The Best Job

June 15, 2018

We often ask a little boy or girl, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My childhood answers included cowboy and fireman. As you get older, it is easy to entertain many job and career paths, but we eventually choose. Work is honorable and God-given. Work existed even in the Garden of Eden. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15, ESV).

When I was making career choices, my thoughts were not on fatherhood. In the back of mind, of course, there was the idea that someday I would marry, and we would have children. I even took a college course, “Marriage and the Christian Home,” just in case. But job was foremost in my mind.

Work is rewarding. At the bare minimum, there is a paycheck. We may feel satisfaction in creating, producing, growing, or problem solving. (And yes, every job has its drudgery. It is part of the curse on the ground, Genesis 3: 17-19). Employers may reward years of service or ideas to a suggestion box. Although I have personally found work satisfying, how do the rewards compare to fatherhood?

Certainly, fatherhood like everything in life has aspects that don’t seem quite like reward: dirty diapers, crying children in the middle of the night, a defiant three-year-old, or an angry teenager. Yet despite some of the drudgery and struggles that life always brings, I reflect on fatherhood (and now being a grandfather) as the best job in the world.

I’ve witnessed two, wondrous births. Wonder is the right word for it. The stress of labor gives way to those first breaths and that little cry that announces to the world, “I’ve arrived.” A newborn is so small and helpless. You feel the responsibility but also the joy.

I’ve experienced the thrill of first steps and first words. The child begins to stand up alongside chairs and sofas, and then there are those first halting steps. Before you know it, you are racing to keep up. We repeat “Momma” and “Dada” hoping they will be first words. But there is even greater joy when hearing from your child for the first time: “I love you.”

Proud moments are found in sporting events, graduations, and first jobs. Joy is shared in weddings and the birth of grandchildren. But one of the most important and moving moments for me was my children’s baptisms.

Job is important. We spend a lot of time at work. But I’m convinced the best job of all is father and grandfather. It has the greatest joys. We live in a world that sometimes disparages the role of father. We have too many absent fathers. The world needs fatherhood as God intends. We need such fatherhood modeled. Much of society’s ills would find solution in fathers and mothers as God desires. Men need to catch this vision of fatherhood. It’s the best job in the world.

P.S. Yes, I know that mothers have the best job too.


The Household Baptisms

June 8, 2018

Jesus’ instructions in the Great Commission should settle an important issue about baptism. With the phrase “baptizing them” we have a pronoun. Pronouns in both Greek and English have referents. In this case, we go back to the immediate command: “them” refers to the people who are made disciples. Unless you have made someone a disciple of Jesus, Jesus has not authorized you to baptize them.

But those arguing for infant baptism often seek support for their practice in the household baptisms in Acts. This is an argument from silence, and therefore a very weak argument. Can we be certain that there are any infants? Examining the household baptisms exposes evidence counter to the infant baptism case.

However, if you are accustomed to looking at these household baptisms in such discussions, you may find a surprise in the ESV of Acts 16:34. The ESV reads:

And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:34, ESV)

The NASB represents the reading or meaning which is also found in the KJV, NKJV, and NIV.

… and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household. (Acts 16:34, NASB)

The translation issue is the Greek adverb πανοικεί (panoikei, G3832) which is translated “with his whole/entire household.” What in Greek is an adverb is a prepositional phrase in English. Does this adverb modify the verb “he rejoiced,” the participle “having believed,” or both? Although the adverb occurs after “he rejoiced” and before “having believed,” most translations put it at the end of the sentence in English to indicate both. The ESV shows the position of the adverb, but Greek is not as sensitive to position within a sentence as English is. I would favor a translation like the NASB here, but even if we keep the ESV, a rejoicing household doesn’t help the infant baptism position.

What do we learn as we look through the accounts of the household baptisms?

  • The household feared God. Acts 10:2
  • The household heard the word of God. Acts 10:44
  • The household heard the word. Acts 16:32
  • The household rejoiced, believed, or both. Acts 16:34.
  • The household believed. Acts 18:8

These seem consistent with Jesus’ instructions in the Great Commission: baptize those who have been made disciples.


A Spiritual Church

June 2, 2018

The church began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) with the outpouring of the Spirit and the preaching of the gospel. The miraculous manifestations of the Spirit were to confirm the new revelation given by the Apostles (Hebrews 2:4). Although I do not think we should expect to see in our lifetime the things that were marks of the Apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12), I believe we are to be a spiritual church.

We are to be a spiritual church because our faith is based on the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Jesus told the Apostles: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into al the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:12-13, NASB). Scripture comes to us because of “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21).
We are to be a spiritual church because Christians have received the indwelling Spirit when they were baptized (Acts 2:38-39, Acts 5:32). The Spirit is a motive for holiness (1 Corinthians 6:19). The Spirit aids us in our struggle with sin (Romans 8:13). The Spirit is said to produce in us the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

We are to be a spiritual church because of prayer. One of the hallmarks of the church in Acts is prayer (Acts 2:42, 3:1, 4:24, 6:4, 12:12, 13:3, 14:23, 20:36, 21:5).

What we should be and could be is not always what we are. Paul in addressing the problems in Corinth says that he ought to be speaking to spiritual people, but in reality, they were carnal (fleshly), still babes in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1). May the word of Christ dwell in us richly, may we not grieve the Spirit but mature producing the fruit of the Spirit, and may we learn to pray without ceasing. These are the things that characterize a spiritual church.


A Good Soldier

May 25, 2018

Memorial Day is a national holiday to honor those who have died in military service. John Logan, a U.S. Congressman and Union General during the Civil War, began the memorial. As commander in chief of a Union veterans’ organization he urged the members to decorate soldiers’ graves with flowers on May 30th. Eventually it became a national holiday and extended to all U.S. war dead. Memorial Day is marked by the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Having been at war since 2001, I suspect that we are keenly aware of what soldiers sacrifice—what soldiers do.

I’ve noticed the military imagery found in the New Testament. “Put on the whole armor of God” (Eph 6:11 see also 1 Thess. 5:8), “put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12), “the weapons of righteousness” (2 Cor. 6:7), “the weapons of our warfare” (2 Cor. 10:4 3), “fellow soldier” (Phil. 2:25, Phl 2), “wage the good warfare” (1 Tim. 1:18), and “good soldier” (2 Tim. 2:3, ESV). From Paul I learn something about what it means to be a good soldier, and from soldiers I learn something about what it means to be a good Christian.

A good soldier is committed to the mission. Paul expresses it this way: “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits” (2 Timothy 2:4, ESV). A spiritual war is going on, and we must choose sides. Spiritual battles must be fought by those clothed in “the armor of light.” Paul’s choice of the term “entangled” sounds a warning. Other tasks and activities can interfere with what is most important. As one hymn writer has expressed it, “Have done with lesser things; Give heart and mind and soul and strength / To serve the King of kings.”

A good soldier follows orders. “[H]is aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:4, ESV). No doubt you’ve seen television interviews from Afghanistan and Iraq with words like “whatever our Commander in Chief orders us to do, we will do.” Brave words—sacrificial words followed by deeds. We too have marching orders. Put on the whole armor of God. Wage the good warfare. Has the Lordship of Jesus Christ filtered down into your daily life?

A good soldier endures hardship. “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3, ESV). We witnessed it on television: sand storms, lack of sleep, army rations, heat, bio-chem protective suits, wounds, captivity, roadside bombs, and even death. We too are called to something larger than ourselves, greater than our comforts. Jesus warned that discipleship would be costly (see Luke 14:26-35). Are we trying to get by on “cheap grace” and “discipleship-lite”? Our cause is worthy of any sacrifice we may give.

Remember those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom, and learn from them what it means to be “a good soldier” of Christ Jesus.


How Does Your Garden Grow?

May 18, 2018

Imagine different gardeners and their plants.

In one case, there is but an overgrown pot. Everything is under control, but growth is stifled. The plant could be several times its current size, but that would mean being repotted or placed in the garden. It would mean having room to grow.

In another case, the garden is neglected. The plants are sickly. They need weeding and pruning. They need water and fertilizer. With attention, the garden could be lush and fruitful, but this garden has many a brown spot and plants that are about to die.

The third garden is hardly a garden. Dead plants really do not a garden make. It is evident that something toxic had been in this garden. Instead of water and fertilizer, these plants received poison.

The final case is a lush, green, and fruitful garden. It has received good care from the gardeners. Weeds have been pulled. Water and fertilizer have been applied, and the increase is great.

The story of the gardeners provides a lesson for the church. The selection of elders and deacons is a vitally important decision. As the work of gardeners affect the garden, so does the work of elders and deacons affect the church.

Overbearing leaders (see 1 Peter 5:3) can stifle the life of the church. The church can be like the pot bound plant—capable of great growth if given the chance but stifled instead.

Neglectful leaders fail to do the work that needs to be done. The church can become like the neglected garden in need of weeding, pruning, fertilizing, and watering.

Toxic leaders bring false teaching (see Titus 1:9-11) or emotional abuse. Instead of the sound doctrine that produces spiritual health. False teaching kills off the life of the church.

Finally, good leaders do the work that needs to be done in the church. The result is a healthy church. The members are equipped for service (Ephesians 4). The church grows and produces good fruit.

The health and growth of the church are dependent on the quality of leadership we have. May we choose wisely. Good leaders promote “sound (healthy) doctrine (teaching).” Along with equipping people for ministry, this should lead to a healthy church. Such a church needs to be biblical in its teaching, moral in its ethical life, and loving in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). This love is demonstrated in service and ministry as we encourage one another and reach out to the world around us.


A Spiritual Debt, A Spiritual Legacy

May 11, 2018

Timothy became a traveling companion and assistant on Paul’s second missionary journey. Timothy had a good reputation with the church, and he proved to be a valuable worker. Timothy is mentioned with Paul as a sender in 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. He worked in Berea, Macedonia, Corinth, Thessalonica, and Ephesus. He accompanied Paul on his final trip to Jerusalem, and Hebrews mentions his release from prison (Hebrews 13:23). But we gain a personal insight into Timothy’s life, when Paul wrote: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5, ESV). Timothy owed a spiritual debt to his mother and grandmother.

Eunice and Lois were not a perfect mother and grandmother. Why did Eunice marry a Gentile? Was that a good spiritual decision given the instructions of the Law? Were they grieved when Timothy’s eighth day of life passed without a circumcision as the Law commanded (Acts 16:3)? Yet, maybe that can be reassuring to us. We can have a positive spiritual impact having made some bad decisions in our life. Few of us would volunteer ourselves as models of perfect parenthood. The past is past. We must live for God today, and that is what Eunice and Lois did.

Eunice and Lois had a sincere faith. Faith is more than having your name on a church membership role or occupying a pew on Sunday morning. Faith must be lived in daily life. Our devotional life must overflow from the assembly into family and private devotions. Our moral life must be demonstrated on how we treat real people and not what lessons have we heard. If we have strong faith, it is more likely that our children will have strong faith. If we have moderate faith, our children may see the inconsistencies and have weaker faith. If we have weak faith, our children may have no faith. We can’t pass along what we don’t have. The greatest gift we can give our children is being people of sincere faith.

Eunice and Lois nurtured faith in Timothy. Paul reminded Timothy of his past: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15, ESV ). We can imagine Timothy taught Bible stories from his earliest years. We can imagine spiritual insights shared in daily life at those teachable moments.

Timothy owed a spiritual debt to his mother and grandmother. Lois and Eunice had a spiritual legacy because of their sincere faith and faithful instruction.

Mothers are important to us in many ways, but a spiritual legacy is the greatest gift of all. Happy Mother’s Day!


Better than Silver and Gold

May 4, 2018

With so many English Bible translations to choose from, we may be under the impression that everyone in the world has easy access to the Bible in their own language. However, that is not the case. Statistics from the Wycliffe Bible Translators put this in perspective. There are about 7000 languages known to be in use today. More than 1,500 languages have the New Testament and some portion of the Bible in their language. More than 650 languages have a complete Bible in their language. More than 2,500 languages across 170 countries have active Bible translation projects for their language. Approximately 1600 languages still need a Bible translation project to begin. At least 1.5 billion people do not have a complete Bible in their first language. More than 110 million do not have a single verse of the Bible in their language.*

English speaking people are fortunate from the standpoint of history. In the 1300s if an Englishman wanted to read the Bible, he needed to know Greek, Hebrew, or Latin. The first English Bible was that of John Wycliffe in 1382. But translators had a great resistance to overcome, because the mood of religious leaders of the day was that the Bible should not be in the common language of the people. As a matter of fact, the Council of Constance in 1415 angered at Wycliffe order his body to be disinterred, burned, and his ashes thrown into the river Swift.

The first printed English Bible was published in 1525 and was the work of William Tyndale. In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, a dispute with a learned man is given in which the man argued that it would be better to be without God’s law than the Pope’s. Tyndale is said to have replied: “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost.” But due to opposition, Tyndale had to flee England to do his work. The first printed English Bible was published in Germany and had to be smuggled into England in bales of cloth. Tyndale was later betrayed, tried for heresy, and executed in 1536.

The easy availability of the Bible in English is a blessing that is easy to take for granted. However, history testifies to the fact that some have risked and given their lives so that we may have it, and others must still wait for it to be given in their own language.

May we cultivate the attitude of the Psalmist: “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (Psalms 119:72, ESV). Have you read your Bible recently? Having and reading the Bible is better than silver and gold.

*https://www.wycliffe.org/about/why