We may not know how family members will treat us today or what mood our co-workers will be in when we show up this morning.
Actually, until we step out of bed (and get down a dose of coffee) we don’t know what mood we will be in today.
How sweet to know that God never changes.
His heart does not change, so His heart for you doesn’t change. He will be the same today as He has always been.
This should make us eager to spend a little time with Him (a lot is okay too), because we will find our Heavenly Father already waiting for us – with ears, heart and arms open wide.
God Gave Leaders to His Church
The New Testament uses 3 titles for those who lead the local church
(1) Elder – this comes from the Old Testament title for the leaders of a community. Acts 11:30 is the first time it is used for church leaders
(2) Overseer – first used in Acts 20:28. The title bishop came from this word and over time it became a higher office in the church
(3) Shepherd – this word is used in Ephesians 4:11 and it is the basis for the commonly used title of “pastor”
Churches today may use these terms differently, but in the New Testament they are interchangeable
We see language representing all three titles in 1 Peter 5:1-4
Many churches have elders with the chief leader called pastor; but we don’t see this distinction in the New Testament
‘Pastor’ is probably the title used most often because it best fits the overall role
The essential role of the pastor is unchangeable. It is the ministry of the Word in teaching, leading and protecting
Biblical parameters for pastoral leadership
1. It must be Qualified leadership (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
Notice there is only one skill required in this list which is “able to teach”
Word ministry is central to pastoral ministry, because it is what we lead from
This shows us that Word ministry must be central to all aspects of church life
Each member of the church fulfills their role through biblical faithfulness
The rest of the qualifications for pastors are character driven
Biblical truths are displayed by character
We don’t truly know biblical truths until we live out those truths
2. Pastoral leadership is to be Male (1 Timothy 2:11-13)
This is seen by many as a proof that the Bible is outdated and misguided
But this is not an attack on women or a degrading of them
v11 actually contained a radical elevation of a woman’s role, since middle-eastern culture kept women from education
Paul was expanding how the Church looked at the worth and role of women
Yet, Paul does add what is “not permitted” v12
Galatians 3:28 tells us all believers are equal before God,
But here in v13 God has ordained an order of authority and submission
Submission is a dirty word in our culture. However, it is an essential perspective of Biblical Christianity
Submission was required of Christ: equal to Father, yet submissive
Submission is at the heart of the gospel, as we submit to Christ as Lord
Submission is essential to a biblical family and a healthy church
What is the role of women in the church?
Women are to be fully engaged in church life for they are needed and fully gifted by the Holy Spirit
Women are to be a source of influence and learning for the whole church
3. Pastoral leadership is best Shared
The references to elders in the New Testament Church are almost all plural (Acts 14:23, Acts 20:17, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:5, James 5:14. 1 Peter 5:1)
This is not mandated in the Bible, but it appears to be the example
Wisdom itself also calls for shared counsel (Proverbs 11:14 etc.)
Our church views all pastors as equal in authority
Reason #1: we see no convincing biblical evidence of a higher level of pastor
For those who point to James in Acts 15, Galatians 1:19 tells us he is an Apostle
Many claim the so called Moses model, but Moses was not a pastor, nor did he lead a church
Reason #2: we want to follow what helps us best glorify God
To operate as a plurality forces us to continually work on character issues; it helps build our sanctification
A major criticism of operating as a plurality is that it is less efficient
“Less efficient concerning what?” Moving faster or building character?
We have found that it brings greater continuity among the various areas of responsibility held by the different pastors
4. Pastoral leadership is Servant leadership
All pastors/shepherds serve under the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4)
Servanthood is the only form of life or leadership that the New Testament gives to us
This is true of pastors, small group leaders, parents, husbands, and anyone who wants to be a gospel influence
by Debbie Huber
Have you ever had a situation where you felt your child was treated unfairly? Has it happened in your church? How did you, as a parent, respond?
Maybe your child was not chosen for a solo or asked to be a student leader in the youth group. Maybe your child was not invited to a sleepover or to a birthday party. Maybe it seemed like someone in authority was unfair to your child (a coach, a Sunday School teacher or youth group leader, etc.). These things can hurt and cause disappointment. As parents, it is hard to see our children sad and disappointed.
How should we, as Christian parents respond?
Unfortunately many times a response is seen in the church that mirrors how the world would react. It is natural for feel sad for your child’s hurt feelings and to comfort them. But hurt feelings can easily turn into selfishness as children dwell on the “Why me?”.
Frequently selfishness is validated by the parent letting the child know that their disappointment is justified because it was not fair. Rather than focusing on the godly response, “fairness” becomes the primary focus. And often the parent will attempt to fix things by making sure that the appropriate person in authority hears about your child’s hurt feelings and the unfairness of the situation.
So how can we turn this situation into a gospel opportunity?
When we deal with situations from the perspective of fairness, the gospel message is lost. Emphasizing the fairness of the situation is really feeding into our natural tendency toward selfishness. That our child’s rights are more important than grace, mercy and love for others.
This is the opportunity to turn the situation into helping our child see his great need for the gospel as we lovingly speak to them gospel truths in their disappointment.
God in His great mercy knows the tendencies of our hearts to seek out our rights.
Remind them of the most unfair thing of all: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. The perfect, sinless Jesus became sin in our place so we can stand before God with the sinless righteousness of Christ. This isn’t fair but it is a precious gift that God gives us through Christ.
Help them to see that they cannot fix this disappointment and selfishness on their own and that is why Jesus had to come and why we need Him.
Lead them to the God who calls us His children to seek forgiveness and help for our selfish hearts.
Encourage them to love and show grace to those who have hurt them as Jesus graciously died for us when we didn’t deserve it.
Show them that thankfulness for Christ’s forgiveness of our sins is the opposite of worrying about fairness.
I remember as a child when I felt sick, there was something restorative about my mom’s hugs.
When my children were little, having them run up and throw their arms around me was one of the greatest feelings in the world.
They don’t run up to me anymore, but I still love hugs from my girls; while Jordan and I settle for grunts and a punch in the arm or a pat on the back.
When I travel to Belarus or Guatemala, I joyfully receive bear hugs from my dear friends.
Then there are the wondrous hugs from my wife that make it seem as though all is right with the world. Sometimes when I am feeling worn around the edges, I ache for a hug from Debbie
There truly is something special about hugs
This is because God made us to love them. Love, security, peacefulness, reassurance, affection, friendship, contentment – and any other good association we have with hugs are all qualities that come from the heart and character of God.
These feelings exist because God has expressed them to us.
God is the one who invites us to call Him “Abba Father” which is an intimate expression of saying Dad. He is the most wondrous of Fathers and He loves to hold us. Psalm 139 describes how in remote places, even there “your right hand shall hold me”.
Maybe you feel it is too presumptuous to think of God holding you in a strong and safe hug – but is not God an even more loving parent than ourselves?
If we love to give hugs, this is because God loves to hold those He loves.
Do you need a good hug, don’t be hesitant to receive the embrace of your heavenly Father who loves you more than tongues can tell or thoughts imagine.
Learn to rest in the strong and secure arms that do not let us go.
Love the church God established
God established his Church in loving unity (vs 1-7)
The bonds of our unity are rather extraordinary
1. The unity of the Church is Trinitarian (v4 one Spirit, v5 one Lord, v6 one Father)
God is a Triune being, and each member is ever working in every believer
God’s greatest intention for us is that we share this unity (John 17:20-23)
2. The unity of the church flows out of the gospel (v5 one faith, one baptism)
3. The unity of the church flows into eternity (v4 one body, one hope)
The Church is a forever family
We are all part of the same covenant kingdom
So why do churches often struggle with unity?
(1) Satan hates God, so he is relentless in attacking the church which is precious to God
(2) People in the church don’t always understand their own identity. Instead they look at church life through culture rather than Scripture
The application of our unity is in vs 1-3
Paul urges us to live according to the realities of our unity
This requires us to see these realities when we see one another
God established structure for his Church
God has given specific practices for every church:
(1) The church is to gather regularly to be under the ministry of the Word
(2) The church is to practice community
(3) The church is to practice the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper
(4) The church is to protect against sin through church discipline
And in Ephesians 4 we are told God gives leaders to his church (vs 11-12)
Leaders are given by God to organize and lead local churches, so that the practices God has given to the church are maintained
In this passage the emphasis is on their responsibility to “equip” the members of the church
An implication of God’s structure is the importance of membership
The church is not just universal (all believers everywhere), the church is local (specific congregations)
Without the commitment of membership, which church are we responsible to?
Without the commitment of membership, how do pastors fully know who is under their care?
God established the purpose of his Church (vs 13-14)
The great purpose of the church is to make mature Disciples of Christ
We proclaim the gospel to bring people into the church
We press toward Christ-like maturity, so we actually look like him
God’s purpose must shape how we shape practices of church life
So an important question churches must continually ask: Do our practices bear this fruit?
God established engagement for his Church (vs 15-16)
The existence of church leaders doesn’t minimize the role of church members
v16 the church is held together by “every joint”
v16 the church grows when “each part” is working properly
Churches cannot be healthy unless their members are engaged
This doesn’t mean random volunteering, but a commitment to the life of your church
v16 also states that members most “work properly”, which means the characteristic of our involvement is not a matter of personal opinion, it is to be shaped by Scripture
A church that places the weight of ministry on its leaders will have a very limited ministry
So it is important that members have clarity about the doctrines of church, otherwise their involvement will be directed by opinion rather than Scripture
When it comes to church life, it is meant to be our life
Have you seen those amazing pictures of Ice Hotels?
These are real buildings made from ice and snow. They are beautiful, unusual . . and temporary. They are built knowing they will only last for a few months.
This understanding determines how they are built and furnished. The owners only invest in them according to the amount of time they will get out of them.
Wouldn’t it make sense if we had that perspective about life in this world?
We think of the Ice Hotels as being temporary and other buildings as being permanent. Yet everything in this world is temporary with the exception of our souls.
Everything you possess – including your body – are short lived.
The Great Pyramids are among the oldest structures on earth, yet compared with eternity to come, they are more like the sand castles that kids make on a summer day.
Our decisions and our values will be healthier, wiser and much more God-centered when we recognize what will last and what will not.
Do we live as if physical realities are as long lasting as spiritual realities?
What receives your greatest attention?
Where do you invest your resources?
What do you value most in this world – and how long will it last?
Parenting is filled with a wide range of challenges and struggles.
As time goes on the complexities increase, and second guessing the job we’ve done can become a significant burden as our children are about to leave for college or other out of our reach places.
The truth is, none of us will become the first perfect parent.
But each of us can improve in our parenting. One tool to help us improve is asking the right questions. The best questions are those which open our child’s hearts to us, AND questions that reveal how we are doing as a parent.
It takes courage to ask questions that may reveal our failures, but the risk of continuing in failure is not a trait to be admired.
You love your children and they love you. Developing a relationship where these questions go back and forth will help create healthy communication that continues throughout our lifetime.
Rick Gamache is senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Bloomington, Minnesota. Rick has cultivated this habit and shared these questions which he asks his children:
How are your devotions?
What is God teaching you?
In your own words, what is the gospel?
Is there a specific sin you’re aware of that you need my help defeating?
Are you more aware of my encouragement or my criticism?
What’s Daddy most passionate about?
Do I act the same at church as I do when I’m at home?
Are you aware of my love for you? Is there any way I’ve sinned against you that I’ve not repented of?
Do you have any observations for me?
How am I doing as a dad?
How have Sunday’s sermons impacted you?
Does my relationship with Mom make you excited to be married?
Gamache added, “On top of these things, with my older kids, I’m always inquiring about their relationships with their friends and making sure God and his gospel are the center of those relationships. And I look for every opportunity to praise their mother and increase their appreciation and love for her.”
Taken from “Stand; A Call for the Endurance of the Saints” Edited by Justin Taylor
What do we do with old sins?
Learn from them?
Try to minimize them?
Beat ourselves with them?
Worry over them?
Live in regret from them?
The Bible tells us our response to sin, which is to repent and then move forward from them, leaving our sins behind.
But there is an even bigger question.
What does God do with our old sins?!
Tim Challies gives us this wonderfully biblical and encouraging view of what God does with the sins of his people!
What we will not find on this list is that God,
Reminds us of them
Holds them over our head
Pulls away from us because of them
We should have God’s view of sin, when it appears in our life.
And, we should have God’s view of sin, when it has been washed away!
My book recommendation this month is inspired by Mission Conference week.
“The Insanity of God“ by Nik Ripken (recently released as a movie), tells some of the most powerful stories that I have ever read!
The author during a season of discouragement over the condition of the world, decided to initiate a couple year project in which he would interview Christians in the most persecuted places in the world.
He wanted to find out how they could persevere in such conditions.
The project ended up taking over 15 years!
Ripken tells extraordinary stories from believers in then Soviet Russia, China and the Middle East.
This is a book that will educate, inspire and challenge you.
I hope you don’t miss reading it.
We complain easily and we complain a lot.
As Christians we complain despite the reality that our life has the proverbial “embarrassment of riches”. The fullest description of our wealth of blessings may be what we find in Ephesians 1:3-14:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
A believer who habitually complains – is somewhat like Bill Gates moaning about his finances, or Michael Phelps whining that he doesn’t have enough Olympic medals.
In addition to what Ephesians describes,
We have God’s unfailing Word that we can read and follow in all situations
We have the Holy Spirit – all that God is – living in us
We have Christ who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords interceding on our behalf
We have the open invitation to cast every burden upon our Lord Jesus
We have the Church which God raised up to bless and support us
We have the wondrous promise that every situation will work together for our eternal good
So how are we using this treasury of ‘riches’ from God?
Yes, our mouths should be open and we should have a lot to say. But let it be praise rather than complaint, thanksgiving rather than grumbling. These are the appropriate responses for all who are in Christ! As the Psalmist declares,
“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised”