Thursday, June 29, 2017

Testing Comes First

"But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless."
1 Timothy 3:10 (NKJV)

Every product usually goes through some kind of testing before it is put on the market.  No company that wants to be successful will just create something and start selling it before they know that it will actually work, that it will be a benefit to people, and that it will not harm anyone.  This is a process that has been used for years by many companies to be sure that the products they want to sell will in fact be profitable.  No company would be foolish enough to intentionally start trying to sell something that was not first tested; if they did the results would be disastrous.

This principle of testing something before it is ready to be used can also be seen in the Bible.  When Paul wrote to Timothy about the kind of people who would serve as deacons, Paul told Timothy that these people first had to be tested and then they could serve, if they were found to be blameless.  Paul was talking about deacons, someone who would do things like serve food.  This would be the same kind of person that was talked about in Acts 6 where they looked for seven men of good reputation, who were full of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom.  In 1 Timothy 3 and Acts 6 we see that both times they were looking for people who had already proven themselves.

When Paul wrote about elders, bishops, and deacons, he listed qualifications that those people needed to have before they could fill those positions.  To know if they had the necessary qualifications those people had to be tested.  Before we step into the things that God has planned for us there will also be a time of testing.  This does not mean God will send sickness and problems to us, but with all of the things we are doing in our life, in our relationship with God, and in where we are already serving in our church, we are really being tested.  God has good things in store for us, but to be ready and in the right position for those things we must first be tested and proven faithful.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chasing Waves

"that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,"
Ephesians 4:14 (NKJV)

Waves can be created by different things like the wind or a boat.  For many years I lived by the Rhine River in Germany and every day barges and boats would go up and down the river, and as they passed by they would create waves.  One day, I was down by the river and I noticed a woman walking her dog.  This dog was running up and down the bank of the river chasing the waves that had been created by a passing barge.  When one wave would crest and disappear the dog would see another wave and start chasing after that one.  The dog was very busy chasing all those waves, but he never had an effect on any of them.

Instability, impatience, and difficulty paying attention are all characteristics of childhood.  Paul, and other writers of the New Testament, compare spiritual growth to natural growth.  God has a place and purpose for each Christian, and God's plan is for His children to grow and develop into spiritual maturity and take their place in the Body of Christ.  However, to find that place and to fully carry out that purpose requires mature, stable believers.  But, Christians are often running here and there, naturally and spiritually, chasing the latest wave that they see, and there are many winds that blow in life that can create waves.

Sometimes Christians are caught up in the latest popular wind of doctrine and they spend time pursuing those seemingly new, and exciting teachings.  On the other hand, some Christians go from one crisis and difficulty to the next, and they never get fully established in the truth of God's Word because they are constantly running around putting out the latest fire that has broken out in their life.  We all need to continually develop ourselves in the truth of God's Word and to learn to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  By doing this we will not only be stable, mature Christians but we will avoid the trap of just chasing every wave that we see.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Are You Waiting For Perfect Conditions?

"He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap."
Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NKJV)

We all like things to go smooth and easy and to have everything fall into place for us.  Sometimes we want to wait for everything to be just right before we do something, but this does not always happen.  Sometimes people don't do things because they are always finding a reason not to do it, rather than finding a reason to do something no matter what. There may never be a perfect time to start a business or start a new job, and farmers plant and harvest crops when it is time to do so, not just on nice, sunny days.  If we always wait for perfect conditions we may never get started on anything!

The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that we walk by faith, not by sight.  This means we act, we sow, we do things, based on what God says in His Word and by the leading of the Holy Spirit.  If we are waiting, looking at the natural circumstances, economic conditions, what others are saying, or how we feel about something, we might never do anything.  While it is always good to plan ahead, use wisdom, and get advice on the best way to do things, sometimes we have to be bold and take a step and not wait for perfect conditions that may or may not ever exist.   If we know God is leading us to do something that is in line with His Word then we know it is time to act.

Sometimes we do not take action because we are seeking perfect conditions, which really means that we are looking too much at the natural side of life.  The Bible is filled with examples of people who, naturally speaking, did not have such perfect conditions, but did something anyway and saw great results.  Paul's ministry is an example of this.  Paul faced many difficulties but he never quit and he kept moving forward with God's plan for his life, no matter what conditions he faced.  If we wait for the perfect conditions we may never act, but, as we step out in faith on God's Word, and at His direction, we will achieve great things for God!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Take Two

"Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry."
2 Timothy 4:11 (NKJV)

Most people enjoy music, movies, and television programs.  Of course, not every kind of music, movie, or television show is good, but generally speaking these are things that people enjoy.  The music we listen to and the movies or television shows we watch are the result of people working to get everything just right.  The majority of the time things do not work as well as they should the first time around, so they will usually try again, or as they say, "Take Two", in an effort to get a better result.  This same principle holds true in other areas of life, things don't always work right the first time so we need a second attempt to get it right.

There is a great example of this principle in the New Testament.  In Acts 13:5 we see that Mark went with Paul on Paul's first journey to preach the Gospel.  But, after just a short time, Mark left Paul's group and returned to Jerusalem.  People have many ideas about why this may have happened, but the Scripture does not really tell us.  Later, as Paul was about to take another trip, in Acts 15, Paul refused to have Mark travel with him again because Mark had not continued on with the group on the first trip.  Mark had a bad reputation at this point, but the good thing is that this is not the end of the story of Mark.

Paul did not approve of Mark leaving the group on the first journey.  But, in 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark with him because Mark is "useful to me for ministry".  That is quite a change from what happened previously.  The lesson we can all learn is that no matter how things start we can have a "Take Two".  God, and godly people, will not give up on us.  God will help us to get past the mistakes and problems of our past to be people that are useful to Him in His Kingdom.  How about you?  Do you need a second chance, a Take Two?  If so, God is ready to help you turn things around and bring you to the place of being a significant part of His work on the earth today!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Doors And Opportunities

"Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord,"
2 Corinthians 2:12 (NKJV)

Opportunities are like doors, they give us access into places that we were previously not able to enter into.  But, just like every time you see an open door you know it does not mean that you are supposed to enter in, every opportunity that we find is not necessarily a good opportunity.  There are different kinds of doors just as there are different kinds of opportunities.  Some doors look very different from others and if we are not careful we may mistake a door for something else.  If we pass up a door or miss an opportunity we could lose out on something very important.

In 2 Corinthians 2:12 Paul said a door had been opened for him to preach the Gospel.  In Colossians 4:3 he asked the people of Colosse to pray for him to have an open door to be able to speak the Word of God as he should.  Paul knew that God was the only One who could open some doors and bring him the opportunities he needed to do what God had called him to do.  But, just because a door opens it does not mean that everything is going to work out perfectly for us.  As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 16:9, a door of opportunity had opened to him but there were some adversaries.

God will open doors and bring us opportunities that no man ever could.  But, do we always recognize those opportunities?  And, when a door opens, are we ready and able to go through that door?  God could have given Paul many opportunities to preach, but if Paul had not recognized or taken advantage of them nothing would have happened.  If Paul had not properly prepared himself he would not have been ready to preach the Gospel or he may not had been able to deal with the adversaries that opposed him.  God will bring us the opportunities we need to do His will, but it is up to us to recognize them and step through the doors that He opens for us.