23

Jump Start # 1689

Jump Start # 1689

Psalms 19:11 “Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

  This week we have been looking at the concept of warnings from the Bible. Our verse today reminds us that this is one of the purposes of God’s word. It warns “Thy servant.” The young preacher Timothy was told to preach the word. That included reproving and rebuking. Young preachers, like Timothy and Titus, were to “point these things out to the brethren.” Peter “reminded” his readers of truths that would help them on their journey with the Lord.

 

It’s hard for some folks to accept the idea that the Bible warns. They see the Bible as a green light to just about anything and everything. These same folks are surprised that the Bible doesn’t read like “Heaven’s Chicken Soup for the soul.” The Bible is not a daily devotional. The Bible isn’t quick tips for busy people. Such thinking waters down and dilutes the powerful message of God. All of the Bible needs to be read. All of the Bible needs to be understood. We all have our favorite sections of the Bible. It is easy to reduce the Bible to only our favorite parts, while ignoring the rest of it. Because Ezekiel is difficult does not mean that I can or should avoid it. It’s in the Bible. God wants me to read it and know it. The same goes for Revelation. The same goes for Leviticus and Numbers. Picking and choosing only certain books to read while never reading the others will not give me the full picture nor the complete understanding of God’s will.

 

God’s word warns us. That simple expression tells us several things:

 

First, it reveals that God loves and cares about you. He doesn’t want you to be harmed. He doesn’t delight in seeing you ruin yourself spiritually. He warns us so that we will be safe. God cares. How odd this is for some people to grasp. In their twisted thinking, they think that if God really cared, then He would step out of the way and allow us to do what we want. They hate rules and restrictions. A growing segment of the younger generation refers to themselves as spiritual but not religious. They love God but they do not want to be a part of organized religion and they definitely do not want to be defined by any doctrines. These free thinkers do not have room in their theology for warnings. If God didn’t care, He would sit back and watch us crash. The fact that He does care, moves Him to warn us about coming dangers.

 

Second, God’s warnings are declared, but it is up to us to do something about them. We see this with weather warnings. Sirens blowing loudly, the TV weatherman telling listeners to take cover, and some adventure seeker will go out in his backyard to film a passing tornado. Many of those folks get seriously injured by flying debris. God warns us. Do we pay attention? Do we do anything about it? Do we make adjustments? Or, do we go on our way believing that we can stand in the middle of a spiritual storm and be ok? Evil companions corrupt good morals—plainly stated to the Corinthians. The context tells us that those evil companions were fellow Christians who did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Do we continue to hang out with co-workers, family members and neighbors whose language, attitudes and behavior is offensive to Christ? Do we excuse it because, “it’s my cousin.” Does that matter? Do we continue to be influenced by weak Christians? God warns. Do we pay attention or not?

 

Third, as our passage states, when we listen and obey God’s word, there is great reward. The reward is not just Heaven, but now. The reward of a life well lived. The reward of pleasing the Lord. The best life is what God has shown us in His word. The reward of a great marriage. The reward of a family that loves and accepts each other. The reward of friendships among the people of God. The reward of having done things right and well. The reward of a safe life. There is great reward in worshipping God. There is great reward in walking through this world with confidence and hope. There is great reward in knowing that you will someday see the face of God.

 

Fourth, God knows us the best. He knows what we are likely to do. He knows what we need. He knows that these warnings are just the thing that will keep us safe and close to Him. We may not always understand why God says some things are off limits, but our trust in Him makes us realize that He knows what is best. He always does. God warns us ahead of time. He doesn’t make up rules as the game is being played. We know in advance what is right and what is wrong.

 

Warnings. They are a part of life. They are a part of our life with God. When we are warned by God, we can make the adjustments in our path that will keep us safe with Him.

 

Avoid…flee…beware…be alert…be warned! They’re all there in the Bible. Red lights flashing on the dashboard of life. Ignore them and it leads to trouble and misery. Make adjustments and life is good.

 

Roger

 

22

Jump Start # 1688

Jump Start # 1688

Matthew 24:43 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.”

 

We continue our look this week at the concept of “warnings” in the Bible. We are not looking so much at specific warnings, but the concept behind them. So far we have considered words like, avoiding, fleeing, and beware. Those are all terms that draw our attention. Those are the words of warning. There is yet another word that we need to consider. Today, we look at the word, “alert.” Jesus used this word often.

 

Here in this context it is used twice. In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, Jesus said, “”Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Mt 25:13). In Luke, Jesus told the disciples to pray and keep on the alert at all times (Lk 21:36). Paul ended the Corinthian letter with these words, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (16:13). The Thessalonians were told not to sleep as others do, but to be alert and sober (1 Thes 5:6). Peter warned of Satan, prowling about like a lion. His words included, be sober and be alert (1 Pet 5:8). Keep your eyes open.

 

Be alert. We might use the expression, “Pay attention,” which basically means the same thing. The wandering mind and distractions can lead a person to lose focus. This is why school teachers say, “Pay attention.” This is why parents say, “Are you listening to me?” The distracted driver is a danger on the roadways. The driver texting, reaching for something, or simply not paying attention is a wreck that is ready to happen. Young drivers are taught to keep both hands on the wheel, their cell phone put away and the radio turned off. Focus. Athletes understand the concept of focus. Around here, we  rush through football season to get to the most important sport, basketball. Indiana and Kentucky love their basketball. All levels of it. I’ve gone to many games at Assembly Hall, where Indiana University plays. There is a common scene in every game that I’ve been to. When the visiting team is shooting a free throw, the I.U. students hold up these massive cardboard “Big Heads” of famous people. They shake them, twirl them, spin them and the sight is comical. The fans love to see what “Big Head” will show up each week. The purpose is for the opponent who is looking at the basket to see all these distractions in the background and to lose his focus and miss the shot. In many ways, this is what Satan does to us. He dangles cheap trinkets in front of our eyes so that we will lose focus. He’ll dangle lust, greed, power and tempt us to take the off-ramp to the here and now and to stop our journey with Christ.

 

We see this in the O.T. King David saw a woman bathing. He sent for her. David lost his focus. His eyes only saw the here and now. He didn’t see sin. He didn’t see that she was married. He didn’t see a baby being born. He didn’t see having to get a loyal soldier drunk and eventually ordered his death. He didn’t see his own family falling apart. He didn’t see a son walking in these very same steps. He lost his focus. It didn’t take long. That one event led to the rest of David’s life being heartache and misery. One look. One time.

 

We see this with Eve in the garden. She knew what God expected. Satan got her to look at the forbidden fruit. She saw that it was delightful. She wanted it. She lost her focus. She ate. Adam ate. Both hid from God. Both were banned from the garden. One look. She took her eyes off the road for just a second.

 

So, here we are, traveling down the road of life. Our hands are on the wheel and our eyes are straight ahead. Alert we are. But then something catches our eye over there. It fills our heart. We want it. The next thing you know, we are upside down in the ditch of life. We say, “I didn’t see that coming.” Obviously. You weren’t paying attention. You weren’t alert.

 

A pretty Christian girl starts dating a rough looking guy. He makes her laugh. He makes her smile. He is not interested in God. He is rough on the inside. He hangs with a rough crowd. This sweet girl, starts skipping services. She begins to dress looser and more immodest. Before long, she’s gone. She’s stopped coming. She stopped paying attention.

 

A young college student is in awe of his college professor. He’s brilliant. The student starts taking in all that the professor says. Soon, this young student has embraced atheistic evolution. He has no room for God anymore. He wasn’t paying attention.

 

A businessman works with a pretty co-worker. They share stories about home and dreams. She flirts. He returns the flirts. In what seems to be an instant, they are in bed together. How did all of this happen? He wasn’t paying attention.

 

If you are serious about retiring someday, you will pay attention to your budget and your investments. The guy who lives paycheck to paycheck will wake up one day and wonder why he can’t retire. He wasn’t paying attention. I heard a stat on the radio recently. It said 53% of Americans are not saving anything towards retirement and worse of all, they have no plans to start.

 

The person who has a sore spot that won’t heal will go to the doctor. He knows if he ignores it, the problem may get worse. He is careful about taking care of himself.

 

We are careful about what we eat. We are careful about watching the weather. We are alert to warnings in our car. If we could only keep that same spiritual focus, many of our troubles, both congregationally, and personally, would not be there. Be alert. Be watchful. Be careful.

 

May I add a few of my own be carefuls:

 

  • Be careful what you read. Just because something was purchased in a religious bookstore or written by someone in our fellowship, doesn’t mean it’s right, helpful nor good. Be careful.
  • Be careful who you call friend. It’s better to have a few friends who are true and loyal than several who use you and lead you away from Jesus.
  • Be careful what you say to those who are not Christians, this includes your family. Complaining about brethren and the church certainly won’t make them rush to join you. Be careful.
  • Be careful of your choices.
  • Be careful what you put in your heart.
  • Be alert to Satan. He is always watching you. He is not far from you. He wants to trip you up. He will use anything and anyone to get to you. Be alert.
  • Be alert to the fact that someday your life here will end. Don’t wait to make a difference, do it now. Now is all that you have.

 

Be alert. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes fixed on Jesus. That’s the only way we can get through this messy world.

 

Roger

 

21

Jump Start # 1687

Jump Start # 1687

Luke 12:15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

 

Our Jump Starts this week have suddenly turned into a series about warnings. On Monday, we wrote about “avoiding.” Yesterday, it was “fleeing.” Today, we turn our attention to “Beware.” In our verse, the Lord is warning the disciples about greed. Beware of greed. In one passage in Philippines, Paul uses the word “Beware” three times. There he says, beware of dogs, evil workers and false circumcision. Beware. This word carries the idea of being alert, attentive and watchful.

 

In driving through parts of Tennessee, you will come across road signs that say, “Beware of falling rocks.” My wife and I were driving in Arizona a few years ago. The road sign said, “Beware of elk.” The only elk in Indiana are in the zoo. I wanted to see one. Soon, another sign said, “Beware of deer.” That was followed with, “Beware of falling rocks.” I asked my wife if she could watch the road, because I was watching for all those other things.

 

We don’t like warnings. In my area, it’s not uncommon in the spring to have the weatherman interrupt a TV show with storm warnings. Sometimes, when the storms are close, the tornado sirens send out a loud and unpleasant sound. We don’t like to be driving and a warning light comes on our dashboard. And, most do not like sermons that warn. Given the choice, most people like to hear nice sermons on Heaven. But warnings are necessary.

 

Here are a few obvious things you know:

 

1. Warnings keep us safe. They are often unpleasant, bothersome and disruptive to what we want to do, but without the warning, we could be injured in a storm or our car could run out of gas. God’s warnings do just the same. They keep us safe. We may not understand the importance of the warning, but God does. He knows the trouble that we can get into. This is why we find verses such as: “Evil companions corrupt good morals.” God knows. Sometimes we think we know more than God. We think we don’t need those warnings. We are too smart for those things. It’s like the warnings on the side of a pack of cigarettes. I don’t know if those ever stopped people from smoking. The guy that wants to smoke will smoke. It’s beyond my understanding how folks can stand outside of a funeral home and smoke, especially when grandpa lies died inside because of lung cancer. Some will just ignore the warnings. When they do, they suffer.

 

2. Warnings may seem obvious, but they are necessary. I love the many warning labels on products. I don’t know if they are there to avoid lawsuits or because some dummy actually tried it and now the company is forced to warn others about not being so dumb. On a hair dryer, you’ll find a label warning not to use in the shower. Amazing new hairdo if you try it. Warning label on a chainsaw, not to sharpen while it’s running. Warning label on dog food, not to feed to children. And to think, most of these folks that would try these things are probably out driving. That’s scary! God’s warnings are the same. They are necessary. They are necessary for our spiritual growth, our relationship with Him and our wellbeing.

 

Our verse today is one example. Here, the Lord warns against greed. This warning follows a conversation that started with someone telling Jesus to instruct a family member to share the inheritance. Three things were wrong with this request. Jesus had not been talking about families, money or sharing. He interrupted Jesus. This was laying heavy upon this man’s heart. He couldn’t get any resolution, so he thought he’d use the Lord. The first problem is that he told Jesus what to do. “Tell my brother to share.” One doesn’t tell Jesus anything. Jesus is the Lord. He tells us. We might ask, but we don’t tell. Secondly, had Jesus gotten involved in this family squabble, His mission would have been sidetracked. Here would come someone else with another family problem. Then a neighbor with a property dispute. Then a dog owner with a problem. This person was over charged. This person borrowed but never returned. Do this, Jesus. Do that, Jesus. The entire work of the Lord would have been bogged down with these little disputes. Jesus came to save us from our sins, not to be a civil court judge. Thirdly, this man had a problem with greed. This is why Jesus issued the warning. Storm warning ahead. The way was not calm. Greed will eat you up, as it did this man. He wasn’t listening to Jesus. He was waiting for a moment to jump in and demand that Jesus settle things at home. Greed blinds us. We get thinking about wanting that car, that house, that golf club, that vacation…and before long, it’s all we think about, talk about, and dream about. We become obsessed. We won’t be happy until we get it. That’s greed. It leads you away from God. It consumes you.

 

3. Warnings are passed on to others. When there are storm warnings in our area, we tell all in the house. Parents will teach their children about warnings. They will show them the proper way to do things. They will point out the trouble of doing things in a dangerous way. Don’t we do the same spiritually? We warn others that the path that they are on won’t end in Heaven. We warn about attitudes and language. We try to help each other. It’s not because we are better, it’s because we don’t want others to be hurt.

 

Avoid…flee…beware. These are God’s warning lights on the dashboard of life. We need to pay attention to them. We need to see the good in heeding these warnings. We need to know that these warnings could save our lives, especially eternally.

 

Roger

 

20

Jump Start # 1686

Jump Start # 1686

2 Timothy 2:22 “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

  Yesterday, we took a look at the word “avoid.” There are conversations in which the child of God needs to avoid. That sounds odd to us. Another principle like that similar to that is the idea of  “fleeing.” The Christian is told to flee. Go. Get out of there. Run. That sounds opposite of the “unmovable” that the Corinthians were told to be. That sounds opposite of the “stand firm” that the Ephesians were told. Stand firm. Hold your ground. That seems and sounds logical and right. However, we find those “fleeing” passages in our Bibles.

 

Here, in our verse today, it’s flee youthful lusts. In Corinthians, it’s, “flee fornication.” The Corinthians were also told to “flee idolatry.” The preacher Timothy was told to “flee” from the love of money. This can seem confusing to us. There are times we are to dig in and stand firm. There are other times we need to get out of there. Hold your ground or flee? Which is it?

 

We find ourselves in all sorts of trouble when we stick around when we ought to be fleeing. We remember Joseph, back in Genesis, when Potiphar’s wife grabbed him, he ran. He left his cloak in her hands. He didn’t go back for it. He got out of there as fast as he could. Had he stuck around, he may have gotten into trouble morally. In the words of the Duck Dynasty boys, “He’s gone.”

 

It seems that most of the fleeing verses surround sexual and moral situations. Youthful lusts—not youthful adventures. Not youthful attitudes. Not youthful ideas. It’s lusts. The lusts of the eyes is what got King David in trouble. Flee fornication—again, sexual and moral situations. We could even say this concerning, flee idolatry, since most of the idol worship involved illicit sex. Moral temptations are not the time to have a discussion, debate nor find ten things wrong with it. Rather, get moving. Get out of there. Flee.

 

Sometimes in our Bible classes we want to come up with some real fancy ideas and strategies about how to endure and survive temptations. We get brilliant with our solutions. The best solution is simply flee. Go, and don’t look back. We could discuss why a person is with someone who may tempt them. We could talk about the surroundings, finding spiritual giants to hang out with. We could try to identify things to look for as one heads down that road. We could study Proverbs 7, which is an eyewitness of an moral crash. Good stuff for a class. But when in those actual situations, it’s not a time for discussion but rather, flee. It may be at school. It may be at work. It may be towards a neighbor. Flee.

 

Fleeing may seem embarrassing to you. Fleeing may seem inappropriate without an explanation. Fleeing may make you look rather uncool. So what. Flee. You don’t owe Satan an apology, explanation or a defense. Get going and get out of there.

 

Avoiding and fleeing—two common principles found within the makeup of God’s people. We need to know when to avoid and we need to know when to flee. The purpose in both of these is our salvation and the good of the kingdom. Staying, when I should have left, may hurt my soul. Staying can send the wrong messages.

 

Parents need to talk to their teenagers about “fleeing.” Call home, and parents, go get them. Be thankful that they called. Be thankful that they want to flee. Lecture later, if need be. Compliment them on wise thinking and wise choices.

 

When traveling, away from home, flee from the very things that would hurt your marriage. Don’t be flirting with someone not your mate. Don’t be sharing private info with the opposite sex. Flee those situations.

 

Many a Christian looks back and admits, “Boy, I didn’t see that coming.” Nope, he sure didn’t. He didn’t have his eyes opened. He wasn’t careful. Be alert, remember Peter telling us that. Satan is roaming about like a lion. He’s looking. He’s watching. He’s waiting. Get out of there. Flee.

 

Christians must be street smart and spiritually awake, at all times. Don’t fall into traps. Don’t get yourself in situations that hurt you spiritually.

 

Flee. There is a time for it.

 

Roger

 

19

Jump Start # 1685

Jump Start # 1685

2 Timothy 2:23 “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.”

  I’ve been teaching a Sunday class entitled, “Answering Difficult Questions.” Each class begins by discussing some practical and helpful things about teaching the Bible and answering questions. Recently, in teaching these things, I came across our verse. What I found interesting and contrary to how I would expect things, is the number of times the young preachers are told to “avoid.”

 

Notice these:

 

  • 1 Tim 6:20 “…avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called, ‘knowledge.’
  • 2 Tim 2:16 “But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness.”
  • 2 Tim 2:23 “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels”
  • Titus 3:9 “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”

 

I would have thought that Paul would tell these young preachers to go into every battle and fight for the Lord. Don’t leave your post. Don’t give up ground. Don’t back down. Charge in there with guns blazing. Rather, what we find, four different times, is to “AVOID.” Don’t participate. Don’t get involved. Don’t play that day. You are sitting these out.

 

I wonder why we don’t discuss this much, other than when we come to these verses in a Bible study. I don’t remember any young preacher asking, “When do I walk away?” I wonder how much time we have wasted time, engaging in discussions that should have been avoided? I wonder if more harm has been done than good because of these things?

 

Paul is very blunt about the outcome of such engagements. They lead to “further ungodliness.” They “produce quarrels.” They are “unprofitable and worthless.” And yet, here we are, going full steam ahead when we ought to be turning the ship and avoiding such things.

 

Some questions are not honest. Some discussions are tilted on purpose to make someone look bad. Some have their mind made up even before  the discussion begins. Some want to fuss about things that no one knows the answer to and more so, things that really do not matter. It makes a person wonder how many Bible classes have chased the rabbits of ideas here and there, while rarely teaching the Bible. This idea. That speculation. We wonder about this. We wonder about that. Could this be? Could that be? The land of speculation takes a person to magical and wonderful places, but nearly all of them, are not Bible based. We can build our hopes upon things that are not there, just ideas we have wondered about. We can have a faith that is not Bible based, but rather, speculation based. People wonder, “Don’t you think God could…” Who knows. Don’t go there. What we know about God is revealed in Scripture. Don’t park your car at a place where you begin to say, “I think God likes this.” How do you know? It may be what you like. Just because you like something doesn’t mean that God does. I like chocolate, the Dodgers, and keeping jars filled of M &M’s. Can I conclude therefore that the Dodgers are God’s team? Where would I get such a wild idea? Certainly not from the Bible. Does God like chocolate? He is a living Spirit. He doesn’t eat. To speculate that chocolate is God’s favorite desert is ridiculous, unBiblical and saying things that you have no clue about. On and on we can go. “God likes preachers that wear ties.” Really? I doubt that Timothy and Titus wore ties. What about Happy socks? Don’t go there. You can’t say. We can build a whole belief system about God that is nothing more than our personal wish list of likes and dislikes.

 

Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. Don’t go there. Ours is to teach the pure word of God to honest and good hearts. There will be some discussions that we walk away from. That’s hard. There will be some subjects that should not be pursued. There will be some comments in a Bible class that needs to be kindly shut down.

 

It seems that some folks would rather avoid what the Bible actually teaches so they could chase these wild ideas that they have. Is it any wonder that some don’t seem to have any foundation. They are chasing rabbits throughout their lives. They need to be anchored upon the word of God. Stand where God stands. A common expression in the O.T. is, “Thus saith the Lord.” Here is what God said. No guessing there. No, “I think God might like this?”

 

Avoiding is hard for us preachers. It’s just in our DNA to teach everyone that has breath in their body. We want to answer every question. We want to study, show and help everyone. That’s the way we are wired. But, even for us, we must learn to use the brakes and avoid certain conversations. Don’t open the door to discussions that end up being worthless.

 

Let’s talk about what the Bible does say. Let’s look at the pages of the Bible. Now, there is something worthwhile. There is something good. This is something that will help others.

 

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. No guesswork. No speculating. Clear. Absolute. Certain.

 

Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes, that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent. Avoiding is one of those silent times.

 

Roger

 

16

Jump Start # 1684

Jump Start # 1684

2 Corinthians 11:29 “Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?”

  Our verse is found after a long section in which the apostle Paul is compelled to defend himself against those who are taking pot shots at him. They have questioned his position, since he wasn’t one of the first apostles. They criticized his preaching. They questioned his worthiness. And in a brilliant, tell-all section, Paul lists the trials that he has endured since he became a Christian. The list is hard to believe. Just any one of these would have been the end to most of us. Yet, here he is, still going on for the Lord. The laundry list of persecution includes:

 

  • Multiple imprisonments
  • Five times whipped with 39 lashes
  • Three times beaten with rods
  • Other times beaten so many times he couldn’t remember
  • Stoned
  • Shipwrecked, including spending an entire night in the water
  • Hungry, thirsty and often in dangerous situations
  • Came close to dying more than once

 

We read these words and two thoughts immediately come to our minds. First, it makes us bow our heads in shame. How many times have we let a headache keep us from riding in a nice automobile to an air conditioned church building to sit on padded pews to worship for an hour? Secondly, it makes us ask, why? Why did you put up with all of this Paul? The answer is obvious. Jesus. It was because of the Lord’s love for Paul and what the Lord endured on the cross that kept Paul going. He wasn’t going to allow suffering to stop him. He saw suffering as temporary. He longed to be with the Lord. He was on a mission and he was determined to complete it.

 

After this long list of suffering Paul names some great internal suffering that he experienced. There was the daily concern for the churches, and then our verse today, the concern for those who are weak and led into sin. “Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” One has to think that these internal, spiritual concerns, had a greater impact upon Paul than the physical persecutions. He wanted everyone to go to Heaven. He wanted churches to be strong and growing. He couldn’t stand for folks to remain weak. He had this “intense concern” about those who returned to sin.

 

We are not told what this intense concern for those returning to sin resulted in. It’s not hard to imagine. Knowing Paul from the rest of the N.T., we can put together a good picture of what he would have done.

 

First, he would have prayed hard about that person. He would have prayed that the Lord would help that person. He would pray that the person would see what they have left and where the sin is taking them. He would pray that the Lord would open doors to reach this person. Pray hard is what Paul would have done.

 

Second, Paul would have gone directly to the person if he could. He would sit down and reason with the person. He would have shown Scriptures and reminded the person of the great love and sacrifice that God has for him. He would have warned the person about the dangers of losing their soul.

 

Third, Paul would have continued to follow up. He would write letters when away from that person. He would not let it go. He would have been on that person. Like a giant spiritual tug-of-war, Satan pulling on one end, Paul was holding tight on the other end. He wasn’t ready to let the person go. Paul would have encouraged others to get involved and see after the person. Like an all night search for a missing child, the church would have poured prayers and effort into reaching this person.

 

Fourth, if all efforts were rejected, with tears streaming down his face, Paul would have led the church into practicing discipline upon the wayward soul. Even at that, there would have been prayers and approaches to reach the person.

 

This is what “intense concern” looks like. This ought to be the actions of the shepherds or elders of a congregation. Every godly person ought to walk in the steps of Paul. This is what ought to be done. Sadly, and much too often it’s not.

 

Someone is led into sin and nothing is said. Oh, after a few months, some quietly whisper about what ever happened to “so and so.” Those months become nearly a year before slow moving elders decide to read a form letter before the church. As it is read, some look to each other and ask, “Who is this?” A couple of weeks pass, and a second form letter is mailed to this person in sin. It lists a few verses and coldly proclaims that the church has withdrawn fellowship from him. As the man in sin reads this letter, he scoffs. It’s been over a year now and they are just now getting around to this? He’s returned to sin and is very comfortable now. It’s been so long since he has worshipped with God’s people, that he doesn’t even miss it. Where was the concern when he first left? And this cold, form letter is supposed to bring him back to the Lord? This is showing love and “intense concern?”

 

It’s about time that congregations gave a lot of serious thought into their methods of dealing with those who are led into sin. It would be interesting to see how many were turned around because of these late sent form letters? Is this nothing more than appeasing the conscience of the leaders rather than a serious attempt to bring the  one in error back?

 

Intense concern. I’d like to see a class on that. I’d like to hear a sermon on that one. It would probably be painful to sit through, knowing what has been the practice in the past. Do we really care? Do we really want them back? Do we really love their souls? Maybe it’s time to ditch these form letters and get in the car and drive over there and sit down face to face and talk. Maybe it’s time to ask, “What would it take to bring you back?” Maybe that ought to be done within the a couple of weeks of noticing that they are missing. Maybe we ought to pay better attention to who is missing.

 

Intense concern. I’d like to think that if I dropped out, there would be several who had intense concern about me. I just wonder if I have that same concern for others.

 

Bless be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love—more than a song. It’s the way that it ought to be.

 

Roger

 

15

Jump Start # 1683

Jump Start # 1683

Joshua 7:21 “When I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.”

  Our verse comes from the early days of Israel in the new promise land. Things were going well. Suddenly, it seemed like everything crashed. The promises were fading away. The nation, following God’s instructions to drive out the inhabitants, were defeated at Ai. After such a stunning victory at Jericho, Ai, should have been an easy victory. They didn’t send a full force. It wasn’t needed. But something terrible happened. The men of Ai struck back very hard. Thirty-six Israelites were killed. The ran in defeat and were chased by the men of Ai. Joshua was stunned. What happened? Then God revealed that Israel had sinned. Achan had taken some prized items from Jericho. There was a command not to take anything.

 

In our verse, Achan is discovered. He confesses the details of what he took. He didn’t say that I took a few things, he itemized the list of stolen property. Two hundred shekels of silver, a gold bar weighing fifty shekels…how did he carry all of this stuff? Did he have help?

 

The consequences were devastating. Achan, his stolen property, his life stock, and even his tent were destroyed in punishment by Israel. Included in this was Achan’s children. They were put to death along with their dad. God was removing Achan’s family line from Israel. There would be no more descendants from this wicked, covetous man. Nothing that belonged to him would survive.

 

There are some things for us here:

 

1. Achan knew what he did was wrong. First, the command had been stated not to take bring anything back. He knew that. Temptation got the best of him. But when he brought items back, he not only put them in his tent, but hid them in the ground in his tent. He was hiding what he had. Guilt will do that. He knew it was wrong. If it wasn’t wrong, he would have proudly paraded his items around and bragged about it. No one seemed to know about this, but God. Guilt will make you look left and then right to see if anyone is watching, but we forget to look up. God’s there. He’s always watching. There is no hiding from God what we have done.

 

2. Achan’s actions affected the nation. When Joshua collapses in fear, God reveals that “Israel had sinned.” We’d say today, Achan sinned. We would put some distance between Achan and the nation. God didn’t. The sin of one affected all. The nation was guilty. Boy, we could hear folks complaining today, “Don’t blame me, I didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t me.” God didn’t see it that way. He was part of the nation. One sinned, they are all guilty.

 

Only a few men when to fight at Ai. We wonder if Achan was one or did he stay behind. If he went, why didn’t God just kill Achan in battle? Why allow others to die? This was part of the consequences of Achan’s sin. Too many times, the innocent get hurt by the sins of others.

 

3. Achan’s family suffered because of his choices. This is really hard to understand. Everything and everyone belonging to Achan was destroyed. Executed by the nation. Forever known as a disobedient thief who was greedy. His foolishness caused his kids to die. One can only imagine the screams of terror and fear that came from his children as they faced death. So tragic.

 

The choices of dads today are still killing their kids. The choice to raise their kids to be bullies, selfish, materialistic, ungodly, is destroying the souls of children nationwide. Dads decision to not follow Christ kills the family. Dads choice to be arrogant, greedy and steal from his company is not much different than the actions of Achan. The children are not stoned to death by the nation today, but they die spiritually. They grow up and live a lifetime away from God. They drop deeper and deeper into selfishness and sinfulness. A generation follows them and they continue the downward spiral of living without any moral direction. Just look around us today. College campuses are producing hundreds if not thousands of future alcoholics. Binge drinking is out of control and these foolish students do not realize that this is addictive and setting them on a course of a life long misery. Look at the idiotic movies being produced that glamorize fornication and sinful conduct. Right is now wrong and wrong is right. Deeper and deeper we sink as a nation. Why? Bibles are closed. Prayers are not uttered. Church buildings are empty. And inside our tents are the spoils of greedy and covetous hearts. Achan’s choices affected the nation and they affected his family.

 

Our choices affect our congregation and our families. We can never be strong as a church, as long as we are hiding sin in our tents. We will never have families that are what they should be as long as we continue to ignore God’s commands. We must think that God put this story, true as it is, in our Bibles, not only for historical reference and accuracy, but to teach us a lesson as well. What we do touches others. What we do affects our family. There is no such thing as, “It’s my life and I can do what I want.” Wrong. Your choices affect others.

 

It must have been hard for Israel to execute one of their own. It must have been extremely hard for them to execute the children of Achan. This is one page of the Bible that I would not like to witnessed. One man’s sin, sure put many people in misery.

 

4. We can’t leave this without saying something about the cause of Achan’s sin. He coveted. He admitted that. He confessed that to Joshua. Even without this command to leave the spoil, Achan should have known. The last of the 10 Commandments was about coveting. Thou shalt not covet. Why didn’t he get that? Why did he think that he could get a pass on that? Why did he think this one time I will do it? How many times does it take to be wrong? How many bites of the forbidden fruit did Eve have to take before it was wrong? Coveting and greed will consume a person. It did Achan. It fills our eyes and our hearts with things that we think will make us happy. If I could only get this, we think. Coveting can get ahold of a person so deep, that he will break the rules to get what he wants. There has been people in the church who embezzled the Sunday contribution. Stealing from God! Greed can make us not see straight.

 

This disastrous story was the result of stuff that Achan stole. His children died because of stuff. He died because of stuff. How many will lose their souls eternally because of stuff?

 

Everyday we make choices. Our choices affects others, they always do.

 

Roger

 

 

14

Jump Start # 1682

Jump Start # 1682

Romans 6:16 “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

 

Our verse today is an interesting and revealing thought. Most, especially in our modern Western world, not only do not like the tone of this passage, but would deny it. Slavery is out. No one wants to be a slave. Freedom and independence, whether from the tyranny of another nation or the bondage of someone who owns you, is always viewed as the best option. In my area there are historical signs documenting locations of the famed underground railroad that helped slaves escape from the south to the freedom of the north during the days of the Civil War. No one wants to be a slave. Yet, our passage tells us that we are.

Consider some thoughts:

 

First, no one is totally free. That’s the real troublesome thought here. It bothers me. It bothers many. We like to think that I do what I want to do. No one is over me. No one is telling me what to do. Paul here is showing us that we are either slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness. Our choices, not forced by another, yet are not purely free and independent as we might want to believe. So a person decides to follow God. He reads his Bible, worships on Sunday and makes choices that please God. He is doing what God wants him to do. Is he forced? Does he have to do those things? No. But it is what God wants. Another person has chosen to do the opposite. He doesn’t want to live by rules. He wants to do what he wants. He sleeps in on Sunday. He says whatever he feels like saying. He dresses, lives and makes his choices based upon what makes him happy. He never realizes that he is doing exactly what Satan wants him to do. He, too, like the other person,  is not forced. But his choices reflect the very life that Satan wants him to live, apart from God. Paul’s conclusion is that you can’t break totally free. You will either do what God wants or what Satan wants.

 

Second, these choices have conclusions and consequences. Doing what you want, which is what Satan wants, leads to death, spiritual death and eternal death. Doing what God wants leads to righteous living. The Christian’s life seems more structured and governed by rules. He does what the Bible says. The person of the world, although he doesn’t follow a book like the Bible, and there are no visible rules that he reads, his life is what  Satan wants. Anything other than the Biblical path, is what Satan wants. These choices take us places. For one, it is farther and farther away from God. His life shows very little godliness at all. His language is blasphemous and offensive. He ignores God’s rules about marriage and relationships. His life is addictions, selfishness and sour attitudes. He steals if it suits him. He drinks if he wants. No one tells him what to do, but without knowing it, he is following Satan. This path is a dead end road. He is not living to his potential. He is not doing the best that he can. He is not building healthy relationships around him. He will die and be lost forever because “he did what he wanted to do,” which is Satan’s gospel.

 

Third, slavery or being a servant, isn’t viewed in negative terms Biblically. This slavery has nothing to do with race, but everything to do with heart, obedience and truth. Many common Biblical expressions are tied in to the word servant. A minister is a servant. A deacon is a servant. Jesus, Himself, came not to be served, but to serve. He served mankind. The greatest in the kingdom, the Lord said, will be your servant. These thoughts are hard for us. The idea of a servant brings the image of being on the very bottom of the ladder. We want to work our way up to the top. Some start their own businesses because they want to be their own boss. This modern thought has crippled the church today. People show up to be served. If I don’t like things, I will go somewhere else. People ask, “what is your church going to do for me?” We live in a self-serving lifestyle. We pump our own gas. We check out our selves at the store. We don’t need bank tellers, we use ATM’s. We fill up our own soft drinks at the fast food restaurant. We don’t need others. We certainly do not do things for others. That’s the times we live in. That’s the spirit of today. That’s not the spirit of Christ. We are servants. We serve others, as He served others.

 

This spirit must be taught in our homes. No one is too good to help out. Dinner is over and everyone races to their room. The dirty dishes remain on the kitchen table. Who is going to take care of that? In a restaurant when you are finished eating, you leave. At home, no one is paid to come in and clean up. Each person takes their dishes to the sink. It’s not hard. Different ones take their turn cleaning up. It’s not hard. It teaches service.

 

In the church, deacons are not junior elders. They are not elders in waiting. They are servants. Servants, first of Christ and servants of the congregation. They serve. They must be busy doing what needs to be done. It’s not all physical things. We’ve demoted deacons to custodians and janitors of the church buildings. Why is it that a man must be married, have kids and be qualified and appointed by the church so he can change light bulbs and unclog toilets? Is that it? There were deacons in the first century. See Phil 1:1. Those congregations did not have church buildings back then. What did deacons do? Maybe their role was more spiritual than we allow them. Maybe they took financial support to Paul and carried inspired letters from him to the churches. Trusted, dependable and dedicated men that you know will get the work done, is what these servants are. In too many places today, there are the names of deacons on the role, but they don’t do anything. The church knows that they must have deacons, but they are in name only. The work that they could be doing is being done by elders, who won’t let anyone else do anything.

 

Servants. That’s what we are. We serve. We serve Satan or we serve Christ. We do what Satan wants or we do what Christ wants. Jesus said in the Gospels, “If you are not with me, you are against me.” There is no undecided here. To be undecided is to be with Satan.

 

Teach the heart of a servant. Understand what servants do. Open your eyes and see what you can do today. Roll up your sleeves. Get busy. Get out of the easy chair. Stop complaining about what folks are not doing for you and get doing what the Lord did.

 

Our verse began with this expression, “Do you not know…” I expect some don’t know. It’s time that we did.

 

Roger

 

13

Jump Start # 1681

Jump Start # 1681

Acts 14:23 “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

  The plan and desire of God was for congregations to be overseen by elders. These gifted and spiritual shepherds would not only help each soul, they would set the course and direction for the church. In the amazing shepherd Psalm, Psalm 23, the shepherd knew were green pastures and quiet waters were. He led the flock to those places to be nourished and helped.

 

What is so remarkable about our verse today is that elders were appointed in every church. The “every church” refers to the cities of Lystra, Iconiumn and Antioch. Paul had just returned to those cities. Even more remarkable is that we find Paul first going to these cities at the beginning of this chapter. He’s there and through his preaching, congregations are formed. By the end of this same chapter, he’s back and is now appointing elders in these churches. Understand, decades have not passed. We are talking about a couple of years possibly, at the most, probably, even less than that. How can a congregation go from just starting to having elders within a couple of years? Wouldn’t those new elders still be new converts? Obviously, many of these elders were from the Jewish background and had a solid faith and righteous practice to begin with.

 

There are a few things we need to consider here:

 

1. These men who were appointed as elders wanted to be part of God’s amazing kingdom. They saw the value and the importance of shepherding God’s people. The work of elders is people work. It’s guiding, teaching, and helping brethren on their journey with Christ. Sometimes that work is messy because of the problems we get ourselves into. Sometimes it’s heart breaking when some no longer want to continue with Christ. Paul found, not just in one city, but in all the churches, men who were willing to work with God.

 

Why is this so difficult today? Some congregations will literally go decades and decades without elders. Some currently have no elders and the present generation doesn’t look promising. Why is it this way? Do we find satisfaction in doing things differently than God’s arrangement? Do we like each of us, spiritual or not, having a say in the direction and the future of the church? Do we not like working in the kingdom? Have we seen the ugly side of things and we want no part of it? Are we too selfish and we do not want to devote the time nor the work to help God’s people? Shame on us for ignoring this amazing work. Shame on us for not developing men to see the joy and greatness of working in God’s kingdom. Shame on us for sitting on the sidelines of life, because we just don’t want to. I have heard far too many times, “A man must desire the work, and I simply do not desire it.” WHY? That’s not good enough. Get up. Get engaged. Don’t be satisfied sitting by when you could and you should help the people of God. Don’t bury your talent in the ground. Don’t hide behind “I have a family and just can’t,” or, “My work is really busy.” Paul found men in every church. Could he find men in your congregation?

 

2. There must have been a pool of men to draw from. I been to some small congregations and there may only be one or two men. That would really limit the opportunity for that church to have elders. To be able to appoint in every church, implies that there were many men in every church. This here and alone ought to kick the legs out of the idea that some have of keeping a church small. “I like a small church,” some say. “I don’t think a large church is good.” Those opinions are not Biblical. To keep a church small, means pulling the plug on evangelism. It means we will not interact with the community. It means we will not get the message out in every available media possible. Keep the church small and chances are there won’t be future elders.

 

3. These men that Paul chose to be elders had a great spiritual understanding. A person has to in order to be an elder. They didn’t just show up on Sunday and sleep through the sermon. These men were gifted, spiritual and growing in the Lord. They understood Bible warnings. They understood how the church operates. They knew what their mission was. Intensely interested. Knowing Scripture. Loving people. Realizing how they were gifted by God. These things are what enabled Paul to appoint men as elders.

 

4. The congregation found men that they would follow. Too often, the process of looking for elders turns into a character assassination and a witch hunt. The process begins with the idea, “we must find something wrong with these men.” If and only if, we can’t find anything wrong, then they will be elders. What a sorry attitude and wrong spirit to begin with. Why should the process of appointing elders be so negative and hard? Why is it that some will get so upset that they will leave? Something is terrible wrong with us. One of the greatest days in a congregation’s history ought to be the day that elders were appointed. It ought to be a fun and joyous occasion. The trouble is, men are chosen who can’t and don’t know how to lead. They may be nice guys. They may be our friends. But before all this elder talk, these men were always in the shadows. They were not the ones who were teaching classes, visiting folks. These were not the ones who had Bible studies in their homes. These were not the ones who were very involved in the church. They came, but they didn’t do much. Now, someone thinks that they ought to be an elder. Now, righteous folks scratch their heads. This guy lead? He never has before. Does he understand? Does he know what’s going on? That’s the problem, we are looking for good guys and friends, rather than natural spiritual leaders. It doesn’t seem that Paul had trouble find men to be elders. It doesn’t seem that those congregations were divided and split over the process of putting in these men. When this is done right, it’s a great occasion. Everyone is on board and everyone feels good about this.

 

5. Too often, we give little thought about finding elders unless a dire circumstance takes place. A current elder decides to move, and now the church is in panic mode to find his replacement. Everything buzzes about elders. The preacher will march through the verses found in Timothy and Titus so everyone can be getting ready. Finally and too often, reluctantly, one man is found. He is made an elder. A great sigh of relief falls over the church. And now things settle down and nothing is ever mentioned about elders again until the next crisis. Does this sound familiar? Does this look good? Why not offer a quarter class for all the men in their 20’s and 30’s to study shepherding, not the qualifications. We spend so much time talking about qualifications that a person still doesn’t understand what an elder is supposed to do. Study Psalm 23. Study Ezekiel 34. Study Acts 14. Study people. Study leadership. Study vision. Study nourishing. Study discipline. Study communicating with others. Get folks ready. Develop men now. So many congregations will bring in a young man who wants to preach to be mentored by an experienced preacher. He may spend two years in a program helping him understand the work of preaching. But when it comes to elders, nothing like this is done. A name is presented. If that man survives the process, he is now called one of the elders, but he is clueless as to what he is supposed to do. Why not bring men into elders meetings so they can witnesses what goes on? Why not take one along, as elders go and talk with people? Mentor and train men, so they will understand the work.

 

Paul found men to be elders in every church. Wouldn’t that be great if that could be said in our land and in these times! Too many churches are drifting with no one at the helm. Too many churches are stuck doing nothing and going no where. It’s time to rise up and get serious about the work of God.

 

Roger

 

12

Jump Start # 1680

Jump Start # 1680

1 Timothy 2:9-10 “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.”

 

Our verse today is found in a section which gives practical instructions for both men and women. The men were told to pray everywhere. One verse for men. Here, two verses for women. Don’t be thinking, men, that women need more help than we do, that’s why there are two for them and one for us. Don’t even go there.

 

These verses addressed to women describe both the inside and the outside, the clothing and the character of a person of God. Don’t think that men get a pass on this. Women have to be modest, but men don’t? Really? Modesty is more than a clothing issue, it’s an attitude and a spiritual issue. Understanding or the lack of understanding about modesty is a huge issue in our culture. Everywhere, from billboards, to magazine covers, to TV commercials, to ads in the Sunday paper, scantly clothed women are used to grab the eye. Immodesty fuels lust which creates improper thoughts. Hollywood awards programs feature women who like to show as much skin as they can get away with. It’s shocking. It’s shameful. It feeds this sex crazed times that we are in. I wish someone would shout from the crowd, “Put your clothes on!”

 

Consider some thoughts from this passage.

 

First, Paul’s concern was not wearing too little clothing, but showing off by wearing very expensive clothing. Gold, pearls and costly garments were the attire of the rich. Most of the first Christians were poor. Many were servants and slaves. They didn’t have dozens and dozens of outfits to chose from. But there were a few, here and there that were wealthy. Leading women of Thessalonica became Christians. Lydia appears to have been wealthy. Some of Caesar’s household became Christians. Paul’s words here were about flaunting and showing off. Dressing to impress. We don’t generally think of modesty in that way. This is how it is used here. His words are not about bikinis but peals, gold and costly garments. Showing off, most of us did that when we were kids. Many guys did that on their first dates. We wanted to be noticed, liked and impressed. We went for that “wow” factor. It seems that some of the wealthy women were doing that. That would created an atmosphere that “I’m better than you,” when in truth, we are all sinners needing Jesus.

 

Second, Paul wanted the attention to be drawn to the good works that they were supposed to be doing. Instead of parading around in fine clothes, roll up your sleeves, get your hands in the bucket and get busy helping someone. Your fancy clothes tends to stick your nose up in the air and that leads to you thinking that you are too good to do certain things. Not in the kingdom. Not among God’s people.

 

These words are similar to the Lord’s address on the mount. Let them see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven. Good works is sprinkled throughout Paul’s writings. The Galatians were told, “while we have opportunity let us do good to all…” Three times in Titus the idea of engaging in good works is found. The hallmark of God’s people is not the talk that they talk, but the good that they do.

 

I have known some very wealthy Christians. Yet it was these very same Christians that I’ve seen down at the church house on a Saturday morning, pulling weeds, or even cleaning the toilets at the building. I’ve seen these folks cleaning the house of a young family that had sickness. I’ve seen them help pay the college expenses for a young Christian. These are the things that Paul wanted the wealthy to be known for. They used their talents and wealth to help others. They weren’t spending money on themselves. They were known, not for their wealth, but for being counted upon. They were doing good deeds.

 

Third, good deeds is natural for someone who is making the claim of godliness. Making the claim. That’s a great expression. If someone made the claim to be golfer, then there would be some things that you would expect. Right off the bat, you’d expect him to own a set of golf clubs. To be a golfer without a set of golf clubs doesn’t make sense. You’d expect that person to golf. The clubs that sits in the garage year round and are never used, doesn’t meet the claim that you are a golfer. We could say the same about a student. Someone who claimed to be a student, ought to be taking classes, going to those classes, owns textbooks, studies, writes papers and takes tests. That’s what students do. To claim to be a student, but one never goes to class, doesn’t fit the bill.

 

So, in the passage, Paul mentions the claim to godliness. There are certain things that ought to be expected and go with that claim. A godly person will worship God. Not just now and then, not as a CEO (Christmas and Easter Only), but regularly. That’s what godly people do. They do what God wants them to do. That’s what makes them godly.

 

Someone claiming to be godly is going to talk a certain way. The negative stuff, like gossip, cussing, abusive language, will not be there. But what will be noticed is kindness, thankfulness, thoughtfulness.

 

Someone who claims to be godly will dress modestly. That’s one of the points of the passage. Claiming to be a Christian, yet wearing very little clothing, or as in our passage, dressing to show off, do not go together. This includes special occasions, weddings and other events. The Christian doesn’t get a pass because they are in a wedding. It’s a special time, so I can be immodest. No. Our verse begins with the word “Likewise,” which connects it to the passage above where Paul wanted men to pray everywhere. Modesty isn’t just in the church building. It’s at work. It’s on vacation. It’s at weddings. It’s everywhere.

 

Someone who claims to be godly will be busy doing good works. They will help others. They will be encouragers. They will teach the Gospel where they can. They will let their lights shine for Jesus. That’s what we’d expect from godly people and that’s just what godly people would do.

 

Making a claim to godliness. Many folks do that. They let you know that they believe in Jesus, but ask them about the weekend, and they’ll talk about drinking parties, filthy movies that they watched and their language is peppered and salty with words that are offensive, obscene and indecent. These folks make the claim, but the claim doesn’t match the behavior. This is what Paul is driving at. You are claiming to be a Christian. Make sure your clothing and your actions live up to that claim. Walk the walk. Let your behavior, inside and out, speak for who you are.

 

I was teaching a group of our teens last evening about this very passage and this very subject, modesty. I asked them, “How do you know if something you are wearing is modest or not?” One said, “have your parents tell you.” I suggested putting a chair in front of a mirror. Sit down. What you see in the mirror is what others are seeing. The greatest thought came from a senior in high school. He said, “if it’s borderline, if it’s something that you’re not sure, why are you even considering wearing that?” Bravo! That’s it! Don’t get close to the line. Don’t wear something in which someone might want to come and evangelize you because they didn’t think you were a Christian. Certainly a Christian wouldn’t wear that.

 

Don’t just make that claim, live up to it. Live godly.

 

Roger