Friday, April 29, 2011

Teach By Being Silent

Someone made the observation that if you want people to discuss something in a classroom setting you have to assume that they will answer your questions. I wish I could remember who said it, so I could give them credit, but what this person was saying is that when you ask a question and follow it with silence, the people in the class are beginning to feel guilty because they know that someone in the class is supposed to fill that silence. The longer you wait, the more they try to come up with an answer and eventually one or more of them will give you an answer to the question.

I’ve been in Sunday school classes where the teacher didn’t follow this advice. You’re sitting there listening to the lesson and the teacher asks a question. It takes you a little time to process the question. Then it takes you more time to consider the answer. Finally, you have an answer to the question, but by this time, the teacher has already moved on. With hardly enough time for you to open your mouth, he gave the answer and moved on.

An important thing to remember when teaching a Sunday school class is that what you say and do isn’t as important as what is going on in the heads of the class members. Teaching isn’t about filling the silence with words, but it is about creating an atmosphere in which the students can give consideration to the topic of the day.

If you’re like me, you may find from time to time that you are talking about the topic and seem to be doing pretty well, but you look down at your notes and you’ve lost your place. Or maybe you skipped over an important sub-topic. There is silence in the room as you hastily scan your notes, looking for your place. As disorganized and embarrassing as that may be, that silence gives your students time to think and to process the information you’ve already given them. The wheels of their heads are turning. They’re finding the things they need to keep and storing them away in their heads. They’re allowing questions to develop and sometimes the silence will allow them to say something that they’ve been waiting for an opportunity to say. You’re mistake won’t get you style points, but the silence it creates will teach the students better than the well-rehearsed and eloquent teacher who has a word to fill every moment.

That’s not to say that speakers shouldn’t rehearse. Silence can be planned just as easily as anything else in a presentation. In music, every note is planned, but so are the rests that give us silence. For Easter, our choir did a couple of songs that come to what seems to be the end of a song, the music stops, and then the music starts again. There is silence for just long enough for the audience to begin clapping. Southern gospel songwriters have a tendency to do this. I think it is supposed to create the impression that people applauded so much that we’re going to give them more of what they want. I personally don’t like it because it seems like showboating. Perhaps it looks different when you’re in the choir because you know that it has nothing to do with the applause and everything to do with just waiting for the CD to spin to that part of the disc.

In any case, those songs support the original point. When there is silence, people feel the need to fill it. Following a song, people fill it with clapping or a hearty “Amen!” In a classroom, people fill it with the answer to the question. So, if you want people to learn through participation, be silent.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Vineyard Workers

One of my cousins sent me a link to a video as an example of how grace isn’t fair. The video is of a woman who had been out of church for many years talking about going to church and hearing the parable of the vineyard workers. She also tells how she taught this parable to VBS kids that you might find useful if you ever have the opportunity to teach this parable. For some reason, I watched this video several times. I’m not sure why. I think it might be because some of what the woman says doesn’t seem to sit right with me. I’m not sure that I agree with her take on the parable. Before I go into that, I’ll let you watch the video:

Grace Is Not Attractive from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

One of the things I see here is the difference between what we often think of as fair and what true justice is. By definition, to be fair and to be just are essentially the same thing, but when we teach fairness to kids we often do so in terms of equal treatment. We might ask little Billy, “If I let you have a cookie before supper and I don’t let little Suzy have a cookie, is that fair?” It certainly isn’t equal, but is it fair? But that’s not really what the parable is talking about. Suppose we told Billy that if he would take out the trash we would give him a cookie. He does, so we give him a cookie, but Suzy wants one too. Which is more fair? To give him one and not give her one or to give them each a cookie? Maybe to give him two and her one? But we only promised him one and he doesn't need more. That still isn’t quite the way the parable is structured, but we see that our concept of fairness isn’t always clear.

In the parable, a man goes out to hire some workers and he tells them he will pay them a day’s wages for their work. They agree to this and go to work in his vineyard. Later in the day, he see some more guys who are looking for work and he tells them he’ll pay them what if right if they’ll work that day. Later he finds more workers who agree to work for what is right. Even at the last hour of the day he finds workers who need work. At the end of the day, he pays them their wages, from the last to the first. Those who worked an hour, he gives a day’s wages. Those he hired in the middle of the day he gives a day’s wages. Those he hired at the first come to him and expect they will get more than the others, but he gives them a day’s wages. Like the woman in the video, we might ask, how is that fair?

This is a parable, so it draws some parallels to some specific people and concepts, but before we look at that, let’s look at this just like it is. The first workers agreed to work one day for a day’s wages. That is what they got. That is just. If we ignore the other workers and look at the workers at the end. They spend a whole day hoping for work, they are hired at the end and they receive a day’s wage. It isn’t their fault he didn’t hire them earlier. There is nothing unjust about him paying them a day’s wage. For that matter, it is his money, he can do what he wants. The thing that makes this look unfair is that the early workers worked all day and the ones at the end only an hour and they both received the same amount. The problem with our thinking is that I as an individual think I deserve the same blessing that others receive. That’s why employers don’t like their employees finding out what the other workers are making. If one is paid more, the others will think they deserve more too.

Some people try to make this parable about salvation. The primary reason for that is that it talks about the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 20:1). They then link it back to Matthew 19:23, which talks about how hard it is for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. There is also the fact that the workers all receive the same thing, just as all of the saints receive salvation, no matter how much they work during this life.

But look at the discussion in Matthew 19:27-30. Peter points out how much the twelve have done for Christ and asks what they will receive. If the rich man would receive treasure for selling all and giving to the poor, Peter wanted to know what they would receive for leaving their families. Jesus tells them part of what they will receive. Then we see the statement in Matthew 19:30, “many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” This is significant because we see that again at the end of the parable (Matthew 20:16). This seems to indicate that Jesus is addressing Peter’s concerns through this parable.

I think we can understand the workers to be referring to the saints. Jesus has promised us all heavenly rewards for our service to him, but we don’t all have equal opportunity to serve him. One may have a short life. One may have a long life. One may be able to serve the Lord with their family. One may be forced to leave his family to serve God. In Peter’s statement, I think we see him comparing his service to that of other people. What the parable seems to be saying is that God doesn’t base our rewards on what he has agreed to give others. Instead, he bases his evaluation of our service on our service and our service alone. What he gives us in the way of blessings and rewards is his to control and we have no right to say that he should give us more because someone else is receiving more. It is his to do with as he pleases.

When we consider that God has already given us his son without our doing anything to earn it, we have no reason to complain if God were to give us nothing more and shower blessings down on someone else. But that’s not what God does. God knows what is best for each of us and he will give us what he knows is right. And that’s still more blessings than we know what to do with. Let’s not worry about what God is doing for others that he isn’t doing for us. Instead, let’s ask ourselves if what God is giving us is right.

How Calvary Would Change If You Were the Only Sinner

“…If you were the only sinner in human history, nothing about Calvary would have changed.” – Denison

I saw this quote on Facebook. It looks about like what you might see on a church sign. I tend to pick church sign sayings apart. This particular saying looks good, but it is true?
In a word, no. What I believe this person was trying to say is that if you were the only sinner, Christ would have died for you anyway. There’s actually strong Biblical basis for that. II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

It’s really a hypothetical situation we’re talking about, so since it isn’t God’s will that any perish, we could say that he would have sent his Son to die for one sinner, if that’s all there was. But that’s not what the quote says. The quote says that “nothing about Calvary would have changed.” There is a great deal about Calvary that would have changed if you were the only sinner in human history.

One thing that would have changed is that Jesus wouldn’t have been crucified between two thieves. As he hung there on the cross, he wouldn’t have had to listen to one of them heckling him and we wouldn’t have this beautiful picture of him telling the other “today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.” They wouldn’t be there because they wouldn’t have been thieves and they would’ve had no reason to be on the cross.

Another thing that would have changed is that Judas wouldn’t have betrayed Jesus. Judas wouldn’t have sinned if you were the only one. The religious leaders wouldn’t have come to take Jesus at night and there never would’ve been a trial.

Then consider the method of Jesus’ execution. That would have changed too. What would the Roman soldiers know of crucifixion if they had never encountered anyone worthy of death? They certainly wouldn’t be crucifying innocent people, because you would be the only sinner and you wouldn’t have been born yet. And why would we need soldiers at all? With no sinners, there would be no invading forces to worry about.

If you were the only sinner, Jesus wouldn’t have been the Passover Lamb. There never would have been a Passover because Pharaoh would have never prevented the Jews from leaving Egypt. An all those blood sacrifices would’ve never taken place.

While it may sound good to say that nothing would have changed if you were the only sinner in history, the fact is that it would have. We don’t really know what would have happened if there were only one sinner in history, but we do know that when God saw our needed he saw all of our need. While we might enjoy thinking about God’s love for us as individuals, let’s not forget that Jesus died for the world.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Let's Associate

I watched a video interview with Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, in which the interviewer asked him about churches that are getting away from denominational distinctions. But Mike mentioned that he had noticed that many of these churches are forming “networks or associations of churches” that replace the denomination. I find this a particularly interesting statement because many of the churches that have chosen to remove the denominational marking off their church sign are Baptist or were at one time, but Baptists have been functioning under an associational structure for centuries. The church I’m a member of is a member of three associations, the Baptist Missionary Association (BMA) of America, the BMA of Texas, and the Tarrant County BMA. The largest Baptist association is the Southern Baptist Convention. Even many of the churches that call themselves Independent Baptists are associated in some way, though my understanding is that in that case it is generally the pastor who is a member of the association, rather than the church.

I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t a case where we’ve had some of these associations for so long that the collective understanding of what an association is and why it exists has been lost to some people. So they go off, try to divorce themselves from “the denomination” then start a new association that is essentially the same thing as what they had before.

Baptists generally believe that each church is independent, but we choose to associate with other churches. Though for convenience, we often talk about the Baptist denomination, there really is no such thing. Some people talk about the Southern Baptist denomination, but here again, such a thing doesn’t exist. If a Baptist church can be a member of any number of associations. There are some churches that are simultaneously members of the BMA and the SBC. Neither of these associations has any authority to tell the church what to do. Without that authority, it is not a denomination.

One of the major reasons why Baptists choose to associate is that no one church is capable of carrying out the Great Commission alone. The smallest possible association is of two churches. Imagine if one church has a man who believes God is calling him to be a missionary in Africa, but the church doesn’t have the money to send him. A church down the road has enough money to send someone to Africa, but no one who feels called. Working together, these two churches are able to send a missionary to Africa. Scale that up to a few hundred or a few thousand churches and you begin to see the power of associated work.

And it isn’t just about missions. Associations also help to provide a sense of doctrinal identity. When a person moves to a new city, he can look for a church that is a member of the same association he left and he will find that they teach very similar doctrine. They may even use the same Sunday school literature.
Local associations tend to be small. Some have less than ten churches in them. Some may have more than twenty. Unless the churches are large, associations of this size may not have the means to support a missionary. These associations are more about fellowship and strengthening the ministry of the church. Many churches are small, with less than fifty members. They may have a few youth, but hardly enough to have a youth program. In associations made up of churches like this, we sometimes see the association sharing the effort of providing a youth program. Each church may have two or three youth, but the association may have fifty kids in the youth group. Another thing I’ve seen local associations do is to put on a joint Christmas or Easter program. Each church alone may not have enough people to put on a program, but together they may have a large choir.

As churches get larger, their needs change, but let’s not allow ourselves to get the idea that our churches are members of an association just because that’s the way it has always been. Let’s look for ways that these associations provide greater benefit for the churches than they would have working alone.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Men, Obey God and Lead

When people talk about the role of women in the church—in particular in leadership positions—we frequently hear them mention Deborah. The argument is that since Deborah was a judge then women can be preachers. I don’t want to take anything away from Deborah because she is a very important figure in the history of the Jews, but I don’t believe we can extrapolate from what Deborah did that what Paul said with the inspiration of God is wrong. The Bible never says that everything Deborah did was right or was what God saw as ideal. It just says that is the way it was. Many who invoke the name of Deborah do so outside the context of her story, saying only that Deborah was a judge.

In Judges 4 (That in itself should tell us to be careful. The judges all had questionable natures.) we find Deborah under a palm tree, where the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. Clearly she was a respected woman, but in the narrative we see that this wasn’t supposed to be Deborah’s story at all. She sent for Barak the son of Abinoam. Notice what she said to him. “Hath no the Lord God of Israel commanded saying, ‘Go and draw near Mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun; and I will draw unto thee Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude to the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into thine hand’?”

If Barak had been doing what he was supposed to be doing, we might never have heard of Deborah. The Lord had already spoken to Barak and Barak hadn’t obeyed. Barak responded by saying, “I’ll go if you’ll go.”

Then we see the result of Barak not obeying God. Deborah said, “I will surely go with thee. Notwithstanding, the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor, for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of woman.”

Barak was the man God had chosen to deliver Israel from their enemies. As the leader of the army, Barak would normally have the honor of killing the leader of the enemy’s army. But because Barak wasn’t doing what God told him to, God repeated his message through the mouth of a woman and then gave the honor of killing Sisera to a woman.

With Deborah at his side, Barak gathered the men and lead them to Mount Tabor. Sisera gathered his host and his 900 iron chariots and went up to put a stop to this. But for all of Sisera’s might, Israel had the upper hand and Sisera fled on foot. He ran to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite because there was peace between Heber and Sisera’s king. Jael hid him under a mantle. But when he asked for water, she gave him milk, so that he fell asleep in the her tent. While he slept she took a nail of the tent and with a hammer drove the nail through his temples, and fastened it into the ground. When Barak came looking for Sisera, Jael showed him what she had done.

I think what we see here is that God does use women to accomplish his work. But we also have a situation in which the man God chose wasn’t doing what God called him to do. It is difficult for us to say that this story proves that women preachers is okay because this story didn’t follow God’s ideal. One of the problems we see in some churches is that the men aren’t taking the leadership roles like they should. Too many men are willing to just let the women do it, much like Barak. Instead of these men leading their families in the worship of the Lord, they let their wives take the kids to church. This is sad because children follow the example of their fathers. A child that sees his father as having a heart for the Lord and being involved in Christian service will mimic that behavior when he is older. But if the child’s father has little involvement in church then it is unlikely the child will see the value of involvement, no matter how involved the mother is.

And to highlight how important of a leadership role the father has, it seems to me that even if the mother has little interest in God but the father treats church as important, the children will believe it is important also. It will be harder to instill those values than if both parents see God as important, but children look to their fathers to know what to value.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Heart of the Earth

Today is Good Friday. This is the day that many people celebrate as the day Jesus died. We know they’re wrong because of Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” They’re off by one day. The only way for Jesus to be in the grave three days and three nights and then to rise on Sunday is for him to have died on Thursday. But I can’t help but wonder, why did Jesus use the phrase “heart of the earth” instead of saying, “the grave?” What is the heart of the earth?

Some people have taken this to mean that this is referring to the center of the earth and a great deal of the theory that Paradise and Hades were once together in the center of the earth hangs on this. I’m still not convinced one way or the other on that theory. I realize there are many verses that refer to the dead going down, but then we look at Elijah, who was taken up in a chariot of fire. For now, I’m just going to say that is one possibility, but I don’t think there’s anything about Matthew 12:40 that forces us to draw that conclusion.

When we look at the Greek, the word we translate as heart is the word kardia. You probably recognize that Greek root from high school. It means heart. There’s nothing hard about that. It is used many times in the New Testament and each time, other than this one, it appears to be talking about the thumping organ in your chest, but usually as a metaphor for our inner being. Once again, nothing hard about that, except the earth doesn’t have a thumping organ or inner thoughts. Heart of the earth must mean something else.

The word translated as earth is somewhat more interesting. Ge could mean, earth as in the whole earth, which is how we assume it to be if we take this verse to mean Jesus went to the center of the earth, where some have assumed Paradise to have been. But it can also mean land or ground. It appears to have all the same meanings that we use the word earth for today. So Jesus may not have been talking about planet earth, but the ground. With that understanding, it would make sense for us to say that rock is the heart of the earth. Dig down a few feet and you’ll find rock. Where did they lay Jesus’ body? In a tomb hewn from the rock and covered with a stone. So maybe that’s all Jesus meant when he used the phrase “heart of the earth.”

But why say “heart of the earth” instead of the “stone tomb”? If you were speaking and were drawing a link between Jonah being in the belly of the whale and Jesus being somewhere, it would flow better to use terminology that matches. Belly with heart. Whale with earth.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Blackest Thursday

Today is Black Thursday, or at least it is the day we remember one Black Thursday nearly two thousand years ago. It was on this day that Jesus hung on the cross and died for the sins of the world. As he died, the sky became black and the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom, forever opening the door for us to communicated directly with God. Of all the Black Thursdays that have ever been, there has never been a Thursday more black than the Thursday that Jesus died. And yet, as we look back on the blackness of that Thursday, we see the brightest light of all piercing the darkness.

Three days and three nights, the Bible tells us, Jesus lay in the heart of the earth, buried in a tomb hewn from the hard rock of earth itself, covered with a large stone and guarded by armed soldiers. Thursday, Thursday night, Friday, Friday night, Saturday, Saturday night, and then came Sunday. Jesus, the one true Passover lamb paid our debt, protected us from the angel of death, and the he rose from the dead, showing us our hope for life eternal.

Without that Black Thursday, when Jesus died, there wouldn’t be an Easter Sunday worth celebrating. If it weren’t for that Black Thursday, we might as well spend Easter Sunday chasing the Easter Bunny out of our lettuce patch. You see, God is holy and we are not. A holy God cannot dwell with anything unholy and we who are unholy cannot dwell with anything that is. A sacrifice was necessary for us to gain the righteousness we needed to dwell with God. Jesus is that sacrifice. He lay down his life on that Black Thursday so long ago and then he took it up again. The impossible became possible.

So as we go through our day, perhaps going about our business as usual, let’s take some time to think about what Jesus did for us on that Black Thursday so long ago.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How Do We Know God Exists?

Ironic though it may seem, when I think of faith, I can’t help but think of Richard Dawkins as one of the greatest examples of a man of faith. Dawkins, despite the total lack of evidence that it is even possible for one species to evolve into another, continues to preach the message that evolution is the only possible way that man could come into existence. At one point, he even said that he believes that it is more likely that some alien race populated Earth with the seeds of life than that a God created the Universe. He writes book after book, preaching his message to anyone who will read it. There isn’t much of what he says that I can agree with, but I can’t help but admire his faith.

I don’t have the kind of faith Richard Dawkins does. I don’t have much use for blind faith. You see, I’m from Missouri—you’ll have to show me. I think a lot of people have the idea that the faith God asks for is more like the faith Richard Dawkins has. They think that God calls us to believe he exists without evidence. They have the idea that they are somehow more spiritual if they can believe God without evidence. But let me offer up another example of that kind of faith. Consider the belief in Santa Claus. In story after story, we are told that Santa won’t give presents to people who don’t believe in him. In other words, if you don’t believe in Santa he won’t give you the evidence you need to see that he exists. Atheists are quick to draw a connection between the belief in Santa and the belief in Jesus. Their claim is that if the lack of evidence for Santa is enough for us to know that he doesn’t exist then the lack of evidence for God should be enough to prove that he doesn’t exist. Amen!

If God exists, don’t you think he would give us proof that he exists? Don’t you think that he would communicate with us in some way and tell us that he is there? Do you really think that he would call for us to put blind trust in him, so that we are no more certain that he exists than we are that Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny exists? If God is real, of course he would! And he has!

The very existence of the Universe and our own existence tells us that there must have been a creator. It is beyond our comprehension to understand why there is something instead of nothing. Scientists have theorized a big bang, but where did the energy and matter come from? If God exists, where did he come from? It is beyond our comprehension, so we must conclude that something exists outside of our comprehension that can create something from nothing. That is the very definition of a creator, so we know that a creator exists.

But the Creator is not silent. He has spoken to us through the Bible. We need not accept the Bible as God’s word on blind faith either. It isn’t like other books. It is accurate to the finest detail. It is historically accurate. It is scientifically accurate. It is accurate in its predictions of the future. The prophecies are accurate 100% of the time. That is a verifiable fact. No other book can make that claim.

The faith God calls for isn’t the blind faith that Richard Dawkins has. God calls for us to believe that what he says will happen because he has revealed himself to be powerful trustworthy. We don’t put our trust in a god that requires belief without proof, but in a God who has given us so much proof that we can’t even open our eyes without seeing it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How Do We Know Heaven Is Real?

How do we know that heaven is real?

Not long ago, I wrote a review of the book Heaven is For Real. Since that time, that review has been one of the most frequently visited posts on my blog. In a way, that doesn’t surprise me, and yet there’s something disturbing about that. Heaven is For Real is about the near death experience of a young boy and the things he talked about afterward. As far as the doctors are concerned, his heart never stopped, so he never actually died, but in the weeks following his illness he talked about going to heaven. My assessment of the book is that he probably did talk about those things, but I didn’t see anything there that I wouldn’t have expected him to have seen or heard in Sunday school. But here’s what I find disturbing: People will turn to books like this and other accounts of near death experiences before they will accept what the Bible has to say.

How do we know that heaven is real? God told us it is real in his Word. Think about this: Which is more believable, a four-year-old boy or the God of the Universe? Which is more believable, a semiconscious person with drugs going into his veins or the all-knowing God? God is more believable, but people will listen to the four-year-old boy or the doped up person on the operating table. What that tells me is that these people aren’t sure that God exists. They aren’t willing to accept what the Bible says as true because they aren’t sure that God is real. If God doesn’t exist, the Bible can’t be his Word.

How do we know that heaven is real? Forty writers with the ability to foretell the future told us that it is real. Let’s forget about the question of God for a moment and consider the Holy Bible itself. It isn’t an ordinary book. Daniel, for example, foretold of the four major world empires, giving enough information that when we look at their rise and fall we can verify that he was not only right but deadly accurate. What was future for Daniel is now history for us. Several of the writers foretold of the coming Messiah. As we examine the life of Jesus, we see that he lived out the life they described. If these writers had been able to foretell when this man would be born, what town he would be born in, what tribe he would come from, when he would die, and the nature of his death, that would be amazing and more than any other book has been able to do. Think about that. How could anyone do that? I can’t tell you what I’m having for dinner tomorrow. I certainly couldn’t give you the outline of a man’s life that will live hundreds of years from now. But these writers were not only able to tell us all of that, they were able to give us 333 predictions concerning Jesus. If they could get, let’s say, 75% of them right, that would amazing. How many did they get right? All of them! 100% If they’re that accurate concerning Jesus, don’t you think we should believe them when they tell us about heaven?

Monday, April 18, 2011

It Turns Out I'm Me

I bought Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath the other day. I heard about it through Michael Hyatt. Within each book is a unique code that allows the owner to take a talent assessment online. The assessment takes about thirty minutes to complete and then then the website will tell you which five of thirty-four different talents you are strongest in. I’ve taken similar assessments in the past—spiritual gift assessments, Meyers-Briggs, etc.—so I was curious to see what this one said that was different.

This one seems most similar to the spiritual gift assessments, in that it attempts to find those things that you’re good at so you can focus your attention on those things instead of trying to overcome weaknesses that are actually just part of who you are as a person. I’m not sure if I can say this one is better than the spiritual gift assessments I’ve seen, but it is certainly more honest. The spiritual gift assessments tend to pull one word gift names from the Bible and then expand those into pages of information, without any clear indication that was really what Paul was talking about. The Strengths Finder 2.0 has similar reports, but they come from the same people who named the thirty-four talents.

On the spiritual gift assessments, I typically rank high in the teacher and administration categories. So I was a little surprised when the first answer from Strengths Finder 2.0 was Learner. But then I read the Ideas for Action. “You might learn best by teaching; if so, seek out opportunities to present to others. That made sense. Maybe the reason I enjoy teaching is because I learn from teaching. But I don’t think that’s the whole answer; I enjoy teaching, even when I’m teaching something I already know.

But in reading the descriptions, all five seemed to fit better than the others. There were a few of the other twenty-nine that I thought might have fit, but I can’t say that I think the assessment was wrong. The five it listed for me are:
  1. Learner
  2. Analytical
  3. Individualization
  4. Belief
  5. Deliberative

After reading the descriptions, the only one that I will say surprised me is the third one, Individualization. Put simply, it says that you see individuals as unique. You treat each person differently based on what you know about that individual, rather than lumping people into more general categories. You pay attention to the details of a person’s personality. It doesn’t surprise me that it said I do that; it surprises me that it isn’t something that everyone does. Interestingly, one of the places the Strengths Finder 2.0 recommends applying this talent is in teaching. Maybe I missed my calling. But part of that talent is the “gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.” That may explain part of the reason I rank high on the administration gift in the spiritual gifts assessments.

I’m not sure how I’m going to apply this information or if it will change anything about what I’m already doing, but after taking the assessment, I’ve come to the conclusion that it told me that I am me.

You can take the assessment when you purchase your own copy of Strengths Finder 2.0 (one code per book). After you take the assessment, or if you’ve already taken it, I would love to hear about the results you get in the comments to this post.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Why I'm Excited About a Business Meeting

Where are the words to express all I would like to tell you about my trip to the 2011 meeting of the Baptist Missionary Association of America (BMAA)? I’ve posted a few videos online that I hoped would provide some of the people who have never attended an associational meeting a glimpse of what happens at these meetings, but the videos I posted can hardly do it justice. Lifeword and the BMAA Missions Department will be posting better quality videos in the coming days, but even with the excellent quality Lifeword always has in their videos, I don’t believe they can capture the spirit of the meeting. This is partly because so much of what makes these meetings special happens outside of the scheduled sessions of the meeting.

I’ve been attending BMAA meetings since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I missed a few during my high school and college years and I don’t think my parents started going until I was about one or two. I was three at the first meeting I remember attending, so I have some idea of what to expect at these meetings. It’s pointless to try to decide if this is the best BMAA meeting I’ve attended because they are all different and yet it seem inadequate to just say that it was a good meeting. What does “a good meeting” mean to those of you who haven’t attended these meetings? Without a common frame of reference, I’m not sure it has any meaning at all. So let me try to explain in a way we can all understand.

What’s the Purpose of the Meeting?

You wouldn’t be wrong if you said that the purpose of the BMAA annual meeting is to conduct business, but it would leave people thinking these meetings are like a church business meeting that is extended over a period of three or more days. These meetings are nowhere near that boring. You wouldn’t be wrong if you said these meetings were a time to worship our Lord and to fellowship together—that certainly takes place—but the BMAA has better designed meetings for that purpose. DiscipleGuide has several conferences every year, including those for senior adults, pastors, and youth. You wouldn’t be wrong if you said these meetings are to provide information to the churches. That also takes place, but if we relied on these meetings as the sole source of information, many of our churches would be uninformed. And we can’t really say that these meetings are about decision making. The BMAA does too much for every decision to be made during one meeting.

Point the Ship in the Right Direction

When the messengers of the various churches attend the BMAA annual meeting and vote, what they are doing is providing direction and accountability to the departments of the BMAA. And though much more happens at these meetings, we must not lose sight of the fact that the primary reason for these meetings is for our churches to have the opportunity to adjust the rudder of this great ship we call the Baptist Missionary Association of America.

For the past few years, I’ve been actively involved with the Baptist Music Fellowship of America (BMF), which is an auxiliary of the BMAA that handles much of the music during the meeting. I got involved with the BMF because for a long time they put together a choir each year and we would sing before the annual sermon. It is disappointing that the schedule for the meetings no longer allows for that and I heard some frustration during the BMF meeting that the worship services aren’t more structured, but we’re music guys. We want the music and worship during the meeting to be the best it can be. Give us a chance and we’ll make the worship services better, but that’s not the primary purpose of these meetings.

I’ve heard some people who are disappointed that there hasn’t been very much discussion in recent years and other people who are glad that there hasn’t been so much discussion. I’ve found that discussion is good, but an abundance of discussion doesn’t necessarily mean that things are being well considered. I’ve found that harmony is good, but a lack of discussion doesn’t necessarily mean that things are harmonious. But when the committees and departments give their reports to the messengers each year, they are held accountable for their actions. Those who follow the direction the churches wish them to follow are rewarded by the continued support of the churches. But when the move away from the will of the churches, their recommendations are rejected and the people serving in those positions are replaced with people who are willing to go the direction the churches want our association to go. Without these meetings, there would be little accountability and no opportunity for the churches to provide direction.

So What’s a Good Meeting?

This year I left Wichita Falls saying that it is an exciting time to be a part of the BMAA. There are things that we need to do better. There are things that we’re not sure how to do better. But I left the meeting with the belief that we’re heading in the right direction. I’m excited about what lies in front of the BMAA. In the meeting hall, we heard the various departments talking about what they are doing to in their efforts to carry the gospel to the world. We heard them talk about a renewed effort to focus on what they can do to help the churches carry out the Great Commission rather than the churches relying on them as their Great Commission proxy. We enjoyed great music and preaching.

All that was great, but it was more than that. Step into the corridors and committee rooms for a moment. Sit down in the restaurants of Wichita Falls for a few minutes. Listen to the people who didn’t stand at the mikes or get up on stage and you’ll hear them talking about what they are doing in their churches. And what you’ll hear is exciting, because you’ll hear of prison ministries and outreach ministries and teaching ministries. The BMAA isn’t the largest association (not even close). The BMAA isn’t without its challenges. The BMAA isn’t well known by those outside our ranks. But I left the meeting in Wichita Falls with the belief that we’re headed in the right direction and there are many churches among us who are willing to work. The road ahead isn’t an easy one and though the departments have a desire to help our churches, there isn’t a simple solution that doesn’t require the churches to put in even more effort if they want to see growth. But when you leave a meeting with the feeling that the churches and departments of the BMAA are anxious to go to work, that’s a good meeting.

I’m excited about the future of the BMAA. Christianity in America is trending in the wrong direction, but I see those in the BMAA who are willing to put in the effort required to turn that around. I don’t know when or if that trend will be turned. It don’t know if the Lord will use the BMAA to turn that trend around or merely to slow the trend, but I see great things ahead for the BMAA.

Making Up God

Isaiah 44 describes the process of making an idol. A smith spends long hours shaping metal or a carpenter spends time carving wood. Then in Isaiah 44:19 it says, “And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, ‘I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh and eaten it. And shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? Shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?’” We laugh at this poor man who cut down a tree, used part of it to cook with and then out of the same tree made something to bow down to. We know that a lump of wood can’t hear us. But people are still making their own gods today.

President Obama is a black man. We know this to be true because we’ve seen him on television. Some of us have seen him in person. Now, suppose someone came to you and said, “I believe the President is a white man.” We would conclude that this person is either crazy or he is talking about some other president. Now, suppose there are some attributes that we know are true about God, such as God is all-knowing, and someone came to us and said, “I don’t think God really knows what I ate for breakfast this morning.” Assuming this person knows what all-knowing means, we must conclude that this person either doesn’t know that God is all-knowing or they’re making up their own God. Instead of a God that knows their deepest, darkest secrets, they want a God who doesn’t care about that sort of thing.

A lot of people like to see God as a God of love, but they struggle with the concept that he is also a God of judgment and wrath. We find people saying things like, “I don’t believe God would send anyone to hell.” Or to word it another way, “the God I believe in wouldn’t send anyone to hell.” It sound really good. The only problem is, that isn’t the God of the Bible. Throughout the Bible, we see God as a righteous judge. God had fellowship with man until Adam and Eve sinned. When that happened, God threw them out of the garden. All they had to do to live forever was to not eat from one and only one tree in the garden. When they sinned, he threw them out so they wouldn’t have access to the tree of life. Even God’s chosen people, Israel, were not free from his judgment. When they sinned, he turned them over to gentile kings. When Jesus turned up on the scene, he went into the temple and overturned the moneychanger’s tables. We spoke of people going to a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. He referred to himself as a judge. Then when we get over into Revelation, Oh boy, God’s wrath is just pouring out, tempered only because he is a God of love.

So, people who worship a God who isn’t a God of wrath aren’t worshiping the God of the Bible. They’re making up their own god—much like the man who carves an idol out of a stump—but why can’t they see that they are making up their own god? I think it is because they have put too much emphasis on the way they feel about God rather than taking the time to learn who he really is. Perhaps they don’t really believe that the Bible is God’s word, so they place more importance on other things rather than accepting that God has reveal what he wants us to know about him through the Bible. They think about what they would do if they were God and conclude that that must be how God is. Just who do we think we are to be able to decide what God should and shouldn’t do.

God is God. We don’t have the right to go telling him what he should or shouldn’t be. If God says he is love and also a God of judgment, who are we to say that he isn’t. We may not like that he judges our sin, but we have no say in the matter. God reveals himself through his word, the Bible. The Bible is like no other book and it is the only book that God ever wrote. We know he wrote it because it is the only book that contains historically verifiable fulfilled prophecy. And we’re not just talking about a little bit of prophecy; we’re talking about page after page of predictions that took place exactly as they were written. The old testament has 333 predictions of the Messiah concerning his birth, his life and his death. Jesus fulfilled every one of them. There is a God. He is a living God. And he wrote a book.

If we want to know the truth about God, we must get it from the book he wrote. We may not like what the Book says about God, but it is what it is. You can make up gods by imagining God to be various things all day, but if you really want to know who God is, you’ve got to go to the Bible.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Be Content

Paul deal with the issue of slaves and masters in I Timothy 6. He says that servants are to honor their masters so that God’s doctrine isn’t blasphemed. When we work for someone, they should be glad they have Christians working for them, not sorry they hired us. But he also says servants shouldn’t despise their believing masters. Fortunately, slavery is outlawed in America, so I don’t think we would see a situation with believing masters, but in Paul’s day it was a way of life. The economy was such that if the Christians had suddenly turn their slave free, they would have gone broke and the slaves probably wouldn’t have a way to make a living either.

Paul begins to write about people who suppose that “gain is godliness.” He tells Timothy to withdraw from such people. There have always been people who equate wealth with godliness because they see it as verification that what they are doing is pleasing to God. Paul turns that around and says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

We were broke when we were born and we’ll be broke when we die. We have money for a while, but it just isn’t that important. Coveting money can cause us to do things we shouldn’t. So Paul says to put godliness first and be content with what we have. If you’re doing what God has called you to do and you aren’t making much money at it, be content. If you’re doing what God called you to do and you are making a lot of money from it, be content. Either way is better than being stressed out because we aren’t making as much money as we would like.

Then Paul ends the letter in much the same way he began it. He reminds Timothy not take care of the important things and to avoid these pointless discussions that do nothing more than waste time. Avoid the oppositions of science that isn’t really science at all. Some people are drawn away from the faith by those things. We should not allow ourselves to be.

“Grace be with thee. Amen.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Medicine and Good Works

We looked at verse 22 yesterday, but it is worth looking at Timothy 5:22-252 together. What I find interesting is that in 22 Paul is talking about sin that Timothy is supposed to keep himself from and in 24 and 25 he is talking about sin, but verse 23 seems out of place. “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thy frequent infirmities.” Paul appears to be prescribing a medicinal aid for Timothy, then returning to his previous thought. But is that the case or are they somehow connected?

I’m not sure, but they may be more connected than they look at first. Paul has just told Timothy to keep himself pure, then he tells him to drink wine instead of water. Today, we think of water as being clean and pure, but in those days they didn’t have our water treatment facilities. The alcohol in wine killed the impurities. So when we get to 24 and it says that some men’s sins are open before judgment and some are after, we can think of water and wine. Water doesn’t look like it will hurt you, but you may drink it and it will make you sick. We know that wine isn’t good for us, but then we drink it and it kills the stuff that was in the water, so we feel better.

In verse 25, Paul talks about good works. I think what he is saying is that with some people we know well ahead of time that they are going to do something good. Perhaps they announce it. Perhaps someone else announces it. Then there are people who say little, preferring to just do the good work and move on. But when someone does something good, someone is sure to find out about it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

About Preachers

I Timothy 5:17-22 deals specifically with the subject of preachers, or at least leaders in the church. Paul has just finished talking about older people and now we see the word elder again, but in context it appears to be the church leadership he is talking about instead of just old people. Some churches pull this term out and go so far as to elect a board of elders. There’s nothing in the Bible that indicates that a board of elders was ever elected by the early churches. That’s not to say that it is wrong for a church to do so now, but this passage isn’t suggesting it. The elders here appear to be those that teach and preach doctrine. It certainly applies to preachers and given the leadership role they hold, it might also be used to help us understand how we should treat Sunday school teachers.

An elder is worthy of double honor. Some have taken this to mean that a preacher ought to be paid twice as much as the wealthiest person in the congregation. Part of the argument for this is because of verse 18. I don’t think double honor is referring to how much he gets paid. I think it has more to do with the respect owed to these people. Even if we link verse 18 to verse 17, I think we can still have that meaning. There are times that people will look at the recognition leaders in a church receive and they don’t think it is fair, so they get upset. The next thing you know, they are accusing the pastor of being in it just for the money or the recognition. Well, just like you aren’t to muzzle the ox that treads out the corn, we shouldn’t be trying to keep the pastor from receiving recognition or the gifts people give him. If he stops doing the work he is supposed to be doing, that is something else, but those who do the work should receive benefit from the work they do.

Accusations against church leaders should not be taken lightly. If someone accuses a church leader, don’t go on that person’s word alone. Verify the facts with two or three witnesses. All too often, all it takes to hurt a church leader is for one person to make an accusation. People just assume it true. By the time they find out the person was lying, the leader is disgraced. Leaders should be given an even greater benefit of the doubt than ordinary people.

But when a leader sins, Paul says, rebuke him before all. When people see that even the leaders can’t get by with inappropriate behavior, they will be more likely to think twice about doing the same behavior. We’re not to prefer one person over another.

Paul told Timothy not to lay hands hastily on any man. We don’t have to put our seal of approval on a man just because he says he is called to preach. Take some time. Listen to what he has to say. If he is sound in doctrine, then is the time to let people know we stand behind him.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Widows and Elderly

Pastoring a church would be easy if the preacher didn’t have to deal with people. I was talking to someone about that the other day. There are a lot of preachers who retire, but they go right on preaching. Once you’ve done it a while, the preaching is second nature, but these retired preachers don’t have to deal with the people issues so much. In I Timothy 5:1-16 Paul gets off in to how to deal with people.
First, treat elders with respect. Don’t rebuke him, but give him the same kind of respect you should give your father. The elder women as mothers. The younger men and women should be treated like brothers and sisters. A church isn’t a business and it shouldn’t operate like one. A church is like a family. The pastor isn’t in charge; the pastor is to lead.

Second, take care of the widows. It’s natural for a church to have widows. Men often die before their wives. It is the church’s responsibility to take care of these women, but Paul makes a distinction between the widows who really need help and those that don’t. The young widows ought to remarry. The widows who have children and grandchildren to take care of them should be taken care of by their children and grandchildren. Those who don’t should be taken care of by the church, but only if they are faithful servants of Christ and they are at least sixty years old.

We shouldn’t be wasting church resources on people who don’t really need the help, but when people need help we should find a way to help them.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Develop the Gift

We’ve often heard the phrase “let no man despise thy you” but I Timothy 4:12-16 says more than that. The opposite of letting people despise his youth that Paul gives Timothy is to be an example. We often pull this verse out when we want to tell young people that they can have a place of service too, but I think it may be telling us more than that. It would be wrong to assume that people would despise Timothy’s youth simply because he was young. It may be instead that they would despise his youth because he was immature.

I look at some of the teenagers I know and some of them are very immature. That is to be expected, since they are teenagers, but some of them grow up into their twenties and even thirties with no indication that they are ever going to take on the responsibilities of life. I look at other teenagers and you can already see that they have it together. They aren’t waiting until they are officially crowned adults before they take responsibility for their own lives and become actively involved in the service of the Lord. Even before we think they should be mature, they are examples to other believers “in word, in manner of living, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

Paul instructs Timothy to “give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” These things will only help one to be an example instead of maturity instead of immaturity. But then Paul talks about the gift given by prophecy. Remember that Paul was writing to a preacher. Prophecy here probably means by the word of God. Timothy, like all preachers should be, was called by God and given a gift to be able to preach. By staying in the word, Timothy would develop his preaching ability and doing so would help him and those who listened to him preach.

We aren’t all called to preach, but we also need to develop the gift that God has given us to do whatever he has called us to do.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's All Good, But No Rats For Me

Paul warns Timothy in I Timothy 4:1-11 that some would leave the faith and listen to spirits and devils instead. There are a lot of people who put a great deal of emphasis on what they feel the Holy Spirit is leading them to do. While that sounds spiritual and close to God, the problem is that many of these people can’t tell the difference between what the Holy Spirit is telling them to do and what some other spirit is telling them to do. The Holy Spirit isn’t the only spirit that can influence people and some spirits have lead people astray.

Notice what Paul says some of these spirits are leading people to do, “forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving.” There are some denominations that will not allow the leaders of their churches to marry. That doctrine is of Satan and not of God. As for eating various kinds of meats, Paul says that it’s all good if we’ve been saved.

Paul tells Timothy to put the brethren in remembrance of this. The thing we need to remember here is that we are no longer under the law, but Jesus has fulfilled the law. The Lord showed Peter a bunch of unclean animals that are now to be considered clean. Satan would love to see us spend our time trying to figure out which meats we can eat and which we can’t instead of serving the Lord as we should.

On a side note: I think I’ll stay away from eating rats, but you go right ahead if you want to.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Not Just For Pastors

Chapter 3 of I Timothy (I Timothy 3) deals with the qualifications of pastors and deacons. Just prior to this, Paul wrote about some differences between men and women, so in context it is safe to assume that when he begins with the statement, “This is a true saying: If a man desire the office of bishop, he desireth a good work,” Paul is still using the word man to refer to the male gender, not to refer to any human. In looking at the preceding chapters, we have already seen that Paul is calling for men to lead in the church, so we need not discuss that women are not to be preachers more than that.

Aside from the differences between the qualifications of a pastor and that of a deacon, such as pastors aren’t to drink wine while deacons can drink in moderation, we can summarize these two lists by saying that when considering a man for either of those positions we should examine his personal life. If he doesn’t rule his own house well, we shouldn’t be surprised when he can’t lead the church very well either. Pride and a bad reputation can cause the man and the church trouble.

Reading down through the lists, it is easy to see that it would be a good idea for all of us to try to meet these qualifications, even if we never have any intention of being a pastor or a deacon. If you’re looking for what it takes to be a good person, these lists seem to tell us.

We might also consider these lists when we look at other positions in the church. We tend to separate out the pastors and deacons, but today we have positions in the church that Paul knew nothing about. Take the Sunday school teacher or small group leader, for example. While they don’t have all the same responsibilities that a pastor has, in many ways they serve in a similar capacity. We want them to be “apt to teach” and “given to hospitality” and a number of other things that apply to pastors. But how many times have we seen churches stick a new Christian in as a Sunday school teacher because the person is willing. So much for him “not be[ing] a novice in the faith.”

Paul is talking specifically about pastors and deacons, but we shouldn’t stop there. We should give careful consideration to the qualifications of the people we place in all positions throughout a church.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Women Teaching Men, Oh My!

A lot of people don’t like I Timothy 2:12-15 because it begins, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Of course, there’s a lot of discussion about whether this passage is referring to a woman teaching any man or just her husband. And we might also ask whether a woman should be teaching at all. Based on other passages, we know that this isn’t talking about women not teaching at all. In Titus 2, Paul instructs the older women to teach the younger women, so it is clear that women are to teach.

The issue people find the most sticky has to do with who women aren’t to teach and just what we mean by teaching. At the very least, women aren’t to teach or usurp authority over their husbands, but does that mean that she can’t tell her husband anything for fear she might teach him something? That would be silly. Given the context, I think this passage has more to do with authoritative teaching within the church. It has a similar context to I Corinthians 14:34. As such, I think we have to apply this passage to women teaching any man, not just her husband.

From a practical standpoint, what this means is that women aren’t to pastor churches, they aren’t to teach Sunday school classes with men in them, they aren’t to teach Bible studies with men in them, and for that matter, they probably shouldn’t be the primary leader of a ministry that involves men. The reason Paul gives for that is that Adam was created before Eve. As you recall, God created Adam and then he created Eve to help Adam. Applying that concept to Christian service, the woman isn’t to be leading a ministry and expecting her husband to be supporting her in that ministry. For that matter, it shouldn’t be his and hers ministries either, in which he is serving God in one way, she is serving God in another and they cross paths in the bedroom at night. In the ideal situation, the man is serving God and knows what God wants him and his family to be doing. The woman should be serving God by supporting her husband in that ministry.

Another reason Paul gives is that Adam wasn’t deceived but Eve was. He may be describing a type in which if Eve had been in subjection to her husband instead of listening to Satan she wouldn’t have sinned. But in verse 15 Paul offers some hope in that “she shall be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobermindedness.” As the saying goes, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Women have the opportunity to teach children and that is very important.

We know that women aren’t to be teaching and leading men, but what’s the cutoff point? It seems to be okay for them to teach children. Certainly, we would draw the line at eighteen—some men have pastored churches before they turned eighteen—but some people would draw the line at an even younger age. Some have drawn it at around twelve years old. I can see good reason for that, since that is about the age that children begin to reach physical adulthood—immature adults, but adults none the less. As for me, I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that God wants the older men to teach the younger men. God wants men to lead and for that to happen, some women are going to have to get out of the way.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Shut Up!

In I Timothy 1:18-I Timothy 2:11 Paul writes concerning not getting away from holding faith and a good conscience. He warns Timothy of the potential of becoming shipwrecked in that way and give the example of Hymenaeus and Alexander. But rather than allowing himself to become shipwrecked also, Paul tells Timothy how to avoid it.

His first instruction is prayer be made for all men. He mentions supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks. These are all types of what we would call prayer. Paul makes special mention of government leaders. When we pray it doesn’t always seem like we’re doing that much, but prayer should be a priority. It should come first.

Prayer for all men will help us to have a quiet and peaceable life, but it is clearly something God wants us to do. Paul points out that God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. If for no other reason, we should be praying for other people because God wants them to be saved. I don’t think this just means that we should pray for Jesus to save them. After all, Paul mentioned all kind of prayer. We should ask for their protection. We should ask God to help them. We should thank God for them. And yes, we should ask God to convict them of their sins. God loves these people. We should too and pray for them.

For that reason, Paul says, he wants men to pray everywhere. Now what is interesting about this statement is the next statement, “In like manner also, that women should adorn…” We generally read verse 8 and think, “Okay, Paul thinks men and women should be praying,” but verse 9 makes it clear that Paul is talking about men as in male. I don’t think that let’s women off the hook because verse 9 may have more to do with a comparison between the manner in which men are to pray, “lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting” than it does with saying that men should pray and women shouldn’t, but Paul is very clear that he wants men to pray.

Men need to be the leaders in their homes. When the time comes to go to church, it should be the man who tells the family that they’re going to church. He shouldn’t wait for his wife to ask if he’s going to church. He should go and expect his family to follow. When the family or church faces a challenge, it should be the men who step forward in faith, leading the way for the rest of the church to trust God to provide. That isn’t to say that women can’t act in faith too, but the men need to lead in faith and prayer.

When Paul begins to talk about the women, it appears that we can summarize what he is saying by saying that women shouldn’t draw attention to themselves. Since he uses the phrase “in like manner”, these aren’t disconnected thoughts. It’s hard for men to lead when their wives are putting on a big show. That’s not to say that a woman has to put on a sour face before she walks into the church building, but women need to be mindful of what they need to do in order to allow men to lead.

“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.” Women have a tendency to fill every silence with words, as if they are afraid of the silence. Men tend to welcome the silence because it allows them to compose their thoughts before they speak. To put this plainly, women, if you want to let men lead the way God want them to lead, shut up.

Friday, April 1, 2011

God's Joke

As Paul continues his first letter to Timothy (I Timothy 1:12-17) he marvels at how the Lord put him in the ministry. We don’t think about that enough. We’re all in the same boat. It’s easy for us to think that we’re something special because we’re actually doing the work that God has called us to do while other people aren’t doing what they should. But we read what Paul is saying here and he is amazed that God would count him faithful and put him in the ministry.

Think about this. If you owned a business and you found out that one of your employees was taking money from the cash register, would you trust that employee to carry your money to the bank? Would you even let that employee do anything other than maybe stock shelves? It isn’t likely. And yet, God has take those of us who have sinned against him and are worthy of punishment, and he has put us in the ministry. Look at what happened with the angels. Those who sinned were thrown out of heaven. God could have used the faithful angels to do his work and he often does, but he has allowed us to do his work when we have no right to that privilege. He has empowered us to do his work.

But Paul does more than just marvel. He gives us a reason for why God put him in the ministry, even considering all he had done, “that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering as a pattern for those who should hereafter believe in Him to life everlasting.” In other words, if Jesus Christ will take the chief of sinners and turn him in to a great minister of the gospel, then we can expect to see the same thing happen with other sinners who have accepted Christ as their savior. We don’t all have the same ministry, but Jesus gives us all the privilege of serving him.

Somehow, that just seems appropriate for April Fool’s day. God takes the worst people and turns them into his greatest servants.