It’s Monday morning, and this week is off to an obstinate start.
I needed to make a payment by phone. Expected it to take five minutes. Took an hour.
Then, I got ready to head out to Starbucks to work on this article and I couldn’t find my mug. After more than 10 years of officing at Starbucks, it recently occurred to me that one of those insulated steel mugs would keep my tea hot throughout an entire morning or afternoon of work. If you remember to bring it with you.
This morning, I remembered. And now, I can’t find it. I’ve checked all over the house, in the truck — even called Kasie. No sign of it anywhere.
Finally, I give up and head off to Starbucks, facing the prospect of having to purchase another cup or end up drinking tepid tea – the kind of situation my son would identify as a “First World Problem.”
Touché in absentia. Read more
Why do churches “call” a Pastor, but “hire” his secretary?
(I don’t know whether that is always true, but it has been in my experience.)
I suspect that a more fundamental question focuses on the nature of the relationship of a Pastor to the congregation. Is he their shepherd or a member of their staff? Their leader or their employee?
Based on most of the various designations for him, he seems to be the leader. Pastor, Shepherd, Elder all reflect authority and leadership.
But, in the current day, the financial relationship between Pastor and congregation paints a different picture, for he is almost always an employee, and by definition, under their authority. Even in situations where he receives no pay, this paradigm usually defines the relationship.
In practice, the reality of each individual situation tends to be a somewhat schizophrenic confusion falling somewhere between the two extremes. Always an employee, but that reality may be, more or less, overshadowed by the influence he wields as a leader.
It is not my intention to embark on a discussion of ecclesiastical leadership, but rather, to recognize that our assumptions about paying him have influenced this relationship, and examine those assumptions in light of the broader New Testament teaching on supporting ministry.
So, when we speak of supporting ministry, what do we mean? Read more
As we prepare to move to the third item on God’s agenda for our finances – Funding Ministry – it’s time to consider another question:
What is the relationship of a Pastor to the congregation? Is he their shepherd or a member of their staff? Their leader or their employee? Can he be both?
What passages come to mind as you think of this question?
Check out 1 Corinthians 9:1-18; Philippians 4:10-20; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; Galatians 6:6-10. How do these influence your thinking?
We have journeyed through the Old Testament, tracing the hope held out since man decided to pursue life on his own terms. Following it through the millennia, we have seen the hope grow from a glimmer in Genesis 3:15 into a full-blown image with surprising detail. By the time we get through The Prophets, we are able to put together the following description -
- He will crush the Enemy who challenged God’s Kingdom on earth.
- He will bring, not only relief from the curse, but, in it’s place blessing to all nations.
- He will bring such complete knowledge of the Lord that pain and destruction will be done away with among all creatures. The lamb and lion will lay down together.
- He will be a descendant of Abraham and David, ruling sovereignly over a regathered Kingdom of Israel that will not be overthrown. All Israel’s oppressors will be finally and completely defeated.
- His government will establish perfect peace, justice and righteousness in all the earth.
- He will suffer for the atonement and healing of the many.
- Oh, I almost forgot. He will also be God-incarnate.
The period of the Prophets, which began, perhaps as early as 872 BC, and lasted until 431 BC, was relatively rich with communication from God. Much of this communication relayed God’s displeasure with Israel for their failure to keep their covenant with Him, and the resulting judgment. In this vein, one of the earlier prophets, Amos foretold (760 BC) of a coming time when men would long to hear from God, but would not.
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God,
“When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the Lord.
People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
The will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord,
But they will not find it.”
With the closing of the book of Malachi, this famine began. From 431 BC until the prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus and John, around 1 BC/AD, there is only silence. Yet the anticipation continues. Read more
As we continue the journey of learning what it means to “love and hate like God”, I am drawn back to a passage we touched on in last week’s look at the Kingdom - Hebrews 10 & 11 – particularly 10:26-39.
Yet, when I go back and read the passage, it doesn’t quite fit our pursuit as we’ve described it. We set out to find the things we should love because God loves them, and the things we should hate because God hates them. But this passage does not focus on our displeasure with other things, or even God’s displeasure with other things – it focuses on His potential displeasure with us.
Still, I can’t let go of the sense that we need to take a deeper look at this passage. Why?
Pausing to reflect, I realize the need for more clarity on exactly what we are pursuing. Describing our goal as “loving what God loves, and hating what He hates” was enough of a destination to start the journey, but now I see the need for a more specific destination.
Kind of like deciding to go backpacking in Colorado. While Colorado is an ideal place to backpack, there is a lot of Colorado that will not deliver the experience I have in mind when I think “backpacking in Colorado”. What I am looking requires a more specific destination.
So, how can I better define our pursuit of loving and hating like God? Three issues come to mind. Read more
The question that drove our four-week study of the Sheep and Goats was whether our pursuit of social justice determines our eternal destiny. We concentrated on identifying the various characters in the story, the actions on which the judgment is based, and how the story meshes with everything else we know about salvation by faith.
In all honesty, our greatest concern was probably whether or not we are a “goat”. Do we need to fear the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels? Indeed, that was the issue that prompted the study – the contention that God will send us to hell if we don’t serve the poor and needy of this world. Which is to say, our pursuit has been driven by fear.
So, is fear God’s chosen method to align our hearts with His? In our pursuit of loving what He loves and hating what He hates, that is what we are really seeking – to align our hearts with His. Is fear His only tool, or even His primary tool for this?
Looking at Jesus’ example, we were surprised to see that, after healing a leper, He tells the man to keep it quiet. This seems very odd. Our instincts are to broadcast our good deeds. Yet Jesus is telling this guy to keep His deeds a secret. And not just here. Time and again, Jesus suppresses information that would seem helpful to those around Him.
Consider other examples:
- Jesus is asked to go heal a sick, 12 year old girl, but before He arrives, she dies. He kicks everybody out except Peter, James, and John. After resurrecting the girl, He gave “strict orders that no one should know about this” (Mark 5:43; Luke 8:56).
- In spite of Jesus’ strict instructions about the above incident, the news spreads throughout the land (Matthew 9:26). Two blind men come, seeking healing. He grants their request, but sternly warns them that no one should know about this. Nevertheless, they spread the news throughout the land (Matthew 9:30-31).
- Again, in Mark 7, Jesus tries to keep a low profile (v. 24), but a Gentile woman comes, wanting Him to cast demons out of her daughter. Jesus resists, but because of the woman’s persistence, He casts out the demons.
- This is followed by a deaf man being brought to Jesus (Mark 7:32). Rather than making a public spectacle, He took him aside, healed him privately. Again, He gave orders not to tell anyone, but “the more He ordered them, the more widely they proclaimed it” (Mark 7:36).
It is easy to come away from the story of the Good Samaritan feeling overwhelmed. I mean, how can I show mercy to everyone that I encounter who is in need? Even acknowledging that such mercy will be inconvenient, persistent, messy, and personal, if I try to emulate all that the Samaritan did with every homeless or needy person that I come across – not just giving them a few dollars, but committing to help them get back on their feet – Wow! I doubt I can successfully do that with one, much less every one that I encounter. Read more
In our look at Part 1 of the story of The Good Samaritan, we saw that the story was a response to a religious leader who was attempting to justify himself in the eyes of the Law. Although religious, he did not come to Jesus as to The Christ, but as one still under the condemnation of the Law – an unbeliever. Thus, there is nothing in the story that directly addresses our responsibility, as disciples, to proclaim the Gospel.
In our pursuit of what it means to love what God loves and hate what He hates, we have discovered that loving our enemies is not about being infinitely nice, but about representing God’s character, in this case, His mercy. And we have found that the plan is not make the world like us so much that everyone wants to become a Christian, but to validate our message with a unique unity among believers, borne out of love. More needs to be said on this last point, but we will get to it in due time.