Friday, June 23, 2017

Double Honor

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Kings 10; 2 Chronicles 22-23; 1 Timothy 5

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Honor

SCRIPTURE:  1 Timothy 5:17-18

17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." (1 Tim 5:17-18 NIV)


Here is a directive to the church that isn’t often followed well. Those whose occupation it is to serve as ministers—especially those whose labor is that of preaching and teaching—and who are serving well in that capacity, should be receiving twice the pay. The word for “elders” (presbuteroi) here generally refers to older persons involved in the presbytery or oversight of the church. The word for honor (timees) literally means value or money paid, and by analogy esteem and dignity. Reasonable questions to be asked in this light include: If the older preachers and teachers are supposed to be receiving two times the pay, what is the rate that is to be doubled? And what age is considered elder?


Obviously Paul is not proposing a mathematical formula, but a principle that is meant to reveal attitudes and spark response. The real questions to be asked within Christian organizations are: Are we offering proper due honor to those who serve us well, and if not, how can we value and resource these leaders more fittingly?   


Lord, my prayer is not for myself as an elder pastor/teacher, but for Your Church. Those who answer Your call to serve in ministry and who carry out that calling with effective devotion, do so out of a love for You and for people, not for a paycheck. May Your Church be blessed with resources and the same giving attitudes of their godly leaders, that double honor may be freely given without undue fiscal burden. 
For the sake of Christ and by Your provision. Amen.  -AP

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Validation On God’s Team

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Kings 8-9; 2 Chronicles 21; 1 Timothy 4

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Service

SCRIPTURE:  1 Tim. 4:13-16

13 …devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim 4:13-16 NIV)


Paul admonishes young Timothy to be mindful of the gift within him—a gift confirmed earlier by a word of prophecy over him as elder church leaders laid hands on him and prayed over him. According to Ephesians 4, Jesus gives gifts of office to certain individuals to serve in leadership roles in His Church:    

11 And He (Christ Jesus) Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ… (Eph 4:11-12 NKJV)

Paul’s repeated references to studying and heeding doctrine (vv. 13 & 16), clearly indicate Timothy’s call to the office of pastor, teacher. Timothy had accepted the gift of the Lord to serve in this office and it was confirmed by a word of prophecy as the elders laid on hands and prayed over him. Now Paul is urging Timothy not only to not neglect his gift, but to give himself entirely to this calling; so that everyone may see” his progress in his God-given profession—that it will be evident to all (v. 15). 


This passage strikes me in a highly personal way, since I too am one whom the Lord has called to ministry. I too have had words of prophecy spoken to me by church leaders who have laid their hands on me and prayed over me. Timothy was young and perhaps a bit unsure of himself. Perhaps he felt that people didn’t recognize or accept him for the gift bestowed upon him. Thus, verse 15 is both an admonishment and an encouragement.  Unlike Timothy, I am not young at this juncture of my ministry. Yet I’ll have to admit that since moving to Portland and out of full time pastoral ministry, I have identified with feeling unrecognized and unaccepted. While Portland has been a place for me to meditate and give myself to further study (I have completed my BA and my MS degrees), I have often felt sidelined from direct active ministry. I often have felt like an old third string quarterback who never gets any playing time; few people even know I’m on the team.  Therefore, as I continue to press on toward the prize of the high calling of Christ Jesus in my life (Ph 3:14), I have to trust that He will cause my progress to become “evident to all.” 


Lord, thank You for the encouragement of Your Word.  I humbly ask for Your guidance, provision and favor as, even in retirement, I pursue future service as a member of Your team. 
Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Noble Task

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Kings 6-7; 2 Chronicles 20; 1 Timothy 3

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Service

SCRIPTURE:  1 Timothy 3:1

Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. (1 Tim 3:1 NIV)


Leadership is not for everyone; not everyone is gifted for leadership; not everyone is called to a position of leadership. It is a true say, however, that those who do aspire to leadership in Christ’s Church are desiring to take on a virtuous vocation. Note that Paul is not saying that the person who desires leadership is noble, but that the position of leadership is noble. In the original Greek, the word Paul uses for “overseer” is episkopees. Unlike the gift of leadership, proistamenos, a more general term for leadership (Romans 12:8), episkopees denotes leadership specifically in the Christian church such as the office of a bishop or, other designated positions of oversight in the church.


There are some roles in life that individuals are gifted for by our Creator. There are some roles that Christ clearly calls some people to fulfill. As noted above, Paul does not state in this passage that those who are “called” to leadership in the Church desire a noble task, but rather he who “sets his heart on being an overseer” desires a noble task. The language here seems to be an extolling of the leadership positions in the Church rather than necessarily a revering of the persons who take those roles. So it isn’t wanting to be a leader that is noble, it is the role itself that is a noble task. In my opinion, to take such a leadership position in Christ’s Church, one should not just personally want the responsibility, but should clearly know that Christ has called them to pursue the role. 


Lord, thank You that Your plan for individual lives is not hidden, but that You make known Your calling to us when we seek You to reveal it to us. We know that not every step on the path may be revealed, but as we step forth in the direction of Your choosing for us, thank You for graciously continuing to light the way as we pursue Your calling.
By the word of the Father, the presence of the Son, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Amen.  -AP

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Go in Peace

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Kings 4-5; Psalm 83; 1 Timothy 2

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: God’s Grace

SCRIPTURE:  2 Kings 5:17-19

Naaman, commander of the armies of the king of Aram, after being healed of his leprosy, says to the prophet Elisha…

17 …for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. 18 But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also — when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this."

19 "Go in peace," Elisha said. (2 Kings 5:17-19 NIV)


On reading this familiar story of Naaman, I was struck by verses 18 and 19. But first let’s get some background and summarize Naaman’s story. Naaman was the commander of the Aramaean army and beloved by the king of Aram. The Aramaeans were worshippers of the idol god Rimmon, and they were one of many constant threats to neighboring Israel. Naaman had sadly contracted leprosy and nothing could be done for him until an Israelite slave girl suggested that the prophet Elisha in Israel could heal his leprosy. The king of Aram gave Naaman leave to seek out Elisha. Not to drag out the story too long, Elisha tells Naaman to dip seven times under the waters of the Jordan River. Naaman reluctantly but obediently does so and is miraculously healed. He offers gifts to Elisha which Elisha refuses. The experience has turned Naaman into a true believer of Jehovah, the God of Israel. Then, as Naaman is about to return to Aram, we come to verses 17-19.

Naaman realizes that when he gets back to Aram he will still be expected to accompany his king in the temple of Rimmon, yet he has now been enlightened, proclaiming, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” (verse 15) and, “I will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord” (verse 17). He wants to know if the Lord can forgive him when his duty demands that he join his king in the temple of Rimmon. Is he chastised? Is he condemned? No, Elisha’s answer: “Go in peace.”   


It is comforting to know that the Lord knows the intent of our hearts over and above outward appearances. Sometimes the world forces us to comply with things our hearts do not agree with. It is certainly within our purview to protest and resist. However, when it comes to the point that society and the authorities in power forcibly compel compliance, take comfort in knowing that God sees the intent of your heart, not an action forced upon you. If such a situation should ever befall you and on the inside you are saying, “I hate this! I don’t want to do this! I don’t agree with this! I love, worship and serve the Lord God alone!” –then hear the voice of the Lord to you, “Go in peace.”


My Lord and my God, Your loving graciousness is overwhelming! Grant me the strength and courage to resist evil; to stand in protest against wickedness. When men’s laws and societal mores constrain me under severe punishment or even actual physical force to actions against my will, thank You for the peace You offer me.

In and through Christ Jesus. Amen.  -AP

Monday, June 19, 2017

By the gods

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Kings 1-3; Psalm 82; 1 Timothy 1

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: False gods

SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 82

1 God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the "gods":

2 "How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?

3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

5 "They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

6 "I said, 'You are "gods"; you are all sons of the Most High.' 7 But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler."

8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.
(Ps 82 NIV)


God is the One true God with a capital “G” over and above all other pseudo lower case “g” gods. There are plenty of these gods that people follow and serve, but the psalmist calls them out for what they are. These gods look only to particular desires and longings and care not for the poor, oppressed, weak and needy. They act importantly and seek followers, but in reality they ignorantly dwell in darkness and feed on the weak of mind and spirit. These gods, which are no gods at all, are all as men under the Most High God and will all eventually perish.


People today still ignorantly follow after false gods, although the title of “god” is seldom used or acknowledged. These gods are known by other names: pleasure, convenience, status, choice, comfort… Sometimes they take on fine sounding “protector” names: environmental protection, wildlife protection, protect our borders… or “rights” titles: human rights, animal rights, minority rights, worker rights, health care rights, gun rights, right of speech, right of protest, right of choice, sexual preference rights… Sometimes they are gods against something or gods for something. To whatever it is one offers the most of their allegiance, time and energy, it can ostensibly be regarded in this sense as a god to them. So the question that each one must ask and answer is: Do I worship and serve the capital “G” God, or does my time and energy belie that I actually follow after a lower case “g” god or gods?


Lord I realize that to pursue righteous and worthwhile causes is noble and honoring to You when it is what You have called me to. Forgive me when I have expended the lion’s share of my time and devotion to other pursuits that have not been sanctioned by You for me. It is my desire to worship You, and You alone. Guide my steps and direct my path I pray.
Through Christ Jesus. Amen.  -AP

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Speak the Truth with Grace

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18-19; Colossians 4

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Witnessing

SCRIPTURE:  Colossians 4:5-6

5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col 4:5-6 NIV)


What a good word about how Christians are to share their beliefs with non-believers. Paul says “be wise” in the way you behave and in the words you say. Yes, we are to follow the command of Christ to share the Gospel truth far and wide—to be witnesses sharing the testimony of what He has done for us and will do for all who will but believe and receive Him. The truth is not to be watered down. However, how we present ourselves and the Gospel to others should always be done gracefully.


Our zealousness for the Lord, if we are not careful, can sometimes tend to push people away rather than attract them to the Lord. Paul is not advising us to tone down our speech; indeed the words we say should be “seasoned with salt”—palatable and savory, but not so pungent as to be off setting. Our task is not to hammer people or to spew judgment upon them. The truth is powerful and the Holy Spirit may convict people who hear it, but it must always be presented wisely and lovingly with grace. 


Lord, grant me boldness with wisdom. May my speech be savory rather than bitter. May people be convicted by Your Holy Spirit not judged by the words I say. Help me to always speak the truth with grace.    

Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Look Up

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Kings 20-21; 2 Chronicles 17; Colossians 3

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Life In Christ

SCRIPTURE:  Colossians 3:1-4

1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Col 3:1-4 NKJV)


What is your vision like? I am nearsighted. I can see things close up perfectly fine, but to see things far away I have to wear corrective lenses. Even before I wore glasses I was pretty nearsighted in that I always tended to only see things close around me; not because of my eyesight, but because I didn’t look up and around very much. As a school boy walking home from school I would more likely be looking down at my feet kicking a rock along the road rather that looking up to see the trees or the sky. As I grew older I trained myself to look up regularly and enjoy a much greater scope of vision and a much broader world view. Paul here says to look up to where Christ is, rather than to things on the earth.


Sometimes as Christians we can be pretty nearsighted too. We will do well and live life more fully if we will heed the admonition to stop dwelling so much on the things of earth and look up. If you are a believer in and follower of Christ Jesus, your real home is with Him not on this earth. Just as Jesus died and rose again, so we have died to our old life and have been raised to eternal life with Him. Don’t be nearsightedly focused on your earthly life. See beyond to infinitely greater and more glorious realities that are yours in Christ.


Thank You Lord for the fullness of life You have given to me today and forever. Thank You for eternal life with You in my heavenly home when my earthly life has passed. Thank You for the richness of life You offer me on this side of heaven as well, as I look up and realize the boundless and glorious life You have lovingly made possible for me. 

In Christ. Amen.  -AP