Archive for February, 2011

Hebrews 2

Hebrews 2 starts with some words we need to pay close attention to: “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it”.  That one smacked me upside the head.  Do you pay close attention to God’s Word?  Really close attention – like your life depended on it kind of attention?  It does and we should.  The problem is that if we don’t we drift from it.  We begin to lose track of what God wants to do in our life and we take the wheel and drive into the weeds.  Let me urge you with a sense of real strong urgency that you have to wake up and pay attention.  I probably would have worded this a bit stronger than the writer did – how we deal with God’s Word really does matter.

He goes on to tell us that we cannot “escape if we neglect such a great salvation”.  There is only one way to eternity – and it is the salvation that comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  And here the writer tells us how it has been made clear in four different ways.  Pay attention to this – it really is a key truth:

–       “declared at first by the Lord

–       attested to us by those who heard

–       God also bore witness by signs and wonders

–       By gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will

God didn’t just give us the message once.  It came to us in four very distinct ways from each part of the Trinity and by the disciples themselves.  Jesus is the real deal.  His offer of salvation through grace is it.  It has been given to us in many ways – all that is left is for us to respond.

The chapter goes on to explain that “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery”.  Jesus became a human like us so He could experience what we do – and that by taking our sin to the cross and dying a physical and painful death – He could conquer the one with the power of death – the devil himself – and set us free forever.  How cool is that?  How loving that God sent His only son to set us free from the slavery of sin that leads to eternal separation from God.  But did He really have to do that – become like us?  “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”.  The answer is yes – He did – because it allows Him to truly be our mediator and empathizer with God.  He had to become man in order to truly set us free.  And He did – willingly and completely – and became a propitiation for our sin (don’t you love that word?).  Thank you Jesus for loving us that much.  And thanks to God the Father for being willing to send His Son to take our place.  We can live victoriously because Jesus has paid the price.  Are you living that way?  Victoriously over sin?  We can – we should – we must!

Hebrews 1

Hebrews 1 begins with a reminder of who Jesus is.  It starts with these words: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets”.  God has spoken to us in many ways and the reality is that He continues to do so today.  God wants us to know His heart and His ways.  That is why He gave us His Word and continues to speak truth into our lives today.  But the writer goes on to make this transition – that God has changed how He spoke: “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”.  Jesus became the means by which God has given us His truth.  Jesus came to deliver His message in person.  God got more personal is His speaking and sent His only Son to deliver His words first hand.  We need to pay attention!

Most of the chapter is dedicated to giving us Jesus resume.  And it is quite a list of how amazing our Savior is.  Take some time to ponder and consider each of these statements.  Jesus is our source of truth.  He is our way to eternity.  Jesus is the message and the messenger.  Check out His attributes:

–       “heir of all things

–       through whom also he created the world

–       the radiance of the glory of God

–       the exact imprint of his nature

–       upholds the universe by the word of his power

–       purification for sins

–       at the right hand of the Majesty

–       much superior to angels

–       name he has inherited is more excellent

–       You are my Son

–       I have begotten you

–       all God’s angels worship him

–       forever and ever

–       scepter of uprightness

–       scepter of your kingdom

–       loved righteousness and hated wickedness

–       anointed you with the oil of gladness

–       laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning

–       the heavens are the work of your hands

–       you remain

–       you are the same

–       your years will have no end

Those words describe our Savior and Lord – Jesus Christ.  An unbelievable list of characteristics that tell us just how powerful He is, and how much He is in the middle of everything that God has done and ever will do.  Jesus is central to all that was and is and will ever be.  He is God in every way.  Do you know Him?  Have you experienced His touch?  He wants to have a personal relationship with you and pour out His love upon you.

The chapter ends telling us about the angels and what their role is all about.  We are told that “angels…..ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation”.  I still remember the song we played for our kids over and over that said ‘there’s an angel that watches you’.  God has placed beings in the unseen world that are active and involved in our lives.  We can’t see them and don’t realize what all is happening but there is a whole world that is happening around us.  There is an angel watching you, and me, and they are sent to serve us as we march toward salvation.  Are you walking that path?  Daily?  We need to be focused on walking with our Lord!

1 Peter 5

1 Peter 5 ends this letter from Peter.  Short but packed with truth that matters.  He begins with admonition to the elders about their role and how they should exercise it.  We are given some contrasts in how the job should be done but it all focuses on the idea of “shepherd the flock”.  The elders are to be responsible for the protection, care and leading of the people in their patch.  They are the ones who will have to give account.  Check out the contrasts Peter gives in doing the shepherding well in “exercising oversight”:

–       “not under compulsion                                     but willingly

–       Not for shameful gain                                       but eagerly

–       Not domineering over those in your charge                 but being examples to the flock

Bottom line is that shepherds are to be willing, eager examples for the flock to follow.  Shepherds lead.  They set direction and take their flock to the place they are safe and can grow.  And when done well, scripture tells us those elders will “receive the unfading crown of glory”.  There is an eternal reward when leaders lead well!

He goes on to remind “you who are younger, be subject to the elders “.  Many resist the idea of being under the authority of another person spiritually.  After all, we each have our own relationship right with the Father Himself – we don’t need someone else telling us what to do.  Right?  Isn’t that how many think?  But it is not God’s plan.  He is orderly and structured and knows that left to our own devices we will fail.  We don’t do the right things just because we have access to the King.  We still go into the weeds and get lost in sin.  We need to have others who are leading and guiding our path, and particularly protecting and correcting us.  That means we need to learn and practice humility.  “Clothe yourselves….with humility toward one another….Humble yourselves…. so that….he may exalt you”.  It really is a pretty simple plan.  We are told to humble ourselves – which means to put others in a place over us – SO THAT – we may be exalted.  Humility brings us to the end game – exaltation before God.  The opposite is also true – if we refuse we miss out.  This is an if…then kind of action.  Humility leads to our hearts and souls being in right relationship with God’s plan and economy.  It is not optional.  We must submit to authority – just as God Himself is authority – so are the elders He allows in our lives to lead us.

Peter ends his letter with some important direction for us.  First the admonition to pray: “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”.  Are you a prayer warrior or a worrier?  God has told us to let Him take care of the burdens in our life.  Yet we hang on and are unwilling to let Him be God.  We just refuse to let Him have them.  Why?  Obviously we don’t believe He is able.  We don’t trust Him.  We have to remember that He cares for us.  He sent Jesus to prove that point.  God can handle whatever the issue is – so let Him have it.  Peter goes on to warn us that we should be “sober-minded; be watchful”.  So many of us live our Christ Follower lives on autopilot and pay no attention to what is happening around us.  Bad answer.  Why is it important to pay attention?  “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”.  We have a very real enemy and his goal for our lives is destruction.  That is not the outcome God desires. 

SO what do we need to do?  “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world”.  We can defeat the enemy prowling around us.  But it requires that we recognize him, resist him and have a faith that we can stand on.  We have to be living and walking actively as Christ Followers – plugged into God’s Word and standing on our faith.  We can win in the battle with evil.  But we have to be in the game.  It does not mean that life will be a bed of roses.  Suffering is real and happens.  And it is likely part of our growing up in the faith but look at the promise that comes with it: “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you”.  God won’t abandon us at all – He will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us.  He has a plan.  A little suffering will likely occur to help clean up some areas in our life that need attention but only for a period before we are restored to God and His blessing.  Be encouraged.  God has a plan.  He loves us.  He is in control!

1 Peter 4

 1 Peter 4 begins reminding us that we will suffer and it is all about our attitude when that happens.  “Arm yourself with the same way of thinking” as Jesus had.  We will have difficult days – we will struggle and suffer – but that does not define us.  What does is how we respond when those challenges come our way.  We should not respond by whining and saying that life is not fair.  We should face trial just like Jesus – head on and fully prepared.  Peter tells us “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you”.  But he goes on to say “rejoice”.  Now that is a different attitude for sure.  So often we want to have a pity party when things don’t go our way.  We want to go into hiding and feel like life is against us.  There will be trials and temptations – and our response needs to mirror that of Jesus – not loving the fact that suffering is happening – but realizing there is a purpose for it and rejoicing in the cleansing it can do in our life if we deal with it God’s way.  “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God”.  Do you see a recurring theme here?  Rejoice….glorify God…..same way of thinking.  The key to dealing with suffering is how we respond to it.  It is not whether or not we will face it – we will.  But how will we respond when it comes our way?

Peter reminds us that “the time is past” for “living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry”.  Those things are part of the old nature and must be put away. The key is that when we walk from the ways of the world others will be “surprised when you do not join them”.  Our life should separate us from the status quo.  Too often I hear Christ Followers say they just want to fit in – they don’t want to stand out and be different from those around them.  So they participate in activities that are not pleasing to God.  They continue living their lives like they did before Jesus.  That cheapens our salvation my friends.  Jesus went to the cross to change our lives for eternity – not to give us a pass to keep on sinning.  Peter reminds us that we have to put the old way behind us.  I often get questioned about why I don’t join in around things that most people do – and my answer is that I don’t think that is what God wants me to spend my time on.  It isn’t an attitude of superiority when we don’t join in – it is standing apart because God has called us to be different.

It isn’t because we don’t want to be “judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does”.  We need to live the way God does.  That is our charge.  So what does that look like?  Peter tells us it is “self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling”.  The goal of how we live should not be fitting in – but loving others as God loved us.  It is about relationship built upon God’s love.  And part of the way we do that is how we serve.  Peter says it this way: “as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace”.  God has equipped us to make a difference.  He has gifted each of us with gifts – not for our own benefit – but to serve others.  It is about using what God has entrusted to us to make a difference in the lives of those in our patch.  How are you doing with that?  Are you serving others?  Are you living God’s way in your patch?

1 Peter 3

 1 Peter 3 gets into the family again. Peter gives direct instruction to husbands and wives much as Paul has done in Ephesians and Colossians.  Peter begins with the wives.  In a word – it comes down to submission and respect just like we learned earlier.  See what Peter says: “be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives when they see your respectful and pure conduct”.  Pretty straight direction – and very important to notice – it is not dependent on the actions of the husband.  It is all about living God’s way no matter what – so the life of the wife can draw their hubby close to God. 

Peter goes on to talk about the importance of that and the heart of the wife – which translates into a gentle and quiet spirit.  “Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart….For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord”.  It is important to realize how important your beauty of the heart is to your husband.  To truly be the wife God intends requires putting your husband in a place that may seem pretty undeserving – calling him lord?  That seems a bit over the top doesn’t it.  Not really if you understand God’s heart.  The concept of submission really means to come under the protection of another – and wives should be under the protection of their husband – who truly is the one who carries the responsibility for love and protection.  What men need is respect – they need to be lifted up and encouraged in their role.

Peter makes it clear what that looks like – again very much the way Paul did.  “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered”.  Men we are to learn to understand and honor our wives.  We need to put them in their rightful place – as joint heirs with us in the Kingdom.  They are not servants or doormats but rather need to be lifted up and protected and held in high esteem.  How we love them is key to the way we relate to God.  Failing with our wife has a huge impact on how we relate to God – scripture tells us that it will hinder our prayers.  Being a husband is a serious job.  God has high expectations for us. 

Peter goes on to give us some general guidance on how all of us should live as Christ Followers.  He tells “all of us” to:

–       “have unity of mind

–       Sympathy

–       brotherly love

–       a tender heart

–       a humble mind

–       Do not repay evil for evil

–       Bless

–       keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit

–       turn away from evil and do good

–       seek peace and pursue it

Why does it matter?  “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer”.  God is paying attention to how we live. It matters.  If we want to have a close relationship with God we have to pay attention to how we live.  And we also need to be ready to talk about that relationship with others: “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”.  Are you ready to let people know about Jesus in your life?  What is your story?  I would love to hear it!

1 Peter 2

1 Peter 2 begins with Peter challenging the believers to seek God’s Word so they may grow.  Check out what he says: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation”.  How do newborns seek their food?  They cry out and keep on crying until they get enough.  When is the last time you cried out to be filled with God’s Word?  When is the last time you truly sought after God’s truth?  We tend to just take what comes and put no real effort into pursuing God’s Word.  We may read a little or go to church and listen some of the time but most of us don’t chase after God’s Word.  We don’t go after it like it is the very sustenance of our life.  That is how we should seek it – because without it we never grow as a Christ Follower.  We remain infants unequipped to do things that make a difference.   That is not God’s desire for us.  We need to dedicate ourselves to seek God’s Word daily as our nourishment and develop an insatiable appetite for that Word!

Peter goes on reminding us what our life really is.  This is exciting: “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.  God has a plan for our lives – to build us into a spiritual house – holy and acceptable to Himself.  We are living stones – we need to realize the plan and join God in pursuing it.  That is why the spiritual milk of His Word is so critical – it helps us become what God intends.  Jesus is the cornerstone of our life but we are to build upon that and become the Christ Follower that God has created us to be.  That means we have to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul”.  We can’t just do whatever we want and bet to that desired outcome.  We have to put off the old nature of sin and put on the new – and Peter tells us how we should do that.  “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God”.  We have freedom in Christ – not to do whatever we want – but to live as servants of God who have been given the keys to the Kingdom.  We are blessed beyond what we deserve and we need to focus on becoming what God has called us to – living servants of His!

Will it be an easy journey?  Not according to scripture.  In fact “when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God….For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps”.  We will endure suffering even when we do good.  Life is not fair.  Living God’s way does not guarantee a bed of roses.  We have been called to follow in the steps of Jesus – and be prepared to deal with the reality that suffering will come.  Jesus set the example of how we are to respond.  We need to follow in His steps.  The truth is that “He Himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed”.  He paid the price.  We will endure some collateral junk but the victory has been won and we will be healed.  The key is we need to endure.  We need to suffer and deal with struggles as He did.  Not whining and complaining and making a big deal out of it but recognizing that it is part of the character development course we are in called life.  And knowing that the promise is complete and total healing when that day comes because Jesus paid it all!  What a glorious Savior we serve!

1 Peter 1

 1 Peter 1 has Peter writing to the exiles who have scattered.  He reminds them that they are blessed even though they have been scattered.  And his reminder applies to us as well.  Check out the promise we have as a Christ Follower: “He (God) has caused us to be born again… a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead….to an inheritance that is imperishable…..undefiled….unfading….kept in heaven ….who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”.  We are born again.  We have a living hope through Jesus.  We have an inheritance that will never end – it is kept by God in heaven.  And God is guarding our salvation until we receive His glory.  What a promise we have through the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ.  So even when things are tough and it seems like there is nothing good happening – we need to come back to these words.  God has a perfect plan – He has executed it completely – and we will be the beneficiary of His love when that day comes!

Peter goes on then to remind us that we will have some days of suffering and frustration ahead.  Being a Christ Follower is not without struggle and challenges.  Our character will be tested.  Peter says it this way: “though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials….so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ”.  We need to remember a few things about the trials we face.  First they are only around for a little while – it isn’t eternal in nature – it is only for a short time.  They have a purpose – it isn’t just God being mean to us for the fun of it.  Trials come if necessary so that our faith can be tested.  It is our opportunity to have our faith refined.  It must result in praise and glory and honor of Jesus.  Overcoming trials and challenges is not a reflection of you or me – it is the power of God in our lives to stand firm and walk through them with Him.  The sooner we realize that is how we overcome – the sooner we can put them behind us.  Trials are all about proving the power of God in our lives.  It is about us learning to praise and honor and glorify God and have our faith strengthened.  They are not fun.  But they are important to becoming a strong Christ Follower!

Peter gives us one strong command to follow: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct”.  First of all we need to realize that obedience is the way we are to live – it is not optional – it is required.  We must not be controlled by our old ways – our passion to conform to sin – but we must strive to be like God who has called us into holiness and godliness.  Being holy is to be a way of life.  Does that mean we sit around and don’t do anything so we keep out of trouble?  No – it means we realize that God’s standard and requirement is that we live life obediently and walk in His ways.  We are called to be holy.  He didn’t call us to something we can’t achieve.  We need to work hard to be like Him and live His way.  How is your holiness quotient?  Are you running at 100%?  That is what God has called us to.  Not to try – but to achieve!


 Titus is a one chapter letter from Paul to Titus whom he calls “my true child in a common faith”.  Paul is the perfect example of Jesus commandment to “go and make disciples”.  He had many spiritual offspring – Timothy and Titus being two of the most notable that he wrote to.  It is important that we learn this lesson from Paul – we are to go and do likewise – to make disciples of those in our patch.  We are to reach others for Jesus – leading them to the truth and bringing them into a saving relationship with Jesus but then taking them under our wing and teaching them how to become like Jesus in their daily lives.  We are to model and train them how to live – to help them learn as we have learned – and to follow us to the cross.  Discipleship starts with us being a disciple first and then moves to us becoming a disciplemaker.  How are you doing on those two fronts? 

Paul makes it clear what his job really is: “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior”.  He is the messenger of God’s eternal truth to us.  He is protector of God and His character.  He is delivering the promise that God gave before the world was created.  He is an entrusted deliverer of truth.  And so are you and me.  We have the same message and the same mission – to tell the world about God’s plan for each person who lives on this planet.  To let the world know about the Savior and to let our lives preach that truth every day by how we live.  God has entrusted us with that truth.  Are you telling others about it?  Are you making sure they know the promise of God?

Much of this letter to Titus is a description of the role of an elder or overseer.  Much as his letter to Timothy previous, Paul makes a long list of the things that should define the life of a spiritual leader, as well as the things that should not be part of that leader’s life.  Here are the things that elders should look like:

–       “above reproach

–        husband of one wife

–       his children are believers

–       hospitable

–       lover of good

–       self-controlled

–       upright

–       holy

–       disciplined

–       hold firm to the trustworthy word

–       able to give instruction in sound doctrine

–       rebuke those who contradict it

And an elder must not be:

–       open to the charge of debauchery

–       insubordination

–       arrogant

–       quick-tempered

–       drunkard

–       violent

–       greedy for gain

–       insubordinate

–       empty talkers

–       deceivers

–       teaching for shameful gain

Paul has quite a list of requirements here for the office of elder.  Character matters much in the Body of Christ.  If we are to be part of leading the flock of Jesus we have to have lives that are worthy and Christlike.  That doesn’t mean perfect as that is not an achievable measure. It does mean that areas that fall short need to be corrected and worked on – that we have to continually seek to become more like Jesus.  And it should never show up like Paul writes here, that someone would “profess to know God, but they deny him by their works”.  Life and words have to line up.  We have to walk the talk and talk the walk.  Are you ready to be used by God because you have worked to have a life like Paul describes here?  We all need to work on living this way so we are able to be used to change the world!

I Timothy 6

1 Timothy 6 has Paul exhorting Timothy about dealing with those who “teach a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  We all know that many don’t agree with God’s Word.  They want to live by their own ideas or follow something other than the Truth.  So Paul tells us the root of that – he lists the traits of one who is unwilling to accept God’s Word:

–       “puffed up with conceit

–       understands nothing

–       unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words

–       produce envy

–       dissension

–       slander

–       evil suspicions

–       constant friction

Those who refuse to follow God’s Word are on their own mission – they have their own agenda – and we must stay clear of that.  We are charged to study and understand God’s truth and to protect and use it to live life.

In fact – Paul gives us this direction – “there is great gain in godliness with contentment”.  Are you content in Jesus?  Do you realize that is the plan for us if we live as Christ Followers should?  We should be living godly and content lives.  We should be absolutely filled with joy in our circumstances if we are walking with God.  Does contentment mean life is perfect?  Not at all – but it does mean we understand this truth: “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world…. if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content”.  It all comes down to ownership and way too many of us think we own things.  We don’t – it all belongs to God and we are merely stewards of what He allows us to have.  We need to get that through our thick skull and realize that God gives us enough.  When we continue to seek more – well the results are not good: “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires….the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils”.  If we want to succeed in our walk with Jesus we have to let go of the desire to be rich.  We have to flee the temptation of having much and learn contentment with what God entrusts to us.  Is it wrong to want more?  It is if it keeps us from experiencing contentment in our walk with Jesus. 

Paul wraps this letter with things we need to do to live as a man of God.  How we live really does matter.  There are things that make us godly and holy and we need to be focused on those things.  “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called….keep the commandment unstained….guard the deposit entrusted to you”.  It really comes down to us taking charge of our lives and pursuing the right things.  We need to flee that which will pull us away from God – the love of money and self – and pursue with all our heart that which makes us like Him.  What are you chasing?  Where are you spending your time?  Is it all about you and what you are accumulating here on earth or are you focused on heavenly things and eternity.  That is what we need to have in our sights.  The rest of it all goes away.  We didn’t bring anything with us when we entered – we won’t take anything with us when we leave – except for our walk with God.  That is what matters.  How are you doing with yours?

1 Timothy 5

  1 Timothy 5 gives us some insight into how people should relate to one another.  Paul begins with some great words that apply to me: “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father”.  I am looking for a bunch of encouragement to fly my way!  But we truly do need to learn to encourage older folks – they have much to share and wisdom that can only be learned over the passage of time.  Who have you encouraged today?  He goes on to tell us to “treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity”.  The theme is pretty clear – we are family.  We need to treat each other that way – and take care of one another.

In fact Paul really drives home that point in the middle of this chapter as he exhorts us about caring for widows.  He has some pretty strong words for us about our responsibility: “if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”.  That family theme gets deep here – we are responsible to care for those of our household.  I really saw this in action when we visited China last month.  They do care for their own and there is a deep sense of reverence and respect for them.  How did we get so far from that in the US?  We have a charge – to care for those in our family – and we need to really consider what that means.  He didn’t say to do it if it is convenient or easy – Paul tells us if we don’t we have really denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever.  Our actions matter and how we live in regard to family is an important part of God’s expectations.

He goes on to speak about sin.  We prefer to just sweep that discussion under the carpet which is what the church in America has become pretty good at.  But listen to these words: “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear”.  The church needs to be very clear on sin.  God can’t stand it, Jesus died for it, and we can’t just tolerate it and pretend it doesn’t matter.  Paul is writing here about elders and how to deal with them should they fall into sin, but the reality is that each of us has a responsibility to protect God’s truth and not let it be watered down by ignoring sinful behavior.  Rebuke is a word and action no one likes to be part of – seems too harsh – might hurt someone’s feelings – just isn’t how we should act today.  Not true according to scripture.  Where there is sin – there must be rebuke leading to confession and repentance.  We need to speak strongly for truth and not tolerate sin.  It is impossible to stay free from the impact of sin around us if we let it go unchecked.  It will gradually penetrate everything in its wake.  Don’t hide your head and let it ride.  Stand firm on God’s truth!

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