Musings on Spiritual Matters

by Matthew Morine

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Matthew is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. He has a beautiful wife named Charity. Matthew has two wonderful children, Gabrielle and Noah. He has graduated from the Brown Trail School of Preaching, Heritage Christian University with his Bachelors of Arts in Biblical Studies, Lipscomb University with his Master's of Arts in Biblical Studies and Freed-Hardeman University with his Master's of Divinity. Presently, he is working on his Doctorate of Ministry at Harding Graduate School of Religion. His articles have appeared in the World Evangelist, the Highway to Holiness, The West Virginia Christian, The Christian Echo, The Firm Foundation, Church Growth, and the Gospel Advocate.

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So You Want to Preach Like a Prophet

Posted By on July 24, 2014

It was an hour and a half from the center of Dallas-Fort Worth.  It was in a small littleTexastown.  The building was an old school house that was moved to function as a church building.  It was my first real-kind of job preaching.  I was at Brown Trail for approximately six months when Gary Garner approached me taking over the Sunday Morning service for this tiny congregation.  The little church met once on Sunday morning, and I was required to preach the lesson, not Bible class, just the sermon.  In the building, we met on the side in a little classroom because the church did not have enough funds to heat or cool the worship center.  Up to this point, I preached about 2 lessons before in a congregational setting.  Both of these times, everyone knew me and desired to support me in this work.  There were numerous eyes focused and heads nodding.  But this church was different.  I was just another young preacher trying to improve in speaking.  This experience shocked me, but mostly one man.  One man would come to worship and partake of the Lord’s Supper.  After this, I would stand up to preach.  As I was standing, he was arranging the chairs.  This created some nervous feelings, this never happened before.  He turned the chair in front of him, he stretched out on the chair under him, and he placed his cowboy hat over his head.  And the man slept.  This was not a big congregation.  Maybe there were 12 people.  It was a small room, you could not hide.  People get tired in church, but most people try to stay with you.  Not this man, sermon time was nap time for him.  This show really bothered me.  I really thought what I was talking about was interesting.  For the first three weeks, I tired to preach strong, enthusiastic lessons.  But this did not work.  Finally, I thought I would preach on the death of Christ.  There is no way; a man will sleep through the death of the Lord.  As always, the man turned the chair and placed the hat.  I started preaching in a too loud tone for the small room.  I raised my voiced; I told the story of the death of Jesus Christ.  And the man slept, he did not move until the invitation song.  He slept through the death of the Lord.  I realized then that I needed some help in preaching.

Paul changes his focus from Timothy’s personal conduct to his public ministry among the congregation inEphesusin verse 13.  Paul mentions, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”  Paul is expecting to see Timothy again.  Previously, Paul mentioned this expectation for a reunion.  He said in 1 Timothy 3:14-15 that he is hoping that He will come to Timothy soon.  Paul is not sure of his timetable but is hoping to support Timothy in his located work.  Knight speculates “that Timothy may be assigned other tasks when Paul arrives and perhaps that Paul himself will take over some of these responsibilities” (207).  There is some debate concerning this because of the usage of the “eJvwV” clause.  This could be seen as a post-positive, in which the text would be rendered with what precedes it.  So the text would read “make yourself an example until I come.”  This view is supported with “eJvwV” being the indicative, which would make the rendering as “while” instead of “until.”

The only other verses that mimic this phraseology are found in John 21:22-23, “Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’ This saying therefore went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not.”  In this context, the phrase is rendered “until” instead of “while.”  Probably, whatever way the text is rendered, the meaning does not significantly change because Knight points out that this phrase means generally “turn one’s mind to.”  Paul does not indicate in the verse that he is coming to relieve Timothy, but simply instructs Timothy to be busy conducting his ministerial responsibilities (207).

The Preaching Model

Paul gives three major responsibilities for Timothy to perform.  Paul says in verse 13, “give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”  The word for “attention” is “prosevcw” which means to “turn one’s mind to, occupy oneself with, devote or apply oneself to” (Knight 207).  Timothy is to give his focus to these duties that Paul is about to list.  The works that Paul lists are the priorities for Timothy to accomplish.  Instead of following the example of the false teachers who “pay attention to myths” and “to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,” Timothy is to devote himself to the word of God.  In fact, the word for “attention” is a present imperative, which indicates that Timothy was to continually give his attention to those acts of service (Lawson 82).  Lawson argues from this text that this is the model for a minister’s ministry.  The first order of work for a preacher is preaching.  He is to work on “the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”  Lawson, instead of seeing these elements as separate, sees them as making up the whole of biblical preaching (82-84).  He is close to the truth in this view because each of these elements has a special attribute, but all of them make up the preaching event.  Even the order of the verse is important because Paul tells Timothy to immerse himself in the biblical text, to encourage people to follow the text, and to teach its doctrines (Mounce 260).

First of all, Timothy is to focus on “the public reading of Scripture.”  The modern church typically places little emphasis on the public reading of the scripture.  This was not the case in the early church because the reading of the scriptures was a major feature in the public assembly of both the synagogue and in the worship of the church.  This was influenced by culture because most believers did not have personal copies of the Old Testament text, so the public reading of the scriptures was an opportunity to hear the voice of the Lord (Moss 93).  To a certain extent, there was also to be the public reading of the New Testament scriptures.  On numerous occasions, Paul commanded for his letters to be read for the assembly.  1 Thessalonians 5:27, “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.”  Also, Colossians 4:16, “And when this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.”  After Timothy has read the text for the congregation atEphesus, he is to give an exhortation.  He is to motivate the people to follow the instructions of the inspired text.  He is to encourage the people to practice the Word of God.

This method of Christian preaching followed the established methodology of synagogue worship.  After the text was read, there would be a word of encouragement (Mounce 261).  This seems to be the order of worship in Acts 13:15-16: “And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, ‘Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.’ And Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand, he said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen.”  In this text, the Old Testament was read and then Paul proceeded to preach a message from the text.  This method continues with the reading of New Testament letters with the exhortation following.  Acts 15:30-32 seems to record an event like this:

So, when they were sent away, they went down toAntioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.

Timothy’s third duty is to teach doctrine to his hearers.  The concept of teaching has been a major theme throughout Paul’s correspondence with Timothy.  This seems to be the major defense against the false teachers.  Timothy must be rooted in the word of God.  Timothy is expected by Paul to give the theologically correct rendering of the text.  It was not good enough just to have a basic comprehension of the text, but there needed to be a fuller awareness of the text’s meaning.  This meaning would be found through study, reflection, and singular devotion (Mounce 261).  Knight mentions that the word “teach” has an “unmistakable intellectual character” (208).  Where the exhortation was for application, teaching is for knowledge.  All of these elements are needed in biblical preaching.  The exhortation is to help the hearers respond appropriately, and the teaching is referring to the principles of the faith.

The Model of Healthy and Biblical Preaching     

In verse 13, Paul gives some advice on the preaching event.  He says, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”  The preaching event, whether on the street corner or in the marketplace is a defining work for a minister.  Though these locations would have been more prevalent during Paul’s preaching career, today the minister is typically given the task of speaking a message from the word of God on Sunday morning and evening in a designated church building.  Whatever the time or location, the importance is everlasting.  There are volumes of books on how to preach.  There are endless possibilities in the style or methodology of effective communication of God’s word.  Whatever the method or form of the sermon, Paul gives the three essential ingredients for a Biblical lesson.  At the core of preaching, there is the focus on the word of God.  This is the centering point for all lessons.  The scripture must be exalted.  The idea of preaching has numerous images that influence the style of proclamation.  One of the images is the herald.  The idea of the herald is a spokesman for God.  God is the one speaking through the minister to give moral advice and truth.  The preacher’s role is not one of beauty but more of faithfulness to the truth.  The herald’s role is simply to proclaim the message of Christ.  It does not have to be interesting, flowing, or provoking because the herald is to speak plainly and in a straightforward way.  A herald’s core value is one that avoids a flashy presentation.  Another image of the preaching event is one of pastor.  A pastor is most concerned with the needs of the congregation.  He speaks the word of God into the troubled life of the congregation.  He is concerned with changing the congregation for the better.  Unlike the purpose of the herald that places all the duty for listening on the members, the pastor believes himself to be responsible for the application to the member’s lives.  The final image is one of storyteller.  The storyteller sees the text through narrative as the base for life.  The stories communicate the gospel truths.  The storyteller takes great responsibility for making the message relevant to the needs of the congregation (Long 24-38).

A minister must realize that the image he brings into the pulpit will affect his delivery and sermon presentation.  In all of these roles, the use of scripture must be woven together to create a message from the word.  This message must be rooted in the eternal truths of God’s revelation.  A message that is rooted in worldly wisdom or pop culture is unbiblical and lacks transforming power.  But one must understand that declaring truth does not have to be accomplished through a point-by-point treatment of the text.  In fact, Fred Craddock gives four ways to handle a biblical text accurately.  Craddock states there are the historical context, the pastoral context, liturgical context, and the theological context.  Whatever lens the minister uses to proclaim the message of God, it always has to be centered in the biblical text (33-47).  But this does not mean that the preacher has to avoid illustrations or application or humor.  Paul realizes that the preaching event must also encourage and teach.  A preacher needs to be wise in varying the purposes of his sermons because a minister who is given to instruction only will build a head faith, a preacher that is just a cheerleader for the congregation will not build strong convictions and values, and the minister who never uses relevant material to add flow will lose the attention of the listeners.

As one surveys the biblical text, the wide variety of sermons is amazing.  Jesus used considerable variety in delivering His messages.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He used pithy lines to gain attention and transformation.  These lines would be easy to recall at a later date.  Jesus also used parables to communicate and cloak his message.  Matthew 13:10-13 addresses the paradoxical style of Jesus’ teaching:

And the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them in parables?’ And He answered and said to them, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.’

It is natural to make Jesus the model for teaching, but one must realize that Jesus is not providing a pattern in teaching.  The methods or styles of teaching are constantly changing as the culture develops.  Jesus is using the customary practices of a Rabbi in communicating His messages.  It would be erroneous to assume that Jesus would not use PowerPoint or humorous stories to convey his thoughts in today’s world.

Paul and Peter also demonstrate a wide variety of forms in preaching the gospel.  In Acts 2, Peter in addressing a predominately Jewish audience made appropriate use of the Old Testament scriptures.  Peter’s audience would place great importance on the Old Testament verses.  By using the Old Testament, Peter is adding authority to his words about the Christ.  In contrast to Peter’s inspired sermon, Paul, in Acts 17 in addressing those on Mars Hill, a predominantly Gentile audience with philosophical leanings toward a Greco-Roman culture, never used a single Old Testament verse.  Paul used more of a philosophical line of reasoning with his hearers because this thought process would connect better than using Old Testament verses to prove his point.  Unlike sermons from the past, which were judged on the number or the amount of verses provided, a scriptural sermon is one that declares a Biblical truth using whatever godly discipline available.  Because of the diversity within the early church with regard to preaching, every congregation should restrain from placing one style of preaching on a pedestal as the authorized way.  The development of preaching has always been one of the strengths of the restoration movement (Crisp 17).

Timothy Kelly provides some practical advice to help preaching remain relevant.  He lists five major disciplines of the preacher’s life: daily prayer, daily reading, writing, sharing God’s word with intimates, and getting away from people at times (263).  These seem to help in the constant pressure to deliver in one location heart-moving sermons week after week for numerous years.  The pressure to preach can be enormous if one does not have a strong connection to the Lord and His word.  But the Bible never must be turned solely into an instruction manual of a godly man.  It is larger than a tool book or a medical book that prescribes, to a minister, practices that will heal because it is the living word of God.  The minister wrestles with the word as the word wrestles with him.  Barbara Brown Taylor in her book The Preaching Life gives a beautiful statement concerning the nature of the Word.

For all the human handiwork it displays, the Bible remains a peculiarly holy book. I cannot think of any other text that has such authority over me, interpreting me faster than I can interpret it.  It speaks to me not with the stuffy voice of some mummified sage but with the fresh, lively tones of someone who knows what happened to me an hour ago.  Familiar passages accumulate meaning as I return to them again and again.  They seem to grow during my absences from them; I am always finding something new in them I never found before, something designed to meet me where I am at this particular moment in time.  This is, I believe, why we call the Bible God’s ‘living’ word.  When I think about consulting a medical book thousands of years old for some insight into my health, or an equally ancient physics book for some help with my cosmology, I understand what a strange and unparalleled claim the Bible has on me.  Age does not diminish its power but increases it (55).

Only through the proclamation of the gospel can man be transformed into the image of God’s divine Son.  Whatever the sermon event looks like in society, present or past, and ultimately the future, at all times it must be connected to the word of God.  If it is not connected to the word of the Lord, all power, significance, and control is lost and replaced with man’s weak wisdom.  This is why Paul declared to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5 to preach the word.  The word has the power to reprove, rebuke, and exhort.  But this teaching is going to take time and patience.  After the pursuit of godliness, the preaching of the word is the next priority.  The word is at the core of developing a godly lifestyle and faith.

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Relationships With Christians

Posted By on July 23, 2014

Everyone has struggled with a relationship within the church.  It will always be a matter of time before you have a conflict with a brother or sister in the Lord.  There are numerous ways and reasons that conflicts start within the church.  Sadly, people seem shocked when conflict happens.  People have a neurotic expectation that Christians should never have tension in a relationship.  People have a Pollyanna view that Christians should always get along.  How do people response to interpersonal conflict within the church?

  1. Run.  Yes, sadly, this is sometimes the most common reaction to interpersonal conflict.  Instead of dealing with the conflict, and growing from the tension, the person runs away from the conflict.  There are two reasons typically for this response.  The first is shock.  The people think that conflict should never happen and refuse to deal with the reality.  The second is blame.  Instead of looking introspectively, the individual merely blames the other party and withdraws from the relationship.
  2. Deal.  This is the better response.  The person goes to his or her brother or sister in Christ.  The person seeks to deal with it.  Sadly, though the individual is often “stonewalled.”  This means that the conflict with is a reality is denied.  The person covers up the conflict instead of maturely handling it.  Even though the person might not response well, the mature Christian response according to the pattern in Matthew 18.
  3. Patience.  Most conflict will be dealt with in time.  In every relationship, there are ups and downs.  Sometimes there will be tension, but by staying within the relationship means that there is an opportunity for hope and healing.  The best approach in conflict is to be Christian and classy during the tension.  No one has ever regretted doing the right thing.
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Alignment and the 200 Barrier

Posted By on July 22, 2014

Castle Rock continues to grow.  The average attendance has grown from 171 to averaging 240 during the last couple of years.  With this shift, we are dealing with breaking the 200 barrier.  There are various elements involved with this issue.  But the biggest struggle is creating congregational alignment.  At a smaller size congregation, there is plenty ideas for various works, and an idea is given equal weight.  As a congregation grows, the ideas become numerous, but the volunteer help is already maxed out.  You hit this wall of volunteer time, money resources, and talent.  You have opportunity, and sometimes this opportunity grows too fast, and creates burnout for people.  Instead of having various pots in the fire, it is best to create a strategic alignment for a church.  You ask “What do we do?”  You cannot do everything, and with the cap on resources, you cannot do much well.  If you invest in the wrong areas, you will sidetrack the congregation, and ultimately fall back to the size of the awkward congregation.  The eldership and I are moving forward with this dynamic.  We are looking at aligning the work of the church into strategic areas to accomplish the maximum amount of good, but still understanding the need for channeling resources.  We have not reached the tipping point yet, and much care has to be given to proper alignment.  Here are some questions to ask:

1. What can we do well?

2. What are the essential features of a church?

3. What ministry are the most strategic for this season in ministry?

4. How can we invest in works that provide the most spiritual blessings for others?

Until you look at the work of the congregation, all of it, you will struggle with aligning the church toward a focused mission.  Too often in a 200 member congregation there are too many directions, but no one knows the goal.

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Review of “The E-Myth”

Posted By on July 21, 2014

This book is about building a business.  This might be a odd book to read as a minister, but there was many connection points that were helpful.  In regards to the organization of a congregation, this book was a valuable resource.  The best insights from this book was the role of the business owner.  The business owner works the business, much in the same way that the minister works in the congregation.  This is why congregations that have a pastoral mindset stop growing at 200 members.  The minister cannot do anymore for the people.  He is maxed out.  The next step is that the minister works harder, helps the congregation grow, but than there is conflict.  He no longer can be at everything, people expect him at everything, and there are hurt feelings.  The same quality of service is no longer there.  Disappointment sets in.  People leave, and the congregation falls back to the normal size.  This book helps you think through these issues.  Instead of just working in the business, you need to work on the business.  This is probably the biggest shift for a preacher.  We are trained to work in, and not on.  One of the best steps for a successful business is building a system that can be duplicated.  This means understanding who is doing what.  If you do not have a flow chart, or an organizational chart, you have a mob, and mobs destroy things.  This is a good book for understanding how an organization works.  Everything might not line up with how a church works, but there is a lot of good advice, and a good read for the topic.  Good stuff.

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False Role of Holiness with Ministry

Posted By on July 18, 2014

This is another part of the book for ministers.  Hope you enjoy this short section.  It is part of the beginning of the text.

In addition to the false concepts of the preacher’s role invading the church, there are circulating erroneous views of a minister’s holiness.  There can be debate over what constitutes acceptable morality or ethics for a preacher, but there are often expectations of flawless perfection, which means that the preacher can have no bad habits, temptations, or weaknesses in character or conduct.  He is expected to be constantly vigilant about his speech and dress.  He should never have a word in anger, a comment interpreted as rude, or an insulting word to another.  The minister’s expected level of holiness is derived from an ethic of avoidance.  He should not watch television, movies, sporting events, or any form of entertainment.  The preacher is expected to avoid all areas of the public that could be considered “sinful.”  A minister can become paranoid trying to meet the neurotic expectations of the members because the ideas of a minister’s godliness are vast and inconsistent.  There are numerous ethical and value judgments that can be placed on a minister.  Recently in a congregation, the pulpit minister was dismissed (according to the elders) because he mentioned the word “pregnant” from the pulpit.  Some of the members were offended by this use of the English language.  In this particular congregation, there was an unbiblical expectation that a godly minister would not use “pregnant” in public.  This is a case of people binding practices of supposed godliness on ministers, which is the problem in the preceding verses of 1 Timothy 4:1-5.  Any time worldly wisdom supplants godly wisdom, there is going to be confusion over the role of a minister in the church.  This is why the role of the preacher must be rooted in scripture.  Only through God’s holy instruction will the minister fulfill God’s purpose for him in the church.  Fortunately, 1 Timothy 4:6-16 provides the essential character disciplines for a godly minister to develop and practice.

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Commandments of Dating

Posted By on July 16, 2014

I pulled off the shelf this old book.  It is called “The 10 Commandments of Dating.”  I remember buying it one summer to teach a class to teens on the topic.  I was a single intern for a congregation that summer, and since dating was plainly on my mind, I decided to have a class on the topic.  The book was written in 1999, so before cellphones were hugely popular, the internet was still a baby, and there was no such thing as social media.  But looking after the commands, it made me realize that these rules for dating have not changed.  So I would like to share them with everyone.  More than likely, the teens do not read this bulletin, so you might need to mention this article to them.

  1. Thou Shalt Get A Life.  I like this rule.  The rule states that dating should not be the priority in your life.  You should not date out of desperation, dependence, and depression.  In this chapter, there is a section about media dependence in which the person relies on “our high-tech society” “for meeting emotional and relational needs.”  The advice here is to “get a life.”  This is true.  The author notes that you can hide out behind technology.  Of course, his idea of technology is “in front of a screen, at Blockbuster, in a chat room, and at the local CD exchange.”  The tech has changed, but the issue of being addicted to media has not.
  2. Thou Shalt Use Your Brain.  This is a good chapter too.  The author notes one mistaken concept in dating which is called “spirit-driven dating.”  He mentions those who listen to the voice on high instead of common sense.  Sometimes young people spiritualize emotions and sexual urges.  People who automatically believe that God has ordained them to be together or those who are trusting in subjective emotions, to dictate the selection of a spouse are refusing to think through the situation.  It is best to use your brain in selecting a spouse instead of uncertain spiritual feelings.
  3. Thou Shalt Be Equally Yoked.  This is another great rule.  You are to find someone like you.  The author notes the problem with missionary dating.  A guy or girl will date someone, but will justify the relationship on evangelistic grounds.  If you must flirt to convert, you are falling into a dangerous area.  You are looking for someone you are spiritually compatible with already.

Even though this book is old, the wisdom in the pages are still relevant for young people today.

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In House Love

Posted By on July 3, 2014

The Gospel of John focuses the love commandment on the community within Christ (13:34-35), while the other gospel accounts exhort disciples to love their neighbors and even their enemies (Mark 12:28-32, Matt. 22:34-40, and Luke 10:25-28).  But John speaks of in house love, calling Christians to love one another.  We could assume that this is the easier command.  But before dismissing the ethical seriousness of loving one another, one should quickly survey the history of churches.  Sometimes it could be easier to love one’s enemy that to love those with whom one loves, works, and worships day after day after day.  The intensity of the conflict can increase with the added exposure.

In contrast to the common Christian wisdom of loving the world to prove to be disciples, John’s gospel focuses on the public witness that Christians can have through loving one another.  The world is not likely to be impressed by Christian love for outsiders, however expansive, if those who claim to be Christians have hatred for one another.  All of the love for the world is useless without first having a genuine love for each other.  The quality of the life together is the most convincing witness to the truth and power of the gospel.  John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 17:20-21 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  The most persuasive way for Christians to invalidate the message of the Gospel is to practice dislike and hatred toward one another.

The essential element in creating love for one another is not through feelings or similarity, but rather through mutual discipleship.  Unlike some other writers in the New Testament, John uses the Greek word for friendship love and divine love interchangeably.  He makes no distinction between the two.  When Jesus calls his disciples friends he is literally saying “one who is loved.”  The commonality that holds Christians together in love is practicing discipleship with one another.  John 15:14-15 “You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends.”  Without the bond of discipleship, love is too easily diluted through feelings and commonality.

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Organization, Mobs, and Churches

Posted By on July 1, 2014

Churches must have organization.  People need a structured congregation.  This means that having elders, deacons, and ministers are valuable.  One of the major reasons is consistency.  You have to have order in a large group of people.  This brings security to people.  Even those who refuse to have order, often are only rejecting the present order of a church.  In reality, these individuals desire to run the church instead.  These people want to be in charge, but will fight against authority, and create issues all as a attempt to circumvent the present structure of the church.  The reality of those who stay in churches seeking to remove the eldership or minister or deacons are in a fools errand.  These people want to remove the leadership and replace it with what.  Often, themselves.  It is a powerplay.  There is a peace in having a structure in a congregation.  God knew this, he established this.  People must know who is the decision maker in a given area.  Who has the right to make the call?  In some cases, the deacon does, and those who disagree need to summit this his choice.  In other areas, it is the elders, and people should submit to the choice.  At other times, it is the preacher, and people should submit to that choice.  To have a healthy system or structure, everyone must have a understanding of who makes the choice at the end of the day.  If the preacher has been empowered in a given area, he is to make the call.  If a deacon, he is to make the call.  Often the elders are the ones who define the boundaries of decision making.  But once a boundary is defined, it is important for the elders to honor that call.  Changing the rules of structure is painful and destructive to a congregation.  The better you outline the organizational flow chart, or the structure of the church, the better things will go.  People must respect these structures, and submit to them.

The opposite of structure in an organization is the mob.  There is no order.  There is no line of command.  There is no agreed on leaders.  It is a free for all.  Structures built.  Mobs destroy.  A congregation that allows the chain of command to be destroyed, or taken over is unwise.  A congregation that does not establish areas of choices creates stress.  No one can trust the system, and no one can count on the system.  You cannot count on a mob for the future.  No one knows what will happen.  When people cannot trust the structure, people will flee the building.  You might not always agree with the choices of leadership, but you can count on them to make choices.  You cannot count on a mob to be wise.

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Review of “What Most Women Want”

Posted By on June 30, 2014

The conversation concerning the role of women in the church is popular.  Over the last few years, some of the lectureships within the churches of Christ have used a lady as a keynoter, or will be using a lady as a keynoter.  I must admit that this is shocking to me.  I would not have imagined this shift, and for this shift to happen so quickly.  Congregations have changed on various understandings of the role of women in a church.  I have listened to some of the forces behind the scenes here.  Sadly, I have seen some of the forceful attends to move in this direction, and to force leaders into this direction.  The leaders of “One Voice” had the intended mission to use power to twist arms to have women on these lectureships.  Fortunately, my spectrum in the churches of Christ is pretty large, and I have seen some of the inroads that were happening that now are being seen more publicly.  So with this all said, I have been on a search and been busy studying the role of women in the church.  This is the next, if not, the now dispute in the churches of Christ.  I see two perspectives taking place.  One is the complete refashioning of Biblical interpretation.  There is the changing of the meta-narrative of the Genesis account.  And there is the atomistic interpretation taking place.  This means that all reference to the role of women are merely localized instead of applicable to the universal church.  On the other hand, some of the conservative response are simplistic.  Instead of looking at context, or even the theology of what is happening, there is simple proof texting that those with a progressive intend merely response, and make the ultra conservative response look uneducated.  For an example, the 1 Timothy 2 text, about women being quiet, is countered with, do your women braid hair and wear jewelry, yes is the response, than why is this cultural and women being silent is not.

Of course enough of the conversation, and on to the book. I liked the book a lot.  It is not written in a scholarly way, but you can tell that behind his easy to read prose, he has read the materials on the debate.  He has provided a good counter to much of the progressive argumentation on the topic.  If there was something that was lacking, was perhaps some conversation on the deeper elements of the Genesis meta-narrative of the pre-fall state of women, but I believe there was role clarification in the very beginning.  I am noting going into all of the material, but recently, there was conversation about Gal. 3:28, and Lagard does a excellent job of talking about this text.  He handles it well, and proves that it is not the “monkey wrench” of totally equality in roles within the church.  This is a great starting point in those who desire to study this topic.

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Godly Discipline as the Focus in Ministry

Posted By on June 26, 2014

A little background.  This chapter is from a book I wrote some years ago.  It was mostly my Thesis from my Freed-Hardeman days.  Having a preacher book published is hard work because of the limited audience, but looking after it, it seems to have some good things to say.  Here is a chapter from it.  Also, there is a reflection section done by my dear friend and mentor Burnice Wesbrooks.  He passed away a few years ago.  Sorry for the poor Greek change over from the word document to the blog.

Instead of being like the false teachers, who engage in the pursuit of worldly fables, Timothy is to “discipline himself for the purpose of godliness.”  Paul introduces an athletic metaphor in verses 7 to 8.  Timothy was to train himself in the art of godliness.  Paul uses the term “yumnavzein,” which means literally to “exercise naked, train, and can be used of mental and spiritual powers” (Knight 197). This is customary of Paul’s writings.  He uses a athletic metaphor in 1 Timothy 6:12, which says, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”  He uses it in 2 Timothy 2:5, “And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.”  And Paul again applies the athletic metaphor in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

The athletic imagery would have been familiar to Paul’s audience.  He alludes to the sort of training that was undertaken by Greeks who were participating in the games at the gymnasium, which was the center of civic life in Hellenized towns.  The athletic image was typically used by Greco-Roman moralists and philosophers in their instruction (Keener 614).  Everyone would have been cognitive of Paul’s illustrative metaphor of athletes training.  There was no institution more characteristic of Hellenic culture than the gymnasium, which is derived from the Greek word for “physical training.”  All the young people in the schools were subjected to a rigorous course of athletics.  Also the gymnasium was essential for military training.  By the New Testament times, a few noble Greeks would enter the Roman army, but most would simply practice the physical arts at home in the city-state.  The physical discipline in New Testament times had degenerated into the practice of “body sculpting” (Baugh 465).  Most of the young Greek men were constantly training for the perfect body.  This training was difficult, hard, and time consuming.  The Greeks trained for the perfection of the body, but Timothy was to train himself for the perfection of the character.  As the physical training was intensive, so must be the spiritual training.  It would require a daily habit of exercising his spiritual senses.  The body was not perfected in haphazard training, and neither would spiritual development be completed by a lackadaisical program.  By comparing the process of growing in godliness to the process of athletic development, Paul is informing Timothy of the difficult and strenuous process that will be required for spiritual transformation.  Godliness is a journey of discipline.

But instead of disciplining oneself for bodily development, Timothy is to exercise to gain godliness.  Paul uses “ga;r” in verse 8 as continuative, not enthymematic, as in the sense of extending the comparison of a good Christian servant’s conduct with an athlete’s habits (Campbell198). Paul says in verse 8 “for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things.”  This section of the verse is parallel.  There is the contrast between bodily discipline and godly discipline (Mounce 252).  But what does Paul mean by bodily discipline?  He uses the phrase “swmatikh; gumnasiva,” which has typically been interpreted in three ways.  First of all, it has been argued that Paul means that this physical exercise is referring to the asceticism of the false teachers.  In this interpretation Paul is not casting off completely ascetic practices, but states that these actions only profit a little (Spain77-78).

There seem to be problems with this view because previously Paul denounced the ascetic practices of the false teachers in verses 3-5, so it seems odd that Paul would even condone any form of denial that the false teachers were advocating.  Another view is that “bodily exercise” is a call for some physical exercise.  This command to Timothy could be seen in the same light as 1 Timothy 5:23 which says, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”  Maybe this is some instruction to help Timothy’s health.  But this view appears to ignore the context.  Nowhere in this section of text does Paul seem concerned with Timothy’s health.  In reality, Paul is reacting to the practices of the false teachers, not wanting Timothy to be physically healthy.  The third view of this phrase states that this is a mere literary foil against which Paul wants to say that godliness is of value for all things.  It is seen as simply a creation for poetic wording.  It is not even meant to encourage any type of physical activity, but to strengthen the impact of the command to develop godliness (Mounce 252-53).

Probably this view is correct because it respects the context and follows Paul’s thought.  Paul is helping Timothy to see that while an athlete will accomplish a great deal through training his body, which will be beneficial for his present life, on the other hand, discipline for godliness has value for all things.  Where bodily discipline helps in some ways, godliness discipline helps in every way (Moss 90).  This is why Paul mentions that godly exercise helps “since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

Creating a Healthy Life for a Healthy Ministry

In verse 8, there have been misguided interpretations of this verse.  The verse has been interpreted as Paul’s rejecting physical discipline when spiritual discipline could be practiced.  This creates a false dichotomy.  Instead of viewing the verse as an either/or situation, as previously noted, it is using the physical discipline phrase to emphasize the need for spiritual development.  The Bible teaches more of a holistic approach to mankind.  Paul will argue against sexual morality because of the defilement to the body, which is the casing for the Holy Spirit.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO WILL BECOMEONEFLESH.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians6:15-20).

In no way was Paul teaching that the care for the body was not important.  The physical self and the spiritual self work in conjunction with, not separate and apart from, one another.  The better one cares for his or her body, the more effective that person can be for the Lord.  If the body is ill, weak, or unhealthy, this will seriously limit the amount of labor a Christian can perform for the Lord.  A minister being physically unhealthy will slow the progress of the work of the Lord.  One can see the misinterpretation by some ministers of verse 8.

Too often the preacher is so involved in the Lord’s work and the myriad of activities at the church that he does not take adequate time to tend to the needs of his own body.  Unfortunately, the message loses credibility because of the poor health of the messenger.  Some ministers feel spiritually superior in minimizing physical fitness because of the excuse of being too busy serving the congregation.  The body is the vehicle God uses to communicate His word to men.  It is difficult to preach the message of God when the physical body has little strength or energy to deliver an enthusiastic lesson to a congregation.

Taking Care of the Body 

The minister must spend numerous hours each day devoted to study for sermon preparation.  These hours are mentally intensive but physically limiting.  The minister’s study time is sedentary work, so that the minister needs a regular routine of exercise.  This exercise should be thirty minutes per day for at least three days a week.  Whatever this exercise routine is, it should focus on maintaining a healthy body and heart.  In a section concerning time management of a minister, Sisk emphasizes the need to discipline oneself in a regular exercise routine.  He says that “the most serious challenge is adhering to the schedule we say we have” (71).  Sisk also notes that if we need not have proper rest and exercise “we will damage our effectiveness in virtually every area of our lives” (71).  As well as exercising regularly, the minister must eat correctly.  A minister with numerous eating appointments each week can be at risk of being overweight.  The minister must focus on practicing a balanced diet and proper eating (Vines and Shaddix 78-80).  The comparison of the body to thetempleofGodis just as valid in eating right as in avoiding drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol.  Taking in unhealthy foods can be as destructive as taking in the typically banned substances that many Christians consider off limits.  The proper care for the body is not an option for a godly minister.  Providing for the body is part of the spiritual discipline of the minister.  A godly minister cannot reflect the light of Christ when he is confined to his bed because of excessive sickness.  For the godly minister to be busy modeling faith to his hearers, he needs to have an active mindset in caring for his body.  Paul does not want the minister to neglect his temple.  Paul makes himself clear that he is not talking about neglecting the body in order to feed the soul because in 1 Timothy 4:10 Paul uses the terms “labor” and “strive.”  It is incredibly difficult to labor in thekingdomofGodwhen the body is weak.  Paul says, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”  Instead of looking at each individual situation in ministry as to whether the minister should work out physically or practice a spiritual ministry, the minister should see these two aspects as working jointly to accomplish the work of the ministry.  If the minister does not do this, he will constantly choose the spiritual work over the physical work to the neglect of his body.

The phrase “promise for present life” is a causal clause.  It boasts the significance of godliness over bodily discipline.  If one develops godliness, he or she will be blessed in the present life as well as the life to come (Knight 201).  This is reminiscent of John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.”  Elsewhere in the inspired text there is this association between godliness and the quality of the present life.  In Ephesians 6:1-3 there is a correlation between honoring parents and longevity.  In this verse Paul highlights the need to obey one’s parents because this is a commandment from God.  But with the commandment, there is a promise.  The promise is that a person will live long on the earth.

Ultimately this life that is given to Christians is rooted in Christ Jesus.  2 Timothy 1:1 says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus.”  And 2 Timothy1:10states, “but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”  Jesus could have been the originator of this idea of present-future reward because in Luke 18:29-30 he says, “And He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.’”  In Christ one learns to live life to the fullness of existence which will also transcend earth and time through eternal life.  Christians are already participating in eternal life on earth while they are waiting for the fullness of eternal life in the future (Knight 200).

A Trustworthy Statement

In verse 9, Paul indicates that verse 8 is an accepted saying in the community.  Paul mentions that “for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.”  Of course there is some controversy concerning if verse 8 or verse 10 is the trustworthy statement.  Knight, based on the punctuation of the text, indicates that he believes verse 8 is the trustworthy statement in view (201-202).  Moss provides four alternatives for the trustworthy state.  He mentions that Paul may be referring back to all of verse 8, or Paul could have just the last part of verse 8 in mind.  He also suggests that Paul is considering all of verse 10, or Paul is just thinking about the end of verse 10, which would mean that he is referring to “because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men.”  Moss believes according to the language and syntax that all or part of verse 8 is the trustworthy statement (90-91).  Moreover, this is not the first occurrence of this phrase “trustworthy statement” in the Pastoral Epistles.  It occurs four other times: in 1 Timothy 1:15, “is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” 1 Timothy 3:1, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.”  2 Timothy 2:11-13:

It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.

He also has another trustworthy statement in Titus 3:4-8.

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement….

The use of the phrase “trustworthy statement” seems to be a marker for Timothy to take note of some of the classic expressions of the faith.  These “trustworthy statements” must have been well known throughout the faith community.

The Hard Work of Godliness

In verse 10 Paul continues with the athletic metaphor in using the terms “labor and strive.”  The New American Standard Version translates the beginning of the verse as “For it is for this.”  This is the “eivV tou:to ga;r” construction.  The phrase “for” is looking back to the faithful saying and the “for this” is indicating the reason for the labor and striving, which is “because we have fixed our hope on the living God.”  Paul shows that in this phrase he is looking both forward and backward in the verse (Liefeld 159).  This work of gaining godliness has not been easy for Paul.  The term “kopiw:men” means “we toil.”  It is used as an athletic metaphor, which continues the same imagery from the previous verses in the section.  In the next term “strive,” Paul means “we are struggling.”  This phraseology is also used in Colossians 1:29: “And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”  It also contains athletic overtones.  In fact, it refers to the struggle of an athletic contest (Mounce 255).  Christians continue to strive for the faith because of hope.

Paul states in verse 10, “because we have fixed our hope on the living God.”  The idea of hope in the Bible does not refer to a future possibility that may or may not come to fruition.  The idea of hope is one of confident expectation.  Paul uses the “perfect tense here to describe a past action with a continuing significance” (Knight 202).  But Paul’s hope is not on himself but on God.  He uses the “evpiv” to indicate that his faith is “on” God.  He trusts the living God to fulfill his promise to Paul.  The use of the “living God” is also found in 1 Timothy 3:15, which says, “but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”  The idea of the “living God” anchors Paul’s hope in the Lord.  Goodwin indicates that this phrase has been interpreted in the past as referring to verse 8.  The phrase “living God” is seen in a causative way, in which the living God makes the promise of present life and eternal life to the Christian.  This fulfilled living is realized because Christians serve a living God (65-66).  But Goodwin does not see this as the correct interpretation of the verse.  He attaches the meaning to Colossians 1:29 in which Paul is discussing his mission work (71).  He perceives Paul’s use of “living God” as a theme of missionary significance.  The author states, “the important point is that the Savior-title in 1 Timothy4:10implies the missionary role of Paul” (74).  Goodwin seems to be bringing the Colossians 1:29 verse to the forefront over the original context.  For someone who believes the Pastoral Epistles are post-Pauline (67), it would seem inconsistent to interpret verse 10 in light of Colossians 1:29.  More than likely, Paul is placing his hope in the living God who promises life in the present and in the ages to come.  Since God is living, He will certainly bring to pass all that He promised to the saved.

 

Chapter Six

GODLY DISCIPLINE AS THE FOCUS IN MINISTRY

Reflections and Applications

A preacher who was weak in godliness invited an elderly man to come and hear him preach.  The man accepted his invitation and was in the assembly the next Sunday.  At the conclusion of the service, the minister shook the visitor’s hand and asked, “What did you think of my sermon?”

The man replied, “It was difficult for me to hear what you were saying because who you are kept thundering so loudly in my ears.”

The Bible teaches a holistic approach to life.  True godliness and the disciplines necessary to obtain and maintain it must be present in all areas of a minister’s life.  It is essential that a minister be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  That will not be possible if the preacher’s sermons and his daily life are not harmonious with one another.

An effective minister must be like Jesus.  He “…increased in wisdom, stature and in favor with God and men” (Luke2:52).  This intellectual, physical, spiritual and social health will require godly discipline as a major focus in ministry.

 

Meditations

At first a minister may consider some godly disciplines as duties rather than desires.  The challenge is to convert those duties that God requires into our desires.  How can this happen?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Just do them until they become a normal and cherished lifestyle for you.
  2. Pray daily about them.
  3. Consider how these disciplines are blessings to your life.
  4. Look for ways that these disciplines are helping you to bless the lives of others.

Eventually, you will be able to say as a wise philosopher said in his later years, “I can do everything I want to do.”  To so tune our wills that eventually everything we desire is what God desires is a worthy Christian goal.  Daily practice these four steps and your ministry will be enriched.

There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart.               Focus on and pursue those that catch your heart.

Backsliding begins when knee-bending stops.

Burnice Wesbrooks

 

 

 

 

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