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Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Great Promise For Deacons!

637 - Today's Prime Time Devo comes from 1Ti 3:12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. ( 1 Ti 3:12,13) Wrapping up this little mini-series on the qualifications of spiritual leaders in local congregations today. I hope it has been helpful. Today we see that the same qualifications of monogamy and well ruled households that were applied to bishops or pastors also applies to those who would serve as deacons. We have already heard that those who are called to serve as bishops or pastors of local congregations “desire a good work.” (1 Tim 3:1) Now we read of a special promise for those who serve well as deacons or deaconesses. To serve well is to serve honestly and one can see how important that would be in the matter of the distribution of church funds. But let's really pay attention to God's promise to those who serve as deacons in this manner. He says deacons obtain (the word means purchase) and to purchase something is to own it. What do they purchase? Two things. First, a good standing, (that is a good grip or solid footing) If you've ever done any rock climbing, you know how important sure footing is. It gives you the confidence you need to proceed. Secondly, the deacon who serves well gains boldness, which is closely related to solid footing. Solid footing quite naturally brings forth boldness. Lest you think God is blowing smoke in this awesome promise I suggest you read the stories of Phillip and Stephen in the Book of Acts. They were two of the original deacons chosen by the church. Their lives went on to smack of spiritual boldness! Phillip was instrumental in bringing the Gospel to Samaria and it was he who led the Ethiopian eunich to faith. And who can forget the martyrdom of Stephen as he boldly proclaimed the gospel! Maybe, just maybe, the church needs to revisit the office of deacons and deaconesses. It certainly couldn't hurt to have a few more people emboldened and on fire for the Lord, and this is the promise for those who serve well as deacons!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Look For the Good Not the Bad

636 - Today's Prime Time Devo comes from 1Ti 3:11 Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. It gets a little tricky here and there is dispute among biblical commentators about the word “wives.” Some take it to be the literal wife of a deacon, and others take it to be women in general and in context of the passage the specific office of deaconess. The Revised Standard version of the Bible states this passage as follows: “The women likewise must be serious, no slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things.” In other words the women who “likewise” hold this office must meet the same qualifications listed in verses 8 thru 10. It would seem strange to have deaconesses mentioned in Scripture and no qualifications listed for them to hold the office. You can be sure that the Phoebe spoken of in Romans 16:1 met these qualifications! Ro 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, Some of these qualifications are the same as for the deacons, but are repeated here for emphasis. Others are a little bit different and worth noting especially the one regarding slander. Slander is any kind of talk that can divide or separate. This is the heart of gossip and why it is so wrong. As deacons and deaconesses one becomes privy to information that others in the congregation don't need to know, and it is imperative that these details not be passed around to others, lest tongues begin to wag and a separation occur between brothers and sisters. Love of others is always diminished in the presence of slander (gossip) and this should not be so. Why are women singled out here and warned against gossip, whereas the men aren't? I mean isn't that a little bit of stereotyping? To be sure, men and women are both capable of gossiping, but if you listen carefully within their respective circles, there is a subtle difference in the way things are talked about. It's just the way we are wired. Deal with it, and the best way for men and women to deal with it, is to put a sock in it. Look for the good, not the bad in others and seek to bring that up in all conversations around the water cooler. Because the good unites in the love of Christ, and the bad tends to separate to the glee of the devil.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Trail of Evidence

635 - Today's Prime Time Devo comes from 1Ti 3:10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. The next qualification for the person serving as deacon is they must be tested and found blameless. The idea of testing here is taking something to the assayers office to determine if it is the real deal. You wouldn't want to lay claim to a mine that had nothing but “fools gold,” and you certainly don't want a fool (a hypocrite) serving in the office of deacon. There is no testing procedure listed here for the deacon, only that he be blameless. In other words his life is such that no one could charge him with not being a follower of Christ. The deacon then is one who believes and is baptized and leaves a trail of evidence that his faith is genuine. Given the responsibilities of the office of deacon, (ministering to the needy) one can see where this evidence is vital. How did the Holy Spirit put it speaking in the Book of James? Jas 2:14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Obviously this passage is meant for all Christians, but it is especially relevant as a test for those who would serve as deacons in the Body of Christ. Father help us all to pass the true test of faith. Let us leave a trail of evidence of love and service to others in the name of Jesus, who lives and breathes in us by Thy Holy Spirit.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Deacon Must Believe and Be baptized

634 - Today's Prime Time Devo comes from 1Ti 3:8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. The next qualification for the person serving as deacon is they are not to be given to much wine. It's interesting to note that the qualification for a bishop says “not given to wine,” and for the deacon, it is “not given to MUCH wine.” Let's not read too much into this difference except to say a deacon must handle alcohol responsibly and a pastor even more responsibly. AND all followers of Christ must beware of the sin of drunkenness. The deacon is also not”greedy for money.” We have already covered that trait as we looked at the qualifications for the pastor. I might add that since the deacon is often in charge of the distribution of alms (the offering) this trait is a no-brainer. But what about this next qualification? A deacon is to be someone who holds the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. Simply put this person must believe and be baptized. It is the same qualification that was put on the original deacons, only worded a little differently. The original deacons were to be men “full of the Holy Spirit,” ( Ac 6:3) This filling being accomplished through baptism as we read in Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The link between a pure conscience and baptism is found in 1Pe 3:2, “ There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,,” The only thing that can produce a pure or guiltless conscience is the removal of sins, and this is still another benefit of baptism as we read in Ac 22:16 'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.' So you see this qualification for deacons is just another way of saying they must believe (hold the mystery of the faith, that is, have a firm grip on basic Christian doctrine) and be baptized (have a pure conscience). To be sure, it's a minimal requirement for all Christians, but no one is to serve as a deacon unless they have this business taken care of first.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Be True To Your Word

632 - Today's Prime Time Devo comes from 1Ti 3:8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, Next on the list for the servants of the church is to not be “double-tongued.” Of course this is true for all followers of Jesus, but it is especially important for those who would hold the office of deacon. Deacons are constantly interacting with other members of the congregation and by the very nature of their responsibilities to minister to the needy they will find themselves necessarily involved in conversation with others. This conversation is to be earmarked by consistency. You can't be saying one thing or promising something and then reneging on your promise or saying something else. Perhaps the best-illustration of this is found in our nation's treatment of the American Indian. In the old stereotypical western movies that many of us watched as we were growing up, we often heard the term, “white-man speak with forked tongue.” Well that pretty much sums it up. How many broken promises were given to the Indian people? Jesus said, “Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay.” Broken promises have no place in the Body of Christ, especially when ministering to the needy! With the advent of the welfare state and Social Security, the government has become the chief deacon (agent of ministering to the needs of the poor) in the nation, and sadly in the church, and let's face it, they are not beholding to the same standards that we find in the Bible, and quite frankly they have created one giant impersonal boondoggle. So, what is the church to do for the needy in our midst? Just tell them, “You have the government use them!” Or should we find ways to help them following biblical guidelines? The Bible has some important things to say about caring for the poor. Things like 1 Tim 5:8, “ But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” and, 2Th 3:10b, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” I pray all churches would take it upon themselves to once again embrace this responsibility through the work of the diaconate, and if we do, let's remember this important quality of being consistent with our word and deeds.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Be Tender Toward the Needy

632 - Today's Prime Time Devo comes from 1Ti 3:8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, The first qualification to serve as a deacon (church helper) is reverence. The word stresses a tenderness of feeling. Given the original work of deacons mentioned in Acts 6, one can see why this quality is first on the list! Ac 6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 "Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; This duty of distributing the offering would require a tenderness to all in true need. This tenderness would also come into play in the caring of the sick and in-firmed! In the church of today, these kind of deacons are still needed. In many cases churches have become big businesses with multi-million dollar budgets, and huge building programs that often require taking on huge amounts of debt. The cost of operating a church today can come at the expense of helping the poor, and can even curtail the sending out of missionaries. Now I want to be careful here. I do not wish to speak evil of the so-called mega churches. No church is evil that stands on and preaches the Word of God! But I do want to say that in the midst of all these high cost operations, room must still be made for helping the poor and sending out evangelists! And that's where the deacons with the tender hearts come in. They serve on church boards and financial commissions in the congregation, maintaining that tender heart toward the poor and the unreached and see to it that these kind of expenses are not overlooked in the church! They see to, just like the very first deacons, that the widows were not “neglected in the daily distribution.”

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Gift To the Church and the World

629 - Today's Prime Time Devo comes from 1Ti 3:8 Likewise deacons, Some of the qualifications for deacons will be the same as those for bishops or pastors, but before we look at these qualifications, just a little bit more about deacons. First of all, one of the qualifications that is missing for the deacon is the ability to teach. It is not necessary to be able to pontificate on the treasures of the Word of God, rather, the deacon must be willing to roll up their shirtsleeves and help wherever that help is needed. 1Co 12:28 mentions this gift of “helps” along with others as gifts given to the church by our Lord Himself! “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Deacons are given to the church to free up the pastor for his duties of praying and ministering the Word to the flock. They also minister to the sick, take care of the physical plant, and in general serve by watching over the day to day operations of the church. This office is given special mention by Paul in his letter to the Phillipians: Php 1:1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:” This tells us that the appointment of deacons was a regular procedure in the planting of churches. And in Ro 16:1, we read of a woman named Phoebe who served in this capacity. “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, Healthy congregations need deacons, (servants) of this sort, or their pastors will either burn out or pay too much attention to things other than the Word of God! No wonder the early church in Acts 6, set the tone for the church forevermore in the appointing of deacons. This office has not only been invaluable to the church through the years, but to the world as well. Just think about it. How many hospitals carry the name of “deaconess.” and how many orphanages have been established through the church and people who serve in this capacity! Thank You Jesus for the gift of deacons and deaconesses to Your church!