Friday, November 29, 2013

Reflections on Giving Thanks at Thanks Giving

Thanksgiving really is a remarkable holiday. It is a day that the entire country observes. A day that reminds us to reflect on the great ways that God has blessed us as a people. God has seen fit to preserve this day on our calendar. We should thank God that He has preserved this day. It is easy to think about all the ways that things are bad or wrong. Certainly those things often need our attention. But God has also blessed us in many ways and this day of Thanksgiving is one of them. Giving thanks is important for us. It is so important that there were guys in the Old Testament set aside for the whole purpose of giving thanks. You can read about them in 1 Chronicles 16:41. Giving thanks to God specifically causes us to look to God. It is always a healthy thing for us when our gaze is cast heavenward. To think of Jesus and the work that He has done for us should fill our hearts with gratitude. Perhaps you did not take the time to think of all that God has blessed you with this Thanksgiving. Take the time right now and turn your eyes to Him in thanks. One more way we can be reminded to live a God focused life.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Degrees of Respect???

I heard something the other day that struck me in a new way. I heard a man referred to as having a ThM. That degree is a recognition that he is a Master of Theology. If he continues his study he could become a Doctor of Theology. These degrees are often the criteria that churches use to determine who they will consider for a teaching elder (or Pastor) position in their church. Here is the irony and the corruption that is seeping into the thinking of the members of the church. This man after 3 or 4 years is said to have Mastered Theology or be a Doctor of Theology. Really? The not so subtle implication is that this man has mastered the important aspects of the knowledge of God. It is really a ridiculous assertion that a man in four years or less could have mastered the infinite. Yet this degree becomes the criteria that determines for many churches who they will even consider. The larger the church the more a masters or doctorate becomes the gatekeeper for determining who is qualified. Some churches are even handing off the gatekeeping to what is little more then a headhunter for pastors.

The Bible has a very different view on qualifications. Paul in Timothy and Titus encourages his disciples to establish elders to lead the churches. Their main responsibility was teaching and that they were governed by the Word of God and faithful to it. In other words they were not the masters of Theology but rather they were mastered by theology. Their souls were being doctored by God. The main thing was that they were faithful to God's word. There was also a list of criteria Paul said you needed to see in their life. You can find them in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. The criteria was not about business acumen but family acumen. Why? Because the church is not a business but really the family of God. But doesn't a lead elder or pastor need to have instruction and experience in managing a large group of people? Maybe or maybe not. Do we trust God to provide a man with the wisdom he needs? The reality is that when we look to man made criteria and trust non-biblical qualifications set up by men, aren't we really trusting in the wisdom of men. Wouldn't it be better if we followed the guidelines in scripture. This means that we trust that the Holy Spirit will lead us to a man who will trust in God and be mastered by God. If we did that we may find that God has raised up a man in the congregation to become the next teaching elder. So what if he does not have a degree. If he meets the criteria in God's word then he is qualified as far as God is concerned. John Piper in a sermon on Hebrews 5:11-14 said, "There are many Ph.D.'s who choke in their spiritual immaturity on the things of God. And there are many less-educated saints who are deeply mature and can feed with pleasure and profit on the deepest things of God's Word." What is better to have. A man who is qualified by men and can add numbers to the church or a man who is mastered by God, is forced to depend on the Holy Spirit and leads people into a more passionate pursuit of Jesus?

This does not mean that a man cannot grow in seminary. The point is that the criteria of a seminary education is not a good standard to limit your search with. We should be more concerned with God's standard then those set up by men.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Is God surprised by...evil...uh I mean Obama care?

Obama care is the prevailing thing in the news. There seems to be a lot of stress and concern about it. Anytime something like this comes along I get the feeling that people especially Christians forget that God is in control. I was reminded of this last night as we discussed the issue of evil at an apologetics class one of my sons is a part of. Romans 9:22-23 says, "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— " (ESV) In this passage we see that God is far from being surprised by sin and evil. As a matter of fact He uses that very thing to reveal more about Himself to the vessels of mercy. Think about it. What if there had never been any sin and everything was perfect? We are walking with God in the garden in the cool of the day. God is revealing what He can about Himself to finite beings as we commune together. He mentions that He really hates sin. He tells us that even though He hates sin that He is a God of mercy and grace. He says that He is long-suffering and patient. Remember there has never been any sin in this scenario. How could we begin to understand what God means by hate and sin if we have never experienced it. We would have no framework for understanding mercy and grace if we never needed it. Who could comprehend patience in a world that is perfect with everything happening according to God's perfect plan.
You see because God allowed Adam to fall and allowed sin to enter into the world we will know God far better for all of eternity. Because Pharaoh refused to let the enslaved children of Israel go we saw the power of God to change the course of history. God was not surprised by evil. He could have stopped it but then there would have been less revealed about God's nature to those who come to know Him. Obama care is no different. I don't know what God is doing. But I do know that He is not surprised by it. I am praying for Obama that God will use him to magnify His name and exult Jesus. He may use Obama like He used Pharaoh. I don't know His plan, but I know that Obama care is not outside of it. We can trust God in the midst of this. My prayer is that I will come to know Jesus better because of it.