Last Call at the Oasis

I was recently watching a trailer for a new movie that is coming out called, Last Call at the Oasis.  The movie is about the effect that we as people are having on the planet and its resources much like An Inconvenient Truth.  During the trailer the tag line “we caused the problem” comes across the screen and as it did I thought how close that is to the truth and yet how far at the same time.  The fact is that we as people did cause the problem.  We are the reason that the planet suffers, but it is not due primarily to our consumption of its resources as it is our plunging all creation into sin.  In Genesis 3 as God doles out the punishment for the sinful disobedience of Adam and Eve, He declares to Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen 3:17).  The sin of Adam was not just detrimental to him and his bride but all creation now groans under the weight of sin.  All creation is not the way it is supposed to be because of sin.  Instead of man ruling over creation and creation being subject to that rule, we now abuse creation and creation itself fights against us, “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” (Gen 3:18).  So yes we caused the problem, but it is not mainly an environmental issues as much as it is a spiritual one.  Restoration will come as hearts repent of their sin and trust in Christ as Savior.  The ultimate answer to the issues facing the world is not conservation and education, but repentance and faith, and because this is the answer Christians should be on the front lines of environmental issues.  We know what plagues creation.  We know the value of this world and we know that it is our duty to care for and rule over creation as God rules over us.  

 

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April 19, 2012 · 1:35 pm

Six Dangers of Religious Hypocrisy from Luke 11:42-52

From verses 42-52 we find 6 “woes”, 3 for the Pharisees and 3 for the Scribes.   

In these “woes” we see clearly six dangers of living a “religious” life.  

The first danger is that religion emphasizes minor issues over major ones.  Look at verse 42.  The Pharisees would tithe mint, rue and all other herbs, but would neglect justice and the love of God.  Jesus points out that they both should have been present in their life.  They were willing to meticulously see to the minor details, but the greater issues of loving neighbor and honoring God they pass over. Religious hypocrites will elevate minute details and demand obedience all the while neglecting bigger, more important issues.  

 

The second danger is that religious hypocrisy feeds pride and arrogance.  Look at verse 43.  The Pharisees love the best seats in the gathering at the synagogue.  The Pharisees love to be formally greeted in the market.  This is not just a simple “hello” but “an involved salutation of respect”

The Pharisees have a distorted self image that is fed by their hypocrisy.  They are prideful and arrogant because they are so good at keeping all their own rules.  Pride is inescapable for religious hypocrites.  To have a system that is based off of how well you preform forces you to look down on others who dont preform as well.  

The third danger is that religious hypocrisy leads not to life but to death.  Look at verse 44.  Remember that the Pharisees assume that their religion will lead to life.  They keep the rules because they believe that God is pleased in the keeping of the rules, and so they see life as the end of their service,  Jesus points out that life is not the end of all their rules but death is. 

In the midst of this rebuke a lawyer, or scribe stands up and makes sure that Jesus is aware of how insulting His words are.  Without missing a beat Jesus condemns the Scribes along with the Pharisees leveling three “woes” at them as well.   

In verse 46 we see the fourth danger of religious hypocrisy and that is that it loads a burden on people that they are not able to bear.  Religious hypocrisy, or we could just say religion buries people under the insurmountable weight of un-keepable rules and regulations.  

In Acts 15:10 Peter speaks to this very issue.  Despite all attempts no one will be able to carry the load that religion puts on you.  As Paul says “by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight” (Rom. 3:20)

The fifth danger of religion is that it leads one to think they are honoring and obeying God when in fact they are opposing Him.  Look at verses 47-51. The Scribes and Pharisees saw themselves as maintaining the tradition of the Prophets of old, but Jesus says that they are of the same ilk as their rebellious fathers who killed the prophets.  

Jesus makes clear that the He has come to fulfill the Prophets, but the religious leaders reject the claims of Christ and so reject the message of the Prophets.  Their commitment to their religious traditions has blinded them to the reality of Christ.  In thinking they are honoring God they are in fact rejecting His clearest revelation.  And so Jesus pronounces judgement on them.  Their rejection of God in favor of their traditions will be required of them for all the Prophets of God testify against them. 

The final danger of religion is seen in verse 52.  Religion, or religious hypocrisy destroys both the practitioner and the proselyte.  To enter into knowledge is to enter into the presence of God, it is to be the opposite of the fool from verse 40.  Religion does not lead to knowing God and as it is shared it prevents others from knowing God as well.  

Religious hypocrisy saves no one!  Not the one who practices it nor the one who hopes to.  Religion in this way kills.  It is filled with danger that promises to lead us to God but fails to deliver.  

Religion elevates minor issues over major.  Religion feeds pride and arrogance.  Religion leads to death.  Religion places and unbearable burden on your shoulders.  Religion causes you to think you honor God when in fact you are opposed to Him.  And Religion destroys you.  

 

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Elder Leadership

Believing as we do in the trustworthiness, inerrancy and authority of the Scriptures, it is vital that we walk in obedience to them in all ways.   The Scriptures are neither ambiguous nor silent on matters that pertain to both personal and corporate life.  That means that the bible gives to us sound, clear and applicable truth that we must put into practice in both our homes and our church.  If our homes are to be homes that honor and glorify the Lord, and subsequently are used to make the gospel of Christ known, then they must be homes that are built upon a solid biblical foundation.  Husbands must love their wives as Christ loves the church and wives must respect and submit to their husbands as the church submits and respects Christ.  Children must be taught the gospel and instructed in the teachings of God’s grace.  They must be disciplined in love for the purpose of correction and leading to Jesus.  Father’s are to be the Spiritual leaders in the home and to not provoke their children to anger.  As our homes reflect these, and other biblical teachings we will have homes that glorify and honor Christ.

 

Likewise the church, which is the corporate gathering of Christians, must be structured and organized in a biblical way in order to fulfill the mission that was left to it.  The church is to be the center of disciple making and disciple multiplication.  That is that the church creates disciples of Christ Jesus and then sends those disciples out to create more disciples.  This multiplication of disciples is done through the planting of churches so that the process grows exponentially.

 

So what is the biblical structure of the church?  Looking first at Titus we begin to see what the biblical structure of the church is.  Titus is a young pastor appointed by Paul to “put what remained into order” (vs.5) in Crete.  The first step in this process is the appointment of “elders in every town as I directed you” (vs.5).

 

So the first part of setting things in order is the appointment of a plurality of elders to lead the church in Crete.  This is significant because if a church is not biblically led then the ministry of the church suffers greatly.  So what is biblical eldership?

 

What is Biblical Eldership?

Biblical eldership is outlined in Titus 1:6-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Peter 5:1-3, Acts 20:17-37.  Elder is another term for pastor, Bishop, overseer or shepherd. Elders are those who are charged with the leadership of the church.  Elders are men who are above reproach or blameless. These are not sinless men—sinless men do not exist. The elders who would lead the churches have to be men without any outward character flaw. It is a person who others in the church have no obvious, outward reason to accuse him of sin. He would have internal evidence of his own sinfulness against himself because he knows his inclinations toward evil and sin. His lifestyle should be exemplary. All Christians should strive for these general characteristics, not just elders.

 

 This list, from 1 Timothy, is a description of a person living above reproach which all of us should strive. The normal attendee of a church would not be denied entrance into the church if he or she lacked these character qualities. However, an elder must demonstrate ALL of these qualities to serve in the office of elder. Every believer should strive to live above reproach.  This is the highest office in the church and the other pastoral epistle states this as a role exclusively for males (1 Tim. 2:11-15).

 

“Above reproach” (Titus 1:6, 7; 1 Tim 3:2) This is the overarching, summarizing characteristic.  Being above reproach is the first requirement in both 1 Timothy and Titus. The other items on the list explain what above reproach means. If we peruse the two lists, as well as 1 Peter, we find 17 qualities of an elder who is above reproach

 

II. Seventeen Characteristics of an Elder Above Reproach[1]

1. Husband devoted to one wife (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim. 3:2) a one-woman man.

This is a major qualification in light of the marriage picturing Christ and the church (Eph.

5:22 ff.). The pastors in the church lead by example. They exhibit Christ’s love for His church—His bride; by their love, devotedness and exclusive faithfulness to their wife. This does not disqualify a single man from being an elder… Jesus was single and Paul was single but it is the exception. Here is the rule: do not look and do not touch unless she is your wife—then look and touch often!

 

2. Children in submission (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim. 3:4-5) not perfect.

Equally important is the pastor leading his family. 1 Timothy 3:5 explains that if a man

does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church. The first flock for a pastor is his own family as Pastor Dad. If this flock is not in order, the larger flock will suffer. Paul instructs fathers not to provoke [their] children to anger, but [to] bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

 

3. Faithful Steward (Titus 1:7)

Here the term used is overseer (Greek episkopos). It is not another office, but a functional title of the elder. It is what he does. He is a steward, a manager of God’s resources and Jesus’ flock. He takes responsibility, but not ownership.

 

4. Humble – Not Arrogant (Titus 1:7)

A pastor must constantly demonstrate the gospel by admitting wrong and assuming

responsibility and restoring relationships. Arrogance is only concerned with oneself.

 

5. Gentle – Not Quick-tempered (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)

No man will be of any use in the kingdom that is quick-tempered and lashes out at others.

The difference between how Jesus demonstrated anger is that He was angry at the abuse of others and the dishonoring of God. We get angry at how it affects us.

 

6. Moderate – Not a Drunkard (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)

This is not just overindulgence in alcohol but is idiomatic for any behavior that fuels

addictive responses.

 

7. Peaceful – Not Violent (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)

A pastor is not prone to inflict violence through his words or actions. He is to be a

peacemaker.

 

8. Financial Integrity – Not Greedy for Gain (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3; 1 Peter 5:3)

A pastor is to be upright in his financial dealings and not accused of pursuing money over

the kingdom of God.

 

9. Hospitable (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2)

A pastor’s home is to be open for others to enjoy. He must welcome strangers, especially

non-Christians, for evangelism

 

10. Lover of Good (Titus 1:8)

A pastor genuinely loves what is good. He does not just think he should love it.

 

11. Self-controlled (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2)

Self-control is a characterization of every area of a pastor’s life. He is disciplined in his

diet, time, mouth, exercise, relationships, sex, and money. He is consistently training in

righteousness to be able to run the race set before him.

 

12. Upright (Titus 1:8)

He is upright in his relationships and in how he treats others.

 

13. Holy (Titus 1:8)

Devoted solely to God and set apart for His work.

 

14. Able to Teach (Titus 1:9; 1 Tim 3:2)

All of the other qualifications are character qualities. This is the only ability-based

requirement. He is to be able to teach sound doctrine, not just be able to communicate in

an excellent manner. His teaching can be to one or two, to twenty, to a hundred or to a

thousand. Most of the churches in Crete were house churches. The elders were to defend

the faith once delivered to the saints against the numerous false teachers that arose.

 

15. Spiritually Mature (1 Tim 3:6)

Positions of authority without spiritual maturity lead to the trap of pride. When pride grows in a man sin abounds. 1 Timothy 3:6 says, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the

devil. A pastor must first be a convert.”

 

16. Respectable (1 Tim 3:7)

1 Timothy 3:7 says that an elder must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not

fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. That does not mean that all will like him or even appreciate him. It means that there is no criminal, moral or ethical offense against him.

 

17. Example to the Flock (1 Peter 5:3)

We need models in our life to emulate. Elders are examples of Biblical expressions such as sexuality, time management, marriage, parenting, worship, relationships and any other way. A pastor should be someone your sons could pattern their life after and the kind of man your daughter should marry.

 

 

III. Relational Traits of an Elder[2]

1. Relation to God

A man — masculine leader, not a female

Above reproach — without any character defect

Able to teach — effective Bible communicator

Not a new convert — mature Christian

 

2. Relation to Family

Husband of one wife — one-woman man, sexually pure

Creates gospel environment – where children can find salvation

Manages family well — provides for, leads, organizes, loves

 

3. Relation to Self

Temperate — mentally and emotionally stable

Self-controlled — disciplined life of sound decision-making

Not given to drunkenness — without addictions

Not a lover of money — financially content and upright

 

4. Relation to Others

Respectable — worth following and imitating

Hospitable — welcomes strangers, especially non-Christians for evangelism

Not violent — even-tempered

Gentle — kind, gracious, loving

Not contentious — peaceable, not quarrelsome/divisive

Good reputation with outsiders — respected by non-Christians

Exemplary lifestyle

 

IV. What are the responsibilities of the elders?

Acts 20:28

Care for the church of God:

– pay careful attention to yourselves

– pay careful attention to all the flock

1 Peter 5:1-3

– Shepherd the flock among you

– Exercising oversight

– Being examples


[1] From Vintage 21

[2] From Vintage 21

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Love One Another

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35.

This is what Jesus calls “a new commandment” that He gives to His disciples.  This is a command that if the disciples obey will turn the world upside down.  This was not just a command for the disciples that were with Jesus, but a command that is given to all who follow Jesus.

 

Our love that we have for one another is to be a defining attribute that speaks volumes to the world around us.  Notice that Jesus says that it is our love for one another.  He does not say that our love for the world will let people know that we are His disciples, but our love for one another.  Often times it is much easier to love those outside the church than those inside.  We can often use the outside world as a distraction from loving one another.  But the Gospel is going to be seen as the Gospel must be seen if we have love that is real for one another.  As we learn to love one another with the love of Christ that will naturally flow out from us to the world around us.

 

That is the way things should be.  All that we do as a church should flow out from our commitment to the Gospel.  So the love that we want to have for the community must be love that is not manufactured for the sake of the community, but love that overflows from our love for one another.  When we do that the Gospel of Jesus will shine with radiant intensity from all that we do.

 

 

 

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Rob Bell Video

To check out the Rob Bell interview from MSNBC click on the link to the Gospel Coalition blog to the left, and then select Justin Taylors blog.  Great interview.

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Growth.

All churches want to grow.  Growth is essential, important and really necessary.  Death makes sure that we know growth is necessary.  The issue at hand though is how one goes about growth.  Many will say that the end justifies the means, so whatever it takes to get people in the door is permissible.  Others might swing the pendulum the other direction and say that if people are meant to come, well then they will come, and all we need do is sit and wait.

Obviously neither one of these ideas is really permissible.  So in light of that I have presented four “guidelines” that I believe are helpful for us all as we seek to see the church advance in our country.

1) Growth is our goal:  We have the growth of our church as our goal.  We are not interested in fading out over time, but instead we are eager to move forward and grow.

2) Growth takes time: We are not going to see instantaneous results.  The growth of a body takes time, therefore the growth of our church will take time.  We must be patient and faithfully trust God to grow us.

3) Growth comes in various forms:  Growth is NOT just numbers.  Our desire is growth in holiness, personal commitment and in influence (we want to have great gospel reach to the ends of the earth)

4) Growth REQUIRES commitment to Christ and the gospel: There are many things that we can do to try to help our church grow, but apart from a commitment to Christ and the gospel our church WILL NOT  have growth that is God pleasing.

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Outreach Team

As all of you know we have started an outreach team at the church. Their main job is planning and seeing to the execution of outreach ministry for our church. We ask that you pray for them as they seek the Lord for direction and instruction. The team will be writing monthly updates that will find their way into the newsletter and the blog. With that in mind I present the first update from our outreach team:

The outreach team is off to a great start so we just wanted to share a few things with you. We are in the process of putting together the outreach team mission/vision statement that will follow along the overall vision of the church. We are very excited about what God has in store for this team and the church. We are praying and listening to what God is putting on our hearts and are eager to show God’s love in our church as well as outside our walls.

Continue to pray as God leads our church into the future.

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