Archive for the ‘Encouragements’ Category:

Exercise

The apostle Paul admonished Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7b-8 “Exercise yourself toward godliness.  For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”  Perhaps your normal daily activities cause you to have a strong physical body.  This would be true for healthy individuals who are on their feet much of the time, walking or climbing or running.  It would be true for those who repeatedly lift or push heavy loads.  Instead, perhaps you have a more sedentary life pattern in that your normal activities do not stimulate your body to be physically strong; to obtain or maintain physical strength, you may choose to take time for exercise.  Bodily or physical exercise is physical activity intended to improve strength and fitness.  In general, physical exercise improves your health, wards off disease, and leads to longer life.  The profit that one receives from bodily exercise is good and desirable.  But the apostle Paul states in his admonition to Timothy that the profit that one receives from bodily exercise is little compared to the profit of exercising toward godliness.

What is godliness?  The word translated as godliness means piety which is reverence and devotion to God.  It describes an attitude that is centered on God and does that which is well-pleasing to Him.  The word translated as exercise means to train the body or mind.  Exercising yourself toward godliness would be to take time in your day that you devote to God and do things that you know are well-pleasing to Him.  Maybe that is prayer; maybe that is praising God for his wonderful grace; maybe that is reading and studying and meditating on His word; maybe that is sharing His truths with those who don’t know them; maybe it is sharing your resources out of love with those in need.  Just as repeated physical exercise serves the purpose of making one physically strong, repeated spiritual activities that are devoted to God makes one spiritually strong.

A baby or young child is weak compared to most adults.  Strength usually comes with age and maturity and exercise.  Some Christians are weak when they should be strong.  Hebrews 5:12-14 “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  

Your heavenly Father wants you to be strong spiritually.  He will chasten you to make you strong and fruitful.  Hebrews 12:7-11 “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?   But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.  Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?  For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.  Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Trials will come in your life.  Your faith will be tested.  If you accept God’s testing and chastening and remain faithful, you will be stronger because of your experiences. 

Bodily exercise makes your body stronger.  Exercising in godliness has “promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”  You are given dual promises – life that now is and life which is to come.  Jesus said much the same thing.  Mark 10:28-30 “Then Peter began to say to Him, ’See, we have left all and followed You.’  So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life.’”  I have brothers and sisters all over the world.  The fellowship which I share with them is sweet wherever I may go.  They open their houses to me and share as there is need.  I am convinced that the Christian life is the best life.  A life of loving each other, of service, of purity, of righteousness, and of seeking after spiritual things rather than physical things is far better that the selfishness and slavery and guilt of sin that the world experiences.  Then the second part of the promise is the promise of the life which is to come.  That life will be in the presence of the Father and His son Jesus Christ; there will be no more curse; we will eat of the tree of life and experience the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him.

I encourage you to exercise physically so that you can have a strong, healthy body.  But I give you a greater encouragement to exercise yourself towards godliness.  Such spiritual exercise gives blessings for this life and for that which is to come.

Newness In Christ

Many times in life I have started a task only to make mistakes and mess things up.  Sometimes I try to correct the mistakes and it gets worse.  It is like painting a picture but I get paint in the wrong places; the painting is not what I want it to be and it becomes a mess.  When I make such mistakes, I want to discard what I have started and begin again.  In a way, that is what we do as people.  We mess up our lives with our sin and our bad decisions.  But when we became Christians, we start over. The apostle Paul described it like this:  2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 

There may still be consequences for your sins of the past that you must live with.  The murderer will still have to serve his prison sentence.  If someone made a bad decision on who he first married, they are still joined together as one.  If someone got in a fight and received an injury, he continues to live with that injury.  If someone smoked and damaged his lungs, the lungs are still damaged.  But your sins are forgiven when you repent and are born again in baptism.  That baptism symbolizes a death to your old life and a resurrection in that you are born again.  John 3:3-7 “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’  Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’  Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’’”  Romans 6:3-4 “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”  Because of Jesus Christ, you can be born again spiritually and walk in newness of life.

There is newness of your life as a Christian in two significant ways.  First, all the sins of the past are forgiven because of the sacrifice and blood of Jesus.  Colossians 1:12-14 “Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.  He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”  The guilt that you felt associated with that sin should also be removed.  Hebrews 9:13-14 “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”  The “dead works” that you previously committed can be cleansed from your conscience; you now serve the living God.

There is also newness in your life in that you now move in a new direction.  Before, you served sin; you served your own fleshly desires.  That led you in the wrong direction.  Now you serve the living God.  Ephesians 4:22-24 “That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”  Colossians 3:8-10 “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.”  Now you are a new person, with new direction and new actions.

Perhaps you started out your Christian life with your sins forgiven and a new direction in life but you fell back into sin.  Do you have hope?  The apostle John tells us in 1 John 1:8-9 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

There is another renewal that we should all anticipate.  After this life, there will be new heavens and a new earth.  2 Peter 3:10-13 “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”  The apostle John described what is to come.   Revelation 21:1-5 “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’  Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’”  How wonderful it will be when all things are made new!

Rejoice in the newness of your life.  Your sins forgiven and your conscience cleansed; you have new actions and a new direction in life.  Although this old world is filled with the same old evilness and corruption it has had, you are now looking forward to new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Food

Do you like to eat?  Most of us do.  Maybe you like hot, spicy foods or ice cream or buttery baked potatoes or broiled steak or fresh fruit.  Is God interested in the food that you eat?  Under the Law of Moses, there were very specific regulations on what the Israelites could eat.  Leviticus 11:1-8 “Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying, These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth:  Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud — that you may eat.  Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you;  the rock hyrax, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you;  the hare, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you;  and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you.  Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you.’”  The food regulations continue with the water creatures such as fish, the birds, the insects and the other animals that the Israelites could or could not eat.

At the very first of the Christian church, only Israelites or Jews believed in Jesus and were being saved.  It was natural for them to continue observing the food regulations that they had always know under the Law.  But soon, non-Jews or Gentiles were being saved; Cornelius was the first of these (Acts 10 and 11).  As time went by, many Gentiles were accepting Jesus and being saved.  The question arose as to whether or not these Gentiles needed to be circumcised and observe the other regulations of the Law of Moses, to include the food regulations.  The apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.  They concluded that the Gentiles were not required to keep the Law of Moses.  Acts 15:23-29 “They wrote this letter by them:  The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:  Greetings.  Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law’ — to whom we gave no such commandment — it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:  that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.  Farewell.”  The Gentile Christians were to abstain from eating things offered to idols, from eating or drinking blood, from eating animals that were strangled and still had their blood in them, and from sexual immorality.

What about all of the other food restrictions?  The apostle Paul through the Spirit foretold of a departure from the faith and described it in 1 Timothy 4:3-5 “Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.  For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”  Do you know of a religious group that commands its members to abstain from certain foods?  As a Christian today, you can eat any animal as long as your receive it with thanksgiving.  The apostle said that “it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”  That means that when you pray and thank God for your food, by the authority of God it is set aside or made holy and acceptable to be eaten.  Today, it is acceptable for Christians to eat pork, snake, any kind of sea creature or any unusual animal.  But is important to pray and thank God for your food.

We have the example of Jesus thanking God for food.  Matthew 15:36 “And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude.”  Luke 22:17-19 “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’  And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’”  We also have the example of the apostle Paul giving thanks for food.  Acts 27:35 “And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat.”  This should reinforce the importance of praying and thanking God for your food.

There are some foods that are better for you than other foods.  Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-Nego proved that their eating of vegetables and drinking water made them look healthier than those who ate the king’s delicacies and drank wine (Daniel 1:8-16).  Your body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).  You will want to take care of your body relative to the foods you eat.

The restriction on food that remains for you today is to abstain from eating blood and strangled animals.  Such animals would still have their blood within them.  Genesis 9:4 “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”  Do not eat any food dishes containing blood.

My encouragement is that you be grateful for whatever food you eat and give thanks to God.  Your only restriction is to abstain from eating blood.

The Ministry of Reconciliation

God is a very loving God.  But he is also a God of wrath and vengeance for those who reject him.  There is a wonderful place reserved in heaven for you, but there is also punishment for those who do not obey the gospel.  2 Thessalonians 1:7b-9 “When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

There are many of your family, friends and acquaintances who do not know God or are separated from God and will one day receive the punishment and wrath of God.  They are lost and need the salvation of the gospel.  2 Corinthians 5:10-11a “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.  Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”  Since you know what God has in store for those who do not know Him, you should seek to persuade them to come to God.

As sinners, every one of us was an enemy of God and subject to His wrath.  Romans 5:6-11 “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”  Jesus Christ died for you to reconcile you to God.  He paid the price; He took your punishment.  As a result, you are no longer an enemy of God; there is no enmity between you and God.  You are now His beloved child.  Colossians 1:19-23 “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.  And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight — if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

Do you keep this blessing of reconciliation just to yourself?  No.  You should want others also to be reconciled to God.  2 Corinthians 5:18-21 “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”  Implore those you know to be reconciled to God.

Certainly, you are to be a light to those around you.  Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.   Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  As a light in the world, others may see your good works and way of life and therefore desire to be reconciled to God.  But you should also wisely implore them to be reconciled.  Follow the example of the Apostle Paul.  He was so provoked in his spirit in the city of Athens that he tried to persuade those he came in contact with.  Acts 17:16-17 “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.  Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.”  Does the sinful life of others provoke you to seek to implore them to be reconciled to God?

I encourage you to have the ministry of reconciliation; implore others on Christ’s behalf to be reconciled to God.

Deacons

In the early church, the apostles were the ones that Jesus sent out to proclaim the gospel.  They were the leaders of the church.  As the church grew, it became apparent that they needed to delegate some of their responsibility.  Acts 6:1-6 “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.  Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.  Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’  And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.”  At this time, the disciples had all things in common.  Acts 4:32 “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.”  It was therefore necessary to distribute items such as food to those who had need.  The seven men listed above were delegated the responsibility to serve in this daily distribution and free the apostles to serve in prayer and the ministry of the word.

Even though the scripture does not specifically say so, I believe that these seven men were the first deacons.  The word “deacon” denotes a “servant.”  Jesus was our servant and he has taught us all to be servants of each other.  Matt 20:25-28 “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.   Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.   And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’”  Being a servant to God and to your fellow Christian is what you are called to do. 

In the early church it was good for the Apostles to appoint seven men to assume the responsibility of serving in physical matters; this freed the Apostles for spiritual matters.  In the current day church it is also good to appoint men to be responsible to serve as deacons in physical matters and free the elders/overseers/pastors to serve in spiritual matters.  That does not mean that deacons are restricted from serving in spiritual matters.  Acts 6, 7 and 8 tell us that two of the seven, Steven and Philip, were instrumental in preaching the gospel.

The apostle Paul gave Timothy the qualifications for deacons.  1 Timothy 3:8-13 “Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.  But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.  Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.  Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.  For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

Let us look at the qualifications for deacons.  Even if you will never become a deacon, these are qualities that all Christians should have.  “Reverent” means respectful or serious; a deacon should recognize the importance of his work and not take it lightly.  “Not double-tongued” means not being deceitful or hypocritical.  “Not given to much wine” means that a deacon is not a drunkard.  Being given to alcohol or other such drug will keep one from inheriting the kingdom of God (Gal 5:21).  “Not greedy for money” implies not having a love of money; the apostle wrote later in 1 Timothy 6:10 that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  One’s heart is not in the right place if he is greedy for money.  “Holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience” implies that he understands the gospel and God’s revealed mystery of salvation and is a conscientious follower of Jesus Christ. 

The deacon is to “be tested” before serving.  The scripture does not define the test.  My test is to observe the life of a prospective deacon to see if they are faithful and live a life of service to others.  We are told that a deacon should be “found blameless”.  While we are all redeemed sinners, a blameless person lives a life that is not open for criticism.  The deacon’s wives should also be “reverent” and “not slanderers”; some people slander by being highly critical of others or tale bearers.  “Temperate” is to avoid excess in any area of life.  “Faithful in all things” implies being a true follower of Jesus in all areas of life.

“Let deacons be the husbands of one wife.”  God’s plan from the beginning has been one man for one woman for life.  “Ruling their children and their own houses well” implies that the deacon should have children and prove his character by being a good manager of his own household.  “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”  A deacon who faithfully performs his work for the church will be respected by all.  He can be confident that he is doing good works for which God has created him.  Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

If you are a man, you may want to serve the church as a deacon.  Whether or not you become a deacon, the qualifications of a deacon are characteristics that you should seek to have.  Desire to serve others as Jesus served.

Walking By Faith and Not Sight

When you look around you, what do you see?  Sky, clouds, trees, walls in your room, other people.  So many things you can see, but you cannot see God.  You cannot see Jesus.  You cannot see the Holy City.  But as a true Christian, you live your life by faith.  2 Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Perhaps you have never been to one of the world’s great cities, like New York or London or Hong Kong or Mexico City.  Even if you have not seen such a city, you believe it is there.  Perhaps you have never seen the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest.  Even so, you believe it is there.  You believe that many things exist even though you have not personally seen them.

In the same way, you have not seen God.  John 1:18  No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”  Jesus told you about God.  But the creation also tells you about God.  Romans 1:19-20 “Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”  When you see the wonders of creation, you are convinced that there is a master designer rather than mere evolution.  Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”  Even though you have not seen God, you believe in God.  

You have also not seen Jesus.  But you have the accounts of those who did see Jesus.  The apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”  Even though you have not seen Jesus, you believe in Jesus.  You believe that He lived on this earth.  You believe in the miracles He performed.  You believe that He died upon the cross.  You believe that He rose from the grave and ascended into heaven.

You have not seen the eternal Holy City that is reserved in HeavenAbraham had never seen the Holy City.  Hebrews 11:8-10 “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  Even though you have not seen the Holy City, you live your life like Abraham in preparation for your eternal inheritance.

So how do you “walk by faith, not by sight”?  Because of your faith, you follow Jesus like a sheep follows his shepherd.  John 10:27-28 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”  Luke 9:23  Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’”  You deny yourself; you obey His commands; you follow His precepts; you follow His example.  You also follow the apostles and their teachings, just as they followed Christ.  The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” 

You “walk by faith, not by sight” in that you trust in God’s promises throughout your life.  You live without fear.  Psalms 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You live your life without anxiety.  Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  You receive your strength from the Lord.  Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”  You get your true wisdom from God.  James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  You get your direction in life from Him.  Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”  You pray for the blessings from God.  Matthew 7:11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”   You trust that regardless of what happens, the end result will be good.  Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  You overcome in life in anticipation of eternal life.  Revelation 3:5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

You live in a physical world.  There are many things you can see and react to.  However, some of the most important things in life you cannot see.  And so, you walk by faith.  My encouragement to you is to be a person of great faith.  Walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Overseers

When the apostle Paul addressed the elders of Ephesus, he told them in Act 20:28  Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”  From this we learn that the Holy Spirit had made the elders the overseers over the Ephesian church; they were to shepherd or be the pastors of the church.  From this we learn that elder, bishop, and pastor are descriptive titles for the same group of men; elders, because they were older leaders, bishops because they were to oversee the affairs of the church, and pastors in that they were to be the shepherds of the church.   

The apostle Paul gave Timothy the qualifications for these men.  In this instance, he calls them bishops, which would be translated as overseers.  1 Timothy 3:1-7 “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.  Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

Young men should seek to become bishops/elders/pastors because the church needs such leaders.  The apostle says that it is a good work.  As a young man, live your life so that someday you will be qualified to be a bishop/elder/pastor.  Even if you are a woman or someone who will never be an overseer, it is good to review the qualifications since many of them describe characteristics that should be the traits of each one of us as followers of Jesus Christ.

The first qualification is “blameless”.  You should have no major character flaw or incident in your life that people in the world or fellow believers would point to as a reason you should not be a church leader.  We are all forgiven sinners, but we should have a good reputation, not a bad one.  “The husband of one wife.”  God’s plan is for one man to have one woman in marriage until death parts them.  “Temperate.”  That means you should avoid behavior that goes beyond what is normal, healthy, or acceptable.  Be a true servant of God.  “Sober-minded.”  That means self-controlled and moderate in thought and action; not wild.  “Of good behavior.”  Your actions are to be good and respectable, not those that people would criticize as improper.  “Hospitable.”  You should be generous and friendly to guests or visitors.  You should be interested in other people and their welfare and not just interested in yourself and your affairs.  “Able to teach.”  The bishop/elder/pastor should have the ability to teach the members of his church the spiritual truths in Christ Jesus. 

“Not given to wine.”  You can’t be a drunkard.  The apostle states in 1 Corinthians 6:10 that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God.  In my mind, this would include giving yourself to any kind of drug that would control you like alcohol.   “Not violent.”  You should not use physical force to cause harm or damage to someone or something; violent should not be your nature.  Instead, you should be “gentle.”  That is, you should be kind and quiet in your nature, not harsh or violent.  “Not greedy for money.”  The apostle later tells you that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).  We all use money to purchase our necessities.  But greediness implies an improper love of money that may result in money or wealth being your god.  “Not quarrelsome.”  Not contentious or argumentative, but instead, peaceable.  Be in the habit of getting along with other people.  “Not covetous.”  Covetousness is looking at what others have and wanting it.  This shows a discontent with what God has given you and therefore a lack of the proper Christian spirit.

“One who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?).”  An elder/bishop/pastor should have children and demonstrate that he knows how to properly deal with those under his authority.  The family is a place where he can learn how to communicate, discipline, love, provide care and lead.  These are all skills he needs as an overseer or pastor of the church.

“Not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.”  A novice is one with little experience; it could be one who is young or who was just recently converted.  One who leads and oversees the church should be experienced and appreciate the great responsibility he has.   This passage implies that the devil was filled with pride and rebelled against God.  One with longtime experience will be less likely to be proud.

“Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”  Those outside the church often look at those in the church to see if we practice what we preach.  The church overseer should be one whom those outside respect.  He should be known for such things as honest, hardworking, generous, and having integrity.

If you are a young man, seek to be an overseer/pastor/elder of the church one day; it means you need to be careful in how you live your life today.  All of us should learn from the overseer qualifications the characteristics that God values in our lives. 

Prepare For The Judgment

One of the great principles that we all must understand is that there will be a judgment day.  Hebrews 9:27And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”  Once you die, you will not have the ability to change, correct or add to what you have done.  The books will be closed for you.  After death comes the judgment for you and likewise for everyone else.

At the judgment, you will have to give account of yourself before God.  Romans 14:10b-12 ”For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’  So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”  It does not matter who you are.  Whether you are the worst sinner or the most righteous saint, whether you are lost in your sins or you have been redeemed and saved by the blood of Jesus, you will have to give an account of yourself to God.  Every one of us will bow before the Lord and confess to God.

God sees everything that you do.  Hebrews 4:13And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  Jesus taught that you will have to give an account for your idle words.  Matthew 12:36-37 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”   Since Jesus says that you must give an account for every idle word, this leads me to believe that all of your actions, whether good or bad, are being recorded by God.

The apostle John tells us what he saw relative to the judgment.  Revelation 20:11-13 “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.  The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.”  It should be clear that everyone will be judged according to his works.  It is important that your name is written in the Book of Life.  If your name is there written, then a result of your judgement will be everlasting life.  God loves you and wants to give you everlasting life.  1 John 4:16-17 “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.  Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.”  I want you to have boldness in the day of judgment and not be afraid or uncertain of the outcome.

Since you will be judged by what you have done, how should you live your life?  2 Corinthians 5:9-10 “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  You should make it your aim to please God.

Let us review some of the things that we are told please God.  Being fruitful in every good work pleases Him.  Colossians 1:10 “That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  Obeying God’s commandments pleases Him.  1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”  Believing in Jesus and loving one another pleases Him.  1 John 3:22-23 “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.  And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.”  Praising and thanking God, doing good to others and sharing with others pleases God.  Hebrews 13:15-16 “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.  But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

Since you must appear before the judgment of God, make it your aim to please Him.  Romans 6:22-23But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Instruction For Women

Consider the instruction given by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:8-15 “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.  Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.  Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.”  This passage gives instruction to men and women.  The men are instructed to pray everywhere.  The women are then instructed how to conduct themselves.

“That the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.”  The apostle Peter had a similar instruction for women in 1 Peter 3:3-4 “Do not let your adornment be merely outward — arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel — rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”  For thousands of years, women have sought ways to increase their physical attractiveness through clothes, hair styles, make-up and jewelry.  In modern times, we could add cosmetic surgery and tattoos to that list.  All of these items are meant to enhance the woman’s outward appearance.  I cannot give you a checklist that specifies exactly what clothing or hairstyle or make-up or jewelry is acceptable and what is improper.  You must decide for yourself.  You must decide what you believe would be most pleasing to your God whom you love and serve.  God has little interest in your outward appearance.  He is concerned about your heart, your spirit, and your good works which result from your godly heart; since you are a woman who professes godliness, that is where you should put your emphasis as well.  Peter tells you that a gentle and quiet spirit is very precious in the sight of God.

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”  Since it is not expected for you, as a woman, to be silent at all times, it is reasonable to conclude that this instruction is primarily concerned with your conduct in the church assembly.  The apostle Paul gave a similar instruction in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.  And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.”  Both passages call for you, as a woman, to be silent.  That means that you would not speak, or preach or teach or ask questions in the assembly.  Both passages call for you to be in submission.  In 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul says that you are not to have authority over a man.

Why would the apostle Paul tell women that they should be silent in the assembly and that they should be submissive?  Was it only appropriate for the first Christian century because of the existing culture?    Certainly women today fill many major roles in society.  Many are teachers in the public school.  Some are business leaders.  Some hold political office and even some are leaders of countries.  Women are very intelligent and capable.  The apostle Paul explains the reason for Christian women to be submissive and silent in the assembly.  1 Timothy 2:13-14 “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”  The reason given for woman’s role is because of Adam and Eve.  It is not because of culture or society.  God has established the respective roles of men and women because of the creation and because of the curse given after the fall in the Garden of Eden.  Genesis 3:16 “To the woman He said:  ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’”

My encouragement to you as a woman is to be happy in the role that God has given you.  Be silent in the assembly and be submissive.  Let your outward adornment be proper for a woman professing godliness.  Cultivate the gentle and quiet spirit that God values.

Pray Everywhere

The apostle Paul gave the following instruction to men.  1 Timothy 2:8 “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”  While it is an exhortation to men, I see no reason it should not apply to women as well.  Perhaps men need this more. 

“I desire that men pray everywhere.”   It was the custom during the time of Jesus for people to go to the temple or the synagogue to pray.  Perhaps you wait until you go to a church building to pray.  People sometimes go to a church building to pray because they think they are closer to God there.  But God is everywhere.  Psalms 139:7-12 “Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ even the night shall be light about me;  indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.”  Anywhere you go in the world, you are close to God.  Acts 17:27b-28a “He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being.”

There are many locations where you can pray.  Jesus went upon a mountain to pray.  Matthew 14:23a “And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.”  Luke 5:16 “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46).  Peter prayed on the rooftop of the house (Acts 10:9-16).  Jesus encouraged you to go into your room and shut your door.  Matthew 6:6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”  You can pray anytime you are going to eat; Jesus gave you the example of praying and giving thanks before eating when he fed the multitudes and when he instituted the Lords’ Supper.  1 Corinthians 14 addresses prayer in the church assembly.  I like to pray to God when I am in my bed before I go to sleep or before I arise in the morning.  When you travel may be a good time to pray, whether that is in a boat, an airplane, a bus, a train, a motorcycle or a car.  I don’t like to stop at red traffic lights because they delay me in getting to my destination; my wife constantly reminds me that when I am stopped at a traffic light is an excellent time to pray.  The point is that wherever you are and whenever you have the opportunity, pray.  Pray everywhere.  1 Peter 3:12 “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

“Lifting up holy hands.”  I am reminded of a young child with his father.  The child reaches up with his hands to indicate that he wants to be lifted and held.  You too can lift up your hands to God your Father as an indication that you desire His mercy and grace or that you worship and praise Him.  But your hands should be holy hands that you raise.  They should not be hands stained with sins you are holding onto.  It was common in the time of Jesus for people to stand praying (Matthew 6:5).  But it is also appropriate to bow or kneel when you pray; the apostle Paul did that as recorded in Ephesians 3:14 “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus fell on His face when He prayed.  Matthew 26:39 “He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’”  The position you assume when you pray is not dictated; I believe that the position you take should be based upon what your heart feels.  If you are seeking mercy for your sin or feeling humble before your great Heavenly Father, perhaps you wish to bow or kneel.  If you are extremely troubled in spirit as Jesus was in the garden, perhaps you want to fall on your face before God.  You can pray as you lie on your bed at night.  When you are in the midst of a task, you can pray as you work.  I believe that the physical position you take when you pray is not as important as the condition of your heart.  God knows your heart.

“Without wrath.”  When you pray, there should not be any vindictive feeling or lack of forgiveness in your heart.  Jesus prayed in Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  “Without doubting.”  Pray in faith.  James 5:14-18 “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”

How long should you pray?  Jesus likely prayed many hours when He went off by Himself to pray.   But prayers can also be short; the tax collector prayed “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).  The length of pray is however long you take to communicate with God what is on your heart.

My encouragement to you is that you pray everywhere, at all times, with all kinds of prayers.  Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”