|Vol. 16 No. 12 December 2014||
It is that time of year once again when some people lose their minds in the feeding frenzy of shopping. Why? Some have an insatiable appetite for spending, and during the holiday season, that ravenous enthusiasm spirals out of control. On the Friday following Thanksgiving, which has become known as Black Friday, fights break out in department stores and malls as civilized people become brute beasts attacking one another over that “must have” bargain priced item.
In many instances, it’s not so much about the buying, but it’s all about the fury of being in overcrowded malls just looking and socializing. A recent news report stated that in some cases, these Black Friday deals are the same price that they were in September! Still some will rack up huge bills and will be struggling to pay those bills throughout 2015! Satan plays that “buy now – pay later” card to the maximum everywhere every year.
Some of us have seen the commercials of the graveyard of gifts stashed in an out-of-the-way closet, in the attic or in the storage shed, never to be seen or mentioned again. These are those “acknowledgment” gifts we did not want and certainly did not need from family and friends. Do we remember what we bought last year or what we received from whom and why?
One friend commented that she hoped her family would remember what they got last year because there would be nothing for them this year. How would that idea “play out” at your house? In recent years, the holiday shopping season has started earlier and earlier. During this writer’s years of growing up, there were no signs of Christmas until after Thanksgiving. Now you can see Christmas items in October. In some places, you can go to a Christmas sale in July!
God has revealed a stark reality to us in 2 Peter 3:10. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (NASB). What is the message? Don’t get too attached to any of life’s trappings; they are all going up in smoke! Our houses, cars, clothes, shoes, jewelry, electronic toys, smart phones, iPads, DVD/video players, flat screen TV’s, sound systems, etc. are all going to be burned up. Do we really believe that?
Solomon was God’s example to the human race about the accumulation of things. Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 says, “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity [grasping for the wind]. When goods increase, they increase who eat them; so what profit have the owners except to see them with their eyes?” All we can do with stuff is look at it. The more we get, the more we want. For some of us it doesn’t take long before we become jaded with what we have, and we want something finer, larger or greater.
We sincerely need to listen to what Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 5:15; “As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came; and he shall take nothing from his labor which he may carry away in his hand.” Do we get that irrevocable, eternal truth?
The buying of material things is at an all time high during the holiday season, but this attitude of greed stays with us all year long. We need to understand that materialism is one of the principle gods of this world. Materialism enslaves, harms and ruins. Tragically for too many, their possessions have become their gods. Their home has become a museum; their car is a showpiece; their personal belongings are modeled; and their electronic gadgets keep getting more elaborate, more numerous and more expensive.
In 2 Peter 3:11-12 we are told, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!” The Creator and Sustainer of everything has made it abundantly clear that the destruction of all things is imminent, and He will be the One to ignite the flame!
Peter asked one of the most thought-provoking questions in the above passage. “What sort of people ought you to be?” Since everything is going up in smoke, what should be at the center of our thinking? Since nothing that we have is going to make it through the fire, what does that leave? Us! The only entity that will survive the end of all things is God’s highest creation! Why? We were all created in the image of God. We were created with a soul – a soul that will live forever in heaven or in hell. Our destiny is dependent upon choosing Him through active obedience or rejecting Him through stubborn rebellion. God gives no choices in-between.
It takes spiritual discipline to keep our minds focused on God and make Him our ultimate choice. The joy, hope and love that He brought to this world through Jesus Christ in His birth, life, death, burial and resurrection is beyond any human’s ability to comprehend appreciably!
What is the bottom line for this holiday season or any season? God did not create us to pursue how much of this world’s goods we could accumulate. How much we paid for them, how much we enjoyed them, how long we had them or how much we doted on them will be totally irrelevant! On Judgment Day, they will all go up in smoke – so, don’t get too attached. “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26 NKJV).
Inviting Disaster through Your Door
We are blessed here in Ohio to have such blazing orange, crimson reds and lemony yellow fall leaves to see on the trees this season. I recently took my annual autumn trip with my husband and children. We travel through parts of Ohio to admire the fall foliage, the rows of orange pumpkins and speckled gourds, the teams of mystical horses, bushel baskets full of crisp, colorful apples and the many other delights this time of year brings. At one location, a woman was selling her wares from her country cottage. I had seen rows and rows of her handmade quilts and walked to them for a closer look. The geometric shapes fit perfectly together with bright fabrics. Each shape different, yet put together made a glorious fabric collage. “How did she do that?” I thought in impressed amazement. All the while, I understood she used a pattern to make such a lovely piece of art.
When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them a pattern to follow for a successful marriage. Genesis 2:18-24 reads, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” With God’s pattern, a lovely product is the end result. Likewise, when Noah built the ark, God have him a pattern (Genesis 6:13-22). Humans marvel at the monstrous size and intelligent science that kept the ark afloat so many years ago. Yet with God’s pattern, a lovely product was the end result. Solomon’s Temple was also built by using God’s pattern (1 Kings 6). The Queen of Sheba traveled a great distance and concluded, “The half has not been told” (1 Kings 10). With God’s pattern, a lovely product is the end result.
The beginning of the church in Acts 2 also came about by God giving His pattern. God’s directions are clear. The church is made up of people (Acts 14:27). Parents, teachers and preachers edify the church particularly through instruction and example; however, especially those who desire to be elders and qualify can work to strengthen the church and keep her in line with Scripture. We can read of this pattern in 1 Timothy 3. Let’s take a look. Through inspiration, Paul wrote that this individual must first desire this job (verse 1). We can all admit when doing a job that we don’t really want, it’s more of a challenge to do it right.
Then this pattern for success continues with the individual being blameless (verse 2). Vine’s Dictionary states the idea here is of one that cannot be charged with fault or wrong doing. We see he must be a husband (verse 2); we conclude, then, that he will be married when he is a bishop. He must not only be a husband, but he is the husband of one wife [not a polygamist] (verse 2).
Over the years, a number of congregations have left or are leaving this pattern with their excuses. Such excuses include: “Well, he’s such a good guy,” “He’s attended here since he was a little boy,” “All his family attend here and we don’t want to embarrass him,” “He is such a good business man,” “When his dad was living, he was a bishop, so let’s give his son a turn,” “We really don’t have that many men to choose from to be a bishop, so we will pick some that are close enough to God’s pattern in 1 Timothy 3” and “He went to college, so he will do a good job as bishop.” However, these are not in the pattern given to the church through inspiration of God!
When we leave the pattern that God gave, we are only inviting disaster through our door, and a very unlovely product will result. God made this list of qualifications easy to understand. Let’s not lose our common sense and make it confusing. The man is temperate, hospitable and able to teach. Does this man make sense and explain the Scriptures or does he ramble, sputter or speak but make no sense? We can’t skip over this qualification and remain true to God’s pattern. What if Noah would have skipped just one step and didn’t put pitch on the ark? What if Noah said, “Well, I can’t be expected to do all this list of things”?
The next qualification God inspired Paul to write is in verses 4-5: “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” There are a number of stages in a human life cycle. Each stage has specific characteristics for a human at that age. In talking about these stages, terms like infant, adolescent, adulthood and senior citizen are used to describe a person. It is not only during one of these stages that should be the focus as to whether a man is qualified to be a bishop. It’s all the years he has had children. When his children were young, was he actively training them in the favor and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4)? Erroneously, some brethren defend a man who may be an elder or may be under consideration to become an elder by stating, “Well, his children are unfaithful but they are grown now and living on their own.” It should be a huge warning sign, for instance, if all of his children left the faith. When a child is living under his or her parents’ roof, this is when the figurative training wheels are on. The parents still have one hand on the bike seat! It’s when the child goes on his or her own that the true test of parenthood can be seen and whether the bike the child is on balances or falls. When we ignore such directives that a man must be able to rule his own house well, we are inviting disaster through our door and a very unlovely product will result.
We cannot add to or take away from the Word of the Lord (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19). It is evidenced all through Scriptures that doing things God’s way is best (Psalm 37:34; Deuteronomy 8:6; 26:17; John 14:6). Let’s practice the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and follow His pattern to avoid disaster and standing in the way of God’s church being a lovely, functioning body of believers.
[Editor’s Note: Sister Julene Nulph is a preacher’s wife of many years, a conscientious Christian mother and a friend of my wife and me. While Christian women are not authorized to preach publicly in the worship assembly (1 Corinthians 14:34) or to teach the Gospel as the teacher to which men in a gathering such as a class must submit (1 Timothy 2:12), a Christian woman may teach even men without dominating them, such as in conversation or speaking up in a class where men if they are present are not required to submit to her (Acts 18:26). In addition, wise men and husbands consider what godly sisters think (Genesis 2:18; 31:14-16; Acts 16:15), and yet, man bears the responsibility for decisions made in the home (Genesis 3:11; 1 Corinthians 11:3) and in the church (Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17). Sister Nulph herein makes some observations and suggested applications from her perspective as a sister in Christ in a topical overview of some aspects of qualifications for elders. ~ Louis Rushmore]