Category Archives: Teaching

No Fear!

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:3–7, ESV)

The word translated fear may mean cowardice, and it is the opposite of faith (ie. confidence).

It is possible that this was Timothy’s weakness. In the natural he was a timid soul. The Apostle was reminding his son in the faith that he was not alone (even apart from Paul’s presence) the Spirit of Almighty God lived within the young man.

There may a tendency to think of Christians as weak, fearful of conflict, having Father Mulcahey (MASH) or Ned Flanders (Simpsons) temperaments. What my natural temperament is, is irrelevant when I’m filled with the Holy Spirit. He makes me confident.

Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Things were not going smoothly in Ephesus, where Timothy pastored. There was opposition to the Gospel, false teaching, persecution from the pagans and the Jews. If Timothy was to survive, he needed to be filled with the Spirit to have the courage to face all of that stress and difficulty. 

When we’re overwhelmed we don’t feel as though we will overcome. I feel like giving in and giving up. Yet I’m called to conquer (Revelation 2-3). In fact, we are promised that we will “overwhelmingly overcome through Christ who loved us” (Romans 8:37)!

The Holy Spirit makes me secure as a child of the Father. A good earthly father imparts strength and confidence to his children. Security and confidence makes me bold and drives away all fear. I know who has my back, He has given me the right to call him Dad.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”” (Romans 8:15, TNIV)

Many are afraid today. The media and those in political power are stirring up hostility and fear. Panic attacks have become commonplace. Many are on medication, use alcohol, or marijuana to keep from being overwhelmed by fear and dread. This is not what a Spirit filled Christian needs or does. 

The devil is the original terrorist. Realize, Satan is a paper tiger, a toothless lion, a defeated foe. Like the defeated Saruman standing in the window of his lofty tower before Gandalf in Tolkien’s LOTR, so our enemy has been defeated by the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet the devil may still speak with an alluring voice and employ enticing lies. We must recognize his schemes and send him away in the name of Jesus Christ.

We are facing an increasingly hostile world. People are rejecting the Bible, and seeking to stop biblical Christians from speaking out. Sharing the Gospel is not seen as Good News by increasing numbers of people in this country. In the midst of this God is calling you and I to be bold: to grow up and speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), then deal with the consequences. When the Holy Spirit has control you will be courageous. Fear God and you will not fear anything or anyone else (Isaiah 8:13).

Don’t be a coward when you are called upon to defend the truth or the name of Jesus. Don’t go along with the crowd: they are moved by the spirit of anti-Christ. You are not of the same sort, not if you genuinely believe and call on Jesus as your Lord. You are not alone, friend. Jesus promised, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” That is a reality when you are indwelt and endowed with the Holy Spirit of Christ.

Power, love, self-control.

These are not natural attributes that I work up: the Holy Spirit infuses me with all three when He fills me. 

Power.

I need power to resist temptation, which weakens me. power to persevere through personal suffering and through persecution from a world that has turned from Christ, power to maintain sanity and stability in a dark, dangerous, unpredictable world.  Much of what we see today is people seeking power through money, politics and popularity.

People are insecure, and this may be true even though someone is arrogant (the latter is a mask for the former). There’s too much big talk in an effort to gain support, to win, to get money. Yet there is no real power behind the constant boasting and bickering. We want to see something really. Also, I must have power to do the work of ministry effectively. I cannot perform miracles or change people’s lives on my own.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). 

I need power to preach the Gospel. The Holy Spirit must anoint and ordain and speak through me or I waste my time and yours. This is why we always give people the opportunity to respond to the message on Sunday. Don’t just sit there and evaluate. Decide. Move. Do.

Love.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out all fear” (1 John 4:18). When I know I’m loved, I am secure. When I know that God will not allow anything to happen to destroy me, even though I may hurt at times, then I can stand up against anything.

We all need love. Self-love is a surrogate. Love extends away from the self; it doesn’t bend inward. In order to have love I must receive love. Most importantly, I must trust the Father’s love for me. This is the love “God has poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). Jesus new command gives a new basis for loving others: His sacrificial love for us.

“A new commandment I give to you that you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Christ’s love gives us the example, motivation and strength to love others rather than ignore or fight them.

Self-control. 

This is a special word in Greek, and a much needed character trait.

Barclay writes:

“There was self-discipline. The word is sōphronismos, one of these great untranslatable Greek words. It has been defined as ‘the sanity of saintliness’. In his book on The Pastorals, Sir Robert Falconer defines it as ‘control of oneself in face of panic or of passion’. It is Christ alone who can give us that command of self which will keep us both from being swept away and from running away.

No one can ever rule others without having complete self-control. Sōphronismos is that divinely given control of self which makes people great rulers of others because they are first of all the servants of Christ and in complete control of themselves.”

I really need self-control. Too often I fly off the handle, become enraged on the road, show impatience with my own apparent incompetence and inadequacy. Holy Spirit fill me and grant me this quality! If I cannot or will not lead myself, I cannot lead anyone else. Pray for your pastor in this regard. I need peace and patience, calm confidence and selfless forbearance toward people and situations that irritate and annoy my flesh. I must account the flesh dead and myself reborn in Christ.

Which brings us to today, Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. This is the perfect time to practice self-control, which fundamentally is the ability to say no to my natural self and yes to the Holy Spirit’s leadership

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Why Fast?

For thousands of years people in many different religious traditions have practiced fasting. Consider the following examples of people who fasted: Confucius, Plato, Aristotle and Hippocrates (father of medicine).  In the Bible we find Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel and Esther fasting in the Old Testament. In the Mosaic Law 

Israel is commanded to fast once per year on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27). In the New Testament Paul the apostle and Jesus fasted. Such eminent Christian leaders as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards also fasted. Why?

There are many reasons and benefits, some of which I’ve listed below. I have observed the following truth. Fasting teaches me to say, “no” to me. It is denying something that I need, usually food, in order to focus on what I need more: God and his truth. Jesus was tempted by the devil to end his 40 day inaugural fast miraculously by turning rocks into loaves of bread. The Lord quoted Deuteronomy: “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4 & Deut. 8:3). There is something, or rather Someone, more important in life than me. 

Eating is essential for physical life to continue. Unlike air, or even water, food is something I can limit or go without for an extended period of time without serious health risks. In fact, if done correctly and not recklessly, fasting may actually be healthy for the body. For example, recent studies done with both animals and humans indicate that eating 30% fewer calories results in a longer and healthier life. 

Fasting doesn’t have to be limited to food, however. Scripture records this interesting fast of the prophet Daniel during a period of serious prayer and mourning: “I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks” (Daniel 10:3, ESV). So, Daniel kept himself from self indulgence during this time. Later in the passage we see that he had chosen this kind of fast as a way of humbling himself before God to seek understanding into the future plight of his people Israel (ibid. 10:12). The Apostle Paul observed that married couples might abstain from sexual activity in order to focus on prayer. However, he encourages such couples to come back together after a limited time to avoid temptations, which may result from a lack of self-control (see 1 Corinthians 7:5). During the Christian season of Lent some people come up with an activity or indulgence in their lives to give up, which is a kind of fasting.

Jesus fasted. The Lord expected that his followers would fast (Matt. 6:16-18, Mark 2;20). There is no law that tells is we must fast. It is rather an impulse, a response to great need. Our bodies will naturally fast when we are sick. Spiritually, the response is similar….

 The following are eight reasons for fasting.

1. DEMONSTRATION of Repentance- In the prophetic book of Joel—an important quotation from which is contained in Peter’s first Gospel sermon (see Acts 2:17-21)—God warns the people of impending judgment due to their sin and consequently calls them to repentance. The primary demonstration of this repentance is fasting. ““Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning….’” “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.” (Joel 2:12, 15 TNIV). Jonah the prophet preaches (unwillingly) to Ninevah about God’s imminent judgment for their wickedness. The response of their king is to call the entire city to an absolute fast for three days. God’s response to their sincerity is to withhold his intended destruction. 

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? I must repent and come to an end of myself if I want to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. I must realize how truly sinful I am, and how depraved I will become without God’s helpI’ve got to take my sin seriously & cry out to God in repentance.

2. DESPERATION. Fast as an Act of Desperation- When my world is falling apart, when I need to hear from God at all costs I fast and pray. Daniel 10 spent 21 days of prayer for his nation (Daniel 10). David cried out desperately for the healing of his 1st child by Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:16). Our nation and is filled with rebellion, perversion and lawlessness. How many more tragedies must occur until we realize the need to return to the Lord in heart and mind and body? Are you desperate for change to occur? Is there an overwhelming need in your life. Fast and pray.

3. DEDICATION. Fast as an Act of Dedication (Matthew 4:1-2) –  After his baptism, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit where he fasted for 40 days to prepare for entry into his ministry. During this time Jesus was tested by the devil. Perhaps fasting gave Jesus clarity as he intensely focused on His Father. The time of testing provided confirmation that He was the Son of God who had come to save the world. You may fast as an act of dedication to the Lord, and to seek confirmation about his calling in your life.

4. DISCIPLINE. Fast as an Exercise of Self-Discipline (Matthew 4:3-4) –  Learn to say no to yourself. All of the temptations Jesus endured were aimed at getting him to act egotistically and expediently. If the Lord had given in it would not have been an exercise of faith, but an effort at overcoming self-doubt with presumption. Our consumer culture is about self-indulgence, not self-discipline. It is about pursuing passion, pleasure and satisfying desire. This is why we’re overweight and in debt. It is important to set limits for our time, money, eating and drinking. Fasting is a good tool to discipline yourself so that you may also say no in areas other than food.

5. DEPENDENCE. Fast as an Affirmation of Dependence upon God-  Learn to rely on the power of God. Jesus’ first statement in response to Satan’s temptation demonstrates this. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3 as quoted in Matthew 4:4, also John 4:34). When I give up something I truly want, I will need God’s help to persevere. The third affirmation of the AA 12 Steps recognizes our need to do this. “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God…” This is essential if I am to overcome a particularly stubborn habit or addiction. “This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting” (Mark 12:29). We need a deep faith, which relies entirely upon God, and fasting may help promote such faith.

6. DETERMINATION. Fast to Establish Determination-  Believing is not a feeling. It is an act of the will. Believing genuinely means I am willing to do something about it. Additionally, faith must endure or it’s worthless. Learn to have a tenacious and unshakeable faith. Jesus’ disciples encountered a boy whom they could not help. When Jesus cast out the spirit that afflicted the child, his disciples asked him why they were powerless. Jesus replied, “This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29, Matthew 17:21). Not everything happens instantly. In fact, many issues require determination and tenacity to overcome. Remember, although faith is an act of the will, it is not about willpower. It is about trust. I must be determined to continue to trust God, no matter the circumstances. This is fasting for a breakthrough. Nothing is helping. Nothing is changing. I can give up and give in, or I can resolve to focus all my attention on God and persevere in asking and seeking and knocking. This is the parable of the importunate widow, who kept coming to the judge until he gave here justice (Luke 18:1-8). In the end I will find it is not God who is withholding my right, but a lack of faith on my part. Fasting helps me to break through.

7. DETOXIFICATION. Fast as a means of Detoxification (Daniel 1:8-16) – Because of constant exposure to an impure environment your body collects all sorts of toxic and destructive substances. Consider Daniel and his friends who would not eat the meat and rich food offered them by their Babylonian overlords. Instead they ate only vegetables and drank only water. They were healthier as a result. They asked to be tested for 10 days. You can do the same test on yourself: Eat only vegetables and drink only water for 10 days and discover a healthier you. A vegan or even vegetarian diet that allows only organic foods is a healthy way to rid your body of toxins. When you abstain from food altogether, drinking only water, especially for longer periods, the digestive system and liver and kidneys can be cleansed of accumulated poison. Additional benefits have been discovered recently. I recommend author Jason Fung, an MD who claims that Type 2 Diabetes can be cured using a fasting regimen. The Diabetes Code and the Obesity Code are the two books I recommend.

The detoxification principle applies to your mind. When you remove TV, movies, video games, godless music, social media, you give your mind the opportunity to rest. Replace these things with worship and saturation in Scripture.

8. DIET. Fast regularly to Diet- Limiting the amount of food you eat is a means of controlling calorie intake. Most of us eat too much. We take in more calories than we burn, so we gain unneeded fat. Periodic fasting, (ie. one day per week), if done in moderation and balanced with a healthy, calorie controlled diet, is an effective tool in losing fat and maintaining a lean body. Increasingly, medical and dietary professionals are recommending a practice known as intermittent fasting, wherein you schedule eating in shorter windows of time. It is intermittent because you only do it several times per week. Common intermittent fasts are the 13 hour sundown to sunrise fast, which I’d recommend we all practice consistently, the 16-8 fast, the 18-6, and the OMAD (one meal a day). All of these may be used as a way to control your weight and become healthier. What is important with intermittent fasting is to eat nothing, and drink nothing other than water, black coffee or unsweetened tea. Almost everything you put in your mouth will cause an insulin response, which ruins the benefit of the fast. So, don’t snack. Don’t even chew gum during the fasting period. Additionally, dietary fasting is easier and works better if you are on a low carb diet. Many people are seeing significant fat loss by coupling intermittent fasting with a keto diet. My purpose here is not to describe these diets and practices in detail, but to motivate you to seriously consider fasting.

Suggested fasts

A) Fast and pray for a day.

Rise before 6 AM and eat a light breakfast.
From 6 AM until 6 PM drink only water. Drink at least 8 oz. every hour.
After 6 PM eat a healthy dinner with plenty of vegetables.

B) Intermittent fast over a period of time

Schedule eating and fasting several days per week.
Minimally, stop eating at sunset and fast until sunrise (12-13 hour fast)
Narrow your eating window by pushing the first meal of the day until noon (18 hour fast).
Do a 24 hour fast by eating shortly before sunset, then waiting until the next day at sunset to eat again. You’ll only skip two meals, by fast an entire day.

C) Daniel Fast for 10 days.

Eat only vegetables and a little fruit for 10 days. Focus on leafy greens and cruciferous (broccoli & cauliflower) vegetables, prefer organic.
Drink only water for 10 days. No soda, coffee, or tea. Vegetable or fruit juice is acceptable if it is 100% pure.
NO SUGAR
Once the 10 day test is done, you may decide to go to 21 or even 40 days. For longer fasts be sure to include beans, brown rice, pea or other vegan protein sources. Pastor D supplemented using Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein powder in water or almond milk.

D) Juice Fast for anywhere from one to ten days.

Do not do this for more than one day until you have done “A” above and prayed.
Try it for one day, then break, then three before you go longer.
Drink 90% vegetable juices made with a juice extractor ($50 – 100 appliance).
Drink juice every two hours and water in the hours between.
Again, no coffee or tea, and NO SUGAR or other sweeteners.
Organic vegetables are preferred.

Whatever you decide to do, remember the following principles.
• Be consistent. Discipline requires consistency to take hold and be effective.
• Giving up what you shouldn’t be doing to begin with is not fasting, it’s obedience.
• If you make a commitment to God, keep it. Better not to vow than to vow and not keep it.
• It is not a good idea to make promises to God, better to rely on his promises for you. So, you aren’t fasting to get God to do something for you. Trust him to help you through.

I Am a Single Pastor

I just finished a book by author Preston Sprinkle titled People to Be Loved. The concluding chapter was very affirming to me as a never-married single. There is an often unspoken assumption that if you are single, well, you’re incomplete. In fact, it is an assumption held by many single people themselves. To this Sprinkle replies:

“But if you think marriage is the only way to say yes to life, yes to love, and yes to happiness, then you’ll not only be disappointed if you get married, but you will also forgo the cruciform joy that his possible in your singleness.”

Cruciform joy. Huh? Sprinkle is a Christian pastor and scholar. He is referring to the follower of Jesus identifying with Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. Joy? The joy comes when I endure suffering together with the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit. Sprinkle continues:

“The Gospel never promises happiness to married folk. It does promise joy for those who pick up their crosses and die with Jesus.”

Overwhelming joy follows when I identify with Jesus on the cross and thereby overcome sin and death as I continue to see myself in Christ’s resurrection. “For you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). I am enabled to begin to experiencing eternal life (the Kingdom of God) now, even before I pass beyond this vale of tears to live forever with God.

I a single man, which is not uncommon. In fact, there are currently more single men and women in the United States than ever before, Further, the percentage of the population who are unmarried is on the increase. Where I am very different is in my occupation as a single. I am a pastor. I’ve never met another single senior pastor, although I’m sure there are others. I’ve considered that this could be keeping my church from growing numerically. Why, you might ask? Well, the expectation is that the pastor should be a family man. In fact, I wouldn’t be hired by the overwhelming majority of churches with pastoral positions open due to this expectation, and due to a misreading and misunderstanding of the requirements for a pastor listed in 1st Timothy and Titus (I’ll not cover the interpretive issue here).

So, are you asking yourself, “Hmm, what’s wrong with that guy?” Well, that’s how I feel sometimes, even though nobody who attends my church talks or acts like that. I do suspect most people I know would be relieved if I got married. And I suspect my church would grow numerically. Trouble is, I’ve never found anyone with whom I want to spend the rest of my life, and to whom I would surrender and sacrifice. Is that selfish? I won’t deny that I’m selfish. Aren’t you? However, that’s not the issue. I really believe that God has a specific will and purpose for every individual, and every married couple. I’ve believed and taught my entire adult life that if God wants you to be married, then there is an Eve for every Adam: God created the two for each other. I’ve simply never found someone like that, and never felt compelled by God to marry anyone. And I’m not compromising.

So, you may ask, “Well are you looking? Do you date?” I pray and keep my eyes open. I’ve been on a Christian oriented dating site on and off for quite sometime. I’ve been matched with literally thousands of women and met a few of them. No one has been God’s match for me.

Will I remain single the rest of my life? I don’t know, but I’m okay with that if it is God’s will. You see, that’s what I want. That’s what Jesus taught his students to pray for: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I’d like to have an intimate partner. I’d like to have kids. I think I’d make a great father and husband. However, I want to do whatever my Father in heaven wants, and he hasn’t shown me that is what he wants for my life.

The reason I share this is because I believe many single people feel like they are missing out, or like they are incomplete without a mate. Fellow single person, we are only incomplete if we have no relationship with God. A man or woman is a poor substitute and cannot fill your need for intimacy. It has been said that there is God shaped hole in everyone, which only God can fill.

God has a purpose for each of us. God has a purpose for me as a single pastor. I believe our church is perfect. I don’t mean we are without flaws. I am the chief of sinners (see 1 Timothy 1:15), so that’s not possible. What I mean is our church is perfect for those whom God has called to be part of us. We have an amazing Teaching Pastor, who is married and has four wonderful kids. Our church has families with children and I’m certain they feel comforted and strengthened by his leadership and example. We also have a number of older single adults in our church, and I hope they feel they are not second class members. Perhaps they are comforted and strengthened because their pastor is single too.

You see, a church is a family, or it should be. We are the family of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus warned his followers that they needed to be willing to lose natural friends and family and even their own lives for his sake and that of the Kingdom of God (see Luke 14:26). However, the Lord also promised better and greater relationships will replace that loss.

“’Yes, Jesus replied, ‘and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.’” (Mark 10:29–30, NLT)

I’ve thought our church might grow numerically if I were to get married. However, I believe I am who, and what, and where God has willed me to be, and I seek to become more like his Son. Our church is my family. I’m like a grandpa to all of these wonderful kids. I’m open to meeting someone, but it is unnecessary. That won’t fulfill me, or even give me more happiness, if it is not God’s leading and will.

Prisoners of Hope

What are you waiting for? Do you expect anything to happen?

The people of Israel were waiting for deliverance from foreign domination, but except for a brief period that did not occur.

In the New Testament time it was Rome that ruled the Western world. Israel was known as Palestine and was an insignificant but troublesome land.

For many years the Jews waited for Messiah. They expected this to be a military deliverer and king who would free them from their enemies and restore the glory days of King David. That has not happened as they hoped, not yet. Even today, many expect Messiah to come.

Herein lies the fundamental conflict: the world vs the Kingdom, the flesh vs. spirit, temporal vs. eternal, sight v. faith

However, the believer in Jesus Christ receives salvation and deliverance from the greatest enemies of the human race: sin and death and Satan. We must come to realize that the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven is not located in a single place on earth. Dallas Willard refers to it as “the Kingdom of the Heavens.”

“Right beside and among the kingdoms that are not God’s stands his Kingdom always ‘at hand.’ It is that of Jesus and his Heavenly Father. It can be ours as well. The door is open, and life in that kingdom is real. Even now, ‘the whole earth is full of His glory’ (Isa. 6:3). True, few see it.”

We may enter into the reality of God’s kingdom now by accepting the reign of Jesus the Messiah over our lives. All that is necessary for a Kingdom is a King and citizens. We become more than mere citizens, though. We are adopted into the royal family and become sons and daughters of the King.

What kingdom are you part of? Each of us has his own little domain because we all have self-will.

Extend that into the world–your home, your family, those over whom you exercise authority–and you have your kingdom. Giving your life to Jesus is giving your kingdom to Him and letting him rule through you. I would say it is a bloodless revolution, but that is only true if you consider that we did not have to fight and bleed. Jesus shed his blood on the cross to convince us of his love and to provide believers with the privilege of becoming part of His Kingdom of the heavens.

With all of this in mind, let us look at some famous messianic promises from the Old Testament, two of which are quoted by believers at Christmas.

Isaiah 9:2 (NIV84):

“The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.”

This refers to anyone in any time in history, but initially it pointed to those in Israel who were living without direction and little or no hope that better times would come. Does it speak to you today? Do you feel like your walking in darkness?

Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life” (John 8:12). You must believe in Jesus and trust him to lead you, not merely accept him or seek to feel him somehow. Then you must actually follow what you say you believe!

Isaiah 9:6–7 (NIV84):

“For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace

there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

with justice and righteousness

from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

will accomplish this.”

The baby born in a feeding trough has become the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Every nation on earth and every individual is still given the freedom to surrender to his loving rule or rebel, for now. But Jesus promised to return visibly and he will judge the world in righteousness and bring an end to evil and all self-will that opposes God’s will. “For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10)

Philippians 2:5–11 Have this mind in you, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Have you surrendered your will to Jesus Christ. Do you confess him to be Lord over your life? Do you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and that he is at the right hand of the Father now? That is your salvation from this dark, hopeless world. I will conclude with a messianic prophecy from Zechariah, often quoted at Easter, a portion of which has been upon my mind lately. I believe it applies to us, Lifewell, and to many others who have ears to hear.

Zechariah 9:9–13 (NIV84):

“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!

Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,

righteous and having salvation,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim

and the war-horses from Jerusalem,

and the battle bow will be broken.

He will proclaim peace to the nations.

His rule will extend from sea to sea

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

12 Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;

even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

13 I will bend Judah as I bend my bow

and fill it with Ephraim.

I will rouse your sons, O Zion,

against your sons, O Greece,

and make you like a warrior’s sword.

We used to be known as Zion. It is a reminder that those who have faith in Jesus have been grafted into the Olive Tree of God’s people. Jews and Gentiles who believe are the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16, 4:28, Rom. 4:16-18) and are given the right to partake of the promises made to His people (2 Peter 1:3-4). Jesus is the basis for my application of this passage to you and I today Lifewell.

You will recognize the prophecy about Jesus ridiing into Jerusalem in the donkey’s back. He was a peaceful king. The military leader rides a horse or a chariot. Jesus will return on a white horse…

Taking away the implements of war from Ephraim and Jerusalem means that God’s people will be peaceful and the Kingdom will advance by winning hearts not forcing surrender through fear of arms. The real church has always increased this way. In fact, the Kingdom of God grows under persecution.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” -Tertullian

Now we conclude with what I believe to be the message for you today….

“As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;

even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”

This promise is not offered to you and me because we deserve it, have earned it, or even because God feels sorry for us in our suffering. No, it is because of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood.

The promise is Jesus has freed you from your addiction today. He has freed you from depression today, from hopelessness and despair, from sadness, from anger and contempt, from the torment of abuse in your past, from failure.

Like Joseph of old, perhaps your brothers have thrown you into a waterless pit waiting to get the courage to kill you, then selling you into slavery. People you trusted, who appeared to be your friends, led you into darkness, evil, addiction. Your Christian brothers turned against you, slandered you, harmed your reputation, stole your joy. You have been persecuted for speaking about Jesus, and they threw you down into the bottom of a slimy pit, full of filth and mud but no clean water of life. That was what happened to Jeremiah, but God sent people to pull him out of the pit and he was kept safe in a fortress.

You are a prisoner of hope now!

You cannot help but believe things will get better, not because you deserve it, not because ‘everything will be ok’ naturally. NO, but because God is love. God is good. God has promised and fulfilled that promise in Jesus Christ, who came to set the captives free!

Luke 4:18–19 (NIV84): “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Finally, friends, all that the devil has stolen from you will be restored. In fact, two times as much or more. You have come to the year of God’s favor, a perpetual Jubilee.

Do you believe it? What are you waiting for? Receive it now.

Everything Created by God is Good

(notes from my Bible study in 1st Timothy)

“…everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5)

Jesus declared all food clean (Mark 7:19, see also Acts 10:10-16), as a prelude to the opening of the Kingdom of God to all people.

Even food sacrificed to idols was clean if the conscience of those partaking and those witnessing was not violated (see Romans 14).

We have people today who advocate abstinence from various types of food.

Vegans, Legalists, Excessive dieters.

Understand, all food is not equally healthy. Your diet should be balanced. However, it is not wrong to eat or drink certain things, unless your conscience or that of observers is violated.

There is extensive discussion by Paul regarding the practice of eating meat sacrificed to idols, which is an example of food that was branded unacceptable due to its negative association. The Apostle’s assessment was, so long as the individual’s conscience was okay with it, then they could eat. However, if partaking of this meat offended the conscience of another, then it should be avoided. This applies to alcohol today, assuming one is not drinking to excess and/or getting drunk.

You don’t have to avoid pork, or shellfish, or meat or alcohol or coffee/tea to be holy.

If your conscience allows it and you remain healthy, you may eat or drink what you please.

Be filled with the Holy Spirit, who will speak to your conscience.

So, what about marijuana?

So long as it is illegal and obtained from drug dealers and criminal cartels, it is absolutely wrong.

What about in states where it is legal? 

If it carries a stigma of offense, then it should be avoided.

I’ve never partaken of marijuana. However, I don’t believe it to be any worse than cigarettes, or any better. To inhale anything other than clean air into your lungs is not healthy. 

“it is made holy by the word of God”

I believe another biblical teaching applies to intoxicating substances of all types.

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.

And again.

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.”

(1 Corinthians 6:12 & 10:23)

Is it profitable for you personally? Does it help you be more like Jesus? 

Does it really improve your life? Do you perform better at work, school, home? 

Does it make you lethargic, lazy? Does it cloud your thinking?

Does it gain mastery over you as an addiction?

Does it gain mastery over you by influencing your thinking and actions, ie. Does it get you high? Are you a different person when you are under the influence of this drug (Hint: ask others; you are not a good judge of this)?

Does your use of this build up other people?

Does it improve and strengthen your relationships? 

Does it promote healthy, positive fellowship, or does it encourage you and others to do wrong, loosen your morals, violate your conscience, and to neglect your duty to help others do good.

Does it promote a better reputation for you among good people? 

Does it give you creditability to share the Gospel with people who haven’t heard?

Can you pray in the Spirit while under the influence of this substance?

Do you rely on it rather than praying?

Do you give thanks to God for it, or does it cause you to forget God?

The Differing and Complementary Purposes of Men and Women

Notes from a lesson on 1st Timothy 2:11-15…

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (1 Timothy 2:11–12, ESV)

Complementarian Position

“The term complementarian is the self-designation of the evangelical constituency that would see God’s created design for men and women as comprising male headship in the created order, reflecting itself in the requirement of a qualified male eldership in the church and the husband’s overarching responsibility in the leadership of the home.” (Wayne Grudem, Biblical Foundations of Manhood and Womanhood footnote 18, chapter 8)

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3)

“Just as the Father and Son are equal in deity and are equal in all their attributes, but different in role, so husband and wife are equal in personhood and value, but are different in the roles that God has given them. Just as God the Son is eternally subject to the authority of God the Father, so God has planned that wives would be subject to the authority of their own husbands.”

“No, the idea of headship and submission existed before creation. It began in the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity. The Father has eternally had a leadership role, an authority to initiate and direct, that the Son does not have. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is subject to both the Father and Son and plays yet a different role in creation and in the work of salvation.”

“When did the idea of headship and submission begin then? The idea of headship and submission never began! It has always existed in the eternal nature of God Himself. And in this most basic of all authority relationships, authority is not based on gifts or ability (for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in attributes and perfections). It is just there. Authority belongs to the Father not because he is wiser or because He is a more skillful leader, but just because he is the Father.” (Grudem, ibid.)

Egalitarian Position

“Christ did not take upon himself the task of world redemption because he was number two in the Trinity and his boss told him to do so or because he was demoted to a subordinate rank so that he could accomplish a job that no one else wanted to touch.” Furthermore, when the mission of redemption was completed, the Son resumed His former stature and full equality within the Trinity, leaving forever behind the role in which He had to submit Himself in obedience to the Father. As Bilezikian again comments, “Because there was no subordination within the Trinity prior to the Second Person’s incarnation, there will remain no such thing after its completion. If we must talk of subordination it is only a functional or economic subordination that pertains exclusively to Christ’s role in relation to human history.” (Grudem, ibid.)

In this view, there is no inherent masculine authority, and no need for a wife to submit to her husband, except as the husband also submits to his wife and all Christians submit to one another. However, I think validating this position requires the renunciation of an inerrant and throughly inspired Bible, or some novel hermeneutics when interpreting passages like the one we are considering now.

So, are women allowed to lead or teach in a church context? Are women supposed to remain quiet always?

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” (1 Corinthians 14:33–35, ESV)

Is the above teaching culturally bound? That is, was it only for the 1st Century Greco-Roman patriarchal world? Should application be limited to a time and/or place where men might be offended or intimated by feminine leadership (ie. Middle East). Is there something about the created order that should keep women from taking dominant leadership roles in church or in society? Is there theological teaching, perhaps even in a core area such as the Godhead that should guide our opinion? A thorough discussion of this issue is beyond the scope of our study, but I will try to answer the questions I’ve posed briefly.

Context is central to accurate Bible interpretation. One of the contexts we must evaluate is the historical situation of the original text. An important rule of hermeneutics (Bible interpretation) is: in order to understand what a particular Bible text means for us today, we must first understand what it meant to the original recipients. What is the historical situation that precipitated Paul’s command for women to remain silent in church? In Corinth it would seem that women were interrupting church gatherings with questions. It is also probable that some were dominating the teaching and worship time, which would certainly be an annoyance regardless of the gender of the disruptive personality.

When it concerns the 1st Timothy 2 passage, men were disrupting the order of the Ephesian church with their anger and debating. Women were causing a distraction by the way they dressed, and inviting cultural disrespect because of the way they conducted themselves in gatherings. Typically in Jewish synagogues, women were separated from the men. This was not the case in Christian house churches It is likely that some women were seen at times to be dominating discussion, or interrupting the flow of worship. They may have been seen as disgraceful because of the perception in a patriarchal culture that women should always be silent and submissive to men. Paul sought to maintain social order to permit the Gospel an unhindered hearing.

So, should women always remain silent in church today? Can and should women teach or preach? Is it acceptable for a woman to be an elder or a senior pastor in a church?

Our culture is not the same as 1st Century Greco-Roman or Jewish culture. Therefore, any practice that is culturally bound is not a practice we are bound to follow. Is it disgraceful in our culture for a woman to speak, teach, lead? The answer is, of course, no. Therefore, we must evaluate whether women remaining quiet in the 1st century house church was intended to be a universal rule.  I don’t believe it to be binding today. Women are free to involve themselves in discussion, or to teach in an appropriate context. However, the passage we are considering goes further. It prohibits women from teaching or exercising authority over men. This would keep a woman from being and elder or a senior pastor in a church.

Men and women are ontologically equal. This reality is found in the original creation of both in God’s image, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV) Jesus supported this: “He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,’” (Matthew 19:4, ESV)

When people come to Christ they are reborn and made new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). In Galatians the Apostle Paul writes the following about men and women who are new creations in Christ: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27–28, ESV)

We are all equal. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. However, equality does not mean uniformity. Men and woman are created differently each with a unique gift, calling and purpose. It is inordinate to believe and live as though this were not reality. We are seeing the bitter fruit of such dysfunctional thinking in our culture today. People are taught to reject the obvious differences between men and women, to consider masculinity and femininity as fluid, to regard gender as a cultural construct rather than a reality grounded in anatomy and DNA. This is what happens when we reject the truth that God is our Creator.

It is ironic when those who state such a belief will choose to act in a way that corresponds to the purported artificiality of gender. A biological woman begins wearing men’s clothes, taking testosterone, has a mastectomy, all because she feels like a man trapped in a woman’s body. Yet the actions she is taking demonstrate the reality that men and women are indeed different. She simply identifies with being a man. This is a break from reality. Whatever one’s belief or feeling, being a man or a woman is far deeper than clothing, or even anatomy. It is part of the created order: “he who created them from the beginning made them male and female.” Putting on makeup, wearing women’s clothes, taking estrogen, even having body altering surgery, will not turn a man into a woman. You are what you are in the deepest part of you. Choose to be who God created you to be, not what you feel, or what culture teaches. Find your identity in Christ.

In the passage under consideration Paul theologically validates the prohibition of women teaching or exercising authority over men, grounding it God’s created order, and by appealing to the consequences evident in the fall of Adam and Eve.

For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Timothy 2:13–15, ESV)

Two reasons are presented for the prohibition of women taking authority over or teaching men.

  1. Adam was created first.
  2. Eve was deceived, not Adam.

We have to go back to the creation account referenced by Paul in order to understand his theological reasoning. In creating man first, God is not making him more important. In fact, one could easily make the case that God saved the best for last! Woman is the crown of creation. In creating Adam first, God indicated his purpose for men: to lead.  In creating Eve from the side (the rib) of Adam God demonstrates his purpose for woman: to help and to sustain relationships. Men focus on tasks; women focus on relationships. While there are individual differences, this describes the most fundamental difference in God’s purpose for creating two unique genders.

In Genesis one, we are taught that human beings are created male and female, both in God’s image.

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

Next, it is revealed what human beings were originally created to do on earth.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”” (Genesis 1:28, ESV)

The difference in the way Adam and Eve were created is deeply significant, It signals that men and women will focus on different parts of the divine mandate found in Genesis 1:28. The woman will be more focused on children and sustaining the family, which fulfills God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” The man will be more focused on “subdue it (the earth) and have dominion over…every living thing.”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”” (Genesis 2:18, ESV)

Eve is created to fulfill God’s stated purpose to give Adam a “helper.” This should not lead us to think woman is inferior to man. In fact the context teaches the opposite. All of the animals were brought to Adam and he named them, but none was found which fit or “corresponded to” him. The animals were inferior and unlike Adam because only he was made in the image of God.

Grammatically the Hebrew word ezer (helper) means someone who helps from a position of strength. In the Old Testament the word is used 17 times to refer to God as our helper, and three times to refer to a military ally. So, the helper is strong not weak. If this were not the case how would they offer any real assistance? 

The helper is equal not inferior. A person who needs help has probably initiated an action (even if inspired to do so by another), which he is unable or unwilling to complete alone. For example, when God is my helper, I may have started to do something and prayed for his assistance. That certainly does not make God inferior to to me in any way. Still, God’s function in a helping act is different than the person whom He is assists. It is supportive. The one needing help is focused on the task, but the helper’s interest and focus is on the person they’re helping. So, this defines the basic difference between men and women and God’s purpose for each gender.

Next, the Apostle Paul indicates that a woman should not teach or command a man due to the fact that Eve was deceived, not Adam. 

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6, ESV)

In chapter three of Genesis tragedy unfolds as the Serpent tempts Eve who succumbs then gives some of the fruit to Adam, who has been watching silently all along. After Adam sins, both their eyes are opened, and they seek to hide from God. The first pair failed in their collective responsibility (to be obedient to God), and perverted their purposes. 

Eve was supposed to help nurture their relationship so that they would be whole and strong to do God’s will. Instead she disobeyed God’s will, then helped Adam to sin. It is Adam who should have focused on doing God’s will, ensuring that they kept His command and pursued His purpose. Instead, he failed to disagree with or correct his wife’s sinful decision — which he clearly knew to be wrong (Genesis 2:17), and was likely responsible for sharing with his wife (Genesis 3:2-3).  

Both the man and the woman were tempted in their area of weakness and succumbed. Further, the consequences pronounced upon their sin are in line with their differing functions in the creation order. According to Robert. D. Culver in his article for Women in Ministry, the traditional curses of Genesis chapter 3:14-19 are not so much curses, as natural results of the fall that must be endured by humankind (Clouse and Clouse, p. 40).  

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”” (Genesis 3:16–19, ESV)

When God pronounced His judgment and the consequences of their sin, it followed a familiar pattern. The result of Eve’s sin is the fall of woman in the area of relationships. The result of  Adam’s sin is the fall of man in the area of achieving the divine mandate itself. 

 The woman is told that two major consequences will abide as a result of her sin: 1) the pain of childbirth will be increased, and 2) although her desire will be for her husband he will rule over her. I do not believe the multiplication of pain in bearing children refers to physical birth alone, but to the whole responsibility of the mother in raising children from bearing them in her body to worrying about them the rest of her life. From this we should not to infer that the husband’s responsibility to raise their children is lessened. Rather, the mother will be naturally primary, and her responsibility will be painful at times. The second part of the curse (or result of the fall) is that the woman’s relationship to her husband will become one of subordination. Whereas the intent of God was for the man and woman to rule together, with the woman providing the emotional and relational strength and the man providing the specific direction to achieve God’s purpose, now the man will extend his natural dominance over his wife.

Adam’s consequence for following his wife into sin is complication in achieving the divine mandate to subdue the earth. Now the ground will be cursed and his work will be frustrating and unfulfilling at times. Work itself is not the curse, since in 2:15 God gave Adam responsibility to tend the garden. Instead, the curse makes man’s work in following God’s will and achieving any intended purpose more difficult. This is true because man has chosen independence from God by virtue of putting self will above God’s will. This was Satan’s sin, so man is now deformed into the likeness of God’s supreme enemy. Now there is an ongoing civil war between what the man knows to be right and what he desires to achieve for himself. 

Therefore, in both creation and fall we find support for the complementation view, which agrees with the Apostle Paul’s teaching in our passage that a woman should not be in authority over or teach a man. Eve became dominant in the garden (v, 15b), so a woman taking the position of priority or authority over men in the church could have negative effects. We may avoid repeating original sin by following God’s design for men and women. As Eve was deceived, so women may be inclined to trust their feelings and be led astray as Satan manipulates emotions, or perverts compassion, or offers to give godlike power to overcome insecurity. The man who knows what he should do, yet fails to do it, sins as Adam did. The man who idolizes his wife by putting her feelings, desires and will above God’s becomes an idolator of the first order.

What is a woman in Christ? The New Covenant assures that she is equal to a man in standing and worth. All Christians are viewed as one in Christ. However, although we are one in Christ the Spirit gives a diversity of gifts (I Corinthians 12; Romans 12:3-5). At the creation, before the fall, both the man and the woman are given the same mandate to accomplish (Genesis 1:28). However, they have different ways of achieving it. In both the natural creation and in Christ’s spiritual re-creation of humankind, there is unity and there is diversity. In answering our question of the role of women in ministry both of these concepts must be taken into account. 

I believe it is obvious that individuals not only possess different natural and spiritual gifts, but there are gifts established through God’s design and creation of man and woman which are typical for each gender. The man is typically gifted to fulfill the role of authoritative leader. The woman is typically gifted to fill the role of supportive or relational leader. Therefore, to be a man or a woman is more than biological: it is spiritual. Only in Christ can fallen men and women fully realize the potential of their gifts, and then only when each seeks to live as God’s new creation in Christ.

There are exceptions. God may sovereignly choose to use any person He wants to accomplish his will and purpose, whether male or female. It is obvious in both Bible and church history that the Lord has raised up strong women leaders such as: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla, Lydia, and Phoebe, usually in keeping with a woman’s gifting and purpose, but sometimes they as more dominant.

In the Old Testament Deborah was one of the Judges. It is obvious God raised her up as an authoritative leader. However, she sought to encourage the military commander Barak to lead, demonstrating again the gift of being a helper. In the New Testament Priscilla and Aquila were a husband and wife team who assisted Paul in leadership. Priscilla is sometimes named first, which signals she was the more visible (perhaps more dominant and outspoken).

So, should a woman be allowed to lead in any position a man does? The question we should rather ask is, has God called and gifted that particular woman to accomplish the ministry in which she seeks to be involved? If so then let us find the right context and the most supportive environment and position for her to be what God has called her to be: His minister.

Laziness and Socialism

Notes on a study in 2 Thessalonians.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6–12, ESV)

Laziness is sin. There is a reason sloth was listed among the 7 deadly sins. Idleness promotes temptation. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Consider the bad example of King David in the Bathsheba incident. The good king committed adultery with a woman and had her husband killed. This all began after he failed to go out to battle with his army.

“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel…. It happened late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.” (2 Sam. 11:1a, 2, ESV)

‘keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness”

Not only are you and I to avoid laziness, we are to avoid those who live this way. 

Paul offered himself and his companions as the example. The apostle had a practice of refusing gifts from a church during the time he was working to establish it. He often supported himself by working from working as a tentmaker. He exemplified hard work. Only when a church was self-sufficient and Paul had moved to the next mission field, would he accept it’s financial support. We discover this in the Corinthian letters (1 Corinthians 9, 2 Corinthians 11:8).

A possible reason for the problem of laziness in Thessalonica was the belief that Jesus’ return was imminent, and therefore there would be no reason to keep on working a job. Each one of us ought to live every day as though it were our last on earth, whether because we “always keep death in mind,” or because we have our “eyes to the sky” looking for the return of Christ. However, that doesn’t mean I retire and do nothing until the Lord returns.

God expects us to be busy with his work and with investing and remaining involved with our communities. Our situation is like the Israelites in Babylonian captivity. Heaven is our home and primary citizenship. We are exiles and dissidents here on earth. Our duty is to work for the prosperity and benefit of our city and community, to say nothing of the fact that we must make a living for ourselves and our families. 

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7, ESV)

Sadly, it is far more likely in our time that people are overly focused on this life and take little or no thought for the next. Even so, there is plenty of laziness among some, who want to live idle lives. These seek to “eat, drink and be merry” all the time, but have no desire to work for the means to purchase the food and drink. Some want to live the lifestyle of the idle rich. Here’s a question to test you: What would you do with your life if you won the lotto? With more money available, I would seek to grow this church and put together projects and investments to preach the Gospel. If I had more money available I would be busier than I am now, not building my petty kingdom, but extending God’s!

“If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

Paul’s perspective was, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” Does that sound harsh to you? The precept to learn is: each of us is responsible for providing for ourselves. The government doesn’t owe you a living. Jesus commands us to give to those who ask, but not to support laziness. If you won’t work, you need to feel the consequences of that. Missing a meal or two would serve only to help many. It seems a contradiction when we observe a person who refuses to work—usually with some excuse—who is obese. 

Everyone should be given an opportunity to be supported equitably for their work. Jesus said, “The worker is worthy of his wages” (Matt. 10:10). However, there should be no government or church welfare for those who will not contribute their labor to support themselves and contribute to their community. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had it right when he started the WPA program during the Great Depression. Many people were out of work, so the President gave them government jobs cleaning up roads and improving the nation’s infrastructure. My experience has been that many people who are on welfare and disability could be doing something, but don’t because they won’t. Their primary handicap is not physical but spiritual. They are lazy. They have convinced themselves that they are incapable of doing anything as justification for this sin. I believe the word “can’t” is the most destructive in a person’s vocabulary. Can’t often just times means won’t.

Socialism (and communism) sounds like it promotes justice. The reality is, socialism doesn’t work because there is no incentive for people to work hard, to produce, innovate, or create. A guaranteed job and income results in mediocrity at best. The following is a quote from Peter Hitchens, brother to the famed late atheist celebrity Christopher Hitchens. Peter is a journalist who spent a significant amount of time in the former United Soviet Socialist Republic.

“For the average citizen it was a life lived at a dismally low level materially, ethically and culturally. The Soviet Union may have been a great power, but it was a great power that had diverted its resources into the hands of the state.” (from Peter Hitchens, Rage Against God).

Let’s be clear, taking someone else’s hard earned income and giving it it to those who will not work is theft. Social welfare programs may be necessary to help those who verifiably cannot help themselves. However, any program that rewards laziness is not social justice: it is both unjust and destructive to a healthy thriving economy, as the current situation in Venezuela illustrates. 

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:13–15, ESV)

For doing good we must look to our reward in the next life, for often we may be without in this one. Let the Holy Spirit encourage you to continue doing good and glorifying God. Be satisfied with little, even during times when you have much. 

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Tim. 6:6-7)

“and have nothing to do with him that he may be ashamed”

Shun lazy, or immoral, or rebellious supposed Christians (see also Matt. 18:17, 2 Tim. 3:5, 1 Cor. 5:9, 2 Jn. 10). Paul even states we should not eat with such people (1 Cor. 5:11). 

“Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother”

We are not placing ourselves above and beyond those who are walking in sin. The purpose is to highlight their need to change. Be open and forgiving if the person repents or genuinely seeks help to change.