Bible Readers

With Pastor Dave Roussel

A Pastor Named Diotrephes

June 4 – Today’s Readings – 2 and 3 John, Jude and Proverbs 4

2John – vs.1 reads, “The elder – To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth – and not I only, but also all who know the truth”.

The book of Second John is interesting to me because scholars can’t agree on who “the chosen lady” was. Was she the Pastor of a small church? – Was she John’s wife? – Was she a godly and respected woman who had natural or spiritual children scattered abroad? No one seems to know for sure but the fact that this letter appears in Scripture is remarkable in itself.

The portion that stands out to me in this book is verse 6, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” This verse clearly equates love with obedience to God’s commands. How simple is that? It is (of course) made even simpler by the fact that all of God’s commands to His children can be concentrated into one word – “love”

3John – The astounding thing to me about Third John is the comment made about a certain Pastor named Diotrephes who wanted nothing to do with John the beloved disciple and Apostle of Jesus. This Pastor’s behavior was so disrespectful that he was gossiping about John and putting people out of the Church who welcomed him or “the brothers”! This is really unbelievable but it underlines the fact that some people who call themselves Pastors are not necessarily men of God. Take a moment and consider what it would be like to have this man, Diotrephes as your Pastor. He would be the kind of man who would be so incredibly self centered and controlling that he would actually believe that he owned the Church – that everything revolved around him and that he was the head of the Church – talk about a group of people who would be open to deception! This fellow was so brash that he had the audacity to exclude one of the Apostles that Jesus had personally appointed to help lead the Church!

Jude – In the book of Jude, we find the writings of another “half brother” of Jesus Christ – (full brother of James, the author of the book of James and spokesperson for the Church in Jerusalem). He too had things to say about pastors and brothers who indulge in immorality and pollute their own bodies because of their ungodly desires. There certainly seemed to be an abundance of Church problems even in the first century after Jesus. It’s terrible how fast the Church can fall into spiritual disrepair if it is not watched over carefully. Let’s keep a guard over ourselves, and the Church of Jesus Christ so that the same will not be said of us!

Questions:

1. John indicates that Christian love and obedience go hand in hand. How does this work itself out in our lives?
2. Have you ever heard of a pastor with the same controlling spirit as “Diotrephes”? Without naming names, tell about how this spirit affected the Church he or she was leading.

Built On Rock

June 3 – Today’s Readings – 1John 4-5 and Proverbs 3

August 23, 1977 – a day I remember O so well. Linda and I exchanged the vows of Holy Matrimony. The “Life Scripture” we chose? – Proverbs 3:3-6; “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge (submit to) him, and he will make your paths straight.”

O how we have lived and hung on to God’s promises in these verses. How many times we could have trusted in our own ways and our own understanding if we had not been grounded in God’s Word and principles. It’s not when the going is easy that you use God’s Word as an anchor – it’s when you need to hold the ship steady or when you are at risk of running aground. A good anchor will hold the ship in place so that it isn’t damaged by the storm. A sea anchor will slow a ship if it is being tossed about in a gale. On the “flip side”, the Word is also like a steady sea breeze propelling you on to accomplish all that God has called you to do – the sailing is good and the winds are favorable. When the storms beat against the ship however, the Word of God shelters us in the bay of His grace and provides the anchor for our souls.

How well does the Word of God keep us? Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”(Matthew 7:24-25)

I can say with confidence that when you submit to God and sincerely seek Him, He DOES “make your paths straight”. I can also say from experience that trusting the Lord is of far greater value than trusting your own understanding. I’m not suggesting that your understanding is lacking, but I am emphatic about the fact that when my “understanding” comes in conflict with the truth of the Love of God, the Word must win out.

Questions:

1. Give an example from your life when the Word of God became a real anchor for you.
2. Give another example from the Word of God where someone used the Word as an anchor.

The Beloved

June 2 – Today’s Readings – 1John 1-3 and Proverbs 2

“John the beloved” – this is what they called him and what he called himself because of his amazing relationship with Jesus Christ. Surely this man would have something to say to us about relationships. In Verse 3 of Chapter 1 he clearly lays out his motivation and purpose for writing this book – he wants to share his joy of having fellowship with the Father, the Son and fellow believers. In fact, he makes it clear that this joy will not be complete without true fellowship with other believers.

The rest of this letter places emphasis on the conditions needed to cultivate intimate relationships with God the Father, Jesus the Son and with one another. He makes it clear that a close relationship with God is dependant on right relationships with fellow believers – and that this “command” is not an option. It is through our relationships with fellow believers that we have the opportunity not only to grow in our understanding of God but to demonstrate God’s love to the world.

God is relational in every way and the very doctrine of the Trinity is foundational in understanding the relational nature of God. Just as you cannot do away with the Trinity, you cannot ignore believers’ relationships with one another. So – what are the prerequisites for good fellowship?

Walking in the light
Confessing our sins
Walking as Jesus did
Loving our brothers and sisters
Right doctrine (Jesus is the Son of God)
Genuine repentance
Doing what is right
Sharing your resources
Laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters (being willing to give something of yourself)
We find ourselves in the difficult position of living in a culture where “it’s all about ME”. John gives us a strong exhortation that is completely contrary to Biblical thinking – if you really want to know the Father and his Son it will entail getting involved with the “not so perfect” brothers and sisters around you and realizing that you must be a giver, a servant and a lover of people.

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.” (1John 2:9-11)

Questions:

1. Itemize some of the things you have adopted in your life so that you can insure fellowship with God on a continuous basis.
2. Discuss how you safeguard your relationships with people so that you can live in harmony with them.

Need some Wisdom?

June 1 – Today’s Readings – 2Samuel 22-24 and Proverbs 1

Get ready for the book of Proverbs – have your high-lighter or journaling notebook beside you – Every time you see a “nugget” in this precious book, take note of it. There is enough “ammo” here to make you into a righteous, successful, rich and wise person (with great marriage and family relationships to boot)!

On to King David, who once again is anointed to speak wonderful Words from the Lord:

“I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” – Now this is a great principle for worship! If your worship “offerings” are a lazy affair – perhaps a spectator sport – then you are offering Him something that costs you nothing. Think of our offerings of worship for a moment. Since when is Church supposed to be free entertainment or a weird style of street busking where we drop something in an open guitar case only if we are impressed with “the performance”. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

“You stoop down to make me great.” – What a revelation of Jesus Christ! – The One who quite literally stooped down to make US great. Just the thought that God wants YOU to be great is enough to turn your life on its ear! So – Be Great! Matthew 20: 25-27 reads, “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.”

“With Your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” – Here again is God’s magnificent perspective. It is found throughout Scripture yet it rarely becomes revelation in God’s children. It should be the norm however in those who live a Spirit-filled life. God delights to see you advance against a troop or start to scale a wall – then HE gets involved. Remember Jonathan and his armor bearer? This is literally what they did – scaled a cliff face and gained the victory, but we too scale all kinds of walls in life – things that take effort, courage, faith and cooperation with brothers.

Philippians 4:13 reads, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Questions:

1. Give another Biblical account of an offering that cost something.
Give an example of when you felt God was stooping down to make you great.
2. Tell of an instance where you stepped out to “scale a wall” and God gave you the strength to do it.

Tragedy and Victory

May 31 – Today’s Readings – 2Samuel 19-21

These chapters are both tragic and victorious for David. He is left with the terrible aftermath that inevitably follows infighting amongst God’s people.First there is deep grief at the precious loss of life (including David’s son) – then the difficult but necessary task of praising and encouraging his men because of the obvious victory they have won for him. David is also faced with political turmoil because he is a very vulnerable leader at this point. There is some confusion and discord amongst the people which subsequently leads to a new “troublemaker” leader rising up to draw the men of Israel away. Worse yet – David has two fiercely loyal, but not like-minded leaders under him who are over his army. Joab and his brother Abishai are extremely aggressive fighting men who protect the king from giants and generals alike. They never do share his tender heart however and even though David is a great fighting man, he is even more-so a lover and a conciliator. Because these men do not share the “same heart” as David they never represent him properly in front of the people. When they killed his son Absalom, David had had enough and tried to get rid of them but this effort was not workable and he was “stuck with” these people who were his most loyal protectors – yet without the ability to be anything but warriors.

This dilemma is also true for various aspects of modern church life. Some of the people we most desperately need to fight the Lord’s battles may also be those we have the least in common with. We may share the same purposes when it comes to the “big picture” but not when it comes to how we wish to deal with people. Some who possess great personality strengths with problem solving, determination or detail are also the weakest link when it comes to gifts and abilities of showing compassion, tenderness and other much-needed people skills.

Forgive my long windedness, but in Chapter 21 we find a fascinating Biblical conundrum – how God can withhold blessing from His people because of past sins committed by another generation of people? Here David’s kingdom is suffering because his predecessor, King Saul had committed a crime against a group of people. The only way to deal with this issue was to make restitution but neither apology nor prayer seemed to suffice so David went to this group of Gibeonites who had been mistreated and asked them how to make amends. When they suggested a very harsh solution to the affair, David complied – and – because he made amends, blessing was restored to Israel. I realize that in some Christian circles this principle of “dealing with ancestor’s sins” has been taken to an extreme but it is good to note that in certain circumstances there is Biblical precedent for this kind of action amongst God’s people. Maybe there would be more blessing in the Churches of Edmonton if more amends were made between groups of squabblers for the past sins of the Churches or individuals.

Questions:

1. Give other Biblical examples of characters that had tremendous spiritual gifting in one area of their lives but were obviously lacking in others.
2. Give another example of “restitution” bringing peace to the people of God.

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