Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hebrews 2

Hebrews 2:1 (ESV)

 [2:1] Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

Hebrews 2 begins with a conclusion in the form of a warning based on chapter 1. Jesus, the Son and Heir who sits at the right hand of the Father, is superior to the prophets and the angels (messengers). Therefore, pay attention to his message. Chapter 2 will then go on to further support this conclusion. The language of the first four verses of Hebrews 2 is very unique. At least two words used are found only here in the Bible. One word appears to have been coined by the author. The language is both unique and picturesque for the purpose of getting people's attention.

 

The single Greek word the ESV translates "pay much closer attention" is a boating term. It is used in classical Greek to refer to bringing a ship to land and tying it up. It is appropriate then that the warning in verse 4 is a warning about drifting. We have all seen someone bring a boat up to a dock, jump out and watch the boat drift away before it gets tied up. That is the idea here. Bring the boat to land and tie it up securely so that it doesn't drift. In this case the boat is the truth of the message we heard in Christ. How easy it is to bring our boats to the gospel shore only to drift back to the sea of law and tradition. We need to tie up securely in the cove of the gospel and stay there. Even as the storms of life blow it is the gospel that keeps us secure.

 

Father, thank you for the gift of your Son. May I never drift away from him.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hebrews 1

What we believe matters at least as much as that we believe. It is one thing to be a person of faith. It is another thing entirely to be a person of right faith. It is not faith that saves us, but Christ. Faith appropriates the work of Christ to our lives, but it is Christ, not faith that saves. Faith in the wrong thing results in loss. "You gotta believe" and "you gotta have faith" are common phrases heard in the world when things get tough, but what good is having misdirected faith? If I am shipwrecked in an isolated part of the ocean generic faith might keep me alive longer, but it won't change saltwater into fresh water. It won't bring the Coastguard. It won't bring a cruise ship to my rescue. At that point faith is only wishful thinking. The object of our faith is as important as the fact that we have faith. That is exactly what Hebrews is addressing. Right belief is essential.

 

 

Who is Jesus? How is he different from what came before him? Why is that important? These questions frame the sermon we call Hebrews. Thus Hebrews begins with this affirmation:

 

[1] Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, [2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. [3] He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, [4] having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. [Hebrews 1:1-4]

 

Jesus is the new revelation from God which supersedes previous revelation. Jesus is superior to the angels and the prophets. He is the Son of God, heir of all things, creator of all that exists, the glory and image of God who holds all things together by his own power. He is the one who made provision for our sins and sits at the authoritative right hand of the Father. Faith is good, but what we believe about Jesus is absolutely essential.

 

Father, as we work our way through Hebrews grow us deep in our faith and in our understanding.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Exodus 32 - Prayer

Exodus 32:10-11 (ESV)

Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you." But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, "O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

 

While Moses was with God on Mt. Sinai Israel convinced Aaron to make them a Golden Calf to worship. God's response was to say, "I (will) consume them (and) make a great nation of you (Moses)." The next two words are significant, "But Moses…" "Moses implored the LORD." The word "implored" (ESV) is translated "entreated" in the NASB, "besought" in the KJV, "pleaded" in the NKJV, and "sought the favor of" in the NIV and NET. Clearly it is a word that is not easily translated. It is related to a word that means sick or weak, and means to mollify (soothe or appease), entreat, or seek the favor of someone. From a human perspective God was angry, but Moses calmed him down and mediated another course of action.

 

We can debate what it means that, "the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people. (Ex 32:14)" I will try to address that in a later post. The bigger question for today is: What did Moses say? How did he pray? To what did he appeal that had such an apparent impact on God? Moses prayer addressed two significant motivations for God to "change" his course of action. First, Moses appealed to God's reputation or glory. Verse 12 begins, "Why should the Egyptians say…" All of creation was designed to express the glory of God (Ps 19). People were created in the image of God, reflecting his glory (Gen 1:27; 2Cor 4.4). Christians are instructed to "do all to the glory of God. (1Cor 10:23, 31)" All that God does demonstrates his glory. Moses, then, appeals to God in light of his glory. He essentially says, "God, if you destroy your people and start over with me it will smear your reputation in the eyes of the Egyptians." God had displayed his glory through the plagues, the exodus, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the destruction of Pharaoh's army. To now destroy his people in the wilderness would tarnish that reputation of a great and all powerful God who is God of gods and Lord of lords. Moses appeals to the LORD on the basis of that which will bring glory to God.

 

Secondly, Moses appeals to the LORD on the basis of his own word. He says, "Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.' (Ex 32:13)" The Scripture says that God cannot lie, (Titus 1:2) and so Moses appeals on the basis of God's own word.

 

I think that too often our prayers tend to be, "God, it is terrible that this person should have to go through this, please give them relief. We really like them and we don't want to see them suffer." Yet Jesus, the one person who actually deserved something from God, never said "Take this cup from me because I'm a good person." Rather he said, "Take this cup from me, nevertheless not my will by yours." Jesus understood that what was about to happen was for the glory of God and according to the word of God. It wasn't about his personal comfort. Our prayers tend to be man-centered. "God, we don't want to see this person suffer." "Lord, they are a faithful servant of yours…" "Father, help us! We're don't know how much longer we can hold out." We've all prayed these prayers, but they are all man-centered, not God-centered. Moses didn't pray, "LORD, don't destroy them. They are my friends and family." He prayed on the basis of the glory of God and the word of God.

 

Father, I confess that too often my prayers have been more about me and my friends than about you, your glory and your word. Forgive me. Today, begin to teach me what it means to pray for your glory and on the basis of your word.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ecclesiastes 1-2

A young man in Ukraine said to me, "I worry about not having purpose in life." Every person struggles to make sense of life in a broken world. That is exactly what the author of Ecclesiastes is trying to do, make sense of life in a broken world. In Ecclesiastes 1-2 life is put to the test. These chapters begin with a summary statement in 1:1-2, "all is vanity." 1:3-11 follow with a premise which will be tested throughout the rest of these first two chapters. The premise proposed is that life is an endless circle without meaning. In the following verses wisdom, and the pursuit of pleasure are both tested and found to lack the ability to bring meaning to life. Why? Ecclesiastes 2:12-17 tell us that the wise and the fool both face the same end, therefore life is meaningless. If pursuing pleasure and living wisely both end at the grave then what is the point? The first two chapters of this book then conclude that life is hard and we cannot control the future, therefore all is meaningless. If that is where the story ended we would be left with no hope and no joy. Thankfully that is the beginning of the story, not the end. Chapters 1-2 test life by experience. Chapter 3 will test life against theology. In chapters 1-2 life, as it is viewed under the sun apart from God, has no meaning or purpose. Chapter 3 reminds us that contentment is found in understanding that even in a fallen, broken world God never stops being God. Contentment is found in understanding God's sovereign control over all things. He can be trusted.

 

Father, it is really easy to see the meaningless side of life if we look closely. Would you remind us often of your goodness, your power and your sovereignty when we are struggling to make sense of life?

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (ESV)

[13] The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. [14] For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

 

Ecclesiastes is poetry. Poetry is not to be read in the same way as history, law or teaching passages. Like a good story poetry needs to be read all the way through to get the point. One of the errors commonly made with Ecclesiastes is that we read it and try to study and understand it verse by verse. Ecclesiastes is poetry reflecting on the meaning of life from an earthly perspective. As such, every part of the book must be read and understood in light of the conclusion. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, as quoted above, is the conclusion. Fear God and obey him because one day he will judge us. There will be nothing hidden from him on that day.

 

Ecclesiastes teaches that because there is sin in the world life looks empty and meaningless from our perspective. We live. We experience both joy and pain. We die and are forgotten. From "under the sun" life is pretty pointless. But Ecclesiastes is not a book of dark hopelessness. It is a book of perspective. From "under the sun" life appears pointless, but there is life beyond this life. We will one day stand before God and answer to him for what we have done with this life. If this is all there is then life has no point, but this is not all there is. That is the point of Ecclesiastes. So, if there is life beyond this life then how should we live in this life? Ecclesiastes is a call to a life of balance and faith. Work hard but learn to find joy in what you have. Fear God and obey him knowing that one day you will answer to him for what you have done in this life. Don't live for today, but enjoy today while you are able. Or to say it the way the Apostle Paul said it, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6)

 

I plan to spend the next several weeks in Ecclesiastes on Sunday mornings. Let me challenge you to read through the entire book of Ecclesiastes several times this week if possible. I would also suggest that Ecclesiastes is written in the context of the first three chapters of Genesis so I recommend going back to refresh your memory as to the content of those chapters. May God use this book powerfully in our lives to his glory.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Colossians 4:12

Colossians 4:12 (ESV)
[12] Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

Yesterday I wrote that the Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. We need other believers. Reading through the last twelve verses of Colossians we discover at least four benefits... of having other believers in our life.

1. Paul calls Tychicus a "fellow servant." There is always more ministry to do than one person is capable of doing. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 talks about the value of having a companion:

[9] Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. [10] For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

2. Paul challenges the Colossians to help Mark if he comes to visit them, and talks about the encouragement his companions have been to him. It is easy to get discouraged when you are all alone. It is difficult to ask for help when you do not have close friends. The value of a close connection with others believers is that we have a source of encouragement when we are down and a source of help in need.

3. Prayer is an important part of the Christian life, but we all need to know that we are not alone even in our prayers. Jesus, the night he was betrayed and arrested, asked his disciples to keep watch with him in prayer but they fell asleep. There is value in knowing that when we do not know how to pray the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (see Romans 8), but there is also value in knowing that other brothers and sisters in Christ are struggling on our behalf in prayer (Col 4:12).

4. When we are in close fellowship with other believers we have someone in our life who can challenge us, instruct us and hold us accountable. Paul wraps up his letter to the Colossians by challenging them not only to pay attention to this letter, but to read the letter he sent to the Laodiceans as well. He then challenges them to encourage Archippus to "fulfill the ministry" to which he had been called. Too often when believers begin to make poor choices in their lives they also begin to withdraw from those who care most. That is sad because the truth is that those are the times when we most need someone to be speaking into our lives. Withdrawing often leads to destructive behavior.

These are four benefits to have close fellowship and friendship within the church. Unfortunately our church services are not usually designed to provide this kind of closeness. We need to be very intentional about seeking out and pursuing godly friendships.

Father, I acknowledge that when I am struggling my first inclination is to withdraw. By your grace may I seek out those friendships I need in my life and may I never withdraw from a brother in need.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Colossians 4:7

Colossians 4:7 (ESV)
 [7] Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.

The last 12 verses or Colossians are filled with names of Paul's friends and associates. Our American independence lends itself to understanding the Christian faith as primarily about God and me. It is personal and private. The old song with the line "you and me against the world" becomes "God and me against the world" in our evangelical minds. Our greatest biblical heroes are those that apparently stood all alone in their faith: Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Samson, David. But Elijah had a widow's help and later the companionship of Elisha. Jeremiah had friends who pulled him out of the well. Daniel had his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Samson needed some friends to hold him accountable and challenge him. His problems were largely because he was a loner who insisted on doing things his way. Samson is no great model of faith nor faithfulness. David had his inner circle of friends beginning with Jonathan and ending with his long list of mighty men. The truth is that we were never intended to go it alone.

Faith was never intended to be a solitary and private thing. We need each other. We need the fellowship and friendship of others who share our faith and who are willing to walk through life with us when it gets hard. We need friends who will care about us enough to challenge us when we are headed down the wrong path and encourage us when things get rough. The apostle Paul did not live out his life and mission alone. Neither should we.

Father, forgive me for the times that I isolate myself from people. Forgive me for the arrogance that causes me to think that I don't need others. Thank you for those friends that you have placed in my life. May I grow to increasingly understand and value my brothers and sisters in Christ.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Leadership 2

Philemon 15 (ESV)

[15] For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, [16] no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

 

Onesimus was a runaway slave. Philemon was his master, but also a personal friend of the Apostle Paul. Possibly Paul had led him to faith in Christ. We know that he was indebted to Paul in some way. Onesimus, having run away from Philemon, evidently connected with Paul somehow in Rome where Paul was under house arrest. Under Paul's influence Onesimus came to faith in Christ. Now comes the difficult issue of sending a runaway home to his master. What should Paul say? Should Onesimus be punished? How should he be treated by his master? These are the questions Paul addresses in this short letter to Philemon, but they are not the questions on my mind as I write this. I am fascinated by the related question of leadership.

 

What does a Christian leader look like? As Paul addresses this church, community and family leader, Philemon, what can we learn about biblical leadership? One of the key truths that undergird the answers to all these questions is the statement in Philemon 16 that Philemon is no longer to consider Onesimus a slave, but a beloved brother. Biblical leadership does not lord it over those under their authority.

 

Peter, in 1 Peter 5:3, instructs elders that as they shepherd the flock they are not to be domineering, but to lead by example. It is much easier to demand and command than to lead by example. In a Dilbert cartoon an employee complains about being forced to do something against their will. The boss responds, "That's why it's called leadership. It wouldn't be leadership if you wanted to do it." That may be the world's perspective of leadership but it is not God's. "Do as I say, not as I do" is not in God's vocabulary. Leadership begins by recognizing that those we are leading stand on level ground with us before God. We must never fall for the lie that we are leaders because we are better, nor that we deserve some level of respect just because of our positon. In God's economy leadership is always about serving not being served. "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)

 

The flip side of that coin is followership. Everyone is a leader in the sense that we each have influence on others. To be a good leader we must first be a good follower. 1 Peter 5 addresses the leadership of elders, but 1 Peter 2 addresses followers. Peter, in that passage, hones in on two attitudes in particular. To be a good follower we must first treat our leaders with respect even when they lead in a harsh and disrespectful manner. Secondly, to do that we must trust God. Whether the leader we are talking about is an emperor, governor, or any other human institution Peter instructs us to, "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor." (1 Peter 2:17" This can only be done when we believe that we are under God's watchful protecting eye, and that there is a higher purpose in our lives than our immediate comfort. To be a good follower takes respect and faith.

 

Father, today may I be both a good follower and a good leader. Mold me into the image of Christ.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Leadership

2 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV)

 [2:1] You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, [2] and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

 

I wrote earlier that we are all leaders. Timothy is instructed in this passage to take what he has learned from Paul and pass it on to others who will pass it on to others. The Great Commission instructs all believers to be in the process of making disciples who will make disciples. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus wrapped up the Great Commission with these words, "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." The command to make disciples and to teach those disciples to make disciples is, therefore, a standing task of all believers. In other words, we are all leaders.

 

Leadership is not about leadership. Leadership is about those we lead and he whom we serve. Leadership is not about finding satisfaction in titles, positions, accolades and acknowledgement, but in the satisfaction of knowing that you have left behind those who will follow God when you are gone. Paul's assurance to Timothy is to remember that he is secure in Christ. Paul never says, "You will be safe and significant if you remember my lesson plans." What he does say is that true believers will experience opposition and oppression but that God is faithful and can be trusted. Paul's leadership always pointed people beyond himself to the God who never fails, never abandons us even when people do, and will always be faithful even when we are not. Leadership is ultimately about pointing people to our true Head and saying, "Trust him. Follow him closely wherever he takes you. Teach others to do the same."

 

Father, forgive me for the times I have lived, acted and thought as though leadership was about me. May my life and my words always point people beyond myself to you. Let them clearly see Jesus in me.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

work

Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 (ESV)

[24] There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, [25] for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?

 

Has it ever occurred to you that work is a gift from God? Work looks different for every person. In our world some are laborers, some spend their days behind a desk and some behind the wheel of a car or truck. Some drive heavy machinery and some carry a smart phone and a tablet. Some sweat part of the year and freeze part of the year while others enjoy the climate control of air conditioning and central heat. Work looks different for every person. Whatever your work, the bigger question is: Do you see it as a gift from God or a curse to be endured? Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 2, reminds us that we should find enjoyment in our toil because it is from the hand of God.

 

Having been created in the image of God we were designed to work. Living in a fallen world our work is often painful and less than fun. Yet imagine a world without work, without "projects," goals and accomplishments. Imagine a world where we simply sat in comfort and never had to lift a finger to do anything. I am reminded of an old Andy Griffith episode where Emmett decides to retire and move to a small island where he can live on the beach and sleep all day. It is not long before he is bored, apathetic and driven almost crazy. He returns to Mayberry and happily takes back his old job. I wonder if that episode would have even been written today, but it contains a fundamental truth. People were created to work.

 

That truth has major implications. How can we help those who cannot find work? How can we help the elderly and the infirm find meaningful activity? What do I need to change if I am finding my work to be simply drudgery and pain? How can I begin to view my work as a gift from God? How can I do my work in a manner that reflects Christ, honors God and has meaning even if it is not something "significant" or long lasting?

 

Father, I confess that I have often neglected to view work as a gift from you. Change my heart Lord. Help me to see the value of whatever work you call me to do.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Theology of Work - Part 1

Genesis 1:27-28 (ESV)

[27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. [28] And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

 

As Americans we have begun to act as though leisure and pleasure are the ultimate good in life. My grandparents' generation placed a high value on work. It was how life went. Rest and play were for the purpose of enabling them to work more effectively. My parents' generation worked hard so they could retire and play comfortably. Rest was the ultimate goal, but work was an important part of life as well. My generation saw the value of play their parents had and said, "If play is so valuable why waste time working first? Let's play now." We became a recreational generation from recreational sex, drugs and Rock and Roll to toys of all kinds. Now, as we are getting to retirement age, we've had more toys than any generation to precede us, and we're wondering how we will be able to keep up this recreational lifestyle, whether it is really all it is cracked up to be, where our lives went and whether we did anything significant with them. In three generations we moved from understanding rest as a means to be more effective in work to understanding work as a necessary evil so that we can rest.

 

Biblically we were not designed and created to play. We were designed and created to work. Rest was a means to becoming more effective at work. Rest and play was never the goal. Of course, because of the Fall of mankind pain became an integral part of work making it less rewarding. Stress fills our lives even as we try to ignore it through play. As we age even the fun of play is dulled by pain. When we make play the ultimate goal in life we are left disillusioned and disappointed. We were ultimately designed to "subdue (the earth) and have dominion over the fish …  birds … and over every living thing … on earth." We were designed to work. Rest was simply a means of enabling us to be more effective at our work.

 

That is not to say that the work was intended to be drudgery, painful or unrewarding. Those are consequences of the Fall. Work is a key part of what it means to be made in the image of God. We need to learn, as believers, to view work and rest through the lens of creation rather than through the cultural lens of recreation.

 

Father, I confess that I have often failed to view work through the lens of your Word and your creation. Forgive me. Teach me the meaning and value of work and the proper place of rest and recreation.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

1 Peter 1:6-8 (ESV)

1 Peter 1:6-8 (ESV)

[6] In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, [7] so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. [8] Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

 

We live in a world where many have bought into the lie that money is the solution to the needs of our lives. If we only had enough money we could be happy. If we only had a car that wasn't always breaking down, if we only had that newer, faster smartphone, if we only had … You fill in the blank. We have all fell for the lie. People who can't afford to put food on the table are spending money on lottery tickets somehow believing that they will win and that their winnings will be the answer they are looking for in life. Ask someone, "Have you ever won anything with a lottery ticket?" They'll respond, "Oh yes! I won $20 last month." What did they do with that $20? They bought more lottery tickets. I read an article recently that claimed that almost every individual who has won big in the lottery has had their family and friendships ruined by it and a few years later the money is all gone. We all see the joy of winning. The picture is in the paper, on television and splattered across the internet. What we don't see is what follows.

 

As believers our hope is not in dollar signs and accumulated stuff. Our hope lasts beyond this life. We may be called on to do without. We may be called on to sacrifice. We may be called on to experience oppression, opposition and outright persecution. Our hope is not in this life. I recently heard the testimony of a missionary who had been held captive by guerillas in Columbia for over 2 years back in the 1990's. Several years later he had the privilege of meeting the man who had ordered his kidnapping. The man had come to faith in Christ, had seen the book about this missionary's life and asked to meet him. There is greater joy in that than there ever can be in money, safety and comfort. Truly our safety is not found in circumstances, but in the God we serve.

 

I recently had the privilege of visiting a two room, dirt floored home in Peru where sewage flowed in the ditch in front of their house. The smiles on their faces as they shared the beauty of their first-born with us reminded me that joy is not found in sterile heated and air-conditioned environments. It is found in recognizing the gifts God has granted us and trusting the sovereign grace of God who will one day bring us to his home where he has a mansion prepared for us. "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory."

 

Father, forgive me for my failure to walk in faith. I confess that I too often complain about conditions that others would consider a blessing. I too often fail to live with eternity in view. I too often live as though money and stuff are what life is about. Thank you for your gracious faithfulness. Today may I walk by faith.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Prove 22

Proverbs 22:15 (ESV)

[15] Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,

but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

 

Over the past couple years I have read books by three different authors all painting slightly different pictures of a dystopian future. Each series of books were written with a teen audience in mind, so it is not surprising that in each case the hero was a teenager. In fact, in each series of books a teenaged girl was the unintended heroine. In each case the heroine found leadership thrust upon her in some way. In each book series the primary antagonist was the greed of corporate or governmental leaders. This greed was usually focused in one man, but permeated the system. In contrast it was the natural goodness and naivety of the heroine that ultimately drove her.

 

When we look down at a newborn we tend to think of unsoiled innocence. The logical next step is to believe that it is the evil of the world that soils the innocence of the child. If that is true then all that is required to retain their innocence is to keep a child isolated from the world. But Proverbs 22:15 tells us that folly is not thrust upon a child from the outside. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child. In our current dystopian stories there is an innocence in children that will ultimately save the world. In the 1954 dystopian novel Lord of the Flies all of the greed, violence and selfishness of the world was quickly discovered to reside in children as well. The author had a very different view of the nature of man than these current authors seem to possess. It is interesting, however, that in one of the book series I read the main character at one point realizes that in even the best people there resides evil. That is as close to a biblical perspective as one can come.

 

When Adam ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil he set us up with an inclination to sin. Natural tendencies, urges and desires are not, therefore, a thing to pursue. Each of us is born with a bent toward sin. Accepting that bent as normal, natural and good does not make us good. Redefining morality to fit our natural inclinations does not make us moral. It just buys into the lies that naturally accompany a nature bent to sin. And so we come back to Proverbs. "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him." Ultimately ever individual needs to face their own fallen condition and cry out for forgiveness. It is the cross of Christ that provides the means to forgiveness and a new heart. We begin with discipline which leads to grace and mercy. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.

 

Father, thank you for your gracious love which sent your Son to die in my place. I rest in your grace and mercy. Open the hearts of each generation to see their need for a savior and to find life in you by your grace through simple faith Christ.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Children

Proverbs 17:21-22 (ESV)

[21] He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,

and the father of a fool has no joy.

[22] A joyful heart is good medicine,

but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

 

These two verses contain two sides of the same coin. One the one side is the grief of having foolish children. It is the responsibility of parents and grandparents to train, warn, discipline and do whatever is necessary to raise up children who are not foolish. By foolish the scripture does not mean the class clown. The term fool refers to one who is proud and arrogant, who is undisciplined and indulgent, and who is selfish, narcissistic and immoral. If we raise children to believe that the world revolves around them and that they can do no wrong we will raise a fool.

 

The other side of the coin is that we must not crush the spirit of our children even as we discipline them. A broken spirit destroys creativity, motivation and purpose. Somehow we must learn how to drive out foolishness without breaking the spirit of our children. Somehow we must figure out how to encourage their ability to dream, think, imagine, and build without giving them the false expectation that the world owes them and that they can do whatever they want.

 

Raising children is not for sissies. It is hard work that takes a great deal of prayer and discernment. We don't want to raise self-centered fools, nor do we want spirit-crushed automatons. Our constant prayer needs to be for wisdom to train, discipline and mold our children into the uniquely gifted individuals God as designed them to be with hearts inclined toward him. One of the most encouraging things a parent can hear from their children is, "Thanks for disciplining me without breaking my spirit."

 

Father, watch over my children and grandchildren. Give them a heart for you. May my words and my life reflect you and your truth to them. Let them see Jesus in me.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Monday, June 9, 2014

Proverbs 9:8-9

Proverbs 9:8-9 (ESV)

[8] Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;

reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

[9] Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;

teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.

 

Over the years I have taken part in a few online theology forums and discussion groups, as well as a few addressing different moral/ethical questions. I thought that they would be good places to hone my thinking and minister to others. What I quickly discovered was that most of them were populated by people who wanted a hearing rather than by people who wanted a discussion. They often devolved into mindless prattle, personal attacks, misunderstanding, arrogant ignorance and poor logic. They were characterized by the first half of verse 8 above. It took me awhile to realize that most online discussions had little value. Scoffers continue to scoff. Fools continue to be foolish. Wise men are hard to find in those discussion groups. Good arguments are rejected out of hand without any thought whatsoever while faulty arguments and faux truth are foisted upon you as irrefutable truths. Wise men are hard to find.

 

That raises the question: Am I a wise man? Do I love those who reprove me? Do I become wiser when instructed? Do I increase in learning or do I believe that I have already absorbed all truth and am beyond learning? As a young pastor I was always amazed by the older pastors who listened well and often took notes talking about all they were learning. I thought: Haven't you already learned all these things in the years you have been a Christian? Now I am one of those "old guys." I am passionate about passing on to the next generation those things I have learned, but I am also keenly aware that I still have much to learn. On this earth we have never arrived, and I am guessing that, because we are finite and serve an infinite God, even in eternity we will continue learning for an eternity. We must never assume that we have somehow arrived at a magical point in life where we have learned all we need to learn. The instant we do we have become a fool.

 

Father, forgive me for the times in my life I have been unteachable. May I be wise in your eyes rather than wise in my own eyes.

 

Proverbs 3:7 (ESV)

[7] Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

 

Proverbs 26:12 (ESV)

[12] Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Friday, May 23, 2014

Daniel 12

Daniel 12:3 (ESV)

[3] And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

 

To live wisely and to turn many to righteousness, that is what Israel was called to do. That is essentially the call of every believer. That is not substantially different than, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Mt 28:19-20)  He didn't say, "Live comfortably," or "Live peacefully," or "Live happily." He said, "Live wisely." Yes, God is the God of all comfort, but the purpose of our lives is not simply to live comfortably. Yes, God is the God of peace, and we find peace in him, but that is not the purpose of our lives. Yes, God is a God of joy and he often surprises us with the gift of joy in the midst of our darkest hour. But finding joy is not the purpose of our lives. We are called to live wisely, turning many to righteousness. That is how Jesus lived, and that is ultimately the purpose of our lives for the few short years we live on this planet.

 

We won't figure everything out. We won't understand every intricacy of the scriptures. We won't solve the problems of the universe. But we do have the option of helping change lives for eternity. Daniel has just been given a revelation that he does not understand. What is he told to do with it? Is he told to spend his life trying to understand these mysteries? No. He is told, "But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days." (Daniel 12:13) In other words, "Don't spend your life trying to figure out these mysteries. Get on with living wisely and turning many to righteousness."

 

At some point we have to ask ourselves what our lives are about. What are we trying to build? In the end the only things that won't burn are the lives we have touched with the gospel. Do your job. Raise your children. Help the poor. Enjoy what God has given you.  But ultimately, live wisely turning many to righteousness.

 

Father, I acknowledge that I have wasted too many days and even years of my life running after things that have no eternal value. Today may I give my life to eternity. Teach me what it means to live wisely.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Daniel 11

Daniel 11:27 (ESV)

[27] And as for the two kings, their hearts shall be bent on doing evil. They shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail, for the end is yet to be at the time appointed.

 

Daniel 11 is a fascinating chapter because when it was written it was prophecy. Today it is history. I have read incredible historical accounts that exactly align with this chapter, but they happened after Daniel's time. That tells us at least two things: God knows the future; Prophecy can be interpreted literally.

 

Liberal theologians have suggested that because Daniel 11 is so historically accurate Daniel could not have written it. They reason that because of its accuracy it must have been written after the fact. If you do not believe in a personal God that interacts with humanity then their conclusion would be the only reasonable explanation. If you believe in a God who is real and interacts with humanity, but somehow cannot know the future, then you must conclude either that God is a really, really good guesser, God manipulated people in very specific and inconsequential ways in order to make his prophecy come true, or it was written after the fact. If, however, you understand God to be real, personal, and all knowing, past, present and future, then you have no problem accepting the idea that God revealed these things to Daniel before they ever happened.

 

Not only does God know the future, but God's prophecy are often very specific. Even as believers who take the Bible as the inspired word of God we have a tendency, when we don't quite understand, to generalize. The common phrase is, "Well, it's prophecy." That means that because it is prophecy it is therefore somehow less literal. Catastrophic prophecy is somehow interpreted as meaning big but generic problems. "He was bruised for our transgressions" was fulfilled literally. Jesus was actually bruised for our transgressions. "two kings … shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail," was fulfilled literally. It actually happened. Prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled will be fulfilled just as literally as prophecy already fulfilled. We can trust the scriptures.

 

We live in a time characterized by "wars and rumors of wars." These are uncertain times. Uncertain times are frightening. The good news is that we serve a God who is never surprised by the future. He knows the end from the beginning, and we are in his hands. Bad things may happen, but nothing can touch us without going through his hands first. Nothing can touch us without God's abiding presence in our lives to walk us through it. Living for eternity means understanding that there is more to this world than this world. In the darkest times we need to set our eyes on Jesus and know that he is the light.

 

Father, I confess that there are times when this world seems more real to me than you do and my faith falters. Thank you that you are bigger than my faith. Today I choose to trust you.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ephesians 5:33

Ephesians 5:33 (ESV)

[33] However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

What does it mean for a wife to submit to her husband? I believe there are three words that help us understand what biblical submission is. The first is willing. Ephesians 5:22-24 and Colossians 3:18 instruct a wife to submit to her husband. The word submit is a military term that means to place yourself under someone's authority, or to rank yourself below someone. A lower ranking soldier might be smarter and have more natural ability or potential than an officer who outranks him. This is not about value, intelligence or ability. It is simply about rank. A wise superior officer will listen to and take into consideration the wisdom, experience and intelligence of those he outranks, but ultimately the decisions belong to him or to those above him in rank. Unlike the military, the husband is not given the right or authority to demand or enforce his wife's submission. In the case of marriage it is a submission given freely and willingly.

 

The second word is respect. Ephesians 5:33 instructs a wife to "see that she respects her husband." Obedience without respect is not submission. On the other hand, it is possible to disagree and appeal a decision and still be respectful. Biblical submission is not unquestioning obedience, but it is always respectful.

 

The third word is discernment. The same Greek word for submit is used in Romans 13:1 and 1 Peter 2:13 where we are told to submit to the governmental authorities over us. Throughout Acts we see the Apostles speaking respectfully to the authorities, but we also hear them say, in Acts 5:29, "We must obey God rather than men." Submission requires the discernment to know when those in authority have overstepped their bounds. Ultimately obedience to God supersedes obedience to any human authority.

 

Submission then, whether we are talking about submission in marriage or in any other human relationship, requires a willing heart, a respectful demeanor and a discerning spirit. Father, forgive me for the many times I have failed in all three of these areas. May my life reflect a solid faith in your sovereignty that allows me to have a willing heart, a respectful demeanor and a discerning spirit. May I lead, those over whom you have given me responsibility, with a spirit of humility and a wisdom that comes from above.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Submission

Colossians 3:18 (ESV)

 [18] Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

 

Last week the sermon addressed what it means for a husband to love his wife. This week we want to tackle an even more difficult question. What does it mean for a wife to submit to her husband? Before we can address what submission is, we probably need to first define what it is not. Too often in the name of biblical submission horrible things have occurred in marriage and gone unchallenged and unquestioned. That is why it is so important that in addressing what biblical submission is we need to remember what biblical love is. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. Christ does not put harsh and selfish demands on the church. Yes, he calls her to sacrifice, but always for her own good. His goal, in Ephesians 5, is to present her to himself "in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." It is in that context that we ask what submission looks like.

 

The first thing we must understand is that submission does not view as women as an inferior part of humanity. The very nature of creation debunks that idea. Men and women were created in the image of man. Woman was designed from man's side, not from his head or his feet. Woman was designed to be a helper in the role of Creation Overseer, being perfectly matched to man. She was not designed as his servant. She is not less intelligent, less creative, nor less capable. Women are different from men, but they stand as equals uniquely designed in the image of God. So, submission is not, nor does it imply, inferiority.

 

Secondly, submission does not necessitate unquestioning obedience. Romans 13:1 instructs believers to, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." The words, "be subject" are a translation of exactly the same word Colossians uses when it tells wives to "submit" to their husbands. Yet Peter and the other Apostles said to the authorities, "We must obey God rather than man." (Acts 5:29) In other words, submission never necessitates unquestioning obedience. A husband is never given the authority to demand that his wife do anything illegal, immoral or unethical. There are other commands in scripture that supersede the command to submit.

 

Finally, submission does not require a woman to meekly accept abuse. As we look throughout the scriptures we see several appropriate responses to the possibility of physical harm. The only one I can think of where someone had the ability to avoid physical harm and yet willingly suffered it would be when Christ went to the cross for us. Responses to the threat of physical harm included an appeal to the one threatening, prayer and calling out to God for protection, hiding, and fleeing. Yes, there are times when God calls individuals to give their lives for their faith, or to suffer for their faith, but he also often provides a way of escape, and when he does so there is nothing spiritual about suffering needlessly. God has not given a wife as property to be used and abused, but as a helper perfectly designed to walk alongside man. When men treat wives as property there is nothing biblical nor commendable about enduring it if the abuse can be avoided.

 

Biblical submission is not inferiority; it is not unquestioning obedience; it is not meekly accepting abuse. That is what biblical submission is not. But, what is it? That's a question for another day. I hope to follow this up tomorrow with a discussion of what biblical submission is. In the meantime let us commit to the following: 1. Pray for those in abusive situations. 2. Help those in abusive situations. 3. Never take advantage of any position of authority God may gift you with. Positions of authority are for the purpose of serving, not being served. 4. Prayerfully consider how you might serve, protect and encourage those who are being or have been abused.

 

Father, forgive us for how we have treated women and those in vulnerable positions. Forgive our nation. Forgive our churches. Forgive me. May we see women through eyes of respect and honor.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Rejoice in your wife

Proverbs 5:18 (ESV)

[18] Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth,

We have all heard the sayings "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," and "familiarity breeds contempt." If these are true then marriage is the one relationship in which contempt can grow more easily than love. In marriage we see each other warts and all. We experience each other's frustrating, irritating and/or downright disgusting habits.  We wake up with bad breath and hair standing on end. We can easily become disgusted with the smallest differences like squeezing the toothpaste, dumping out a glass before putting it in the sink, or where you put your empty hangers. In the grand scheme of things we all acknowledge that these things are of no significance, yet they can easily irritate us like a pebble in our shoe.

 

Proverbs instructs men to rejoice in the wife of their youth. I don't believe that instruction becomes any less important when it is the wife of our old age. Men, we need to learn to intentionally rejoice in our wife. Women, it is no less important that you intentionally rejoice in your husband. If we think for a bit about what hinders this in our relationships we can perhaps discover some tips for learning to rejoice in our spouse. Several things come to mind as I think this through, but let me mention three.

 

First, what we focus on is what we see. Most of us have had the experience of driving with a smudge or squashed bug on our windshield. If we are focused on the road the smudge on the windshield can become almost forgotten, but if we focus on the smudge pretty soon it is all that we see. It becomes an irritating force in our life that is almost unbearable. We have to stop and clean the windshield. Even when it is clean we think maybe we can still see it. That smudge has become our focus. In the same way, an irritating habit can become almost uncontrollably irritating if we are focused on it. But, it can become inconsequential if we learn to focus on the good things in our spouse instead of that one irritating habit. If we are to rejoice in our spouse then we need to learn to intentionally remind ourselves of all the good, commendable and positive qualities of this person we married. We need to learn to shift our focus from the negative to the positive.

 

Second, what we look at shapes our perception. That may sound similar to that last paragraph, but I mean something different by it. Pornography, glossy, polished, staged photos or videos of "beautiful people," and fantasy drummed up in fiction and imagination all work to build in our minds unrealistic expectations that no human can possibly meet. A photo of a desert can look lonely and enticing, but what we do not see is the slum to the photographer's back, or the crowds and buildings just outside the frame of the shot. An airbrushed photo is always more perfect than the actual person. Pornography is fiction of the most destructive kind because it builds in one's mind unrealistic expectations of what a spouse should be, do or look like. What we see shapes our perception and therefore our expectations. Discontent easily creeps in. The world likes to tell us who the most beautiful or desirable person in the world is, but even the most beautiful person is never always beautiful. Even the most desirable person is never always desirable. We need to avoid and reject the lies these images try to sell us. We need to stop exposing ourselves to the lies, recognize them for what they are, and learn to see the beauty in each person, and especially in our spouse.

 

Finally, we need to recognize that when we are centered on ourselves everyone will sometimes disappoint us and no one will always make us happy. Self-centeredness will destroy a relationship in a heartbeat. Unfortunately most relationships are started selfishly. We meet someone who excites us, or interests us, or makes us feel special in some way, and we think that we are in love. We can't stop thinking about them and we can't bear to be apart from them so it must be love. What we don't realize is that what we are experiencing is much more closely aligned with lust than love. It is about me. Love is about others. In marriage two self-centered individuals will ultimately clash. It is possible to rejoice for a time in an individual who is subservient and who simply acquiesces to our every whim and desire, but even that will usually turn to contempt. What God designed marriage to be is a partnership, not a servant/master relationship. If I am to learn to rejoice in my wife then, I need to be more concerned about her than I am about myself. That is love.

 

Focusing in the good rather than the bad, rejecting the lies of the world and intentionally looking for the beauty in our spouse, and focusing on serving rather than being served will go a long way toward learning to rejoice in our spouse.

 

Father, I confess that I have not consistently done this, but I desire to. Would you quickly bring these truths back to my mind when I begin to wander. Thank you!

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Husbands love your wives

Colossians 3:19 (ESV)

Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

 

What does it mean for a husband to love his wife? How might a wife answer that question differently than a husband? Is it possible that husbands who think that they are loving their wives are not treating them in a loving manner at all?

 

The ESV follows up "love your wives" with "do not be harsh to them." The NAS translates this slightly differently. It reads, "… do not be embittered against them." The difference lies in how the Greek is understood and translated, but the bottom line is the same. Being harsh with our wives often results from being embittered against them. So in order for a husband to love his wife he must first learn how to deal with his own emotions. He must first recognize the lies he has believed that led him to frustration and bitterness. Angry, bitter, hurt and frustrated people tend to treat others harshly out of their own hurt. What does it mean for a husband to love his wife? It means a great deal more than this, but it does mean that he learns to deal with his issues before God rather than taking out his bitterness on her, even if she seems to be the source of that bitterness. As believers we are not to grow bitter toward our wives or be harsh toward them.

 

How do you do that? It seems to me that the first step would be to identify the priorities and rights that you believe have been violated in your life that leads you to bitterness. Identify the lie beneath those hurts. Acknowledge them to God and ask for his peace. Then, begin to transform your attitudes and actions by embracing the truth instead of the lie. Transformation does not start with trying to change behavior. It starts with identifying and rejecting lies and believing truth. Romans says it like this:

 

Romans 12:2 (ESV)

[2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Father, I admit that it is far too easy for me to become self-focused, believing lies and developing expectations that my wife could never possibly meet. Forgive me. Today may I walk in truth and love my wife as you have loved me.

 

 

By His Grace,

Rick Weinert


Isaiah 50

Isaiah 50:4-7 (ESV) The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him w...