Sunday, January 22, 2006

Not Only Kind

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
(1 John 4:16 ESV)

I think many times when suffering comes our way, we scream out to God, “WHY?! What did I do?” But we forget – I forget that God is not just kind. For it is through suffering that we learn that God is not only kind to us. Yes, God is not only kind, rather He is love. For a god that is only kind would give drugs to a drug addict because it would make the addict happy in the moment, not willing to bring the suffering and pain required to remove the addiction from the addict in order to give him a life free from drugs. Kindness is unwilling to go all the way, unwilling to do that which is required to bring ultimate good to the recipient. But God is a God that loves us and so sometimes He wills us to go through difficulties and suffering not for the sake of suffering but for our own sake, as one withholding drugs from an addict, causing momentary suffering in order that the addict might be free from the addiction and live a full and free life. And so it is with us, we are addicted to this world, a world that in the end leads to death, and so God, our Father works to wean us off this world, causing us momentary affliction, that we might, in the end, have a life that is full, wholly satisfied and pure, not bound in slavery to sin, but filled with love for the One who loved us enough to cause our suffering for our ultimate good – everlasting life in the presence of the source of all good, God Himself. He is truly love.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What is wrong?

John ch.3 describes two kinds of people. Those who live in darkness because they don't want their deeds exposed, and those who come into the light to show that they are God's people. Hence we use the phrase "in the light". Often this phrase denotes a kind of openness that can be very freeing but requires great risk and often results in humiliation.

Here's what happens:

We make a contract with the state of affairs. This is: narrowing the path excludes almost everyone. Some of whom aren't really that bad. A lot of people will feel uncomfortable, at least at first. Uncomfortable = smaller churches. Smaller churches = appearance of failure. So, we know that the narrow path is where we ought to be headed, but we make a pact with reality. "I'll just do what works". Everyone retreats a little bit. Church is a little less threatening; and if it is threatening, it's the kind of "intellectual threat" that doesn't require you to talk about yourself, just your beliefs. Slowly you give up on drawing people into the light, and accept the darkness.

Why? Because it's not your job. Your job is to provide a service. People join your church, and donate to it, and pay your salary because they want a service. In most cases you have no other reason to be in the community you're in, except to provide that service. Maybe you move your family to a new city and church, because it's a better job. They don't bring you in to shepherd God's people. They bring you in to do a job. Your responsibility is not to draw people into the light, closer to God; it's to grow the church. Or ... to teach. Or ... to be "successful". The darkness closes in.

Because indoctrination is easier than transformation. Because small talk is safer than friendship. Because systematic theology is more interesting than "Love God with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."

You betray the ones you claim to be helping. Because it's your job. So, the question is, who do you work for?

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Pastoral Migration

I recently had the opportunity to write a paper about Paul's theology of Pastoral Leadership from 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. I will not bore everyone with the paper itself, but rather a thought that came to me during its writing.

My paper was centered on the necessity of the pastor to defend the protect and promote truth, to develop strong leadership, etc. However my question was not really centered on any of those things.

Why is it that Pastors move from church to church so often in our modern era?

The reason usually given has something to due with being called, etc. I do not want to discredit that because I do not know the heart or what God has done in their lives. However, there are usually a lot of coincidences that go along with the calling. I.E. more responsibility or a bigger salary, flexibility, etc. In reality for this discussion those things don't matter. The main question for me is when you are called to a church can you be called somewhere else?

As far as I am concerned there really is no precedent in the Bible for someone to leave a church as a pastor to go to another church somewhere else. When you think of Titus you think of him ministering in Crete, Timothy is usually associated with the church in Ephesus, some think Epaphroditus was the pastor of Philippians (see 2:25-30). There is no mention of their moving from church to church to accept a new "pastorate". So why do pastors move from congregation to congregation so frequently? Why is the average stay of a pastor less than 4 years?

I think some church denominations like this. The PC(usa) will not let someone be a Sr. Pastor of a church that they grew up in or attended (although they can be an associate). This denomination likes moving people around when there is openings or needs in other areas. It seems as if a person is familiar with a congregation that is a bad thing... When someone applies for ordination they must accept an internship at a church other than their own. Usually the denomination will also make sure that if you came from a liberal church you go to a conservative or a big church to a small one and vice versa.

Are we really called to be this "iternarant"?

The shape of the church has changed in the modern era. People move around, they bounce from church to church, they need to think of taking care of their family. A lot of this probably has to do with worldlyness creeping into our thinking and our church life. Look at how churches are structured, more often than not they resemble a corporation. With that, there is head hunting and different "packages" that are presented to pastors... greener pastures.

I was approached at one point by a pastor in San Jose who told me to keep my options open. This was after a discussion where he alluded to possibilites in the future. I told him that I felt called to the students that I was currently ministering too. It is true that more money, a 401k, better benefits, etc. are inticing.

You see churches in the early NT time taking care of their Pastor's needs. So are our needs being met. The reality is that more money is inticing, but I right now in my life I am doing ok... in reality I could probably get by making less. In the future this may change. When I start having kids I will probably need to make more. But that will be the responsibility of my church to step up.

This led me to two conclusions...

1. If you were called to a specific church at one point and they are taking care of the needs of your family then you shouldn't leave. The world and the idea of making more and climbing the coporate ladder has already creeped too far into the modern church. If someone feels called to a different church then that is between them and God. But, they should first examine if there aren't any ulterior motives.

2. If a church is not meeting the needs of you and your family... then you should first let that be known then if it is unresolved then you should move on. The church should be responsible to take care of their pastor. However, one should exaine if they are living above their means. Often those in church ministry live pretty good lives. I admire people who sell everything they have to fund their ministries or mission. I admire those who live that "war-time" lifestyle. It definitley is not easy to do in a land of flat panel lcd monitors, ipods and faster cars.

I guess I just do not think pastors should move around as much as they do in the modern age.

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Jumbled thoughts from a year ago

We are far away from where we should be - we continue to follow the ones who are in front of us, knowing good and well in our minds that the path they follow leads to death. But our hearts, but my heart rebells against the truth. We know, and yet we continue, we still walk in the path of our old man. What is keeping us from doing the things we know we should? Why are some outside the faith even more disciplined than we, who are in the faith are? Whouls we not be known for our discipline? Our lives should follow after our beliefs, yet our beliefs never seem to be strong enough to perfect our lives - for we are but flesh, weak, and unable to cleanse ourselves from the wickedness inside our souls. Nothing is easier to know than this: men are wicked. Yet nothing is harder to accept, for why would a wicked heart admit to such a thing? The point of belief never comes until a man realises he is wicked. We say we are good but there is no one good but God. We say we are not murderers - we say Hitler was wicked, but we fail to see in ourselves the very same things that made that man so wicked - we decieve ourselves. God is a the God who saves and man is a race that needs a Savior.

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