I was reading Isaiah 40 the other day when I read verse 17, wherein the Lord, through the prophet Isaiah, spoke how He looks upon the nations as nothing, less than nothing and worthless. The Lord was not speaking of the United States, but He could have certainly included us in the denunciations leveled against the idolatrous nations of Isaiah’s time. We are a nation of laws, but a nation that changes the laws to suit the whims of the people. 1) We are a nation that allows illegal immigrants to come to this country and kill a young woman, only to be exonerated for the crime. 2) We are a nation that looks upon a well-known actor (like Jim Neighbors) who was an practicing homosexual up until his passing, mourn his loss and say he is in a better place. 3) We are a nation that kills innocent children in the womb because of moral failing and political persuasion—and we continue to vote the murderers into office! 4) We are a nation that finds fault with the homosexual community, but the heterosexual community has run a-muck with the same sexual vices. 5) We are a nation that looks on alcohol as a drink of pleasure rather than what it actually is—the devil’s brew. 6) We are a nation that has become confused concerning which bathroom should be used. 7) We are a nation that looks on legalized stealing because those who do not have should get from others what they refuse to work for. 8) We are a nation that has rejected God and all things related to His way of thinking, and what should we expect from such a rejection? As Babylon, as Egypt, as Rome, as the Medo-Persians, we, too, will fall. So, as Christians, lets us take the Lord’s banner and live the gospel of Christ, for the alternative is hopeless. This is what the Lord expects! RT
Men Like Joshua
When the Lord told Joshua to prepare himself for the duties in front of him, the Lord knew well that Joshua could not appreciate the difficult task he had. Joshua, however, was in better position than any other person, but even with that being the case, there was (and is) something different between being by the side of a great leader and being the leader yourself. When you are by the side of a great leader (or any leader), decision consequences don’t fall on you, but on the one who made them. When the Lord told Joshua to prepare himself, He said, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9, ESV). The Lord told Joshua to be courageous, but it was not in military matters He was speaking. What the Lord had in mind was for Joshua to be courageous in allegiance and obedience to the Lord’s Word and purpose. The Lord knew well that Joshua would face much resistance of one sort or another.
It takes a great deal of commitment and courage to stand firm in the Lord’s way when most of those around you are not doing so, or waffling in doing so. Joshua was leading a complex nation. No doubt there were many who loved the Lord as much as Joshua, but how many were confused in their loyalties. Perhaps many of them desired to hear and obey the Lord, but for one reason or another, they allowed distractions to get in the way. Some of those distractions could have been family issues, self-esteem, hardships and heartaches. Whatever it was, those so struggling, the Lord called upon them to set it aside and consider what was in front of them (cf. Hebrews 12:1-3).
Those called upon to lead either understand this already, or need to!
In Joshua 1:6-9, the Lord gave Joshua guidance as to how to stay courageous. First, he had a definite work to do; without an assigned task, one does not know what needs to be done, much less how to accomplish it. Second, to have a task at hand, means a directive must be in place to get the work completed. This complements the first point. At a practical level, a plan is most helpful to see where one needs to go; trying to “wing-it” brings confusion and directionless movements. As with the practical, so with the spiritual. Third, in Joshua’s case (as well as our own), divine help is a must; without the Lord, we can only hope to accomplish, but never really know whether we accomplished the task or arrived at the Lord’s destination. With the Lord’s plan in front of us, with the Lord’s plan faithfully executed, we will certainly accomplish the work required. Fourth, a determination to accomplish what is ahead means one must adopt courage, have a brave and determined heart to see it through to the end.
In the Lord’s church, godly men who serve as elders are crucial to the local congregation. Horror stories abound of men serving as elders who do not employ each the Lord’s principled guidelines given to Joshua. They are nice, courteous, financially astute, benevolent in spirit and means, but not very strong in the Lord; thus, mean/leaders like this are not godly from the Lord’s perspective, only from man’s. In fact, the Lord would not use them to lead His people. The Lord’s church need men like Joshua. RT
Not long ago, I had a brief email conversation with a brother in New York regarding the recent situation in Ferguson, Missouri. A brother in Alabama shared his thoughts on the situation in Missouri with an email post that contained nothing but Scripture. Evidently, it hit the brother in New York hard, and negatively. He sent me an email expressing himself with pointed (but not unchristian) words disapproving of the post. If an email can have “passionate” written all over it this one did. I thought about engaging him in a debate, but I restrained myself from doing so, and only sent him a note:
“No fear, brother. What is important is dialogue, the Lord’s teaching, and the application of His higher will to our lives. From a distance, I am in no position to judge, so I don’t. Isn’t it a good thing the Lord looks past our individual failings as we live in the midst of collective failings? But for the grace of God there go I. I did a quick reading of your email. Tomorrow I will read again. Have a great evening, brother. You are an asset to the saints in your service to the Lord.”
Passions can run high when from a distance a person judges something with incomplete information. When such occurs misunderstanding perpetuates. In my estimation, this is what happened here. The next morning he wrote me and was very pleased with what I said and wished me nothing but the best.
It may never be easy to know just how to respond to human situations like that which occurred in Missouri; but, on the other hand, if Romans 12:9-21 is applied, we know exactly how to respond.
This is a third article on women in Corinthians; the second is here.
I want to revert back to a chapter that I did not address; I think this is a good place to do so. The questions the Corinthians asked Paul in chapter 7 needs some attention in my estimation (that is, in this context of “Women in….” series).
It is in this chapter that Paul addresses intimacy, marriage, and a particular circumstance, about which we know nothing. Each one deals with the roles of the male and female, but since I am addressing the female, I want to give some attention to the points.
With regard to intimacy, the Holy Spirit instructs (through Paul) the obligations the male has toward the female, and the other way around. Marriage is a relationship of people, their personalities, hopes, insecurities, and anything else that might be involved. Marriage is also an intimate setting for the husband and wife. There is no with-holding of conjugal obligations of one from the other.
There is also a marriage perplexity Paul dealt with that troubled some. What if a spouse who is not Christian no longer wants to be married; what should the Christian spouse do? The answer is to “hold on to the Lord.” Don’t hold on to the marriage, and give up the Lord. A disastrous decision to be sure!
Later in the chapter Paul addressed a problem concerning some circumstance that might cause a problem in the desires of a male and female to be married (7:25-40). While the male takes the lead in the decision making, it is reasonable that the female has a role in this also. Ultimately, however, due to the assigned roles by the Holy Spirit, the female is to submit to his leadership in this case.
In chapter 11 of this book, Paul speaks to that which a great many women today take strong exception to, and that is the headship of man over a woman (particularly in the relationship of husband/wife). In part, Paul said: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God (11:3, ESV). The word “head” is a key word in this verse; the man/husband has a head (Christ), the woman/wife has a head (man/husband), and Christ has a head (the Father).
How is the word “head” to be understood?
Albert Barnes said it plainly enough when he wrote:
The word ‘head,’ in the Scriptures, is designed often to denote ‘master, ruler, chief.’ The word ראשׁ ro’sh is often thus used in the Old Testament; see Num. 17:3; 25:15; Deut. 28:13, 44; Jdg. 10:18; 11:8, 11; 1Sam. 15:17; 2Sam. 22:44. In the New Testament the word is used in the sense of Lord, ruler, chief… (E-Sword).
The significance of this this is apparent to each reader. So significant it is that many refuse to hear and submit to the Lord regarding it. Thus, those who have so chosen to operate have refused their ultimate “head” (Christ). Do they think they will escape His judgment regarding this? Evidently. But in this they are mistaken!
Some women respond to the Lord’s will by concluding (falsely) that the female is relegated to a second-class person. The words of the apostle Peter fit right here concerning those who twist the Scripture in actual words of implied teachings (cf. 2 Peter 3:16). There is no truth in this at all – from the Lord’s perspective (which is a holy perspective). The problem is, and has always been, man’s interpretation and application of God’s word. This approach of man is in accordance with a hermeneutical standard of self, something God does not recognize.
Just like the female who refuses to interpret what she clearly sees is the sense of the passage, there are males who abuse the authority given them by the Lord. Both will stand before the Lord on judgment day (2 Corinthians 5:10).
In the context of the passage – for that is always what we need to keep in mind – in the context of the passage, Paul was addressing an issue the Corinthians asked him about (head covering). In this context Paul addresses roles that each have in the Lord’s plan concerning the family. The male is given a heavier responsibility in regards to the family, and that pertains to his leadership in things holy. To minimize the role of the female in that same family, however, is a tragic mistake.
Speaking for myself in regards to my family, I have a tremendous responsibility placed upon me by the Lord in the leadership of my family. If I fail to exercise my responsibility in accordance to the Lord’s will, then I will have to account to the Lord for that. More than that, however, it is very much the case that I am instrumental in setting the direction my children go in life, and if I don’t take serious my responsibility, then the direction I send them won’t be heaven! A grave responsibility is given to the man in this role of leadership.
The book of Judges is a book that speaks to the peaks and valleys of the nation of Israel. They came out of the wilderness into the land of promise only to struggle for hundreds of years both physically and, even more important, spiritually. The reason for this struggle experienced is told to us twice in the book: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25).
This history was fresh in the minds of the Israelites; they tired of the struggle. In order to move beyond such experiences, the people decided that it must be the Lord who was the problem (1 Samuel 8:7)! Thus, they wanted a king like the other nations that were surrounding them (1 Samuel 8:5). From the outside they looked at other kingdoms and said to themselves, “Surely, they don’t experience what we are; it must be the case that it’s because they have a king to lead them.”
The people’s rejection of their holy King brought much heartache to the people through the years. Whatever joys might have been experienced by the nation, quantitatively speaking, there was more pain and heartache. Samuel’s exhortation to them before they had their first king was simple: “Serve only the Lord by putting away idols and preparing the heart for holiness” (cf. 1 Samuel 7:3). Still a good exhortation for us today!
A difficult topic of discussion for any preacher is that which pertains to his pay, or, as some describe it, his support. It is a difficult topic because it appears unseemly for a preacher to “make the case” to be supported by the local congregation. To add to this difficulty, some Christians thinks that the preacher ought to be paid less than he (the preacher) thinks is warranted for his family.
Though this topic is difficult, Paul addresses the very point in 1 Corinthians 9. It appears that some Christians in Corinth thought Paul and Barnabas ought not to be (or have been) supported; in fact, Paul asked a number of rhetorical questions to elicit from his readers clear answers to the questions asked. If one is honest with self, then the topic could easily have been laid to rest, but therein lays the problem—honesty was lacking, and agenda held sway.
In 1 Corinthians 9:3, Paul was called upon by some in the church to defend himself, as if he was in a court proceeding. “They were calling him to defend himself as one would before magistrates in court” (Reese, p. 299). He understood how tremendously unfortunate it was that he would have to even travel down this road; travel he did, though. He did this in order to help the saints understand the propriety of “paying the preacher” for the work he does (9:3-7). To buttress his point in supporting the preacher Paul made use of Scripture (Deuteronomy 25:4). “In the quoted verse Moses is saying that an ox that is being used in the harvesting of a crop must be allowed to enjoy the benefits of that harvest” (Oster, p. 203).
It is clear, then, that God designed for His preachers to be supported by the brethren in the work they do. (It is important to highlight word work. There are many, unfortunately, who work very little and are paid a king’s ransom.) Paul said it was his prerogative as to whether he received support or not (9:15-18), but that God designed for the saints to “pay the preacher” is beyond dispute. Paul laid to rest the propriety preacher support.
A question that often arises, however, is concerning the amount the local congregation should render in support to the preacher. There is no hard-fast answer to such a question. It is reasonable in considering this question to take into account two primary things: 1) his family size and needs, 2) the ability of the congregation to support. If one or both can’t be addressed, then other options need to be considered. In summary, to “pay the preacher” is proper because God designed for it to be done (9:9-14; cf. Galatians 6:6-7) and because the work that he does is tremendously important. It is that way in the Lord’s eyes, and it should be that way in the eyes of the saints also.
The Bible does not paint Pilate in a very good light. There is, of course, good reason for this. He was Rome’s representative in Judea, administering Roman justice to a people in constant turmoil because of Rome’s presence. Moreover, the name “Pilate” has gone down in history as an infamous name, one that will always be tied to the crucifixion of Jesus.
In John 19 the tough spot Pilate was in was how best to deal with a crowd that had the single interest of killing an innocent man (19:6), and for him to maintain loyalty to Rome. The crowd did not originate this desire of theirs to kill Jesus (cf. Acts 19:32); rather, they were complicit with those who did originate the desire (Matthew 27:20; cf. John 12:19; 11:45-50). Pilate knew this (Matthew 27:18), and desiring to satisfy the crowd he gave Jesus over to their will (Mark 15:10-15).
Pilate was in a tough spot, don’t you think? Not really. He knew Jesus was innocent of the charges leveled against him. Knowing this and allowing justice to hold sway meant that he was not in a tough spot at all. Pilate’s way of thinking, however, was not one that allowed justice to hold sway; what did hold sway was his political fortunes. Because that was his priority the Jews had him over a barrel (as the saying goes). Pilate knew this and turned it around on them. Pilate cried out: “What shall I do with your King?” They replied, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:14-16). What Pilate had just accomplished, unbeknownst to the Jews at the time, was to make the Jews succumb (worship) to the emperor of Rome. More than that, however, even in their denial that Jesus was their king, the Roman administrator, made it a point to label Jesus as their king with the sign he nailed on the wood (John 19:17-22). Pilate was in a tough spot; our tough spots don’t have to be so dramatic if we allow God’s justice to hold sway in our lives. Surely, we don’t want “Pilate” to accomplish the same with us, do we?
In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth he admonishes them because there were some going before unbelievers to settle their disputes among themselves. Paul found this tremendously out of place. The unjust (unsaved) judge in secular court is not to judge the just (saved); rather, there should have been, Paul said, some among the church who could judge these trivial matters that were besetting the saints. He gives reasons why going to court with a brother is sinful. First, saints will judge the world (6:2). Paul does not state exactly how this takes place, but the fact that it will is a teaching from God. Second, in comparison with such a judgment, matters that pertain to this word are trivial, small (6:2). It may be that one of the parties to litigation may not regard his perspective as small or trivial, but the Lord does. Third, the saints will judge angels (6:3). Again, Paul does not explain this, but declares the fact of it. Fourth, those “least esteemed” (NKJV; “no standing in the church” both NET and ESV), are in no position to judge saints. In other words, those outside the church (secular Judges) have no standing within the church, therefore they should not be judging brethren. Fifth, there surely is a saint, wise man (or men) in the church who can fairly judge (6:5). Sixth, it is a complete failure that brothers would even have these matters unresolved that they would litigate (6:7)! Seventh, and last, it is better to suffer wrong that to “soil” the Lord’s name and church with such small matters (6:7).
Let us not misunderstand. The court system in our society is for the occasion to make right what we suffered as a wrong. It is not sinful for Christians to avail themselves of this avenue of justice. What Paul is addressing is when there exists a problem between brothers, and the saints utilize a system that does not respect God in seeking adjudication (or justice). The saints live by a higher standard (and law) than those of this earth; therefore, let us be judged by the same, by a standard higher than any secular law.
When one thinks about what the Holy Spirit is saying in this chapter—it can be a difficult think to accept. This is especially the case when one thinks about the ease at litigation today, the victim mentality, the selfish mentality, and such like. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit is clear. Those who don’t see fit to submit to His will, will be sitting amongst those identified in as not inheriting the kingdom of God (6:9-10). Those who think this way may consider such lack of inheritance as trivial, but they won’t!
“It’s not my fault!” These are words we hear a good bit; in fact, it seems like we have been hearing them for quite a long time. In some cases, no doubt, this could very well be true; in many cases it is not. On one particular occasion, Joshua 17, the tribe of Manasseh certainly expressed these words. Joshua, however, was not going to hear the excuse. Here is the story: the tribes of Israel had been given the land of promise by the Lord. The Lord required of them to eradicate the evil peoples of the land in order for them to enjoy what the Lord gave. A continuing problem for the Israelites was their refusal to do as the Lord said. Refusal is the right word in this context; yes, it is true, they accomplished much in the way of clearing. The problem was “accomplishing much” still left some remaining, and the people refused to continue on in the Lord’s command of removal. The people of the land were not going to allow themselves to be evicted, so if the Lord’s people wanted the land, it had to be taken. Manasseh found excuses as to why they could not “drive out” the peoples of the land. The people of the land were many, had chariots of iron, and the timber on mountains were in the way. As mentioned, Joshua did not accept this. Herein is a lesson for us: when the inhabitants of the land refuse to give up territory the Lord gave his chosen people, then let the chosen ones have more determination than those refusing to leave.