Divorce, leadership, and scripture

Some say that abuse is an acceptable reason to divorce. Yes, there are times when we need to separate to protect ourselves or our children. But God has made it clear if we separate, we should not necessarily divorce. The only biblically acceptable reasons for divorce is adultery by your spouse, or being left by an unbelieving spouse. And even if its acceptable, this does not mean we should pursue it. And it does not mean there are not consequences to it.

Some complain that local churches disqualify people who have been divorced from being an elder/pastor/deacon.

I speak as a man who was divorced before Christ, and divorced with biblical reasons after becoming a Christian. The local church does not disqualify divorced men from being an elder, pastor, or deacon – scripture does. Scripture is clear one must be a one woman man to be an elder (or pastor) or a deacon (1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:12, Titus 1:5-7).

There are three POSSIBLE exceptions a divorced man might be able to be a pastor/elder/deacon: divorce before becoming a Christian (2 Corinthians 5:17), being left by an unbelieving wife (1 Corinthians 7:15), and being cheated on by his wife (Matthew 19:9). But that depends on how one interprets one woman man.


The Elements of the pattern of church service and life can be seen in scripture

The elements of the pattern of church service and life can be seen in scripture.

True worshippers are to worship in truth and spirit (John 4:24), by the Spirit of God (Philippians 3:3). True believers remained in the teaching of God (2 John 1:9). They would have obeyed God as opposed to rebelled against God (1 John 3:10).

Men, women, and children would have gathered together to hear what was being taught – It may have been that only children who were old enough to understand who were in church service (such as those who were age 12, the age of when Jewish boys have their bar mitzvah, which happens to be the age of Jesus when he was in the temple courts sitting among the teachers, listening and asking questions) (Deuteronomy 31:12; Nehemiah 8:1-3; Luke 2:41-47; Luke 18:15-17; Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:20-21; 2 John 1:1).

They met together on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). They met in the temple courts, in people’s homes, beside rivers, in synagogues, and in lecture halls (possibly schools) (Acts 2:42-47; Acts 16:13; Acts 19:8-9).

The church leaders were male elders and male deacons and female deaconesses (Acts 6:2-8; Acts 16:13; Romans 16:1; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-10).

The communion supper (also known as the Lord’s Supper) was observed (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:18-32).

Prayers were offered up to God alone, in harmony with the will of God (1 Corinthians 14:15–16; Nehemiah 4:9; Matthew 6:9,;1 John 5:14).

Songs were sung to the glory of God and thanks to God was given (Ephesians 5:19-20; Psalms 95, 96, 98).

A free will collection was taken (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:7). The Church was not involved with business (Matthew 21:12–13).

Sometimes church discipline occurred (Matt. 18:17).

The Scriptures were publically read (Colossians 4:16; 1 Tim. 4:13), and the Word of God was proclaimed (Acts 20:7; 2 Timothy 3:16–17; 2 Timothy 4:2).

Indeed, each had a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:28).

Is it biblical to ban people from entry into a country?

There are people who claim that banning immigrants from groups of people who would harm the USA is unbiblical.

First realize that the president has not permanently banned anyone – but put a temporary pause (for 90 days) on immigration from certain countries where the governments do not have good records of their people and where the people have shown a dislike for our people and country.

But the main point of this post is to see whether it is biblical to ban people from entry into the country. We have an example of GOD saying to Israel to NOT allow people from nations/tribes who were hostile to the nation. Since a generation in the BIble is 40 years, then banning them from entry for ten generations is essentially forever.

The principle God has laid down is that when people have shown they hate your country, do not allow them in. But when it can be shown they embrace your country (as Ruth did), then they can be allowed in. Its the government’s job to determine which is which on a case by case basis – the purpose of vetting them.

Deuteronomy 23:3-6
3 “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever, 4 because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. 5 But the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loved you. 6 You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.

But please note that Ruth was allowed entry after she had rejected the religious practices of her people of origin and completely become part of her newly adopted homeland. “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:17).

There are some who might complain that the text itself does not state that Ruth was accepted because of her statement to Naomi. But in Ruth 1:15-18, we see Naomi urging Ruth to return to her people and gods – but Ruth laid claim to Naomi’s people and God, and Naomi accepted it. Then in Ruth 1:22, we see they came to Bethlehem..

Ruth 1:15-18

15 Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

Ruth 1:22
22 So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

Then in Ruth 2:10-12, we see that Boaz told Ruth she had found favor with him because of what she had done for Naomi, and how she had left her family and the land of her birth go to a people not previously known to her, and he prayed a blessing of the God she had sought refuge with – all of this was evidence she was doing what she had promised – assimilation to the point where Naomi’s people were her people, and Naomi’s God her God. This would not have been the case for someone who was still following the gods of Moab, or had not made Naomi’s people her people. So while it was not explicitly stated, we see this is what happened and exactly why she was accepted.

Ruth 2:10-12

10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11 Boaz replied to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. 12 May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.”

Of course, once someone is living among us, we are to treat them the same as if they were ourselves – do not show preference, but do not show prejudice either. If they can be trusted, then trust them. If they are thieves, then treat them like thieves. If they conspire to harm the USA or its citizens, then they should be treated as our government treats such people. If they follow the laws of the USA, then they should be treated accordingly.

Leviticus 19:34
34 The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.

James 2:8-9
8 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Tithing to God in the New Testament

Giving from the heart was not a new concept in New Testament times. In the time of Moses, Scripture records numerous instances of freewill giving (e.g. Exodus 25:2, Exodus 35:4-5, Exodus 35:21-29, Leviticus 22:29). The people’s hearts were stirred, and they gave as they were willing. On one occasion, they gave far too much! They had to be restrained from bringing anymore (Exodus 36:2-7).

We will look at the idea of tithes and offerings in the New Testament.  It’s clear that the poor, needy, and widows are still a priority, which we also saw in Old Testament in a previous post.

New Testament teaching is that we belong completely to God, and we are not our own, for we were bought with a price (e.g. I Corinthians 6:19-20). Everything we have belongs to God, and we are to be good stewards of all that we have temporarily been given (e.g. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 12:42-48, 16:1-13, 19:11-27).

Abraham gave a tenth before the Law was given, Hebrews 7:6

But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises.

In the New Testament, we do not see a repeat of the command to tithe. However, we DO see a command to give sacrificially.  I think its evident we should give. Otherwise how would the elder get their support from the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:15)? But again, the question is motivation. God wants us to want to give. I happen to think God will discipline us for not doing as we should (Hebrews 12:6-7), but will reward us for seeking Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Jesus made it clear that the while the religious leaders of the day tithed on their goods, they forgot to live out the more important parts of the law – justice and mercy and faithfulness.
Matthew 23:23

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

Jesus told the Pharisees they should have tithed while also giving justice and loving God.

Luke 11:42

42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

Notice that tithing and doing other religious things does not make you righteous.

Luke 18:9-14

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’

 14 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

We see in Hebrews that Abraham gave a tithe before the Law was given – so the concept of giving some part of your gain to God through giving it to someone is not due to the Law. In fact, the author of Hebrews said even the priest Levi paid tithes through His forefather Abraham.

Hebrews 7:1-10

 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.

Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

In the New Testament church, believers shared with each other as anyone had need. People did not act as if anything they owned was their own. They recognized that GOD provided. They in turn took what God had provided and shared that with those believers who had need.

Acts 2:44-45

42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people And the Lord was adding to their number day by day hose who were being saved.

Acts 4:32-37

 32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

We see in Acts 6 that there was a daily distribution of food. One group of widows was being left out, so seven men were chosen to be overseers. But that food came from believers who donated it.

Acts 6:1-4

1Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of foodSo the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

When God spoke through some one to predict a great famine, the disciples, in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, sent relief to believers in Judea.

Acts 11:27-30

 27 Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world And this took place in the reign of Claudius.  29 And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.  30 And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.

Believers from Macedonia and Achaia contributed to poor believers in Jerusalem, out of desire and debt because they received spiritual things from those in Jerusalem. So at least part of the reason for giving is to give to those in need.

Romans 15:26-7

26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.

The question has also been asked about whether pastors should earn money from the tithe.

Note that Paul earned at least some of his salary in his trade as a tentmaker.

Acts 18:3

 and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers.

But look at least part of the reason he worked: Paul worked to help support himself and his companions, and to demonstrate that “you must help the weak.”

Acts 20:34-35

34 “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

Paul and his companions, at times, went hungry and thirsty, was poorly clothed, was beaten and was homeless – yet they worked with their own hands.

1 Corinthians 4:11-13

11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.

Although Paul chose to not take money for proclaiming the gospel, God has decreed that those who preach the gospel deserve to earn money from those who are served by them.  Giving was to be done 1) as one purposes in his heart, 2) “not grudgingly or under compulsion”, 3) cheerfully, and 4) by God’s grace.

1 Corinthians 9:1-18

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

3 My defense to those who examine me is this: 4 Do we not have a right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? 7 Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?

8 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. 11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? 14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.

15 But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

Paul spoke in Christ, but refused to peddle the word of God – in that he refused to make money from those he ministered to.

2 Corinthians 2:17

17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

The question has been asked WHEN should the tithe be taken up?

Historically, the money for the collection for the saints (in particularly for missions work) should be saved up on the first day of the week.

1 Corinthians 16:1-4

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. 3 When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; 4 and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.

How much should we give?

I think we are to give generously – not merely 10%. Apparently God will give to you as you give to God. If you give sparingly, you will reap the same. If you give bountifully, you will reap the same. God provides and multiplies the seed for your sowing.

2 Corinthians 9

1For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I have sent the brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made empty in this case, so that, as I was saying, you may be prepared; 4 otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to speak of you—will be put to shame by this confidence. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.

6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 9 as it is written,

“He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor,
His righteousness endures forever.”

10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; 11 you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. 13 Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, 14 while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Paul rejoiced that the Macedonian Church had given freely, willingly, and beyond their ability – in the same way that Christ, having been rich, became poor (human) so that they might become rich (sons of God).

2 Corinthians 8

 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well.

But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 10 I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it. 11 But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. 12 For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.13 For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality— 14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; 15 as it is written, “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.”

16 But thanks be to God who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord. 18 We have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches; 19 and not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show our readiness, 20 taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; 21 for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. 22 We have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ. 24 Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.

Paul took money from other churches (like a missionary would do) rather than take money from the newly planted churches. 

2 Corinthians 11:7-9

Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge? I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you; and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so.

Paul had learned to be content, whether hungry and suffering need, or full and abounding. He was grateful to the Philippian believers for often sending for his necessities. They would receive fruit in their own accounts, and Paul promised that God would supply all their needs.
Philippians 4:10-19

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.

15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. 17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Paul and his companions labored and toiled night and day, so they wouldn’t be a burden to the believers. They did it to be an example.

1 Thessalonians 2:9

For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

2 Thessalonians 3:7-9

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.

The church was to give relief to genuine widows, who had no one to take care of them. But if a widow still had believing family members, they were to take care of her. Those failing to provide for their own households had “denied the faith.” Younger widows were advised to remarry.

Elders who ruled well were to be “counted worthy of double honor.”

1 Timothy 5:3-18

Honor widows who are widows indeed; but if any widow has children or grandchildren,they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day. But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives. Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, 10 having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, 12 thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. 13 At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. 14 Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; 15 for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. 16 If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.

17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”


Giving should be done in such a way so others do not praise you for it.

Matthew 6:1-4

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Notice the warning we see in Acts 5:1-11 where lying to God to make people think better of you has consequences – even in giving.

 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. 

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

 And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.

 Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.”

 Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.”

 10 And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.

If God gifted you with giving, do it generously.

Romans 12:8

or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Before offering your gift to God, be sure you are right with others, whether you are at fault or they are.

Mt 5:22-25

22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. 23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.

Matthew 18:15

15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.

Mark 11:25

25 Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions

Loving God and your neighbor is more important than tithing or sacrifice.

Mark 12:33

33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.

Our bodies and lives should be living sacrifices to God.

Romans 12:1

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

 Ephesians 5:2

and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

In summary, we saw that at least while Jesus was alive, tithing was something the Jews did. In the early times of the church, believers gave to the church to help support those in need, as well as to provide for the elders and missionaries. The bible seems to expect people to give, though we are cautioned to give generously and not give in such a way so as to be thought well of. Indeed, it is clear our relationships with God and with others are more important than giving.

1 Peter 2:13-25

1 Peter 2:13-25 NIV

“The Government, The Boss, The Christian”

Today’s message is taken from 1 Peter 2:13-25. Those of you who have heard my earlier messages in this series will recall that Peter was writing to Christians who attended various churches in what is now Turkey. The letter was written around 64AD – just a few years before his death around 67AD. It was written to encourage the readers during difficult times – it may be they were already facing organized persecution, or it may be they were simply facing the “normal” persecution people of this Jewish sect suffered – but regardless, it was a difficult time for believers, and Peter wrote to encourage them to endure and live lives that were worthy of the name of Christ. And so we continue…


13 Submit

This word often causes people – both Christian and non-Christian alike – great difficulty. In our culture, where individuality is highly regarded, submission is thought to be beneath us. Or that to submit means we are less than someone else. But let us examine this word carefully. The dictionary describes submit as “to yield to governance or authority.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New and Old Testament Words describes it as a military term, “to rank under.” There is no mention of the person doing the submitting is less or more, better or worse, than the thing or person being submitted to. This word does NOT mean to resist with all your might, as some people seem to think is means. But neither does it mean to not speak up when it is called for. It means to yield to governance or authority.

It means that there is an order to things – are hierarchies of authority, and that as Christians, we live in a world where we must interact with one or more of those hierarchies. This word means that someone has authority over someone – such as the police have authority over you when they are investigating what might be a crime, but do not have the authority to tell you what to eat. The courts in our culture have the authority over people and organizations, to ensure the laws are being followed and in some cases, they have authority to determine when a law is not constitutional, and thus illegal.

Luke 2:41-51. Christ submitted himself to the authority of his human parents while it was appropriate to do so. All of us are subject to some form of authority over us. Each person in this world has to interact with one or more authorities in their lives – the most supreme of which is God himself.

[submit] yourselves for the Lord’s sake

to every authority instituted among men:

whether to the king,  as the supreme authority, 14

or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.


We all know that government rarely commends those who do right and are much quicker to punish (or at least begin the process of punishing) those who do wrong. But it does happen. But that is not the point. We are not to dwell on how fair or unfair it all is and not follow the laws of the land, or to follow only those laws we agree with. Peter is saying that you should willing accept the authority of those who have been given authority over you – in THAT time and place it was the emperor and the governors he appointed (although technically, Rome also had a Senate, Peter only mentioned the more well known, powerful, and obvious offices).

Today, in our society, we have to submit to the President, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Judicial system, the governor, the State Senate and State Representatives, the County Commissioners, and Mayor, and State and local judicial systems, as well as those who have been hired to fulfill roles which help the people in those offices carry our their responsibilities. We are to accept that the president is the head of the land, whether we like him or not. Regardless of our feelings on the matter, we need to willingly put ourselves under his authority. This means that if you think the president is a womanizer, you still follow the laws he pushes forth that get passed – even if you think they are bad laws. This means you pay taxes, rather than trying got cheat on them, or not pay them. This means you submit yourself to the authority of the police – even if they are being abusive. This means you obey the laws of the land in which you find yourself – if you are traveling out of the country, you are subject to the laws of this country, as well as those in which you find yourself. So obey traffic signs, police officers, judges, and every other kind of authority men have created.

Romans 10:4. Some people try to use this verse to say that Christ ended the law, and so we can pick and choose which laws we want to follow. Read it in context. Paul was saying that the Law of Moses, as delivered to the Jews, is ended because Christ fulfilled it. He lived the perfect life. But that is not to say we are not subject to laws – Peter is clear on this. We have to follow the laws of the land.

Of course, when I say to follow the laws of the land, I am not saying to sin. Turn to Deuteronomy 13:6-10. Now, I’m not saying to kill the rulers either. That order was given to a people who as a nation were to be separate from other gods and not be contaminated by them and God enforced this harshly – it was a concrete way to show that God’s people are to be separate from the world while living within it. But while the body of believers known as the church is a holy nation, we are not a sovereign nation. We have no right to set our laws over other people in such a way. In fact, we should not murder at all. Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-45 to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. No, I am saying to not follow people into sin. I am not saying to do something which God has already commanded us to not do. What I AM saying is that you need to do what God has said in his word – the Bible. If it is not spoken of directly, and you can not find a guiding principle which countermands the laws of the land, then follow them to the ‘T’. IF however, you find yourself in the situation where the laws are in disagreement with the word of God, then follow the Word of God. But when you break man’s law, suffer the consequences gladly.

15 For it is God’s will

            How much more plainly can it be made? God wants us to submit to the rulers of the land. And why?

that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

There is the key! The idea here is that we should follow the laws – we should be living our lives with such righteousness that people who would try ot say bad things about us would have nothing to say. People who do not know Christ would know we are different.

                    16 Live as free men,

Read John 8:34. Sinners are slaves to sin. Romans 6:6 – as Christians, we have been freed – freed from the slavery to sin. In some places in this world slavery is still legal. Here in the US, there have been way too many cases where people have been made slaves. But Christ has paid the price and while some believers may have lives as slaves, they are spiritually free from sin. We should ALL live like we are free from sin. Do not be burdened by desires that make you want to do things you shouldn’t do. Don’t be overwrought with guilt. Don’t be controlled by envy. Don’t be gripped by the need to defend yourself. Don’t be driven by deceit. Don’t be held in slavery to your emotions or the things the world says are good or at least ‘natural’. You are not natural – you are the adopted children of God! You are FREE! You are FREE from SIN. Live like it.

but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil;

live as servants of God.

This is Peter doing what preachers do: say something and immediately being sure the people don’t misunderstand. Here Peter is saying just because you are saved through faith in Christ, just because you have eternal life, just because your sins are forgiven, don’t go out and commit more sins – especially in the name of ‘religion’, or under the mistaken assumption that “I’m saved, so I can do what I want”. Even though those of us who trust Christ are free, we should are not to use our freedom as a license to do whatever we might wish. We are to not pretend that because we are ‘free’ that we can sin. We need to live as slaves to God – to His righteousness. We need to live exemplary lives which demonstrate CHRIST’S righteousness. And this is how we do it:

17 Show proper respect to everyone:

This is not saying that we need to like everyone. Nor is it saying we need to fawn over everyone. Nor is it saying we need to be hypocritical about it. It is saying we need to show the respect due each person – whether that person is our equal in all things or not. Whether that person is in authority over us, or subject to our authority, we need to respect them.

Love the brotherhood of believers,

1 John 3:10-13; 16-16. Peter is repeating himself here, in 1 Peter 1:22, Peter said we are to have sincere love for other believers. Its not hypocritical, nor is it abstract or hypothetical. This is real, sincerely held love for people who believe in Christ. Love is what identifies us. Love is the common characteristic of all Christians. If you have sincere love, then you will help those brothers and sisters in the faith who need help. It does not matter if you like them. We may not like someone, or not agree with something someone is doing, but we must love them. Can you say you love all the believers you know? If not, you need to pray that God give you this love, because is it by such a love that we are known.

fear God,

Again, Peter is repeating himself. As I’ve said before, you are not to be looking over your shoulder in fear you will be caught doing something you shouldn’t be doing. You should be respectfully following the commands of God – being vigilant to the dangers of this life, but not worrying about getting caught. Show respect for God by loving him. Read 1 John 5:3. Love him by obeying his commands.

honor the king.

And this is done as I said earlier, by following the laws of the land. Don’t sin, but don’t disobey the laws either. And if there is a question about the law versus the Word, check with the pastor, check with other Christians, pray. If the law is contrary to the Word, follow the word and deal with the consequences of disobeying the law.

18 Slaves,  submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who  are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.

This is pretty clear. Based upon the Greek word, Peter was specifically speaking to household slaves, but this applies to us today as well. Are you an employee? Are you a volunteer somewhere? Are you a member of a church somewhere? You are subject to the authority of those who are over you in that situation. It does not matter if you agree with that person; it does not matter if that person is a nice person, or harsh. Your responsibility is to submit to the leaders under whose authority you find yourself. Now, this does not mean to follow them into sin, but sort of that, you should be respectful and honor them.

19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.

            Peter is saying here that if someone does wrong and is punished for it and accepts the punishment, that is how it should be, but not anything out of the ordinary. But if someone does good and suffers for it and does not put up a stink about how unfair it all is, Peter says THAT is commendable. To suffer for doing right.


21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” a  23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;

1 John 3:5. Christ suffered for you. He never committed a sin. He never lied or stretched the truth. He never retaliated for what people did to him. He entrusted himself to the authorities. He died for your sins. He died for my sins. He died for all the sins of those who would believe in Him. And he did it so that we could die to sin and live for righteousness. This is what we are called to – to live for righteousness and to suffer gladly, so that God might be praised.

by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. [1]

            Isaiah 53:5,9; Ezekiel 11:16. The healing Peter speaks of is not a literal, physical, healing. It is a spiritual healing – you have been given new life. You were going astray like sheep do, but now, as believers, you have returned to the Shepherd and guardian of your souls. For that is what overseer means – someone who looks out over you and looks after you and guards you from the wolves and other predators. He can only do that if you will follow him.

Look at how we care for our children. We need them to do what we say, for their own protection: “Don’t go out in the street – you might get run over by a car.” “Don’t eat too many sweets – you’ll get sick, it will ruin your teeth and you wont be hungry for dinner (which is supposedly more healthy than the sweets they want).” “Don’t hurt others – or they might hurt you.” “Don’t play with the electrical socket, it will shock you.” You get the idea. We love our children and want them to do what we are teaching them so they will live a full and happy life. God wants the same thing for us. God warns of us the dangers of not following Him. When we do things that God does not want, he will eventually allow us to do what we want and suffer the consequences.

But the verse says, “you WERE like sheep going astray.” Now you are someone who has said he trusts Christ. So live like it. Let God protect us from ourselves and others.

[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Pe 2:13). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Acts 20

Day 20, Acts 20.

One of the common themes seen in the book of Acts is Paul going to new places to share the gospel, leading people to Christ, planting churches. But just as common is Paul returning to cities where he had previously been to encourage, exhort, and strengthen believers.

In one of those towns, Troas, Paul began speaking at mealtime. Since he intended to leave the next day, he prolonged his message until midnight. One young man was sitting at a window sill and fell asleep. In so doing, he fell out the window, to the ground three stories down. He was picked up dead. What was Paul’s response?

11But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” 11 When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. 12 They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.

When Paul got to Miletus, he called the elders of the church at Ephesus to him. He reminded them how he had served God humbly, dealing with the plots of the Jews. He reminded them how he bravely declared what was profitable, going house to house, telling people of the need to repent toward God and faith in out Lord Jesus Christ.

But notice that Paul knew he was headed to bonds and afflictions in Jerusalem.

22 And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.

He wanted to finish the path God had laid out for him; he wanted to accomplish the ministry the Lord Jesus had given him to testify of the gospel of the grace of God. He then warned the elders of the church to be alert for those who would come into and from within the church to attack.

28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

He realized he was on his way to death. He told them they would no longer see him. The elders were saddened, realizing what he would face and how they would miss him.

36 When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, 38 grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.

I pray God make us so effective. I pray God make us so diligent. I pray God make us so loved. May we each by used of God to move people to trust in Christ and live for God.

Chosen before formation, appointed before birth

Many people believe that all they need to do is be part of the family of God. But Jeremiah is an example of someone God has called to do more than simply be.

Jeremiah 1:4-5

4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you;
I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

In Jeremiah 1:4, we see that GOD spoke to Jeremiah. This is an interesting statement, because many people today want to say that God does not speak to people, or that you need to see a psychiatrist if you hear God’s voice. But has God changed? James 1:17 tells us He has not and does not change.

So then, we see Jeremiah says that GOD spoke. Not only did God speak, but God spoke to a man and said “before [He] formed [Jeremiah He] knew [him].” Note – GOD formed Jeremiah in the womb – it did not happen by accident. It did not occur by chance. It did not occur simply because a man and a woman decided to have a child. No, it happened because GOD did it. God opens and closes wombs (Genesis 20:18; 1 Samuel 1:5-6). More than that, God forms people in the mother’s womb – its not simply an automatic process, but is something God does (Psalm 139:13Ecclesiastes 11:5Isaiah 44:2Isaiah 44:24Isaiah 49:5). And God knew Jeremiah before He formed him in the womb – God is outside of time, space, and creation. God declared and made Jeremiah holy and appointed him to be a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah’s calling was to tell the people what God told him to say.

All of us have such a calling, and some of us respond in the same way Jeremiah did:

Jeremiah 1:6

6 Then I said, “Alas, Lord GOD!
Behold, I do not know how to speak,
Because I am a youth.”

Jeremiah found an excuse to claim he could not do what God had called him to do. In this case, Jeremiah said he was just a kid and didn’t know how to speak. Many of us find excuses to not do what God wants. But God has an answer to our excuses, just as God had an answer to Jeremiah’s excuse:

Jeremiah 1:7

7 But the LORD said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
Because everywhere I send you, you shall go,
And all that I command you, you shall speak.

God said his excuse was not good enough. :) We can’ simply say I cant do it. Because God said it and that’s good enough. If God says it, then we can do it. Why?

Jeremiah 1:8

8 “Do not be afraid of them,
For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD.

Because God will be with us and will deliver us – just as He promised He would do with Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 1:9

9 Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me,

“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.

God touches our mouths and makes us able to say the words He needs us to say.

Jeremiah 1:10

10 “See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms,
To pluck up and to break down,
To destroy and to overthrow,
To build and to plant.”

The words of a minister of God can have powerful effects. God appointed Jeremiah over nations and kingdoms to prepare the people. The people would be plucked, broken down, destroyed, overthrown, built and planted. God will accomplish HIS plan. God would use Jeremiah to accomplish HIS goal.

Will you be used by God to accomplish HIS plan? God has a call upon you.  Are you willing to respond to God’s call? It is not about you but about God. It isnot YOUR plans that matter – if they are not the plans of God, what does it matter? Whose plans do you think will prevail, yours or Gods? Step up now – recognize the truth and respond to God’s call upon your life in obedience. God will provide you what you need when you need it.

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