I read a telling tale of a young girl who grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian school, and attended church on a regular basis and yet when she had to face the most fearful time in her life, everyone failed her. Yes she made a huge mistake, at the age of 16 she was pregnant, and then again at 17. However; that would not be the worst of what she would have to deal with. She was in great fear. We really cannot blame her. Grown adults, even those who have good finances, and secure lifestyles who have planned for a pregnancy get fearful. Question swell up inside. What will my friends think? How will the father react? How will I care for the child? At her young age these questions are magnified by the prospect of addressing her parents, and friends. What will happen with her schooling, college, and church life? What about all of the stares, and whispers? How could she ever care for a baby? So many unknowns. Advice is far from accessible because of the fear of shame and rejection.
With all of the Christian influences and church people around her she felt that they failed her. “At the time, my church, my pastor, my school, and community never told me there were resources out there to help me—with adoption, abstinence, finances, or help caring for a child.” (Anonimous) The only ones who would be available to give her advice was Planned Parenthood. What was the advice she received? You can probably guess it. She was advised that she did not have to keep the “embryo”. No one asked if she wanted to talk about alternatives to abortion. No other focus was given except to proceed with the abortion.
She paid $300.00 for the abortion. She described the event as horrible, and painful. She and other ladies that were awaiting the procedure shared how sad they were at the need for the procedure and regretted their decisions. She learned quick to harden her heart and to lie to herself and her family and everyone else she knew. She became depressed and withdrawn, driven by more guilt and shame. She abuse alcohol and herself. Eventually the Lord led her to a group called Embrace. Embrace helps people with abortion and abortion alternatives. She became active in their prayer groups and ministry. Eventually she began sharing her story. Telling the truth is the only way to rid the shame. Her message? “Abortion is NOT freedom! Abortion is making “peace” with death and that is an absolute lie and brings so much destruction to a person’s live that goes beyond the mother.”
Her Christian community around her had failed her. They failed her in educating her on the importance of abstinence and the holiness of the temple of God, her body. The environment that she grew up in was more concerned with condemning her sin then helping her to recover from her sin. In fact they did not help her to recover at all. So how can we change that so that others do not have to go through this shameful behavior from the church? We are to educate, listen, remind, and assist; oh then repeat seven times seven.
It starts from the top down. Pastors, Deacons, Teachers, and other elders of the church need to educate at all levels on the sanctity of marriage, abstinence, and how important each life is to God. (Psalm 139:1-24; Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 127:3; Galatians 1:15; Psalm 22:9-10; Isaiah 48:1) However; we cannot stop there, we need a culture of love and truth in the church. Peter tells us, “And above all things have fervent charity (love) among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) To many times when a brother or sister falls into sin, we are quick to condemn and not forgive. We should condemn the sin, however; we do not need to continue with the same failed anti-abortion rantings that drive the repentant away. We are commanded to forgive one another. Specifically, we are called to confess, repent, and forgive; in that order. (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13) So then this is the first part in combating fear and shame and allows the truth to be shared. Confidence given to the brother or sister who sins, that if they confess, they will be forgiven and will receive love and acceptance.
We must also educate our staff and members on a routine basis on alternatives to abortion, should the pregnancy be unavoidable. Having a list of alternative pregnancy and women’s health clinics that support the woman’s choice to both live and the child to live. Planned Parenthood spent allot of money making themselves the only voice on women’s health available. This is not the truth, there are plenty of other alternatives to Planned Parenthood. There are plenty of alternatives to abortion. They may include adoption, guardianship of another family member, and single mother housing assistance or missions. The church can use volunteers that can serve as a daycare for needy mothers so that the mother can continue in school, collage, and work. Volunteers from the church can be incorporated into a babysitter program. The church can even host an abortion survivors group. Time, equipment, furniture, clothes, food, can all be donated by members of the church. Professional skills can be donated that may include carpentry, mechanical, legal, financial, and even medical can be donated to the church for use in these programs. Heck someone can even help clean the home, do laundry, mentor child raising, and cut the grass.
If your church does not have this kind of thing going on, then start it. The Lord can use you to start this group. In the church I attend a young lady felt a burden for the community after a school shooting, and started a community wide service that the members of the community , churches, and civil authorities could meet under to build up the community and get people in contact with the resources they need. All it took one person saying, “here I am” to the Lord.
Get informed of local ministries that assist in pro-life assistance to expecting mothers and fathers. We must always, as much as possible include the other silent victims, the fathers. There are a many number of men who have these same feelings of guilt and shame, feelings of failure and inadequacy because of abortion. Sadly, many men who would have rather taken the child into their own homes are not consulted by the mother prior to the abortion. The biggest thing we can do that is included in all of these suggestions is to talk about it. We need to bring the truth to the front. People sin, if we didn’t we wouldn’t have needed a savior.
Now that we do have a savior, Jesus Christ, who has already paid the price for our sin, and has forgiven us, we should forgive one another of sin. We need to bring the truth the front. Abortion is murder of an innocent life. Murder is a sin, and a violation of the law of the land. There should be no reason to accept the selfish taking of another life. Murder of an innocent can never be justified by man. There are alternatives to abortion, even if the mother does not want the child. The people affected by the sins of sexual immorality and abortion are people that we love. We need to unashamedly reach out to and assist these victims (mother, father, and child) to find alternatives that will not destroy their lives and will encourage them to return to the Lord Jesus Christ who loves them and desires their love. We cannot abandon our loved ones, nor allow them to abandon their loved ones out of fear and mis-education.
In Pasadena Texas there used to be a huge Baptist Church on Vista Blvd. This is the church that I made my public confession of faith in. The attendance there was probably close to 200 on a Sunday morning, and at least half of that on Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services. Later I moved to the state of Washington and attended a Baptist church in Roy. This little country church was packed every service, and even had a radio tower that they used to broadcast their services our over the radio station. A few year later I moved back to Texas and wound up briefly attending several churches that also had high attendance and great outreaches and ties into the surrounding communities. In between these churches, I attended several other churches, as I tended to move quite a bit. I have also had the opportunity to preach at several different churches of various sizes. In looking back over these churches I could see something that seems insignificant to most, but stands out to me. There was a difference in the churches that were growing and involved in the community and those who were dying, or at least in peaceful slumber. The churches that had a fervent men’s ministry were the ones that were growing.
When we look at what makes a church not only survive, but to thrive in an area, we can look at a lot of different factors. Many studies go into looking at the local demographics of the area. What is the income level? What is the major ethnic population? What is the major health or poverty driven issue? What is the current and projected economic climate? Are jobs on the increase or the decrease? How many children per home? How many single mother homes are in the populace? All of these are good questions, and can help to develop outreach opportunities and meet the needs of the people surrounding the church. However; this information does little to spur the motivation of the church to do anything. We often look at aging churches and try to find ways to get youth programs off the ground. The idea is that without youth in the church, the church will silently die of old age. This is true in more than one way. But what I am speaking of is something more fundamental. We need men in the church to have a heart for, and to be, active in sharing the Gospel of Christ.
I heard a story one time concerning Charles Spurgeon and his boiler room. The story goes that some college students came to see Charles Spurgeon preach. They had arrived early and as they waited, a man from the church offered to give them a tour. The guide took them into one room, referred to as the “heating plant”. In this room were an estimated 700 saints praying. The guide, who turned out to be Charles Spurgeon himself, explained that the secret to his success is not him at all. Mr. Spurgeon explained that the power of the Holy Spirit was at work in answering the prayers of these saints that desire another soul would be saved. The secret to these successful churches was the presence of an active, praying Men’s Ministry.
I want to make something clear. Men’s Ministry is not an event driven service. It is great to have the Men’s Ministry around to do all of the heavy lifting at an events like VBS or at a Kid’s Festival or a Fall Festival, however; that is not the only way the men should be of value in the church ministry. They should be intimately involved in every aspect of the ministry of the local church and their families.
Each of these churches I attended that were growing had an active men’s ministry that prayed before, during, and after every service. They arrived hours ahead of time, and remained as long as needed. They painted, moved furniture, worked the plumbing, cut the grass and did many other things. In fact, in the church in Roy, Washington we all met one Saturday morning and worked all day spreading truckloads of rocks around to make a new parking lot and did other landscaping items. We were there from before the sun came up, until the sun went down. The ladies brought us food and water as we worked. In all of these churched, men were subject to the Spirit of God and had a desire to see one more soul saved. Men are the leaders in the church. When I was in the Army, I learned that Leaders lead by example, and from the front, not the rear. A leader does not sit in an office and dictate to others what needs to be done. A leader teaches, demonstrates, and then supervises what needs to be accomplished. A leader takes personal responsibility in the accomplishment of the mission. This is what an effective Men’s Ministry does.
These men, of the Men’s Ministry, lead by active service. John 13:12-15 says, “So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for [so] I am. If I then, [your] Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” This shows us how important this principle of leadership in the church is to Christ. He himself made a point to ensure the disciples understood that in order to be a leader in the kingdom they must lead in service of the kingdom. We forget that Jesus actively disciple all of these men. I know what you’re saying, “Of course he did, that’s why we call them ’the disciples’”. However, when we get a young man in the church we do not grow them into elders. Instead we just hope that they will eventually figure it out, stay long enough, or the Lord will instruct them himself. We forget that we, as men have been given a ministry towards other men. Men need to be disciple in the church. Men need to be held to a standard and accountability. These effective Men’s Ministries that I witness did not wait for some young or new male church member to approach them. These men actively recruited all men in attendance at the church. To be honest, most did not even care if you were a member of the church, they just wanted to get you active in spiritual growth.
I showed up at one of these churches early one morning. While waiting for the rest of my family to arrive, an elder from the church came up and asked me my name. I told him, and he smiled and said, “Well, Mr. Harvey, you’re just in time for the prayer meeting.” Then he conducted me to an upstairs room where 12 other men were already praying. The Pastor ducked his head in right before the door closed and told them some names to add to the list and disappeared. Just like that I was in the Men’s Ministry. I joined the church that service. That was all it took.
Men’s ministry assists the church, as the men in the church are disciple to mature faith and understanding of the scriptures, their roles in the family, local church, the Kingdom of God, and community. The Men’s Ministry is the place where this close discipleship can occur through fellowship, study, accountability, counsel. Most of all the Men’s Ministry servers through men fervently praying for their families, the church, community, and one another in the unity of group prayer meetings. There is nothing the devil can defeat a church with that has a group of righteous men praying in earnest for the spreading of the gospel.
Men, the apostle James tell us in his epistle that we should confess our sins to one another. We should also pray for one another. Then James tell us that the powerful passionate prayer of a righteous man is very advantageous to the plea being made. (James 5:16) Wow! Now imagine how powerful a whole group of such men praying together in agreement before the Almighty God would be, especially with the Spirit of God praying right along beside them, in perfect communion with the God, the Creator of the universe. Prayer then is the foundation of the men’s ministry. However, it also includes mentorship in Christ. Group study of the Word, and proper fellowship.
Fellowship in scripture is not just having coffee before services, or having a lunch after Sunday morning services. I includes, but is not limited to Men’s Breakfasts, prayer groups, and bible studies. The word for fellowship in the Greek has a deeper meaning. It means to share on one’s self. This means that we should be living in fellowship. We should be involved in one another’s lives. We should be giving towards one another. We should be living with one another on a daily basis. Giving time, money, food, encouragement, advice, and emotional and spiritual support to one another. This is what happened in the early church, they gave sacrificially to one another, even to other churches. Another thing to consider is spiritual leadership.
The man is to be a spiritual leader in the church and in the home. 1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong”. This means that we should be like men of wisdom who have understanding. We should act like mature men, not like children. We should be strong in doctrine, not carried away by every spirit. We should search the scriptures to test what we have been told and what we interpret concerning scripture. We should be proficient and able to identify truth from error. We, men, should be able to instruct others on the meaning of the scriptures. We should have the backbone to stand up for what is good and right before God. In this age of effeminized men we need men who can show themselves as men. Men who set the example of righteousness, no matter what the cost. Men who lead. If a woman goes to church, she will undoubtable drag her children with her. The husband may not go. She has no authority to make him. The children, especially the boys will have a divided desire.
The boys will develop a resentment with one parent or the other, and the church. This is because, boys want to be like their fathers. The hidden message in their heart will be on of, “If dad doesn’t have to go, why should I?” In all honesty, that is a very good question. If the father does not put any emphasis on church attendance then their children will fail to realize the importance of the church, Sunday school, or even Christ himself. However; if the father goes to church then everyone goes to church. He has that authority. The wife who wishes to please her husband will go. The children who see that both parents are in attendance will desire to go, because the importance of the church is recognized by both parents. More so if the father is actively involved in the church. Then the children see that a relationship with Christ is of most importance. The child who understands the importance of a relationship with Christ will tell their friends, and invite them to church to meet Christ. A family who worships Christ together, grows in love towards one another, the church, and in Christ Jesus.
The Church does not need to change its culture to make themselves more attractive to society. To much of that nonsense has already happened. We don’t need men that are effeminate, unsure of scripture, afraid to confront evil, or not daring enough to step on a few toes for Christ. What the church needs is a culture where men are righteous, caring, and active in their families, the church and community. Men that are bold in their profession of faith. Men that stand up for what is right. Men who confront evil no matter what the personal cost. Men who would rather step on a toe or two in love, rather than see someone waist their life and die and go to hell.
When God made mankind, he first made a male and put him to have dominion over all of his creation. When Jesus selected his apostles, out of thousands of men, women, and children; he chose men. When the disciples gathered together to replace Judas Iscariot, out of over a hundred men and women gathered together, the Holy Spirit chose a man. When the first deacons for the church were chosen, the Holy Spirit of God chose men. The first recorded martyr was also a man. The Holy Spirit moves through righteous men. I am not saying that the Holy Spirit does not use women also, however; there seems to be no shortage of active women in the church today. That being said, this is why scripture encourages men saying, “if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) You see the Lord wants men to desire to be of service. He says that it is a good thing to have a desire to be of service; teaching, preaching, caring for the flock. Then he gives some criteria.
I know what you are most likely thinking. This is the criteria that he gives for pastors and deacons, however; shouldn’t all Christian men strive for these? He says that a man of God should be blameless. There should be no cause for accusation in his life. He should have a clean witness both in and out of the church. He should be the husband of one wife. This man should have no eyes for any other woman than his wife. He should have no mistresses, or practice polygamy. He should be vigilant. This means he should be aware of his surroundings. Attentive to the needs of others. Aware of the dangers of the enemy about him. He should be sober. He should be of a good nature and not into mischief. He is temperate, not into brawling, or striking others. He does not boast or throw his weight around trying to impress himself. The list goes on, and then includes some very specific things for the bishop. (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Titus 1:5-9)
These are the things that we should be shepherding and disciplining young men in the way. This is the culture that we should seek to have in the men of our churches. Real men who stand up for God and that do not let anything stop them from seeking the will of the Lord. Men like this who pray together have a great effect on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in a church. In Ezekiel 34 we can read that there are dire consequences for Israel because the shepherds of Israel failed their duties. Israel became scattered having no leadership. The people became the victims of wolves and beasts of prey. They were weak and sickly. This sounds like some churches you may know, does it not?
Something else to be aware of in Ezekiel 34:1-10, the Lord says, “I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock”. Now let us move to Revelation chapter 3. “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” (Revelation 3:15-17) Remember the Lord is talking to the members of the church. He says that they have become self-sufficient and think that they have everything and that they have lost their zeal. They are not doing the things of the Lord. Because of this they are worthless to him, and he will spew them out. Ever wonder if a church closed because God wished them to close? They had become slipshod and non-responsive to the Spirit and the Lord simply pulled their charter.
Men of God you must understand that you are important to the ministry of your local Church. In fact, you are an invaluable asset to your church. Your skills and craftsmanship are a great asset to the church, but your leadership and compassion for others has a far more reaching effect. You have knowledge and understanding that some young man needs to tap into to see the working of Christ in his life. We need men of God engaged in the fight for what is good, and right, and virtuous. (Philippians 4:8) These are the things that we should be doing. We should learn to do well, seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, and protect the orphans and widows. (Isaiah 1:17) This is the work that God has for men.
1st Corinthians 7:10,11 – Paul’s Underlying Theology on Marriage and Divorce
This chapter is so important because it teaches us principles in dealing with intimate relationships. It addresses such issues as celibacy, marriage and separation, mixed marriages, and social and economic relationships. All of these are still issues that we struggle with every day. Let’s take a closer look now at what the Lord tells us through his Apostle to the Gentiles, and the underling theology behind his answer to marriage and divorce.
10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
Here Paul makes an important distinction. What he is about to say is not his opinion, rather it is the commandment he received from the Lord in scripture. The commandment is that we should not deal treacherously with our spouse. The putting away of a wife for no just cause, and to marry another is one such treachery. It is a violation of the marriage covenant and profanes God himself. (Malachi 2:14-17) Now if he were writing to only Jews, they would likely know this. However, the gentiles may not have been as familiar with the Law or the Commandments. So Paul informs them that it is the will of God that he now speaks. Since they are all now servants of the Lord, compliance with his will is an expectation not an option based on opinion. Interestingly, Paul does not quote scripture or Jesus, this would lead to believe that they were well aware of God’s view of divorce and were seeking a way to justify divorce for certain circumstances that were not written in the law originally. Possibly verse 12 has the underlying reason. Better yet we should look at all of the questions that were asked concerning marriage and how the relationship was affected by the new birth in Christ. Since we are new creatures in Christ and all sin is done away with, and our previous manner of living is to be left behind, does this include our marriages? This is a good question. What of the marriage we had prior to salvation? Are we bound by that contract? If we were married in a relationship that now would be considered sinful, how do we deal with that marriage relationship now? Paul will address these questions in detail later in the letter. What is important at this point is that Paul gives a stern reminder that God does not sanction divorce. For us we can take a look at Mark 10:2-12.
Here in Mark we see that Jesus trains his disciples in the very same way that Paul is teaching his disciples in Corinth. Jesus give the answer to the Pharisees. Jesus tells us that God created a man and a woman to be together, for life. This is the reason that a man should leave his family. They should cleave to one another. The usage of cleave here is to stick to one another. The husband and wife should be stuck with one another because they are stuck on one another. Nothing should separate them. Jesus says that this cleaving is so sealing that they become intertwined. God sees them no longer as individuals, but at one flesh. This is a picture of the triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit = 1 God). So a husband and wife are one person. A couple should not be treated as individuals. They should be viewed, treated, and act like one person. Individuality is lost in the relationship. The Jesus utters those famous words, “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9)
Later to his disciples Jesus gives them a deeper explanation. If a man divorces a woman, and marries another wife, then he is guilty of committing adultery against his first wife, and makes the second wife commit adultery. The same is true for the woman who divorces her husband and marries another. (Jeremiah 3:1; Luke 16:18; Mark 10:11-12) This is such a spiritual principle that Paul uses it in the letter to the Romans to illustrate the far reaching implications of the Law.
For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. –Romans 7:2-3)
This is the will of God; that once a man and a woman have joined together, they should live in that relationship and treat one another as if their spouse were themselves. Anything less is sin. Now this is the truth, if we were to do this simple thing in marriage then we would not have to worry about abuse, infidelity, or simple irritations that grow into a mountains that could never be climbed. If we consider our spouse in the love that God gives us and apply it to one another there would be no need to look elsewhere for gratification, empathy, or compassion and forgiveness. Loving God first and then loving our spouse, as we love ourselves, would not allow us ill feelings towards one another. (Ephesians 5:33) This is very important to understand. This is the principle with which Paul basis the rest of his answer concerning marital issues on.
Astonishingly, if you were to ask Christians if divorce is wrong, they will immediately start defending reasons why it might be legitimate under certain circumstances. They would start the “what if” game, and try to get you to consent to their reasoning. They would totally avoid the simple answer. They will never admit the truth in God’s word, it is not the will of God, but a product of sin in full rebellion against the scriptures. Knowing the truth, Christians still move to divorce rather than repentance and forgiveness.
Keeping in mind the spiritual principle of oneness in God, we should understand that a husband and wife should never sin against one another, and should never have a reason for divorce or separation. Divorce and separation of a married couple is then spiritually unnatural. If such an occurrence should happen then the relationship should be restored as soon as possible. Because of the spiritual principle of reconciliation, neither should they marry someone else as long as the other ex-spouse lives. Christians then and now did not want to hear this. This is why Paul had to make a clear point to this.
If you separate or divorce, do not marry another. Notice also, this enforced celibacy is done so that the husband has no reason to divorce her for sexual immorality. This also infers that the husband does not commit sexual immortality either.(Matthew 19:8-9; Hebrews 13:4; Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Jeremiah 3:1; 1 Corinthians 7:39) We must keep in mind that not all couples separate or divorce for reasons of sexual immorality. Some divorce over issues of finances, work stresses, emotional or psychological issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and some just want a change in their partner out of selfish desires. In scripture, any separation of covenant parties is always meant as a means to allow repentance and reconciliation.
This spiritual principle of reconciliation is seen throughout scripture. It is the basis of our faith. That God so loves us that he gave his only Son that if we should believe on Jesus, then we would be reconciled to God in Jesus Christ. (John 3:16). It is also included in Christs and Paul’s instructions of healing of relationships and restoring fallen brothers and sisters. Scriptures on Reconciliation: • Ephesians 4:32 – And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. • 2 Corinthians 5:18 – And all things [are] of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; • Matthew 18:15-17 – Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. … • Romans 5:10 – For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. • Matthew 5:23-26 – Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; • Colossians 1:20 – And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, [I say], whether [they be] things in earth, or things in heaven.. • Luke 17:3 – Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
This spirit of reconciliation is the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. How is it that we who profess to being recipients of the love of Jesus Christ, who endured so much for us, cannot forgive one another. We who have had our sinful past removed should see a way to dismiss the past and look forward to the future with hope? The marriage relationship is the most important relationship in life outside of our relationship with Christ. It is so important that God himself uses it as an example of our relationship to him.
God even forgave our adultery against him, and in doing so made a way for us to be reconciled. He did not give up on mankind and just decide to turn his affections to some other creation. Make no mistake, God had every right to divorce us and put us away. Yet his love for us prevented his anger. We should have the same kind of love for our spouse. Love demands reconciliation. Love accepts repentance. Love hopes.
I would like to draw your attention to a matter that we should all consider in the living out of our faith. In the letter Paul wrote to Philemon, he makes a defense for Onesimus. Onesimus was a slave to Philemon who had apparently ran away. On his journey he apparently ran right smack into the Apostle Paul who had previously converted Philemon to Christianity. Now Onesimus had his appointment with Jesus Christ through the evangelism of Paul. Now that Onesimus was a believer, Paul sought to return him to Philemon. Paul asked that Onesimus be received as a brother in Christ, and forgiven of his wrong doings, as Philemon had also been forgiven in Christ.
If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;
I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say
to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. (Philiemon 18-19)
It is clear that Paul is showing to Philemon that Onesimus
should have nothing put to his account, and that Paul himself will reimburse
Philemon of any costs that he deemed should be paid by the actions of Onesimus
or the costs incurred by his absence from his duties. However; is what Paul
says – albeit (notwithstanding, although)
I know I do not need to mention that you are indebted to me. What exactly that debt was is not
specified. However, being that Philemon
owned slaves it is not likely a financial debt.
It is more likely that Paul was making a spiritual reference to the
conversion of Philemon. In this manner,
Philemon’s very soul would have been what Paul was referring to. His salvation was brought through the
evangelistic efforts of Paul, and Paul was reminding him of the great debt that
was relieved when Paul led him to Christ.
In this we see that Paul is reminding him that those who have been
forgiven must also forgive. Moreover we
should not add to the debt of fellow believers.
In the early development of the church the office of the
Deacon was established. Do you know
why? The church was in an uproar because
the distribution of needs to the believers was not being distributed
properly. So the apostles told the church
to select men to appoint over this duty of distributing to the needs of the
church. These men were the deacons of
the church. It was their responsibility
to ensure the benevolence ministry was ran properly. Now something related to this is the fact
that all the believers of the church gave towards the needs of the church and
they shared all things in common. I know
where are you going with all of this? I gave you all of this background to say
this. If a member of the body of Christ
has a need, and you can assist them, then you should, and you should NOT charge
for your services. You should not as a believer put a debt onto any believer’s
account for something that you freely volunteered to do to assist them in their
time of need.
If this were the case and the church assisted you, for
anything, then you should expect to make amends to the church. Now I am not saying that if you want to repay
the church you cannot, quite the opposite.
You are to assist the church and its body of believers out of gratitude,
not debt. Once again I wish to be clear on this matter. I am not talking about a professional service
where it is agreed upon that the believers are in a business agreement. I am speaking of a need that was requested to
the church, and members of the church responded to the need, and then wanted reimbursement. Especially if the member who is asking for reimbursement
has received gifts and support from the church body in the past to cover
finances, food, lodging, counseling, or anything else.
What would the church be like if when you, as a believer and member of the congregation, needed assistance after a personal disaster, or a natural disaster like a hurricane or a fire, and then the church shows up and says we will help you if you pay us? What of that? Would that be considered the “Christian” thing to do? Even so, an individual member should never show up to assist another member and then demand money for their services.
If the offer is made from the requester to pay, that is another matter, and it is not what I am speaking of either. We who are indebted to Christ are to look after our brothers and sisters in Christ as we would our other relatives. I would never charge my brother to assist him in moving, or in repairing his home, or even looking after his pets when he was out of town. To receive payment for such services in his time of need it to strong-arm him. How is that love? When Jesus said that they will know you are my disciples by you love…. I think we can say that this would be a demonstration of our love.
We need to be ever mindful of the debt of which we have been forgiven. We also need to keep in mind that most all of us have an inherent debt we owe to our fellow members in the body of Christ. We should be willing to unashamedly seek the assistance of the fellowship, and to freely give assistance as needed to the fellowship with a joyous heart.
What I relay to you is a true story of a young couple. It was told as a matter or confession, not to
a priest, but to any who would listen. I
don’t feel the necessity to identify the couple, as this could be any couple in
This young man was seeing a young lady, and their attractions
grew to one another as often young people do.
They were both working and soon decided that it would be best to move in
with one another and therefore save on some of the costs of living. This would make things financially better for
the both of them, plus there would be other “fringe benefits”.
The young man admitted he was self-centered and was
concerned more about having freed up money to have a good time and to have the
benefit of sexual pleasures at will. He
wasn’t concerned about taking precautions to avoid pregnancy; that was her
problem, not his. He remember how great
it was to be living with her indulging one another’s fantasies without regard
to God or anyone else. Until she got
The pregnancy alarm “slapped him in the face”, as he put
it. They were both shocked and caught
off guard. Suddenly life stopped for them.
All of their future plans, their relationship, and collage would all
have to change. He remembered thinking
that his whole life was suddenly snatched from him with the realization of this
permanent change. He regretted his
foolish arrogance and disregard for not avoiding this predicament by listening
to his parents warnings. He was
scared. She asked what to do. He lined up the options: marriage, bail on
her, abortion, or just ignore it.
She wanted marriage and to keep the baby, but he wasn’t ready,
so he just pushed her away ignoring the issue.
She moved in with another friend but still sought his advice. He wouldn’t
return her calls. In fear and desperation
she scheduled an abortion.
When he found out his heart was sickened. Guilt flooded over his whole mental and
emotional state. He was shamed that he
had failed her and the baby. He wanted
to tell her not to go through with it.
But his cowardice had left him unable to move, he had forsook his
responsibilities and left the burden to his girlfriend. Eventually he mustered up the strength to accompany
his girlfriend to the clinic.
When he walked in there were others like him waiting with their
family members. He could feel their eyes
on him. He knew that they knew that he was the father of the baby that was
being aborted. He was murdering his own
child. He was sacrificing his own baby
for what he perceived would be a better lifestyle for himself. He knew that his girlfriend was struggling.
She want to keep the baby, but was afraid that without his support it would not
be possible. She thought that he loved
her. She realizes now, too late, that he
loved himself more.
The abortion was quick.
After the abortion she left with other friends who had come to support
her. He left all alone. They never spoke again. The guild and shame of the murderous act had
destroyed their relationship. Decades
later this time period of his life would still haunt him. Wondering what his child would have been
like. Wondering what his marriage with
this young lady could have been. How
many memories did he forsake for his selfish act?
Later he married a Christian lady. He started going to church. He would here the pastor teach on how God
said that children are an heritage of the Lord (Psalms 127:3-5). He read how scriptures like John 16:21
remarked on what a joy it is that a man can be born. He heard in Provers 17:6 where it said that
Children’s children are the crown of old men; and they glory of children are their
fathers. He felt such sorrow and
remorse. He had missed out on those
blessings. The blessings of seeing the
birth of his baby. He missed out on the
joys of running with a kite with his baby.
He missed the times of teachings, like riding a bike, or driving a
car. More than that he missed out on the
joy of having his grandbabies sit on his lap.
Unable to keep his façade up any longer. He spent hours confessing to
He confessed his selfishness to her. He relayed the shame of his cowardice
avoidance of his responsibilities to his girlfriend and to his baby, and to God. In tears he poured out his regrets and a
lifetime of torment that he has lived with all of those years. His wife took him in her arms and for two
hours she told of the forgiveness available from God in Jesus Christ. He eventually pleaded his cas before God, and
poured out his sorrows to him. He
repented of his selfishness and lack of courage in doing what he knew was
wrong. He confessed the murder of his
He received forgiveness.
He has reached out with the support of his wife and his church to the
once young lady, who he had failed before.
She too had spent a life time of dealing with the guilt and anguish that
comes from the shameful act of murder we call abortion. She too has been
redeemed by Jesus Christ.
It is a terrible thing when society and governments condone
the murder of innocent babies. It is a
terrible testimony to the state of a nation that prefers mothers to kill their babies
for profits to be fed to special interest corporations. Surely they will be held accountable before
Christ in the final judgement. So will
the Christians who stop silently and watched this atrocity unfold before their eyes. Especially those who live in countries where
they have the right to vote on such matters of conscience. It is not just those who need forgiveness. God
forgive us all.
I spoke with a friend a day or two ago. She was concerned because her son was getting
old enough to leave the fold now. She
was concerned with the usual things that we as parents get concerned
about. If you have lived through this,
or are currently going through this situation, then you know what I am talking
about. This is a heart wrenching time
for a parent. It has been 18 years where
the mom and dad have been caring for the needs of their child. They have tried hard to prepare them for this
inevitable day. All their hopes and
aspirations are tied up in the fruition of the life of labor and love they have
poured into their little baby, who is now a young adult. Have they been good parents?
What if their young one fails? How will they be able to help? Will their child ask for help? Did I prepare them enough for them to be successful?
But probably the most heart wrenching question for a Christian parent is, “Will
they continue in their faith?” Will they walk away from God and never return?
In a study done by Lifeway Research, author Ed Stetzer,
relays that 70 percent of high school students who attended church on a regular
basis, for at least one year, will stop going to church during their years of
higher education. There are allot of
reasons for this, but most do not intentionally stop going to church. That is, it is not that they could not wait
to get away from their oppressive Christian parents so that they could leave their
archaic religion. Most just get caught up
in their new busy life. Juggling of
study, school, work, and the development of new friendships distract them from their
previous priorities. Some will get
distracted for a while, maybe some for several years, but most will eventually
return. Probably when they start their
own families. There are a few who will
get distracted far beyond measure. Some will
forsake their childhood upbringing in favor of some college professor’s views,
or do the world views on life, sex, and politics that permeate the college
campuses. We can find throughout scripture examples to prove that the Lord does
not abandon his children.
In Luke chapter 15 we find the story of the prodigal son. In this story the youngest son makes a plea
for his half of the inheritance and leaves home. This rebellious son then squanders his
fortunes in a foreign land and winds up being homeless and penniless. After much soul searching he decides to
return home and beg forgiveness in hopes that he can work on the family estate
as a hired hand. When he returns his
father is overjoyed. The father’s love
overflows from deep in his heart and he rejoices over the return of his son
with a great feast and a party. The
oldest son, who remained obedient is put off with this forgiveness his younger
sibling received. He is caught up in his
own selfish interests to see the miracle that has happened.
This story has many different points at which we can tear it
apart and find some universal truth or a great life application. I have many times used this parable as a part
of my testimony, because I was also a wayward son who had returned. If you are not familiar with this story it
can be found in Luke 15:11-32.
Here in this passage we see a man that did everything
right. He raised his kids in a
God-fearing home. He taught them the
value of good hard work. He taught them about the Lord. He taught him the customs of their people,
and how to be good men. He instructed
them in the way of their faith. Yet one
of his children fell away. This is the
case for many of us parents.
We can teach, and discipline, and hold our breath till we
are blue in the face, but some of our children will go away form their faith. We can do everything right. Still our loved one abandons the truth and
rebels against God. I should also
mention that we can do everything wrong, and yet our child finds God. The point here is that faith is a personal
decision. Our job is to pray for them,
teach them, and reinforce the instructions of life and hope in Christ. Teach them the wisdom of knowing God and the
advantages of living a godly lifestyle.
We are to give them an understanding of God that they can use in life’s
decisions. But the decision is up to
them. Each man (woman) is responsible to
God for themselves. This is why the father
The father in Luke 15 knew when his son asked for his share
of the inheritance and left that he was already lost before his feet his the
road. He also knew that he could not
stop him. He knew that while his son was
in rebellion that he was already dead spiritually. I am sure that his heart was broken. Something that we cannot miss though. The father knew his son had to make the
When his youngest son asked for the money his father did not
argue with him. His father could have
told him, that money is not yours yet, you do not have a right to it. His father could have drilled him with all
kinds of questions, he could told him how foolish he was, and what a bad son he
is. He could have struck out in
anger. The father had all of the
authority and right to do any or all of these things. Instead he listened. He gave his son an opportunity to learn a
life lesson that his son needed.
This father also trusted God to return his son to his faith.
The father knew that the son in his heart did believe in God and that this
little light of faith would be used by God to steer him home. I am sure he held onto Proverbs 22:6. The father had hope. He knew that God loved his son also, just as
much as he did. He knew that God would
not abandon his son.
This hope is evident in verse 20 of Luke 15. It says, “But when he was yet a great way
off, his father saw him.” This father was looking for the return of his
son. He expected the Lord to deliver his
son. He rose up and looked for him every
day! We don’t know how long the
timeframe is of the story, but it was long enough for the son to lose his
inheritance, take a slum job, deal with starvation, and finally repent. The son swallowed his pride and came with
full intention of making things write with his father no matter what the
This story can tell us so much about the love of God. When the son returned the father did not care
where he had been, or what he had done.
He only say his son. His baby was
coming home. I think about this and I
think about my own son. He is a grown
man, but every time I look at him, I still see the little infant that I held
for the first time at his birth. I know
the heart of God by this memory. With
all that I love my son and no matter what he has done or where he has been, I
still see this little baby in my hands.
That I like to think is the way that God sees each of us. This father in our story just saw his baby,
crying and beaten up by life, returning home.
This father who loved his son, put his arms around him. Nothing else mattered.
This is what Jesus made possible. No matter how far we go. No matter what we have done. No matter how
rebellious we have been. Jesus made a
path home for us, for our children. Have
hope in the Lord. Your heavenly Father
has not abandoned you, and will not abandon your son or daughter. Yes there are some hard lessons in life to
learn. No we cannot shelter our children
from consequences of their own decisions.
However; we can have confidence that the Lord will never leave or
When most people pray they are really just praying and hoping. That is when we pray we are saying some words, hoping that we said is correctly; hoping that we used the proper syntax and keywords, like some Google search. We hope that God is even listening and that when He gets around to it that He will answer if he feels like we deserve and answer the way we want him to for our benefit. But this is not what prayer is like in scripture. When the patriarchs and the apostles prayed, they expected results.
When we pray we should believe and be expecting results. Scripture approached prayer with an expectation that it is heard, and will be answered. Why would Jesus tell us the whatsoever ye shall ask, that I will do? Twice in these two verses Jesus says, “I will do”. That is a fully loaded promise. So why don’t we experience this kind of prayer life?
Looking here at verse 13 we see that Jesus first says, “ask in my name”. Whatever you need, ask in my name. I heard a story recently of a conversation between two believers. One was struggling with his prayer life and did not feel as if God was listening to him. He had been praying earnestly over and over and was not seeing an answer to his prayers. The other Christian, in an attempt to help him resolve the issue, told the first Christian that he was praying incorrectly. The encourager told him he was using the wrong name to call to upon God, and because he was using the wrong pronunciation of Jesus (Yeshua), that God would not answer him.
I can see the logic in his argument. I mean right here in this very text is says to ask in his name. Does this mean that if I don’t use the correct pronunciation or dialect of the name of Jesus, or worse, that I don’t even say, “In Jesus name”, that God won’t hear me and answer my prayer? No, God Forbid.
There are some groups that say that we must pronounce the name of Jesus in a certain way or we will not have our prayers answered, these groups have a false doctrine that even says that it is a sin to pronounce the name of the Son of God incorrectly.
Some say that we must use:
The original Greek in which the New Testament was written: (Iota Eta Sigma Micron Upsilon Sigma) (pronounced Há-soos´);
The Hebrew (pronounced <Joshua>Yeh-hah shoo´ah or Yeh-shoo´ah);
The Aramaic Yêšû` (pronounced Yá-soo´);
The Greek Jesus (pronounced Jee-zus);
English Jesus (pronounced Jee-zus´).
We need to understand that if there are no original texts from the Hebrew, and the Greek and Aramaic texts are not believed to be the originals either. The Textus Receptus and the Septuagint are our references for the modern day translations of the bible. There the Greek translation is Jesus Christ which comes to mean “Yahweh is Salvation” in the Hebrew name of Joshua. Now we can see how vain an argument over Yeshua, Joshua, Jesus, any other dialect issue is over the pronunciation of the Son of God.
In the Bible there are over 955 names and titles that are given for reference to God. Most of these are actually descriptive of God’s character or his attributes. Some of these are:
Abba – Greek: Father
Abba- Aramaic: Daddy
Abir (Abhir)- Hebrew: The Mighty One
YHWH (Jehovah) Hebrew: Lord, in fact in the King James Version when you see the capitalized “LORD” it is in reference to this term.
El Shaddiah – Hebrew: Almighty One
Bara – Hebrew: Creator
El – Hebrew: Which is a borrowed term from Canaan which means “God”
You see the Hebrews believe that the name of God is so sacred that you cannot even pronounce it, or even write it in its completion. So when Orthodox Jews write out even reference to God they leave out a letter for example writing Lord would be “L_rd”.
In truth we must ask ourselves, first, are we a Christian? You see it is believing that Jesus is the Son of God that we can receive his offer of Salvation, believing He has the power and authority that only the Son of God has, and that His Word is trustworthy, and that He committed Himself to become a sinless sacrifice for our sins, and then conquered death in His resurrection. His name, however pronounced, still speaks of the Son of God. My name is Harvey, but some people call me Havier. I don’t ignore them, I understand that they are speaking to me from a Latin perspective. I still respond to their calling me.
So what does it mean to “Ask in My Name”? It means to ask in his weight. That is to ask in his merit. Or in the provision that he has made. We come before God in Christ’s standing. This is what Jesus meant when he said “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.) (John 14:6). No man can approach God the Father in his own merit. Of ourselves, there is no reason why God should hear any or our prayers, much less to answer them. God does not owe any of us anything.
Still we come before God thinking that if we review our memory verses, or if we recite enough scripture, or even if we have done enough Bible study to show God how good a Christian we are, then! He will hear us! We feel all spiritual and even invoke the name of Jesus in the proper context and then God has to hear and give us what we prayed for. WOW! What arrogance we have! We forget the warning of James that says, “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6)
Jesus did not put a bunch of conditions on the prayer. He didn’t say:
If you sin, don’t come pray to me
If you stumble, don’t ask me for help
If you fall, I wont be the one picking you up
If you didn’t read your bible today, don’t even bother to approach me.
He did not say, if you call me by my proper name, or #IN JESUS NAME, then I will answer you.
No he did not say any of that foolishness. He said, if you know me, and who I am, that I am the Son of God. That I am your way to the Father. I you believe in me, then trust me. So then “in his name” means to come in the merit of his righteousness.
We can also come as his representative. We are ambassadors. When an ambassador comes to another country they do not go in their own name, they go representing the country from which they came, and they act accordingly with the authority granted to them by their own leader.
We have authority in the name of Jesus. We have authority on behalf of the Kingdom, through Jesus who is the Christ (Messiah). See Jesus came to do the will of his Father. He came on behalf of His Father and acted in his Father’s authority. He did not step out of his Father’s will, nor the authority granted in that will.
So, when we pray, are we praying in the will of Jesus and in the Authority given in his name? Are we acting on behalf of Jesus? We are praying for his will, not ours. Now don’t miss hear me. Listen to this, just because we are to pray in his authority for his will to be done, it does not mean we cannot intercede for our loved ones, or ask for ourselves.
The example that Jesus gave us in what we call the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father” shows us how a prayer should be prayed in faith. It should first give glory to God. How can you ask something of someone without having an understanding that they can and are willing perform what you ask. Then we are to pray for the things that we need in order to continue the work of faith that he has wrought in us. Recognizing that all things are given to us, even our daily sustenance. The Holy, Creator of the universe and all that is within it, the one who stands from before time began, and will be here after time is ended cares about your individual needs, especially with regards to sustaining you in all matters of grace. Not enough praying “in his name” is in real acknowledgement of full dependence on His righteousness for access to the throne of God and seeking His glorification and His will to be done.
In Luke 12:32 Jesus says, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” And in Matthew 6:8 you can find Jesus telling us, “for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” God knows what we need and is willing to give us abundantly. The ability to speak to God is given directly to each individual believer in Jesus Christ. We have this gift because the Lord wants real fellowship with us.
God gives us opportunities to exercise our faith in him by our dependence on his grace.
He said that he will supply everything we need, but we do have to come to him. He wants to hear your prayers, he wants that acknowledgement that you understand who he is and where all good things come from. God will do his part in your life. We need to pray and believe that the things we seek in him, for his glory… He will do. He has promised it, and what he has promised he will perform. Not because he is a Djinni. But because he is a God of love, and it makes him happy to give to us.
In closing I want to read to you John 17:20-26, this is Jesus’ prayer for his followers. In particular this portion speaks to you and me.
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.