Tag Archives: Leader

Household Troubles

1 Jun

TroubleYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last time we were together, Solomon provided some vivid word pictures about beauty. It is far more important to have the inner beauty of God than external beauty. We learned that the desire of godly people is only good. Godly people rejoice in the good fortune of others. We also saw the comparison of the greedy to the giving. This morning, we’ll continue down the road of generosity and riches to see where it takes us.

Pro. 11:28-31 says, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf. He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, and the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls. If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!”

This is a beautiful segue from our last message. Solomon compared greedy to generous and he reminds us, “He who trusts in riches will fall.” (Pro. 11:28) Rich is a relative term that we typically associate with the ultra-wealthy. According to the Social Security Administration, the average income of an American is about $44,000 a year. That seemed a bit high, so I lowered the income to $25,000 a year and checked globalrichlist.com to determine what rich is on a global scale. If you make $25,000 a year, you are in the top 2% of the richest people in the world. The point is that riches are fleeting; they can disappear in an instant. People that brag about how much money they have are in a dangerous place. In 1 Tim. 6:17 Paul said, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies  us with all things to enjoy.” If you’re hope is in your job, your investments, your 401k, or any other financial type account, at some point, you’ll find yourself lacking. Of course it’s nice to have money, but that’s not where our hope lies. In this congregation, I doubt anyone is putting their hope of eternity in their finances. For the most part, I know you, I know your families, I know where you live, and what you do for a living. While this idea may not apply to anyone here, you probably cross paths with people that have this type of thinking. It’s always about the money. It seems like every conversation you have with them is about money. They tell you how much everything costs or what things are worth. They track the rise and fall of the stock market, they want their kids to have the best education so they have the best job. Maybe they talk about retiring at 40 or 50. Life is more than money.

Think of the hope you can offer someone that is hung up on money, but that doesn’t mean the conversation will be an easy one. Jesus said, “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 19:24) All the financial and material blessings you have on this earth will be left behind. The idea is the rich may not see a need for Jesus because they have what this world offers. When you stand before the Lord, riches will fail you. “But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.” Maybe you’ve heard this type of analogy before. In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Ps. 1:3, “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Righteousness causes us to flourish. Flourish means to develop in a healthy or vigorous manner. When riches fail, righteousness remains. No one can take that away because we are grafted into Christ and the more we grow, the more we look like Jesus.

What looks like a shift in topics is not. Solomon speaks of the household. “He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, and the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted.” These represent extremes in the home. There are a couple of different schools of thought on this verse. When you take the whole passage as one, which is the most accurate way to do it, you get the idea that there is a person that causes trouble in the house. You might quickly conclude that person is a child. I don’t really think Solomon is talking about children because there are other parts of Proverbs that we have seen already that deal with kids and there are others that we will see later that talk about kids. It seems that Solomon is talking about mismanagement in the home. Solomon is talking about the head of the household that does not take care of those under his authority – particularly servants. They don’t have adequate food, shelter, or any of the others things you would expect in a home. So who’s in charge of the home? The man, the husband, the father. If the leader of the home is consumed with riches and getting ahead in this world, that will lead to other less than desirable traits. Have you ever encountered someone that is like this? He totally neglects his family for the pursuit of riches. He’s not involved at all in leading the family. He can’t tell you what grade the kids are in, doesn’t know their activities, he really doesn’t know anything that is happening in the home. It seems that most scholars lean to this interpretation.

The troubler of his own house inherits the wind. At least he gets something right? Think about this for a second in the time in which this was written. Wind was useless, it was noisy, it kicked up dirt and sand, and was overall unpleasant. Now you get the idea. If it’s your responsibility to take care of the household and if you don’t, your inheritance is worthless. In fact not just that, but the fool becomes servant to the wise. Wisdom always wins out. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” This is more than just a nice verse. Think of the metaphor. The seed of one fruit can generate a tree that will produce fruit over the life of that tree. Remember, Solomon is still comparing wise to foolish, godliness to wickedness, good to evil. In light of those comparisons, the benefits of a righteous person cannot be underestimated. The overall good that person infuses into life are immeasurable. Where I live, we have a lot of citrus trees. When you consider the fruit produced by a healthy tree, you typically have more fruit than one family can consume. The righteousness produced by that godly individual not only benefits that person’s family, but provides spiritual nourishment to those around him.

The second part of that verse has been the subject of some controversy among Hebrew Bible scholars. Since I am not an expert in the Hebrew language, I am limited in how far I can understand this. The phrase, “wins souls” is translated to kill where it’s used in other places in Scripture. In fact, the Revised Standard Version read, “But lawlessness takes away lives.” The New Revised Standard Version and the Holman Christian Standard reads, “But violence takes lives away.” The Message reads, “A violent life destroys souls.” When we consider the comparisons in these verses and read the verse to say, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, but violence takes lives away,” it seems to make more sense. We’ve seen patterns in Solomon’s writings to this point so it makes sense to interpret it this way. What’s the point? According to 2 Tim. 2:15, we are to rightly divide the word of truth. Solomon has been making a great case to support the principle that leading a life of wickedness, evil, deception, and ungodliness leads to death while leading a life of godliness and wisdom leads to life. So if you want to read there is wisdom in saving souls – that’s a good principle to live by. I would even suggest it’s a principle we’re commanded to follow in Matt. 28:19-20 as the primary mission of the church. If you think that’s too much info, change your thinking. Don’t fall into the trap that you just don’t need to know all that. Remember what Ravi Zacharias said, we have people that “know[s] less and less of why they believe what they believe.”

Finally, Solomon says, “If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, how more the wicked and the sinner!” Since we’re still in comparison mode, it’s fair to say that there are often times God gives us what we deserve. Heb. 12:6 reminds us that God disciplines us not just to correct unacceptable behavior, but also because He loves us. It’s the same reason you discipline your children. Many times, He chooses not to give what us we deserve and that’s called mercy. Solomon is saying that if God chooses to hold us accountable and we have examples of this in Adam, Moses, and David among a whole host of other regular people we see in Scripture, He will also hold the wicked accountable. Peter says it this way, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17)

The wicked will not get a free pass. Solomon has gone to great lengths to teach us about wisdom. He’s taken the time to compare godliness and wickedness: greed and generosity. We are challenged over and over again to live a life that glorifies God. Are we going to accept the challenge and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, or are we going to believe the lie that God doesn’t care how we live as long as we’re sincere.

10 Things Pastors Hate To Admit Publicly

19 May

I was fortunate to have a colleague from our sister church in Rincon, GA come for a visit to our church yesterday. I got to sit back and soak in the awesomeness of Scripture as Pastor Mike preached from Matt. 14-22-33. It was a blessing. Since I had a break I decided to post an article I read last month. The original post is found here.

 If you’re a shepherd or have a shepherd’s heart, you’ll find yourself nodding your head in agreement. I’m not saying these things control us. You’ll often hear me say it’s okay to have feelings – God gave them to you, but don’t allow your feelings to control your actions. Times do get rough and tough for me, but I keep going. That’s my mindset, that’s the way I’m made, that’s the right thing to do. I am content right where I am. I have no aspirations to go anywhere or do anything other than love my wife and shepherd the people God has charged me with. So here we go. Read on. The article posted in its entirety.

From Matt Boswell, Pastor/Elder of Redemption Church in Duvall, WA.

mb-postsWhen Ellen and I were first married ministry was not our 20-year plan, the Navy was. We had it all planned out; we were to spend the next 20 years with me being gone for 15. The Navy explained to my sweet new bride how grueling it would be, that I would be gone often and that even when I was around my mind would be elsewhere. Knowing that my particular career path in the Navy would be a marriage destroyer I pursued a discharge for the pursuit of higher education. With the promise of a difficult future behind us we embarked upon an easier dream where everyone would love us and things would be calm: pastoral service.

Twenty plus years later I can tell you it has been a ride we never could have anticipated. So much so that only now do I feel equipped enough to share a few things I either lacked the clarity or courage to share until this season of life. I want to share the 10 things we as pastors don’t really want you to know about us. Now in doing so my aim is not to rat out my fellow pastors. Nor am I doing this so congregants sleep with one eye open regarding their leadership. My intention is precisely the opposite. I hope that from this:

  • Churches will pray all the more for their pastors because they understand the challenges.
  • Churches will be doubly grateful for the fact that so many pastors stay in the saddle despite their fears, hurts and frustrations.
  • People in churches will think twice before engaging in things that sink deep into the soul of their leaders.

Therefore I give a glimpse into what we as pastors don’t like to admit about ourselves.

#1. We Take It Personally When You Leave The Church.

It’s just a straight up fact. We pastors eat, drink and sleep the local church and with that have a deep desires to see it thrive. Therefore when you leave to another church because…

  • you’re bothered by a recent decision, but didn’t ask about it…
  • the new church has a bigger and better kids wing, youth group, worship team, building space, (fill in your blank)…
  • your friends started going there…

… it hits us personally.

For us it feels disloyal, shallow or consumer driven. People affirm that church is a family, thus when you up and leave because the church down the road has Slurpee dispensers, a fog machine or it’s just cooler, well it jams us pretty deep.

#2. We Feel Pressure To Perform Week After Week.

The average TV show has a multimillion-dollar budget, a staff of writers and only airs 22 weeks out of the year; that’s what we feel we’re up against. Where the pressure is doubled comes from the previous point. We know there are churches near by with a multimillion-dollar budget or a celebrity pastor who have the ability to do many more things at a much higher level. From this a sense of urgency is created in our mind to establish the same level of quality, option and excellence to meet the consumerist desires of culture.

Now if this were exclusively in the hopes of reaching new people this wouldn’t be so bad, but increasingly pastors feel the need to do this just to retain people who may be stuff struck by the “Bigger and Better” down the way.

#3. We Struggle With Getting Our Worth From Ministry.

When the numbers are up, the complements are flowing and the people are lively we feel great. When everything is level, it feels like it’s in decline. When things are actually in decline, it’s a full-tilt tailspin in our soul. We almost can’t help but equate the growth of the church with our ability/inability to produce growth. Therefore if there is any appearance of waning we feel defeated and wonder how long before the church board wises up and trades us to another team. The “Idol of Ministry” comes on and off the shelf pretty regularly in a pastor’s office.

#4. We Regularly Think About Quitting.

This comes in two very different forms.

One form is the variation of perhaps leaving ministry all together. While there are some really great things about vocational ministry, there are also less enjoyable realities such as: pastors’ families are noticed (i.e. judged) routinely, pastors’ purchases are observed (i.e. judged) overtly and pastors’ words are weighed (i.e. judged) consistently. Therefore the ability to hide among the masses and not be noticed is very appealing.

The second form comes with the desire for a change of scenery. Pastors are shepherds, thus we love greener grass even more than sheep. To leave for a bigger budget, better building or a place with less difficult people (yeah, we get delusional sometimes) stands out as lush Kentucky Bluegrass when contrasted with the dusty patch of ragged earth called “our current church.” This “Greener Grass Gawking” usually occurs when we become too proud (“My gifts are better than this place”) or too insecure (“I stink and just need to start over”) and flows from #3.

#5. We Say We Are Transparent – It’s Actually Opaque.

Today pastors are generally more open about their struggles than previous generations, but we still sense there is a threshold that is not to be crossed. People want open, honest and real, but not too much. Generally churches want just enough so they feel safe with you, but not so much that it spoils the expectations they have of you. Unfortunately the threshold is a blurry line by which pastors never know how much is too much until its too late. After a couple of infractions we learn that opaque is safe – even if it’s isolating.

When pastors’ wives are polled on how it feels to be the spouse of someone in full-time ministry the #1 answer is one profound word, “Lonely.” They are around hundreds of people every week, but they never feel they can let their guard down because they know people have opinions on how a pastor’s wife should be. Now I know people say they don’t, but literally every church I have served in has shared unflattering stories of the previous pastor’s wife. Many of these stories came from the spiritually mature leadership who considered the pastor and his wife to be their friends. The real irony comes in when later in the conversation I would be told, “But don’t worry, we don’t have any expectations on your wife. We just want to love on her.” Right! Now I don’t blame people for this natural human tendency, but being aware of how things are keeps you relationally opaque. And it’s not merely pastors and their wives who insulate. Pastoral families at large feel alone because there is a certain level of unknown expectations buried like landmines through the field of the church and so there is a constant mode of mostly transparent.

#6. We Measure Ourselves By The Numbers.

Numbers don’t matter! Yeah right. No matter how badly we want to slap that bumper sticker on our Ford the reality is that numbers matter to us. And they matter to us it part because they matter to God. The problem however goes back to #1-3. The absence of growth in our churches can cascade into an internal turmoil by which we begin to scrounge for “The Next Big Thing” that will bring “Radical Growth” “Guaranteed.” So we read books on how to be a “Deep & Wide, Vertical, Purpose Driven, Radical Reformission, Creature of the Word, Big Idea, Center Church.” Then we jet off to a conference with thousands of other pastors who are seeking to glean the secret of success. And what is the first question we ask one another between sessions? “So, how big is your church?” Yep, we measure ourselves by the numbers.

#7 We Spend More Time Discouraged Than Encouraged.

Occasionally people say to me, “Must be awesome to get paid to study the Bible all day.” Every time they do I think to myself, “Must be awesome to be able to give someone the finger on the 520 without people saying, ‘The pastor at Redemption Church flipped me off today during rush-hour.’” I’m not fully sure why that is the comment that flashes across my mental dashboard, but I think part of it stems from what I perceive to be the tone of the comment. Rightly or wrongly I infer they are saying, “Must be nice to have such a cush gig as a paid quiet-time.” In all honestly it is pretty awesome to be paid study the Bible, but it’s a major downer when people:

  • tell you – after 2 minutes of un-investigated reflection – that your 30 hours of study and 2 collegiate degrees were wrong.
  • tell you that they just couldn’t stay awake today during your sermon, but no offense. (How about I fall asleep at your kid’s graduation and we’ll call it even.)
  • tell you how you should have also said…
  • tell you how Pastor So-N-So says…

Aside from these particular examples I find that for most pastors it generally feels like the boat is taking on water more than racing with the wind – regardless of size or rate of growth. Lead pastors particularly suffer from this since much of their job is to focus on seeing things get better, which often translates into focusing on the broken, lacking or unfilled parts of the church more than enjoying what is right and working. Many of the most faithful and fruitful pastors in history have suffered deeply with anxiety and depression for the same reasons.

#8. We Worry About What You Think.

We’re human and we want to be liked. Therefore when we know we’re going to do or say something people won’t like, we worry about it. Now when I say that I don’t mean to infer that it causes us to avoid the hard things. There are some of my fellow pastors who avoid challenging topics or decisions out of fear of people, but most of the ones I run with still choose deliver the mail regardless of the popularity of its message. Yet we still worry about how you may take it.

#9. We Struggle With Competition And Jealousy.

We like to hold ourselves above the petty fray and reiterate, “It’s all about the Kingdom,” but in reality pastors are a competitive bunch. As soon as one pastor asks another, “How big is your church?” the game is on if the two churches are within 20 miles of each other (past 20 miles we lighten up a lot and think each other is pretty cool). Within 20 miles however we begin to assess one another’s style, focus, message, sophistication and marketing. We gauge to see if it’s a “Goldilocks Church” – not to deep, not too shallow, but just right (like us). If you’re too deep we benchmark you as internally focused. If you’re too shallow we brand you as consumer-driven. If however we conclude that you too are a “Goldilocks Church” we then figure out how our church is still better than your church. If you have lame amenities, we critique that you will never grow until you reboot that 70’s sanctuary. If you have awesome amenities, we criticize that you grow only because people are shallow and care more about stuff than Scripture.

Yes we know it’s not right. We know that it’s ego driven, but we still fall victim to it. We believe our church is the best church ever and we can’t understand why everyone doesn’t see it.

#10. We Feel Like We Failed You More Than We Helped You.

Most pastors will never be famous. Most churches will never break the 100 mark. Yet we all entered ministry to change the world and reach the masses. With this we know it is the expectation of churches that we accomplish this very thing. Every job posting reinforces the idea with the sentence, “We are looking for a man that will take our church to the next level.” Then when the next level isn’t hit in the way anticipated or within the timeline envisioned – we feel like we failed you. This is especially true in light of the reality that we are our own biggest critics. We came in with expectations higher than anyone in the church. You look to us for direction and when we feel like we failed to produce we feel like we failed you.

An Introduction to 2 Peter

28 Jan

Galilee

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

We begin a new series this morning into Peter’s second letter. Why does Peter feel a need to write again and who is he writing to? What is going on? Is this a letter for today? In this study we will answer those questions and more as we search God’s incredible riches together.

2 Pet. 1:1 says, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

First things first. Let’s review what we know about the man. Peter was originally named Simon and he was the son of Jonah according to Jo. 1:42. He had a brother named Andrew. He was married, but Scripture does not mention her name. Jesus healed his mother-in-law of a high fever as recorded in Luke 4:39. He was a fisherman that made that life changing decision to follow Christ while entertaining Jesus on his boat in the Sea of Galilee. In Acts 4:13, the elders in Jerusalem called Peter, “uneducated and untrained.” Peter was part of the inner circle of Jesus and is always listed first in Scripture when talking about Peter, James, and John. He is generally considered the leader of the apostles and typically is the first to speak. When he had questions, he asked. In Matt. 15:15 Peter admitted his ignorance at Jesus’ teaching; in Luke 5:8 he confessed his sinfulness. Peter was with James and John at the transfiguration and also heard the voice of God on what he called the holy mount in this letter. Peter didn’t quite understand the resurrection that Jesus taught. We see Peter’s faith waver as he walks on the water. We see his frailty in the garden when he fell asleep after Jesus asked him to watch and pray. Everyone recalls that Peter denied Jesus three times. It was Peter that cut the ear off of Malchus that Jesus subsequently re-attached. When told of the empty tomb, Peter ran and looked, but failed to understand its significance. Seeing Jesus on the shore after His resurrection, Peter dives into the water and swims to shore. Too often we focus on the negative aspects of Peter, but Peter was a great man for God; a great man of God.

It was Peter that was recognized as the leader of the disciples. He was an apostle of Christ, a messenger of Christ. It was Peter who first recognized Jesus as Messiah in Matt. 16. It was Peter that preached at Pentecost quoting Old Testament scriptures in Joel and Psalms that resulted in over 3000 Jews being saved. At the gate Beautiful, it was Peter who saw the lame man begging for money and said, I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk.”  (Acts 3:6) It was Peter that first preached to the Gentiles and understood that God does not show partiality. (Acts 10:34) When the Pharisees wanted to make the Gentiles keep the Law by being circumcised, it was Peter that stood up and reminded them they were saved by grace and asked them, Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”  (Acts 15:10) It was Peter that raised Dorcas from the dead.  (Acts 9:40) Peter was a great man for God.

Can you trust Peter’s second letter? That’s a great question. There are many skeptics say that this letter was not written by Peter. In fact there is more doubt this letter is authentic than any other book in the N. T. Scholars say Peter draws too much from Greek culture. A Galilean fisherman would not be so closely acquainted with Greek culture. There are 57 words used in this letter that aren’t used anywhere else in the N.T. 32 of those words do not appear in the Greek translation of the O.T. known as the Septuagint. Some argue the writing style is totally different from 1 Peter. So how can you know that this letter is authentic? We always let Scripture interpret Scripture. I think as we progress, you’ll come to the same conclusion I did. This letter was written by the Apostle Peter as he was led by the Holy Spirit of God just as Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:16. As we progress through this letter, I think you’ll see overwhelming evidence that Peter is the human author and this letter is the Word of God.

Peter greets his readers by saying, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:1) Notice that Peter identifies himself right at the beginning. Most of our English translations say Simon Peter, but the original says Symeon, pronounced sim-ee-own´. Peter did not use the normal Greek term for his name, but a Semitic term – one that would be used in a Palestinian or Arab type setting. A setting such as Israel. Symeon was not used in the second century dating this letter in the first century probably around 60-65 A.D. Peter describes himself as, “A bond servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:1) This is really interesting because the bond servant comes from the word that means slave. He willingly placed himself under the authority of Jesus Christ. He had no authority in himself, it came from Christ. The word also conveys the idea of honor. Peter was pleased; it humbled him to be a slave for Christ. Too often we lament and complain about what we perceive we cannot do because we are Christians and we ignore the tremendous honor that comes with being called a child of God; with being a slave for Christ. If you think being a slave is bad, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, Paul, James and Jude are each described in the same way. I think that’s a pretty good group of people to be associated with. What we know about slavery in America is not what Peter is talking about. By the strictest definition, a slave is someone that is owned by another without rights to be used in whatever way the owner sees fit. The difference in being a slave for Christ is the Owner has plans for you to prosper, not to harm you. Jo. 12:26 says, “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” Imagine, the God that created all the stars, and planets, and animals: the God that created us chooses to use us to grow the Kingdom, to use us to further His plans, to use us to show the love of Jesus: chooses us as part of the plan – if – we’ll simply follow Him.

Not only is Peter a slave, he is an, “Apostle of Jesus Christ.” In some contexts, apostle simply means messenger – that word occurs over 80 times in the N. T. Peter uses it more technically than simply being a messenger. He was called and appointed by Jesus according to Matt. 10 and Mark 3. As we’ll see later in this letter, Peter has all the authority necessary to write as if it were God Himself holding the pencil. He writes, “To those who have received a faith the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The recipients aren’t listed geographically as they are in his first letter, but there is a bond. They, “received a faith.” Received gives us the idea of a gift that must be accepted before it becomes yours. A faith that is, “The same kind as ours” is better translated equal standing leading us to the conclusion that his recipients were likely Gentiles. This would have been somewhat problematic given the special bond between God and His chosen people. Referring to the Gentiles, Paul wrote, “remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:12-13) How about Acts 10:34, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality.” This echoes the same thing Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:28-29) How is this faith received? “By the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Don’t underestimate the significance of this verse. Some say this righteousness is based on the fairness of God. Nonsense. The gift of God is based on His grace, not some measure of fairness. The righteousness is based on Christ’s sufficiency. He is God and Savior – the same person.

So there we have it. Peter provides a brief introduction before he gets the crux of the letter. This is an extraordinarily important letter as we will see as we search God’s Word for ourselves.

How is Your Temple?

9 Oct

Our guest blogger today is Matei Branistareanu. He is our dear friend and Brother in Christ who is a church planter and missionary in his native Romania. We have partnered with him for over a decade making disciples in numerous villages in Southeast Romania. In today’s message, Matei talks about the Temple. I encourage you to listen here as you follow along. I have made some grammatical changes to the text for understanding.

In Acts 3-4 we see Peter and John evangelizing by helping people to enter the Temple through the gate called Beautiful. What is your mentality about the Temple? You will always go to the temple if that is the true temple of God. It is a place unto which you will be always be going up. Meaning that you are below and the Temple is up high. When you are sad or upset, down trodden, had a rough run in with the wife, instead of wandering the streets to drown you troubles, or to wash your laundry in public, you go up to the Temple. There is where you can find the blessings of comfort and help.

Is the Temple that kind of sight to you? In Luke 19:1, Zaccheus climbed a sycamore tree to be able to see Jesus. He was up and Jesus was down? No! Jesus said to him, “Zaccheus get down in a hurry for today I must remain in your house.” In Luke 18:10 and 14, “Two men went up to the temple to pray.” The temple was located on Mount Moriah. It is a fortress of escape located in plain sight. A Christian is a Temple. 1 Cor. 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

How do you see the Temple? The way you perceive this Temple will lead your work and your service. Are you heavily burdened coming to the Temple? Are you anxious to come to the Temple? Would you bring your children who are doctors or engineers or that have some high position to the Temple? Would you not? When you enter the Temple without humility, the Temple is low in your estimation and not high. Then I understand why you don’t invite them to the Temple!  Be honest! Is that the way that you are seeing the Temple? The impotent saw the Temple inaccessible. He might have thought that he would never be able to make it into the Temple. Are you needful of forgiveness or healing ? How do you see the people in the Temple?  People of low esteem? Do you believe that there is God’s presence here and he can heal people and let them enter through this Wonderful Door which is Jesus Christ ? Who is going up to the Temple? Peter was going up with John. Would you invite someone to go up with you? With whom do you fellowship during the week? Who is your John or Peter?

Solomon’s Temple had 12 gates. The beautiful gate was toward the sun rising (Neh. 3:29) which led to the women’s court. This gate made of Corinthian bronze and shined in the sun light as if it was made of gold. This beautiful gate is a powerful contrast to the impotent [people] sitting by it. In today’s time this is still remaining true. We are having now-a-days churches and some of them even cathedrals, but at their gates people are sitting impotent. In that it is seen the beauty side by side with the helplessness. At the Temple people were coming to give in order to have good success. In our times not even this is practiced anymore. Therefore we do not have the impotent or beggars; someone [that] we might lead into the Temple. Those people gave money in the Temple in order to find favor with God. There was wealth study of today churches. It was found that there is so much property and assets that it could be said of it to be the richest organization in the world, but without spiritual power. What a contrast! An impotent man and a beautiful gate. The impotent could not enter in by it, but he was not allowed in in either. Was he unkempt?

There was once a beggar who used to come to church. He had an odor. The brethren of the church were irate over this man coming and they appealed to the Pastor to ask him not to come any more. The Pastor has addressed the man as follows, “Please go home and ask the Lord regarding our church and see what the Lord will say.” The next Sunday the man came back. He was the same smelly and unkempt. At the door of the church the Pastor asked the man and he replied, “I prayed, but the Lord said he does not know about this church anything either.” Obviously, He never entered that church. Oh how well it would be if the impotent man would enter that gate. He would not have to beg anymore. He would not have to stay at the gate hoping for a few copper coins, oh the riches that are found on the other side of the gate. If he would only know…. the little servant girl in the house of Naaman the Syrian. Brethren we do not live to just give help to someone, but to evangelize them and help them to enter through the gate. I believe if the two Apostles that were passing by the gate they would have had a problem if they had money. They might have given him [the beggar] money but not healing and acceptance before the Lord. Unfortunately with money it is easier to deal with some people’s matters, but if we evangelize them, then we have to follow up. (John 5:6-8)

Who wants to be like Peter and John? Who is the beggar? Does still exist beggars waiting for something that they do not know? If you think that there is nobody in spiritual need that means you are not a Christian. Peter and John did not meet by chance. They worked together. Do you have a Peter or a John? As a nation, the people of Israel have problems from birth as it is said in 1 Kings 18:21, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions?” In Acts 3:4 Peter and John were one in the Spirit. They spoke together, “Look at us.” What authority, what spiritual might, what testimony! We cannot go to heaven with our testimony damaged. Acts 3:5 reveals the lack of wisdom of the world. Romanians think that money is the main problem of our country, but it is not. It is not money that gets us out of our lack, but it is our faith and that faith in Jesus will heal our nations. (2 Chr. 7:14)

What part of the Temple program do you like the most? A father said to his son who was asking for money that, “If you can open up my fist than you can have the money that are there.” The son grabbed the father’s hand and began to wrestle with that fist to get it opened, but after some time he was getting tired to no avail. Then the father made like he was getting tired too and let go for the son’s sake. Somebody has asked the father why he is doing all this with his son. The father answered, “I want my son to have fellowship with me by having to go through this. I want his heart attached to mine and get real close to me.” There is no need for us to tell to God what our needs are. He already knows, but he is giving us a time of wrestling with Him. In this way a dialog is being developed and fellowship takes place. He wants us close. He does not want to be just a store house from where we get what we need. You could not tarry with me for one hour? The hour of prayer. Do we spend an hour in prayer? Well we do not come to the prayer service and at home we are very busy. Spiritually impotent! Among us the youth do not pray; neither do the kids in the secular schools, but they are having very much success. First in the things of the world but last in the things of God!

At what time are you going up to the temple? At 3:00 p.m. during the heat of the day? Were the camel rides air conditioned? For these people it was not difficult to go? We can tell why – spiritual impotence – I believe that is more like it. When the clock strikes sharp on the hour, it is time to go. What was your reason for going up to the Temple? I do not know, the Lord knows. The Jews would go to the temple three times per day. What is wrong with these Christians? They are lazy people that is why they go to the church so often for they don’t like to work. At the ninth hour again is the time of the sacrifice when the High Priest would offer the incense with the prayers of the saints. Are you coming at the church presenting your life pure and well like incense?

“But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk! And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God” (Acts 3:6-8) Once he was healed, his healing was authentic and he stayed close to the Apostles. The accent therefore it is put on, “In the name of Jesus Christ” [because] He is the One who can heal. Later on in Acts Chapter 4, we see this same man staying by Peter and John in prison full of joy in the Temple, but also in jail. We are not only Christians in good weather, but on bad weather too, right?

Peter’s Shift in Age

24 Sep

You can catch the podcast here.

Last week Peter spoke of the elder as overseer and he talked about the nature of the elder. Elders are examples not just to God’s people, but to people everywhere. This week Peter closes out this section by speaking to younger men.

1 Peter 5:5-7 says, You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Peter shifts from speaking about elders to the younger men, but what does younger mean? Some people get really hung on this phrase. Remember that Peter is writing to believers scattered across Asia. In 5:1 he speaks directly to the elders among the church. In light of this, it is likely that Peter is speaking to the younger men among the people as a specific age group. Why would Peter call out young men? The answer comes from what he says next. He says, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders.” Likewise – just like everyone else in the congregation. It’s a reminder to the younger men. Why them? Think about the young men you know. As a rule, are they compliant? This isn’t the first time Peter mentions the idea of submitting to authority. In 2:13, he told us to submit to every human institution. In 2:18, he told servants to submit to their masters whether they were good and gentle or unreasonable. In 3:1 and 5 he told wives to be submissive to their own husbands. The idea of submitting to others is not new. But it’s the younger men in particular that Peter reminds to submit to those in authority. There seems to be a rebellious streak in young men that may not be as prevalent in young women and Peter wants to be firm in his reminder to submit to those in authority. But it’s not blind obedience for any follower. We saw earlier that Peter told leaders not to use their authority as dictators. If teaching or guidance is given that is contrary to God’s Word, it shouldn’t be followed. At the same time, people should be inclined to follow the leadership and submit to their authority and not complain about everything that goes on.

Now Peter shifts again. “And all of you.” If there’s any doubt, he includes the entire congregation scattered about. “Those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” (1 Pet. 1:1) Everyone who is reading this letter, who is having this letter read to them. “And all of you clothe yourself with humility.”  Smooth relations will exist in the church if we have a spirit of humility. If we simply have the attitude that everyone is important, things will be smooth. If we have the attitude that we’re all on a journey of discipleship, we’ll get along just fine. Problems can arise when someone wants to exercise some kind of power over another, or wants to dictate how something must be done, or gets upset if their idea isn’t adopted or supported. The foundation of Peter’s challenge is found in Prov. 3:34: Though He scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted.” James quotes the same proverb in 4:6 of his letter. God is against the proud. It’s as simple as that.

Peter’s concludes by saying, “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” Let’s look at the first phrase. The “therefore” is there to tell us that since God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, we need to be humble. When we humble ourselves, we’ll experience God’s grace. We know contextually that believers are suffering through trials and persecutions and afflictions for their faith in Jesus who is the Christ. Believers are challenged to persevere regardless of their circumstances. We need to accept the suffering that God allows in our lives as part of His plan for our purification that Peter spoke of in 1 Pet. 4:7. He will lift you up at the proper time. When is that time? It may not be in this world, but we’re under God’s mighty hand.

The second phrase is one of the most often quoted verses in times of trouble. All you have to do, troubled Christian, is throw the cares or worries of this would to the Lord. It’s that simple! But too often, those words are hollow reminders of our inadequacy and we continue to worry over matters that are beyond our control because no one ever told us HOW to do that. Cast is a verb – an action word and it’s connected to the phrase humble yourselves. It tells us how to actually cast all your cares on Him. Here’s the relationship between the two. Believers humble themselves by casting their worries on God. If we continue to worry, then we are giving in to pride. How can anxiety and worry be characterized as pride? No one would argue that at the very least, worry could be a lack of faith, but pride? When we worry – also a verb – we’re convinced that we must do something to fix or control a situation. We’re trusting in ourselves. When we throw our worries to God, we acknowledge our trust in Him. We acknowledging that God is Lord and He is sovereign over everything. Peter knows the church is suffering; he knows they are under persecution and affliction. Casting your worries on God wouldn’t bring comfort if God wasn’t able to provide help in time of need. You wouldn’t tell someone your troubles or concerns that’s apathetic, cold hearted, or cruel. You wouldn’t do that because they don’t care. Giving your worry to God makes great sense, “Because He cares for you.” God is not indifferent and He’s not cruel. He has compassion on his children and will sustain them in every distress. Ps. 55:22, “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Affliction and trials will either drive you into the loving arms of God or will separate you from God. You think Peter doesn’t know a thing or two about pride? Peter told Jesus in Matt. 26:3, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you.” I’m sure Peter’s pride haunted him.

Regardless of your affliction or trials, God really does care for you. When you trust Him, you acknowledge His mighty hand, His power, His strength, and His sovereignty. When we humble ourselves before Him, it opens the floodgates for His grace to pour down on us.

The Elder as Shepherd

10 Sep

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week Peter encouraged us with the fact that more trials are coming and we ought not be surprised about it. But he also said that judgment is coming and it will begin with the house of God. As we move to Chapter 5, Peter begins addressing a group we haven’t seen to this point.

1 Peter 5:1-4 tells us, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

Peter talks about the elder as a shepherd and mentions the term elder here for the first time. He addresses the elders who are among you in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. He counts himself among them as a fellow elder. Peter exhorts them. This is an interesting word. It means to encourage or address in a manner of comfort and instruction. It was not a word that describes sternness or a command to obey. Peter says, “I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder.” Peter was an elder like those he was addressing. He did not approach them with the authority of his apostolic office. He did not use these words because he was the head of the church; or because, he had any pre-eminence over the other elders. Remember Alexander Haig? He was the Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. After the assassination attempt on March 30, 1981, Haig was quoted as saying, “I’m in control here.” Do you think Peter would he have used this language if he was the “head of the church” on earth?

Peter wanted the elders to understand that he was one of them, not over them, but a fellow elder. He speaks with humility and compassion. Remember, he just told them, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” Peter is concerned about the order and government of the church as well as submission and devotion. It is with this background that Peter speaks with the elders, those who are leaders, administrators, and judges in the church.

Let’s look at the term so we can get a better understanding of what it means. Eldership in the N. T. church followed the example that the Lord established for Israel. Gen. 50:7 speaks of elders in the house of Joseph. Elders of Moab and Midian are mentioned in Num. 22:7. Abraham’s servant is mentioned as having charge over “all that he owned” in Gen. 24:2. During the exodus from Egypt, the elders of Israel formed a definite group whose authority was recognized in Ex. 3:16-18. The ordinance of Passover was given to Israel through the elders as recorded in Ex. 12:3. Moses structured the government of Israel to include judges to govern groups ranging in size from 10 to 1000. 70 elders of Israel were granted a vision of God in Ex. 24 and were later filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied in Num. 11. Elders continued in a governing fashion during the exodus, through the exile period, and after exile. Each Jewish community had a council of elders or presbytery as mentioned in Luke 7.  In Chapter 20, Luke also mentions, “the chief priests and the scribes with the elders” in the temple confronting Jesus. When Christ made atonement for sin on the cross, His sacrifice eliminated the need for a priestly office, but the government of elders continued. Paul distinguishes the gift of rule and the gift of teaching when speaking of the functions of the office and ordained elders in the churches he planted. Administrators as well as teachers served the church. Jesus spoke of scribes that seemed to indicate these men were specially gifted in teaching and preaching. The ministry of teaching elders is emphasized in the New Testament, but Peter seems to emphasize the governing aspect of elders and likens an elder to a shepherd, a term that means feeding as well as oversight.

Elder comes from the Greek word presbuteros, which means elderly. Some denominations are governed by a group called the presbytery or elders. There are several words for the office of pastor that are used interchangeably in the New Testament. Each describes a different function of the office. Here, Peter concentrates on the shepherding aspect of an elder. Peter exhorts the elders to, “shepherd the flock of God among you.” Shepherd comes from the word poimaino. Peter knows about this word first hand. It is the same word that Jesus used to describe Peter’s responsibility to His sheep in John 21 when He called Peter. Shepherd covers two aspects of an elder’s responsibility. The first is feed which represents the real aspect of feeding.  It is providing nutrients. For the shepherd, it means leading the flock to green pastures. It means making sure the flock has everything necessary to ensure their physical well-being. The second aspect of shepherding addresses the care, guidance, and protection of the flock. A shepherd was to offer proper food for his flock and to govern it.  We call this exercising the office of pastor. It means, as a good shepherd provides for the wants and needs of his flock, the pastor of the church is to furnish food for the soul so the faith of believers may be strengthened. Notice the elder is shown as a shepherd leading his flock rather than a cowboy driving them. Sheep do not respond well to force and neither do the people in God’s flock.

It takes a special man to shepherd the flock. It can be discouraging and disheartening when the sheep don’t follow the lead. But you don’t quit. The sheep need proper nourishment.