this went thru my mind

 

Anti-intellectualism: The Role of Education and Authority In the Church by Paul Smith

“… every time we tear down someone because they have a greater education than we do we tear down that part of the body of Christ. Not only that, but we tear down our future. We guarantee that our sons and daughters will choose fields of expertise other than Bible and theology, because everyone knows you can’t be a good Christian and be smart at the same time. Can somebody help me here? What is it about ignorance that is so appealing?”

Archaeology: A Sumerian Temple at Ur by Claude Mariottini

“… archaeologists have found a Sumerian temple in the ancient city of Ur, the traditional place of Abraham’s birth. According to the archaeologists, the temple is dated to 2500 B.C.”

Bible: Wishing the Bible was a Self-Help Book by John Acuff

“The Bible makes a pretty horrible self help book. Sometimes, that’s what I want it to be. … Perfection is my secret goal, not a deeper relationship with God. But unfortunately, the Bible is refusing to cooperate.”

Church: Church, Jesus, Faith, and the Institution by Patrick Mead

“… we are only institutionalized as much as we want to be. When men grab too much power, the bunnies and snowflakes move along. But faith doesn’t cease and neither does kingdom work. If you are in a church that is in conflict or is over controlled, you have options. You can leave or you can stay quietly or you can stay and work on changing things. But you don’t have the option of leaving the larger fellowship of believers and you don’t have the option to be a “loner Christian” when Christ called us to community. So whichever decision you make – stay with the group, snowflake.”

Communication: 5 Strategies for Becoming a Better Conversationalist by Michael Hyatt

“… conversations should be like a game of ping pong. You wait for the ball to come over the net, then you hit it back to the person on the other side. Then you do it all over again—and on it goes. In a good conversation, there is both give and take. This is something we have intentionally tried to pass on to our own children.”

Community: The Wisdom of Stability by J.R. Daniel Kirk

“Stability in Christ is always stability in community.”

Forgiveness: Broken Trust in God’s Country

“‘A hundred years from now, what will be the difference about how much money we had here?’ asked Emery E. Miller, a village resident and a proponent of the alternative plan, at the first creditors meeting. ‘But a hundred years from now, there will be a difference in how we responded to this from our moral being, from a moral level — the choices we made to forgive or not to forgive.’”

Google & your privacyHow to Opt Out of Google’s New Privacy Policy (Sort Of)

“Google’s new privacy policy will take effect on March 1. It consolidates Google’s 70 or so privacy policies across its products – from Gmail to YouTube to Blogger – down to one, and will pull data from users logged in to Google.”

Kind words: Don’t Wait for a Funeral to Give a Eulogy by Michael Hyatt

“We should start eulogizing those who mean the most to us before they leave us.”

Lies, damned lies & statistics: Santorum, Stats, and Dropout Rates of Religious College Students by Ed Stetzer

“This past Thursday (February 23), Rick Santorum told talk show host Glenn Beck that ’62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it.’ … Long story short: There are dropouts (and returns), but there is no statistical difference that the dropout rate among those who attended college than those that did not attend college.”

Ministry: 10 Things About Pastors You Need to Know by Joe McKeever

“He is a flawed, fallible human like the rest of us, and not some saintly somebody unacquainted with temptation and failings.”

Singles: An Unmarried Boomer

“As Baby Boomers age, their propensity for divorce—even in later age—is creating a generation of middle-aged unmarrieds. Now, as the first Boomers are turning 65, this ‘singlehood’ trend could have implications for the quality of life of these older Americans.”

Tradition & traditionalism: Pelikan on Tradition & Traditionalism

“Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.”

elders: an elder’s prayer (1)

 

James Casey served as an elder of the Missouri Street Church of Christ for thirty-seven years (1967-2003). He was a man in whom it was easy to see faith, hope, and love and deep humility, genuine wisdom, and great courage were not lacking. He was a man in many ways, as we say, “ahead of his time.” I was privileged to serve under his leadership as such during the final ten years of his service and what a great joy in particular it always was for me to hear him pray. Words are simply not adequate to express the way he blessed my life over and over again during that time, often through his prayers.

Due in part to my relentless encouragement and insistence (more like nagging, actually) for him to submit a piece to Image magazine regarding eldering, “Casey” (as his friends were want to call him) penned “An Elder’s Prayer.” Denny Boultinghouse, Image‘s editor, kindly published it in the July/August 1996 issue (pp. 34-35). Image magazine is no longer in publication and Casey passed on to be with our Lord this January; however, his “Elder’s Prayer” deserves preservation and remembrance. With that in view, today, tomorrow, and Friday I’ll reproduce “An Elder’s Prayer” here. If you are an elder, you may want to make this prayer, or parts of it, your own. If you are not an elder, may it teach you as to some of the ways you can pray for your elders.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your good servant, James O. Casey, an elder’s elder.
_

Father, into our hands you have entrusted your flock. What a fearful responsibility! We thank you for that trust, but we do feel the added burden on our shoulders and the occasional inconvenience, but Lord, are we really prepared for the dedication you expect of us? We feel so helpless at times, Father! What can we do?

We call your sheep by name, Lord, but they do not come. We lead them to pasture, but they do not eat. What can we do to make the food for palatable? Could it be that we have fed them stale and unattractive food? Could it be that they have seen the argumentative nature we have developed from the food we revel in and thus shy away from the table? Father, we don’t want to feed them anything that is not on your menu, so please help us provide the proper food in its most luscious and appetizing form – the kind that will make them want to come back for more. Grant us the ability to discern when to feed them milk and when to provide meat.

Lord, forgive us for trying to drive them rather than lead them. Help us understand where effective leadership ends and lording it over begins.

Many times, Father, we have failed to strengthen the weak. It is so much easier to neglect them and hope they will survive on their own. Forgive us for not putting forth the effort required to determine and meet their needs – that is, their real needs – not that which coddles them, but that which causes them to grow strong and enables them to exercise their senses to discern both good and evil.

Forgive us, O Lord, for allowing the sick to go unattended. We know the Good Shepherd applies healing balm to his sick lambs, but we often let them die while we argue about the cure, then blame them for having been so sickly.

How often, Lord, have we seen your little ones fall prey to the wolves and receive serious injury on themselves. After all, we frequently warn them to stay near the flock for protection! But we know that these wolves come in many forms – even in the negative spirit of the lawmaker – yet we allow them to come in unchallenged, and the sheep are eventually overcome.

Why, O Lord, would a sheep want to stray from the flock and eventually get lost? What? You say he may not have planned to get lost? Do you mean he may have simply gone looking for greener pasture and strayed over the ridge and out of sight? Forgive us, Lord, for not noticing his lack of interest in remaining with the flock and for not searching for him when he was eventually missed. We have no excuse, Lord, because our Shepherd taught us the importance of looking for the lost one when the ninety-nine were safe at home.

praying for a change (13)

 

 

“From that time Jesus began to announce, ‘Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!’” (Matthew 4.17 CEB)

Lord,

As I seek change in my heart and habits, may I perceive those changes as not merely something:

 

  • of good for me,
  • of benefit to others,
  • and for the betterment of this world.

Instead, may I hear your announcement as it truly is:

  • a word straight from you, my Creator and Sustainer,
  • a clear warning not stand in the way of your will and work,
  • and a call to join you in the progression of your ways into and through all that is.

Amen.

elders: a closer look at their qualifications (10)

 

Consideration should definitely be given to this question during elder selection proceedings: is the timing right for their appointment?

a. Are they new to faith as a Christian?

“They shouldn’t be new believers so that they won’t become proud and fall under the devil’s spell.” (1 Timothy 3.6 CEB)

“Well, just how new is ‘new’?” we ask. Good question!

The Greek word Paul uses here that is translated “new” is the word neophytos. It’s the word from which we get our word neophyte today. The word itself doesn’t give us any specific clue as to the amount of time, it meaning simply, and literally, “newly planted” (cf. LXX Job 14.9; Isa. 5.7) This is the only appearance of neophytos in the NT and one can’t help but note that this instruction is conspicuously absent from Paul’s list to Titus (cf. Titus 1.5-9). So why would Paul tell Timothy that elders shouldn’t be new believers and yet not mention the same to Titus?

“This is one of the indications in 1 Timothy suggesting that the community had been in existence for some time … Note that this criterion is missing from the matching list of Titus 1.6-9, since the delegate is there in the process of managing new communities, and every supervisor would presumably be ‘new growth.’” (Luke Timothy Johnson, The First and Second Letters to Timothy, p.216)

“… we must notice a difference here from what we found in Titus 1, where there may have been no choice but to appoint neophytes as elders in some cases. The church Ephesus was better established than that on Crete. Even if we are talking only about Pauline house churches, if this letter is written in the mid-60′s, then there will have been churches founded by Paul or one of his co-workers here for at least ten years. The thought here is that people who move up the leadership ladder too fast may become conceited …” (Ben Witherington, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, 1:239)

It seems clear then from this difference between the lists that ideally, if a church has a large enough pool of candidates from which to choose, it would by all means do well to choose individuals who have “been around the block,” and more than once at that. And yet, not all churches have that luxury, such as those in Crete in the time of Titus. Still, the total absence of mature, exemplary believers of experience shouldn’t prevent a church from appointing elders.

This causes us to pause and wonder for a moment: “How many churches have been existence for decades and still do not have any elders because those churches misunderstood Paul’s statement here to Timothy in Ephesus as a strict, non-negotiable qualification no matter the circumstances? Experience leads us to believe the number is legion, the vast majority of them either needlessly slowly withering away from failure to thrive due to lack of significant leadership or are still just barely clinging to existence, being on something akin to artificial life support. Churches need leadership for they will die without it.

But what of a church that has been around for while? How long would a believer need to be around to no longer be classified as a neophyte in terms of faith? Surely they should have been one our Lord’s disciples long enough to have:

  • become well acquainted with the scope of Scripture
  • an awareness of the greatest needs at hand of that congregation in its local context
  • a good understanding of how the community of Christ can function in a healthy way
  • allowed fellow believers to become aware of their weaknesses, not just their strengths
  • given clear evidence to all that they are on a consistent trajectory of obvious growth in Christ
  • demonstrated their true character and good works to the church and gained the church’s respect

But, just because a person is not new to faith, is a maturing Christian, and shows some genuine capacity for leadership doesn’t mean they should be an elder. There is at least one further matter to consider.

b. Would their appointment be hasty, unethical, or unwise?

“Don’t rush to commission anyone to leadership, and don’t participate in the sins of others. Keep yourself morally pure.” (1 Timothy 5.22 CEB)

You can ruin a good banana by picking it too soon. Equally true is the fact that all it takes is one rotten apple to spoil the whole barrel. What holds true for fruit, holds true for people. And so, Paul counseled Timothy to avoid two deep ditches as he recognized and installed elders in Ephesus: hasty appointment and haphazard selection.

Matters must be honestly weighed. Timing is an important consideration. A person may not be ready. They may be ready, but their family is not. The individual and their family may be ready, but the church is not ready. Equally important is not to be haphazard in the judgment of a person’s timber. They could appear to be healthy on the outside, but are actually hollow, or even rotten, on the inside.

In an attempt to avoid hitting a pothole in the road, churches can inadvertently over-correct and so, steer themselves off into one of these two ditches. Let the church then never forget: haste makes waste and carelessness kills. Consequently, let it always take the time and make the effort to ask: is the timing right for this person’s appointment?

praying for a change (12)

 

“In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing, ‘Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven! … Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives!’” (Matthew 3.1-2,8 CEB)

God,

You rule. I don’t.

I want you to rule more of my life. You do, too.

So help me hear you. Really hear you.

  • When you cross my path with someone who has a word as to your will for me. Any and all someones, but especially the someones I might not expect to be carrying your will.
  • When you remind me of my personal responsibility to change. Not just the need for us to change, but for me to change.
  • When you tell me I must change at a heart level and not just on the surface. Particularly when my heart isn’t quick to jump to such.
  • When you say the changes on the outside must change, too.

Amen.

elders: a closer look at their qualifications (9)

 

When candidates for a church’s eldership are considered, those doing the appointing should ask themselves this question: would this person shepherd because they’ve got to or because they get to?

a. Is it their goal to take on the good responsibility of being a supervisor in the church?

“This saying is reliable: if anyone has a goal to be a supervisor in the church, they want a good thing.” (1 Timothy 3.1 CEB)

Understand what Paul is saying here about people having service as an elder as their goal or aspiration. It is the duty, not the desire, that he is drilling home. Indeed, in Greek, the phrase “good thing” is emphatic.

“The adjective stresses the positive and constructive nature (‘good, noble’) of the ‘task’ under discussion (that of the overseer).” (Philip Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, p.249)

Paul’s stress is that the position and role of elder was a good and important thing and his statement was made necessary by the fact that Timothy’s opponents, and the lack or weak quality of existing leadership, made an elder’s work appear dishonorable, shameful, or at best, questionable.

“The text does not encourage persons to desire eagerly to become overseeing elders, but simply asks that the office be understood as an excellent, challenging, honorable task (vs.1). It is well to remember that many who undertook this task faced persecution and death. It was a dangerous post, required much effort, and was laden with high risk.” (Thomas C. Oden, First and Second Timothy, and Titus, p.140)

Once again, as we have seen so frequently throughout our examination of the list thus far in 1 Timothy 3.1-7, it is with Timothy’s opponents in view that that Paul writes what he does.

“… any hesitancy to accept positions of leadership by members of the Ephesian church was the result of the excess of the opponents, They were bringing reproach not only upon the church itself but also upon anyone in leadership. Perhaps as well people were hesitant to accept positions that would bring them in direct confrontation with the opponents.” (William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, p.167)

Paul was not attempting to lay down personal aspirations as something like an essential, first pre-requisite for service as an elder, the first in a long checklist of qualifications. Rather, Paul was saying to serve as an elder is a good, honorable thing and those who might be considered to serve as potential elders should take such a view of the work. To be an elder is not a thing to glory in, but it most certainly is a way in which one can serve in giving glory to God.

This understanding is of first importance, for not every person who has been open to accepting appointment to a church’s eldership has had giving good service, glory to God, as their motivation. The truth of that fact about human nature and our fallenness shaped Paul’s reason for penning these words then and they remain quite necessary and relevant today.

“Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all.” (Mark 9.35 CEB)

And so, let any who would consider serving as an elder consider well the goodness of being the least and servant of all, for this will be their lot in life if pastor God’s people well.

b. Would they do their work as a shepherd voluntarily and for God?

“Like shepherds, tend the flock of God among you. Watch over it. Don’t shepherd because you must, but do it voluntarily for God. Don’t shepherd greedily, but do it eagerly.” (1 Peter 5.2 CEB)

If Paul’s words were clear, Peter’s words are crystal clear. Serving as a church’s shepherd is not about you, but about God and others. It’s about the flock of God, not your following. It’s about Watching over God’s people, knowing you will answer to God for your care for them. To serve God in this capacity is something to do with joy because it not about what you get out of doing this good work, but what God and his people will get out of it. As a good shepherd, you will be called to lay down your life for the sheep, and though you lay down your life, if you do it not out of a heart of love supremely for God and people, eagerly due to love, it will count for nothing for you.

“If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing. If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.” (1 Corinthians 13.1-3 CEB)

Let all who take on the mantle of shepherd then do so eagerly out of their love for laying down their life, not for their taking up of it and keeping it. Candidate, candidly ask yourself: “If I became an elder, would I be doing it because I get to for God’s glory?”

word for the weak: week nine

 

The Uncommon Truth for Common People project, MoSt Church‘s congregational Bible reading effort for 2012, continues with this week’s theme being testing. The readings for this week, which follow the schedule given in the Daily Companion Bible, are:

• Mon., Feb. 27 – Job 23:1-12; 1 Peter 1:3-12
• Tues., Feb. 28 – Genesis 22:1-19; Hebrews 11:8-19
• Wed., Feb. 29 – Exodus 15:22-16:35
• Thur., Mar. 2 – Luke 18:18-30
• Fri., Mar. 3 – Psalm 66

This week’s memory verse is: 1 Peter 1.6-7: “… it’s necessary for you to be distressed for a short time by various trials. This is necessary so that your faith may be found genuine.”