Charles Spurgeon reflecting on 2 Timothy 4:13 (where Paul said to Timothy: “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments”):
We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them.
Even an apostle must read.
Some of our very brethren think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermon must be a very deplorable specimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot and talks any quantity of nonsense is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains—oh, that is the preacher!
How rebuked they are by the apostle!
He is inspired, and yet he wants books!
He has been preaching for at least thirty years, and yet he wants books!
He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!
He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet wants books!
He had been caught up into the Third Heaven and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books!
He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!
The apostle says to Timothy, and so he says to every preacher, “Give attendance to reading” (1 Tim. 4:13).
The man who never reads will never be read.
He who never quotes will never be quoted.
He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves that he has no brains of his own.
Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers and expositions of the Bible.
The Bible is full of explicit commands and implicit commendations to help the poor.
One thinks of the gleaning laws in Deuteronomy 25 or the command to “open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor” in Deuteronomy 15. We can read about Job’s heart for the needy and oppressed in Job 29 to 31 or of God’s special concern for the poor in Psalm 35 and Proverbs 14.
We also know Jesus was moved with compassion for the weak, the harassed, and the helpless (Matt. 9:35-36). We see in the early church that the needs of the poor and distressed was a constant priority (Acts 4:34-35; Acts 11:30; Gal. 2:10). And frequently we are command to love one another not only with words but in the concrete actions of generosity and material support (James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:16-18). Even the elders, who are to be devoted to the word of God and prayer, were told by Paul to help the weak (Acts 20:35).
Clearly, God cares about the poor and wants us to care about them too.
Maybe you’re thinking: “Okay, I’m a Christian. I know God cares about the poor. I know I should care about the poor too. I do care about the poor. So what is my responsibility to help them?”
HOW SHOULD WE HELP THE POOR?
The question is deceptively complex. It’s very easy (and altogether biblical) for folks to insist that Christians ought to “be concerned about the needy” or “do something about the poor.” That’s powerfully true, but it doesn’t say nearly enough. In an age when easy travel and ubiquitous WiFi can connect us to billions of needs around the planet, how do we determine whom to care for and when to do something?
If Christians have an obligation to help the poor (and we do), does that mean we are obligated to help everyone everywhere in the same way in any circumstance of need? How should we think about our responsibility to help the poor?
I believe two critical principles can help us answer that question.
Principle 1: We are most responsible to help those closest to us.
In general, we ought to think of our sphere of responsibility as having expanding concentric circles. In the middle, with the closest circle, is our family. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). This means that if you have the ability to help your (not lazy) children and don’t, you are a pagan. If you have the necessary resources and yet you neglect your aging, helpless parents, you have turned from Christ.
In the next circle we have members of our church community. The principle is really the same: just as we have an obligation to provide for our natural family, so we ought to provide for our spiritual family. The New Testament frequently enjoins us—by example and by explicit command and warning—to care for the needs of the Christians in our local churches (Acts 2:45; 4:32-37; 6:1-6; James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:16-17). If there is a Christian in your church who is materially devastated by calamity or infirmity and we who have resources in abundance do nothing to help, we prove that we do not truly have the love of Christ or know Christ himself.
Next we have members of our Christian family whose needs are more distant. We still have an obligation to care for our brothers and sisters, but the Bible speaks less forcefully the farther away the needs become. So in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 Paul clearly wants the Christians in Achaia to generously support the Christians in Macedonia, but he is stops short of laying down a command (8:8) or exacting a contribution from them (9:5).
In the outer circle we have the needs of non-Christians in the world. The church should still be ready to do good to all people, but this support is less obligatory than what we owe to Christians and is framed by “opportunity” rather than requirement (Gal. 6:10).
One other category should be mentioned. Sometimes we come across needs that are so obvious, so immediate, and we are in such a unique position to help, that it would be wrong to ignore them, whether the person is a family member, a church member, or a complete stranger. Regardless of prior affiliation or acquaintance the “closeness” of the need is too close to ignore. This seems to be the point of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). If we see a child drowning in the pool, we should dive in. If a woman is being beaten up, we should intervene. If a minivan has collapsed on a barren stretch of highway, we should stop and lend a hand. The concentric circles are helpful as a general guideline for care, but they should not be used to justify the lack of care when someone needs our assistance right here and right now.
Principle 2: We are most responsible to help those least able to help themselves.
Here again we can think of expanding concentric circles of responsibility. The progression with this principle is a little different because if we go out far enough in these circles we are actually commanded not to help. So the logic needs to be tweaked, but the basic imagery is still useful.
At the center, we have those people whose situation is most desperate because their options are most limited. In the Bible this prototypically meant “orphans and widows” (James 1:27). But the principle applies to any person or persons who will crash unless we provide a safety net. Caring for believers in prison was another classic example in the ancient world (Heb. 10:34).
Outside of this inner circle, we find those who are less desperate but still depend on others for their well-being. In the New Testament this meant being generous with hospitality, especially to travelling evangelists who relied on the kindness of their brothers and sisters for their mission (Matt. 10:40-42; 25:31-46).
Next, we have those Christians with long term needs. The striking thing about almost all of the “poor” passages in Scripture is that they envision immediate, short-term acts of charity. There is nothing about community development (which doesn’t make it unbiblical) and only a little about addressing situations of ongoing need. By putting these situations in this circle I don’t mean to imply that we ought only to care about quick fixes. The point, rather, is that we must think more critically before committing to long-term assistance. In both Acts 6 and 1 Timothy 5 we see church leaders working hard to develop a fair and sustainable process for the regular distribution of resources to the poor. In particular, we see in 1 Timothy 5 that the widows who went on the official rolls had to meet certain requirements. The women had to be godly, older Christians in order to receive the church’s care (1 Tim. 5:9-16). No doubt, the church sympathized with almost all widows, but they had to be wise with their resources. They did not want to support young women who could get married or fall into idle sinfulness. And as for the other requirements, I imagine the church knew it had to draw the line somewhere and requiring “a reputation of good works” ensured that the widows on the rolls were genuine, faithful, known Christians and not just busybodies looking for a handout.
In the farthest circle out we have people that must positively not be helped by the church. First, Christians should not provide hospitality for false teachers or do anything that would aid and abet their wicked works (2 John 10-11). Second, Christians should not support able-bodied persons who could provide for themselves, but prefer laziness instead (1 Thess. 4:11-12; 5:14; Prov. 24:30-34). The apostolic principle is clear: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). In fact, Paul insists that church discipline be exercised on those who persist in idleness (2 Thess. 3:14). The Christian responsibility to charity does not extend to those who expect others to do for them what they could do for themselves. Helping the poor in these circumstances is no help at all.
Sorry this has been a long time coming because of our missions trip, but for any of you who need a reminder about where we are in Judges…
Verses 1-6, Most people believe these last 5 chapters of Judges actually took place before chapter 3 and the arrival of the judges. If so, it would make this account the first official instance of idol worship and the subversion of the first tribe of Israel–Dan.
–Notice the wickedness of the mother, son, and grandchildren. There is a total lack of godly authority and government authority as repeated in 17:6; 18:1; 19:1.
–The “worship” being perpetrated here is still under the same of Jehovah just as in Aaron and the golden calf. See Ex. 20:1-4 and 32:1-8.
Verses 7-13, Here we see forms and rituals without meaning. Men who care nothing about God or knowing God still want their forms. It is easy to deceive oneself by partial reformation. Just because in one particular instance they are no longer as bad as they have been–now they are as good as they should be!
Verses 1-13, Just because things “fall into place” does not mean that God is pleased or involved. Think: mother’s blessing, Levite arriving, 5 men of Dan, truth of prophesy, etc… Clear direction comes to us through God’s Word.
Verses 14-20, How crazy this would be to any Jew who knew what the Levites were supposed to be! We should not allow ambition or money to affect our service to the Lord.
Verses 21-24, How ridiculous would 24 have sounded! It is a sad day when our gods can be taken away from us.
Verses 25-31, Notice the contrast of verse 31. False worship while the True God had His living presence and glory not far away in the tabernacle. See Deut. 27:15.
–Read Isaiah 44:13-22 for a good summary of this problem.
The Herodian version of the model shows visitors how excavators believe the Temple Mount site appeared prior to its destruction by Roman troops in the year 70 CE. The focus is on the southern portion of the enclosure, and includes reconstructions of Robinson’s Arch (an early overpass linking the top of the platform with the major city street below), the Hulda Street gates and passages onto the platform, the Royal Stoa, and the Second Temple. The reconstruction is based on the excavations at the Temple Mount.
Dealing with sin is always hard, whether its owning up to our sin or confronting someone else’s. I know it is possible for Christians to be giddy in pointing out the sins of others. We all run the risk of getting pride and vindictiveness wrapped around the axle of truth.
But I also know the struggle a good many Christians have in calling sin “sin.” They feel terrible because someone’s feelings might get hurt. They hang their heads low to know that sincere people disagree with them. They get wobbly in knees at the thought of offending the culture, their family, or their friends. Very few of us enjoy confrontation, especially with those who also call upon the name of Christ. We dislike the whole business of discipline, rebuke, and drawing boundaries. We hate to see the tears of those who believe with all their might that a certain doctrine, practice, or sexual behavior is commended by Scripture when we know that Scripture does not.
And yet, something should eat us up inside even more. Something should disturb us more than the feelings of those with whom we disagree. Something should move us to tears more than the tears of those who feel pained by our convictions and correction.
Psalm 119:53 Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law.
Psalm 119:136 My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.
Psalm 119:139 My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words.
Psalm 119:158 I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.
With all the sensitive emotions and wounded spirits in the church today, who will weep for the forsaking of God’s law? With all the attention given to the feelings of others, even those who disobey the word of God, who will consider how God feels about our actions? Is it not worse to grieve the Holy Spirit than to grieve those who call sin “holy”?
The language of the Psalmist may sound harsh to us, but that’s a testimony to how much little we treasure the commands of God. If we truly want our hearts to break for things that break the heart of God, we will weep to see the word so badly handled and so boldly broken in our day. God have mercy on us all.
Okay, there has been a bit of a blogging drought due to the Zambia trip but we are back! I should have some pictures up on the website within a week or so. Thank you to all those who prayed for us. God was faithful to keep us physically, meet us personally, use us publicly, and bear fruit eternally. For all those that stayed back with “the stuff” but were with us in Spirit–that fruit is to your account as well.
The Psalmist believed God’s word was true (Psalm 119: 42, 89, 96, 142, 160). He knew the Scriptures demanded what was right (Psalm 119:75, 86, 128, 137) and provided what was good (Psalm 119:1, 2, 6, 9, 24, 98-100, 105, 130). He delighted in God’s word (Psalm 119: 14, 24, 47, 70, 77, 103, 111, 129, 143, 174). He desired God’s word (Psalm 119:5, 10, 17, 20, 27, 29, 33-35, 40, 131, 135, 169). He depended on God’s word (Psalm 119:31, 50, 52). In other words, the Psalmist believed what we should believe about the word and felt what we should feel about the word.
And notice what happened as a result. When all this underground pressure of believing and feeling explode on to the surface it makes a splash. Our thoughts and our affections concerning the word of God can’t help but burst forth as a geyser of Spirit-led activity.
So what do Christians do when they believe and feel about the word of God rightly?
1. They sing (Psalm 119:172).
2. They speak (Psalm 119:13, 46, 79).
3. They study (Psalm 119:15, 48, 97, 148).
4. They store up (Psalm 119:11, 16, 83, 93, 148).
5. They obey the word (Psalm 119: 8, 44, 57, 129, 145, 146, 167, 168).
6. They praise God (Psalm 119:7, 62, 164, 171).
7. They pray for help (Psalm 119: 36, 58, 121-23, 147, 149-52, 153-60, 175-76).
These seven actions are the best indicator of what you and really believe and feel about God’s word. If you do these things, you probably believe what is right even if you can’t quite explain it; you probably have your affections in order even if they don’t always feel like much. And on the other hand, if there is no geyser bursting forth into these kinds of activities, you probably don’t feel what you should or really believe all that is true.
Sing, speak, study, store up, obey, praise, pray. That’s what Christians do with the word of God.
For all of you who are unable to come along with the team this year, please be part of what the Lord is doing in Zambia by praying. Remember to be praying for both our hearts, the hearts of the saints at Calvary Chapel Ndola and the hearts of all those we will be ministering to. Here is a basic outline of what we will be doing.
June 14th–Leaving from Calvary and flying out of JFK
June 15th–Arriving in Lusaka (capital of Zambia) around 3pm and after making a few preparations taking a five hour bus ride to Ndola.
June 16th–Prep for the week, gather with the church and teach through Daniel 1-3 (they want us to teach the whole book while we are there).
June 17th–Sunday services Dan. 4-5. Prayer meeting with the church at night for the ministry of the week ahead. Dan. 6
June 18th–Chichetekelo Hospice outreach and Daniel 7
June 19th–Ndola Central Hospital; Arthur Davidson’s Childrens Hospital, and a mother’s shelter. Dan. 8
June 20th–Two different prisons. Dan. 9
June 21st–Sports day with the church, Mitanda home for the aged. Dan. 10
June 22nd–Evangelism in the marketplace and Dan. 11
June 23rd–Evangelism in the marketplace and Dan. 12
June 24th–Sunday services and dinner + prayer with the church
June 25th-26th–Mukambi Safari Lodge
June 27-28–Drive back to Lusaka and team up with orphanage ministry.
June 29–Pick up some souvenirs and fly out!
June 30th–Arrive home and tell you all stories of the good things God has done.
Of course this is all subject to change if God would have it. Please remember us!
When we say the times are worldly, we mean that people are always thinking of and loving things they see—things seen, things temporal, things that profit them here and are not much set by in heaven. These are times when people think of riches, honor, power, happiness, and mirth; of life and health and good spirits; of elegance and comfort; of beauty, love and prosperity; of eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. There are times when people do not think of death, of judgment, of baptism, of Bibles, of churches, of communion, of constant prayer, of fasting and watching, of self-denial and hard penance.
Worldly times are times when all the world, but a few, seem to have agreed with each other to forget all these things, and to say nothing about them—not to take the trouble to deny them, but simply to forget them. This is worldliness.
Verses 1-3, The first inklings of the end of Samson’s twenty year run as judge of Israel are brought to our attention in these verses. Here we see Samson’s weakness–women–once again rearing its ugly head.
–Gaza was the main Philistine city and once it was discovered that Samson was in the city precincts they decide to lock the gates at night and wait until he emerges in the morning and then capture him.
–Either hearing about the plot or warned of the Lord, Samson emerges in the night and takes the small doors within the main gate and carries them some twenty miles away–mocking their plot to imprison him.
Verses 4-5, Here Samson’s eyes once again lead him astray and this time his heart is quick to follow.
–Delilah is not explicitly noted as a prostitute or Philistine; though it is likely that she was both.
–Knowing the source of Samson’s weakness, but not the source of his strength, the five Philistine lords entice Delilah to discover that source with 5500 pieces of silver.
Verses 6-17, Here we are confronted with Delilah’s nefarious persistence and Samson’s horrible weakness.
–The Philistines are laying in wait in an inner chamber, but each time they refrain from attacking Samson because he breaks all the cords, ropes, etc… All the while Delilah is acting as if she is only tying him up to test his honesty and see if he really loves her.
–It may still seem utterly foolish for Samson not to break away from this enchantress and a place of proven weakness…Yet what about us? Our sinful pleasures remain cherished in our hearts yet we know that they aim at nothing less than the death of our souls! We are under the same pull and slavery and deception as Samson in his sin. See Ecc. 8:11 and John 8:34
Verses 18-19, Revealing her wicked cruelty, Delilah is the first to inflict wounds and harm upon Samson. Adam the perfect man; Samson the strongest man; David the bravest man; and Solomon the wisest man were all taken down by women. Beware! Proverbs 7
Verse 20, Here we find one of the saddest and most tragic statements in Scripture. When God as departed from us we cannot do as we once did at other times.
–We ought always to pray, Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me! Rather that anything else be taken: friends, health, our very lives!
–Samson’s hair was the last symbol of his vow to the Lord, and surrendering that vow he has surrendered the source of his strength.
Verse 21, Sin blinds, binds, and grinds. Blinds us to God’s presence. Binds us to itself. Grinds us down to ruin, destruction, and death.
Verse 22, Hope! Samson had given up on God, but God had not given up on Samson. There may be an inference here that Samson has renewed his vow to God.
Verses 23-25, Dagon was a half-man, half-fish god. The Philistines use Samson as an occasion to give glory to their false deity.
–Let us never envy the mirth of the wicked. It is short lived!
Verses 26-28, This prayer was revealed to the inspired writer by God! That means that God wants us to hear a man pray–Look at me one more time as if I had never sinned–and know that it is a prayer He wants to answer.
–Is this why Samson is mentioned in Hebrews 11?
–There may yet be the heart of a strong man hidden and masked beneath weakness and sin. God wants that person to know that He heard and answered Samson’s prayer.
Verses 29-30, Samson is not seeking death, but saying that he is willing to die if God would have it be so. If God were able to win greater battles by your death than by your life would you be willing to give it?
–Say and think what we might about Samson, this was a powerful act of faith and surrender. Samson was a fighter, and always fought the enemies of God, and never feared man. For the course of a life, those are some very admirable traits.
Verse 31, Again we are told of Samson’s twenty years of judging Israel.
–God judges a life, not mere weeks or days. What is the tone, purpose, and goal of yours?