When you think of what elders do during our meetings around the big table, you may envision 7 somber, solemn, older men seriously consumed by congregational matters. You would be partially correct. We are told by scripture to “keep watch over the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…” (Acts 20:28) The Hebrew writer concurs by saying, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you (souls) as men who must give an account…” (Heb 13:17) Could anything on earth be a bigger responsibility?
Yes, we may appear staid and serious because we are enmeshed in cases of unfaithful spouses, children, failing marriages, apathy, etc, etc. However, when we are dealing with the more mundane tasks of parking lots, pews, and picnics we allow plenty of levity. In fact, everyone of us thinks we are a wit and some suggest we are half-right.
Most of the time all of us enjoy being around a life-of-the-party joker who keeps us laughing. But that type of behavior would be unwelcome at funerals and other serious gatherings. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” “…a time to weep and a time to laugh…” (Ecc 3:1,4)
In his inspired letter to Titus, Paul uses the word sober (KJV) four times when giving instructions to older men, older women, younger women and younger men. (Tit 2:1-8) Other versions of the New Testament give us some more clarity of the word sober—temperate, disciplined, prudent, sensible and self-controlled. In the same chapter of Romans that tells us to renew our minds, it also tells us to think of ourselves with sober judgment. (Rom 12:2-3) It seems that as we participate in this type of introspection we would conclude that we must rid ourselves of any hint of arrogance.
All of our school and working life most of us have had to compete. We do it for grades, honors, salary, pride and politics. Sadly some even compete with other parents through their children. Do beauty pageants for three-year-olds sound familiar? Then, of course, there are competitive sports of all sorts. Strangely more acrimony and even violence is seen among the fans than in the players. Certainly there are still friendly competitions between adults and kids. Sportsmanship is dying but is not dead yet. One can even compete with oneself to make a better score in games and puzzles. However, one needs plenty of self-control to keep from turning to resentment and blame when we lose.
It appears that competition started early in history and led to the first murder when Cain resented Abel’s more pleasing sacrifice to God. (Gen 4: 2-11) Although Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, was called a prophetess, (Ex 15:20) she and Aaron fell prey to the temptation of envy and competition with Moses. They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” The Lord was very angry and caused leprosy to fall on her. Only because Moses pled with the Lord was it reduced to 7 days. (Nu 12:1-15)
We remember many other competitions in both the Old and New Testaments: King Saul and David (1 Sam 18:6-9) Joab and Abner (2 Sam 3:27) David and Absalom (2 Sam 15: 13-14) James and John versus the other apostles (Lk 9:46) Barnabas and Paul (Acts 15:39-40). In all of these cases each person wanted to impose his will over the others. Jesus’ prescription for all cases of ego is given in Luke 9:48. Using a small child as a visual aid, he said, “…for he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”
Aren’t we happy that the Christian journey is not a competition of one against the other? Many, many scriptures tell us we are to support our brethren even to the point of giving up some of our “rights.” (Rom 14:21) A great secular lesson for all of us might be what often occurs in the Special Olympics when one contestant who sees another fall stops to help him/her and both continue together to the finish line.
The second baseman fielded the routine ground ball cleanly as he had done thousands of times before but the throw to first base was anything but routine. In fact, it went high over the first baseman’s head into the stands and hit a fan. Chuck Knoblauch was an all-star, rookie of the year, World Series winner and a great fielder, but was becoming the poster child for the yips. Yips is the sudden and unexplained loss of fine motor skills in athletes of many sports. The recovery is difficult and often not successful. Chuck was never able to correct it and was soon out of baseball.
Sometimes we witness spiritual yips in fellow Christians. People who have been rock-solid believers for decades seem to lose interest in worshipping with the saints and drop out of fellowship. More often than not the spiritual yips are more of a gradual process than the physical kind. The cause may also be easier to discover and even cure, than the physical yips.
Even though the Christian with yips has attended, sang, prayed and taught lessons in the church for years, somehow the devil convinces him/her that it is just a waste of valuable time or that one is missing out on lots of fun and other activities.
As always, God’s word is the place to look for the cure for spiritual ailments. (2 Tim 3:16-17) Paul tells us that “all who live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (and temptation). (2 Tim 3:12) So we need to “fix our eyes on Jesus, (Heb 12:2) “more and more,” (1Thes 4:1) pray without ceasing and feed off the joys of fellow Saints. (Ja 1:2) (1Thes 5:16) We also need to enlist our best ally, The Holy Spirit, to strengthen us in times of weakness. (1Thes 5:19) (Eph 3:16)
Unfortunately, as in the physical, recovery may be long and painful. If we see and recognize the yips in others or ourselves, it will be valuable to revisit truths we have long known. (2 Tim 3:15) Study again the verses about heaven and our eternal salvation there rather than dwell on the temporary pleasure of sin that are so short-lived. (Rev 22:3-5) Don’t let the yips sink our ships!
Imagine that you are totally tired of this rat race and wanted to get completely off the grid. Then imagine that you were given the opportunity to lie on an isolated island with all of the basic necessities provided free. What would you do with all your stuff? No need for cars, cell phones, TVs, etc. Who would get them?
A somewhat similar scenario awaits Christians. We are preparing to live in an unknown, invisible and eternal place. We will not be able to take any physical stuff, but we will need to get our spiritual stuff ready. The media constantly tells us that we need more, newer and better stuff. God has given us all many earthly material blessings to live the abundant physical life. However, rather than cling to them, we should enjoy them but be ready to help others with them when need arises. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
Christians are promised that when the Chief Shepherd appears, we will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (1Pe. 5:4) (Col. 3:4) Although we cannot know what we’ll be like, we know that when he does appear, we shall be like him for we shall see Him as he is. (1Jo. 3:2-3) Will we be able to just appear in places or in different forms as Jesus did? (Lk. 24:36) (Mk. 16:12) Lk. 24:15-16) Paul gives us a small hint in 1 Cor. 15. He compares our resurrected body with our present physical one to the difference between a seed and a full-grown plant.
It seems we can’t really get ready physically for such a change, but we are expected to start here and now on our spiritual self. We are told that we will reign with Christ (2Tim. 2:12) for ever and ever (Rev. 22: 3-5) and that we will judge angels. (1Cor. 6:2-3) Ready? Paul spends many verses talking about the changes from our old self to the new. (Rom. 6) (Col. 3) (Gal. 5) It is a change from the old sinful nature to that of one who lives in accordance with the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 8) He outlines what that looks like in Romans 12 and Galatians 5 and many other places. Our new eternal life will be a huge transformation, perhaps that is why we are told to transform our minds to become more like Christ here. We need no physical stuff but let’s not neglect our spiritual stuff. Are we ready?
The basketball game ended late and as we exited the gym it had turned dark, cold, snowy and windy—a blizzard. Our family of 5 was not dressed for it and we were complete strangers in this small Western Kansas town. A blizzard on the plains is not just nasty it is often deadly. The town had no motels back then and even if it had, we couldn’t have paid for a room. What to do? I have since wondered more than once if the family who extended our family of strangers a “port in the storm” were God’s angels.
At least they must have heard the scriptural admonition that by entertaining strangers some have hosted angels without knowing it. (Heb. 13:2) Abraham did that in Genesis 18 with the 3 men, one of whom may have been the Lord himself. (v. 22) Lot also showed great hospitality to the 2 angels. (Genesis 19)
There are many other examples of hospitality in both the Old and New Testaments. Besides Abraham and Lot, the kindness of David to Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan and grandson of King Saul is noteworthy. David had him eat at the palace table like one of his own sons and made sure he had servants and received income from the crops of Saul’s former lands. (2Sa. 9:3-12) Another example is the Shunammite woman and her husband who made a room on the roof for Elisha the Prophet. (2Ki. 6:8-11)
In the 1st Century church we see the believers selling their possessions to give to anyone who had need. They also opened their homes to have meals for their fellow Christians. We assume many of these were part of the God-fearing Jews from other nations who made up some of the 3,000 converts on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:5,38)
Consider the citizens of the island of Malta on which the shipwreck of the vessel that carried the Apostle Paul and 275 other souls grounded. They were a remarkable example of hospitality to these total strangers. They took in all these people, fed and cared for them for 3 months and then furnished their needs as they left for Rome.
There are many verses in the New Testament telling us to practice hospitality (1Pe. 4:9) (3 John 8) (Rom. 12:13) and one particular individual who is praised by name by Paul—Gaius (Rom. 16:23) for doing it. In an age where we have so much more of everything, one wonders if we are still willing to practice this commandment?