Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
I’m a big fan of old fashioned lighting, especially old kerosene lanterns because they’re simple. I went to light one of my lanterns and the flame wouldn’t stay alive for more than a few seconds. I thought, “Maybe the vent is covered in carbon and there isn’t enough oxygen for the flame.” So, I took it apart, cleaned it out, and put it back together. I was sure it was the vent.
To my chagrin, the flame died within seconds even after the lantern was cleaned. Next I trimmed the wick because it seemed too dark; perhaps having a fresh wick would allow the flame to stay alive. It wasn’t a stopped vent, so it had to be the wick. Sure enough, the flame died even with a fresh wick. At this point I was stumped.
The next day it occurred to me whilst putting gas in my car: the lantern was just out of kerosene! It was obvious to the extreme. I knew Chelsea would never let that one go. When I got home I put the kerosene into the lantern which, of course, was the solution to a simple problem that I overcomplicated.
This is a mundane example of a profound truth: we make mistakes as humans. Worse yet, some people put words in God’s mouth that He never used. “My God is a God of love – He wouldn’t condemn me just for this one little sin.” “God doesn’t care if we live the way we want.” Some use phrases like this with great confidence while overlooking an obvious truth: God has told us what He does and does not care about in His word.
If we aren’t in the word listening to God and allowing Him to change us, our solutions will end in failure. There was only one solution to keep that flame going in my lantern. There is only one right way to follow God, and He’s told us how to do that! Life will be so much easier for those who look to God for answers before relying on their own wisdom.
Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength
Socrates famously said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Obviously, Socrates did not say that one cannot learn since that would sabotage his career as a teacher and philosopher. Instead, Socrates meant one could not take what he believes for granted, understanding that his “knowledge” may be incorrect. Socrates told us always to investigate. There is a certain humility arising from this mindset.
Consider an example of two such people who questioned: Copernicus and Galileo. For how many hundreds of years were people taught that the earth was the center of the universe before Copernicus showed them otherwise? Even so, Catholicism banned Copernicus’ book after his death. Within a few decades, Galileo, who assumed Copernicus’ mantle, stood trial for teaching the same heliocentric model. Galileo was forced by the Catholic Church to recant his life’s work. Yet, we know how the story ends. The Ptolemaic geocentric model of the universe, embraced by Catholicism, would not withstand future scrutiny and would be abandoned, vindicating both Copernicus and Galileo.
This virtue of the investigative mindset should not surprise Christians engaged in a study of God’s Word. We are encouraged to be noble Bereans, checking what we hear by the standard of Scripture (Acts 17.11). Furthermore, we must test the spirits to see whether they are of God (1 John 4.1). There is a warning to us that we should reject even an angel’s message if it is contrary to the revealed Gospel (Galatians 1.8). The father of lies is Satan, who used one lie to murder humanity (John 8.44). Since he works to deceive, and his ministers can take on the appearance of servants of righteousness, Paul encourages us to take our confidence in our weaknesses, which highlight God’s strength (2 Corinthians 11.13-15, 30).
Unfortunately, we seem to live in an era encouraging lockstep conformity in thought. There are those calling this “progress.” Critics rightfully call it “cancel culture,” pointing to a desire of “social justice warriors” to cancel contrarian viewpoints. If beliefs can only persist within an ideological vacuum, how is it any different from Catholicism forcing Galileo to recant? It is not. So, those ironically crying “fascism” in the streets act as the brownshirts of Hitler’s fascism in Nazi Germany. (I apply this truth secularly and politically since it is evident on the news and in the streets.)
In regards to politics, of course, the end is inconsequential for the Christian, since he or she must submit to the governing authority (Romans 13). Note we are not told to waste our time trying the political spirits, but those purporting to be spiritual. It may be that in making a stand against false religious doctrine, though, that we will enter into conflict with a political ideology glorifying what God calls abomination and permitting infanticide. However, that is not our principal task.
Praise God that our struggle for wisdom is much simpler than that of Socrates. After all, we believe in an infallible God who gave us His Truth within the Bible (John 17.17). We can admit our ignorance of what that Word says and test those things we hear from preachers, but we are not left to grope blindly for truth. Indeed, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9.10 NASB). Ultimately, it comes down to adopting the mindset of Paul, who determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2.2).
Wednesday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
I remember it like it was yesterday, I was standing in my brothers’ room while they were trying to convince me that I had swallowed a marble. After enough talking, they finally convinced my 3-year-old self that I had swallowed a marble. A couple of hours later we left the ER after being told by the doctor that there, in fact, was no marble in me. What on earth happened? Well, I’ll tell you what happened. I listened to my brothers and their prank went a little farther than they thought it would.
This reminds me of an account that is recorded in 1 Kings chapter 12, where Rehoboam listens to some unwise advice from his brothers. The people come to him asking their new king to lower the taxes his father Solomon had placed on them. So Rehoboam reaches out to those who served with Solomon, and they tell him to lower the taxes; but Rehoboam didn’t like this answer. In fact, he wasn’t looking for that answer. So he goes to his friends, the guys he grew up with, and this is what they say, “‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions’”(1 Kings 12:10-11). Rehoboam takes the advice of his younger council, and because of this the kingdom of Israel split.
When it comes to who we take advice from, it is always best to come at it with all biases aside. Rehoboam was talked into doing something that split the kingdom. The next time we have a decision to make, we must not make the mistake Rehoboam made or what I did in listening to my brothers. Let’s be wise and make our decision after praying with a heart which honestly seeks God’s will.
Paul writes two letters of instruction to Timothy, the preacher at Ephesus. As his father in the faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:18), Paul wanted the younger man endowed with the wisdom and courage to be God’s man. Timothy would face pressures and temptations from many different directions. The apostle’s words also provide some common sense to help him do the sometimes difficult task of preaching and ministry.
In a letter full of the theme of godliness, 1 Timothy, Paul gives him some intriguing encouragement in the sixth chapter. He says, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (6:3-5). In this brief admonition, he gives Timothy several tips to help him be a useful communicator of God’s truth. He urges Timothy to avoid:
- Compromise. Not only here, but throughout the letter, Paul urges Timothy to teach the pure doctrine of Christ, those sound words and that godly doctrine. If we bow to pressures and change the revealed word of Christ, we become deadly communicators.
- Conceit. Ironically, the conceited often look down upon others. Yet, Paul ties the arrogance to ignorance (“understands nothing”). When we encounter one who condescendingly communicates, we are prone to tune them out even if they are telling the truth. It is incongruous to have a pompous preacher speak of the lowly Jesus. It’s a credibility killer.
- Controversy. We live in the age of controversy. It is splashed all over the traditional media and social media. It is often manufactured, and it is the mark of a morbid (literally, “sick”) mind. The controversialist will be found at the heart of disputes, ever seeking to dig up something, hash and rehash it, and keep it going. We can be accused of that for simply trying to communicate God’s will, especially when unpopular, but some are never far from contention. It is characteristic of them.
- Constant friction. This is listed last among several other results of controversy, along with envy, strife, abusive language, and evil suspicions. Have you ever been around someone who keeps up an atmosphere of tension? The chip is always on the shoulder. Their communication is always confrontational. It appeals to the depraved and deprived, according to Paul.
Paul was so bold that he would die for preaching the truth (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-8). Yet, he urged Timothy to be peaceable, kind, adept, patient, and gentle when communicating it (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Is it possible to courageously stand with the Christ but do so using the precise scalpel of Scripture (Heb. 4:12) rather than the reckless explosives of excess? Yes, and each of us must predetermine that we will do so no matter how others act and react.
Someone wants to be involved in an illicit relationship, defend an unscriptural marriage (or enter into one), engage in some vice or sinful behavior “in moderation” (or otherwise), and they talk to someone who shows them from scripture why it should not be done. Perhaps they ask several people and get the same discouragement. Sometimes, the inquirer is wise enough to let that guide them away from wrongdoing. Other times, they persist in looking for someone to tell them what they want to hear. Without exception, such a searcher will eventually—and probably sooner than later—find someone to validate and endorse their desire.
Solomon wrote, “The thoughts of the righteous are just, But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful” (Prov. 12:5). His father kicked off the songbook of Israel by saying, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…” (Psa. 1:1a). Job speaks of how he shunned “the counsel of the wicked” (Job 21:16; 22:18). Wicked Ahaziah was rejected by God, in part, “for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly” (2 Chr. 22:3). This characteristic of human nature, whether giving or taking wicked counsel, is timeless. But, seeking counsel from the proper sources is encouraged by Scripture (Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). How can we make sure that we are hearing what we need to hear, not just what we want to hear?
- We must realize our personal accountability (2 Cor. 5:10). No matter what anyone else tells us, we’ll stand individually in the Judgment. Christ’s word, as Judge, is the only one that ultimately matters. What has He said?
- We must pray for wisdom and discernment (Col. 1:9). Are we ignoring a pricked conscience, clear teaching, or red flags? Is self in control, or is the Savior’s will?
- We must grow in knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18). Have we studied this out yet? Are we convinced beyond a doubt? What does the Lord say?
- We must be honest with ourselves (Psa. 15:2). We cannot deal fairly in any situation if we’re deceiving ourselves. Lying to ourselves does not change God’s truth. It simply hurts us.
- We must train our hearts to desire what is good (cf. 2 Pet. 2:14). This can be excruciatingly hard! Proverbs 21:10 says, “The soul of the wicked desires evil.” But listen to a cleansed heart: “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (Psa. 51:6).
- We must put emphasis on the eternal rather than the temporary (2 Cor. 4:16ff). Is what we wish to pursue destructive to heavenly objectives? Are we risking an eternity in heaven for a few years of fleeting pleasure on earth? Nothing is worth sacrificing salvation!
- We must weigh the advice of our counselors on the scales of truth (Prov. 18:17). The Berean Christians fact-checked an inspired apostle (Acts 17:6). We owe it to ourselves to compare what our advisers tell us—however much we love and respect them—with what God’s Word says. Many times they will align. If they do not, we must choose God’s Word every time!
Beware! At times, what we want to hear is right and good. Many times, it is not. As we lean on others, let us lean most heavily on “the rock” (Mat. 7:24)!
Jesus said, “wisdom is vindicated by all her children” (Luke 7:35). He said this in response to the hypercriticism and unrighteous judgment of those who condemned both John the Baptist and Him. They said John was too conservative and Jesus was too liberal. They hacked at the methods and message of both, without justification or legitimacy. They were libelous name-callers, but Jesus simply responded with a proverb. What a good one! It’s a needed one today, especially in the face of those who sit and snipe at the works of others. For those who get gun shy at the prospect of such snipers, please remember Jesus’ words and Jesus’ reward for those who keep at the good work. This principle applies to:
- Elders and preachers
- Worship leaders
- Young parents
- Bible teachers
- Deacons and ministry leaders
- Christian Colleges and schools of preaching
- Soul winners
- Youth ministers
- Lectureship and workshop directors
- Church program organizers
- Christians in the workplace
- Students in their various schools
- Camp directors
- Writers and authors
There are undoubtedly other categories of people who fall under the purview of Jesus’ saying, but they share the burden of having their works criticized by naysayers, ne’er-do-wells, nitpickers, and needlers. In Luke 7, Jesus took the magnifying glass and turned it on the critics. We can take heart this idea: “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth” (1 Pet. 1:17). We have a responsibility to conduct ourselves righteously, but we can rest in the confidence that we will be judged impartially by the perfect, righteous Judge. Let us commend our efforts to His eyes. He will get it perfectly right!
Zadok the priest was neither an Anglican Church member or even British. Many associate his name with Handel’s 18th century coronation hymn, written first for King George II. But, he was a significant, if minor, Old Testament character. We learn at least four great lessons from his character, as revealed in Scripture.
- He was a versatile servant of God. He is introduced as “a young man mighty of valor” (1 Chron. 12:28), but also as a priest of God (1 Chron. 15:11). Thus, he was handy in a fight while also helpful in reconciling men to God. What an example of a five or two talent man, able to serve God in more than one way. God has blessed most of us with the ability to do many things well. We should be motivated to use those skills for Him.
- He was a respecter of God’s Word. His predecessor, Uzzah, disregarded God’s instructions for transporting the ark and paid for that with his life. Zadok was at the head of the list of priests tapped to do it the right way, according to God’s word (1 Chron. 15:11ff). Nothing we see after this does anything except strengthen the view that Zadok submitted to the divine will. What a legacy to leave, known as one who simply takes God at His word and strives to be obedient to it.
- He was a loyal friend. When Absalom rebelled against King David, many in Israel aligned themselves with this usurping son. However, Zadok remained true to David (2 Sam. 15). David relied on him, with Abiathar, to keep tabs on the insurrection while ministering in Jerusalem. David knew he could count on Zadok. In the same way, Scripture praises such loyalty. David’s son penned that “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). We should be a friend others can count on at all times.
- He was a good judge of character. Whether choosing to serve David over Absalom or Solomon over Adonijah, Zadok was an excellent discerner of the right choice. In both cases, these were the righteous and God-approved choices. Even Abiathar, who stood with David over Absalom, got it wrong when Adonijah tried to supplant God’s will concerning David’s rightful successor. For this reason, Zadok took his place alongside Samuel as the only priests to anoint a king during the United Kingdom period of Israel’s history (1 Kings 1:39). It was this event Handel coopted to write his coronation hymn. God had bright hopes for those who feared Him, that they would be able to “distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him” (Mal. 3:18). That was Zadok, and it should be us–regarding preachers, elders, teachers, as well as every child of God we have dealings with. We must grow in our ability to be capable fruit inspectors (cf. Mat. 7:15-20; John 7:24).
Thank God for Bible characters who show us, with their lives, the way to please Him with ours. The times may, in some ways, be drastically different from when Zadok walked the earth. But, with the time God gives us, we would do well to imitate these traits of this priest of God remembering that God desires us to be faithful priests for Him today (cf. 1 Pet. 2:1-9).
Have you ever paid close attention to the ends of especially the epistles? There are a variety of otherwise obscure Bible characters who make their cameos as if in passing. Tychicus is one such early Christian. You find him referenced five times in Holy Writ. He is numbered among the missionaries in Asia (Acts 20:4). Whether or not he preached or taught, he was acting on Kingdom business. In Ephesians 6:21, Paul sends him to Ephesus to make Paul’s conditions and circumstances known to them. He did the same thing for the Colossians (4:7). Paul tells Timothy, very simply, that he sent Tychicus to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:7). Paul contemplated sending Tychicus to Titus on Crete (Tit. 3:12). Paul obviously considered Tychicus a reliable resource for help.
Have you considered the fact that all of us are carriers of something? What are you carrying?
- Bitterness and resentment?
- Gossip and talebearing?
- Negativity and pessimism?
- Filthy, foul, and offensive speech?
- Dishonest, deceptive words?
- A different gospel?
- Harsh, railing verbiage?
- Gentle, kind words?
- Faithful counsel?
- Positive, joyful speech?
- Thoughtful, considerate messages?
- Meek efforts to restore a fallen soul?
- Courageous, lovingly spoken truth?
What would others entrust you with? Would they trust you? That should convict us, shouldn’t it? What traits are we developing? Let’s be concerned about that, recognizing that God needs trustworthy transporters today!