Tuesday, January 30, 2007

THE POVERTY OF RICHES



“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;” (1 Timothy 6:17 18).
This morning as I was driving to the church I heard a small portion of the Bill O’Reilly radio program and a statement he made caught my attention. He said that "people who love money and make it their life’s pursuit lose their humanity in the process”. Although I am not absolutely certain how he would define that ‘loss of humanity’ I believe it has a lot to do with the compromise of their personal integrity at the expense of others. When it comes to the danger of riches the Bible speaks with clarity and precision -“the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:10) . Notice that it is not money “per se” that is the root of all evil, but “the love of money”. Money is neither good nor bad. There is no inherent virtue in riches or poverty. In a sense it is neutral commodity. "Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold" (Genesis 13:2) and he walked with God, irrespective of his riches. To the contrary, there are many poor people in this world who have no relationship with God. It is not how much money we possess or don’t possess that is the real problem for the majority of us. The problem surfaces when the money we have, or the lack thereof, begin to possess us. When money “takes hold of us” we fall into the sin of greed and idolatry. We begin to worship a false god whom we see as the source of our happiness. When the lack of it begins to dominate our thought life we fall into the sins of discontentedness and envy. Here too, God is not seen as the true and lasting source of joy. Little wonder that Satan has used money and other riches to capture the hearts of multitudes and lead them astray. It was the love of money that led Balaam to agree to curse Israel, although he could not (Numbers 22-24) . It was the love of riches that caused a certain ruler to refuse Christ’s invitation to “follow Him” and “go away sorrowful” (Luke 18:18-23). It was the love of silver, a measly thirty pieces that led Judas to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-15) after enjoying ‘rich’ fellowship with Him and seeing His miracles. The danger of riches is real. It is an ever-present danger. Proverbs 28:2 warns, “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him. The poverty mentioned here can take many different forms. Oftentimes it includes broken relationships. Christians beware; we are not immune to the sins and heartaches, which flow out of a divided loyalty in the heart. Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 5:24). You cannot serve God and money! I pray that those words will take root deep in our soul . False teachers are offering God’s people a “prosperity gospel” and many like Esau are selling their birthright for a bowl of porridge. Ponzi schemes have fleeced naive Christians for millions. Multi-level marketing plans are finding fertile ground in the church with dreams of financial independence and the freedom to pursue ones dreams. It seems like the mantra is, “enough is just a little bit more”. The truth however is another story. Many who somehow manage to “make it to the top” often discover that God isn’t there. One wonders when it will all end. The answer is 'it won’t end' until Jesus returns. Satan will continue to offer “the things of this world” to anyone seeking contentment in things other than Christ until at last“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever (Revelation 11:15). Knowing that I too am susceptible to the temptation to pursue less worthy goals I find myself ever in need of the counsel of God’s word found in Colossians 3:1-2 : “1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Brothers and sisters, may you find all you ever need in the riches of God’s grace. Pray for one another that we 'strive not to be rich', but rather to follow the example of the beloved apostle Paul, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11).

Live for Jesus,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

THE IMPORTANCE OF SECOND FIDDLE

To play second fiddle is an idiom meaning that you take a subordinate role behind someone more important. The term actually alludes to the part of second violin in an orchestra. Speaking of orchestras, Leonard Bernstein the famous orchestra conductor was once asked, "What is the most difficult instrument to play?" He replied, "Second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, now that's a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony." Pause for a moment and consider how Berstein’s reply is applicable to Christian ministry. Whether it be in a Christian organization or the local church, the majority of people must be willing to play a subordinate role, standing behind someone more visible if there is to be success in ministry to the glory of God. For those familiar with the game of football the most easily identifiable player and the most valuable to the team is the quarterback. He is the “field general” who calls the plays and inspires his teamates. Lacking a good quarterback a football team can hardly expect to win. Nobody underestimates his value to the team. That is why a quarterback is typically paid the highest salary. But how many football fans know that the second highest paid player on the field is the left offensive tackle. In 2005 they made over $6 million a year in the world of professional football. Why are these men paid so well? Simply because they protect the blind side of the quarterback from the rush of a fast defensive end when a single hit from the blind side can end the career of the quarterback. Typically, a left tackle must be big, over 300 pounds and very agile. That makes him a rare specimen, increasing his value. However, the fact remains that not many football fans can name the left tackle as easily as the quarterback. In a sense, they play second fiddle, but how important is the second fiddle they play? Ask any quarterback and they will be only too happy to tell you. Similarly, the typical Christian team member is not in the role of a quarterback. They are not as heralded, but just as important and precious in God’s sight. In the New Testament epistles of Paul we find the names of many ‘second fiddles’. The most extensive list is found in the book of Romans, chapter 16. Their we find mention of:

- Phoebe who was a guardian of many

- Priscilla & Aquila helpers in Jesus Christ who risked their life for Paul

- Mary who bestowed much labor in behalf of Paul

- Andonicus and Junia fellowsprisoners

- Urbane a helper

- Apelles approved in Christ

- Tryphena and Tryphosa who labor in the Lord

Praise God for these little known saints at Rome who contributed to the work that God ordained. Paul had the dominant role, but he would not have succeeded without those who protected him, prayed for him, encouraged him, exhorted him, supported him, and above all, loved him with the love of Jesus Christ. Although there were men such asDiotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence” (3 John 1:9), the Scripture salutes a greater number who toiled behind the stage to honor Christ. It is the same in the church and Christian ministries today. God has plenty of ‘second fiddles’ and to them we owe a huge debt of gratitude. These instruments of God seek neither the praise of men nor earthly rewards. They play for an audience of one, their Saviour. They strive to promote “the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), rather than destroy it through jealousy and strife. They "place others before themselves" (Philippians 2:4). Their only desire is to be "found faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2) and set a good example to those who come after them. Surely the music they make is a beautiful and holy sound as it ascends to throne of God in heaven. Christian brothers and sisters, be content to play second fiddle.

To Jesus be all the glory forever!

Pastor Tom



Monday, January 08, 2007

HIDING IN PLAIN VIEW



We have all seen pictures of camouflaged insects or other animals that make them nearly impossible to distinguish from their surroundings. Camouflage is the "art of concealment". It involves disguising an object, in plain sight, in order to hide it from something or someone. Many animals depend on camouflage for their survival or hunts to succeed. I once saw a picture of a lion hiding in the tall grasslands of Africa, much like the one accompanying this article. The photo I saw was on the front cover of a popular magazine. The lion was nearly invisible to the eye. When I saw that magazine cover I was amazed how perfectly that lion blended in with his environment. He was literally, “hiding in plain view”. Now that sounds like a contradiction, but I think you get what I mean. The lion was in a wide-open area, but hardly detectable. He was waiting for an opportunistic moment to capture his meal for the day. Turning to the Scriptures I would like to make a comparison to the main idea thus far presented. The best-known discourse that Jesus delivered was on a small hill in Northern Israel near Capernaum. We know it as the “Sermon on the Mount”. In ancient times that hill was called Mount Eremos. A portion of the sermon focused on the metaphors of salt and light. Beginning in verse 14 Jesus told his disciples “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven”(Matthew 5:14-16) . Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed that verse 14 was one of the most astounding and extraordinary statements about the Christian that was ever made. The contrast of light and darkness is used repeatedly in the Bible. In Genesis 1:4 we learn that "God divided the light from the darkness” . The prophet Isaiah warned, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (5:20) ! Darkness in the Bible is a picture of man’s spiritual condition. John 12:46 reveals the blessed truth concerning the person of Christ, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness”. Jesus was the light of the world, but he told his followers that they also are the light of the world. Oh Christian, the purpose of light is to illuminate the darkness. We alone are the light of the world. We alone have the Word of God, which reveals the true condition of man’s evil heart. Mankind abides in darkness (John 3:19) . We alone have the “glorious light of the gospel” (2 Cor. 4:4) that can penetrate that darkness and set men free from Satan’s tyranny. This is our mission. This is the purpose for which the church exists. “A city set on a hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 4:14) . I believe that many of the saints of God have learned the art of concealment all too well. It is time to think again about the nature of our calling as “light bearers”. If the unsaved people we encounter fail to come to Christ to have their sins forgiven they are doomed to eternal darkness. They will never experience the light of salvation unless from you and me and the gospel we believe, proclaim, and live. May the love of Christ compel us (2 Cor. 5:14) . It is time for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop “hiding in plain view”. We must become that city on a hill. The candle must be taken out from underneath the basket so that it can give light unto all (Matthew 5:15) . The camouflage must be stripped off. The voices that are silent must speak the good news so that many will be “delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Colossians 1:13) . May Almighty God empower and equip us for this task.

For His glory,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

LABORING IN GOD'S WORD



Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? (John 14:8,9).
When you read what Philip said in verse 8 of John 14 does it seem like an unreasonable request? To the contrary, one might conclude that it was commendable. After all, what could be wrong with expressing a desire to see the Father whom Jesus often spoke about? Furthermore, Jesus had just mentioned that He would soon depart to go to the Father’s house and would come back for the disciples to take them there (John 14:1-3). No doubt this peaked the natural curiosity of Philip. What is the Father like? Yet, when we look at the reply of the Lord to Philip it is troubling. Philip was not commended, he was rebuked for his ignorance. The end of the Lord’s public ministry was near and he did not fully grasp the most vital truth concerning Jesus - the manifestation of His Divine nature, "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" Jesus had given proof of His Divine power throughout His ministry. Was it not Philip who said, “we have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write” (John 1:45). This led me to question how well the disciples of Jesus in our day know him? Do they understand all of the necessary truths that reveal the person and work of Christ revealed in God’s Word. The early church father Jerome said, “to be ignorant of the Scripture is to be ignorant of Christ”. What I learn from the inquiry of Philip and Thomas (John 14:5) is that the duration of our exposure to truth does not guarantee that we are mature in the faith. Last Sunday in my message to the people of God I mentioned that we must go beyond reading Scripture, meditating upon Scripture, and memorizing Scripture. We must give ourselves to the “study of Holy Scripture” to “show ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)." As far as I can tell the problem of Biblical ignorance is not due to a lack of resources. We have Bible dictionaries, systematic theology books, commentaries, lexicons, study Bibles, Christian internet web sites, books and more books from gifted authors. There is no end to the study aids at our disposal. However, all of these are of no use if we do not utilize them. They are tools to Bible understanding, but tools perform no work unless they are in the hands of the workman. To study means to labor to discover the correct interpretation of a text. No my friends, the problem is not ignorance, the problem is laziness and misplaced priorities. Some are like little babes who cannot feed themselves. This crowd is dependent on the spiritual food that comes only from the study others have done. The voice of their favorite Bible teacher has replaced the voice of the Holy Spirit who bears witness to the truth of His inspired Word through diligent personal study. Others are like Martha who was "troubled with many things (Luke 10:41)." The maddening pace of the modern age is taking a toll on our lives, not only physically, but spiritually. We must learn from the great example set by Mary who “sat at Jesus feet and heard His word” (Luke 10:39). Take time today to sit alone at Jesus feet with your Bible and learn from Him. Consider this thought from the pen of William Whitaker, “God willed to have His truth, so sublime, so heavenly, sought and found with so much labor, the more esteemed by us on that account. For we generally despise and scorn whatever is easily acquired, near at hand, and costs small or no labor. But these things which we find with great toil and much exertion, those, when once we have found them out, we esteem highly and consider their value proportionally greater” - Disputations on Holy Scripture by William Whitaker 1588.

God’s blessing to you,


Pastor Tom