Friday, July 31, 2009

Spiritual communication

Colossians 4:2-6

One of the biggest problems in our world is a lack of communication. It is cited as the single biggest cause of divorce, breaking down of relationships, and wars between various groups. We have more talk, and more methods of communication than at any time in history. Unfortunately, much of the talk is ineffective as communication, producing misunderstandings and a growing sense of isolation.

Communication is just as important to our relationship to God as it is to human relationships. The word translated communicate means to share, both physically and emotionally. God uses the Bible and the actions of the Holy Spirit to communicate with us, sometimes speaking through another person. We need to pay attention, to study and verify what we are given, to understand what he is sharing. He has already done his part. Not paying attention says we have no interest in his opinion, and prevents sharing.

For real communication, we also need to share. We share by praying, but some of what passes for prayer is not communication. We are not sharing our feelings, just saying our prayers. or making demands. While I was in Bible college, there were some teaching that prayer was asking. Imagine a marriage in which the only talk was to ask for something, or to nag about something that wasn’t done. Think how much better both feel when instead, there is a sincere compliment, rather than just complaints, but even complaints are better than not talking at all. There is still some communication.

“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” (Colossians 4:2-4)

Communication is not limited to our own desires and needs, and there are needs that others have. Paul requested especially that the Colossians pray for him. As a prisoner, his opportunities to speak to others could be limited, either by his enemies, or by his emotional or physical state. He desired freedom to speak that others might come to Christ. Since it is not God‘s will that any should perish, such a prayer would definitely be in accordance with his will.

Because of different cultures, and language barriers, it was also easy to be misunderstood, and he requested prayer that he would be able to make it clear to the people. As he asked in I Corinthians 14::9, “So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken?”. If the message is not understood, it serves no useful purpose.

Colossians 4:5 instructs, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” Sometimes we are not sure how to live to best reach those around us. James 1: 5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” There is no excuse for being foolish in our lifestyle. Ephesians 5:15-16 warns, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil“. To walk wisely and redeem the time will require us to “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (I Thessalonians 5:22). We will need to separate from deliberate false teachings and sinful practice Titus 3:10-11 advises, “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” Jesus also warned us not to try to make people change in Matthew 7:6. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” God’s wisdom is required to successfully determine what to avoid.
Another area we need wisdom in is in our speech. James warns that being unable to control the tongue indicates a worthless claim to religion. “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.” James 1:26). Paul instructs, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:6)

Grace means to give something better than they deserve. To speak with grace is to answer with a kind and pleasant attitude, “not rendering evil for evil”. At the same time, it is to be seasoned with salt. While we are not to be rough or crude in our speech, we are not to conceal the truth either. They still need to know the truth.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Practical Application of Spirituality

Colossians 3:16-4:1

While working toward my math degree, I met a young man who seemed almost a genius at math theory. In calculus and differential equations, he could find derivatives and integrate equations the rest of us had to look up solutions to. In advanced physics, he was able to follow the derivation of equations easily. Unfortunately, he did not have the same understanding of using actual numbers.

He understood that a symbol represented a specific quantity, but did not seem to understand what the quantity was. It seemed like he understood that 21 was read as twenty one, but had no idea how many twenty one is. As a result, he could consistently manipulate symbols such as 6A and 2B, but could not plug in numerical values for A and B to find the value of the equation. It was frustrating being assigned to work with him, because he was never able to apply the theory to actual problems. We began to suspect his understanding was not of the math itself, but of rules for manipulating symbols. His skill in math theory was of little practical value in daily life. Daily life required applying the theory to a specific situation, using real values. The rest of us learned to move from the theory to the application.

Like math, Christianity is a very practical business. Without the theory, one will be unable to successfully arrive at correct solutions. Without understanding how the theory applies to real life situations, one will never be able to use the theory properly. The author now begins to present specific situations as examples of exercising spiritual attitudes and actions.

Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.“ By allowing the word of God to permeate our thinking, meditating on it, we will become like Christ in our attitude according to II Corinthians 3:18. As the Holy Spirit fills us, we will find ourselves sharing with others and rejoicing in Christ. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;” (Ephesians 5:18-19)

Colossians 3:17 “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Recognize that Christ is all in all and as I Corinthians 3:22-23 says, “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.”

Colossians 3:18 “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” The idea here is of equals, in meekness, not demanding ones own way. It is to be out of a respectful attitude, as Ephesians 5:33b says, “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” To do so as fit in the Lord clearly indicates she is not to give him God’s place, in worshipping or idolizing him. Christ still has first place, and her primary responsibility is to him. Her responsibility is to keep her relationship in perspective.

Colossians 3:19 “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” Husbands are to love their wives. It is a command. We choose to obey. Ephesians 5:25 commands, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Christ’s love is our example of love. Not demanding or selfish, and not angry when they fail to do as desired. Christ allows us a great deal of freedom, and Proverbs 31 demonstrates a Godly wife exercising such freedom.

Colossians 3:20 “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.” Because of their lack of experience children need their parents guidance. They don’t know how to decide what is good or bad for them. God put the parents there to teach them how to make good decisions, and to protect them until they learn.

Colossians 3:21 “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Parents need to understand that they are responsible for teaching the children, Refusing to allow them to make decisions they are prepared for is very discouraging, especially when it is solely for the purpose of demonstrating control. Ephesians 6:4 instructs, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Again, parents are to follow Christ’s example in training their children, guiding, correcting, and encouraging them, giving appropriate freedom.

Colossians 3:22 “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: “ Servants could be either employees or slaves. Slavery is prohibited in our day, but most of us are employees. Christian employees should demonstrate a respectful and cooperative attitude. This same attitude is to be present whether the employer is a Christian or not.

I Timothy 6:1-2 commands, “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.” While Titus 2:9-10 directs, “Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.” Our behavior at work will affect people’s attitude toward God.

Colossians 3:23-25 “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.” We are servants of God, and are accountable to him. We will be rewarded or punished according to what we have done, according to I Corinthians 3 and should keep that in mind.
Colossians 2:16-18 warns of danger in allowing others to set the standards or dominate us. “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,”

As we are warned in Galatians, If we are busy pleasing men, we are no longer serving God. “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10) Our obedience to parents, husbands, employers, and church leaders is subject to obedience to Christ. We cannot push our responsibility on them.

Colossians 4:1 “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.” It is especially important that employers and those in authority remember that they are accountable to God for a greater level of responsibility. Misuse or abuse of authority will be severely judged, as James 3:1 warns. “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Required Tools

Colossians 3:12-17

A friend of mine had worked for several years as an auto mechanic. The company he worked for made changes, and he left to take a job with an electrician. Though he had a huge assortment of tools, many of them were not applicable to his new trade. He had to buy new tools that applied to electrical work, and learn new skills, regulations, and procedures. He had to leave his huge toolboxes at home, and get a tool belt and portable tool boxes to carry with him. It was a new experience in every way.

When we become a Christian, we receive a whole new life. The requirements are completely different, and the old standards and barriers are removed. Colossians 3:9-11 instructs “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: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” Everything has changed, and Christ becomes the basis of everything.

Paul describes himself as having had to put away his accomplishments and traditions in order to win Christ. “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: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

My friend had to put away his huge mechanics toolbox and tools and put on a tool belt with the proper electrical tools. We have to put on the attitudes and actions that enable us to live that new life. Colossians 3:12-14 is almost like a list of required tools to live the life.

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

There is a book titled Don’t Just Act like A Christian, Be one. To be one will require developing these attitudes in daily life. Instead of trying to decide What Would Jesus Do?, we will have the same attitude, and begin to respond automatically in the same way. We will develop an attitude of compassion, empathizing with the hurts of others, and helping when possible. Kindness should be our natural way of relating to others. Pride should be lacking in our lives, as should a desire to get our own way. There should be no anger or bitterness over our circumstances, but a willingness to accept them. There should be a willingness to overlook annoying actions of others, and a willingness to forgive when they do wrong, or offend us, just as Christ forgave us, completely and with no grudges. Most importantly, we are to love each other. It is the evidence of our Christianity according to John 13:35. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” The lack of love proves the opposite as we see in I John 4:8. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

Each of these things will be produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit if he is allowed to. Galatians 5:22-25 describes this. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” II Corinthians 3:18 describes how the Holy Spirit changes us to be like Christ as we get to know him. “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.”

Peter gives the same instructions, promising that to do so guarantees success in our Christian life. Failure to put them into our lives implies that we do not care, or do not understand what Christ has done for us, and are like the seed which fell among thorns in the story of the sower in Luke 8:4-15. Luke 8:14 says, “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” Peter assures us that will not happen to those who allow the Holy Spirit to produce these things in our lives.

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” (II Peter 1:5-10)

When the Holy Spirit is in control, we can allow him to produce other results as well, enabling us to rejoice ourselves, and to help each other. Our over all attitude will greatly improve.

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Colossians 3:15-17)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Digging Out The Roots

Colossians 3:1-7

Our church foyer goes along the entire length of the south wall of our building, and is glazes to catch the winter sun. as a result people enjoy sitting in it before and after church. To make it more enjoyable, we have several potted plants in the area, one of which was a large vine. Last winter, the vine became increasingly sick looking, turning yellow and loosing leaves. Most of the other plants were doing well, except for some ferns. I tried placing the vine and ferns in an area that got less light. The vine appeared to die, while the ferns perked up.

Mom cut off the vine and placed the pot into a back room and we relocated the ferns to a slightly less lighted area where they have done really well, starting several new plants. I pulled out the pot from the vine and planted one of the new ferns in it. Apparently, although the vine had died, it still had some surviving roots, as it has come back up and is taking over the pot again. Now I have to decide if I’d rather have another fern, or a vine.

We are much like the old pot. Christ has destroyed our old life, and removed it from the pot, replacing it with a new and different one. Unfortunately, some of the old roots remain, and it will be necessary to choose which life we want to be in control, I we choose to ignore the old nature, the works of the flesh, it will take over, choking the new life, and making it unfruitful. Until we made the choice to allow God to destroy our old lives, we could not be saved, according to Luke 14:26-27. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

For the new plant to survive and grow, it is necessary that water, sunlight, and nutrients be provided. Placing a pot where there is insufficient sunlight, failure to supply adequate nutrients, or erratic watering can all cause stress, hindering proper development. Unlike the pot, which is stuck where we put it, we have freedom to move to where we can receive the needed things.

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory..” (Colossians 3:1-4)

To develop the new life to it’s maximum potential will require pulling out the old vines every time they appear, until finally, every root is killed or removed. Failure to remove them immediately allows new roots to begin forming and prolongs the problem. If they are allowed to grow, the old will use water and nutrients that would otherwise be available to the new plant, the life God has given, interfering with it’s growth. We need to eliminate things which interfere with our Christian growth.

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. (Colossians 3:5-7)

It is so easy to ignore the old roots that remain, although they are the very basis of what Christ had to destroy. Their wickedness brought God’s judgment on mankind, and we used to practice them. A life in which they are in control does not have God in control, is not based on and depending on God’s work They are the natural works of sinful flesh, and they prevent spiritual growth.

“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.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

As long as the roots are alive, they will continue to put out leaves of the original plant. If the leaves are pulled off immediately, eventually the roots will be so weakened they will die, if the leaves are allowed to remain, even for a short time, they will strengthen the old root and soon the old plant will begin to grow. The quicker they are removed, the sooner the struggle will end. When certain things appear in our lives, they need to be dealt with immediately, even though they seem insignificant at the moment.

“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 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: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all..” (Colossians 3:8-11)

These things are not part of that new life, and need to be eliminated, not just trimmed back, as soon as possible, to enable the Holy Spirit to develop the new life freely. Just bringing anger under control, for example, is not enough. Any anger which remains feeds and strengthens the old sinful nature. It has to be eliminated, as do each of the other behaviors.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sacrificing Your Rewards

Colossians 2:16-23

Some parents spend all their time saying “don’t”. “Don’t talk with your mouth full.” “Don’t leave your toys on the floor.” “Don’t be late for school.” “Don’t stay up too late.” Eventually their children get the idea that being good is just about not doing things. Some get where they don’t do anything.

A man who came to our church said, “If the world does it, it is wrong for Christians to do.” He had a long list of things that Christians mustn’t do. Men mustn’t have long hair, and women shouldn’t have theirs’ short. Women shouldn’t wear pants. Christians shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, or Easter, or Independence day, or Halloween. He didn’t say anything about Mother’s Day or Thanksgiving, so I am not sure about those. Christians were not to eat certain foods, including pork, coffee, and sugar, and shouldn’t watch TV or listen to anything but Christian music, and even only certain types of that. This is exactly what Paul is warning about in today’s passage. We can get so caught up in all these don’ts we don’t do anything.

“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)

We are not to allow people to set such standards for us. They are not relevant to Christianity, having the same relationship as the shadow does to the person. A shadow will be generated by a physical body, but only because the body interferes with the path of light. It contributes nothing to the life of the person, and frequently gives a distorted picture of the reality, sometimes even concealing the reality. God doesn’t want us to be focused on the shadows.

Romans 14 stresses the idea that we have no right to hold others to our standards. They are not responsible to us, but to God. As Romans 14:4 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.” When we begin to set the standards, we are usurping God’s authority. and Christians are not to allow others to take God’s place in their lives.

Romans 14:12-13 reiterates this responsibility to God. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.” Rather than worrying about whether another is doing something we think is wrong, we need to focus on making sure we are not doing things that push others away from God, because we will also be judged, and according to Matthew 7:1-2, by the same standard we judged. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” This doesn’t mean we can’t hold a standard ourselves, but that we have no right to impose it on others.

Just as we are not to allow others to set our standards, thus usurping Gods authority, we are not to simply follow our leaders blindly, assuming they are so much more spiritual than ourselves. While we are to obey those that lead, and to honor those who teach, and lead well, we are never to transfer our focus to them. A Christian who accepts the pastor’s word over the word of God, or the wife who ignores God’s word to obey her husband is guilty of idolatry. They have given up their rewards for serving Christ to serve a person. I Corinthians 7”23 says, “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.”

Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:18-23)

The men who are demanding this kind of obedience are overstepping their authority, convinced they are greater thatn the others. They ignore Christ’s authority, and take it for themselves, though he is the source and basis for everything. By doing so, they ignore the command of Christ that we are not to do it that way. Luke 22:25-26 is quite explicit. “And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” Lest there be any Question, both Matthew and Mark record the same statement. I Peter 5:3, after instructing in how to pastor properly, instructs: “Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” Jesus even went so far as to forbid using titles in Matthew 23:8, “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.”

Because they no longer hold Christ as the most important, such men begin to establish their own rules, standards, and teachings. These give an appearance of value in self control and humility, and of self denial, but why are we obligated to keep them? Christ set us free from such things. Romans 8:2 tells us, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” As a result, “All things are lawful unto me.” according to I Corinthians 6:12, although I do have responsibilities in them.

As far as worshipping angels is concerned, the angel speaks to John in Revelation 19:10. “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” A similar statement is found in Revetlation 22:8-9. “And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.”

Christians are not to worship, or allow anyone to take God’s place before then, not pastors, church leaders, political leaders, or angels. They arte not to be set above other people, including ourselves. We are to worship and follow God, and in doing so , those leaders who are also following God.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Don’t Fall for The Tricks

Colossians 2:8-15

I met Joe (not his real name) while we were in Junior High. At that time he was completely convinced that the old Navajo religion was the truth and would not consider visiting our church. He was struggling in school, because things he was learning contradicted certain aspects of his religion. Years later, he married a christian lady who began attending our church, and got saved. He explained what convinced him that his old religion didn’t have all the answers.

A relative of his got sick, and the medicine man was called to determine what was wrong. The medicine man spent several hours using hand trembling and other processes to find out what was needed for a cure, Finally he announced that the person was being witched, and went out to see if he could find the cause, instructing the people to continue with their activities. Joe had gotten bored, and went to a window in the Hogan, something most hogans didn’t have

Peeking out the window, he watched the medicine man thrust a shovel into the ground and dig out a little dirt in several places. At the last place he pulled something from his pocket and dropped it into the hole them pushed a little dirt in on top of it. Returning to the Hogan, he announced that he had found the cause, and led them out to see the witchcraft bundle he had found in hole A cure would require a ceremony costing several hundred dollars.

The family assembled to discuss where to get the money, and Joe tried to tell them what he’d seen. They scolded him for having looked out the window and insisted the witchcraft had caused him to imagine what he claimed. Gathering the money they held the ceremony, but the patient didn’t get better, and they were forced to take him to the Indian Health Service hospital, considered by many traditionalists as the place to die so the evil spirits would not be trapped in ones home.

Knowing what he‘d seen, Joe decided what he‘d been taught wasn‘t trustworthy. He went back to school, and his grades dramatically improved. If the teachers could demonstrate that their claims were valid. He was willing to accept them even if they contradicted what he had been taught. Years later, he was able to accept Christ, and has since become a strong Christian.

False teaching held Joe back from learning what the school was trying to teach him, and delayed his relative getting help he needed. False teaching, false doctrine, no matter how sincerely believed, hinders our spiritual development We need to be alert that we don’t fall for false doctrines or practices that will ruin our spiritual lives or take away our rewards.

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

This was one of the problems with the Pharisees. Mark 7:6-9 shows what they were doing. “He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”

I Corinthians 8:1-11:19 warns that adopting non biblical standards can hurt us, or others, and finishes by concluding that they show whether we are really interested in pleasing God or not. Those who have adopted such standards and doctrines have ejected God just as the Pharisees had. “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; 1ti 4:3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth,” (I Timothy 4:1-3). Hebrews 13:9 warns not to allow ourselves to get caught up in these things, which provided no spiritual benefit to those who were. “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” We are to place our trust in what God has given instead of in our efforts.

“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: Col 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:9-12)

By his efforts, our sins have been paid for, and we are complete and fully prepared to please him. Titus 3:5 stresses this clearly. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:13-15)

He made us acceptable in Christ according to Ephesians 1:6-7. “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” Satan’s power over us has been destroyed Romans 6:11 instructs us to accept the gift as fact. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” By doing so we can experience victory over temptation.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Unsung Heroes

Colossians 2:1-7

Compared to Mother’s Day, father’s day is an almost unnoticed day. there are several reasons for that. Most single parent homes are in care of a mother, not a father, with the result that the children have little or no contact with their father. The only thing the kids know is if he missed a support payment, what their mother tells them, and the times they spend with him, which is often controlled by their mother as well. As a result, even fathers who really love their children have little or no impact on their children’s lives.

In a two parent home, most commonly the primary responsibility for caring for the children rests with the mother, and the primary support of the family comes from the father. There are infinite variations, but as a general rule, the fathers, even the best, most devoted ones, are less involved with their children than the mother. In the past a farmer had his children work with him in the field, and a carpenter had his children helping him build houses. Other trades were the same, but modern laws prohibit such practices, further isolating fathers from their children. Many fathers are unrecognized heroes.

As a divorced father, I can testify that my children are unaware how much I love them, and the struggles I experienced to pay child support. They do not know of the times I went without heat in my trailer because I didn’t have money enough to by propane after paying child support, and some expenses relating to our divorce. They don’t understand that the presents I bought them at Christmas or for their birthdays were paid for by skipping meals, scrimping on things I needed, and by working every possible hour.

The isolation from fathers and consequent lack of understanding of what he goes through to provide for them prevents the children understanding how much he loves them. This lack of understanding is amplified by some mothers who wish to appear superior, and the father’s love, wisdom and experience discounted as self serving. The children go through unnecessary struggles because they ignore, or never receive the father’s teaching and advice. It is a major factor making people susceptible to homosexuality, promiscuity, and abuse. Children need to know their parents struggles to understand their love..

Paul is concerned that the Christians, and especially those who did not know him personally would be easily led to believe that the things he was trying to teach were not relevant to them. They would not understand that the things he was teaching were to equip them for Christian life, and because they did not know the love he had, could easily be deceived by false claims of love.

“For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.” (Colossians 2:1-5)

If they understood his love, and that their salvation was in everyway dependent on Christ and his sacrifice they would be less susceptible to being led into things that were not right. They would understand a little of his feelings of pride and despair as he observed their successes and failures. By remembering and applying the things our parents have tried to teach us, we can avoid some of the pitfalls of life. By practicing what we have learned from spiritual teachers we can do even better.

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

Paul gives similar instructions to Timothy. “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;” (II Timothy 3:14) The life style and love of those who have taught us , to properly evaluate the value of what they teach. He then goes into the importance of the scriptures if we are to please God in the familiar verses of II timothy 3:16-17. Earlier, he describes how that Timothy had full understanding of his own struggles, and how Timothy could place confidence in what he had learned because he was aware of Paul’s love.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Spiritual Hamas

Spiritual Hamas
Colossians 1:21-29

Separating a passage at verse divisions, rather than at sentence and paragraph breaks presents the opportunity for the introduction of error, but in sentences as long as this it is sometimes necessary to examine the parts. A sentence is a complete thought. A semi colon or colon separates thoughts that are part of and integral to the thought, not quite strong enough to stand alone. Examination of the parts and combining them should enable us to better understand Paul’s statement.

“And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: “ (Colossians 1:21-23)

Being enemies is an attitude or state of mind. We think in terms of resentment toward those we consider enemies. We view them as trying to destroy us and our goals, and respond by doing things against what we think are their goals. Satan convinces the natural man that God is his enemy, trying to keep him from good things. He started with that lie when he accused God of trying to keep man from being like him, and man disobeyed God, going against what he perceived as God’s goals. That was our attitude as well.

Because of Jesus Christ’s actions, giving himself to die on the cross, we have been reconciled to God. Romans 5:10 stresses that it occurred when we were still his enemies. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Our sins have been removed, and we stand before God blameless. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” (Romans 8:1).

When peace is made, intentional attacks and affronts to the other must stop. Both the actions and the attitude must change for it to work. The evidence of a real peace is an effort not to offend. As Christians, we must begin to walk in the spirit, not in the old attitude of the natural man, rebelling against God.

In the fighting between Palestine, and Israel, there have numerous peace efforts, with some resulting in treaties. While some people wanted peace, so they could live their own lives, various groups have viewed the treaties as opportunities to attack Israel without fear of reprisal. They sign the treaties, with no intention of changing their actions or attitudes. Because some refused to change their actions, and others retained their same attitudes, the treaties are meaningless.

Like the Hamas, the terrorist organization, some attempt to escape God’s judgment by making a profession, with no desire for reconciliation, and no intention of real changes in their attitude. Like the terrorists, they only stop their attacks long enough to replenish their supplies and strength. In such a case, the profession is false, there is no salvation, the change is temporary, to gain a n advantage. Continuing effort is the indication of a real commitment on our part and that the salvation is real. Jesus said that anyone who is not willing to put him above anything else cannot be saved in Luke 14:26-27. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

Paul stresses that firm commitment to the Gospel is required. As the negotiator, the sufferings he experiences while trying to broker the agreement will be amply rewarded by the cessation of conflict, although they will get most of the benefit. The terms offered are the same for everyone. God doesn’t offer different deals to others.

“If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: “(Colossians 1:23-24)

As the ambassador for God, Paul has been given the responsibility to make those he is dealing with aware of details about God’s offer that are not widely known, as they will only benefit those who commit. He also reveals some of the plans for those who reject his offers of peace. He is not acting on his own initiative, or for his own interests, but was sent by God.

“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Colossians 1:25-29)

The message, and the authority to share the message are from God, and are governed by his wishes. They are not a product of Paul’s own intellect. If accepted, they will produce the promised results. Paul labors to convince people to commit. Those who only make a profession to get something are like a spiritual members of Hamas, having no intention of being friends of Christ. God wants peace, not a ceasefire. He has made every effort to provide for peace. Too often we settle for a ceasefire which is likely to end in a resumption of hostilities, and eventual damnation.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Because He First Loved Us

Colossians 1:9-20

When I was about 10, my dad was in charge of building a church building in Missouri. He had assigned myself and several college students the job ob building the roof trusses, and assembled a truss for us as a pattern, then went to help layout the walls for other crews. One of the students decided that it would be easier to put some of the bracing in a different way. Because I was so much younger, my objections were discounted. Several trusses had been assembled before Dad got a chance to check on us.

The truss design was specified in the plans, designed by an engineer to meet safety requirements. Any changes from the design would change the engineer’s design, and could compromise the strength of the roof, and make it unsafe. The building inspector would have condemned the construction. It was critical that job be done exactly as specified.

While the church had faith and love, there was danger of their becoming like Israel. “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:1-3). Like changing the design of the trusses could cause disaster, changing God’s plan can have serious results. While they had examples and direction, there was a need for them to understand and do certain things.

“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; “(Colossians 1:9-11)

It is impossible to please God consistently without knowing what he desires. II Timothy 2:15 instructs us to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” As we study, John 16:13 assures us, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.” We will obtain both the knowledge and the understanding needed to please God. This will result in our being fruitful Christians.

The Holy Spirit empowers us to do the things God wants as Acts 1:8 tells us. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:”, and we are informed that the Christian life, “the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” in I Corinthians 4:20. Patience and joy are fruit of the spirit, and result from the power and knowledge he gives. It is a lot easier to be patient when you know what the outcome will be.

Increased understanding of what Christ has accomplished for us will result in greater appreciation of what was required and our inability to do anything for ourselves. We were enslaved by sin, and were delivered by Christ sacrificing his own blood, as Romans 6:17-18 tells us. “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” As a result of that effort, Ephesians 2:19 tells us, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;” He made us fit to receive his promises.

“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:” (Colossians 1:12-15)

That Jesus is God there is no question. John 1:1 tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.“ Jesus himself stated “I and my Father are one,” in John 10:30, and that “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father,“ in John 14:9. As God, he was involved in every aspect of creation. John 1:3 tells us “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:16-17)

Without Christ, nothing would exist. Everything was created by his action, and continues to exist by his power. The song says he’s got the whole world in his hands. There wouldn’t be a world if he turned loose. This is who came as a baby and lived here on this earth, dying on the cross to pay for our sins. He voluntarily did this. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

Because he was willing to do so, God the Father has promoted him. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:18-20)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The faith of the Colossian Church

Colossians 1:1-8

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Colossians 1:1-2)

In the story of God’s call of Gideon, in Judges 6:15, we find a feeling of inferiority common to many people. “And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.”Moses experienced the same feelings, and many other great men of God have felt them. The feelings can affect an entire church, so Paul found it necessary to remind the church in Corinth that God prepares every Christian and church fully.

“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1:4-8)

The Corinthian church had gotten caught up with carnal attitudes and moved away from their recognition of the Holy Spirit working in them. As a result they had begun to focus on actions, rather than attitudes, shutting out the Spirit, and accepting man’s doctrines and standards. The Colossians were still standing fast in their first faith and love. As a result, Paul focuses on the results of their faith, as it reaches out to others.

We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth: As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.” (Colossians 1:3-8)

They have the same faith as all other Christians. It has produced a love for other Christians. Their faith is still based on the word of God, and is producing fruit. The church at Corinth had begun to focus on man’s wisdom, and there was a danger of faith in man’s word replacing faith in God. He points out why he had preached and taught the way he had. “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‘” (I Corinthians 2:4-5).

Epaphras had demonstrated the same sort of faithful teaching at Colosse, resulting in a far stronger church spiritually. The need for spiritual leadership is reaffirmed A leader can never set an example for what he has not done. The guidelines for selecting leaders given in I Timothy 3:1-13 and in Titus 1:5-9 are to enable us to identify men who are qualified to properly teach and lead the church. They are much like state licensing exams. Passing the exam means only that the person has demonstrated a minimum level of knowledge and skill. If he cannot meet that minimum standard, he is definitely not prepared to take the responsibility,

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Missionary support

Philippians 4:10-23

I saw an advertisement for a book about missions. The title, which I can’t remember exactly asked whether they were missionaries, or machineries. Having grown up on the Navajo reservation, and served as a missionary, I understand the authors point. There are truly dedicated missionaries. and there are some who use the name as a way to enrich themselves. We have seen missionaries claim churches as their works that they had never even visited. Others have raised money for buildings that another church had already paid for, and installed. One had twenty three automatic washers in his garage that churches had given them. Another has become rich off the support of the churches.

A missionary contacted our church, complaining that gas was so expensive on his field and that they were paying by the liter. It was almost funny, as it cost more at many of the trading posts than it was costing him. One missionary complained that the churches bought him a new car without letting him pick the one he wanted. Another complained of having to live in a bus. Turned out the bus was a very nice RV, and they only lived in for a couple of months. These are only a few examples, among one group, on one field. Other groups have been even worse.

These missionaries love the last part of James 4:2, “yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” They quote it regularly as the reason for their constant asking. When they don’t receive it from God, they ask the churches. They never seem to read verse 3, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”

Young missionaries find it difficult to raise support, and partly because of this kind of behavior by missionaries. After all, God promised to supply our needs, and the constant demands imply he isn’t keeping his word. Rather than strengthening faith, this approach weakens it. As we look at Paul’s example, we find a different attitude.

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.” (Philippians 4:10-14)

Paul appreciated the efforts of the church to help him, recognizing that many times they had been unable to do so. He had often gone without and had learned to trust God with it because he had learned that God used his problems to reach others according to Philippians 1:12. “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;” People find it difficult to identify with someone who doesn’t have similar problems. Paul’s lack could enable him to be identified with by the people God had chosen, according to James 2:5. “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??

Paul had learned to use whatever God gave him, trusting God to make it work. After all God has promised to supply our needs. If this is what he has supplied, it must be what we needed at this time. Nevertheless, it is good that the church at Philippi had met some of those needs. God does use people to meet the need, but we ought not depend on them. Sometimes we fall into the trap of trusting the churches, rather than trusting God.

The church at Philippi was the first church to regularly support Paul, and they had begun supporting him immediately when he left for Thessalonica. Up to that time Paul had supported himself, and considered it robbing other churches when he required those other churches to support him. II Corinthians 11:8 says, “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” With that attitude, Paul is not going to abuse the willingness of the church to give. He is not asking for more, but is working so that they will have fruit for their giving. They will be blessed for their willingness, but Paul will be accountable to God for how he has used it.

“Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:15-19)

Paul concludes by sharing greetings from other Christians.

Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Philippians 4:20-24)


Philippians 4:2-9

The old ox yoke consisted of a wooden beam which laid across the necks of both oxen, with a loop of bent wood, the oxbow which encircled the neck to connect the oxen to the yoke. A chain, or the tongue of the cart or wagon was attached to a ring in the center of the yoke.

The design forced the oxen to maintain the same distance apart, but if one walked faster or slower, the yoke would be pulled diagonally, putting pressure on the sides of their necks. Any effort to go their own way or do less than their share produced conflict and increased the load on both oxen. The same is true for all team endeavors.

We find the same concept of working together in unison in this passage. It is critical that each one has the same goal in mind and works to share the load. Conflicts and disagreements hamper the work, and imply a lack of allowing the holy spirit to lead.

“I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4:2-3)

God’s plan is not for us to agree to disagree, but to have the same mind. As Ephesians 4:13 describes it, “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:”

Recognizing that we are part of a team, and quitting playing as for our own glory will greatly improve our outcome. Ball teams who play as teams win even when they have less talent than others who play as individuals. God made us as part of a team, and serving God is a team effort, not individual competition. Help each other out.

In order to be an effective member of a basketball team, the individual needs to eat properly, get enough rest, and avoid drugs. It is also his responsibility to practice with the team, and work on weak areas by himself. Because attitude is such an important part of a team effort, it especially needs to be addressed. This is true in the church as well. Following are some things we need to do.

Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” Joy is a part of the fruit of the spirit. I asked a lady why she never smiled. “I don’t feel like it,” she said. Apparently the Holy Spirit wasn’t producing fruit in her life. Why should others join the church if non Christians are happier? Complaining hurts teamwork.

Philippians 4:5 “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” Temperance, or self control is another part of the fruit of the Spirit. When people know they can trust you not to over react, it is easier to commit their best efforts, because they know what to expect from you, Lack of self control destroys trust, whether of anger, greed, jealousy, or anything else.

Philippians 4:6-7 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Distracted players are miss opportunities and don’t give their best. By turning our concerns over to God, thanking him for them, and trusting him to take care of them, we can experience his peace. The idea is reiterated in I Thessalonians 5:17-18. “Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Mark 11:24 stresses the need for faith in our prayer. “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” We are not to pray the same prayer or for the same things repeatedly according to Matthew 6:7. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” If we really believe God, we’ll realize we don’t need to nag him about things, as Luke 18:1-8 teaches. He is not like the unjust judge.

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Our thoughts govern our attitude, and thus our actions. We can choose what we think about. Focusing on what is good and wholesome produces a positive attitude, while dwelling on the bad leads to depression, and defeat. The thoughts give a picture of what is in the heart. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matthew 15:19-20) The word of judges the thoughts, not just the actions according to Hebrews 4:12. We need to get them under control.

Philippians 4:9 “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” To be effective as part of the team, we need to apply what we have learned. It will help our confidence as well aas those around us. If we fail to apply what we have learned, we just fool ourselves, and reap no benefit from what we have learned. James 1:22 warns, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Who are You Following?

Philippians 3:17-4:1

Until the last few years, roads on the Navajo reservation were mostly just dirt tracks. There were no signs of any kind. As a result, the easiest way to get anywhere was and often still, was to get someone who’d been there to lead the way. Even good directions can leave one unsure that he is going the right way, until one arrives.

Many wedding and funeral receptions are held at someone’s home, and frequently guests don’t know where the home is located, and need to follow other vehicles to get to the reception. After winding up at the wrong house a couple of times, I learned not to assume that everyone in the line of cars was going to the same place. Sometimes several members of a family would choose not to go to the reception, or need to swing by their house to pick up something. Since their direction might follow the same road for a while, it would appear they were going to the same place. If you followed them, you’d be in the wrong place.

By finding out who was going directly to my destination, and focusing on them, rather than simply following the car ahead of me, I didn’t end up at the wrong house, because I was watching a car I knew was going in the right direction, even though it might be several cars ahead of me.

While it is possible to get to the right place by getting directions is offers a lot of confidence. To follow Paul, and other strong Christians has the same effect on our spiritual development. Unfortunately, There may be some going the same way at the moment, who have no intention of going where we are supposed to go. It may be someone like the person who lives out in the same direction and uses the same road part of the way, who just happens to fall into line at the particular time.

As Christians, there are also those who deliberately join in in a deliberate effort to lead us astray. God warns us repeatedly about these. “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; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” (I Timothy 4:1-3)

II Peter 2:1-3 Tells us that these are to be found in every group.. “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”

Some of these appear as the greatest Christian leaders, because they are Satanically empowered . “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (II Corinthians 11:13-15)

Because of the danger of being misled, Paul warns us to follow his example, and to notice who else is really following his example. If they take other routes detours and shortcuts, they may not be headed for the same place, or they may get lost along the way.

“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)” (Philippians 3:17-19)

Not only should we notice who is following Paul’s example, but also those who are not. We need to stay away from those, even though it may result in being accused of being un Christian. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple,” (Romans 16:17-18).

To avoid falling for these false teachers lies, Paul warns Timothy to focus on the scripture because he knows they are true, and because nothing more is needed. “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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.” (II Timothy 3:14-17)

If we remember that we are jus here temporarily, and that our real home and life is in heaven, we will begin to understand that many of the teachings interfere with our spiritual growth, rather than helping. It is Christ who changes us to be what glorifies God, not our efforts. Like a piece of clay, we need to simply yield to his shaping. Our efforts are like lumps in the clay.

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.” (Philippians 3:20-4:1)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Forget the Past

Philippians 3:13-18

Have you ever heard the old saying, “Opportunity knocks but once?” A well known speaker said many people take that to mean you only get one chance in life. They miss what they thought was their only chance and spend the rest of their life looking after the opportunity that got away, missing hundreds of other opportunities. Another old saying was “There’s no use crying over spilled milk.“ There is no way to change the past. What’s done is done.

Paul appears to have adopted another saying as his motto. “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” We can’t change yesterday, but we can do differently today, and again tomorrow. The only reason for looking at the past is to learn to not repeat our mistakes. Notice his attitude.

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Paul didn’t rest on his laurels, counting on what he’d done to be good enough. He also didn’t focus on his failures. He forgot pas success and past failure, and focused on doing what was needed at the moment. The news media refers to teams having winning or losing streaks. As one coach said, if you’re thinking about the outcome of a previous game you are almost certain to loose the one you are playing. You can only win by playing this game, not by replaying that one.

Every Christian who has developed a little maturity ought to have this same attitude. The fact that you used to go to church regularly, or teach a Sunday school class has no real meaning today. Neither does the fact that you had a divorce, or committed some sin. What you are doing today is what matters. Trust God to show you what you need to do about the things that are past, if reparations or apologies are needed.

“Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing “ (Philippians 3:15-16)

This does not mean we should start fresh every day. If we have learned to do something or started something good, we should continue to build on those things. We just mustn’t allow past success or failure to excuse a lack of accomplishment today. To that end, we can look to others for an example, noting that they are proper examples.

“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:” Philippians 3:17)

What a waste

Philippians 3:3-12

After being away at college, I early one morning I went out to feed our family’s donkey, Chiquita. After feeding her and playing with her for a little while, I decided to ride her, since it had been several months since I had done so. We rarely needed a bridle or saddle, and since I hadn‘t had breakfast yet, and wasn’t planning on going outside the pasture, I didn’t want to take the time to get them out.

Gripping her mane, I hopped to get onto her back just as I had done many times before. Apparently still feeling playful, she stepped toward me and I fell ignominiously off the other side. It was embarrassing. I got back on and rode Chiquita for a few minutes, then went in for breakfast. Mom had been watching out the window and teased me about not even being able to get on such a small donkey.

So often we have such confidence in our own abilities and efforts that we are shocked when they fail to produce the expected results. Circumcision served to identify Israel as believers and recipients of God’s promises, just as baptism does for Christians. The promises were made to Abraham before his circumcision. They were made on the basis of his faith, according to Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” As Christians, we receive them the same way, and do not place our confidence in our own efforts.

“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. 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.” (Philippians 3:3-6)

If there was ever anyone who deserved to go to heaven, it was Paul. He had been circumcised the eighth day. This is the same as if he’d been baptized as a baby. He was born into a God fearing nation, in a very religious family. He had become involved with the strictest and most dedicated religious group. He had gone beyond most of those in that group in his dedication, never having broken any of their standards, rigorously attacking those who did not have similar beliefs. He had every reason to believe he had earned a place in heaven. It makes his next comments shocking.

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: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:7-12)

All the things that would appear to insure his salvation, Paul says were a total loss. They were completely worthless and holding on to them interfered with receiving what Christ offered. They were of no more value than his own body waste in being a Christian. They had to be gotten rid of in order to make place for what Christ offered, much like getting rid of an old couch to make room for a new one, especially for someone who lives in a small apartment. Until the old one is removed, there is no place to put the new one, and if you set it on top of the old one, you won’t be able to use either one.

By disposing of his own goodness, Paul could receive God’s. This would then enable him to understand the things Christ offered, and become what God had intended when he came to Christ, and ultimately to be resurrected to eternal life. His earlier efforts had not produced that result, and it would be necessary for Paul to continue to learn and grow, even at the point he had reached when this letter was written.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What Dogs?

Philippians 3:1-3

Probably every parent has experienced it. You tell a child something important, and it goes in one ear and out the other without even bumping anything on the way through. One writer described it as throwing into the void. Adults aren’t much better, retaining only a small portion of what they hear, even when they want to remember it.

As a result of this tendency, many speakers are advised to “tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell it to them, and finish by telling them what you told them.” The book Seven Laws Of Teaching says that 1/3 of the teacher’s time should be spent in reviewing. Studies have shown that while people register little of what they hear, repetition increases the likelihood of remembering. It seems that the brain assumes that things it hears repeatedly are more important, and concentrates on them.

Paul recognizes this tendency, and notes that while it is easy to repeat something, it is more likely to result in obedience, thus escaping God’s judgment. While new things are more exciting, it is better to focus on the basics. Once one has been saved (discipled), certain things should develop in his life. He needs to be taught these things. Matthew 28:19-20 stresses this fact. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Should you question my referring to salvation as discipling, compare the Greek words for teach and teaching in these two verses.) Notice Paul’s statement.

“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:1-3)

I heard a preacher say on time that Paul’s advice to beware of dogs meant to watch out for them on visitation so you didn’t get bit. While that is good advice, I believe the meaning goes a little farther. II Peter 2:22 describes some as being like dogs. “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”

The parable of the sower, related in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8 all describe some who easily believe, but have no root , and fall away. Luke 8:13 describes this. “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” Like the devils in James 2:19, or the rest of the people of Jericho, described in Joshua 2:9-11, They believe God has power, but their faith does not result in appropriate action, just mental assent, and effort in the flesh to straighten out their lives. There is no real commitment of their lives to Christ. Peter describes the result.

“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” (II Peter 2:20-22)

These have not lost their salvation, they have not gone far enough to actually get it, although they’ve come close enough to fool people, even tasting some of the benefits for themselves. They never became a new creature, as described in II Corinthians 5:17, and return to their natural behavior. They can be a real hindrance to others, and destroy the church’s testimony. We need to apply church discipline, as described in I Corinthians 5, because as Hebrews 6:4-6 tells us, we’ll never turn them to God. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

Being aware of evil workers is an obvious need. They try to get us involved with their sin, either as a participant, or as a victim. Avoiding involvement is our best protection.

The concision refers to the actual cutting involved with circumcision. We must be aware of those who are focused solely on the physical actions of religion, with no awareness of any spiritual reality. The Sadducees were typical of this group, denying any thing beyond the ritual itself. Even the Pharisees believed there was a God and that their actions either pleased or displeased him. The concision has little or no interest in doctrine, or meaning, contenting themselves with the emotions resulting from the ritual itself.

The Pharisees were concerned with the ritual, and the doctrine behind it, but they still saw it as a tradition, that served a useful purpose. Their religion was a life style. To the Christian, it is life, not a life style. The emphasis changes from what we do to what God has done. Our attitude is changed, not just our actions. The difference can be illustrated by those who wear western clothing and go to rodeos for entertainment (Sadducees), Rodeo performers, who practice to put on a good show and maintain the traditions (Pharisees), and the working cowboy, whose life consists of caring for cattle every day.

Both the Sadducee and the Pharisee tend to focus us away from the reality of the day to day life and responsibility.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Communication for Spiritual Health

Philippians 2:25-30

Depression was a problem for several of my dad’s family. Several of them just withdrew from society, almost to the point of becoming a hermit. It seems to be a major factor in most of the drug and alcohol use in our day. It is definitely a factor in the suicide rate, in prostitution, school shootings, and several other forms of crime.

Doctors tell us that it is a result of chemical imbalances in our bodies, causing us to feel worthless, powerless, and unloved. Psychologists and counselors make millions dealing with depressed people. Drug companies get rich selling prescriptions that temporarily counteract the feelings. Unfortunately, while the prescription drugs are slightly more effective than the illegal drugs and alcohol, they loose their effectiveness over time, requiring more, and more powerful forms, just as the illegal drugs do.

The chemicals which prevent depression in the body are produced by various glands in the body. The lack of them can be caused by a bad diet, making the body unable to produce them because of a lack of material to use. It cam be caused by stress, or lack of sleep, which exhaust the glands in efforts to produce other, more obviously essential secretions.

Probably the most common cause is underproduction by the glands. This is usually a result of the triggering factors not sending the message to produce. Interpersonal interaction is the primary trigger factor. Quite simply, communication is the most important factor in preventing depression. With so many means of communication, how can depression increase in our society?

Marriage counselors have long recognized the lack of communication as a problem in modern marriages, but just like most of society, they failed to realize that talk is not synonymous with communication. In fact communication can be established many times without talk. We communicate visually with our expressions, gestures, and body language at least as much as with our words. Emotions such as happiness, anger and fear cause our bodies to emit different smells that those around us sense as well. Touch also plays a major part in communication.

Modern society discourages most of these elements of communication. Touching is usually portrayed as sexual in nature, and is avoided in as a result, distorting and severely hampering this form of communication. The use of deodorants and perfumes prevent people detecting feelings of concern, hurt, fear, happiness, or anger by their nose. People are taught to conceal their emotions, or to over emphasize them for various reasons, resulting in miscommunication of visual cues. Telephones, even with pictures, deprive one of most of the forms of communication, and may distort verbal cues such as pitch changes as well, limiting one just to the words spoken, and actually preventing valid communication.

Nearly everyone is aware of cyber stalkers today. It works because people have a sensation of communication, when in fact there has only been words. Video games, music videos, and texting all give sensations of communication, but do not provide the necessary stimulus to cause the body to produce the various hormones, endorphins and other chemical products to prevent depression. As a result, depression is an increasing problem.

Just as lack of communication can cause depression in our lives, it can cause discouragement and depression in the church. While Paul knew the church needed additional teaching, and desired to send Timothy to help strengthen them, but he realized that it was necessary to send Epaphroditus communicate with them immediately. Because communication is a two way street, his coming would be beneficial to them, to paul, and to Epaphroditus himself. . A letter could never adequately communicate the concern and love.

“Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.

I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.” (Philippians 2:25-30)

Because this is such a critical area, the Galatians were instructed to be sure to communicate with their teachers. “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things,” (Galatians 6:6). The instruction in Hebrews is more general. “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased,” (Hebrews 13:16). Paul is teaching by example, showing his reasons. Without that communication we will never be able to fulfill the command in the first part of Philippians 2

“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Rare Shepherd

Philippians 2:19-24

Two Brothers in eastern Colorado each had cattle ranches. One was focused on making money from his ranching, hiring cowboys as needed to help work his cattle, and doing things the traditional way. He had a larger herd, and a larger ranch.

His brother was more focused on the cattle themselves. He fed grain and cake from the back of his pickup on a regular basis. Rather than hiring cowboys to drive his cattle to new pasture, he would drive out in the pasture wit some feed in the back of the pickup, then drive slowly to where he wanted the cattle to go. If the distance was great, he’d have his wife drive the truck, and he’d use a horse to keep the calves following the cows. It was a very laid back operation as compared to his brother’s.

Over a period of years, we were interested to learn that the second brother’s cows always outweighed the first brother’s. By keeping less cows on his land, and by feeding them regularly, they actually gained more weight, so that by the end of the year, he usually had more beef to sell. In addition, his approach eliminated any need for hired help, reducing his expenses. Though he had the smaller ranch, and herd, year after year, he made more money by focusing on what was best for the cows.

Timothy was more like the second brother, more concerned with what was best for the people in the long run, rather than immediate results. Paul had other obligations and couldn’t deal with their needs at the time. While he could send Epaphroditus for the immediate need, Timothy would be sent to provide a long term solution.

“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.” (Philippians 2:19-24)

Timothy’s focus would be on what was best for the people. The others would be focused on accomplishing what they wanted. Christ’s concern is not with the leadership’s goals and desires, but with edifying or building up the people. While we hear a lot about a servants heart by different men, man seem to have forgotten what a servant is.

A servant could be either a slave, or a hired employee. His job is to do what his superiors want or need. He does not direct those he serves, although he may advise them. He is not the boss. Paul had no one else who understood this. It is a rare person who is willing to put the welfare of his flock above his own convenience and desires, but the results are fabulous.

Ezekiel 34 warns of Gods judgment on the shepherds who are more concerned with their own way and benefit than that of their people. Interestingly, the word Pastor is the Greek word for shepherd. It is a powerful warning to pastors of their responsibilities. Notice his description of their efforts in the first few verses.

"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.” (Ezekiel 34:2-6)

While they had the job as shepherds, they were not shepherding the sheep, pastoring the people. As a result, the weak and sick were not cared for and many were lost in the world, or destroyed by predators. Notice the warning in Ezekiel 34:10.

“Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.”

He is going to demand repayment for those they have lost by not doing their job. James 3:1 warns of this very thing. “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” The pastor has a much broader level of responsibility.