Only Good Christians make Good Pastors

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. – 1 Timothy 4:6-11

The passage before us is about practicing what you preach. It casts a light on what we practice and exposes the idols and sins so common among Christ’s ministers. Paul exhorts Timothy to “put these things before the brothers” in v. 6. What things? 1 Tim. 3:15 “how one ought to behave in the household of God.” That’s what the whole book is about – the aim of our charge in 1:5.

How do God’s children behave? Those nourished and trained in the words of faith and good doctrine? Paul says put the answer before the flock, which is a matter of both word and deed. This is a theme for Paul throughout his letter to Timothy.

Chapter 1, verse 16 says Paul received mercy from Christ so that Christ might demonstrate His transformative and saving work in Paul’s life, as an example for the flock. Jesus puts Paul and Timothy and you before the flock so that you can put Jesus before the flock.

We are messengers who are the message. God is love. God’s loving kindness and faithfulness are certainties. The minister’s life ought to be his primary example. How do you overcome sin? How are we healed? What is the aim of our charge? How do we love our wives as Christ loved the Church? What is submission? What is selflessness? What is service?

Behold the ministers who say, “behold the Lamb of God!” Continue reading “Only Good Christians make Good Pastors”

Empty and Wide Open

Death and resurrection aren’t just events, they are a process. Jesus didn’t die so that you could live, he died so that you could die. To your sin, to death, to temptation, to worldly passions and desires. Jesus lives so that you can live.

Jesus went into the grave so that you would stop fearing the grave to live a life of hope. He rose so that you can rise. He died under sin so you could die to sin. He died under the curse to free you from the curse.

This is a process called sanctification. You are embroiled in something. Covetousness, lies, debauchery, drunkenness. You murder in your hearts. Back bite, gossip, slander and lust. You justify your sin and condemn others while your spiritual life is choked with self-reliance, envy and shame. Don’t fear that death. Put it to death. Continue reading “Empty and Wide Open”

The table of Love proclaims the Gospel

A Series on Love, part 11

Jesus’ table here obviously proclaims the gospel. This is the body broken and the blood shed to make us sons and daughters of the living God. Our tables must likewise proclaim the gospel. But how? Our table fellowship has to reflect the reality of the Gospel and how it shapes all of our relationships, conversations, attitudes and actions. Jesus welcomed every tribe and tongue. He took away the dividing wall between Greek and Jew. In Christ all Christians are one body and the call to join is for everyone. Our tables therefor must reflect this unity and peace.

Our tables must be a place where everyone from dad to mom to the youngest walker are waiting for an opportunity to jump up and help with spills, getting more milk and passing the platters. No patriarchal lies are allowed where father sits at the head of the table while his dependents fetch everything.  The speech of the table must be edifying, building up the hearers and not full of backbiting or gossip. The Atmosphere must not be sullen, downcast or bleak. Christ’s table is a weekly feast of repentance, song, prayer, edification and rejoicing. Our tables must operate within the paradigm of this reality. At our tables the least shall be greatest. The last first. The master must be a servant.   Continue reading “The table of Love proclaims the Gospel”

Born To Trouble

Do you ever feel persecuted by your circumstances? Like trouble finds you, when all you are trying to do is be good and do good?  Marriage trouble, money trouble, tax trouble, mortgage trouble, family trouble. Trouble with your car or the fridge or a neighbor? Have you have wondered why?

It’s what I imagine David asked himself at the beginning of  2nd Samuel 10. I’m sure it’s what Joab, the commander of Israel’s forces, asked himself once he was trapped by two armies far greater in number then his own. And I’m sure its what Eve asked herself the day she was walking in the garden and heard a strange serpentine voice. Continue reading “Born To Trouble”

The Table of Love shapes Society

A Series on Love, part 10

Jesus sits at the head of a table that serves life. The symbol of Jesus’ table is the bread and wine of His sacrifice. Jesus defines a different set of table manners for His table and it’s not the selfish and self-interested culture of worldly society. Jesus openly calls and welcomes people society rejects. He provides access to himself, He’s not exclusive. His table manners are the fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The nature of Jesus’ table is found at the conclusion of the Prodigal son story in Luke 15:23-24; “And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Jesus’ table is one of calling, repentance, redemption and rejoicing over the Grace of God. Jesus defined His society by His table fellowship. He shaped the manner of that society by His table manners.

Table fellowship shapes society and defines community. Loners cease to be alone when they come to the table. Outcasts become friends when they are invited to the table. Sitting down at a table declares peace between its occupants. Continue reading “The Table of Love shapes Society”

The Table of Love is About More Than Food

Series on Love, Part 9

In Luke 4:4 Jesus said that man does not live by bread alone but by every word of God. But if so, why does Jesus go on to spend so much time at meals and talking about food?

We require something more fundamental to survive than just meat and drink. Man has deeper spiritual needs. Jesus uses food metaphorically. Jesus uses our need for food, symbolically. We are used to food metaphors like Jesus as the manna from heaven. But another Example is John 6:27 “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”

Food is a great metaphor because it represents a very instinctual need that every human has in common. Substitutionary atonement can be difficult for some people to grasp. But everyone understands “You’re hungry and I have food that will satisfy you forever and I give it to you gladly.”

Table fellowship is a way to get people involved in your day to day life. It’s a way to get involved in other people’s day to day life. But it’s not about the food, even though the food is a real tangible blessing. Ultimately it’s about building relationships.

Jesus chose the table and meals as the basis for His teaching ministry because it’s more intimate and people focused. Hospitality involves welcoming, creating time and space, listening, paying attention, and providing.

Meals slow things down. Some of us don’t like that. We like to get things done. But meals force us to be people oriented instead of task oriented. We have more important, more fundamental needs than food can satisfy but it was largely through poetical statements about food and through table fellowship that Jesus addressed the needs and developed opportunities to come along side people to teach and serve them. Continue reading “The Table of Love is About More Than Food”