonstrating my ability to do the actual physical techniques required. Until I had demonstrated the necessary training, skills, and understanding of the obligations required, I could not legally work as a plumber. The most I could do was assist a plumber.

There are similar laws for teachers, electricians, lawyers doctors, real estate agents, truck drivers, airline pilots and many other occupations. The standards have been adopted to protect the public from harmful and dangerous practices by people who do know what is required. An airline pilot who doesn’t have proper skills may cause an accident killing hundreds of people. A plumber may cause an explosion which kills people, or contamination of a water supply that results in thousands becoming sick or dying. The teacher may cause severe emotional damage or teach the student to do things wrongly, so that he is unable to provide for himself. The requirements protect society from such dangers. Those who persist in ignoring safe standards can have their licenses taken away.

The stringency of the requirements is closely related to the level of danger resulting from unsafe practices. A driver’s license demands far less stringent standards than a commercial driver’s license, and the truck drivers license requirements are far less stringent than those for an airline pilot. The standards are the minimum required to be sure one is capable of properly doing the job.

God has established a similar minimum standard for church leaders. I was asked, “do we really have the right to demand such a standard of pastors?” We demand that other occupations meet a standard, why not pastors. How strict the standard should be is determined by how important properly performing the job is. If we believe the pastor’s job is just a social or moral tradition, we may settle for these standards as merely recommendations. If we believe that he is actually affecting the eternal destiny of souls, on the other hand, the standards become crucial because the pastor will have a direct effect on whether people go to heaven or hell. Once again, we find that the nature of our faith in God is demonstrated by our actions.

The majority of people I have talked to seemed unaware of any requirement except that he must be the husband of one wife, and even that was usually used to prove that a woman wasn’t qualified as pastor. As a result many are pastoring who do not qualify. We will look at other scriptures to obtain a better understanding of what each of the standards given entail. I hope that this will stimulate you to pursue a more thorough study of the subject. Let’s start by reading the entire standard, then examining what the office is and what is entailed.

“This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (I Timothy 3:1-7)”

The first thing needing to be addressed is “what is a Bishop?” The word translated bishop is from the Greek word “episcopes”, meaning an overseer or superintendent. He is charged with overseeing the church. The term is not used when Paul describes the offices God has placed in the church in I Corinthians 12:28. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” .” Ephesians 4:11-12 describes it similarly. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” In Corinthians, Paul appears to lump evangelists, pastors and teachers all into the category of teachers.

Many believe that a bishop is a higher office than a pastor, and as such must meet a higher standard. Jesus forbade such an hierarchy when James and John’s mother wanted him to set them in places of higher authority in Matthew 20:25-28. “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” He set himself as the example, as not placing himself above the people.

Theo word “pastor” means shepherd, and Jesus is called both shepherd and bishop in I Peter 2:25. In other passages the terms bishop, pastor and elder are used almost interchangeably, and clearly the jobs of overseer and shepherd have much in common. It would appear that they are merely other descriptions of the same office. A careful examination of the job descriptions will reinforce the conclusion. The bishop is the same as the pastor and is subject to the same standards.

Just as I was required to meet certain standards before I could work as a plumber, a man who wishes to be a pastor or bishop must be willing to meet the standards. Those who would not meet those standards and obtain their license were breaking the law and subject to arrest, fines and imprisonment. Those who refuse to meet the standards for pastors are in similar violation if they take the job. While it is a good work, there is great responsibility.

In the next lesson, we will look at the specific standards.

Demonstration of Faith By Women

I Timothy 2:9-15

Just as faith in God will affect how we pray, both in how we pray for others, and in our personal prayer life, it will affect how we comport ourselves in other areas. In our day many, especially girls, feel driven to appear in a certain manner, creating many inferiority complexes. Just as God does not favor the prayers of one Christian over another, he does not favor the appearance of one over another. We are not to have the idea that clothing affects our Christian life. In Paul’s day the tendency was to dress extravagantly to show superiority. Notice Paul’s instruction, given by the Holy Spirit.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” (I Timothy 2:9-10)

The woman’s worth is not to be based on her outward appearance, but on what she does. I Samuel 16:7 tells us, “for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” If she really believes that, comparing how she is dressed to how others are dressed is of no significance. James 2:1-4 teaches that anyone who makes the clothing an issue is himself thinking in an evil fashion.

Some have taught that this verse means a woman is not to wear makeup, jewelry, or certain types of clothing. I believe they have ignored the meaning of the word modest. Modest refers to not calling attention to oneself. In dress, it refers to dressing in a moderate or not extreme fashion. Many groups dress in an extreme fashion to prove their spiritual level, not realizing they have proven their lack thereof. They are as immodest as the girl in the shortest miniskirt because they are focusing attention on themselves. Look how spiritual I am is not much different than look how daring I am. The focus is to be on God, rather than self.

The next few verses are one of the most controversial issues of our day. Again, our response is a demonstration of our faith in God. If we believe the Bible is his word, then This is a statement of his will. If we believe that everything God does is for our ultimate good, we will accept his directions on the matter. If we resist we are demonstrating our own lack of faith. Conflicts such as this reveal who truly believe God and who doesn’t according to I Corinthians 11:19. “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”

A major recurring theme in the book of Hebrews is the number of those in the church who have never believed to the saving of their souls. As Paul says, heresies or controversies are necessary to identify who does or doesn’t believe. Either they believe God’s word, or they do not. Even for those who are saved, the conflicts demonstrate lack of submission to the Holy Spirit, going our own way rather than God’s. I Corinthians 3:3 describes it thus: “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” Real faith will produce obedience. Let’s look at the passage.

“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” (I Timothy 2:”11-15)

I Corinthians 14:34-37 makes it clear that obvious interpretation is a valid understanding of the scripture. “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”

As Corinthians says, anyone who is really a truly of God will acknowledge that this is God’s command. Anyone who doesn’t admit it obviously doesn’t know what God wants. They believe they have some special revelation beyond what God has given.

Some have taught that women are inferior to men and have tried to use these passages to support that claim. Galatians 3:28 clearly refutes this, stating that we are equal in Christ. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” The abuses of some come from distortion of this passage.

Paul explains the reasons for this position in our passage. Adam was created first, and the command not to eat the fruit was given to him. As we see from Genesis, the woman may not have been present when the command was given, which would explain her misquoting God’s command in Genesis 3:3. She sinned as a result of Satan’s lie. She is not totally responsible

Adam knew exactly what God had said. Nobody lied to him. He deliberately sinned. It was not Eve’s sin that loosed sin into the world and made mankind sinners, it was Adam’s. The man is responsible for causing sin, and God wants man to take his responsibility. The woman who takes that position is enabling, or even preventing man from taking his responsibility.

It is no different than a woman who refuses to accept child support from the child’s father. She is not being fair to the child or his father, and she is acting pretty dumb, depriving herself of what she could otherwise have.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lifting Up Holy Hands In Prayer

I Timothy 2:5-8

Have you ever noticed how children attempt to manipulate their parents? Mary wants to go to the local teen hotspot to flirt with the boys. She knows her parents won’t approve, so she asks her little sister Suzie if she’d like a milkshake. She then suggests that the hot spot makes really good milkshakes. Since Suzie is not interested in boys yet, her parents will not think that is why Suzie is asking and might let her go, but she’s to young to go alone so they’ll send Mary to take her. If Suzie has a friend visiting, it works even better because it is a lot harder for the parents to refuse the friend.

All too often people approach God the same way. They assume he is more likely to give someone else what they ask for. Like Mary, they either are trying to get by with something, or have allowed their relationship with God to deteriorate to such a degree thay don’t dare ask for themselves. As a pastor, people continually ask me to pray for them, putting me in the same situation Mary put Suzie. It weakens their relationship with God even more, even if it gets the results they wanted. The Catholic custom of praying to the saints is an extension of the same practice, reaching even further for someone to ask for us.

In chapter one, Paul warned Timothy that some had made shipwreck of their lives by putting faith aside. He is continuing in the same vein, pointing out that God did not choose for any man to perish, but gave his life for every human being. He did not love some more than others, and our attitude that some men’s prayers have greater impact is a result of a lack of faith in God and his love for us. As Romans 14:23 says, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 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. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” (I Timothy 2:5-8)

God wants you to pray to him. Jesus loved you enough to die for you. He wants you to talk to him, not to hide behind someone else. It makes no difference whether you are man or woman, Jew or Gentile, Old or young. Galatians 3:27-28 describes this. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Both Revelation 5:8 and Revelation 8:3-4 Speak of our prayers as incense and a sweet odor to God. We ought to pray for ourselves, not counting on someone else to do it for us.

Paul then stressed three conditions for our prayer to be pleasing to God. The first condition listed is that of holy hands lifted in prayer. Wickedness prevents God heeding our prayers. Isaiah 59:1-2 states, “Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.“ Proverbs 15.8 tells us that “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.” Proverbs 15:26 & 28 reiterate the idea.

Christians ought to be holy, since according to Hebrews 10:8, “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Verse 14 builds on the statement, stating, “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Holiness is the Christian’s natural state as Romans 8:1-14 explains in some detail.

The concept of lifted hands has produced an unusual phenomenon in our day. Traditionally the concept of lifted hands was of hands clasped in prayer, or palms uplifted in supplication to a ruler, begging for his intervention. Today many are expressing themselves in a different manner. The lifting of hands is identical to the action of the fans often seen on American Idol or at a Rock concert. Clearly their action is not an act of prayer.

The second condition for prayer is without wrath. Ephesians 4:30-31 lists a series of things that need to be eliminated from our lives to prevent grieving the Holy spirit. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:” James 1:20 explains why. “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” When we are controlled by anger, we are not concerned about what is right. We are only concerned with our own way. Our prayers will be for things that are contrary to the will of God, and they will be sinful, as in praying for God to kill someone.

The final condition is without doubting. Many times our prayers are like the church in Acts 12, praying for deliverance for Peter, but refusing to believe it when Rhoda told them he was standing at the door. In Mark 11:24, Jesus said, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Some have distorted this verse, ignoring other related verses, and implying that God is obligated to give exactly what we ask for. The last part of Hebrews 11 makes it clear that faith does not always produce the short term results we ask for, but that God will always produce the results we desired in faith according to what he has promised for the long term. The short term benefits might well prevent the long term goals being possible. We are to pray, believing that God wants the best for us, and that he will answer in the best way, not necessarily in the way we asked.

Real faith will accept his right to deliver in the way and time he sees best, rather than demanding our way.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Becoming What God Intended

I Timothy 1:18-2:4

Many of Zane Grey’s books were centered on or near the Navajo Reservation. In reading them one might well conclude that Grey was an atheist. Some of the missionaries he describes were using their position to seize control of reservation land, to bring Navajo people into near slavery, and to control who was allowed to live and work in the area.

Fifty years after Grey wrote his books, when my family went to the reservation, we saw many missionaries still doing the same things, although Tribal and federal laws restricted some of the abuses. Today, so called missionaries are still doing many of the same things. Sadly, many have come solely for the money. One, who is still active, stated that if he could find any other job that paid as well, he’d take it because he hated mission work. Despite his comments, he is one of the few who even tried to start a church. Many have come with the intent of taking over an existing work, pushing out the original missionaries, and taking credit for their accomplishments. Some have taken over land without approval, and some have persuaded families to give everything they have on false premises, much like many television evangelists.

Just three years ago, a nationally known missionary was arrested fo soliciting homosexual acts from a police officer. Another was taken to court for not paying his bills, and a third was found to have had several mistresses. A man in our church attended a missionary school. He had been concerned about his brother’s alcoholism, but was shocked to learn that it started when some of the teachers in the Christian school started buying liquor for the teams after winning sports events. I sometimes wonder how we can manage to have any Christians among the Navajos as a result. The biggest hindrance to mission work on the Reservation has been the missionaries.

Paul was sending Timothy out to work in the churches. The instructions he gave were help Timothy avoid some of the things we have seen on the Reservation, and to help him in selecting and training those who would continue the work. Most if not all of the problems we have observed would have been avoided if Paul’s instructions had been followed.

“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (I Timothy 1:18-20)

Hebrews 11: 6 tells us, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Why one who doesn’t believe in God or doesn’t trust him would even take a job as a Christian worker is a mystery to me, but I know many who have. Hymenaus and Alexander appear to have been like those in I Corinthians 10:1-11. Hebrews 3:19 tells us, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Because they did not believe, they blasphemed God, both by their actions in worshipping other Gods, and in their words by accusing God of just bringing them out there let them die. Paul had expelled Hymenaus and Alexander from the church in hopes that they would recognize their sin, as the scriptures direct us.

If Timothy wants to please God, he must adhere to his faith. As James 2 states, “Faith without works is dead.” The actions we take either confirm the reality of our faith or demonstrate our lack of faith. It will be impossible to lead others to a real faith without demonstrating such faith in our own lives. We show our faith by our actions.

It is common to complain about and condemn or political leaders for bad choices and the resulting impact on our lives. In doing so we ignore Romans 13:1-4. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

If we truly believe they are ordained of God, and that he has placed them there for our good, we would not spend our time complaining about them, or encouraging rebellion against them. Instead we would be praying for them to make proper decisions, and trust God to resolve their mistakes, and to care for us even when they do wrong. Notice the exhortation:

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:1-4)

Our prayer should be to the end that we would be able to live in a manner is pleasing to god freely. Our prayers should not just be for our leaders but for everyone around us, so that we can offer a testimony they can believe. It is not God’s choice that anyone go to hell, but that everyone be saved. As II Peter 3:9 tells us, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Our actions and attitudes toward others is the first indicator of our faith many will see. What do they show?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Not By Works Of Righteousness Which We Have Done

I Timothy 1:12-17

In one of his books, Louis L’Amour commented there is nothing more dangerous than a man who is absolutely convinced of his own rightness. He loses all consideration for any one else. In my years as a pastor, I have observed this in every age group and demographic. Some of the things seem totally outlandish, like the woman who would not allow her injured husband to be brought into the house because he was bleeding and she didn’t want his blood on her floor. Another refused to do housework, have children or get a job, but demanded that her husband buy her everything she wanted.

Men have beaten their wives because they were upset at their boss, or she was slow getting what they wanted. Politicians force through laws that seriously harm their people and insist it is for their own good. Employers rip off their employees and employees rip off their employer because they have convinced themselves they have a right to do so.

Proverbs 21:2 says, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.” God examines the intent behind what was done, and as a result, even some of what appears good is determined to be purely selfish. It is always worth checking our motives. It is also wise to check when someone accuses someone else of wrong doing to verify whether it is true. We are not surprised when children accuse someone else of doing a wrong they did, but adults are just as prone to do so. As Proverbs 18:17 tells us, “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.”

Before his salvation Paul had a somewhat similar view of himself. Notice his description from Philippians 3:4-6. “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”

In order to be saved, Paul had to give up that attitude, and accept God’s gift. He describes what it took, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” (Philippians 3:7-9). When he did so, he realized that the truth was entirely different than what he had believed. He was not the paragon of virtue he imagined himself, but actually stood against what he thought he was promoting.

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 1:12-14)

In his zeal to enforce the Law, Paul had been much like the marshal in the previous story, so busy enforcing the law that he ignored the purpose for the law. His very practices became an abuse of the law. Fortunately, God is merciful, saving him in spite of his wickedness, recognizing that he didn’t know the difference. He began to understand what Jesus meant when he said, ”But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” in Matthew 9:13. He was not better than everyone else, but worse than many. Salvation is the result of Christ’s action.

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (I Timothy 1:15-17)
By saving Paul, God demonstrated that he could save anyone else who would believe. He also demonstrated that no one else could earn their own salvation, since Paul was not able to earn his own, despite his standing before the law. The rewards and the glory are completely God’s

Monday, December 21, 2009

Abusing the Law

I Timothy 1:5-11

Laws are a set of rules governing behavior. They are established to produce a certain result. For example, laws regarding driving are usually set for the protection of peoples safety. Were there no laws governing speed limits, driver qualifications, and how we were to drive, the level of danger would rise exponentially. The goal is to minimize the danger.

God established a set of laws for Israel. The ten Commandments are a concise summation of those laws. Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy go into detail as to how these laws were to be applied in various situations. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said it could all be summed up in two. Matthew 22:37-40 records his answer. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Paul states that the goal of the law was to produce a genuine love.

“Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” (I Timothy 1:5-7)

Several years ago a small town on a major highway posted a reduced speed limit to school children in their community. Violators were fined and charged a court fee. Since the community had little other funding. the court fees were given to pay the magistrate, and the fines went into a fund to pay for the marshal. The community had a hard time paying the marshal and the magistrate. One day a truck parked in front of one of the school zone signs, and the marshal was able to stop a lot of speeders who hadn’t seen the sign. He and the Magistrate got paid that week.

The magistrate’s brother owned a couple of trucks, so they had him park one in front of the sign once in a while to increase their income. This went on for a while but they got greedy. They hired a deputy marshal and paid the trucker to leave a trailer parked in front of the sign. The state finally stepped in and took away their authority to collect fines after a couple of kids were hit by people who had been unable to see the signs. The way the school zone sign was being used was contrary to it’s intent. The signs were not posted to produce income, but to warn drivers of a hazard. Parking the truck in front of the sign defeated the purpose.

Some develop a similar attitude regarding the Old Testament Law. As Paul describes they want to teach the law, but have no interest in its intent or even in the long term results of what they are teaching. The marshal and magistrate endangered the school children to increase their income. These teachers do the same thing. Their use of the law is an evil thing, rather than good, but as Paul pointed out, the intent of the law is good.

“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” (I Timothy 1:8-11)

The authority to collect fines from those exceeding the speed limit in the school zone was granted with the intent of forcing people to pay attention to the signs. The fines were set because some people deliberately ignore the warnings. They were not there for those who slowed down as soon as they saw the school. God established the Law for those who deliberately do wrong. They are not intended for those who are trying to do right. A person who slowed down because he cared about the kids fulfilled the intent of the school zone whether he saw the signs or not. A person who loves in a biblical manner fulfills the Law even though he may not know it’s requirements. Galatians 5:14 explains this. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Several years ago, I was ticketed in the little town. I couldn’t believe I missed the sign as I was looking for one, so I drove back to see if it was there. It was, but I had to stop and get out of my car to see it. Friends told us the truck was nearly always there. Knowing I might forget where the sign was, I deliberately avoided going through that town for several years. I wonder how many people avoid churches because they have misused and abused God’s law?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christianity and Cultural Conflict

I Timothy 1:1-4

Both letters to Timothy are written to help Timothy in his ministry. He was a young man just beginning his ministry. He was from a Christian home, and is very dedicated to the Lord, but like many who’ve grown up in Christian homes, he was probably unaware of the effects of their culture on those who had been saved. Things that Timothy took for granted would not even be considered by those with no Christian background.

I was born on a small farm in eastern Colorado. Most of the population of the entire county knew my family because Mom’s family had been some of the earliest settlers, and my dad’s family had been in and out for several years, finally settling there permanently. Having never been anywhere else, I thought that was a typical place. When I was eight , we moved to Missouri for three years, and I realized that there was a totally different culture, even though we still lived in the country.

My sixth grade year was spent in Las Vegas, New Mexico. It was there I first experienced prejudice against myself. Las Vegas was largely a Mexican town with a few whites. Many of the Mexicans resented the whites, and while our friends were mostly Mexican, we were still seen as white. Having never lived in town before I was also a “hick”. I began to see differences in cultures, not being truly a part of either the local white culture or of the Mexican culture.

When I was twelve, we moved to the Navajo reservation. For the next six years, due to unresolved educational issues, I would alternate between reservation schools and schooling in Gallup, New Mexico. On the reservation, there were few who were not Navajo, and those were largely involved in helping Navajos get the system set up. As a result there was at the time little anti white prejudice. We were all just kids, except for a small white community that isolated itself from the Navajos. As we got to know some of them, we became a little anti-white ourselves.

Gallup, on the other hand, had large contingents of several races. It was a hot bed of racial and cultural tensions, and the years I went to school there were difficult. Kids were ostracized if seen associating with other races. Blacks only associated with blacks, whites with whites, Mexicans with Mexicans, Navajos with Navajos and Zunis with Zunis. Since I hardly knew anyone but Navajos, I didn’t associate much with anybody while we were at school. My Navajo friends had the same problem. Once we were outside town so nobody got in trouble, we could talk freely again. Each culture was convinced their way was right and opposed change.

When I went to college and observed the customs and practices there, I was forced to realize that many of the issues were cultural conflicts. Many standards were based on a culture rather than a biblical or universal standard of right and wrong, but those who were totally immersed in their own culture had no reason to question their standards. Paul warns both Timothy and Titus of this problem. Being Christian is about living a Godly life rather than adopting a “Christian” culture or lifestyle.

At the time of this letter, Timothy’s ministry is to continue and finish the work Paul started when he started the Church at Ephesus. One of the things he will have to deal with is conflicts between Christianity and Ephesian culture. On the one hand, it would be easy to try to adapt Christianity to their culture, or to try to eliminate their culture with one other Christians were more familiar with. The goal is to develop Christians, not to impose a “Christian” culture. This letter is given to advise Timothy as to how to best accomplish his job as set forth in the first four verses.

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 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, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.” (I Timothy 1:1-4)

The first thing is to instruct the believers not to teach other doctrine. Sometimes we become so wrapped up in something new we fail to check it’s validity. Secondly they are not to get caught up in traditions and family background as it has little to do with the present circumstances. Focusing on those things will cause confusion rather than building up the Christians in their faith. This is why Paul left him, and this is what Paul wants him to do.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Recognizing Our Own Propensity To Sin

II Thessalonians 3:1-18

“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.” (II Thessalonians 3:1-2)

It is easy to forget that pastors and missionaries have the same temptations as other people. They can and frequently walk in the flesh rather than the spirit just like other people, hindering the Holy Spirit’s work. The old monasteries were formed to isolate themselves from sin and the world. Sometimes pastors missionaries and church workers do the same. It doesn’t prevent sin or temptation, but may allow it to become worse because they let down their guard. They need prayer to avoid temptation just as much as anyone else.

In doing their work, especially that of evangelism, Christian workers are going to face persecution. In II Timothy 3:12, Paul tells us, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Some will abuse their power, and others will try to kill or destroy a reputation. Paul experienced this as Acts describes so often. Prayer for boldness in face of persecution, and for actual physical deliverance are needed.

Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight by just eating less knows how weak their will power is. Paul described his struggle in Romans 7, finishing with the statement that deliverance would only come from God. In Galatians 5 we find that temperance or self control is part of the fruit of the spirit, and verse 16 tells us, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Living a pure, holy life is not dependent on our will power, but on allowing God to have his way, and trusting him to produce proper behavior.

“But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.” (II Thessalonians 3:3-5)

Too often our trust is in our ability to not sin, rather than in God to prevent temptation. God can be trusted to do what he said, so our emphasis on not committing sin is often a result of not trusting him. We are not to overlook or indulge in sin, but we are to trust God to enable us to avoid it. Some teaching against sin is sin itself, because Romans 14:23b says “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” We can expect the Lord to enable us and others to overcome sin, and to keep ourselves and others faithful to him. This still leaves us with responsibilities.

If someone gets caught up in sin, we have a responsibility to try to get them to forsake their sin and serve Christ. Galatians 6:1 describes this. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” We are not immune to sin ourselves, so must deal with that of others from a standpoint of humility, rather than of power, but we must deal with it lest we or others get involved. I Corinthians 5 and Matthew 18:15-17 describe the procedure to be followed, and the types of sins involved. Separation is essential if a person refuses to straighten out their life, and do what is right.

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” (II Thessalonians 3:6)

Paul stated that a man who wouldn’t provide for his own family was worse than some one who denies Christ in I Timothy 5:8. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” As a result, he and his associates had refused to live off the largesse of their people, although they had the right to do so. They had refused to establish an example for their people. It is not the churches responsibility to provide for people who refuse to take responsibility for themselves.

“For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” (II Thessalonians 3:7-12)

While the church has a responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves, and to support their pastor, it is each individual’s responsibility to take care of their own business. Faith produces obedience. To refuse to obey God is not faith, but sin, despite the claims of some. We ought not get discouraged that things are not producing the results we expected, but as Hebrews 12:1-3 instructs, stay focused on what God has given us to do. The last half of Hebrews 11 stresses that while some saw miracles, others did not, and all of them died in faith, none having seen the end they were looking for.

“But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” (II Thessalonians 3:13-15)

Those who are involved in immorality are to be treated as a heathen or a publican, not as an enemy, but as an unsaved person, one we are cautious in our involvement with. With lesser sins, we wish to make them aware of our disapproval, but as we would do with a wayward little brother, not as an enemy.

“Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all. The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (II Thessalonians 3:16-18)

Paul’s usual salutation, expressing a desire that they might experience Gods peace and his wonderful gifts in their lives, walking with him daily. As is indicated in several of his other letters, only the salutation was actually written by him. The balance was dictated by him and written by an amanuensis or scribe, probably as a result of an eye problem.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chosen by God

II Thessalonians 2:13-17

“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (II Thessalonians 2:13-14)

While there are those who have chosen to not believe and thus do not receive Christ and his blessings, the Thessalonians have chosen to receive him. One of the biggest conflicts between so called Christians revolves around this idea of being chosen of God. There are two major positions. The Hyper Calvinist position is that salvation is completely of God, and man has no part in it. The Arminian position is that salvation is completely a result of man’s action. Both sides point to various proof texts to support their position.

II Peter says that the scripture can be depended on, but that we cannot use a private interpretation, that we cannot separate out one passage to prove a position. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” (II Peter 2:19-21). To try to interpret privately leads to false conclusions. II Timothy 3:16-17 advises, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Since it is all God’s word, one part cannot be selected as more inspired or greater than another. All must be accepted as true. To decide what the truth is will require reconciling all the scriptures relating to the subject. II Timothy 2:15 tells us that to properly understand what God wants will require study. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

The Arminian position must ignore many scriptures relating to our being elected or chosen of God, such as the our present passage, or Mark 13:20. “And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.” The Hyper Calvinist position is forced to ignore verses such as II Peter 3:9, which tells us that God does not want anyone to face damnation. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”

Neither position fits all the scriptures, therefore neither can be correct. I Peter 1:2 provides a means of reconciling all the scriptures. We are “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:” We have been elected in advance according to what God knew about us, and yet we still had to choose. Exactly how that works, I cannot describe except to say God knew each of us before we were created.

Because we have been chosen, and because we know what judgment will come on the unbelievers, there should be a difference in our attitudes and actions. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” (II Peter 3:10-14)

Because we are looking for eternal life for ourselves, and expecting judgment on those who don’t believe, we need to allow God to have his way in our lives. Trusting him and obeying his commands establish conditions in which he can work freely. Like a tree given proper conditions, the Holy Spirit will produce fruit.

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” (II Thessalonians 2:15-17)

Friday, December 11, 2009

When They Open The Gate

II Thessalonians 2:6-12

Bull riding is a sport I never had much desire to participate in, although many guys I know have. I never had any desire to deliberately challenge a 2000 pound animal to see if he could hurt me. Nevertheless, some people get an adrenaline rush from doing so.

Bulls are herded into a chute where they have almost no room to move. A rope assembly is passed around the bull’s chest for the rider to hang on to. The rider climbs up above the bull and positions himself on the bull’s back with his legs held out of the way until the gate is open. The tightness of the chute leaves the bull with a sense of claustrophobia, which is heightened by all the activity. Many times the bull will begin to lunge in an effort to escape, forcing the cowboy to get clear until he settles back down.

When everything is to the bull rider’s satisfaction, he signals the gate keeper and the gate is opened. The bull now has the opportunity to release all the adrenaline that has built up from being forced to submit against his will. He does his best to eliminate all the restraints placed on him, frequently trying to kill the one at the center of it, the rider. Until the gatekeeper opened the gate, he was prevented from taking effective action, but once it is open, he is free to do whatever he can. This is similar to what will happen when the Lord returns.

"And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders: And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. ” (II Thessalonians 2:6-10.

Even before he enters the chute, the bull is dangerous, often threatening those around in an effort to intimidate. Satan was cast out of heaven because he wanted to take over God’s place according to Isaiah 14:12-14. His powers were limited, and are still being controlled to this day. His frustration is steadily building, and like the bull, he makes frequent attempts to break free. We see the results in the frequent surges of wickedness around the world. Like the bull, he will not be able to exert his full power until the gate that holds him is pulled aside. That will not happen until God is satisfied everything is ready.

When he is released, Satan will exert every power he has to destroy what has prevented his domination. He will be like a tyrant, killing not only those who oppose him, but also those who are unable to produce the results he desires, even sometimes killing his best because he didn’t get his way. He will promise anything in his effort to gain absolute control, even though he knows he will not be able to deliver. Those who have not received Christ will be persuaded because they have ignored the truth.

Totalitarian societies, such as Germany under Hitler, Russia under Stalin, China under Mao Tse Tung, or Iraq under Hussein all demonstrate what his rule will be like. Ronald Reagan’s characterizing the Soviet Bloc as the Evil Empire was far more apropriate than many have recognized. The philosophy of totalitarianism promises leads to the terrorism and efforts to establish world domination by various groups, and the rising tide of Anti-Christian sentiment around the world. It is Satanically inspired, and convinces people that cooperation will supply their every desire.

We see a massive movement toward a stronger world power today. It is being fueled by the world economic situation, terrorism, natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods, by threats of pandemics and health problems, and by scientific claims such as Global Warming. In the process, individuals and their lives are sacrificed for “the Greater good.” Always, the question arises, Who’s greater good? It is rare that the majority of people benefit.

Throughout history, the Holy Spirit has maintained a moral consciousness among humans, that has restrained most people from some things. In that day, he will step aside and they will have no inhibitions. People don’t realize how much those inhibitions protect them, and try to get rid of them. Most of us will not be murdered because most people have an innate aversion to committing murder, as an example.

“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (II Thessalonians 2:11-12)

Because man chooses to rebel against God’s protective guidelines, he will finally step aside and allow them to see the results. They will convince themselves that no limitations is what they want, leading to their eventual destruction. One professional bull rider said, after a while you have to understand that you are going to get hurt if you ride bulls. If you follow Satan’s plan, you will be damned.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Don’t Be All Shook Up

II Thessalonians 1:11-2:6

The Thessalonians had demonstrated strong spiritual life. Paul and his companions prayed that it would always be so. We cannot focus on what we have done, good or bad, nor can we dwell on what will happen tomorrow. We have the responsibility to live today. As they let Christ have control day by day, he would produce the results he wanted.

“Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (II Thessalonians 1:11-12)

When we walk in the Spirit, we see the power of God in our lives. Christ gets the glory for the results, and we receive God’s glory for allowing it to happen. In I Thessalonians four and 5, Paul spent a fair amount of time dealing with the return of Christ. It is a sure thing, but as he stressed, God has not told us when his return will be. Our job is to serve the Lord until it happens. Unfortunately, there are some who are teaching about the second coming in a manner that focuses attention on it rather than day to day obedience. He wants to warn them of this danger,

“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” (II Thessalonians 2:1-2)

Hundreds of books have been written and thousands of conferences held dealing with the second coming. Many of them have been designed to whip people into a frenzy of soul winning and church attendance. People have been desperate to be doing the thing they should when the Lord comes. Paul instructs not to let ourselves be shaken in such a manner, regardless of how authoritative the claims may appear. While it appears to many to serve a useful purpose, it distracts from the most important.

Remember the story in Luke 10:38-42? Jesus came Bethany, and was invited into Martha’s house. Martha got so caught up in making sure everything was just right, she became angry that her sister was not helping her. “And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her,” (Luke 10:41-42). I have seen people do this, so busy fixing nice meals and presents that they were unable to enjoy their visit.

One lady was so involved in making sure a meal was just right she never even sat down at the table to enjoy thanksgiving dinner. She spent all her time serving and making sure everything was just right. She was glad when the guests finally left. One of the guests later commented he didn’t really feel like they even had a visit with her. At another dinner, the meat was a little over done, and the potatoes weren’t quite done, but we had so much fun sitting around talking that nobody cared. There was genuine regret at having to leave. This last is the relationship Christ wants. Some teaching on the second coming makes us like Martha, really unable to enjoy the Lord’s presence, because we are busy trying to do for him.

In an effort to stimulate greater effort on the part of Christians, many have tried to set dates or periods when the second coming would happen. A focus was placed on various signs to prove when it would happen. The scribes and Pharisees wanted Jesus show them a sign. “But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,” (Matthew 12:39-40).

Notice he said it was an evil and adulterous generation who demanded a sign. They have no commitment to Christ, but are like the girl who dates a boy just as long as he brings her things. He told them the only sign would be when Christ was crucified and resurrected. The sign would be the actual event. Paul tells the Thessalonians the same thing. The sign will be the beginning of the event itself.

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.” (II Thessalonians 2:3-6)

The ever increasing levels of sin, and of natural disasters does not establish a time table. They just indicate that prophecy is true. Earthquakes, hurricanes, wars, even global warming are only evidence that God told the truth in his predictions. We need to draw close to him, trusting him to take care of it. Don't get distracted by prophecies about the second coming.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Testimony Of Love

II Thessalonians 1:1-10

Like most of his writings, Paul starts II Thessalonians by introducing himself and his companions. He then names the primary recipients, in this case the church of Thessalonians. This was a church that Paul and Silas had started on Paul’s second missionary journey, as described in Acts 17. Since the word translated church, “ecclesia”, means assembly, the book is addressed to the assembly of Thessalonians who are in God, and in Christ, the Thessalonian Christians who meet together.

Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (II Thessalonians 1:1-2)

Grace is undeserved favor, a gift. He is hoping they will experience both grace or blessings and peace from God. Grace is most often used in referring to spiritual or emotional blessings, rather than material things, He goes on to describe himself as giving thanks for them because of what they see happening among the Christians. They are growing close to each other, concerned about each other to the point of physically sharing what they have to make sure each one has what they need. Like the Church in Jerusalem as described in Acts 2:45-47, and Acts 4:32.

That love of other Christians is the evidence that people are Christians according to John 13:34-35. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Love is a product of the Holy Spirit’s action in the Christian’s life, and some exhibit little. Paul rebuked the Corinthian church because of their lack of love in I Corinthians 3:3. “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” Unlike the Thessalonians, they were not demonstrating evidence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:” (II Thessalonians 1:3-4)

The growth of the Thessalonians faith and love was demonstrated in the way they continued to love and obey even in persecution and trouble. Paul and his companions could rejoice and share their example in the other churches as a result. It was evidence that they actually had been saved and perfected forever as Hebrews 10:14 tells us. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”

“Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;” (II Thessalonians 1:5-6)

It is right that God would punish those who mistreat those who are doing right. The faithfulness of the Thessalonians indicates they deserve his protection and blessings. They can depend on his acting on their behalf to do so when Christ comes as the reigning king.

“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 2th 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” (II Thessalonians 1:7-10)

The judgment will be tremendous for those who refuse to receive Christ. It is described as a fire where the worm dieth not, literally the person remains at the point of death, but doesn’t die, and it is eternal. Perhaps the best example is of a person who has been so severely burned that they cannot be saved, but doesn’t die immediately, begging to die to end the pain. It is a sickening picture.

His supporters, on the other hand will be rejoicing, because they believed and accepted him, escaping the sorrow and suffering.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Victory Over Sin By Faith

Hebrews 13:20-25

“I want to do it myself.”

Nearly every child can be heard to make such a statement at some point in time. Usually their skills or strength turns out to be at best marginal and at worst totally insufficient. The job is very poorly done if finished at all. Wise parents make it a point to only let the child do the whole thing on things where failure will not cause a disaster. For less important things they may allow him to do it all, and fix it after he moves away if it is that important.

God is fully aware of the situation Paul describes in Romans 7:19-23. “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Our ability to control our sin nature is dependent on our mental capability to decide not to please our flesh. The mind frequently gives in as it is strongly influenced by the flesh.

Paul finished the chapter by saying that the only solution was through Christ. “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24-25). Hebrews 13:20-21 promises that God will do the same for us.

“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)

All the glory belongs to Christ for our ability to overcome our sin. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” It is the Holy Spirit in us that makes us able to dead to sin and alive to God, and removes the flesh’s influence over ourt mind. Romans 8:11-13 describes the Spirit’s work.

“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” As a result, Galatians 5:16 promises, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”

“And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words.” (Hebrews 13:22) The author requests that readers not ignore the letter, which is relatively brief. Because Paul was frequently accompanied by Timothy, the following comments indicate that Paul was probably the author. He sends greetings to the leaders, and the people. He also forwards greetings from the churches in Italy.

“Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you. Grace be with you all. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:23-25)

Obeying Our Leaders
Hebrews 13:17-19

Several years ago, a water main broke near Tse Bonito, New Mexico. The company I worked for was hired to repair it. We shut the water off, dug up the line and measured the fittings. Our supplier agreed to bring the proper size pipe and fittings after hours so we could get the line up and going that night. The guys pumped out the hole, and got everything ready while they waited for the parts.

When the supplier arrived , the parts were quickly installed, and the water turned back on. The repair leaked like crazy. As it turned out, the original pipe was made in Belgium and was a metric size. Standard American fittings were just slightly oversize and would not seal. For four days, we had to leave the hole open and the line leaking until the proper parts arrived from Belgium. It was really frustrating.

God has given some responsibility for building the church and training Christians. Paul describes the job in Ephesians 4:11-15.

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”

Christians that refuse to cooperate with the leader can be just as frustrating as the improperly fitting parts were to the foreman. He could not finish his job until the proper parts were received, and had to give account to the water company why he hadn’t finished. The leader has to give an account to God for how he did his job. It will be somewhat frustrating to report that he was unable to complete the job because some of his people refused to do their part. Each individual will be held accountable for his refusal to do his part according to Romans 14:12. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” The leader will not be held accountable for the actions of those under him. He cannot take your responsibility.
With that in mind, the author instructs, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you,” (Hebrews 13:17).
It will be very unpleasant to find that we have hampered Gods work by not doing our job.

We need to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Even the best leader can get focused on the wrong things and lead into problems like David numbering the people in II Samuel 24. Paul told the Corinthians, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,” in I Corinthians 11:1. He told the Thessalonians, “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:” (I Thessalonians 1:6)

Clearly we are not to blindly follow the leader or pastor. In a situation where religious leaders were giving instructions, the Apostles pointed out that our responsibility is ultimately to God. “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men,” (Acts 5:29). A sergeant is not qualified to countermand the written orders of the general. The soldier is responsible to obey the general’s orders if he knows the sergeants are incorrect.. It is the sergeant’s responsibility to correctly relay them to the soldier. The Bible is our written orders.

“Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner,” (Hebrews 13:18-19). As a leader, the author desires their prayers. He left with a good reputation and relationship. There is need for more work and among the Christians and churches and he would like to come back and continue what he had started. He did not burn his bridges behind him like so many do. He recognized that there might be a need for him to return in the future.