Knowledge and Zeal

Zeal and knowledge;  a powerful combination if in the proper order. One without the other can be admirable but not very effective.  

“For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” – Romans 10:2

These words were spoken by the Apostle Paul regarding his own countrymen. The Jewish people were the biggest promoters of Jehovah but totally missed the point. They were ignorant of what the God they claimed as theirs really desired and of what He was doing. 

They were zealous to defend their God to the point they persecuted and killed the very men their God sent to them.  

Zeal is a good thing. 

“But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.” – Galatians 4:18

Paul had hoped that the believes in Galatia would not lose their zeal in his absence. Zeal is a good thing, if you have knowledge enough to truly understand what you’re zealous about. 

Many who have zeal are so caught up in it that they have not engaged their mind with their emotion. They can be irrational, impossible to reason with, and usually jump to conclusions about others who they don’t find as openly zealous as themselves. 

A zealous person can be dangerous. 

On the other hand, knowledge alone doesn’t get the job done. Knowing something and doing something are two different things.  

Though zeal might occasionally cause someone to seek knowledge, the best order is to start with knowledge and allow that knowledge to temper, not squelch, your zeal.  Zeal needs a governor, and that is knowledge.  Zeal, without something to limit it, can cause regrettable damage. 

Zealots often criticize the seemingly less zealous. The less zealous, due to their knowledge tempering their zeal, prefer not to fight the zealous – for one it could become dangerous – mainly because they don’t fault zeal itself. The knowledgeable person doesn’t want to pour water on anyone’s fire, but he doesn’t want the zealous person to light him on fire either. 

I love working with youth because they have zeal. If they will accept knowledge and learn how to use that zeal without causing unnecessary damage – what a powerful force they can be for God and for good.  I don’t want to discourage zeal – but I do feel, that if we do not focus equally on instilling knowledge and understanding – we will have the same feeling toward what they become as Paul did toward his own countrymen — burdened. 

Quit You Like Men

I’ve been working on a course I’ll be teaching in our Bible college, “Christian Manhood.” We often bemoan the lack of manhood in our generation, yet, it is nothing peculiar to our generation. Calling for men to be men is something that goes back further than any of us living today can remember. Manhood may be something more easily recognized when it is missing than when it is exhibited. But the charge to men to be men goes back as far as man.

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13

Paul exhorted the Corinthians, among other things, to “quit you like men.”  A way of saying, “be manly” or “act like men.”  That means there is a way that is manly that is commonly understood.  Yet, as we consider manhood, it is a moving target in this world.  What one generation considers manly differs from other generations.  What certain cultures consider to be the characteristics of manliness differ from that of counter cultures.

For some, their idea of manhood comes from what is portrayed in the movies put out by Hollywood.  It can include everthing from the muscular weapon bearing man who is able to perform impossible feats against an unimaginable foe to the man who can drink more than anyone else, smoke more than anyone else, and be surrounded by more women than other men.  There are those who define being a man simply by what one is able to endure in the world of sports – the physical capabilities being greater than another’s coordination or strength.

In all generations there has been the need for champions; those heroes we look to, who in some way do what other other men only dream of doing.  Somehow, they become the “real men” and the rest of us are, well, less real?  One of the problems we have to deal with today, and again it is not necessarily new, is defining what it means to be a man.  A real, honest to God, man.

If we look to the world to define, for us, what manhood is, we will have an ever changing idea of manhood; ever shifting sands, upon which building will leave men frustrated and for the most part feeling unfulfilled.  However, if we look to the Word of God to find out what the Creator of man intends for man to be – we can find real fulfilment in the gender God chose for us to posses.  The God-man, Jesus Christ, is the greatest man to have ever set foot upon this terrestrial ball we call earth.  Yet for many, the perception of Jesus is not one of manliness, but softness.  He may be the most misunderstood man that has ever walked this planet in addition to being the greatest.  That should teach us something in itself.  Those who would desire to live up to the gender God made them, may not feel like they’ve hit the mark if they judge themselves by the world’s standard, and may be misunderstood as weak and pathetic the closer they come to God’s idea of manhood.

It’s not that Christian manhood produces weak men; the contrary is true.  It is a matter of the measure you use to determine the level of manhood or to define the word, “real.”

The world may stand in awe of the man who can lift great amounts of weight.  Yet, the difference between the Christian man and the man of the world is the reason for lifting the weight.  One is to impress his fellow man with his ability – the other is to accomplish the task that His God has given him to do.

The world may stand amazed at the man who can endure great pain and suffering.  Yet, the difference between the Christian man and the man of the world is “for what” he is willing to suffer.  One revels in his ability to go longer without breaking than others – the other is willing to suffer “for right” even while knowing it may not be long that he is capable of enduring.

The world may measure a man as manly because of the amount of vice that doesn’t seem to affect him, or the number of others, who also engaged in the same vices, which accept him among their number.  Yet, the difference between the Christian man and the man of the world is the company he chooses to keep.  The Christian man realizes that he cannot be a friend of the world and a friend of God.  That he cannot keep company with fools who deny God and the power of God, and at the same time fellowship with the Saviour of the World.  How can one promote and participate happily in the world from which he needs a Saviour?  To do so sends a message that he does not see himself truly in need of a Saviour.

And maybe this is the real issue.  Men who see themselves as men, yet needing a Saviour, versus the men who interpret the need of a Saviour as robbing them of their manliness.

I propose that sin strips man of his manliness – it keeps man from truly being what God made man to be.  No man can restore himself to manliness, but through Christ the old man can be passed away and the new man can be realized – the man restored in the image of Him Who created Him.

We need a new definition of manhood – really, an original definition of manhood that has been lost.  We need to reject, and teach our children to reject the ideas that come out of this world that do not lead a man to greater heights but instead, bring a man low – even unto death.  We need to get men to Christ and allow Him to do a work in man that allows that man to realize his real potential – to labor together with God in the greatest of causes.

The more like Christ one becomes, the greater the man he becomes.  The less like Christ one decides to live, the further from mahood he descends.  Oh, may we heed Paul’s words to the Corinthians.

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13

Vessels of Earth

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7

For the past week I’ve been physically ill and have felt so limited.  My regular schedule already leaves me feeling, from day to day, that I can never accomplish everything that needs to be done.  My desk hardly ever sees the light of day, and the back burner never goes out.  Then, when you add illness on top of that, it is a recipe for feeling even less capable.  My illness has affected my throat and it is painful to swallow, let alone speak.  When you’re the pastor, not being able to speak makes you feel even more useless.  What good can come out of this?  How can being sick help me to do what God has called me to do?  Or what others depend upon me to do?

I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels…”  That is all we are, vessels of earth – of clay.  God has put the most wonderful, valuable, incredible treasure, not into vessels of fine gold or some other durable substance, but into frail, breakable, and unimpressive vessels of earth.  This was not a mistake on God’s part.  He purposely chose that we, who would carry the message of the Gospel, and know the riches of Christ, be nothing more than vessels made from the dust of this world.

For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” – Psalm 103:14

Have you ever felt useless?  Have you ever felt incapable?  Have you ever thought that you’re not up to the task?  Have you ever wondered why God didn’t choose someone else more capable, or who seems to “have it all together?”  Well, you’re not alone in wondering, but there is an answer if you’ll accept it.  “…that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”   God is not looking at our vessel the same as we do.  He does not expect our vessel to be impressive.  In fact, the less impressive our vessel is, the more impressed others can be with God instead of us.  It’s not our power, but His power that needs to be excellent.

Sometimes we just need reminders of what we are made of.  We are something He has formed and fashioned for His purposes.  Not every vessel will be the same size, the same shape, or for the same purpose.  However, every vessel has its purpose – not to be questioned by the vessel, but accepted by the vessel.  What matters is not what we want to be used to do, but how He chooses to use us.  Not what we can handle, but Whose hands we are in.  Not that we are trophies, but that we carry His treasure.  We are clay and it is futile – absolutely useless – to pretend we are anything more.  A reminder by illness or circumstances outside of our control are needed from time to time lest we forget the real source of excellency – the real power behind what it appears we do.  For our value is not determined by what we can do, but by the One who has chosen to use us earthen vessels.

Thanks for the reminder Paul!

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

We Could All Use A Little More

I still consider myself a fairly young pastor.  I’ve been privileged to sit underneath the teaching of some great men, but more and more I realize that some lessons only come with time.  As I am privileged to pastor a wonderful group of believers known as the International Baptist Church at Dumaguete, I watch for people’s needs and there is one thing that keeps coming up again and again as something we could all use a little more of.  Patience.

“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” – Hebrews 10:36

If these words were necessary for the believers in the Apostle Paul’s day, how much more are they relevant to this time when we are living at a much faster pace.  In this day of instant everything – instant coffee, instant messaging, instant cash at an ATM, etc., we’ve grown to expect that if something doesn’t happen quickly it is either an inconvenience to us, or not good at all.  Nothing is ever fast enough for us.  We need the newest computer processor because our computer is too slow.  We need the bigger engine so we can drive faster.  We need the microwave so we can warm things faster; and on and on and on.

The problem is that we take these conveniences of the modern world and we expect to see their speed also in our spiritual lives.  When we have a need, it’s not that we don’t pray, but because we don’t see an instant response to our prayer, we find another solution.  God just doesn’t move fast enough for us.  He doesn’t help us with our finances fast enough, so we make bad choices that will, in the end, compound our problems.  He doesn’t answer our prayer fast enough about the right job, so we start looking elsewhere for anything called a job.  He doesn’t answer our prayer fast enough about a mate, and so we impatiently begin making our own decisions ignoring their consequences.  Rather than with patience be obedient with our finances in tithes and offerings, we forsake our giving in search of the get-rich-quick schemes or the promises of fast or easy money.  If a situation is not corrected with a quick prayer, we start rearranging our lives – usually what is done in haste is not in faith.

It is good for us to learn to wait.  It is a sign that we have faith in God to wait on His timing, His answers, His solutions.  When we begin to take matters into our own hands, we’ve taken the matter out of God’s hands.

I’m reminded of the time that Samuel confronted King Saul over his assuming a responsibility that was not rightfully his.

And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;  Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.” – 1 Samuel 13:11-12

So often the test of our faith is the length of time we will remain faithful; it is tested in the amount of pressure we endure while remaining faithful.  Faith is proven over a period of time in the face of diverse difficulties.  Faith is not usually determined in a moment.  Faith is seen in our willingness to endure while we trust.  It is casting our care upon God, and not walking away with the worry or anxiety.  May we all learn to let patience haver her perfect work.

But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” – James 1:4

So many people are hurting and doing without, unnecessarily, simply because of a lack of patience.  Simply because they didn’t believe God was doing something, when in truth, He was.  It is no wonder our modern churches are compromising when we don’t see the instant success, or fast enough growth.  We plant and water, but forget, God giveth the increase.  It would do all of us good to make sure that first, we are doing the will of God, and then secondly, keep doing the will of God, and then thirdly, keep doing the will of God, until we receive the promise – whenever God decides it is time.  We can trust Him!  Just be patient.

Meekness is not Weakness

The apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 3:12 that one of the things we are to “put on” as the elect of God, born-again believers, is meekness.  Meekness is sometimes defined as humility, because it requires humility, but meekness is deciding not to use or show all of your strength.  It is keeping your strength under control. In fact, real meekness hides your strength so well that the perception by others could be that you are weak. 

The example God gives of the man who was “very meek,” even more so than any other man on earth at the time, was Moses. One could hardly call Moses weak. He had strength. He killed a man, faced Pharaoh, led the Israelites out of bondage, across the desert and through the Red Sea.   He had gone up in the mountain while others at the foot of the mountain stood in fear.   But God said of Moses that he was “very meek.”

In the same chapter where God points out his meekness, nothing more is said of it, and no definition is given. Yet those words are there for a purpose and if we examine what took place, we can see that to Moses’s sister, Miriam, and his brother, Aaron, Moses must have appeared weak; so weak that they were emboldened and not afraid to speak against him as God’s servant. 

Meekness is not weakness. But it can appear to others that way. Jesus called Himself meek. 

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” – Matthew 11:29

Who of us would call Jesus weak?  But there were those who thought He was weak because He did not show His power when most men would believe it necessary to show their strength.  He allowed Himself to be arrested. He did not answer His accusers, He allowed the mock trial to proceed, and allowed Pilate to think himself in charge by not challenging his power.   As they stood around the cross, they mockingly called to Jesus to save Himself. He could have, but He did not use His power or strength for Himself. He restrained His power for our sakes. 

We need to put on meekness even though those around us may feel emboldened because they perceive in us a weakness.  Meekness is a thing of beauty to God; as it is in a woman to a man. 

But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” – 1 Peter 3:4

In a world where boys are being feminized, or at the other end manliness is associated with macho. May the Christian man find himself the gentleman. The man who has strength and knows when and where to properly use that strength; in the service of others and not for self preservation or self promotion. 

Put on meekness. 

Thankful for Consistancy

Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.  For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” – Psalm 30:4-5

The holiness of God describes many wonderful things about Him; one of things it describes is His consistancy. God is impartial  in many regards. He is not a respector of persons, meaning, He is “just” in His judgments. In fact, judgment will start at His own house (with His own children) lest He be accused of giving his own children a pass for wrong in what He judges others for. 

However, even in judgment, we have reason to be thankful for another aspect of His holiness — (His consistancy); His anger doesn’t last forever. 

Our God is predictable because He is faithful to be the same, yesterday, today, forever. We do not have a God Who has mood swings and irratic behavior. How comforting to know that His mercy endureth forever. 

For the Lord will not cast off for ever:” – Lamentations 3:31

Our God does not hold a grudge; He deals with the problem, forgives, and moves forward without bringing it up again. We have a lot to be thankful for and at the top of that list is that our God is holy. He is completely perfect and does not change. His consistency means that whatever He’s allowing us to endure at the moment is for a moment. Joy is in our future. Juts another reason to be thankful!

When It’s Not About Others

The longer I live in this world and walk with the Lord, the stranger this world seems, and hopefully, the stranger I seem to this world. That is not a problem, that is by design – God’s design. 

This world is in constant reaction mode — responding to crisis after crisis. Politicians feel the need to respond to the latest media fed frenzy, and have press conferences and meetings in response to the issues of the day. 

There is a lot of talk of inclusiveness. From the world, it is the idea of globalization and the global community. For years we’ve heard terms like “one-world government” and “gobal partnership.”

In our churches, it takes a slightly different look or speech, but still, it is an attempt to erase, as much as possible, the boundaries that separate us so that there is less difference between us and the world we live in. 

These thoughts were somewhat prompted by listening to a recent, news-making press conference given by the newly elected president of the Philippines. I will not get into the politics of the nation, but something that seemed appalling to the media and many other “globalists” were his comments about how that if the United Nations did not like what he was doing, they (the Philippines) could just leave the U.N..   (Many of us have wished we had a president and congress in America bold enough to lead us to do that very thing.)

Here, however, seems to be the thinking of this nations’ new president, “The Filipino first.”

May I say, though I may not understand all of the politics here and would not want to advise on political matters, I do believe this man understands that he is elected to be the president of “the Philippines.”  Filipinos elected him and he is to serve the interests of the Philippines. 

“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” – 1 Timothy 5:8

Certainly, we want to get along with those around us. Certainly, we want to help those around us who are in need. Certainly, we want to be good neighbors and lend support where it is needed. Certainly, we want to be friendly and have and be an ally. But, those are secondary to meeting the needs of our own. 

Some may call it selfish to care for your own and not help someone else – I call it being responsible. God made me the husband of my wife. God made me the father of my children. God made me the pastor of International Baptist Church. 

None of that prohibits me from helping those outside of my family or church; in fact we are also instructed to love our neighbor. Yet, my first responsibility and responsibility above helping my neighbor, is meeting the needs of my own. My family, and then your family. My church, and then your church. 

If our faith does not bind us together so that we see ourselves as one body (family or church), then others do not see our faith as relevant.  If those who faithfully sit at our table are not being helped by those who sit at the same table – yet we help those who never show up at the table – we may think we are leading people to our faith — but the truth is, we’ve denied the faith. 

God takes care of His own. They are peculiar to Him. A people above all people – a people unto Himself. We must care for our own before we care for those who are not.  It doesn’t have to be one or the other – we can do both and wisdom dictates where we’ve done enough for our own so that we can and should begin helping or working with others. 

We are to have and give identity. Meaning, it should mean something to be added to the church.  Being an active church member does not mean the church owes you anything, but it should mean something.  Being a part of a family should mean something. People need to be part of something that is defined – distinct.  Let’s not lose our identity, otherwise, where do people go when they need something different than what they have?  When what they are doing is not working?  Let them see that we take care of our own. Let them see that our faith is real and binds us together. Let them see that our faith works, as God supplies our needs. 

We can’t help everybody, but let us start by taking care of our own.