Monthly Archives: December 2018

1&2 Timothy; Grey Hair

Paul gives the young preacher, Timothy, instruction as to how the Church should help the elderly. I don’t think it would be a bad idea for the Church in 2018 to take a second look at what God says through Paul.

The first thing I noticed is that Paul tells us family should take care of family first. He talks specifically about widows, and if that’s as far as we want to take it, I still think there is something important for us to consider.

If a widow has children, those kids need to step up. It’s not the church’s responsibility to make sure her bills are paid, and her lawn gets mowed. It’s not the church’s responsibility to keep in touch with her, or to be sure she gets to her doctor’s appointment. Her  children have the responsibility – and I would add the privilege – of making sure Mom is ok.

Shouldn’t the same be said for widowers? Or anyone who finds themselves alone and needy? I believe Paul is telling family to care of family. But I personally see so many adult children turn their backs on their parents for any number of reasons. I’m sorry, but I don’t see God telling us to take care of our parents if we think they deserve it, or only if they are nice to us. Children have a responsibility to their aging parents, like it or not, convenient or not.

A side note: if you are blessed to have an elderly parent in your life, I envy you. My mom died in 1996, and what I wouldn’t give to hear her voice, to sit with her, or to have her in my home. “Oh,” you might say, “You have no idea how hard that is.” And you would be right. I don’t. I’d still like to try.

And while I’m at it, may I say if you can’t care for your elderly parent with joy and enthusiasm, then let someone else do it. I know you are worried about your inheritance if you get a room for them in the local nursing home. But that money isn’t yours. Your parent earned it. Shame on you for making their life and yours miserable for a few bucks.

The other thing I see here in Paul’s letters to Timothy is the attitude we need to adopt toward the elderly. Treat them with respect, Paul says. “Exhort him.”

Do you see our modern churches doing that? Or have we pushed them aside in favor of an attempt to attract millennials into our services? We certainly don’t want them to see too many grey hairs, do we?

We are such a throw-away society. Let’s not throw away those dear ones in our midst who aren’t as young as they used to be, but who are loved by God and still have purpose in this life as long as God gives them breath.

Young people, middle aged folk, reach out to that parent or grandparent this Christmas. Make sure they are ok. Fill their kitchens with the smell of baking cookies, or decorate a tree in their nursing home room.

And Church, if an elderly person in your fellowship has children who are neglectful, you be the one who reaches out to them. Not to help that disobedient child, but to bless that widow, widower, or single person with a head full of grey hair, and who is as valuable in God’s kingdom as you are.

1&2 Thessalonians; Here Comes The Judge

As I read Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, some of the old hymns were running through my mind. “One Day He’s coming, O glorious day!” “With power and great glory, He is Coming Again.”  “When The Role Is Called Up Yonder I’ll Be There.”

There is a lot of speculation about the events surrounding the day Jesus returns to earth. There always has been. Paul reminds us that the only thing that really matters is the fact that Jesus will come back, in the blink of an eye. And no one will have a heads-up on His timing.

If you read these letters, you’ll hear Paul encourage us who know the Savior to be busy doing His work, reaching out to the lost, telling people about Jesus. Because when Jesus comes back, He will judge the world.

And He will show no mercy to those who don’t know Him.

Only those who are wearing His righteousness, purchased for us with His own precious blood, will be declared, “Not guilty,” because Jesus took our guilty verdict on Himself. We will be able to look into the eyes of this Holy, fearsome, Judge, and see only forgiveness and love.

But anyone looking into those same eyes, standing before Him trying to wear their own righteousness, will have reason to be terrified. Those who stand before the final Judge on their own will hear the guilty verdict they deserve.

Personally, I look forward to gazing into those piercing eyes. Because, when He judges me, He’ll be seeing someone who is washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. I pray you can say the same.

 

Colossians; Chains and Open Doors

Paul is in prison. Although he is afforded some privileges, he is still chained to a wall, guarded 24/7. This letter to Colossi was written from that prison.

Paul speaks of Jesus, and points to the fact that our salvation, our redemption comes through Jesus only. He warns about mystical thinking, legalism, and the very real temptation to fall for religious sounding teaching that, in reality, is false religion. He encourages us to stand firm. I love 2:6-7:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

We need not only to know Christ, but to grow in Him through reading His Word and in prayer. Our roots need to grow deep in the Truth.

Colossians is a quick read. But I hope you’ll read it twice, let the words sink in, let your roots grow deep.

Something struck me today. I guess I’m still thinking about this season of year that can be so hard for some. Family drama, financial woes, a fearful diagnosis has some people wanting a fast-forward button. Just get me through the next few weeks, Lord.

But here Paul, in chains, asks the Colossians to pray for him. And how does he ask them to pray?

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (4:3-4)

He doesn’t ask them to pray that he’d get out of jail. He didn’t ask them to pray that his troubles would cease. He asked them to pray that God would give him an open door for ministry – not an open door to the outside.

I wonder if that couldn’t be our prayer this Christmas, too. Instead of asking God to fix our circumstances, what if we asked Him to open a door to share the true meaning of the season while our circumstances are holding us captive? What if we asked God to help us look for ways to serve Him in spite of what is going on in our lives at the moment? What if we asked God to change our sorrow to joy so that people will see the supernatural power of God in us?

Christmas holds such an amazing truth I don’t want us to forget. God Himself became a human, a baby born about as poor as a church mouse. God Himself left heaven, and chained Himself to a flesh and blood body so that He could die for sinners. God so loved the world that He came, He grew up and shared His heart with us, He died, and rose again so that we can know Him now and in eternity.

Let’s pray that God will give us opportunities to share this wonderful truth with people during the next few weeks. Instead of focusing on our chains, let’s pray for open doors.

Philippians; If You Think It, You Can Be It

There are some motivational speakers and authors who preach the power of our thoughts. “If you think it, you can be it.”

Now, I’m not discounting the fact that our thoughts have a lot to do with how we feel, and our feelings contribute to what we do. Typically, thoughts lead to feelings, feelings lead to actions. So imagining myself CEO of the company might help me to feel confident, which will give me the courage to take on those hard projects that will get noticed by those in charge. Even the Bible tells us how important is our thought-life.

This time of year, when so much focus in put on family and friendships, can be hard for some people. The loss of a loved one still feels like a knife to the heart. The empty chair, whether through death, or anger, or neglect, seems the focal point of the whole house. Every Hallmark movie, every Christmas song on the radio, every card that comes (or doesn’t come) in the mail reminds us of what is wrong.

And we get sadder, or angrier, or lonelier than we were the day before. We remember the harsh words said in our last conversation. We replay happier times, and tell ourselves we will never be that happy again. Our thoughts can swallow us whole.

But here’s some good news. Paul tells us God offers peace. Not just in good times. Paul simply says, “And the God of peace WILL BE WITH YOU.” (4:9, emphasis mine)

How? How can I find peace when my heart is broken, when anger or regret or hurt feelings occupy 90% of my day? The answer is here in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He says think instead on these things:

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (4:8)

Do you want peace in your heart and life? Then think about what is true. Not just about your situation, although that is certainly important. Think about what is true about God. Turn your thoughts away from yourself, and toward Him.

Think about what is noble and right. Take the high road. You might be the one who needs to swallow your pride, to reach out to that one with whom you are estranged. It’s Jesus’ example that we show love to those who are not loving toward us. It’s the right thing to do.

Think about what is pure, lovely, and admirable. Don’t let your thoughts sink to the gutter. Don’t wish someone ill. Don’t keep reminding yourself how unfair you think they’ve been. Get rid of anger, selfish ambition, jealousy, evil.

Think about things that are excellent and praiseworthy. Has God blessed you? Then think about that. Talk to Him about how thankful you are for what He has given you, without mentioning what you think He should give you. Praise Him for who He is to you.

Scripture tells us if we get a handle on our thoughts, the God of peace will be with us.

If you’re okay with feeling depressed, lonely, or angry this Christmas, then don’t change anything. But if you want to experience God’s peace, I’ll go so far as to promise His joy, then change your thoughts.

When Satan would nudge you with negativity, turn it into praise. Think instead on that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable. “If anything is excellent or praiseworthy…” think about those things instead.

If you want God’s peace, you can have it. Think about it.

Ephesians; Royal Rules

Being an American, I’m not that familiar with British Royalty. I’m not what you’d call a Royal Enthusiast, although I do like watching the weddings. So, after reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, I Googled Royal Rules. Here are a few that stood out to me:

  1. No one eats after the Queen is through with her meal.
  2. A Royal wedding bouquet must contain myrtle.
  3. You can’t have political views
  4. You can’t play the board game “Monopoly.”
  5. Married women don’t wear hats after 6 PM – bring on the tiaras.
  6. You can’t eat shellfish
  7. You can’t take selfies
  8. Garlic isn’t allowed in Buckingham Palace
  9. Neither are potatoes, rice, and pasta
  10. You never turn your back toward the Queen

(from “50 Strict Rules the Royal Family Has to Follow, marieclaire.com)

After reading Galatians the other day, I was reminded that I am an heir, a member of the most royal family of all – God’s Church. Today I am convicted about that very thing. Paul, in Ephesians, tells us what a Royal should look like. I’m asking myself if I’m living my life worthy of the calling:

  1. Be completely humble
  2. Be gentle, patient, loving
  3. Be a peace-maker
  4. Speak truth in love
  5. Put off falsehood
  6. Don’t sin in anger
  7. Don’t be obscene
  8. Don’t be impure
  9. Don’t be greedy
  10. Don’t be partners with those who are disobedient

There’s more. Paul goes on to describe in further detail what we who are heirs of the Promise, children of the King of Kings should look like. I encourage you to read Ephesians for yourself.

I’m thinking if those British Royals can take that much care to represent the Queen in such a manner, shouldn’t I take more care to represent my King?

Galatians; I’m An Heir!

Reading Galatians thrills my soul. As a Gentile, to hear God say through His servant Paul, that I am His child, I am heir to His Promise, and that in His eyes there is no difference between Jews and the rest of us, I am humbled and grateful.

God doesn’t say I am His step-child, or His foster child. He doesn’t say I’m His child except for this one thing. Or that I’m an heir of only some of the Promise. I read Galatians and rejoice in my position as a child of God, wholly His.

I’m an heir, not because of parentage or some ceremonial circumcision, but because of Jesus. I am a child of God because I have accepted what Jesus did for me on the cross.

I hope you’ll read this letter for yourself, and rejoice with me in the cross of Christ. Because, if you have received God’s grace through the blood of His Son, you are a new creation. And God, through Paul, says that’s the only thing that counts. (6:15)

2 Corinthians 7-12; Examine Yourselves

Do you consider yourself a Christian? On what do you base that belief? Paul tells the church in Corinth:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.”

Sadly, the name, “Christian” is almost meaningless these days. Some people consider themselves “Christian” if they go to church occasionally, or if they were baptized as a child, or if they aren’t an atheist or Islamic. But Paul goes a bit deeper and asks if we are “in the faith.”

Maybe that is the litmus test. Have you put your faith in the person of Jesus Christ? Have you confessed your sins and accepted what Jesus did for you on the cross? And did that confession change you?

Consider where you have placed your faith. Is it in yourself? In a preacher or philosopher? If you haven’t placed your faith in Jesus, I wonder if you should be wearing His name.

Paul says, “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless of course you fail the test.”

Here’s the test: Romans 3:23 tells us we are all sinners. Romans 6:23 says the price of our sin is death. But God sent Jesus to die for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8).

That is where your forgiveness – your justification lies. (Romans 3:24) God justifies freely through the redemption that comes by Christ Jesus. Not in right living. Not in church attendance. Not in volunteering at the homeless shelter.

Unless you have a relationship with Jesus through His precious blood, you fail the test. And if you fail the test, don’t wear His name. “Christian” doesn’t apply to you.

Examine yourself whether you’ve been calling yourself a Christian or whether you’re not sure where you stand. Take the test. It’s a matter of life and death.