with Pastor Smith

With Pastor Smith.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

No Rest For The Wicked: A Meditation on Psalm 73.

Psalm 73 is the first Psalm of the third book of Psalms. The theme of Psalm 73, and Psalm 1 are the same. The way of the righteous, and the way of the wicked. Psalm 73 meditates on the question; How can the wicked prosper?

The author of this Psalm Asaph knows that Psalm 1 is true, and God will bless "the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly" Psalm 1:1. He recounts this fact:

"Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart."

Asaph describes how he get's distracted, and almost "slips" off the path of Psalm 1:

"But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked." 

Here is what almost made him slip: He was "envious" of the foolish. By foolish Asaph does not mean unintelligent, but men who reject God's way in favor of their own. What could cause a godly man like Asaph to stumble? He saw their prosperity, and asked: How come they do so well?

"For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men." 

They appear to face both life, and death so well. Due to this wealth pride surrounds them, and they seem to be able to do whatever they want:

"Therefore pride serves as their necklace; Violence covers them like a garment."

The comfortable positions lead them to feel the world exists to serve them:

"Their eyes bulge with abundance; They have more than heart could wish. They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; They speak loftily."

Just like the scoffer from Psalm 1, the ungodly look on God's ways with scorn. This arrogance leads to questing of God's goodness by both the righteous and the wicked.

"They set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue walks through the earth. Therefore his people return here, And waters of a full cup are drained by them. And they say, "How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?"

This questioning grows:

"Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence."

The question is: Does walking the path of righteousness pay off? Is it a waste of time? Furthermore sin bothers the upright, but seems not to bother the unrighteous. Why does sin not bother them?

"For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning."

Looking for an answer Asaph expresses the feeling of being trapped. He sees the unrighteous, but if he talks about it he will offend others.

"If I had said, "I will speak thus," Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children."

 And when He thinks about it, he can not handle it:

"When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me--"

What was he to do?

Principle:

First: Realize envy is a sin.

Second: Take your problems to God:

"Until I went into the sanctuary of God"

Application: You are not going to solve your problems by brooding on them. You are not going to settle your issues until you turn them over to God.

Then I understood their end.

Death is the ultimate equalizer. The fool who will not see God, does not realize how short life is, and how permanate eternity is.

"Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors."

The truth is when you trust in anything but God it can leave you in an instant. The fear of the ungodly is that what they trust in (wealth, power, fame) can leave them in a second. Their world is a fantasy, and it may seem real, but it does not last:

 "As a dream when one awakes, So, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image."

Death is a waking up to the real truth. When we see the truth as it really is, we repent of our love for the fantasy that is this temporary world.

"Thus my heart was grieved, And I was vexed in my mind. I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You."

Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.


Asaph knows the sin of envy was against God, and God alone. Asaph needed to cling to the God who loved Him.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Biblical Response to Brittany Maynard’s Decision to Die

'Please stand over me and kill me, for anguish has come upon me, but my life still remains in me.' So I stood over him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. 2 Samuel 1:9, 10

I would like to talk about Brittany Maynard this week. This week Brittany Maynard is on the cover of "People" magazine announcing to the world her "Decision to Die."

First,  the Bible says there is a difference between understanding sin, and calling sin righteous.

People do not despise a thief If he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; He may have to give up all the substance of his house. Proverbs 6:30, 31.

In Proverbs 6 we can understand why the thief stole the bread, and we can empathize with his hunger, but the act of stealing is still wrong, and the thief must still face consequences for his actions. What Brittany Maynard has decided to do is wrong, but I think we all can still understand in some way why she has made her decision.

According to People Magazine Maynard plans on launching an online video campaign with an end of life advocacy group called Compassion & Choices. The campaign is designed to promote Death with Dignity laws.

Suicide happens. No one has ever been able to prevent someone who is terminally ill from committing suicide. The case of Brittany Maynard is not about the morality of suicide, it is about the morality of society assisting in suicide. It is about convincing society that man has the moral responsibility to help suffering people end their lives. I have seen a lot of Christians responding to Maynard's decision by discussing suffering, and the individuals so called right to chose how to die. But what I have not seen very many Christians doing is discussing the real issue. Do people have the right to kill another person? No one is directly talking about killing Maynard, but let's be honest her doctor is giving her the medication, her husband and family are standing by her decision, and the whole world is aware of her intent. Her online video campaign is a emotional plea for the expansion of state assisted suicide laws.

Let's cut to the chase. We have allowed man to replace God in our society. Anything man can do is potentially moral. If we can remove someones suffering by our choice, then it must be right.

In 2 Samuel 31 Saul was in deep trouble. After seeing the death of his three sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua at the hands of his enemies Saul was coming undone. Severely wounded by the Philistine archers Saul lay dying.

Then Saul said to his armorbearer, "Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me." 2 Samuel 31:4

Saul did not want to be tortured by the Philistines. A reasonable desire. Saul also wanted death with dignity. Another reasonable desire.

But his armorbearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him. So Saul, his three sons, his armorbearer, and all his men died together that same day. 2 Samuel 31:4-6.

Sauls choice to take his own life did not make the world around him a better place. It did the exact opposite. After seeing the man who's life it was his soul job to protect dead Sauls armorbearer decided to kill himself. Saul's death effected those around him, and the effects Saul's decision to die were not just isolated to Saul. Saul's death even effected David, and the men that were with David (2 Samuel 1: 11,12.)

In the camp of David a young man appeared with a unique story:

'Then the young man who told him said, "As I happened by chance to be on Mount Gilboa, there was Saul, leaning on his spear; and indeed the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him.  Now when he looked behind him, he saw me and called to me. And I answered, 'Here I am.'  And he said to me, 'Who are you?' So I answered him, 'I am an Amalekite.' He said to me again, Please stand over me and kill me, for anguish has come upon me, but my life still remains in me.' So I stood over him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. 2 Samuel 1:9, 10

The first strike against this man was that he was an Amalekite, and David was just returning from the slaughter of the Amalikites (1 Samuel 15.) The second strike was that he was on Mount Gilboa, while a battle was being fought. Unless he had the worst GPS in history this young man was most likely stealing from the corpses. The third strike against this young man was the fact that he had just admitted to killing the Lords anointed. Knowing that this was a crime in Israel the young man reminds David that he is an Amalekite (verse 13.), and not subject to Hebrew laws. David dispenses justice:

Then David called one of the young men and said, "Go near, and execute him!" And he struck him so that he died. 16 So David said to him, "Your blood is on your own head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, 'I have killed the Lord's anointed.' " 2 Samuel 1:15, 16.

David held the Amalekite accountable for the death of Saul. David held him accountable in spite of the fact that he was an Amalekite, and not subject to Hebrew laws. David knew that God was the giver of life and death Genesis 1-3, and therefore the Amalekite had transgressed a much older law, al law that all men Amalekite, and Hebrew were under. David knew there is an objective right an wrong  when it came to life and death, and that right and wrong transcends cultures nations and borders. David knew people still have to answer for crimes no matter what their motives are.



Why Are We So Hard To Please? Part 3

And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. Luke 7:29, 30

Jesus turns His attention from His disciples to the religious leaders of His day.

And the Lord said, "To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: 'We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not weep.' Luke 7:31, 32.

Here Jesus refers to the games played by children in the wide open areas of the marketplace on the days when the market was empty. Much like today children's games imitated the real life events they saw adults participating in. The two games Jesus is referring to are the game of "wedding" and "funeral." In Jesus day these two events would truly have been two of the most fascinating events for children to observe. Funerals were accompanied by paid wailers, and musicians. Weddings as well employed musicians, and were also accompanied by many distinct ceremonies that would have made good sport for children to imitate.

The picture of the religious leaders of His day that Jesus offers is one of a group of children gathered in an empty marketplace calling out to one another. A game of wedding is purposed, and turned down by the group. Next a game of funeral is purposed, and just like the game of wedding it too is turned down. The question Jesus is bringing to light is "why?" Why don't the children want to play the games purposed? Is the answer is not because the games are not fun, or interesting. The games must have been fun and interesting to children because they were popular games, and children played them very often. So was it because the children were bored, over entertained, or tired of games? No.

The children do not want to play funeral because no one wants to be the dead body (the worst role to play.) Could you imagine being a little child and having to lay perfectly still while your friends danced around you, weeping and whaling; composing outrageous choruses of unrestrained mockery. All this would go on while you could not move a muscle. It would be pure torture for a child.

Likewise the children did not want to play wedding because they could not agree on who would play the role of bridegroom (the role to play that is the most fun.) One can only picture what fun it would have been to play the role of the bride groom in the wedding game. As the groom it would be your job to lead the wedding procession, and to start the riotous tumult of celebration by crying out with a loud shout.

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by all her children." Luke 7: 33, 34.

Jesus uses the example of the wedding game, because of it's similarities to His ministry. Like the children in Jesus story the religious leaders of Jesus day did not want to play the wedding game because they all wanted the control and honor of being the bride groom for themselves. There could only be one bride groom in the wedding game, and like obstinate children the Pharisees and lawyers would rather not play the wedding game, then play the wedding game and allow Jesus to have the honored position of bride groom. To allow Jesus to do so would mean they would have to admit their own unworthiness, and Jesus worthiness. This admission would take them out of the privileged position in society that they valued so much. Sinful men reject Christ, because they truly desire to rule over their own lives, and do not want Christ to rule over them.

Jesus uses the example of the funeral game because of it's similarities to John the Baptists ministry. Like the headstrong children who did not want to play the funeral game the self-willed religious leaders of Jesus day refused to take part in John the Baptists ministry. They turned down the ministry of John the Baptist because none of them wanted to be the dead body. Johns ministry was one of "preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" Luke 3:3. In order to take part in Johns ministry the Pharisees and lawyers would have to admit they were sinners, dead and unclean. They did not want to do this. To admit their own need for a "baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" would mean they would have to admit their own unworthiness. This admission much like the former one would take the Pharisees and lawyers out of the privileged position in society that they valued so much. They valued power, and the riches of this world over a right relationship with the true and living God.

Reason 3: There is no pleasing some people, because the problem is not in what they see, but what is inside them. 

Like ill-natured children the Pharisees and lawyers were unable to be pleased. There is no pleasing some people, because the problem is not out side them, but inside them. This self centered attitude that we have as children can often follow us into adulthood. When it does an individual often finds problems with everything around themselves, unable to see that the problem is inside them. 

Application: If you have a constant dissatisfied attitude with things around you, then you might have a real inward problem.

The problem is sin, and the answer is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins. 



Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Are We So Hard To Please? Part 2

When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? Luke 7:24, 25.

Once John the Baptists disciples had gone, Christ's disciples started to object to John's questioning of their Master. Jesus seeing this turns his powerful gaze towards His own disciples.

"What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? Luke 7:24.

Jesus reminds His followers that John the Baptist is a man:

 "Great in the sight of the Lord." Luke 1:15.

Reason 2: We don't appreciate what we have. 

Jesus goes on describing John:

"But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings' courts. Luke 7:25

Undoubtedly men in soft garments were to be found in kings courts, and not in their prisons. John's strength and commitment are not lost on his Master, but rather they are held dear to His heart.

But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.' Luke 7:26, 27.

John was not just a prophet, he was a prophet who himself had been prophesied about (Malachi 3:1.) More then this according to Jesus:

For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist Luke 7:28.

The reason Jesus disciples met John the Baptists question with such scorn was because they themselves did not yet know how to appreciate what they had. Appreciating something is understanding what something is, and seeing it as God has given it. That means placing the same value on something that God places on it, for the same reasons God places value on it.

Jesus knows the key to appreciating John the Baptist is to see the value God puts on him. Jesus also knew that His disciples and many other people had formerly appreciated John's ministry because He spoke fearlessly, and honestly:


"What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? Luke 7:24.

Sometimes learning to appreciate those around us requires us to recall the things that attracted us to them in the first place. So often it is those very things that draw us towards someone that end up driving us away from them. But we need to value people because God values them, not because we value them.

Application: God appreciating something is where our appreciation for that thing should come from. 

Why do you love your church? Is it because of what it has to offer you, or is it because God loved it first? God does not value what you get out of a church. When you stand before God in judgement He is not going to say: "What did you think about that church you attended? Could you give me your opinion, because I would really like to know?" Rather God is going to say: "This is the point where I put a value on what you did in My church." 1 Corinthians 3:12. If you do not learn to appreciate things because God appreciates them, then you are in danger of having nothing of value to offer God on the day of judgement. Find out what someone likes, and get it for them this is the secret to every good relationship.









Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why Are We So Hard To Please? Part 1

"And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?'" Luke 7:19.

John the Baptist was in Jail. As He sat in jail he began to think; "Here I am in jail, and Jesus is in Galilee attending parties" (Luke 5:29). Adding to John's apprehension about Jesus was his personality. John was a powerful man filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, who had separated himself to the Lord his entire life (Luke 1:15.) Furthermore John's ministry was one of fire and judgement likened to the ministry of the prophet Isaiah:

The word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.' "[...] And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."[...] Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire. Luke 3:2-6.

As John sat in prison he looked upon Jesus through the eyes of Isaiah 61:1,2

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God."

John was a prisoner, and if Jesus was the Messiah, then He was supposed to free prisoners, right? Due to this apparent inconsistency John was not satisfied with Jesus' ministry, and so he called two of his disciples to him, and sent a message to Jesus: "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?"

Why are we so hard to please?

Reason 1: Things don't always work out the way we expect them to.

John expected Jesus to look and act a certain way, and when Jesus did not meet that expectation John felt unsatisfied. It would be false to say that Johns expectations were unbiblical. Johns expectations were very biblical, but as Jesus points out to John they were also very narrow.

Here is How Jesus answered John:

"And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them, 'Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.'" Luke 7:21-23.

Jesus sent word back to John, Isaiah 35:4-6 was being fulfilled:

Say to those who are fearful-hearted, "Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you." Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing."

When things do not work out according to our expectations, even if we think our expectations are biblical we have to ask ourselves:

1. Are our expectations Biblical?
2. Are our expectations too narrow?
3. Are we looking at the whole picture?
4. Is there more going on that we are unaware of?

Application: Our expectations have to be biblical, and emphasize the whole counsel of God. 

Today everyone wants something different from a church; teaching that connects to their lives, a children's ministry that meets their child's needs, a fellowship that meets their spouses needs, Sunday morning worship that fits their cultural peculiarities. The problem with these felt needs is that they are so often not Gods needs. Jesus was not the messiah the jews wanted, but He was the messiah God sent. Looking past Gods sovereignty the jews rejected the messiah, because He was not what they expected. Today Christians look past the local church if they feel she does not meet their needs. Just like the jews of Jesus day they stick their nose up at the cup of blessing, because they fail to have biblical expectations that emphasize the whole revelation of the Scriptures. 



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Deacons Qualifications



  Deacons Qualifications
A man must be qualified in order to fill the office of Deacon. The Scriptures lay down a clear set of attributes a mans life must display in order for him to be considered for the office of deacon.  Qualifications are for two purposes:
1. For the church to evaluate individuals for the office.
2. For the individuals to evaluate themselves for the office.
A common mistake made by some is to look at the list as a check list, and if a man has checks in all the boxes he is given a "green light" to serve. The Bible was not written to give people a set of rules and check lists by which they are to live their life (a sort of instruction manual if you will). While it is true many peoples lives would be greatly enhanced if they would live according to the basic statutes of the Bible, the Bible does not teach "do this" and "do that" rules as a way to live your life. Rather, the Bible teaches principles by which we are to live our lives. These principles (when lived out by a believer) instruct us as to the nature and character of "who God is." The qualifications for deacons are all fixed requirements for the office. If a man does not have these things then he can not be a deacon. These qualifications are also examples that are meant to contain a deeper principle, which a man who aspires to be a deacon must live his life by. The outward working of a biblical principle in a believers life often times looks different in every believer. This is why it is important to identify and be familiar with the principle, rather then try to look for a the same things in every mans life. 
An example of the practical outworking of Biblical principle manifesting itself in different ways can be found in the way we raise our children. People who see the Scripture as a rulebook tend to approach the Bible by looking for laws by which they can erect a large framework of rules and regulations to raise their children. Conformity to this framework often becomes the standard by which one family judges the quality of another families parenting "success". This system offers a moderate amount of false comfort to believers when they ask themselves, "am I doing the right thing?" All they have to do is assure themselves "I am following the rules, I'm okay." The problem with this system is self evident to anyone who was raised in it: legalism replaces grace, conformity supersedes sanctification, and christian growth turns into self righteousness and not Christ righteousness. Raising a family by principle means reading your Bible in context, looking for the deeper principle by which you are to grow in a greater understanding, walking with God, and then teaching what you learned to your family. For example in Proverbs 13:24,  "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly." The principle behind this passage may look differently in one mans house than it does in anthers. My child may feel the weight of admonishment more from grounding, and another mans child may from a spanking. It is up to every parent to decide what form of punishment gets through to his children. (After all God has uniquely suited each father to know his children). The principle of Proverbs 13:24 is not beat your child with a rod, but that you as a parent must teach your child that this world has rules built into it. The breaking of those rules must result in consequences and they are to live their lives in light of that reality.  The withholding of proper discipline "spoils" a child by undermining a basic understanding of justice. Proper instruction given by a parent prepares a child to see that God has a rule: sin cannot go unpunished.  The breaking of that rule bears it's own punishment. The truth taught rightly, through principles rather than rules, will help instruct a child more then blind obedience to a standard of conduct. 
In the book of Acts chapter 6, the Apostles lay out guides for the men selected to serve. In Acts 6:3 they tell the church "Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business" 
  1. "men of good reputation"
    • It is important that the men who serve as deacon have a good reputation. The only way you can have a good reputation is by serving in the church. Having a good reputation is different then being well-liked, popular, charming, charismatic, smart, well-educated, or active in the church. The selection of deacons is not a popularity contest. A mans reputation is earned by serving faithfully in ministry over a long enough course of time to put away all doubts as to that persons character. It is important that the man you put in the office of deacon has a proven reputation, because by putting that man in the office of deacon you are putting them in a place of great strain and pressure. As a principle you don't put someone in a position when you do not have justifiable evidence of a favorable outcome. Do not set men up for failure.
    • Determining if someone is a man "of good reputation" demands that you need to make a judgement, or evaluation, of a man and his life. 
    • The office of deacon is no place for a person without a good reputation, because of the kind of scrutiny they will come under. When two parties are quarreling, the person who steps in between them must be the kind of man that (whatever the outcome) both sides can trust he acted impartially. 
  2. "Full of the Holy Spirit "
    • The office of deacon requires an evident spirituality and wisdom.
    • You must ask yourself: "Do you see that man controlled by both the Holy Spirit and wisdom?"
    • This takes prayer and spiritual discernment. One can not identify wisdom unless they are in a position of walking in wisdom. Likewise, one can not judge spiritual matters unless they themselves are spiritual. The Apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 2:13-16, "These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For "who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ." 
    • If a man is not spiritually mature he is not qualified to be a deacon. 
    • The requirement of an evident working of the Holy Spirit in a mans life in order for him to serve as deacon, proves that the office of deacon is not just a practical office but a spiritual one as well.
  3. "And Wisdom" 
    • A deacon must display the principles of Biblical wisdom.
    • Does he fear the Lord?
    • Does he shun the appearance of all evil?
    • Is he a scoffer or a fool?

While the book of Acts gives us an early framework of the office of deacon, the book of I Timothy was written for the direct purpose of instructing believers in church polity. For this reason, I Timothy is the greatest resource in the Bible when looking at the office of deacon and it's qualifications. In chapter 3, Paul lays out what God expects out of the individuals who hold the office of pastor and deacon. In Phillipians 1:1 and in I Timothy 3, Paul addresses the offices of pastor and deacon as two separate and distinct offices. 

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory. (I Timothy 3)

A bishop (pastor) is one who oversees, and a deacon is one who serves. Both offices require a man to pick up a title of Christ when he takes the office. Christ is the Shepherd, pastors are the under-shepherds. Christ was a servant, deacons are servants. A bishop is one who overseers or rules. A deacon is one who serves. While a comparison is drawn between the bishop and his deacons there is also a connection. Both offices require many of the same qualities.

  1. Likewise deacons must be reverent
    • The word "reverent" is the greek word "semnos." It means to be to be respected or honored for your character. 
    • A deacon must invite respect in their person by their:
      • interaction with people
      • deeds
    • Paul uses the word "semnos" in Phillipians 4:8; "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things. "
    • "whatever things are noble," is "whatever things are semnos."
    • In this world there is a category of things that attract attention because of their virtue. One of those is being worthy of respect or inviting respect from others. Men serving as a deacon need to be the kind of men who invite respect. Different men invite respect in their own way, but the underlying principle is that being respected speaks of a mans character. You can look at what a person does and judge not only the quality of their work, but the quality of their character. The Christlike quality at the root of this qualification is faithfulness. Faithfulness is a prerequisite to the ministry. If a man is faithful in service, and faithful in character it will show. Faithfulness rests on a foundation of confident trust in God. 
  2. Not double-tongued
    • The word "double tongued" is the word "dilogos." It means saying the same thing twice, repeating, or double in speech. The double tongued person is the kind of person who would say one thing with one person and another with another person. It does not matter if it is done with or without the intent to deceive. 
    • Paul was drawing from the Jewish conception of the "talebearer in the book of Proverbs 11:13-14.
        • " A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.  Where no counsel is, the people fall : but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." A "talebearer" is one who hears something one place and tells it another place. Men who are deacons will have to be able to hear something and remain trustworthy about what they have heard, not revealing those things in other places. The things spoken in a deacons meeting stay in a deacons meeting. Churches need men who have a proven ability to keep things were they belong. A balance is needed between being open, and keeping things private that need to be private. In many circumstances, the deacons will be talking to two parties. In those cases, the church needs a man with a trustworthy reputation in this position. When potential problems like anger, hurt feelings, distrust, and instability arise the deacons will be above question. 
    • The spiritual principle or discipline Paul is getting at here is peace or harmony. Personal peace and harmony breeds corporate peace and harmony.
  3. Not given to much wine
    • In the Bible wine is wine, not grape juice. If wine is grape juice, then what is this passage saying? Should a deacon not be given to much grape juice? We must take note of the fact that even though drinking wine was part of Jewish culture, the apostles felt a need to exhort the people about the drinking of wine. Even in a culture where wine was accepted, they identified it as a potential problem and saw a need to warn people about the problem. In the Bible we see a constant exhortation about the drinking of wine. The idea that growing up with something as part of your culture makes it acceptable is not true. Even if you grow up with something evident, that does not mean it can not become a problem in your life. 
      • The Apostles felt a need to speak about wine.
      • The Bible always condemns intoxication. If you are controlled by the wine (intoxicated), you are affected by the wine.
      • Romans 14:21 "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth , or is offended , or is made weak."
      • In speaking of those things that man will surrender for conscience sake, Paul mentions two things specifically. Eating flesh and drinking wine. If there was not a rising concern in those days among believers about drinking wine, then why does Paul address the issue? There was a rising sentiment among the early Christians that drinking wine was either wrong, not fitting, or not profitable for a Christian. Paul has to urge Timothy to drink a little wine for medicinal use. " Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities." Even though his culture did it, Timothy has convictions against drinking wine. There is no good reason to drink wine today. There are a wealth of reasons against it. How can you tell another to stop drinking wine if you are drinking it? Above reproach means going above and beyond to avoid being part of a potential problem. As Pastor, I expect a deacon to obtain from wine. I will not tell a man that I can prove it is always wrong from the Bible, but as a pastor the Lord has put me in charge of setting certain discretionary standards. I do not demand that all men agree with me. Certain activities need to be abstained from in order to preserve all doubt about a mans testimony. Gambling is an example. If a man desires to be in a visible position serving, the church has a right to require reasonable standards. Is a man willing to put the needs and expectations of others in front of his own?
        • The Christlike principle behind this qualification is humility. If you are willing to accept a position that gives you less freedom then you deserve, then you are displaying a Christlike mind. This particular blend of humility and graciousness comes from a attitude that does not seek it's own, so when it is denied it's own rights (like the opportunity to drink) it thinks nothing of it. 
  4. Not greedy for money
    • The greek term here is "aischrokerdes." It implies one who is eager for base gain or greedy for money. The King James uses the term "filthy lucre" meaning the man had gotten money that is not come by properly. 
    • The idea here is that a man is not fit to serve as a deacon if he is greedy for gain, ambitious, looking to gain on the small things. The underlying question is "What are his interests in any given situation?" The early church had a large wealth gap between the rich and the poor.  Some questions we need to be asking are: "Does he do jobs just for the money?" and "Is he satisfied with what God has given him?" and "Is he content/fulfilled?" This is a rare quality for a younger man. Is he constantly looking around at the world and evaluating himself by what he sees?
    • So the next question is "How is money earned Biblically?"
      • The answer to this question is found in Proverbs 28:19-27
      • "He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough. A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent . To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress .He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him. He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue. Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith , It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer . He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat . He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered . He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.
      • Verse 19 says "He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough." The idea is that dishonest gain is not just stealing. A man should make his bread through honest work and effort and not through empty schemes The kind of person who is taken in by schemes is not the kind of person who should serve as a deacon. Deacons are in charge of dealing with and caring for these people.  They need to be trusted to protect the weak, not use them.
      • Verse 20 says "A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent." The principle here is that a man should not work simply to be rich. That kind of lifestyle comes with its own downfall built into it. 
      • Verse 21 says "To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress." To have respect of persons means "to take a bribe." Deacons have to be free from all appearance of greedy motivations because the deacons are a group that has to be impartial. Deacons are also associated closely with the collecting and distributing of money (Acts 6).  The church needs to know that the decisions their deacons make are fair. One way you can judge fairness is the way a man treats others when it comes to money.  The church will be called to account for who it elects. God will hold you responsible. If you elect a man knowing he is greedy and in his fall you will become a partaker of his sin. 
      • The deeper biblical principle here is joy. If a man attaches his joy to this world and to the circumstances of this world (like money), his joy will come and go as the things of this world come and go. If a man learns to rejoice in the Lord and rejoice in his relationship to the Lord, he will rejoice always because God does not change and his relationship to God does not change, it transcends the circumstances of this world.
  5. Holding the mystery of the faith 
    1. How do you know if someone "holds the mystery of the faith?" What is "the mystery of the faith?" 
    2. The "faith" means our creed, or the body of beliefs, the doctrine we hold on to. That which we share in common with Christ.
      1. A "mystery" is not something that is hidden, but something that was previously been hidden and now has been made known.
      2. This quality speaks of a mans knowledge of the Word and ability to guide himself correctly using the word of God. 
      3. Paul tells us what the mystery of the faith is in I Timothy 3:16 "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory."
      4. Paul quotes an early church hymn, the poems structure goes something like this
        1. A- God was manifested in the flesh,
        2. B- Justified in the Spirit, 
        3. B- Seen by angels, 
        4.  A- Preached among the Gentiles, 
        5.  A- Believed on in the world, 
        6. B- Received up in glory."
        • Paul uses a literary divide called "Double Chiasm" to compare the lower realm compared to the higher realm. Flesh/Spirit; Angels/ Gentiles; World/Glory
        • The poem It starts with God. (Flesh; A reference to the incarnation)
        • Justified by the Spirit (Spirit)
        • Seen by angels- (Spirit; A reference to the resurrection)
        • Preached among the Gentiles (Flesh) 
        • Believed on in the world (Flesh)
        • Received up in glory. (Spirit, A Reference to the ascension)
        • Notice the poem starts with God, coming down to us, then ends with God going back to Glory. It is a short history of the Gospel. The Gospel is the "good news" about one man Jesus Christ. So…what is the mystery of our faith? It is resident, explained, and contained in one person: Jesus Christ. He is the mystery. It is not the mystery about Him, He is the mystery that was hidden in time past and now reveiled. God manifested in the flesh. Immanuel, God with us. Our faith rests and resides with Him.
        • How do you know if someone "holds the mystery of the faith?" Do they hold fast to Jesus Christ?
        • What is "the mystery of the faith?" It is contained in one person Jesus Christ, who was God in flesh. The fact that God was manifest in the flesh. 
        • Because of this truth we know now that we can live our beliefs here and now, God is manifest in us.
        • A deacon must believe and practice the reality of an indwelling conviction that shows to all in his life, which is why they get the good name and boldness. 
        • When under persecution, do they hold fast to Christ? 
        • It's easy to serve and get cynical. You see so much as a minister and you see peoples faults. How does a man see peoples faults and not get cynical?
        • He holds on to the reality of Christ in his life tighter then all the circumstances he encounters in this world. Is Christ alive and living in a mans life? Does he live for Christ? This is the taproot of all the other qualifications for the office of deacon. All other qualifications flow out of this one most important truth of Christlikeness that must be present in a mans life. 
  6. With a pure conscience. 
    • How they will accomplish the mission of "holding fast."
    • You are given within yourself an awareness of what is right and what is wrong. It is not an adequate system for godliness, it needs to be purified or cleansed. You are given this awareness by God. As a moral creature, you recognize that which is right and that which is wrong. (The only people who do not recognize this are sociopaths). Many things contribute to the development of our conscience. For example, our parents who represent God to us or other forms of authority, like our peers, our education, and our government. It's molded by that which demonstrated love. When you are saved that conscience needs to be purified. It's not enough for a man to have resident within himself an awareness of what is right and wrong. He needs to have an awareness of right and wrong that is purified, cleansed, washed by the reading of the Word of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. That quality needs to be seen in a deacons day to day activities, work, and relationships. 
    • Hold fast to the teaching that Jesus Christ was manifested in the flesh, through and in cooperation with a conscience that has been purified.
    • "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned… This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck" (I Timothy 1:5,18)
      • Paul ties faith and conscience together.
      • When you set aside the faith (your relationship to Christ and sound doctrine concerning His person), you forfeit a good conscience. This is how many become shipwrecked in the faith.
      • You want deacons who have evident day to day working framework that has been purified before God, and is clearly seen to all as reality of Christ living within them. This reality looks different in every individual, but is just as noticeable in each ones life. 
  7. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.
    • The Greek word for "tested" is "dokimazo." It means to examine, prove, to scrutinize, to see whether a thing is genuine or not.
    • This implies:
      • Not everyone can be a deacon. Not even all the candidates for deacon can be deacon. 
      • Being a deacon requires not just having the qualities, but also having clear and evident proof of them as well.
    • The Greek word for "blameless" is "anegkletos." It implies that a man cannot be called into to account. The meaning is not just: "Is he guilty?", but can someone bring an accusation against a man?
      • God does not just want people in positions of leadership who pass, He wants models. He wants people to lead who can be patterned after.
      • The emphasis should not be on the lack of sin in a mans life, but on his exemplary Christ likeness. 
    • If a man serves as deacon, then he serves as a model.
  8. Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 
    • This is a qualification over and beyond average membership. 
    • A fault of a mans spouse may be no problem of his own, but it still can lead to an indictment of a him. 
    • The word "reverent" is the same word "sermons" used in verse 11. It means august, venerable, reverend, to be venerated for character, inviting honor on ones self. 
    • The Greek word "slanderer" or "diabolos" is the same word used of the devil, because he is the "accuser" of the saints. It implies one is prone to slander, or make false accusations against other.
      • When looking at a deacons wife the question must be asked "Does she accuse others or speak wrong of others?"
    • The greek word for "temperate" used here is "nephaleos." It means to be sober and is often connected to the abstaining from wine, either entirely or at least from its immoderate use. 
    • The Greek word "pistes" or "faithful" is used here. It means trustworthy, the kind of persons who show themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands, and the discharge of official duties. 
      • When looking at a deacons wife, the question is "Is she reliable?"
      • The deeper principle here is that serving as a deacon is a hard job, and we must make sure a man and his wife are fit for the office because the devil will use any and all means to attack them and the church. 
  9. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 
    • Deacons lives need to be able to be held up as a model.
    • Being the husband of one wife means "being a one woman kind of guy." This impies a man who has been married multiple times, or who currently married to multiple women would not be eligible to fill the office of deacon.
    • Being a one woman kind of guy does not mean a single man, or a man who dated before he met his wife would be excluded from the office of deacon.
    • Here are some spiritual people who could not be a deacon: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon,  
      • Not being eligible to be a deacon is not a slight on a mans pride, it can be a blessing by giving a man direction as to what work God would have him do in the church.
    • Ruling their children and their own houses well means being held in a position of honor by their children. 
      • If a man rules well his children may still rebel, but the question is "How does he treat them when they rebel?"
      • Ruling well will look different in every household, but it can still be seen easily.
      • The way a man rules his own home says a lot about a mans ability to rule in other areas.
      • A well led house means a mans children are less likely to stir up strife, but if/when they do, people will see it is because of the childrens rebellious hearts, and not the fathers lack of love and discipline. 
  10. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing 
    • In I Timothy 3:1, the office of bishop is described as a "good work." Here in verse 13, the same word is used to describe a man who serves well as obtaining for himself a "good standing." 
    • Notice a man must first "serve well," this implies the job can be done poorly. 
    • The office of pastor is to be held as "good" because, through the teaching for the word, Christ is displayed for all to hear. The standing or reputation of a deacon is likewise to be seen as "good" because, by serving as Christ did, a man displays Christ in his life for all to see. Both offices are about exulting Christ, not the individuals in that office. To the degree a man does that, he can be judged as doing his job "well."
  11. And great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
        • How does a man earn "great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus?" If a man uses the act of serving as a way of living out his faith in Christ Jesus, then the result of that service will be a greater faith in Christ Jesus. This kind of faith will grow to the point where it is bursting at the seams, and the individual who has this kind of faith will feel like he has to share his faith with others regardless of circumstances. A lack of boldness in deacons may be the result of a lack of service motivated by faith. This is why a man must not serve as deacon because he is motivated by fear, desire for honor, obligation, or just as something to do.   


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Psalms in the Night: Psalm 1

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.  He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.  The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.  Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

A "delight" in the law of the Lord leads the "Blessed man" to meditating on His law "day and night." Meditating is the idea of bringing the creative forces of your mind to bear on a thought effortlessly. Often times we day dream about a hobby of ours, or a trip we would like to go on. In our minds we build it up, create scenarios, tear down assumption, think of possibilities, and run our mind over a thought from multiple angles without even thinking about what we are doing. This is the "meditation" the psalmist is the talking about. When something is so pleasurable or "delightful" to a person they can continue to think about it creatively late into the night even if they are not required to. 

    Our days are for work and our nights are for rest and relaxation, but when our work is our rest and relaxation we do it day and night. The Blessed man is truly "blessed" or "happy" because his work is his rest. That work is meditating on the Word of God. 

The "blessed man's" work is not without reward; "He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season." The word "rivers" is the Hebrew word "Peleg" it means to divide earth. "To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother's name was Joktan." (Genesis 10:25) The word "planted" or "shathal" means to transplant, or intentionally place a tree or branch in a garden. The picture we see painted with these words is one of an orchard. The purpose of an orchard is to yield fruit. The creation of fruit is not an unintentional process on the part of the the farmer, or the tree. Farmers do not direct water in front of a tree without purpose. Also trees are not a passive channel that water flows though one end and out the other. Trees through a creative act take in the water happily, and use it to create fruit that is pleasing to the farmer. God is the "Farmer", the Word is the "water", and we are his "Orchard." God promises to use His Word in our lives to accomplish His goals. "so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11) 

Jesus gave us the truest account of how God plans to accomplish His plans in us. He says in John 15:1-8 ""I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples" The way we are supposed to bear fruit is by "Abiding in" Christ. The grape get's it's nutrient by "abiding" or staying attached to the vine, thus we as Christians are to stay attached to Christ our true vine. Everything flows to us in the Christian life through Christ. Through Him we are granted forgiveness of sins, through Him we are restored into fellowship with the Father, and through His death we are given His righteousness on our account. Our old life is taken away, and a new life is given to us because of what God the Father accomplished through Jesus Christ on the Cross.