Tuesday, May 31, 2011

1 Timothy 3:1

I love being a pastor, elder, and overseer.  I would consider it a high calling and think that becoming a king would be a demotion instead of a promotion when compared to the call of a pastor.  There is nothing else I would want to do.  Since I was 14, it is all I have ever wanted to do.  I preached throughout high school.  I went to college to be a pastor.  Yes, when in high school and college I worked at Freds, McDonalds, and Burt's, but only to make money to put towards paying for college to be a pastor.  If only everyone could know and be fulfilled by doing what it is they have always wanted to do.  I dream about it.  I wake up thinking about it.  There is not a 9-5 switch you can turn on and off with it.  I love people and want to see them saved and discipled into the image of Christ! 

I thought about it and was so blessed by it when our whole Generation (about 60-70 people were there) got together Sunday after church for a cookout and kickball (what a time of fellowship and outreach).  I loved cooking 80 hamburgers and 80 hot dogs to serve them!  I thought about it all day yesterday when on my day off on Memorial Day.  I thought about the people in my Life Group.  I thought about the people in our church who serve and whose lives have been changed.  I prayed for those who were going through difficulties.  I am driven by this calling!  It consumes me and I love it!

Paul gives Timothy some important qualifications for elders, pastors, overseers (bishops), and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:1-13.  I want to deal with just verse 1 in this blog.  Here is verse 1:  "Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task." 

"Trustworthy" basically means "you can count on this" and "it is common knowledge".  When Paul said it was a trustworthy saying it meant you could believe in this statement - everyone knows this.  He went on to say whoever "aspires" or "desires" to be an overseer desires a noble task.  This word "aspire" or "desire" means "is passionately pursuing" and "dedicated towards achieving".  In other words, a person says they are a pastor/elder/overseer and wants to be a pastor/elder/overseer passionately strives after it and is dedicated to fulfilling their calling in it.  It is all over them that they know what they are called to and are striving toward. 

The second word I want to point out is "overseer"  it is the word episkopos and means "an overseer".  It refers to those who are presbuteros (elders) as well (Titus 1:5 and 1 Peter 2:25).  It is the highest leader in the church.  Those who are striving after the calling of pastors/elders/overseers/bishops must be diligent, devoted, and literally consumed by it.  It doesn't mean that you strive to get the title or position and then stop striving - you continually strive to grow, learn, increase, and better fulfill this high calling.

Most of the English versions use the same word twice in this verse - "aspires".  But it is really two different words.  The first time the word "aspires" is used it refers to outward striving.  The second time it is used it refers to "inward" striving and growth.  What is the meaning?  Someone who strives outwardly at first to be a pastor/overseer/elder will only fulfill this if the inward striving increases as well.  The outward must be a reflection of the inward or the calling is not real.  How do you know you are called?  One of the best indications is aspiring.  You are constantly growing, dreaming, praying, and striving to be all that God has called you to.  You are giving your best at all times.  You don't give leftovers.  Nothing else distracts or is more important than your calling.  It is not something you do - it is who you are!

Lastly, it is called a "noble task".  The KJV calls it work.  Being an overseer/pastor/elder is hard, yet, fulfilling work.  Those in top leadership in the church should give more than those under them.  Those in top leadership not only do it to model but do it because it is an natural overflow of who they are and what they have been called to.  The words "noble" and "work" usually don't go together.  Nobility denotes one who has risen to the top but has others working for them - releasing them from hard work.  But those who are overseers/pastors/elders/bishops must work.  They work harder than anyone else because they are driven and called to it. 

I pray that as a pastor/elder/overseer I am being changed inwardly and outwardly as I strive to be a pastor/elder/overseer not in position but in calling.  I want to be challenged to grow and increase.  I want to learn what it really means to be a pastor and elder.  I aspire to be all the Christ has called me to be so our church can be and have all He desires for it!  I'll give whatever, whenever, however, to whomever because I am a pastor.  I am an elder.  Hey elders, pastors, and overseers everywhere out there - it is time to rise up! It is not just a little church job - its the high calling of a lifetime of ministry!  Aspire, grow, increase, work hard, be diligent, model, teach, train, equip, and live a life, as Paul points out in Ephesians 4:1, "the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ever Increasing Faith

I was thinking about faith this morning and how it should grow.  Our faith in the Lord and as a disciple should continually and systematically increase and build upon itself.  It is kind of like a tree.  Our faith is rooted in Christ and Scripture, which causes us to grow layer upon layer (like tree rings) and producing fruit that is both visible and usable.  This is true spiritual formation - discipleship!  Scripture backs this up.  The disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith in Luke 17:5.  Faith should grow, we see in the Scriptures, from a little speck in the illustration of a mustard seed of in Matthew 17:20 to a remarkable and powerful force removing mountains into the sea.

Jesus desires us to have great faith and praises those who do (Matthew 8:10).  He rebukes those who have little faith (Matthew 8:26).  I desire to have great faith and please the Lord.  After all, without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  Do you have great faith?  When Jesus, the Son of Man returns, what kind of faith will he find on earth? (Luke 18:8) 

Believers should desire to grow in their faith.  Paul recognized this in the early believers as their faith "grew abundantly (2 Thessalonians 1:3).  This kept them (as well as it should us today) from being "children tossed about by every wind of doctrine and by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Ephesians 4:13-14).  Here is a bold statement - if your faith fails to grow then your faith is doubtful.  Don't get mad at me.  Scripture says this.  Hebrews 10:39 says, "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls." 

Faith should increase, not decrease or remain constant.  We should increase in our faith just like the disciples did.  This faith should also spread from us to others as we portray (walk out through testimony) Christ in our daily lives. We must remember as the church that we are "the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10) that desire and grow as one body towards one common goal (the Gospel of Christ) as Paul suggested in Philippians 1:17 - "you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel."  As Paul said to Titus (1:4) we have a common faith that needs to be handed down to the next generation of believers (Jude 1:3).  After all, who wants to pass on a dying and tired faith?  We must pass on a vibrant expression of the wondrous realities existant in a life full of faith in Christ! 

I pray that "you will be like Him and see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2) because "Jesus is the source and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and despised shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne" (Hebrews 12:2).  Faith begins in Christ, grows in Christ, and is ultimately perfected in Christ. Have (present progressive tense - not past or present inactive) faith in God!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus (John 17:1-26)

I read this article this morning and found it very helpful in understanding the prayer life of Jesus and how we should pray as well:  http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=2384.

Here are a few of the things I noted:

1. Jesus' prayers were to His Father.  He modeled to us that we have an intimate Father who hears us and desires to hear us.  What good news it is that our prayers are not falling on deaf ears but reach the highest Advocate and Power in the universe - God the Father.  That brings confidence and boldness in prayer.

2.  Jesus' prayer followed preaching the word.  These two must never be separated.  Great prayer must go into preaching and great preaching must precede, accompany, or follow prayer.  For me to preach without prayer is foolishness.  For me to converse with my Father and then have nothing to preach to those around me means I really didn't hear from the Lord.  After all, who wouldn't have something to say to men after spending time in prayer with the Lord?

3.  Jesus' High Priestly Prayer preceded His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus modeled public prayer and then private prayer.  He modeled how to pray when in great pain and how to pray so edify and teach others.  If we truly want to know how to pray we must study the prayers of Jesus.

4.  Jesus' prayer sought glory for Himself ONLY so glory would be given to God.  This should be our prayer also.  The only reason we should ever desire the spotlight, attention, or special recognition is so we can point it all right back to God.  He alone should get the glory.  He alone should be lifted up.  If we pray elaborate prayers so others will look at how great we can pray or how many big words we can throw in there (even at how much scripture we know) then God will not get any glory because we robbed it from Him.  In that moment of stealing God's glory we have our reward but no one has grown closer to the Lord and we stiff-armed God from moving.  Our motivation and purpose in prayer should be to glorify God.

5.  Jesus' prayer defined eternal life in terms of discipleship.  How can fully know God at the moment of salvation?  One must spend a lifetime growing in Christ from the moment of conversion.  A life that does not grow consistently and progressively in Christ does not glorify God. 

6.  Jesus' prayer modeled not so much the form of one's prayer but the principles that are behind it.  Features such as length, repetition, setting, and structure of prayer are less important to Jesus than the necessities of features like submission to God, desire to glorify Him, and the anticipation of intimacy with the Father.  God isn't interested in lengthy prayers if they don't glorify Him.  He isn't interested in prayers that start and end properly if they aren't submitted to Him.  Prayers can be designed to teach others to pray but if they don't connect with the heart of the Father then they are only words to mere men and not the Almighty.

Read this article if you have time.  It will bless your prayer life.  I pray your prayers and lifestyle glorify Him.