Friday, February 27, 2009

But Doctor Bob Says

I Corinthians 3:18-23

Mensa is an organization for people who have higher intelligence than the rest of us. You've probably seen some of their books of puzzles in bookstores. One of them made a great deal of his I.Q. when talking to me. Having worked as a plumber and HVAC technician, I was less impressed after he told me that for three years, he'd had to live without a furnace in Michigasn because he didn't have money enough to hire someone to fix it. I kind of figured that people of normal intelligence could either earn the money, go to the library and get a book about how to do it, or ask someone how to get it fixed. Freezing didn't seem very intelligent when anyone could so easily have learned to fix most problems. It seemed to me like his pride in his intelligence was making him pretty dumb.

Most teachers will tell you that the hardest kids to teach are the ones who think they already know the answer, because they won't pay attention to what you are trying to tell them. As Paul says in I Corinthians 8:2' "And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." Our idea that we know is the biggest cause of conflicts among people, because the other person also thinks he knows. As a result we do many things that are wrong, convinced that it is right. Paul advises a different approach.

"Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." I Corinthians 318-23)

A spiritual man will acknowledge that he may be wrong, and double check before he becomes too dogmatic. He will also recognize that even those men he admires may also be wrong. He will not be like the woman who said "If Dr. Criswell says it, I believe it, even if he hasn't said it yet." That is like the Catholic church doctrine of Papal Infallacy, or the Mormon doctrine that the prophet cannot be wrong. Recognizing human fallibility, we need to be like the Berean Christians that Acts speaks of as being greater than the ones in Thessalonica. "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." (Acts 17:11)

The greatest Christian in the world says and does things that are wrong, and failure to admit it has caused most of the problems among Christians. That we put men ahead of God is evidenced by the names we call our organizations, and by the number of different groups. If we didn't, there would be no Hyles-Anderson College, Oral Roberts University, or St. Paul Baptist Church.. We would recognize that everything belongs to God, including ourselves. The glory is his alone.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Laborers Together

I Corinthians 3:10-17

I have done a lot of work as a plumber, and in the process watched a lot of builders. it is standard practice for a team of specialists to lay out and pour the foundation. Once the foundation is finished, a framing crew begins to build the house. they put up the walls, trusses and sheeting on the walls and roof. At this point the plumbers, HVAC people and electricians install the concealed parts of their work. The roofers are called in and install the finished roof.

Once the mechanical trades have their required wiring, piping and ductwork in place, the insulation is installed and the dry wall crew begins to finish the inside walls. the siding crew starts to put the final surface on the outside walls. As the walls are completed, trim crews install doors, base boards and other trim. A paint crew applies finishes to each completed section. Finally. flooring crews install carpet and tile and the plumbers, hvac people and electricians install toilets, sinks, lights and furnaces. Detail work is done and finally the house is completed. Each specialized crew accomplishes the part they have been given and contributes to the house becoming what the owner desires. They work together.

Normally, there is little conflict between the various crews, although from time to time it may be neccessary to modify a part of what one group has done to accomodate the needs of another group. Occasionally, however one finds someone who ignores the needs of all the rest, concerned only with his part. Perhaps a plumber discovers that a certain beam or joist is in his way. Rather than rerouting his piping or consulting with the framer, he saws out the beam or truss, weakening the building.

The plumber has demonstrated a disdain for the labor and skill of the framing crew, and clearly has no interest in the integrity of the house, being only interested in his own convenience. This results in strife between the plumber and other crews, and the plumber may be fired. Several times it has been my job to try to finish jobs where the former plumber had done such things. Needless to say, the framers and other crews were sonmewhat antagonistic in such cases, and it is neccessary for me to rebuild trust. As a result the entire project was hindered.

Paul uses this very scenario in describing the relationship of different teachers and pastors in a church. Notice his instructions in I Corinthians 3:10-15.

"According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."

A new pastor may well find that everything the former pastor did does not exactly match his goals and plans. Many, faced with such a situation, take the bad plumbers approach, ignoring the church to forward their own agenda. The church may be so conditioned to doing things a certain way that they are resistant to change. Conflicts arise, proving that neither side is spiritual. Frequently the church is destroyed as a result. It is common to blame the former pastor, or the church for the problem.

Paul instructs Timothey to be an example in I Timothy 4:12. "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." It is his responsibility to set a spiritual example. It is primarily his responsibility to adapt his approach in such a way as to eliminate conflict. Titus 1:7 teaches that a pastor must not be selfwilled, not determined to have his own way. The qualifications given in Titus 1, and in I Timothy 3 are for the purpose of identifying spiritual men to be pastors. If these traits are not present, the man is not spiritual and is not qualified to pastor.

Paul warns that we are responsible for how we build and what we build on the foundation which was laid. Failure to build with proper materials , or in a proper manner will result in loss. We are God's Temple, his project and anyone who messes it up will be punished, whether pastor, or we ourselves. I Coointhians 3:16-17 makes this clear. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." Even correction of false doctrine or overt sin must be done in a manner that is pleasing to God. The problems addressed in I Corinthians are all the result of unspiritual attitudes and Paul gives instructions as to how to approach then from a spiritual point.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who is the Greatest Christian Leader?

I Corinthians 3:4-9

My dad started the church I am pastoring. When Dad retired, a young man accepted the pastorate, and a few people left the church on the grounds that he was too young. They were the same ones who had told Dad he was too old. When Jason left, another man came as pastor and several left because "Church just wasn't fun anymore." Jeff pastored next, and when he left, several others left immediately because Jeff would no longer be the pastor. Another man decided that a former pastor of his should take the church and proceeded to contact the man and ask him to come. The man refused saying that he did not believe God wanted him tyo leave where he was, so the man who called him left as well.

Apparently, the church at Corinth had had some similar problems from what Paul tells us. They were quibbling over who was better equipped because they had been taught by different teachers, and were separating into factions based on Paul, Apollos, and Peter(Cephas). Some had not been under any of these ministries and could only claim Christ. Notice Pauls comments.

"For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." (I Corinthians 3:4-9)

In chapter one, Paul pointed out that Christ was the only one who was crucified for their sins. Here he shows that the others, himself included, were just messengers who brought the gospel. Each was there at different times to fulfill needs in the church at a specific point. Paul had started the work by blanting the seed. Apollos took what Paul started and moved it ahead by watering and helping it to grow. Others contributed at different points.

They were not in competition. Each one had a specific part to play and they had done that. The failure to recognize this was a result of the carnal state of the people in the church. Neither Paul, nor Apollos, nor the other teachers they had were to be set above others. Even comparing their results was carnal, since any meaningful results were God's doing, rather than the men's.

Today we see men such as Billy Graham, Jack Hyles, Oral Roberts, and others highly respected and exalted. If they are servants of God, they are still only messengers, their results are still God's doing and the credit belongs to God, not the man. Giving the credit to man, and comparing them to each other only demonstrates our own carnality. Selecting a person because they are a product of a certain man's ministry or rejecting them because they are not is definitely carnal. They are to be God's product if they are to be of benefit to the church.

Jesus did not say you would know them by their works, but by their fruits. Carnality is identified by works(actions), but spirituality by fruit(characteristics in ones life), according to Galatians 5. Failure to recognize the difference produces confusion. The disagreement, which the Corinthians probably viewed as establishing who was more spiritual, proved only that they were not. It has the same result today.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Effects of Carnality on the Church

I Corinthians 3:1-3

Carnal, a. [from caro, carnis, flesh] Pertaining to the body, its passions and appetites; not spiritual; fleshly; sensual; lustful; impure. From the Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary.

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (I Corinthians 3:1-3)

Paul had just told the people of Corinth that we are only able to understand the things of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Now he tells them that he was unable to speak to them as spiritual people, because they were unable to handle it. They could not recieve the deeper, more mature things when he was there because they were new Christians. Unfortunately, they have still not matured, and still can't. They are still carnal and that carnality has stopped their spiritual growth. The description in Hebrews 5:12-14 fits them.

"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."

They should have grown to the point where they were ready for spiritual maturity, and to take on responsibility for teaching others, but instead had to go back to the very basics and get them down again. They had to go back to kindergarten when they should have been graduating from college. They haven't got the basics correct. They still have defective understanding of what right and wrong are.

Often carnal people desire to teach others. Paul describes them in I Timothy1:7, "Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. " They try to teach what they have no understanding of themselves. A teacher must know the subject better than those he is trying to teach. This is the cause of several problems in the church at Corinth that Paul deals with in later chapters, as well as in the modern church. Leadership is often not spiritual.

As Paul makes clear, the strife and divisions among them are proof that they are carnal, living as natural men, rather than as those who are led of the spirit. Galatians 5:19-21 describes carnal actions. "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."

Jealousy, uncontrolled anger and strife are some of the natural results of carnality, and the antithesis of spirituality. If the Holy spirit is leading there will be real unity. We will not need to agree to disagree about doctrinal matters, because we will all come to the knowledge of the truth. A lifestyle controlled by the flesh implies one does not know the Lord, is not saved.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Understanding the Things of God

I Corinthians 2:9-16

"I just don't understand women."

I suspect every guy feels that way sometimes. I would guess that women feel the same way about guys. One marriage counselor, speaking to a womens group, used the illustration of a man asking a woman to help him move a table. She smiled and nodded, but diddn't follow when he started toward the table. He asked repeatedly, with the same results and became quite angry after repeated attempts. Another person entered and began speaking to her in Japanese. After a few seconds, the newcomer asked the man what he had said, since the woman spoke no english. The man regretted his anger, but it was too late. The counselor said that many times it is that hard for a man and woman to understand each other, just using words.

They're both humans, and may both speak the same language. They have the same physical needs and probably share some of the same interests. They share some common experiences. Despite these things in common, they still have trouble fully understanding each other. How much harder for a person who speaks another language and is from a different culture? What about animals understanding humans? Imagine a domesticated cow trying to explain a human to a wild cow who had never seen a human, after the wild cow runs into a fence built by humans. The wild cow can definitely see something the human built, but could reject his very existence, as she could not picture the human. She could well decide the domestic cow was stupid for believing in such as creature.

We run into that very problem understanding God. He is even more different from us than a cow is. Cow and human both live on earth, require food, water and air. Both experience birth, and death. Both are bound by constraints of time, distance and strength. Natural laws such as gravity govern most of what we can do. God is bound by none of these things. As a result, it is impossible to truly understand him with a normal logical mind. As a result, people often reject the very existence of God. Our belief in his existence on nonexistence does not affect whether he exists any more than the cow's belief affects the human's existence.

Paul describes this in I Corinthians 2:9-16. "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."

God has given us his Holy Spirit to enable us to understand a little about God. Without his enabling, our picture is very distorted. This is why there are so many different religions in the world. Mankind tries to understand God by natural logic. As a result, he nearly alwasys pictures God as similar to something he is familiar with. What he pictures is as far from reality as what the wild cow might picture about humans. Even our imagination is limited to what he have some concept about.

I heard an "evangelist" describe how he wanted to run out and swing on those pearly gates of Heaven like he had swung on the corral gate as a child. Imagine a gate in a wall 1200 miles high and 1200 miles long which has only 3 gates. Each gate is made of a single pearl. How much will that gate weigh? He'll probably swing that gate about as much as a fly landing on the corral gate. His picture is based on a description, but it is implausible. As Paul says, we can't even begin to imagine the things of God, except therough his Spirit's power.

When we begin to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal God to us, there will be consistency between our understanding and that of others who have allowed the Spirit to teach them regardless of their background. To simply empty our mind and just accept whatever comes in as truly picturing God leaves us exposed to lies as well as truth. We must check if we want a valid view and belief. Start by comparing your understanding with that of the men who wrote the Bible.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Faith in God's Power

I Corinthians 2:1-8

The other night, I read an Internet marketing program e-book. The author said one can make vast amounts of money by following his strategy. Essentially, one can get an affiliate identification to a product by contacting the product owner. Using that Id., one can then send buyers to a sales website and collect a commision for every sale which results. The most effective way of finding prospects is by getting the search engines such a Google or Yahoo to list that page as an important site for the particular subject.

Such a listing can be obtained by getting a lot of other sites to point people to the sales page. The quickest way of doing this is by publishing a lot of different articles, which are carried on these other sites. Many blogs and directories carry such articles to help their customers with their problems. The author of the e-book stated that by going to a directory and finding an article on the subject, then rewriting it in your own words and including that Id, one should be able to churn out 2-4 articles per hour. By completely rewriting the article, plagarism complaints would be avoided, and it didn't really matter if you knew anything about the subject or not, or whether you could write well, as long as you had enough articles published.

The Apostle Paul wanted to know the subject he preached completely. He wanted to to be so clear that people understood his subject clearly, ratherr than being impressed with his knowledge of the subject. Notice his description of his philosophy.

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (I Corinthians 2:1-8)

For the gospel to be effective, Paul believed that it was essential that the preacher have personal experience of that subject, which shows in his simple way of expressing it. There is an old saying that if you can't explain your subject to a 10 year old, you don't know what you are talking about. In order to do so, you will have to use words and demonstrations that they, and others can understand. Many with degrees do not understand their subject well enough to explain it, although they can perform the functions very well. as a result, their attempts to help others often increase rather than resolve confusion.

People do not automatically understand God's plan, and even many who are considered experts in the field lack personal knowledge, depending on someone else's knowledge. This leads to superficial and false conclusions in any field. Fortunately, most do not have the eternal consequences of doctrinal errors. Rather than knowing the accepted religious positions, we need to know the Lord. Demonstrating the power of God in the speakers life enables others to understand and believe.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

He that Glorieth, Let Him Glory in the Lord

I Corinthians 1:23-31

"But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." (I Corinthians 1:23-31)

The unsaved world rejects Christ as savior because, for those like the Jews, he does not perform according to their expectations, giving some spectacular sign of his authority. For the Greeks, he does not offer some logical way they can earn salvation.

As a result, most of the well known religious leaders, most political figures, and most highly educated people never fully accept Christianity, although many give mental assent to some of the basic tenents. They are like the politician who said, "I am a Christian, but I don't allow it to affect my decisions." In effect, he thinks it is good, but either impractical or unimportant. Most of the highly educated deny any validity to the gospel, including those who have theological degrees, especially among those who work in academic circles, rather than in the field.

It is interesting that God regularly uses simple things to stump those who think they are so brilliant. The common cold has stumped researchers for centuries, although they think they may have a clue now. The League of Nations, the United Nations, and World War II were to prevent war from ever happening again. The FDIC, the SEC, and the Federal Reserve were to prevent another recession or depression. Obviously, they have not been very successful, although the causes of the problems seem rather obvious.

God has deliberately done this, so that we would not brag about great people or what they have done, but about God. Paul was rebuking the Corinthian church for glorifying their leaders, yet we see the Christian Hall of Fame and various missionaries or leaders placed on a pedestal. Unfortunately, in my experience, as well as my reading of history, it would appear that usually the ones most exalted are the least deserving. Reading David Livingstone's scientific writings after his return from Africa changes ones perspective of him as a missionary. Reading David Brainerd's journal and comparing it to the Bible leads one to believe that most of his difficulties were the result of his refusal to obey God rather than satanic resistance.

We need to glory in Christ, who has done everything for us, not in men who, as Paul says, we are unable to judge properly, as we have insufficient evidence to make valid judgements. We do not even know what God wanted him to do, so how can we judge how well he did it? In Romans 14:4, Paul asks, "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand." God is the judge, whether one has done well or poorly.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

By the Foolishness of Preaching

I Corinthians 1:17-25

"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (I Corinthians 1:17-25)

When Paul says that Christ has sent him to preach the gospel, he uses the word usually translated to evangelise. The actual meaning is to announce the gospel. You cannot announce something that is already known. It is the same word used in Acts 8:35, when Philip preached to the Ethiopian eunuch.

In verse 18, Paul says that the preaching of the cross is foolishnes to those who perish. The word used here is logos, or word, referring to what is preached. To the unbelieving, the idea that one's sin can be forgiven, and a new life recieved simply by trusting Christ seems foolish. I wonder how many have said "it can't be that simple." As a result, those who want intellectual assurance usually reject the message. Those who believe have seen that it is the power of God, not their own effort, that saved them. When someone does something for you, your part is very simple. You just allow them to do it. That in no way implies it was simple for them, only for you.

The Jews, and many today are looking for som miraculous sign to prove the message, while the Greeks look for natural physical action they can take to produce the result, whether by giving money or physical service. The Jews got hung up on the lack of a sign, while the Greeks reject it as not logical, but God has chosen to use preaching to save those who believe.

The words translated preaching in verses 21 and 23 are forms of a word meaning herald, or proclaim. Unfortunately some have taken that to mean to shout loudly, never realizing that there were specific guidelines for heralds. A herald was an official messenger. He might deliver a public announcement, or a secret message. His life was to be forfeit if he garbled the message. Changing so much as a single word, if it caused confusion, was punishable by death. Preaching thus is not a style of speaking, but an emphasis on accurately conveying the Word of God.
Introducing our own logic makes the word of God of none effect.

Monday, February 16, 2009

That There Be No Divisions Among You.

I Corinthians 1:10-17

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?"

I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." (I Corinthians 1:10-17)

Paul was concerned about division within the church at Corinth because he had heard that tere were divisions among them. They were argueing over which pastor had taught them and whether they were better qualified for having been taught by one than the other.

Unfortunately, these same types of disagreements arise today on regular basis. People decide that a person who has not been through a particular course of study, or who does naot do things a certain way are not as well qualified as those who do it that way or who have been through a certain program. In the church I pastor, a former pastor took the position that a person who had not gone through the discipleship program was not qualified to teach in the church. He proceeded to remove everyone of those who had been teaching, some for several years, and install those who took his program. Several were graduates of bible colleges, and nearly all were more grounded in scripture than he was. It didn't take long for the church to beegin to shrink.

Others have been very critical of those who did not use Jack Hyles or John R. Rice's methods. Paul refers to himself, Apollos, and Cephas, or Peter, as opposed to Christ, as the ones the people were emphasizing. Neither Paul, Apollos, nor Peter had died for the peoples sins. They were not to be baptized in the name of either one.

Paul rejoiced that they could not credit many to him for fear that they would set him up as something important, or begin to say Paul had saved or baptized them. As he stresses, God sent him to Preach the word. Even that could be made of no value by emphasis on his eloquence, or his intellectual and psychological preparation.

If they would examine what all four had taught, they would find that each had taught the same thing, and that there was no contradiction or conflict. The emphasis needed to be on Christ, and even that not as a way of setting one above another. In Christ, there should be unity of mind and judgement.

Notice Paul is begging them not to let such things produce separation.

Friday, February 13, 2009

And They Shall Be One Flesh

"And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." (Genesis 2:18-25)

This story is the basis for all scriptural teaching about marriage. In it we find that the woman was created specifically to meet the needs of the man. She was to be an help meet for him. The Hebrew word translated help meet means an aide or assistant. She is not an inferior.

The choice of terminology here is very much like a team of surgeons. One is the team leader, skilled in certain aspects of the surgery, while the assisting surgeon, who may be just as skilled, or even more so, focuses on other aspects of the surgery. Respect for one anothers skills enables them to work together and be far more effective than either would be separately. The leader is dependent on the assisting surgeon to help spot problems, take care of his or her specialty, and should the need arise, take over his position and complete the surgery. The assistant, is freed to focus on developing problems, and performing his or her specialty, always prepared to take over if needed, yet not interfering inappropriately with the lead surgeon's decisions or work. Both must have the patients best interest in mind rather than their own pride. The best surgeons are those most effectively utilize each others skills.

This was God's plan for marriage, and he created woman for the express purpose of accomplishing that plan. She was made from man's rib, making her man's equal in every way. Women are at least as intelligent as men, although their focus tends to be on different subjects.

This makes them especially valuable, as they specialize in areas men tend to neglect. Working together, they complement each other, producing much better results than they could accomplish working separately.

Adam says that a man is to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh. The word translated cleave means to cling or adhere to, to be joined together. Eve was literally part of Adams flesh. The husband and wife relationship is to be just as strong as their connection, and modern day divorce actions show that loosing a spouse is just as devastating as loosing a physical limb.

I Corinthians 6:16 makes it clear that the sex act produces this joining. "What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh." Traditionally a marriage was not considered consumated until the sexual act was completed. Sex was frequently referred to as the marriage act. This is true even if the sexual act was with a prostitute. Unfortunately, for those who have been promiscous, the joining effect is contaminated and weakened by the joining to the others.

Jesus quotes Genesis, stating that the joining is Gods work in Mark 10:6-9. "But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." This is also recorded in Matthew 19:4-6. The marriage is not an act of man, but of God.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Double Standard

"And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." (John 8:3-11)

Notice the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who brought the woman to Jesus? If they were concerned about the law, what Jesus said was irrelevant. The law was to be enforced. If we lok at the law, however, we find that they were only rying to enforce a part of it. Leviticus 20:10 is very clear. "And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. "

Clearly, if they caught the woman in the very act, they also caught the man. The law demanded that both be killed. They were using a double standard. The woman was at fault in their minds, but the man was not. So often in todays world, we see the same type of double standard among so called Christians. The pastor of one of the larger local churches, in speaking about sex outside marriage, told the girls that they must keep themselves pure, but "after all, we can't expect those old rough boys to."

When Jesus said to let the man without sin cast the first stone, everyone of them knew they were guilty in this as well as other areas. We are to obey God, without playing favorites. "I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality" (I Timothy 5:21).

Galatians 3: 28 states "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." This is reinforced by Colossians 3:11, "Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all." There is no basis for preferential treatment, whether sexual, social, financial, or racial, and it is forbidden.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Conscience Seared With a Hot Iron

A young woman was found, naked and battered. She told police an almost unbelievable story of abduction, rape and torture by a man and woman, and how she had managed to escape. When police found the place she had described, they discovered the implements of torture and her blood, they also found evidence of several other women having been tortured. Several bodies were discovered and some missing person cases were resolved.

While this took place only about 100 miles from where I live, it is not an isolated incident. W read of them constantly, and Tv shows portray them as a steady diet. How could anyone be so depraved as to treat other human beings that way? How could a system such as the Nazi concentration camps develop? Reading of the acts depicted on pornographic movies is nauseating. What could lead to such monstrous behaviour?

Paul answers the question, and advises us how to avoid falling into the same kind of wickedness in Ephesians 4:17-24. "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."

People who immerse themselves in wickedness begin to loose natural emotions. Titus 1:15 tells us, "unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled." If continued longer, even those who profess to know God can become that evil as we are told in I Timothy 4:1-2. "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;"

Psychologists tell us that men who regularly read and watch pornography become unable to enjoy the natural sex act, and turn to ever escalating homosexuality, bestiallity, sadism, and masochism in an effort to feel something. I used to wonder how the man accused of the Black Magnolia murder in Los Angeles could assist in gang raping his own daughter, but he had become so desensitized that it no longer affected him. He was fully given over to lasciviousness, so that his own children believe him guilty, even though he was never brought to trial.

Human efforts to stop such behaviour have resulted in huge jail populations, registering sex offenders, and clogged courts and treatment facilities, with ever increasing problems.

Paul warns us that we need, as Christians, to replace that old nature with the new man who is made after the nature of God. The atrocities commited by so called "Christians" are the result of not allowing God to replace the old man with a new one. You cannot serve God living in such a manner. We are, as natural humans no different than anyone else. It is only that new man controling us that makes us truly different. Who controls you?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What is footwashing about?

I just saw a photo that was taken of the only foot washing ceremony I have ever attended, although I know that several churches practice them regularly. What is it all about? To understand, we need to look at the subject first from a historical perspective.

In Jesus day, most people wore sandals. They did not have cars and so rarely rode anywhere. Their feet got dirty as a result. It was common courtesy to wash your guests feet, indicating an interest in their wellbeing, and that they were welcome to stay. Failure to do so indicated the opposite.

Luke 7: 36-47 tells of one instance, in which the person who invited him home was disrespectful and did not exercise this common courtesy, but judged one who did. "And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.

There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?

Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."

The woman who was so looked down upon, demonstrated more respec for Christ than the person who invited him to lunch. She went beyond the standard, even though it was not her responsibility. Normally a minor servant would have been assigned to do the job. The Pharisee didn't wash Jesus' feet himself, nor did he have one of his servants do so. It implies he had little regard for Jesus, but wanted people to notice that he had Jesus to lunch.

John 13:1-17 gives the Christ's teaching on foot washing. "Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."

The teaching here is not of a ceremonial action, put of a respect and concern for others that is willing to humble itself for their benefit. Jesus says his action is an example thet we are not to be unwilling to serve just as he did. We ought to be willing to do the most humiliating of jobs if that is what is needed. We hear a great deal about having a servant's heart today, but see few examples. Jesus did not ritually wash their feet as an indication of his spirituality, but as an indication of his concern for their comfort even though it meant he had to give up some of his.

We are instructed to have that same attitude. Most ritual footwashing ceremonies are about a show of religious behaviour, and make a mockery of what Christ was teaching. That is what the one I attended appeared to be as well.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Charity God's Way.

Every few days, during the summer months, at our local Walmart, there is a man standing on the corner holding up a sign saying he will work for food. Car after car stops and gives him donations. Right behind him is a sign offering $7.00 an hour for inexperienced people and more if you have experience at Burger King. Across the street is a similar sign at Taco Bell. Walmart has now hiring signs out, as does every business within sight.

$7.00 would be more than food, and having in some of those businesses and heard them asking people if they want a job, I am pretty sure the guys sign is a lie. A friend of mine offered $10.00 and a meal if the guy would just sit in his fleamarket stand for 30 minutes while he went to get something to eat and the guy refused. When the offer was raised to $20, the guy still refused. Obviously, he expected to make more staying where he was. He is defrauding every person who stops to help him.

I am a firm believer that God tells us to help the poor. As a Christian, it is our obligation. Nevertheless, I am to follow God,s instruction in how I give. Paul instructed tha church in Thessalonica, "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 3:10-12).

To give such a person money merely rewards him for his sin and encourages him to continue. I have a responsibility not to encourage him to cheat and lie. I am going against God in giving to him. Charitable organisations such as rescue missions and homeless shelters can be very valuable, or they can encourage wickedness, and it only takes very small changes in how they run to make the difference.

God established a welfare program in Israel. It did not encourage laziness, but it did enable destitute people to have food and drink. We ought to use a similar model in our charitable efforts. Leviticus 19:9-10describes it, "And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God."

The food was available, but the recipients had to go and gather it for themselves. if they were not willing to do that much, they deserved to starve. To be seen gleaning another man's field might be embarassing, but a genuinely hungry person would not allow that to stop him. On the other hand, if he had nothing because of mis management or laziness, the embarassment might cause him to change his ways.

What would happen if our charitable organizations worked in a similar manner?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Created in the Image of God

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (Genesis 1:27)

What does this mean, that we were created in the image of God? What color is his skin? Is his face a composite of all humans? The Bible uses many anthropomorphisms or human characteristics to describe God and his actions, as the hand of God, or his eye. How big are his hands?

We are told that he has the power to be everywhere at once, and to keep the universe together. A physical body like ours does not have such capabilities. With only 2 hands, just 3 basketballs become a jugling act. How can God juggle the planets, not to mention the moon and all the stars? Paul, speaking of the ressurection of the dead, in I Corinthians 15:35-55, stresses that there are differences between plant materials, between different animal, and between earthly and heavenly things. Our human bodies of flesh and blood cannot exist in God's kingdom. Therefore, Gods body must of necessity be different from ours.

Romans 1:21-25 describes human beings a trying to reduce God to their level. "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."

While anthropomorphisms allow us to describe God and his actions in terms we can understand, we need to be careful that in so doing, we do not loose sight of the fact that he is in many respects very unlike us. We run the risk of defining him as merely a grlorified human. Joseph Smith exemplified this tendency saying, "As God was, we are; as God is, we shall be".

Romans 8:29 tells us, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." He also tells us that Christ is the image of the invisible God in Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 1:3.

Apparently part of that image was lost as a result of sin. II Corinthians 5: 17 tells us "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." At least part of the image is in knowledge according to Colossias 3:9-10, "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:", and is renewed at salvation. this should change our actions.

A second part is described in Ephesians 4:22-24. "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Righteousness and true holiness were part of our original state and in recieving Christ are renewed in us. We need to conciously put away the old actions, and live as the new person.

II Corinthians 3:18 informs us that we will be conformed to the image of Christ by getting to know him more fully, from study of his word. "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

There is a lot I do not fully understand about the image of God, but if I can be transformed into the image of Christ, who is the express (exact) image of God by getting to know him, it is worth the effort.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Modesty, The Biblical Standard of Dress

Many have set standards of dress, especially for women. Some have forbidden slacks, others forbid bright colors, or bare arms. Several groups have restricted the wearing of jewelry or makeup. Timothy 2:9-10 gives the following instruction. "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.

The key word in the passage is 'modest'. Strongs Concordance defines the Greek word used as meaning 'orderly, or decorus'. it is translated as of good behaviour or modest. Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary defines modest as, "Restrained by a sense of propriety; not forward or bold; unpretending; bashful; diffident; free from anything suggestive of sexual impurity; pure; moderate; not excessive, extreme, or extravagant." A simple working definition is not calling attention to oneself.

These definitions cause us to understand that Paul is not forbidding the use of any jewelry, or demanding long skirts, etc., but is advocating resraint in all these things. Sexually revealing attire is not modest, but neither is dress which emphasizes ones religious beliefs. To dress in a long plain dress, with long sleeves, no makeup and no jewelry, as some advocate is immodest. It calls attention to you.

To say it is dressing so everyone will know that that you are a Christian is like the Pharisees Jesus described in Matthew 23;5, "But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments." He accuses them of hypocrisy and pretense, a contradiction to the definition of modesty. In Mark 12:38-40 warns, "Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation."

By the same standard, the woman that told pastors wives that they should never buy a dress costing less than $300 and must go to the beautician at least once a week is equally wrong and immodest. She is also advocating rejection of God's standard as described in the verse in I Timothy, as well a I Peter 3:1-4, which says, "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."

Quite simply, emphasis on dress, whatever the purpose, implies a fleshly, worldly perspective. As I Samuel 16:7 says' "for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." The focus needs to be on God, not our appearance. It is the world that says "appearance is everything."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Women Should not Wear Pants,or Should They?

Godly women don't wear pants! Have you heard that statement? This has been an issue for many years. A new pastor is pastoring one of the churches my dad started, and he will not allow their church to attend our youth camp because we allow the girls to wear pants.

Nearly always, those who hold this view start with Deuteronomy 22:5, "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God." They then assume that pants are mens apparel. Such an assumption ignores the fact that throughout most of history, neither men nor women wore pants, both wearing robes.

To bolster their argument, many will refer to Exodus 28:42. I will include verse 43, as it is part of the context, and modifies how the verse is to be understood. "And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him."

Notice that verse 43 stresses that these are for the priests, and are to be worn any time they are ministering about the tabernacle or altar, implying that they were not common for otherpeople. Looking back to verses 40 and 41. we find that they also were to wear coats and bonnets. The breeches were to be worn that their nakedness not be seen.

From the description, the breeches were to reach from the waist to the thigh. In todays language, that is a pair of shorts. They were to be worn under the coats and girdle. They were underwear. If this is men's apparel, would it not be an equally valid interpretation to forbid women to wear underwear, or perhaps forbid them to cover their nakedness? These garments were specifically for the priests, and provide no insight to what is or isn't mens clothing.

Deuteronomy 22:5 clearly teaches the women are not to dress as men, and that men are not to dress as women. We are repeatedly told that homosexual behavior is repugnant to God. Cross dressing is definitely off limits. That is not the same as women wearing pants designed for women. If one believes it is wrong for a woman to wear pants, he has the right to his belief and should practice them. However, since there is uncertainty, he should listen to Romans 141, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations." The rest of the chapter is focused on the idea that we ought not make issues of these type of things, nor allow them to cause division. As Paul tells us in verse 14, "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean."

In verses 17-19 Paul points out that it is not these kinds of things which make us pleasing to God, and we need to focus on those instead. "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. These controversies ar counterproductive.

Regardless of ones position, he should avoid hypocrisy on his stance. For example, if it is wrong for a woman to wear pants, then idon't tell her it is okay for her to put on shorts under her dress so she can engage in activities where they will be seen, such as jumping on a trampoline. It is not right to forbid women to dress as men, then have pastors dress as women for a skit at youth camp. They are still disobeying God. Just be consistent.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lessons to be Learned From Controversy

Years ago, hair length got to be a really big issue in many churches. Some even specified a maximun length that a Christian man could wear, and a minimum for a woman. It got to be quite a controversy in many churches as a result. Studying what the Bible says about the subject can be very rewarding, not just about hair length, but about how we are to deal with other things as well.

There are a few references in the Old testament. The Nazarites were instructed by God never to cut their hair during the course of their commitment as proof of their dedication to God. This did not apply to others. Leviticus 19:29 tells Israel "Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard." This sounds almost as if God were forbidding them to trim their hair or beard.

Some of those who set maximum and minimum lengths used Ezekiel 44:20 as their basis. Notice that the verse specifies "Neither shall they shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long; they shall only poll their heads." This verse, and the one in Leviticus together forbid shaving the head, and deliberate attempts to modify ones appearance by how they cut their hair, but do not specify any length except that it is not to be long. Verse 15, however, specifies that this verse refers specifically to priests who are ministering in the temple.

The only passage in the New Testament is I Corinthians 11:3-19. "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."

Paul, writing by the inspiration of God, states in verse 16, if there is contention over the matter, the Apostles did not set such a standard, nor did churches controlled by God. This standard is not from God, but of the flesh. That all the claims are true does not make it right for us to set the standard.

Paul rebukes the Corinthians for setting up such conflicts, and warns that the very conflict(herisy) identifies those who are not pleasing to God. Conflicts in the church are proof of an unspiritual church according to 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?" Romans 16:17 warns us to identify those who cause such division, and avoid them.

Monday, February 2, 2009

What is the Source of Our Standards?

A recent magasine article listed several reasons for having a dress code. One of the reasons given was to honor the pastors convictions. This called to mind a visit I made to a church in Texas several years ago. The pastor had only been there a few months, although the church had been there for over 30 years.

The pastor was convinced that it was wrong for anyone to participate in the actual service,( as usher, musician, etc.) who was not wearing a suit and tie. The town he was in was a small farming and ranching community, while he was from a large city. He was really upset that none of the men in the church wore suits and ties to church, although as he admitted they wore neatly pressed Levis and shirts. He had removed several of them from positions of leadership as teachers, ushers, and even the songleader. Needless to say, the church was rebelling.

Being from a some what similar background as the people, I could understand their dilema. In much of the Texas panhandle, even bankers do not wear suits on a regular basis. People wearing suits are viewed as crooks, as they are probably a salesman trying to get them to buy something they don't want or a government bureaucrat trying to dictate how things are to be done who has no experience outside his office. In their view, wearing such fancy clothes is an attempt to decieve others as to ones importance and identifies one as untrustworthy. Their experience has borne this belief out in many cases, and the pastor did not helping himself by his position.

James 2:1-9 deals with this very situation. "My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. "

The pastor, though it was his conviction, was committing sin. He had no authority from God to impose his convictions on the church, and infact his convictions were ungodly. To follow them would cause the church to sin as well. Too often we've been told to follow our convictions, our conscience, or our heart. Titus 1:15 states "Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled." Many times our standards are not from God, but reflect the evil in our own heart, as the pastor who preached that it was wrong for a woman to wear open toed shoes because they were such a sexual turn on to men. Obviously, he was showing his own wickedness, as most guys I know have never indicated such a problem. In Jesus' day most people wore open toed sandals, and neither Jesus nor the apostles condemned them.

Quite simply, the conscience of the leader or pastor is not a sound basis for our standards. Who knows how badly his mind and conscience is defiled. A well known pastor here in our area was caught soliciting homosexual favors, and numerous others around the country have been guilty of other sexual and financial sins. Standards need to be wholly based on the Word of God.