Sunday, June 18
Paul lists the requirements for being an elder in a local church in 1 Tim. 3:1-7. One of the requirements is that he be “the husband of but one wife.” The one wife requirement doesn’t pose a problem for me since I have only had one wife, but it could be a problem for some. Consider the possibilities:
- A man who has never been married.
- A man who has never been married but lived with a woman.
- A man who is not currently married, a widower.
- A man who is not currently married, a divorcee.
- A man who was only married once, but had sexual relations with another woman.
- A man who married more than once, but is now single, no divorce involved.
- A man who married only once, but the marriage was annulled.
- A man who never had sexual relations with a woman, but had a homosexual relationship.
- A man with past abnormal sexual relationships before his conversion, now single.
- A man with past abnormal sexual relationships before his conversion, now married.
I’m sure that doesn’t include all the possibilities. Interestingly enough Paul has no comment about the wife, although most churches today would consider her character, too. After thinking about how churches might deal with all these nuances, consider how a translator in a primitive ethnic group would deal with it. My hat is off to modern translators!
Friday, June 16
God calls people to salvation. He then calls the redeemed to service. Age and experience are immaterial, as mentioned in yesterday’s blog. If you’re a believer and haven’t felt a call, it is not because you haven’t been called. All believers are called. We are called to live godly lives, to encourage and build up fellow believers, and to spread the gospel throughout the world. Jesus commissioned the eleven disciples to world-wide evangelism before he ascended into heaven (Mt. 28:16-20). That was not just for the eleven Apostles, but for every believer, as is evident in the book of Acts and in the rest of the New Testament. Having been called into service, do you know the specific ministry you’ve been called to? [If “no,” read tomorrow’s blog.] If “yes,” are you functioning in that capacity? If not, you should probably take time to think about your calling. Maybe there’s unconfessed sin to deal with. Maybe you have lapsed into indifference, or maybe you have physical or mental problems. Maybe you don’t feel capable of doing what God wants you to do. Jeremiah felt that way. So did Moses. God did fairly well handling those guys. God has plenty of tools to use to make you fruitful. In any case, God needs to clean you up if you are to draw people to Christ. If you’re not producing fruit, the Holy Spirit is ready to nudge you in the right direction. And my experience is that he is extremely gentle, extremely patient, and extremely efficient. If you’re not sure what to do, pray about it.
Thursday, June 15
What do David, Samuel and Jeremiah have in common? They were chosen by God before their birth to serve God. David—Ps. 139:13, Jeremiah—Jer. 1:4-5. Samuel was dedicated to the Lord before his birth, obviously orchestrated by God (1 Sam. 1). David, the youngest in his family, was probably a teen-ager when anointed king of Israel. Despite his gross sins, he had an intimate relationship with God, who called him the “apple of his eye (Ps. 17:8). Jeremiah was 17 when God called him to be a prophet. Isaiah was also probably a teen-ager when God called him. Mary was likely a teen-ager when she gave birth to Jesus. So much for formal education and experience. But God also called people who were not young. Paul was about 40 years old and well educated (although going down the wrong trail) when Jesus got hold of him on the road to Damascus. All this raises enigmatic questions—for one, the doctrine of election. And why did God pick out people before they were born to do his bidding? One thing for sure: we can’t put God in a box. He is sovereign and will do what he pleases without violating his holiness, and without asking our opinion. We don’t need to know any more than that.
Wednesday, June 14
Most of us are concerned with personal growth. In terms of physical growth, kids are more interested in height or weight. They want to move out of childhood and into the adult world, with the questionable perception that that they will be happier when that time comes. Those of us who are older are probably more interested in losing weight. Although physical growth is important, other kinds of growth are even more important. We need to grow in knowledge, and as important as that is, growing in wisdom is far more important. Knowledge is foundational to wisdom, but doesn’t guarantee it, as is amply demonstrated by Solomon. Why he would be called the wisest man who ever lived is a mystery to me. His example teaches us how much we need God, as Solomon finally concluded at the end of Ecclesiastes. Unfortunately, his life did not reflect that. This line of reasoning is important for progress in our Christian lives. While we are declared righteous when conversion takes place, we are still saddled with the sin nature. Paul deals with that and provides a divine answer in Rom. 7-8. Our entire earthly life is a process of growing spiritually. We can’t get on a scale and measure it, but it should be evident. It takes time to grow fruit. Paul speaks of sowing and watering in 1 Cor. 3:6-7. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. Our sanctification is like that. We need to deal with the weeds, make sure we have water and sunshine, and God will bring the growth.
Tuesday, June 13
There is no ethnic group in the world that does not have moral standards. The problem is not morality; it’s living up to the standard. Most cultures simply skew the standard to accommodate their failure to live up to their code. Some re-define moral standards to make adherence a bit more attainable. We want to distinguish a little white lie from an egregious one. During the Dark Ages Jesuits practiced mental reservation, or mental equivocation, depending on one’s point of view. They were thus allowed to lie and deceive while in their minds they acknowledged that it was devious. Before condemning them too harshly, take note that sinful man has been doing this sort of thing throughout history. We excuse ourselves by statements such as “the end justifies the means” or “everybody is doing it.” It takes a work of God’s grace to be any different. Even after conversion, we have to deal with this “natural” inclination. We can get so inured to this that we don’t even realize that we are breaking a moral code. And that is why God gave the Israelites the Law. The Law meticulously laid out what is right and wrong. The end result of that—if taken seriously—is to recognize that God’s standard of conduct is way beyond our reach. And that makes us search for an answer outside ourselves. And that inclines us to listen to God’s answer. He paid for our failure to live by the Law, declared us righteous on the basis of belief, and began a work of grace in us called sanctification, in which we gradually understand and practice the morality prescribed by a holy God. It appears that God loves us!
Monday, June 12
John 8:12. “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” There’s a lot of truth here. Jesus is the source of light, the only one that can give life, spiritual life, eternal life. But Jesus said to his followers (Mt. 5:14) “You are the light of the world.” So we also possess the light, though we are not the source of it. God has given us the light so that it can reveal the source of life. Jesus then admonished his disciples to let it shine, not to hide it. It’s awesome that God has given us his light in order to draw people to him, the source of life. This is not a truth to take lightly. People need the Lord and we have the means of introducing them to the life-giver. But I think it goes beyond introducing people to Christ. New believers need to follow suit and lead still others to Christ. Paul role-modeled that. He let his light shine, but he didn’t stop there. He also encouraged new believers to follow him as he followed Christ (1 Cor, 11:1). And this becomes a chain reaction. As Paul admonished Timothy (2 Tim. 2:1-2)—“be strong in the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” Please note that that chain persisted through 20 centuries until it reached you and me. We need to be the next links in the chain. Let the light shine!
Sunday, June 11
There are a few men in the Bible who have no record of sinning. Joseph, Joshua and Daniel are three, but there are probably others. That doesn’t mean that these men never sinned, nor does it mean that the Bible in inaccurate when it doesn’t record their sins. It could be that God designed this as types of Christ. The most revered men in the Bible sinned. The records of Abraham, Moses, David, and a host of others are far from impeccable. Abraham failed to trust God at times, lied twice because of Sarah, yet God honored him for his faith. Moses was denied entrance into Canaan because of one sin, striking the rock in anger—one time he was not “meek.” David committed adultery and murder, was forgiven by God and was called the apple of God’s eye. Gideon sinned grievously after serving God faithfully earlier. Samuel devoted his entire life to God, but failed to rebuke his own sons because of their gross sins. Saul started out well and failed miserably later. Peter, whom the RCC claims as the first Pope, sinned, even as a leader in the Church after the Day of Pentecost. Paul rebuked him for compromising with the Judaizers—rightfully—and Peter responded well. Mark flunked out earlier and recovered marvelously. So sin is universal, whether or not it’s recorded. We need to honor the saints of old for faithful service, but none were impeccable. That’s why Christ had to die.