Friday, February 26, 2010

Improving Your Traction

Titus 3:1-2

Evan a little loose gravel or sand, water, snow or ice can reduce the friction between tires and the road surface. This increases the danger of losing control and having a wreck. As a result, road maintenance crews scrape off or apply salt to icy or snow packed roads and send street sweepers to remove loose gravel or sand. Roads are constructed to drain away standing water.

There are certain attitudes that can cause us to wreck our Christian testimony. Every Christian is subject to human government at various levels. The attitude we exhibit toward others has a tremendous impact on how effectively we witness. Not only is Titus to insist that certain practices and behaviors be avoided, but they are to have an attitude of respect for others, regardless of their authority.

Many consider that since they serve God, they are not subject to the same rules as other people. They have attitudes much like that of some diplomatic personnel, that they should be free to do as they please. Such attitudes by the diplomatic corps loses the respect of the host country. We are Christ’s ambassadors and while our citizenship is in heaven, we ought to obey our host country’s laws while here. We ought also treat her citizens with the respect due our hosts.

“Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.” (Titus 3:1-2)

Paul instructs Titus to constantly remind and encourage the believers in the churches to submit to the local authorities. Peter instructs the Christians to have the same attitude in I Peter 2:13-17.

“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”

We are not to use our citizenship in heaven as a way to get out of doing what is right here. We are not to use our religious beliefs to excuse wrong doing or to escape valid responsibilities. We are to treat our leaders with due respect, not run them down, even though they make serious errors. Romans 13:1-7 goes into even more detail.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

We need to recognize that political are in that position because God saw fit to put them there. While we may not approve what they do, they are acting as God’s representatives to accomplish his plan. Rebelling against them is rebellion against God. There are legal and proper ways to resolve most problems. We also have the promise that God will resolve our political problems if we will get our relationship with him right. II Chronicles 7:14 promises, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Many times God sent problems on Israel to force them to turn to him. Sometimes the things we dislike are for the same purpose. Civil disobedience seldom results in godly results. Most revolutions result in worse conditions than the original ones.

Jesus is often described as a rebel. I Samuel 15:23a states, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” He was not a rebel because as we find in I Peter 2:21-22, he didn’t sin. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.”

In fact, when Peter was asked about whether Jesus paid taxes, Jesus instructed him to catch a fish and take the money he found in it’s mouth to pay taxes for both. He stated that while they didn’t owe the taxes, they would pay them to avoid causing an offence to the other people. “Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.” (Matthew 17:27)

While we have liberty in Christ, we also have a responsibility to avoid offense to other people. This responsibility overrides our liberty. I Corinthians 8:9 reminds of the duty, “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.”

Galatians 5:13 states it slightly differently. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Where The Rubber Meets The Road

Titus 2:9-15

As J. Vernon McGhee used to say, now we’re getting to where the rubber meets the road. We’ve talked about what kind of people we are trying to produce, and the importance of setting a proper example before them. Now we come to specifics in the daily life of the believer.

“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.”(Titus 2:9-10)

Most people, including Christians are employed by someone else. They are in effect, hired servants. Paul addresses the attitude and actions a Christian should have toward his job. A proper attitude toward our jobs will glorify God and incline people toward his word, while an improper attitude will drive people away even faster.

As Christians, there ought to be an attitude of obedience. This does not include doing things that are wrong, but of willingly and eagerly doing what is right, even though we don’t care for the job. There should be and effort to do everything well in order to please the boss. There ought never be backtalk or rebellion, although it is advisable to warn of dangerous or harmful instructions.

There should be no taking things because the company has plenty or cheating on time, materials, or vehicle use. There ought be faithfulness to the company, in loyalty, to not run down the company or other employees. There should not be any depriving the company of work by taking on side jobs for a lower rate. Such behavior is in accord with what we learn about how we should live if we believe God.

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)

The gift of God, Christ’s sacrifice has given salvation to every man. We have been made righteous. We ought to live accordingly. Ephesians 4:22-24 expresses the same concept. “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

Colossians 3:5-11 is more specific as to some of the things that need to be put out of our life because they are what brought the wrath of God on us in the first place. “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.

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.”

If we have genuinely been changed, and we have the divine nature as described in II Peter 1:4, there should be a pronounced change in the way we live. Every Christian should be growing toward this new character despite their background. Just as the pastors, Titus is to strive to produce this in the people’s lives.

“These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” (Titus 2:15)

To prevent others looking down on him and rejecting his teaching, Titus needs to exemplify what he is teaching and trying to produce. Paul described what was needed in I Timothy 4:12. “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Immaturity or hypocrisy in any of these areas will destroy one’s authority. What right do you have to expect others to do what you don’t?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Titus 2:7-10

When I started at Production Plumbing, I had never worked on a radiant heating system. We had several houses to plumb, but one needed the boiler system installed. My boss gave me a set of instructions and told me to install the system. If I had trouble with the instructions, the house next door had an identical system I could look at to see what they meant.

I quickly discovered it was a lot easier to understand the directions if I took them and looked at the other system before reading them. In fact, I could probably have installed the system without the directions by just looking at the example. My boss was surprised that I was able to install the system so quickly, because it had taken him far longer on the one I looked at. He hadn’t realized how much difference an example would make.

In developing people with a sound Christian lifestyle and attitude, a good example is crucial. Just as the directions for the boiler were difficult to understand until I saw an example, It is very hard to understand what God is describing until we see it demonstrated. This is the primary reason radio and television, or correspondence ministries are only marginally successful in developing sound Christians. They cannot provide a consistent examples.

A major part of the Pastor’s job is providing an example the people can learn from. This is why the requirements for pastors are so important. Unless he can do what is required, he cannot teach others to do so. Paul is explicit in his instruction to Titus.

“In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” (Titus 2:7-8)

He is to demonstrate a useful accurate example of good works, in several specific areas. He must set the example for sound doctrine. II Timothy 2-3 are largely devoted to developing sound doctrine. As Paul has already stressed in chapter one, there are a lot of influences against sound doctrine, including tradition and false teachers.

The pastor or missionary must take his responsibilities seriously. He must also be sincere in his beliefs, not simply repeating what he thinks others want or expect. He needs to understand and believe that he is affecting lives both now, and forever. What seems a very small thing can hurt or help another throughout their life time. Humiliating or derogatory words, whether spoken in anger or in jest, may hinder or prevent spiritual and emotional development. Proper speaking can have tremendous effect in turning people to or away from the Christ.

It is not unreasonable to expect the teacher to be able to do what he is teaching others to do. In fact, he ought to be able to perform satisfactorily in any situation likely to arise in the level he is teaching others to attain. If he can’t, he is not qualified to teach to that level. A major cause of the decline in American education has been the growing number of administrators and college professors who have not taught children themselves. Their knowledge is purely theoretical and untested. They need to demonstrate their own proficiency before teaching or directing others. Failure to recognize this has resulted in the saying, “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach.”

The same principle applies to those who are training others for ministry. While Timothy was pastoring, and Titus was training others to pastor, the instructions are very similar. Compare the instructions to Timothy with those to Titus.

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (I Timothy 4:12-16)

As emphasis moves from Spiritual attainment to academic attainment for professors, and college administrators, the spiritual and doctrinal quality of the pastors they train can only decline. That will inevitably lead to spiritual decline in the church, resulting in the kinds of churches we find described in Revelation 2 and 3. The problems pastors are having and the scarcity of men willing to do the job attest to the change in focus of most training programs today.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What is The Goal?

Titus 2:1-6

Several years ago, vandals took the baskets off the backboards at our youth camp. Imagine what it would have been like to try to play basket ball without the baskets. No one would ever know whether the ball went where it was supposed to or not. In order to successfully play the game, new baskets had to be installed.

Without a concrete goal as to what we are trying to accomplish, the ministry will be unsuccessful. We will have no way of determining what we have accomplished, nor a practical idea as to how to proceed. There are almost infinite possibilities. Culture, and unethical or uninformed teachers clamor for attention. It is easy to become distracted or totally confused. Once a goal is established, efforts can then be directed to accomplishing that goal.

Paul instructs Titus, “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:” (Titus 2:1). The word become is used in the same sense that we speak of a woman having a becoming hairdo. It is appropriate or flattering to her. We ought to teach things that are appropriate for sound doctrine. Paul defines certain character traits as goals for each group of Christians. The teaching should contribute to attaining the goals.

“That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.” (Titus 2:2). Mature Christian men ought to exhibit these characteristics. Sober. Grave and temperate overlap in meaning, but they are each different. Christian men ought to be serious minded and thoughtful. They ought to be able to control their lusts and cravings. They ought not be focused on drawing attention to themselves. Their behavior should be mature. I Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

They should be sound in faith, their faith based on the Word of God, not traditions or opinion. They should exhibit a sound mature love, not manipulative, self serving or fake. They should have learned to let God work, rather than forcing things to happen on their schedule. They are the example for the younger men.

“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;” (Titus 2:3). Like the mature men, mature women set an example before the younger people. Their attitudes and actions should be in accord with faith in God, not manipulative or selfish and inconsiderate. They ought not be tale bearers, and especially of false tales. Proverbs 26:28a tells us, “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it.” “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” (Proverbs 26:22) Christian love will avoid causing such hurts.

Mature women ought to be filled with the Holy Spirit, not with wine according to Ephesians 5:18, getting comfort and pleasure from the things of God, rather than from those of the world. They ought to be examples and teachers of good things. They are especially responsible for teaching the girls and younger women.

“That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” (Titus 2:4-5)

The mature women ought to live in such a manner they can teach the younger ones by example without a double standard in several areas. First, they must teach them to be sober, in all its aspects of self control and thoughtfulness. Love is something that needs to be taught. We fall into lust, not into love. Love is an attitude toward another being. We can choose to love our mate and our children, or we can choose not to.

Older women have a responsibility to teach the younger ones to be discreet or careful in their actions to avoid suggestive behavior or dress, and to control their impulses and cravings. They have a great deal of influence over the young woman’s understanding of her role in the home, not just a housekeeper, but a valuable part of the home as a teacher, companion, and mother. They have the duty to teach proper submission, not slavery, manipulation, or rebellion.

“Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.” (Titus 2:6) Young men are to be taught to be thoughtful and to take responsibility for their lives and actions.

Failure to develop these traits properly results in blasphemy against God by husbands, wives, and children, as well as by those around the church, who see God as either evil, irrelevant, or ineffective. The goal is to produce Christians who live in such a manner. To do so it will be necessary to emphasize aspects that are contradicted by local culture until people understand the difference.

Our Attitudes Indicate Our Spiritual State

Titus 1:15-2:1

Remember the how kids used to say it takes one to know one? People tend to assume others respond the same way they do. A person who lies tends to assume others lie. A thief is usually very careful about locking up his stuff. A person who is honest, on the other hand tends to be careless about locking up, because he doesn’t think as a thief or a liar. Paul says the same principle holds in spiritual matters.

“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Titus 1:15-16)

Those with a pure heart and focus are not tempted by the evil around them. They approach things with no reservations because their focus is entirely on serving God, with the result they may not even be aware of what others find as a serious temptation.

Those who are not pure in heart, on the other hand are conscious of every potential temptation. In fact, they begin to see temptation and sin where none exists because their standards are corrupted by their own sin. Their corrupt ideas of right and wrong lead to actions that are actually opposed to biblical teaching.

Several years ago, I attended a state fellowship meeting in which one speaker devoted his entire message to the wickedness of a woman wearing open toed shoes because of the level of sexual arousal it produced in men. Having never been aroused by the sight of a woman’s toes, I found his presentation unhelpful.

Another pastor called for boycotting Walmart because the women’s underwear display was so provocative. Several men from the church asked what he’d been talking about. As it turned out, the display could not even be seen without going into the women’s department, and most of the men had not seen it. Even those who had had not been aware of any problem. Unfortunately, their minds were on it when they went back, and some were tempted.

Unscriptural standards and requirements often lead to more sin. Titus 1:14 warns against that such teachings turn people away. “Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7 both declare that “in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Colossians 2:20-22 asks why we allow ourselves to be brought under such human requirements, rather than recognizing we are dead to sin. “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?

Many who struggle with impurity have never understood the principles of Romans 6-8. Romans 6:6-7 makes it clear we are free from the power of sin. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.”

Victory over sin is not a result of not committing sin or breaking a set of rules, but of realizing victory is a matter of his work in our life and yielding ourselves to him. It seems overly simplified, but it is what is required.

Romans 6:11 describes it very concisely. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”

Rather than teaching these human commandments, Titus is directed to focus on what is actually fitting for Christians. “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:” (Titus 2:1)

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Importance of Mature Teaching

Titus 1:10-14

As a missionary or evangelist, Paul had gone to the Island of Crete and started several churches there. He had spent enough time there to give sound instruction in the Christian life and doctrine, even sometimes spending several years in a city if necessary. Though they had been taught by one of the very Apostles for such a length of time, the people were still relatively new Christians. As a result their assurance of what they believed was susceptible to other influences.

As a more solidly grounded Christian, Titus was left behind as Paul’s representative to help the churches deal with problems that arose, helping them to find qualified pastors, to identify false teachings, and correct improper or sinful practices. As the churches became larger and more recognized, they became more attractive to those who wished to capitalize on their influence or make a profit. They also fell under increased pressure to yield to local culture and minimize their doctrinal stance.

A major aspect of Titus’ job was to help select and train pastors who would persist in “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (Titus 1:9). It was vital he do so because of the number of people wishing to profit from taking over an established group.

“For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake.” (Titus 1:10-11)

The problem is no less severe today. In almost fifty years as a missionary kid, church member, missionary and pastor, I have been amazed at the number of people who want to take over existing works. Several told my dad “Since you already know how to build a church, you should let us take over this one and go start a new one.” Others have offered to help out, then begun secretly teaching slightly different doctrine. Once they gain a sufficient following, they use the different doctrine to divide the church and either draw away a group or to take over and claim the church for themselves or their own group. By doing so, they are able to give the illusion of quickly building a church, establishing a reputation as greater missionaries than those who actually did the work. It enables them to raise far more financial support.

As missionaries for the BBFI, some of the worst were evangelists and missionaries whose main base were BBFI churches. In Paul’s day, the worst offenders were some of what are called Messianic Jews in our day. Technically, Paul, and all the Apostles were Messianic Jews. In Galatians, Paul deals with false doctrines that some of the other Messianic Jews were promoting. Many of the doctrines are developed to isolate the group so they can be controlled and produce benefit for the leader.

II Peter 2:1-3 warns that there will be such teachers 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:”

Many of the messages of modern ‘evangelists,’ including the television evangelists is focused on raising money than on the truth of God’s word. By modifying the message, to distinguish oneself, people will give to one in preference to another. The message can be about the Lord’s return, or marriage, or anything else, as long as it creates an excuse to support the preacher.

The second reason Titus’ job was critical was cultural. There are good and bad aspects in every culture. Unfortunately, most who live in a culture have grown up with the attitudes and traditions with nothing to compare them to. As a result, they accept them as being right, and resist any change. Until churches and pastors are sufficiently well grounded in God’s word to recognize problems with their culture and change them for themselves, pressure from the surrounding culture may well result in turning away from obedience. Titus must address these issues among the Cretians.

“One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” (Titus 1:12-14)

The Cretian culture encouraged the attitudes and actions Paul describes, either by openly advocating them or by ignoring them, with the result that they have become the accepted practice. Not being familiar with their culture, I must examine cultures I am familiar with. there are a great many admirable aspects in Navajo culture, including an emphasis on loyalty and family that others would do well to emulate.

Their traditional attitude toward lying, on the other hand, is less admirable. Traditionally a lie wasn’t considered relevant until it had been told four times. After the fourth telling one was obligated to make it true. Other cultures viewed Navajos as systematic liars, similar to the way Paul describes the Creatians. To change that attitude about lying has required almost 100 years, and a great deal of teaching.

In modern American society, the casual attitude toward marriage and divorce is deeply ingrained. It is rooted in traditional false teachings about marriage. To change it to a truly Christian attitude will require consistent teaching of scriptural doctrine, and insistence on following the scripture exactly.

To establish a truly scriptural doctrine of marriage will require studying and developing a system capable of including almost 1200 verses relating to marriage and divorce in some way. Any verse which contradicts our basic doctrine indicates a flaw in our doctrine. Most will never study the subject adequately to identify errors in their own position, and will continue in it, assuming it is right. Others will recognize a problem and turn to another philosophy that deals with a particular problem, but never find out what the Bible actually teaches.

One such philosophy is that of the “born again virgin.” The theory is that if one who has indulged in sexual sin will abstain for a period of time, it will be as if they had never indulged. While it seems to address the problem of promiscuity, it is in contradiction to scriptural teaching.

In an attempt to resolve the number of divorces by changing dating and courtship practices, another philosophy has focused on the concept of defrauding found in I Thessalonians 4:1-7. It also runs afoul of scriptural doctrine about marriage.

To repeat what Paul said, “Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” (Titus 1:13b-14) Religious or cultural standards may be contrary to the truth.

The Pastor’s Example

Titus 1:7-9

Many churches and religious organizations have some form of hierarchy consisting of bishops, pastors, elders, deacons, and lay people. Each level is superior to the one below it. Such a hierarchy is expressly forbidden in Matthew 20:25-28. “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Here Paul directs Titus to ordain elders in every church , and describes things to be considered because “a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God.” Clearly he relates elder and bishop as the same position or job. The term elder refers to those who are more spiritually mature, while bishop means ‘overseer’ or manager. The pastor or shepherd is the one responsible for particular group. The elders or pastors are specifically responsible for the spiritual care of the church. Their spiritual state is critical to their responsibilities.

The deacon is responsible for the physical activities of the church, such as finances, buildings and grounds, and charity. His spiritual qualifications are slightly less critical, but his moral and ethical standards are just as critical as those of the pastor. Paul does not address the requirements for deacons in this passage, as Titus is dealing with churches which are not yet large enough to require them. Legally, deacons would be called trustees.

Every Christian is an ambassador for Christ. The bishop or pastor is the overseer or steward responsible for training and guiding those under his authority. He must exemplify the traits every Christian is supposed to exhibit. Paul told Timothy he must set the example.

“For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (Titus 1:7-9)

The pastor is to set an example in several things. First, there are several things he must avoid. He must not be selfwilled, not demanding his own way. He is to put other’s desires ahead of his own. He must not be quick tempered, “not soon angry.” Ephesians 4:31 directs Christians, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:”

Alcoholic consumption is not something he habitually does, he is “not given to wine”. He is not just not an alcoholic, he doesn’t find it necessary to have a glass of wine regularly. He is not to be violent, a “striker” especially in trying to get his own way. I Timothy 5:22 instructs, “Lay hands suddenly on no man,” Money is not to be a major issue in his life. He is “not given to filthy lucre.” He is able to trust God rather than his bank balance.

Secondly, there are some characteristics that should be found in his life. He must be “a lover of hospitality,” loving to have guests, enjoying close personal contact with people. Christians are to be hospitable to one another according to I Peter 4:7-9 and Romans 12:10-13. The pastor should excel in this. People should be and feel welcome in his home.

He must also be “a lover of good men.” The old saying, “birds of a feather flock together” is valid. People tend to associate with others who have similar attitudes. He ought to love to associate with men who are good in the biblical sense, not just “good ole boys.” Our associations refine our attitudes. Proverbs 27:17 describes the effect of our friendships. “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

He must be a thoughtful and serious or “sober,” if he is to obey Ephesians 5:15-16. “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

He must be “just” or fair, not playing favorites. In I Timothy 5:21 Paul says, “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.”

Christians are to be holy or godly in their lifestyle. I Peter 1:15-16 instructs, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” The pastor is to set the example.

Temperance or self control ought to typify the pastor’s life in every area. He should be able to control his eating, his temper, his spending. Paul set such an example in I Corinthians 9:27. “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Like most of these positive traits, temperance is part of the fruit of the spirit.

Finally the pastor must have a strong grasp of and respect for the word of God. II Timothy 3:16-17 states that the scriptures provide everything needed to accomplish the ministry. “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.” By careful study he will be able to counteract and correct erroneous teaching according to Titus 1:9. “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” To develop doctrine sound enough to do so, study will be required as II Timothy 2:15 instructs. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Identifying Potential Leaders

Titus 1:5-6

Paul had left Timothy at the city of Ephesus to prevent the teaching of false doctrine and to pastor the church. Titus has a somewhat different job. He is to work with the churches on the island of Crete, training them how to function properly, and helping them to choose qualified pastors for every church. Paul states Titus’ job description quite succinctly. The rest of the book is devoted to explaining how to accomplish it.

“For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.” (Titus 1:5-6)

In addition to correcting things that are not right Titus is to “ordain” elders in every city. To ordain means ‘to choose, to elect, or to appoint’. To be considered, a man must have a reputation for ethical behavior, demonstrate a sound moral standard, and have the respect and trust of his children.

Accusations of ethical misbehavior, multiple marriages, and rebellious children indicate a man who has not shown a consistent Godly life. There is an old saying, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Accusations of unethical behavior indicate a questionable attitude toward right and wrong. A business man who has several complaints about his business practices should not be considered.

I Corinthians 7:1-7 describes the marriage as a protection from fornication, but stresses that some men do not require it to stay pure. If a man can stay pure without marriage, he has an advantage of freedom in serving Christ according to I Corinthians 7:32-38. Matthew 19:9 and Luke 16:18 both stress that divorce and remarriage, on the other hand are adultery. I Corinthians 7:10-13 make it clear that a person who separates is to remain unmarried or reunite with their mate, not to find someone else. Multiple marriages may well indicate an unsound moral character, even though there are no allegations of sexual impropriety.

Rebellious children indicate a man who has not demonstrated a life that his children want to emulate. As I Timothy 3:5 asks, “(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” The attitudes and actions of the children away from home indicate the home life of their parents.

Failure to examine the ethical area carefully, led to one church hiring a contractor who had been sued for failure to complete jobs after being paid for them. He took advantage of the church’s trust, buying extra materials to remodel the church, then selling them and pocketing the money. He supported another man in the church who was accused of not properly completing jobs, finally resulting in the second man being sued and losing his license.

Failure to carefully examine the moral implications of marriage led to hiring a man who had been promiscuous before marriage. He later told the church that they should not expect single men to remain sexually pure. Although he had only one wife legally, I Corinthians 6:16 implies that he did not qualify. Sexual promiscuity among the teen age boys became a real problem.

A failure to examine the attitudes of his children led one church to select a pastor who was later shown to be sexually molesting his daughters. Another was physically abusive, while a third was discovered to be an alcoholic. Simply examining these areas would have indicated some underlying attitudes that were potential problems.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Introduction to Titus

Titus 1:1-4

Like I and II Timothy, Titus is written to help a young man understand what he needs to do as a minister of the Gospel. There are many similarities, but each has a particular purpose. II Timothy focuses on how to prepare for the ministry, by study of the Word of God and spiritual development. I Timothy deals with the practical aspects of how to behave in the church, as relating to one another, and setting examples for our students. It is focused on the goals for all churches to strive toward.

Titus stresses the idea that in different areas, we may need to adjust our methods to produce the same results. Differences in culture and history tend to cause different priorities and attitudes, some of which are counter to the Gospel of Christ. Bringing people to where Christ wants them will require dealing with such difference. As a result, lessons, messages, or programs prepared for one area may not be particularly relevant in another.

In a basket ball game, playing against a small fast team is different than playing against a team whose shortest player is 6’10”. The strategy has to be adapted to the situation. The basics of shooting’ passing and dribbling do not change, but how they are applied does. Building a church, the message does not change, nor does the goal, but sometimes it is necessary to change our strategy to produce the desired results. Titus focuses in this concept of changing strategy to fit the situation without changing the doctrine.

Paul starts by introducing himself, and stating the basis of his qualifications. His basis is the same hope as that of everyone else. It is dependent on God’s truthfulness, and depends on accepting his statements and acknowledging his truth. God’s plan was established before the creation of the world, although many details were not revealed fully to man until the time of Christ. It is the responsibility of Paul, and every minister to spread that message.

“Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Titus 1:1-4)

The book is written to Titus, one of Paul’s converts. He was a gentile, who had been associated with Paul since at least Acts 15 according to Galatians 2:23, and possibly earlier. His salvation, his faith is the same faith as everyone else’s. His salvation, his forgiveness, and his peace and confidence are all from God.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You Must Depend on God

II Timothy 4:16-22

A husband or wife who threatens to leave their mate in an effort to get their way often doesn’t understand that to their mate they are saying they are not committed to the marriage. The mate now has to decide, not just whether to do what is wanted, but also to guess whether the relationship will last long enough to recoup his investment. While it might be worth while to invest in a new couch for the long haul, it is hardly worth while if the marriage might end next week. The threat of divorce may stop the mate from doing the very thing it was intended to cause.

People make decisions based on the information they have and past experience and training. People place their faith in the information being accurate and their experiences are correctly interpreted. That some of the information may be incomplete or experiences may be misunderstood is likely. It is difficult to commit to a position or action without sufficient information, or if the information is unconfirmed. Most people have experienced times when the information was faulty, making trust difficult. As a result it is difficult to predict what people will do.

When Paul first received Christ, even the other apostles were afraid to trust him. Their prior experience indicated that he was likely to kill them. Barnabas was the only one willing to take a chance on his being a Christian in Acts 9:27-28. People who did not know the Lord as well as Paul did had the same reaction in every city he preached in. They acted by faith, but their information was flawed, resulting in misplaced faith. They accepted human logic in place of God’s promise.

“At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (II Timothy 4:16-18)

God doesn’t depend on man for his power. Our belief or unbelief does not affect his power or his promises. II Timothy 2:13 states, “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” While everyone else deserted him. God did just what he had promised, causing his message to be heard in city after city, and protecting him even from being killed by a lion in the arena. Only God could have received the credit because others refused to get involved. His experiences encourage Paul to believe that he can trust God in every other situation as well. Paul hopes the others will be emboldened by what they have seen God do for him.

Paul now concludes by sharing the greetings of others to Timothy and asking him to share those greetings with others. That love and concern doesn’t end because of a separation.

“Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren. The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.” (II Timothy 4:19-22)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Finishing the Job

II Timothy 4:6

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of building a number of machine tools. Each one requires a great deal of effort, and many times there are details that require a concentration to design a critical part. Producing the design is often a daunting task. When something doesn’t work as planned, it is very discouraging. The only way one finishes the project is by focusing on the benefits of success. There are few feelings so gratifying as using the tool you have built, especially when it allows you to do something previously impossible.

Many times Paul had had discouragements and conflicts. II Corinthians 11:24-28 describes some of the things he had experienced. “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”

Paul is thrilled to have completed his project. He has finished the job he set out to do. He overcame all the discouragements and difficulty, and now he is ready to receive the benefits of what he has done. It will no longer be necessary to continue working so hard under such discouragement. He can now allow Timothy and others to take over the next stage of building the church.

“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (II Timothy 4:6-8)”

The same rewards are available to Timothy and everyone else who loves the future return of Christ. John 14:23-24 is very explicit that obedience is the result and evidence of our love. “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.”

Paul now continues to share news about himself and his companions, especially requesting that Timothy come as soon as possible.

“Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.” (II Timothy 4:9-12”

Two things especially stand out in this passage. First, Demas, mentioned as a fellow servant in Colossians 4:14 and Philippians 1:24, after years of serving God, has turned to the things of the world. Men of God can get distracted by other things and stop serving God.

Secondly, Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark, because he is profitable for the ministry. It is a complete reversal of his position in Acts 15, when he had so opposed taking Mark with them because he had dropped out on their previous trip. Barnabas had taken him, and worked with him, with the result that Paul now sees him as a valuable member of the team. Scripture teaches us to avoid about judging others. Barnabas’ decision not only resulted in Mark becoming an asset to the spread of the gospel, but in the Gospel of Mark.

Paul requests that Timothy bring some things he’d left behind, such as his cloak. He is especially desirous that Timothy bring his books . It is probable that the parchments mentioned were copies of Old Testament books. While Paul, as an educated man, probably had many other writings, especially relating to Jewish history and doctrine, he was especially concerned that he had access to scripture. There is nothing to indicate that these were Paul’s writings, and those who had been called to the ministry needed the scriptures to learn from.

“The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” (II Timothy 4:13)

Paul also reminds of Alexander’s opposition. It is probable that his attitude will not have changed, and that he will cause similar problems for Timothy as well.

“Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.” ( II Timothy 4:14-15)”

God can be trusted to deal with sin, it is not necessary for Timothy to. Romans 12:19 commands, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Monday, February 8, 2010

Preach The Word

II Timothy 4:1-5

Having a love for making things, I also developed a love for tools, like many other guys. Not having much money, I became interested in old and obsolete ways of doing things before power tools were available. Over the years I learned to build many of my own tools, and was interested to learn that most modern power tools use a modified form of the same processes the hand tools use.
The action may appear different, the principle is the same.

There is little more gratifying than building a tool that can be used to accomplish some other job. I became interested in machine tools such as metal lathes and milling machines. I obtained plans and information on hand scraping and began to build a metal lathe. The first one was not very accurate, but it was obvious the task was possible, and I built others. I now have a good lathe I built, capable of accuracy to a thousandth of an inch over the length of an eighteen inch shaft.

I surprised to learn that while the hand techniques I learned are considered obsolete by most machinists, they are used in the most exacting work to finish what is done by the best modern tools, being capable of producing accuracy to a millionth of an inch or better. No modern machine is capable of producing such accuracy.

Because modern methods are faster and easier, the tendency has been to settle for less accurate work, resulting in tools and machinery that is less capable of precision production. Labs and other precision builders often have to build their own tools because those manufactured by commercial processes are not adequate for their requirements.

The same tendency to choose the easier or faster metnod is often found in churches. It has resulted in Christians who are less solidly grounded in the faith and less able to function in a manner pleasing to God. While they may appear nearly as good initially, when it comes to day by day service, their lack of sound preparation begins to show. For example, the current rate of divorce among Christians indicates a lack of proper teaching in the churches. It is much easier to read a book about marriage than it is to find and study more than one thousand verses that contribute to what the Bible teaches about the subject.

Paul has spent considerable effort instructing Timothy to study the Scripture, stating that it provides everything the Christian needs to be pleasing to God. Now he stresses the importance of teaching the same thing to those who hear them. The word he uses ‘preach’, means ‘to herald.’ A herald was an official messenger. He was responsible for delivering the message accurately. Since an inaccurate rendering could in some cases result in death, he could be executed if he was found guilty of changing the message by so much as a single word. The preacher has that same responsibility before God.

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (II Timothy 4:1-2)

Both the preacher, and his hearers will stand before God for judgment. They cannot please God if they do not know exactly what he wants. He is to preach God’s word when it is popular and when it is unpopular, when it suits everybody, and when it contradicts accepted beliefs. It is a responsibility to show people what is wrong. When they knowingly do wrong, it may be necessary to scold sharply, while other times only encouragement is needed. As time passes, there will come a time when most people will begin to seek churches and preachers that make them feel good about what they are doing, rather than those who make them aware of their short comings. Traditions, rituals, and entertainment will take precedence over the truth of God’s word.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (II Timothy 4:3-4)

The preacher must not allow himself to be caught up in the trends and fashions of the day. God’s requirements have not changed. Seemingly obsolete teaching may be required to enable people to do what is required. We must not neglect any area of ministry.

“But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (II Timothy 4:5)

The pastor must be willing to maintain his own spiritual and moral standards, even when it produces hardship for himself. He must also reach out to the unsaved with the gospel. He cannot leave evangelism to professionals. It is part of his job. He is responsible for the whole job.

Matthew 28:19-20 describes the job. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations(disciple, cause to become Christians), baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost(get them to be baptized): Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you(teach them everything God has said): and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world(we will have his power and guidance to do what he wants). Amen. Until all three parts are done, the job is not finished.

My Brother-in law is a pipeline welder. His first day, he was embarrassed at how much slower he was than the other welders. He fell far behind. That night the testing crew x-rayed all the welds done that day. The next morning, he was the only welder who did not have to go back and repair any of his welds. Some of the welders were fired because their welds were unsatisfactory. Taking the time to do the job satisfactorily paid tremendous dividends, including a permanent position with the company. My brother-in-law had made full proof of his workmanship.

The ministry is to be approached the same way. As I Corinthians 3:13 warns, “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.”

Friday, February 5, 2010

Don’t Change Anything

II Timothy 3:14-17

A few years before the depression, my grand father had finally managed to buy a farm in Oklahoma. As his profits had grown, he borrowed money to purchase a herd of registered Milking Shorthorn cattle. When the Depression started, the cattle’s resale value dropped by over 90% and the bank foreclosed, claiming the loan was no longer secured. To make up the difference, they also seized the farm, leaving the family homeless.

For the next several years, they moved from place to place in New Mexico, southern Colorado and Oklahoma in a covered wagon, trading horses and sharecropping in various places. Unfortunately, the dustbowl started about three years after the Depression began, eliminating these opportunities and forcing them back on the road. Their final return to southern Colorado ended when Dad enlisted in the army during World War II. During the time they traveled, they had lived in houses, sheep folds, and their wagon.

My mom’s family were even worse off. At one point they moved to Missouri to live with relatives and work. The low elevation caused Granddad problems and doctors told him he’d die if he stayed in that area. They moved to La Veta, Colorado, where Grandma discovered she could not live in the higher elevation. They moved back to Campo and toughed it out but it was really tough. For several years they lived in a converted shed about ten foot by twelve foot. Finally they moved into what they called the big house. It was twelve feet by sixteen feet.

My parents have been blessed to have running water, indoor plumbing, cars, electricity and central heating. Their Grand kids live in houses with rooms larger than my grandparents house. Some of the grandkids earn more in a week than my grandparents earned annually, and none have ever been hungry.

Today, it looks like we are poised on the brink of another depression. What conditions will be like if it occurs is unforeseeable, but there are surely going to be changes. Such changes are an inherent part of life. Adapting to those changes is an ongoing challenge.

Fortunately, God does not change. MalachI 3:6 states, “For I am the LORD, I change not;” James 1: 1: 16 makes it clear there is not even an appearance of change. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

As a result there have been no changes in what God requires. God’s word has not changed, regardless how much earthly conditions may change. Paul warns Timothy of the danger of following new trends and ideas.

“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)

The scripture provides every thing required for salvation. It was given by God and is designed to supply complete instruction for identifying what is wrong, teaching us to fix problems, and teaching us how to do what is right. No other writings or teachings are needed to do any activity to please God. Just continuing to do the same God instructed will be the best you can do.

What Do You See In A Person’s Life?

II Timothy 3:10-13

Mentoring is one of the most effective ways of teaching. A person works with another, showing how to do a particular thing in a real life situation, not just a theoretical lecture or even a contrived model, although these may be used to demonstrate basic steps. By setting an example in varied situations, the person being mentored learns how to resolve issues other than the basics. Some times, before the basic solution can succeed, preparations or adjustments are needed.

Several years ago, a young man studying psychology was told that he would be unable to help drug addicts until he had experienced what they experienced. He tried the drugs himself and became addicted. When he finally kicked the addiction, he completed his training and became a counselor. He found that you could not help others if you were living with the same problem. A person who had never experienced it might not understand the problem, but one who has not gotten victory has little to offer as to how to escape. One reason so many drug and alcohol treatments fail is that that counselors have not resolved their own problems.

Timothy had worked alongside Paul, seeing his attitudes and responses in many situations. He also observed the results of those actions. Paul reminds him of those things as a way of preparing him for what will surely come.

“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.”(II Timothy 3:10-11)

Paul has set an example to be followed in his teaching. His lifestyle has modeled what Timothy needs to do. The intentions of Paul’s ministry have been clear. He has demonstrated faith, and a lack of complaint in light of his problems. The struggles have not made him hard or bitter, and he has demonstrated love and acceptance when others did not respond in a proper or fitting manner. This has been true in the face of both persecution by others, and in physical deprivation and sickness, not just once, but in place after place. As a result, Timothy has seen that it was God that produced the results.

Paul then delivers one of those promises most would rather forget. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” (II Timothy 3:12). Everyone who tries to serve God will be persecuted. Peter warns that we should not be surprised by such trouble. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (I Peter 4:12-13)

Some teachers today would have us believe that a walk with God will eliminate all the problems. They have ignored the scriptures. Instead of being upset, we should be rejoicing that the problems enable us to share in what Christ did for us, and to see his power in our daily lives. Jesus himself spoke of this in John 16:33. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” We can depend on him to take care of these things.

Paul also gives another promise we sometimes wish wasn’t true. “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived,” (II Timothy 3:13). Peter warns that the false teachers will not all be in other groups. “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.” (II Peter 2:1)

Not only has Paul set an example for Timothy, but he has demonstrated his relationship with God as being a man living and walking in the Spirit. Jesus stressed that these fruit would identify those who were really serving God.

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:15-21)

To avoid being taken in by the false teachers, we will need to examine their lives for the fruit that is produced. Many kinds of trees look similar, but some are poisonous. False teachers resemble the true prophets, but they endanger those who follow their teachings. Just listening their statements or looking at the outward appearances or actions is not enough. The Holy Spirit affects the attitude as well. The attitude will then affect everything they do.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Attitude Of The Day

II Timothy 3:1-9

In the little town where I grew up, the Catholic nun was murdered by a teenager looking for money to buy drugs. A man murdered his daughter when her mother filed for divorce. High school football players raped and sodomized younger players. Both male and female teachers were arrested for sexual relations with junior high students. A waitress in a restaurant was murdered by an unknown customer. Two jail guards were arrested for providing weapons to inmates. Police officers leak information to drug traffickers to enable them to escape prosecution.

These are just some of the recent news from around our state. The lawless and self serving attitude is visible in every area of our culture. Politicians like Nancy Pelosi state that they will pass laws no matter what the people want. Lawyers and judges are found guilty of serious crimes. Bankers from Goldman Sachs fraudulently obtain bailouts. Other bankers deliberately increase fees when credit reform laws are passed to take as much as possible from their clients before the laws go into effect.

Financial investment firms defraud millions of investors of billions of dollars. Political figures take bribes and payoffs and betray their families. People knowingly take loans with no ability or intention of paying them back. Public employees embezzle millions from government accounts. Doctors and hospitals inflate charges to medicare and individuals. Movie actors shoplift and commit murder. Music lyrics encourage murder, racism, sexual perversion, rape and abuse. Reality shows portray sexual behavior, deceit and betrayal as desirable qualities. The good cops are criminal in most movies, they just kill ‘bad’ guys instead of everyone.

Half the children live in broken homes with no father figure to set an example. The media reports mostly murders, robberies, and violent criminal activity. Children placed in daycare when only a few months old, and schools and psychologists tell us there is no moral standard. Video games train people to plan crimes and provide practice killings. Even churches and religious organizations are so involved in political activism and fund raising they no longer teach moral standards. Is it any wonder that our society is in such a mess? God warned that it would become like this, even in the churches.

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (II Timothy 3:1-5)

As Paul describes, even so called ‘Christians’ are self absorbed and self indulgent, greedy to get what they want. They claim credit for meaningless accomplishments and for what others have done. People are proud of things that ought to be shameful. Vile language, verbal abuse and innuendo are used to embarrass and discredit others.

Children have little or no respect for their parents, even abusing or killing them for telling them they can’t do something. There is little satisfaction with what people have, only bitterness that it is not more. There is no concern for whether something is right, but only whether it is expedient. Even the natural affection toward children and the opposite sex has been perverted, as in child molestation, homosexuality and promiscuity.

Even signed contracts provide no security. Lawyers make a business of finding ways to escape responsibilities. Unsubstantiated accusations and character assassination are considered normal. There is a lack of self control, whether of anger, sexual desires, eating, drug use, or alcohol. Fear is equated with respect, and meaningless violence maintains it. There is little loyalty to anything but self. Serious thought and planning have been replaced with illogical assumptions and ill considered actions, with total rejection of any other opinion as having merit.

Entertainment and pleasure has superseded any claims of God, as for example, churches canceling services on Superbowl Sunday, or people select a church on the basis of more exciting music or youth activities. While many profess to be Christians, there is little or no concern as to what God has actually said, even in supposedly strong churches.

We are to avoid so called Christians with such attitudes because they are dangerous to our own spiritual standing and that of others. I Corinthians 5:11-13 is very specific about the Christian’s responsibility in such cases. “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”

People with these attitudes take advantage of ignorance, and emotional and moral instability to gain control of others, promising superior knowledge and understanding, which they themselves lack.

“For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.” (II Timothy 3:6-9)

Like the magicians in Egypt, they provide no solutions, just delivering more of the same thing. Eventually people catch on that while their actions appear impressive. They actively oppose those who try to stand for the truth, trying to turn others to their ways. Titus 1:16 describes the situation. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”

Eventually, it becomes obvious that there is nothing of value being offered and people turn away. It is impossible to deceive all the people forever. Close association implies we are part of the same lie.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Protecting Others from Themselves

II Timothy 2:22-26

How often have you heard that the only foolish question is the one that doesn’t get asked? Unfortunately, that is not true. Several years ago, I had been teaching from I Timothy 2, and in verse 9 mentioned the fact that modesty is the Biblical standard. I mentioned that the modern interpretation of the world as not sexually revealing was not the original meaning. Older dictionaries define it as not calling attention to oneself. Strong’s defines the Greek word as ‘orderly’ and lists decorous as a synonym. It is translated as ‘of good behavior,’ or ‘modest.’

Using that definition, dressing in a manner to call attention to our religiousness is immodest, some what like the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:5 were doing. “But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments.” The Catholic priest’s robe or the clerical collar, the Mennonite women’s head coverings, and a pastor wearing a suit when all the others are wearing jeans all call attention to us just as the girl in the revealing clothing does, and as James 2:1-4 points out, can become a point of sin. Our clothing ought not attract attention.

A young man asked if that meant that if you were witnessing on a nudist beach you should not wear any clothes either? Such a question falls in the category of unlearned and foolish questions, It ignores God’s command to “Abstain from all appearance of evil,“ in I Thessalonians 5:22. Just being there is likely to be seen by others as being voyeuristic. Being there also exposes one to the temptation to lust and as Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart,” in Matthew 5:28. I Corinthians 6:18 tells us to “Flee fornication,” not embrace it.

The question was not a sincere effort to learn truth but an attempt to justify his own position. Paul advises to avoid natural desires and focus on the things God wants to produce in our lives. Such foolish and unlearned questions are used by Satan to foment conflicts and strife. I Corinthians 3:1-3 points out that the strife is a result of an unspiritual attitude.

“Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” (II Timothy 2:22-26)

To serve God, we must not get caught up in conflict. As Proverbs 13:10 states, “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.” God hates pride, and as both James 4:6 and I Peter 5:5 state, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

As a small boy, one of the men who came to our church had lived near a large river, Fascinated by the flowing water, every time his mother put him into the yard, he would climb over the fence and go to the river. His mother tried tying him so he couldn’t reach the fence to keep him away from the river, but their dog chewed the rope in two. Spanking the boy had no effect, so one day his mother spanked the dog.

Never again did the boy get to the river. The dog would chew the rope loose, but when the boy started to climb the dog would get in his way and prevent him from climbing. He couldn’t get out of the yard. The dog gently stopped him every time.

This is exactly the concept Paul gives, in meekness or gentleness instructing those that oppose themselves. Just as the boy endangered his life by going to the river, there are some who endanger their spiritual life by choices they make. Our job is to try to prevent their getting into trouble, while not hurting or destroying them in the process. The goal is to help them become what God wants rather than falling into one of Satan’s traps. I Corinthians 5-11 give some specific guidelines as to how this can be accomplished in various situations. With God to advise us, there should be no problem.

Ready For The Master’s Use

II Timothy 2:20-22

In my home are a large number of containers. There are some plastic trash cans, a mop bucket, canisters, nice dishes, and various baskets and pieces of pottery. Each one serves certain purposes. All of them including the trash can need cleaning from time to time to make them fit to use. Most people would refuse to eat from dirty dishes, and a dirty trash can may stink up the whole house. Washing them out makes them useable again.

There are a great many people with different jobs to do in the church, just as there are many needs for containers in a home. Each one has certain functions. All must be clean to be acceptable for doing their job. Just as dirt and food smears would make a dish un satisfactory, sin in ones life, false doctrine, practices contrary to the scriptures, and focusing on earthly belongings and pleasures make us unacceptable in serving God. As long as they are in our lives, we are like an unwashed dish sitting on the counter. We are just in the way.

“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (II Timothy 2:20-22)

II Timothy 2:16-19 describes some of the things we need to eliminate from our lives in order to please God. “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

I John 2:15-17 points out the danger of those youthful lusts for belongings and pleasures. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

Instead, we need to focus on developing “righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Most homemakers have certain containers that are used specifically for a certain job. For some reason the container seems especially suited for the job, so it is the one most often used. As Peter says, a person who develops these things will never be left on the shelf.

“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.” (II Peter 1:5-9)

One who hasn’t developed these properties in his life doesn’t recognize his position, or God’s right in his life. He is content to sit in the cabinet unused. After a while dust collects and they are not ready to be used.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Sure Foundation

II Timothy 2:19-20

About 1957 or 58, a well known ‘evangelist’ preached on the second coming, and stated that “the Lord will return before 1960.” Being just a child, and not knowing very much scripture, it was a scary message. Since that time, there have been hundreds of prophecies about when the Lord will return.

Some, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have preached that he already came. A third group have preached that we need to resolve the worlds problems so he can come and set up his kingdom. The resulting confusion has led many to decide that the whole thing is just a figment of someone’s imagination, or an attempt to manipulate people to do certain things.

Programs by various writers and groups have cast doubt on many of the commonly accepted beliefs about what the Bible says, especially when they are contradicted by scientific discoveries and claims of supposed experts. It has led to the Bible being considered by many as unreliable at best. Even human attempts to prove Biblical statements have contributed to the problem.

Bishop Ussher was considered the authority on Biblical dates, and using his dates, historians could find no evidence of Israel going into or leaving Egypt, and other historical events did not match the records of other ancient civilizations, casting doubt on the authenticity of the Old Testament.

Ussher shows a period of approximately 279 years for the period of the judges. The book of Judges itself describes a period of about 410 years between Israel’s being attacked by others and delivered by Othniel and the death of Samson. In addition, we have an unspecified period for Joshua’s leadership and the elders that outlived him, which probably could not have been less than about 30 years, and an unspecified period under Eli and Samuel before Saul became King.

The only thing we know about Eli’s age is that he was old when he died and Samuel took over as prophet and Judge. Samuel was very young and he judged up until shortly before his death, when he anointed Saul as King. This would imply the dates should be 200 or more years earlier than Ussher proposes and makes many of the conflicts disappear. It also places the dates of Israel’s entrance to and exodus from Egypt in periods where Egypt did not keep records due to other influences. While this does not prove the Bible is true, it negates claims that it cannot be true.

As Paul advises Timothy, despite the attacks, God’s word has not been undermined or changed. One of the key provisions is that God knows who his children are, and will not forget. Our obligation to do what is right has not changed.

“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (II Timothy 2:19)

The law of gravity does not change regardless how hard one throws the rock. If one throws a rock fast enough at the right angle, it may go into orbit. It is still falling, it just misses the earth, falling around it. Ignoring the Law of Gravity may result in someone being injured. God’s Law is not some made up story, but is the result of personal observation coupled with Gods direction. We ignore it at our own peril.

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (II Peter 1:16-21)

John makes a similar statement, Stressing their actual experiencing the things they share so that we trust their statements and experience the same things ourselves.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:1-3)

If we have received this message, and have had our sin removed, we ought to live as if it were gone. Romans 6:1-6 explains, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”

The main purpose in saving us was to deliver us from the power of sin. Why should we go back into slavery to it?