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Weekly Word

Entries in Honor (3)

Tuesday
May132014

Mother’s Day: Honor

This weekend was Mother’s Day.  So, we are going to take a break from the Gospel of Luke and look at 1st Timothy 5:4-16.  But, first, let me remind ourselves of the 5th commandment in Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”  Honoring our mothers is just as important to us as it is for our mothers.  So as we talk about honor today it would be easy to say that we are no longer under the Law of Moses.  However, just in case you might be tempted to think this is optional, I would remind you that we are under the Law of the Spirit.  Thus Paul in Ephesians reminds us of this commandment.  The Spirit is calling all believers to be people of honor in how we live, but also people who honor others.  Christians are those who follow the Spirit of Christ who makes it clear that he wants us to honor.  So this is not optional.

Today’s passage looks specifically at widows and how we ought to honor them within the Church context.

Churches Must Wisely Honor Widows In Need

The Scriptures tell us that the Church should be a place in which we all honor one another.  Now honor is one of those words that has both internal and external implications.  In this passage honor is being used for the specific, external action of financial support.  Financial support is a practical expression of the internal honor that we have for someone.

Now that brings up the issue of what Honor is.  At is root, honor means to value.  So how much do I value someone?  Do I value them at all?  This brings up a big issue because historically a woman who is widowed has little value to offer society, especially if she was older.  It has been said that the true test of a civilization is the way it treats its old people.  Keep in mind that the United States of America is beginning to experience a transition as the Baby Boomers become senior citizens.  By 2030 it is projected that around 25% of Americans will be over 65.  Add to this the fact that women, in general, outlive their husband.  So this might not sound like a big issue today, but it is, and it will only become increasing more important. 

Widowhood has always been a problem for women.  On one hand they are grieving and mourning the loss of a loved one and yet, their immediate financial situation may be in jeopardy.  They have often found themselves alone, unwanted, without finances, and uncared for.  If we truly value someone, we will do all we can to keep this from happening.  Even if the world around us doesn’t value them, Christians dare not turn their back.  In our current world there is an increasing mentality that if a person is old and cannot take care of themselves, or is in need of a lot of medical attention, it would be better for them to euthanize themselves.  We see this even on the opposite side of the age spectrum with babies who have illnesses like Down’s syndrome and the like.  In fact a twisted moral argument can be made that it is selfish for these people to use most our resources when they will not produce for society.  The problem in this thought process is how we define value.  God’s Word tells us that the helpless, weak, and even infirmed have great value because they show us what our strength and abilities are really for.

Now Paul points out that the Church should not financially support widows who have family that could do it.  Of course if the family members were not Christians and refused to help that would be a different story.  Here Paul’s concern is that care for a widow is primarily the responsibility of her adult children. 

Paul also points out that our piety or godliness starts at home.  In other words there is no room for a person to neglect this duty and then come to church and “praise the Lord.”  We need to be godlier at home than we are at church, otherwise, we are just pretending.  Even deeper than this is the fact that we need to be godlier in our inner life than in our home life.  Righteousness and godliness need to flow out of an inner life that is lived with the Spirit of the Lord.  Anything other than this is just fakery.  Can we really be in danger of doing good everywhere but in our own home?  Whether your mom moves in with you or not, you have duty before God to care for your mother and father in the years that they cannot care for themselves.  This is true religion.

In verses 5-7, Paul points out that a true widow is someone who is alone and trusts upon God for help.  This is contrasted to a widow who is tempted to use carnal means to help her situation.  Those who pursue a luxury do not have the things of God in mind.  Thus he tells Timothy to teach the widows to not pursue the passions of their flesh but instead turn to God in prayer.  In verse 10 he adds to this list that they give themselves to good works for others.  An example of this can be found in Acts 9.  A close reading of the passage will make it clear that Tabitha was a widow who would make clothes for the poor.  Thus being a widow does not mean God has forsaken you and your life is over.  This transition was a time that some widows would walk away from the faith and go into immorality.  The church should not support such widows who walk away from the faith.  It may sound like a cliché to tell widows to trust in the Lord and pray, however, this is exactly what the Spirit is saying to them through Paul.  God can give a grieving widow the inspiration to know how to move forward and the church should do its best to make sure they are cared for, even if that means meeting with some adult children and reminding them of their duty.

Now in verses 9 through 16 we need to give a little background.  Admitting widows into “the number” was something that developed in the early Church.  Widows would pledge to give themselves to prayer and ministering to others on behalf of the Church and the Church would feed, clothe and shelter them.  This pledge to not remarry and instead serve as ministers was considered to be a serious thing, not a “try it for a little while” type of thing.  We see this in Acts 6 where a complaint arose in the Jerusalem Church because certain widows were being neglected in the “daily distribution.”  Here we see that someone was in charge of distributing (food, etc…) daily to the widows who had no one to care for them.

Now not all widows are widowed at an elderly age.  Young widows would have two problems here.  They could be tempted to make a pledge to become a part of “The Number” to quickly settle the concerns for their future.  Yet, it would be most likely that they would eventually change their mind and desire to remarry.  To make such a vow and then want to turn against it would create a very negative spiritual condition within the widow.  Thus Paul says to not admit young widows into the Number.  Rather, encourage them to remarry.  This doesn’t mean the church couldn’t help them on a short-term basis.  What is being talked about here is an ongoing long-term commitment.

Let me just close this by speaking to widows.  Even if you have family, you most likely feel alone and wonder if God has abandoned you.  Please understand that God has a special place in Heart for you even though it doesn’t feel like it.  If you will turn to Him in prayer and petition Him daily, He will help you.  Part of that help will be in the form of a Church that values you, not because of your age and ability to produce as this world thinks of it.  But simply because you still have much to offer both in helping others and spiritually giving us a picture of one who is completely dependent upon God. 

In the USA many widows are not as helpless as they have been in the past and in other cultures.  However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have an obligation to ensure that no one falls through the cracks and that all are valued.

Tuesday
Nov062012

The Virtue of Submission

Today we will be looking at 1 Peter 2:13-17.  In this section Peter goes on to instruct believers in the virtue of submission; especially in light of the previous point that we need to live honorably among unbelievers.  Now any virtue has its proper boundaries and priorities among other virtues.  Thus submission as a virtue is often rejected in the modern era because of evils done in its name.  Some Muslims will kill those who do not accept Islam out of submission to Allah.  There are Christians who have followed pastors into suicidal situations out of submission to the “man of God.”  Submission has also been used as a stick against women to endure physical and emotional abuse.  Thus for many it is a code word for unquestioning obedience.  When they hear the word they immediately shut down and reject whatever follows.

The meaning of submission is literally to take your proper place under an authority.  It is the opposite of rebellion.  With any virtue, it has its place and sometimes runs into conflict with other virtues.  Thus any virtue requires us to think.  We will do best when we think with the mind of Christ and according to the Scriptures because it will save us from the self-justification that is so prevalent with our own thinking.

Submit To Human Government

Because of the false accusations against Christians mentioned in verse 12, Peter goes on to teach believers to take their proper place under human government.  Some of these false accusations were that Christians believed that Jesus was king and were a rebel group against Rome.  There were other accusations as well, which is why Peter is telling them to live in such a way that those false claims will be counteracted.  Our representation of God and Jesus Christ calls for us to have an above board approach to how we live in this life.

Next he gives the scope of “every ordinance” or every human institution and at every level (King to governor).  Governments have laws and delegate authority out to different levels.  The king was the highest authority.  In light of other passages it is clear that "every" here does not exclude exceptions.  However it does apply to every kind of government humans design.  Within godly reason we are to submit to every human government that we find ourselves living under.  So our starting place is simply doing our part to cooperate with the government and obey its laws.

Peter mentions the legitimate function of governments and that is to restrain evil through punishment and encourage good through protection.  The Bible is clear that God allows governments to rise and at his timing causes them to fall.  Believers are to live with a baseline of submission to the human governments not out of agreement with all their actions, or belief that they are good.  Rather, to keep from giving the impression that God’s people are rebels.  God has not told us to take over the kingdoms of this world.  He has told us that he would do that and then hand the kingdom over to the saints.

In verse 16 Peter mentions that they should submit, but as free people.  What does he mean?  True submission should flow from freedom.  Submission is not about slavery.  If we turn it into slavery then we have prostituted what the virtue is meant to be.  Christians have been set free.  However, we are not set free to do evil.  Freedom must never be used to either openly pursue evil things, or secretly pursue them.  Thus believers freely choose to serve the interests of God rather than their own.  Is it not true that our actions sometimes have caused people to say that God is evil?  This is what Peter seeks to avoid.  God, who is the highest authority, asks us to serve these lower authorities as righteously as we can out of respect for how we represent him.

Perhaps it is time to deal with the obvious question, “Is there ever a time not to submit?”  The simple answer is yes.  However, our flesh can abuse the idea that there are exceptions.  When we look to the Bible there are two obvious exceptions that we should mention.  When Israel was in slavery in Egypt, Pharaoh had commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill any Hebrew boys who were born.  These women pretended like they were trying to do the job, but told Pharaoh that the Hebrew women kept having the babies before they could get there to help.  Here we see how virtues can conflict.  Submission is good but killing a baby regardless of its gender is worse.  Even the lie that they tell Pharaoh would be recognized as a lower priority.  This is not situational ethics.  Rather it is recognition that virtues have boundaries.  These ladies properly drew the boundary at taking the life of another or infanticide.  Another situation is found in the book of Acts with Peter and John.  They had been taken by the authorities and commanded to quit teaching and promoting Jesus.  They respond that it is better for them to obey God than men.  Here they have been given a direct command from Jesus.  Go into all the world and make disciples of Jesus.  They would have to disobey God in order to obey their “proper” human authorities.  Thus they refused to comply.  However, notice that they always submitted to the punishment.  Instead of stirring up a revolt against the Jewish leaders or Ceasar they stood and spoke firmly on Jesus and accepted whatever punishments they were given.  Thus submission requires us to think and have a clear understanding of what God wants from us.  It is not unquestioning obedience to human authorities.

Peter goes on in verse 17 to give a series of commands.  Honor all people.  Love fellow believers.  Fear God.  Honor the king.  Notice that honor begins the list and ends it.  Also that honor is directed towards “all people” and also “the king.”  Just because people are lost and do not know God does not mean that we are free to de-value them.  Honor basically means to value them.  We honor or value those in the world with two motivations.  Our actions can adversely affect our fellow Christians.  Love cautions us to not act in a way that would foolishly bring harm and hurt to our fellow brothers.  Thus we should be motivated by love.  However, we should also fear God.  God has often used evil governments or even evil people to chastise those whom he loves.  We are not above doing wrong and when we do God is not always going to use a Christian to rebuke you.  If we fear God then we will honor any authority that we are under knowing that we too need restrained from evil.  It is recognition that I am a sinner saved by the grace of God and that there is value even in fallen people and corrupted institutions.

Further Thoughts

Rebellion must never be romanticized.  There are some who are unable to take their place under any authority.  Their over-powering need to have no authority over them brings pain, suffering, and hurt to themselves and others.

Submission alone must never be the greatest priority.  In our own country men like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized that we can properly refuse authorities for the right reasons.  They rejected violent methods often in the face of violent authorities.  By doing so they gave a clear public testimony that they were doing good.  Even in their “disobedience” they were submitted to the overall rule of law and authority.

Regardless what governance we live under we are to do our best to obey its laws without disobeying God.  We are in a better situation compared to many.  We have precious little excuse.

Lastly, we must beware self-justification.  Our justification must truly be from God himself.  We must operate with the mind of Christ and the direction of God’s Word.  Only then can we properly represent Him to this world.  Pick up your cross and follow Jesus!

Virtue of Submission Audio

Tuesday
Oct302012

Living Honorably In This World

Generally, we talk about honor only when we are referencing the military.  However, in 1 Peter 2:11-12 all Christians are called to live honorable lives.  What is honor?  At the root of honor is the concept of value.  We ought to live in a way that is good and valuable to society, regardless of whether that value is recognized.  To have honor in a dishonorable society is a unique pickle.  True honor is not defined by what the crowd values.  It is inherently valuable and “ought” to be valued by all men.

It is precisely this situation that Peter talks to in this passage.

Living Honorably Begins With The Inner Battle

Verse 11 points out that there is a battle that goes on inside of each believer.  God is not interested in people who appear to have value, like a kind of “fool’s gold.”  Rather, he wants our outward honor to come from battles that have been won inside.  If we try to act honorable without having fought those inner battles we will not have true honor, nor will our conduct truly make a difference.  It will eventually implode because it lacks foundation, and we all know that foundations are valuable.

First he calls them “beloved.”  This is important because in verses 9 and 10 he had reminded them of the book of Hosea.  They were like the adulterous Gomer that had sold herself into slavery to follow her adulteries.  Yet, Hosea, who represents God, had purchased her back to himself from the auction block.  Imagine that guys or gals.  What if you had to go buy your wife or husband back because they had purposefully sold themselves into prostitution?  Would you do it?  God has done that for us.  Those who were not loved through Jesus now become “Loved.”  You are loved by God and therefore should be loved by his people.  You have been given a place in his family.  Like a concerned older brother, Peter “begs” them to fight this inner battle.  He is coming alongside them and urging them towards the good and warning them against the bad.  No matter how this inner battle goes, we need to always keep in mind that if we have believed in Jesus then we are God’s beloved.

Next he reminds them that they are foreigners and strangers.  If you follow Jesus and fight this inner battle then you are going to stick out as strange in the cultures of this world.  Like any foreigner living in a foreign land we can forget our heritage and be assimilated.  Though this is not evil in the natural sense, it is bad spiritually.  In a world that is not fighting the “inner battle,” we stick out when we do.  It can be easy to give up and be assimilated.

So what exactly is this war?  Peter says that the lusts, or strong desires, that are based in our fleshly bodies war against our soul.  Did you ever think that your 5 senses are being used by your lusts to fight against your soul?  What would you be willing to sell your soul for?  What is your price?  The faith in Jesus that resides in your soul is hated by the lusts of the flesh.  Like a little baby that is used to getting its way, it screams and fights for control.  But unlike a little baby, the lusts of the flesh are able to kill faith and destroy our soul.  Jesus said in Luke 21:19 that when we are going through trying times we can take possession of our soul by being patient.  Trusting God in the fire and knowing that he will bring you through; waiting on God beside the Red Sea and knowing that he has a plan of deliverance; these are the things that are the valuables of our soul.

Peter says that they need to abstain from the lusts.  Literally, we should create a separation between us and them.  This tactical maneuver is meant to protect our faith and not lose our soul.  Joseph does this literally when Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him.  In our lives we have many outward temptations, but they are working through inner lusts.  If a computer is a temptation to let sexual lusts take over then what are some means that we can do to abstain and separate ourselves from that temptation?  Lust always tells us that “Jesus isn’t enough.”  It tells you that you need something that God says you don’t.  Or, that you don’t need something that God says you do.  Boiling it all down, it is the same argument as Satan used in the Garden with Eve.  Leave God behind and satisfy yourself.

Let me remind you of the gospel, good news, of Jesus Christ.  Before you ever get to doing something good for God, you already have all that you need in Jesus.  When you put your faith in Jesus and follow him, you have all wisdom, power, joy, love, hope, and anything else that you will ever need.  Jesus is the wisdom of God, the power of God, the joy of God, the love of God, etc…  To have Jesus is to have everything you will ever need.  This simple truth can be forgotten by those who fall to temptation.  But it can also be forgotten by those who fight against it.  God does not love you because you have conquered temptation so well.  Nor does he despise you because you have done so poorly this week.  God completely love you, before you ever do anything in this battle.  He loves you because you have believed on His Son whom he sent.  The problem is not solved so much by doing more as it is by believing more.  Don’t let the lie of lust cause you to doubt these truths.  And, don’t let successes in this battle cause you to fall to the lust of pride.   Simply trust God.  When you fight them you are protecting what you already have between Him and you.

Living Honorably Moves to Conduct And Action

Honorable conduct is that which is morally good and brings glory to God.  Of course we need an unchanging means to measure the goodness of our conduct.  Society cannot be a good judge of what is good because society is always changing.  God has given us his sure word so that we can always know what is honorable no matter what society we are in.

Honorable conduct must always be lived out in the midst of those who are not honorable and are lost.  Peter refers to the Gentiles.  Literally this is all the nations and people.  In that day none of these nations and people knew God.  They were all lost.  We have to live out God’s morality before people who are plunging madly ahead into pleasing the lusts of their flesh.  This is not easy.  In fact we will be often rejected.  That is what Peter means when he says that some “speak against you as evildoers.”  They may call you bigots, haters, ignorant, Judgmental, Intolerant, Out-of-touch, etc. but we are to continue living out what is good.  Why?  It really is valuable, honorable.  They really do need us to live for God before them.  They really do need to see it and rub up against us in their lives.  It is the only way they are going to have any hope.  It is not important that this world embrace us.  But it is important that they observe us living out what is good before them.

Peter reminds them of a coming “day of visitation.”  The day of visitation is a reference to a biblical concept that from time to time God inserts himself into a person’s life, or a nation’s affairs.  When he does it is an opportunity for grace and mercy.  If we receive him and follow him we will find miraculous grace.  But if we reject him we find ourselves handed over to judgment.  This is precisely what happened to Israel when Jesus came.  Those who embraced him found grace and the miraculous activity of God.  But those who rejected him went on to experience the judgment of God as they were handed over to the effects of their rebellious hearts.  If we have lived out the truth before the lost, they have a chance to believe in the day of visitation.  There will be something within them that remembers that strange person who lived differently because of Jesus.  They may be saved.

Food For Thought

We don’t appreciate good things until they are taken away.  Don’t let the rejection of today cause you to quit fighting the inner battles and living honorably.  You won’t win any accolades of this world, but you will make a big impact in some one’s life.  Those who speak ill of you today, may come knocking at your door tomorrow.  Will you help them or be offended?  God help us to work for Him and not ourselves.

Lastly let me just say, God is faithful to visit individuals and nations at His appointed times.  We need to be faithful knowing that God is faithful.  America has had several visitation by God and I don’t know if we have another one coming.  But it is our job to be faith because no matter what, this world is headed for the biggest visitation of them all—the second coming of Jesus Christ.  Maranatha!

Living Honorably audio