Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trouble in the Sheep Pen

     Recently, I had the opportunity to read two articles published by "The Aquila Report" online.  One dealt with Mark Driscoll ("Yes, Restore Mark Driscoll, But to What?") and the other discussed "Young, Reckless, and Reformed".  Both of these articles are worth the time to read and think about because in many respects they are related.
Windows in the Cathedral at Lincolnshire 
     In the first article, the author discusses the fact that Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church fame has resigned from that ministry.  Over the past couple of years there have been charges by former members of being treated unfairly.  There were also charges of plagiarism by Driscoll in a book published under his name.  Of course, it is always sad to see a pastor leave a ministry he began, but this is not a new phenomenon.  There have been any number of leaders in the past who have resigned in the midst of scandal, but in this case, the author of the article asks a good question.  He says that Mark Driscoll should be restored to fellowship.  However, he questions if he should be restored to the pastorate.  There are some, he argues, that would be better off pursuing other callings.  Not everyone is meant to be a pastor especially if there are relationship problems that occur that results in a number of the sheep leaving the flock.  While I am not privy to all that transpired, I have read a number of accounts by former members who were themselves involved in leadership that reminded me how important it is to have a servant's heart if a person is in the position of pastor, elder or even a Sunday School teacher.
     In the second article (Young, Reckless, and Reformed), the author Mark Singleton points out the fact that the Reformed faith (of which Mark Driscoll was a part) has grown by leaps and bounds in the last several years.  With this growth, there is also great enthusiasm, but there are also some dangers.  He writes:  "There are churches and pastors who can testify about a difficult situation that arises from this large movement. The problem is the trend of young, reformed but heady college students who can talk theological circles around most layman, and even many pastors. Because of this theological depth they may request or receive authoritative positions they are completely unqualified for. This trend produces young people who are reformed and ready to have a microphone. The problem is that, because of their age, many of these guys—myself included—can be lacking in some serious wisdom."  Mark Singleton goes on to propose three important considerations that would help bring maturity to these believers.  Without understanding how to apply what we believe in a manner that is glorifying to God, we can wound others.  We may have great education, Bible college or even a seminary degree but are we ready to lead?  I wondered if this is what happened to Mark Driscoll.  Did he start to believe his own press?  Was he caught up in the success of the church?
     In Paul's letter to Timothy (3:1-7), he lays out the qualifications for teaching and ruling elders in the church:  "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil."  
     Within the passage, there are several things which stand out for leaders.  First, Paul mentions some character qualities.  The person must be self-controlled.  No hair trigger tempers here that result in conflict.  The individual should be respectable and hospitable.  That word "hospitable" describes the ability to be welcoming to everyone in the body of Christ both young and old alike.  Furthermore, Paul describes a man who is gentle and not quarrelsome or a lover of money.  This indicates the heart of a servant not someone thinking only of his own welfare.  Paul also rules out recent converts who may not be mature enough in the faith to effectively lead as well as someone who is well thought of by those outside the church body.  It is a picture of a humble servant with a tender heart not a bully, or someone who demands his own way.
      I remember when I was in college that there were some who went into teaching for all the wrong reasons.  They wanted the benefits, three months off and a retirement plan, but they confided in me that they really were not crazy about working with students.  It made me sad because that meant shortchanging the students.  They would be the ones to suffer.  The same is true if a person undertakes leadership as a pastor, teacher or elder when they really only want the title, benefits, or the spotlight.  The sheep will ultimately be shortchanged.
     A pastor/counselor wisely told me some years ago that when someone ministers out of a desire to be recognized and to have his needs met, he will ultimately end up wounding others.  I believe this is a valid point.  James 3:1 tells us:  "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment."  Our motives are always on display before God.  He alone knows the heart.
     It is my prayer that in the situation with Mark Driscoll as with anyone else in similar circumstances there can be repentance and sincere restoration to fellowship.  I also pray there will be greater accountability to other believers.  May God grant us all grace as we walk daily that our motives and hearts can be humble, righteous and holy before the Lord so that He ALONE can receive the glory.  We are all called to have a servant's heart.  Selah!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"I Can See Clearly Now"

     This past weekend, I did a job I do not enjoy, but the weather was so beautiful I knew I had to use the time.  I washed windows outside and in the house.  Now we can see clearly through sparkling clean windows.  It gives me a good feeling when I have worked hard and can actually view the results.  I also now realize just how dirty those windows were!  Isn't it funny how easy it is to let our vision become clouded much like those dirty windows?  That is why reading God's Word and letting it be the measure of all we say, think, and do should be a priority.
     An often quoted verse from Romans 12:2 reminds us that we need to keep our spiritual windows clean:  "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  When Paul wrote these words, he was trying to remind the Roman believers that it is easy to fall into conformity with the world's style, fashion, music and thought process.  After all, we live in this world 24/7.  We are bombarded by media through our smart phones, computers, electronic tablets and T.V.'s.  All day
A view from Neuschawnstein Castle near Munich, Germany
long we hear the world view as presented by the Prince of this world - satan.  However, we know his end will come, and so will his lies, perversions and injustice.  Therefore shouldn't we bathe our minds in the Word of God so that we more consistently hold to a Christian worldview?
     In my study Bible, there is a footnote with this verse that explains this verse in even more depth.
"...this world is better translated 'age', which refers to the system of beliefs, values - or the spirit of the age - at any time current in the world.  The sum of contemporary thinking and values forms the moral atmosphere of our world and is always dominated by Satan."  We all know that daily we see changes in the values that are acceptable in the world culture.  At one time, life was considered precious and now we see babies being aborted at a record rate and assisted suicide being promoted.  As we float along the river of life, even Christians can get caught up in the rapids of worldly thinking.  The only sure foundation for our faith and life is the Word of God.  His truth is everlasting and does not change even as God Himself does not change.
     When my husband and I were privileged to watch and study Focus on the Family's "The Truth Project", our eyes were opened to all the subtle lies being sold in our world.  It is amazing how dim the windows of our spirit had become.  This is the reason that we began to share it in our church, Sunday School and in our home group.  If we allow ourselves to be indoctrinated by the ideas of this present age, we will be unable to present a defense for the faith we hold dear.  We must understand the Word of God and what He says about life, our relationship to Him, our need for a Savior, and what He sets as the moral standard for our conduct.  After all, He made us and knows us better than we know ourselves.
     As we continue to look at the verse in Romans, we see the word "transformed" which has its origin in the Greek, and in English, it means "metamorphosis" or a change in outward appearance.  The same word is used in Matthew (Matthew 17:2) to describe the Transfiguration.  Jesus was changed outwardly, and we, as believers, are to show outwardly what has happened in our life on a daily basis.  This means that we are to be different than the world.  How do we accomplish this?  We do so by the power of the Holy Spirit as we are renewed in our minds.  Only through consistent study of God's Word can we live a life that is good, acceptable and perfect.  This is the kind of holy living which God desires.
     Bible study, prayer and regular fellowship with other believers is crucial to our spiritual health.  These are the things which keep the windows of our heart clean and clear as we travel through this life.  Sitting under the solid preaching of God's Word will also keep our feet grounded.  God has provided so many opportunities for us to grow that we are without excuse.  If you have not ever seen "The Truth Project", I would encourage you to go through this series.  It helps us to understand what it means to have a Christian worldview.  Lets all keep the windows of our spirit clean and clear so we can see what is the "good and acceptable and perfect" will of God.  Selah!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Doing Good While We Have the Opportunity

The Church of the Holy Rood
 Several years ago my husband and I had the privilege of traveling to Scotland as well as several other countries.  It was not only a once in a lifetime opportunity to celebrate our anniversary in a special way, but also a chance to travel to places where history was made.  One such location was the city of Stirling, Scotland which not only had a monument to William Wallace ("Brave Heart") but also The Church of the Holy Rood where both John Knox and Ebenezer Erskine had preached the Gospel of Salvation.
     As we toured this old church, I noted in several places both on the wall as well as in the graveyard behind the church, inscriptions in stone commemorating the lives of various individuals who had died in the faith.  One such writing touched my heart.  It described a woman who had been the wife of a pastor, a faithful mother, someone much loved by others and a caring person who demonstrated the love of the Lord.  What a testimony to a life well lived that brought glory to God!  In fact, all of us should have this type of epitaph when we leave this world.
     In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul wrote some encouraging words for all believers to walk out.  Chapter 6, verses 9-10 read:  "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."  I believe that this is how the good lady written about on that stone wall had lived her life, and this is how we should live ours.  We are told, by the Apostle, to not grow weary in doing good.  This is not always easy is it?  There are days at work when our fellow man may say or do something that arouses a desire in us to strike back with a harsh word.  Likewise, for those who are young mothers, it can be difficult to continue on when the weight of family demands may be at an all time high.  Yet, Paul tells us not to become weary in doing good.  Realistically, only the Holy Spirit can help us be successful in this endeavor.
     Furthermore, Paul encourages us to do good to everyone and especially to fellow believers.  This should not be hard, but we also struggle with the old flesh that at times would rather do things our way and ignore the needs of others.  Keeping this in mind, the first place we need to start is in prayer before our heavenly Father.  We need to ask God to open our eyes and show us where we might be a blessing to people we encounter.  Today, for example, a gentleman came into our office distressed over a situation concerning his eyes.  I sought the counsel of my husband and took time to explain the best approach to this gentleman.  He needed someone to help him sort out what he should do, and after our brief discussion, he felt reassured.  All I did was listen and try to answer his questions.  This is what he needed.  It is that simple.  We do good to others when we listen to them, visit the sick, help someone grocery shop, call a friend who needs encouragement or give someone a ride to an appointment.  We demonstrate the love of Christ in many simple ways, but we need to look for the daily opportunities.
     Not only are we to do good to others, but we are to especially look for ways to bless our fellow believers.  In the book of Corinthians, Paul talked about how we are all part of the body and each one of us cannot do without the other part.    Therefore, by serving one another, we are glorifying God.  Life is short here on this earth so we must make use of every opportunity to do good.  One small act of kindness can change the course of someone's life.  Selah1