Monthly Archives: April 2013

Learning from Paul’s Companions

We often speak with awe of the work that the apostle Paul, and others like him, did for the cause of Christ in the first century. We also often speak of their work and success as though it was purely an outgrowth of their use of miraculous gifts and inspiration; thereby being something that can never be duplicated or reached by “mere Christians” today.

However, there is a fallacy in our perceived reasoning that we need to recognize and dispel. We treat the great deeds of the New Testament as if it were Paul (or Peter, John, etc) and the Holy Spirit and nobody else. Yet when one reads the Scriptures carefully, it is evident that there is another aspect to the work of these great men that is undeservedly overlooked. That is, there are always others working with the apostles. They are never working solo, but always have other brethren accompanying them.

In the early days of Paul’s missionary journeys it was only 1 or 2 individuals (Barnabas, John Mark, Silas, etc.). As time wore on, and more men were converted and trained, the numbers of men travelling with Paul increased. By the time you come to Acts 20, as Paul is returning to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey, you find that Paul has 8 companions (including Luke, the author of Acts) from at least 4 different cities/regions travelling with him (Acts 20:4, 6). These men are all working with the apostle on his travels, and this does not include those sent to other areas to work with congregations Paul has already visited. In fact, Paul becomes so used to the accompaniment of others that when he writes Timothy toward the end of his life he states, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Tim. 4:11). He then asks Timothy to bring John Mark with him because he is valuable for the ministry that needs to be done.

Paul accomplished great things, but he did not do any of them alone. He always had brethren accompanying him, working with him, encouraging him, and helping in his care as his work progressed (see every single one of his letters to read about his companions).

That being said I wonder why, in our time, we have placed the load of carrying the Gospel on one man (or one family)? Even our Lord sent out his disciples “two and two” (Luke 10:1). I believe one of the reasons we have so much trouble duplicating the successes of the first century is because we see the main characters of the accounts and forget the supporting cast; the brethren who worked day and night to assist the apostles in proclaiming the Gospel.

We have many good preachers today who love lost souls just as much as the apostles of the first century. They have the exact same message at their fingertips (the New Testament Scriptures) and the same lost world standing before them; but who will be their companions? Who will, not just send them on their way, but go with them? Who will make the sacrifices to be their aides, supporters, co-workers, and friends?

Will you be today’s preachers’ Aquila and Priscilla, their Timothy and Titus, their Luke and Onesiphorus? If our preachers today had the same levels of support as those of the first century, I feel far fewer of them would feel alone, secluded, and give up. God, grant us those with the courage to spread the Gospel far and wide; and also those with the strength to accompany, encourage, and keep them.

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Overcoming “Cabin Fever” in the Church

My wife works at home raising our four sons. While that work is very rewarding she has days of what I call “cabin fever.” Not in the clinical sense; just a restlessness from having seen the same four walls, the same four people, and the same routine for a number of days in a row.

Sometimes, I believe the same things happen in the church. We see the exact same people, sit in the exact same pew, do the exact same things, and get in a rut that is sometimes unhealthy in our approach to the family of God. So consider some things that we can do to overcome “cabin fever” in the church.

“Rearrange the furniture.” Whenever my wife really starts feeling this way, she picks a room and rearranges it. This helps with the perception of what she sees in her daily routine. While not meaning it literally in regard to the church, one of the things that can help our perspective is to rearrange our “place” in the services. It is amazing how many people sit in the same pew, around the same people, holding the same conversations week after week. In smaller congregations this could include everyone, but in larger congregations, there are entire groups that rarely talk to each other because they sit on opposite sides of the building.

To alleviate the “sameness” of everything regarding services, sit in different parts of the building. This will allow you to strike up conversations with people that are not normally possible. It will also assist your perspective in worship. Most people cannot hear everyone in the building when they sing, but when you sit in different places you can then hear some beautiful voices you didn’t know existed. You can improve your service by better knowing the needs of others around you. It may not seem like much, but it can make a big difference.

“Make a play day.” Another thing my wife will do to overcome these feelings is to schedule a day to just get out and play. While not speaking of changing the services of the church or being irreverent in any way, sometimes Christians need “play days.” Times where they can come together in fellowship to laugh, enjoy one another’s company, relax and get to know one another better. This helps break the monotony of the day to day work and service of the church. It improves our relationships within the church and gives a sense that not only can the church work together and worship together, but they can be the family that God intends them to be.

The answer to issues of “cabin fever” in the church is not to jazz up the services; it is not to try to entertain people with a bunch of gimmicks that will make people stay for a while, then start looking for something “better;” it is simply to take the time to change our perspective. Spend time with your brethren in a different way. Strengthen the bonds between you by giving them the ability to do the same. It will strengthen your service and help keep your proper perspective in place.

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Integrity: The Forgotten Principle

When was the last time you heard anyone talk specifically about integrity? It has become a forgotten word in our society along with others such as honor, respect, and reverence. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines it as: “Wholeness, entireness, unbroken state; the entire, unimpaired state of any thing, particularly of the mind; purity; genuine, unadulterated, unimpaired state.” When speaking of integrity we are speaking of the pure, genuine, unimpaired state of mind which guides the whole individual to make equally pure, genuine, and unimpaired choices about right and wrong, good and evil.

We live in a society today that does not teach our children integrity. Today’s society teaches amorality. Instead of “do what is right,” they teach “do what feels right;” instead of following the rules, they teach the rules were made to be broken; instead of absolute right and wrong, they teach situation ethics; instead of instilling moral fiber, they indoctrinate with immoral cancer. Then parents, who have inundated their children with the ways, principles, and precepts of the world through tv, radio, literature, and social media, come out and wonder “what has happened” to the next generation.

The term “integrity” is used 16 times in the Scriptures (all of them in the Old Testament). It was the integrity of Job that God regarded and his wife attacked (Job 2:3, 9). It was integrity that God desired out of Solomon when he was made king (1 Kin. 9:4). It is by our integrity that we will be judged before God (Psa. 7:8; 26:1, 11).

Consider Solomon’s words about the importance of integrity: “The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them” (Pro. 11:3); “Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool” (Pro. 19:1); “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” (Pro. 20:7).

It is time we re-integrate the terms integrity, honor, and respect into the minds and hearts of our children. They need to see them, hear them, and have them ever present before them in life. They need to be exemplified in every part of life: in my work, in my dealings with others, in my handling of God’s Word, in my relationship with my family, and in my relationship with God. They need to be written on the posts of our houses (Deu. 6:9).

Do we still remember what it means to have integrity? Do we demand it of ourselves, our children, and our people; or will we allow the world to teach them the ungodly “principles” that will guide their actions?

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10% of the People do 90% of the Work?

I have often heard preachers and others use the adage, “10% of the people do 90% of the work,” in reference to the church. I would like to take a few moments to debunk this particular idea.

Using our congregation of about 50 as an example, that would mean that a total of 5 people do nearly everything within the congregation; for a congregation of 100 that number would be 10. Friends, I can tell you from years of experience that is simply not true.

The problem often lies in what we determine to be “work.” We often consider the “work” to be participating in the public services and being at the forefront of observable programs within the congregation. However, there is a flaw in this reasoning, we have turned the work of the Christian into nothing more than public notoriety. But the work of Christianity goes far beyond what we often think. We have many examples of those that worked behind the scenes, but surely were known for their work. People like Jason (Acts 17), Tabitha (Acts 9), Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18), and many others. Consider who we leave out when we make such broad statements…
– What about the Christians who work to clean the building and do maintenance on the grounds?
– What about the Christians who send cards, make phone calls, and take food to the sick and needy, or simply those they want to encourage?
– What about the Christians who, though unable to do certain public duties, make it their mission to support and encourage (both financially and verbally) those who can?
– What about the Christians who give of their finances to mission works and the poor?
– What about the Christians who give of their time to teach Bible classes, or open their homes for church functions?

Though there are many other areas we could consider, I believe this suffices to show that there are many more avenues of work than we often consider in the body of Christ. It is true that we do not all have the same abilities, nor do we have the same tools at our disposal (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:16; etc.). We need to ensure we give equal value to all of the works of the body of Christ, not just those that are the most public and receive the most public recognition (1 Cor. 12:14-20).

While it may be true that 10% of Christians LEAD 90% of the works, there is a vast difference between leading others in work and being the only one involved. It is impossible for the work of the church to be accomplished by only 10% of the members. We should instead be arguing that 100% of the work is accomplished by 100% of the congregation; and before we begin looking at fellow members with the attitude that they “are not doing anything,” maybe we should first consider that we might not know all of the things they strive to do in the service of the Master.

God bless his people as they continue to strive for the cause of Christ by every means available to them.

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Poem: Because I Gave

I used to say I never got all that I deserved,
That those I loved held back from me, no matter how I served.
I used to say, “No matter what, it’ll never be enough.”
My family won’t appreciate just how much things are tough…

Until I stopped and thought about the things I had not done.
The times I had not said, “I love you” before the day was gone.
Then I put forth the effort, to give what they deserved;
And the love that I received from them has never ceased or swerved.
Now, I love them more and more each day… because I gave.

I used to say, “You are on your own” when it comes to living life,
That nobody else will help you in the times of greatest strife.
It seemed whenever I thought I needed something more than most,
Nobody came to lend a hand or offered to share the cost…

Until I took it upon myself to lend a helping hand,
Not worrying about who saw or heard, just filling the demand.
Then, one day, I faced a trial that overwhelmed my life,
And suddenly from every side was help to aid my strife.
And every time I asked why, I was told… because I gave.

I used to say I hated going to worship all the time,
“I never get anything out of it,” was often my favorite line.
I never sang, or prayed, or cared if I could stay awake,
I just wanted the preacher to stop, so I could get out to the lake…

Until a man taught me the truth and showed me how to serve,
Through obeying God and giving to him all that he deserved.
I listened to his words of wisdom and inserted them with care,
And now I look forward every day to the opportunity to be there.
And I see all the blessings he gives every day… because I gave.

“And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:32-35)

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My Least Favorite Verse in the Bible

Everyone wants to talk about their favorite passages of Scripture. There are many common culprits for this description such as John 3:16; 1 John 4:7-8; Romans 5:8-9; and many others. However, far more telling than one’s favorite passage of Scripture is their least favorite. “But, I like them all!” says one individual. While that may, in a sense, be true from the standpoint of recognizing them as being from God and appreciating their value; we all, whether we have considered it or not, have passages of Scripture we don’t like nearly as much as others. The reasons why are far more telling about an individual’s attitude toward God’s Word and appreciation for the Bible than the passages about the love and gifts of God that are often our favorites.

There are some individuals who “love” God’s Word, but do not like passages that deal with certain moral issues. Whether those are the passages that deal with marriage, divorce, and remarriage; modesty; dancing; drinking; or some other moral issue, these people will do just about anything to avoid these passages and continue living their lives as they desire. Their least favorite passages say more about them than they think.

Other individuals do not like the passages that deal with commitment to God; the ones that require continuous active service to God to receive his promised rewards. They would rather sit on their laurels than work for their master, thus the passages that contain such admonitions will be quickly swept under the rug as the individual “moves on to more important issues.”

Some people do not like certain passages of Scripture, not because of what God says and what it requires of us, but because of what it says about those being addressed. I admit this is the category into which I generally fall. One of my least favorite passages of Scripture is Jeremiah 8:12 where God says of Judah, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.” This is one of my least favorite passages, not because of what God said he would do, but because of what it says about his people. They could not blush at sin, they did not care about their abominations, they were happy in their depravity. I do not enjoy reading about such attitudes with men, and I know others don’t either; but they are necessary and valuable lessons if we are to avoid the same pitfalls in our own lives.

There are many other areas that could be covered, but I believe you get the point. Have you ever considered your least favorite passages of Scripture? What are they and why? They may tell you more about yourself than you thought, and they will certainly speak volumes to others.

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The Parable of the Traveler

A man was trying to get to a town 20 miles north of his location but had become lost. He stopped to ask someone for help getting to the town and the man told him, “Take a right and head east out of town. Follow that road for a few miles and that should lead you right to it.”

“Are you sure?” said the man, “I thought the town was north of here.”

“I have always been told that the way I told you will get you there, and I believe it,” stated the informer.

So the man took the informer’s advice and travelled east trying to get to the desired location. After driving for 30 miles he realized this was not the road to his destination and again stopped to seek directions. When he asked a woman how to get to the town desired, she took out an old map and told the man to go north a few miles then take a side road that she knew about. This would cut off time and make the trip easier.

Thanking the woman he headed off to follow her directions. As the man turned off on the side road, however, he ran into problems. A few miles down the road became a dead end. The bridge had been washed out years before and had never been replaced.

Thinking he was never going to get to the destination desired, the man finally pulled into a farm house a short distance from where the road had ended. He asked the farmer if he had a recent map that would show him how to get to his desired destination. The farmer brought one out, showed him the best route and wished him well. As the man left, the farmer sent his map with him; just in case he ran into any more difficulties along the way.

When the man finally reached his destination he promised himself never to take such a trek without a map to guide him again.

Many people find themselves in this man’s predicament while trying to get to Heaven. They will ask someone how to get there who will then tell them what he has always heard and believed, though there is no real proof in the reliability of the statement. When an individual follows that advice he simply becomes even more lost from the standpoint of thinking he is going the right direction and still not knowing where he is.

Others will find themselves following old maps with antiquated directions that will not accomplish the task any longer. Many times people today will try to follow the Old Testament as a means of salvation or of determining what is acceptable to God in worship and practice. While that map does tell us what was once acceptable, the roads have been changed over the years. The side roads and cumbersome limitations have been replaced with the proverbial interstate of the blood of Christ. The old roads do not function in that same capacity anymore, and their service is to show how those in times past used to travel the road and the lessons that can be learned from their journeys.

The only way to get to Heaven is by following the map. Following the directions of someone who thinks they know can be disastrous; following an old map is unreliable at best; but following the map that shows where things are today and how to get to the destination reliably is valuable beyond measure.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus has given us the roadmap to get to our desired destination, but we must read the map to get where we want to go. He said that we must believe in him and his word (John 8:24); be willing to repent of our sins (Mat. 4:17; Acts 2:38); we must confess him before men (Mat. 10:32-33); we must be willing to be immersed in water for the remission of sins (Mat. 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38); and we must be willing to follow the road he has given all the way to the destination (Luke 9:62; Rev. 2:10).

Will we use the Lord’s map or will we seek to find some other way to get to Heaven? Jesus said that we must follow his map to get to the Father, let’s make sure we do.

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