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How Do You Define Success?

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Am I happy because of the security and wealth I have? Am I happy because of the things I do, the pleasures I enjoy, the food I eat, the clothing I wear, etc.? All these things can make me briefly happy, but pleasure is fleeting.

Your definition of success greatly affects your happiness and contentedness during your short stint on earth.

The "American dream" is about money and comfort. Is that success? Our Constitution guarantees us the right to pursue happiness, but it doesn't bother defining it. Most seem to think owning property produces happiness; therefore, to maximize happiness you should maximize the amount of stuff you own.

Not true!

Just look at how many winners of life's lottery still suffer severe depression, anger, hopelessness. Substance abuse remains rampant among the wealthy, just as it does among the poor. Being filthy rich doesn't protect marriages, as many of the world's rich and famous are famous for philandering, cheating, and divorcing.

Since money obviously does not guarantee happiness, we shouldn't define success by riches. I appreciate Dave Ramsey on many levels, but he often seems to equate "winning" with the amount of cash a person has. "Cash is king." He encourages making major sacrifices now to have millions later. He talks of years of rice and beans, beans and rice; live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else. Change the family tree.

Peace and CoffeeFor what purpose? Will those millions make me or my family happier down the road?

Why should I change my family tree in this way? Why should I leave millions to my children? Is this really the focus and goal God has for me and my family?

On the one hand,

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children,
But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous. (Prov. 13.22)

He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough! (Prov. 28.19)

On the other hand,

There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing;
And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches. (Prov. 13.7)

Better is a little with righteousness,
Than vast revenues without justice. (Prov. 16.8)

Better is a dry morsel with quietness,
Than a house full of feasting with strife. (Prov. 17.1)

He who trusts in his riches will fall,
But the righteous will flourish like foliage. (Prov. 11.28)

What if, instead of earthly riches, I give my family a strong work ethic? What if I teach them to love their neighbor as themselves? What if I teach them to take care of widows and orphans in their distress? What if I leave a legacy of peace and fellowship?

What if my family lives within their means but never becomes rich or powerful? Can they still find happiness?

What if I teach them to give away their money and trust God to take care of them and continue to fill their needs?

Jesus says:

"Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fill, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Luke 12.32-34)

Success, for the child of God, is a life filled with hope, love, faithfulness, and quietness. A contented man is successful.

As a wise man once prayed:

Give me neither poverty nor riches--
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, "Who is the LORD?"
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God. (Prov. 30.8-9)


Are You Qualified to Serve?

Monday, June 19, 2023

Deacons are simply servants of the church. The church appoints these servants to fulfill certain tasks necessary to the working of the church. Early disciples in Jerusalem appointed these servants to take care of their needy widows (Acts 6), but their qualifications (1 Tim. 3.8-13) indicate they serve the church in more ways.

helping each otherIn Jesus’ teaching, the greatest of all is the least of all, and Jesus used διάκονος (diakonos) to describe us: And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9.35) “But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant…” (Mark 10.43)

God called the Roman government His διάκονος: “he [the governing authority] is God’s servant for your good” (Rom. 13.4).

Jesus Himself is a διάκονος to Israel: “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs…” (Rom. 15.8)

This word is used in many places throughout the New Testament. We understand by the context of 1 Tim. 3.1-13 that Paul writes of offices or positions in the church. The role of overseer / elder is an office of the church. Likewise (1 Tim. 3.8) there exists the role or office of deacon.

When addressing the Philippian church, Paul wrote “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons” (Phil. 1.1).

Those who serve their church in this official capacity should be tested and proven to be faithful before the church appoints them to this service. They not only serve the church; they represent the church (and, thus, Christ). Their qualifications differ from those of elders in several respects, but they are quite similar. We should look for men who are “dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Tim. 3.8-9). They should manage their children and households well and be the husbands of one wife (1 Tim. 3.12). Women servants “must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things” (1 Tim. 3.11).

Those who serve well (i.e., faithfully), “gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 3.13).

Isn’t it interesting that God requires men and women to be qualified before they serve the church in this capacity? These are not “advanced” Christians. They simply walk as Christians ought. They provide good examples to the flock, and they do not embarrass the church by shirking their responsibilities. They are faithful in their duties and faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

No wonder they gain confidence in the faith! Faithful service has that wonderful side-effect.

Are you qualified to serve?

When You Ban God's Word

Monday, June 12, 2023

About 600 years before Christ was born, while Jehoiakim was king of Judah, Jeremiah dictated words from God to Baruch the scribe, who wrote them on a scroll.

“I am banned from going to the house of YHWH,” Jeremiah told Baruch, “so you are to go, and on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in YHWH’s house you shall read the words of YHWH from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the men of Judah who come out of their cities. It may be that their plea for mercy will come before YHWH, and that every one will turn from his evil way, for great is the anger and wrath that YHWH has pronounced against this people.”

Baruch followed Jeremiah’s instructions. All the people of Judah proclaimed a fast and came to Jerusalem, and Baruch read Jeremiah’s words from the scroll in the house of YHWH.

A fellow named Micaiah heard Baruch’s reading and slipped away to tell the officials in the king’s house that someone was in the temple reading words against the people of Judah. The officials sent for Baruch to bring his scroll so he could read it to them.

They told Baruch, “Sit down and read it.”

After he finished, the officials looked around at each other with fear in their eyes. “We must report these words to the king,” they decided. Turning to Baruch, they said, “How did you write all these words? Was it at Jeremiah’s dictation?”

Baruch answered, “He dictated all these words to me, while I wrote them with ink on the scroll.”

The officials then said, “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.” They knew there could be serious blowback from the king because the words were harsh towards his kingdom.

burned bookThey brought the scroll to Jehoiakim, and the king had his man Jehudi read it to him in the presence of all the officials. In the fire pot before them, they had a hot fire going because it was winter, and Jehoiakim began taking the parts of the scroll that Jehudi had finished reading, cutting them off, and throwing them into the fire. Three of his men—Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah—urged the king not to burn the words, but he wouldn’t listen to them. Jehudi finally finished reading, and the king threw the last scrap of paper into the fire.

There was no fear in the king or any of his servants who had just heard the words. They had just burned the word of YHWH—it was gone. They didn’t believe it would come to pass.

The king ordered that Baruch and Jeremiah be seized, but YHWH made sure they were hidden from the king’s designs.

Do you think that was the end of the story? Can men just burn and ban the word of God and remove His hand from upon them? Can we simply set God’s word aside with no consequence? Does burning the Bible make God vanish away?

The word of YHWH came to Jeremiah again: “Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. And concerning Jehoiakim you shall say, ‘Thus says YHWH, you have burned this scroll, saying “Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cut off from it man and beast?” Therefore thus says YHWH concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.’”

The first word was a warning; the second word was a promise of judgment. The first word was a hand of mercy extended and an opportunity for repentance; the second word was a firm expectation of God’s wrath.

You can attempt to ban God’s word. You can try to cast off His restraints. You can plan your own life and do it all your way. But God’s word will come upon you in the end. He will do what He intends.

We must not ban God’s word personally. He is my God and your God, and we are subject to His direction in every aspect of life. He formed me in my mother’s womb.

We must not ban God’s word as a family. He is our God. He formed and designed the family and set a purpose for father, mother, and children.

We must not ban God’s word in the marketplace. He demands honest scales.

We must not ban God’s word in the town square. He demands justice and will punish those who accept bribes and who judge with partiality.

We must not ban God’s word in the country’s capitol. The kings of the earth are subject to YHWH. God gives kings a mandate to punish wrongdoers and protect the innocent.

Burning the word of the Lord today is just as bad as it was for Jehoiakim, and those who do rightly fall under the judgment of God almighty. Help us, Lord, to bow our knee to King Jesus, love His word, and do it all the days of our lives.

(See Jeremiah 36 for the events recounted above.)

Living the Good News

Monday, June 05, 2023

Jesus said, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7.15–20). He immediately launched into a heavy message:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast our demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7.21–23)

happy kidsThe term “Lord, Lord,” indicates a perceived closeness, as if they considered Jesus a close friend. But Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you.” He surely knew who they were, but He did not know them as a friend; He never had a good relationship with them, despite their protestations. Why did He not know them? Because they did not do the will of His Father.

Do you say you believe in Jesus? Are you bearing fruits which prove your faith?

You see, God does not save people so that we might continue doing the works we have always done. He does not save us to leave us alone. He saves us to change us into something better, more glorious, more just, more kind, more loving. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5.17).

Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.22–24, which is: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Paul taught Christians to “continue in the faith, and...through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14.22)

If a Christian is ever unsure about his standing with God, 1 John is an excellent letter to read. Everyone should think about himself or herself as he or she reads the following:

  1. If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1.7)
  2. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1.9)
  3. By this we know we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. (2.3)
  4. Whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. (2.5)
  5. By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He [Jesus] walked. (2.6)
  6. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in Him there is no cause for stumbling. (2.9–10)
  7. Do not love the world or thing things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (2.15)
  8. Whoever does the will of God abides forever (2.17)
  9. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. (2.23)
  10. You may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him (2.29)
  11. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (3.4)
  12. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (3.9)
  13. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. (3.14)
  14. Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our hear before Him” (3.18–19)
  15. This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us. (4.23)
  16. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. (4.2–3)
  17. Whoever knows God listens to us [the apostles]; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (4.6)
  18. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (4.8)
  19. If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. (4.12)
  20. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (4.15)
  21. And this is the commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (4.21)
  22. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. (5.1)
  23. By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and obey His commandments. (5.2)

Don’t get the wrong idea from this list, as if this is a to-do checklist of how you are going to prove to God that you’re a good person and on His side. That is not it at all! This is a list of PROOFS which will show YOU that you have, indeed, been born again.

If these fruits are not in your life, the solution is not to simply start doing them. The problem is that you do not know the Lord, you have not been born again! But if these fruits are present (even in embryonic stages), you can take heart in your relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

If you believe you do not have a relationship with the Father based on this list, what should you do? Go back to the top and focus on the Gospel message. Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Why was He crucified? To pay for your sins, to take your sins upon His own shoulders on the cross, and to make a great exchange with you. Sink your teeth into 2 Corinthians 5.14–21:

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

The great exchange is right here. It is just as it sounds: Jesus took something from us and gave us something else in return.

Jesus took our sins: “not counting their trespasses against them.”

Jesus gave us righteousness: “so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

A changed man, a new man, lives now not for himself but for the one who died for him and was raised for his sake. He is a new creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2.10).

Praise God for His awesome work through Jesus Christ! Let us live for Him always.

They Hate Christians Because They Hate Reality

Monday, May 22, 2023

Christians are not always the brightest bulbs, but we do shine in this dark world. We obstinately refuse to disagree with God, even when we don’t completely understand the how or the why. A scientist insists gravity is the law that makes things fall. It’s nothing special, he says; it’s just the way it is. The Christian enjoys the fact that God made the apple to fall down and not up. Why should it not fall up, after all?

Christians love reality. God paraded all the animals before Adam and told him to name them, and man has not stopped naming God’s created things. “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” (Proverbs 25.2). A Christian understands categories and design, and he knows the Designer. Reality reflects the Creator, and the Christian revels in what is, not in what he wishes or hopes it were.

Satan is the father of lies (John 8.44); he lies because he hates the truth, and he hates the truth because he hates what God loves. Christians love what God loves. Enemies of God deny truth and speak against reality. They seek not necessarily to define things differently than God but to rid the world of definitions altogether because definitions recognize limitations, and God’s enemies hate limits.

Christians recognize and love God’s limits. “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out of the womb…and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” (Job 38.8–11). Oh, how the world hates God’s “Thou shalt nots”!

The mega church down the road advertises their teen program: “Limitless.” I’d really like to hear the rationale on that one. Are they really teaching their teens they have no limits in Christ? No boundaries? What?

Matt Walsh has become famous recently with his bombshell documentary, What Is a Woman? The single point of the entire program centers on defining the word woman. It’s not that the current culture can’t define it—they refuse to because they realize giving a definition boxes them in. They don’t want to be confined to the reality of what a woman is, so they refuse to speak. Likewise, Jesus asked the chief priests, scribes, and elders of His day, “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” He challenged them to define John’s baptism. They refused, specifically to avoid being trapped by their answer (Mark 11.27–33). They were not interested in reality; they were interested in getting their own way.

Because Christians seek to define terms, to categorize things properly, to accept reality, enemies of the cross hate us for it.

We say, “Marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman, as designed by God.” We say, “A man cannot change into a woman, nor can a woman change into a man.” We say, “A human baby is a life inside the womb, and killing him is murder.” We say, “A father should live with, provide for, and protect his wife and family.” We say, “A man will reap what he sows, and if you do not repent, you will die in your sins.”

In none of these things are we forcing a person to do or not to do something. We are simply recognizing reality as God designed it and giving voice to the truth. But don’t you know that silence is violence? And words are also violence. Everything is violence, and if God’s enemies don’t like what a Christian says, that gives them the moral green light to slander, malign, and even physically attack the Christian. They simply redefine violence to fit the need of their hour.

It has always been thus. They hated the Shepherd; they will hate the sheep. They hated the Master; they will hate the servants. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5.11–12).

Dear brothers and sisters, do not be surprised by abuse from Christ’s enemies. We cannot stop speaking the truth and recognizing reality because that would dishonor the Word and Designer. Speak the truth in love, keep your head up, and see what the Lord works through your faithfulness.

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