Growing In Godliness Blog

Growing In Godliness Blog

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Evangelism

Thursday, April 22, 2021

How do Christians interact with those who do not know Christ?  That question has occupied the minds of God’s people throughout the ages.  God in providing an answer to that question has filled the Bible with numerous word-pictures to help us understand our role in spreading the gospel.

One of the pictures that can be drawn from is that we are meant to be ambassadors for Christ.  The apostle Paul used those very words in II Corinthians 5:20. In that verse he says “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”  But an important question is who is the “we” in the text?  I suppose it could be the apostles, or it could be a “royal-we” where the apostle is making reference to himself, but it seems in the context to extend to any who act on behalf of Christ and carry His message. That is exactly what an ambassador is - one who is sent as a representative of a sovereign power to a foreign land who then reflects that ruler’s official platform.  What is the message of the king we represent? Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:19 it is reconciliation!  So, how are we to act in this foreign land that is this world?  We are to represent the king and carry His desire for the world to reunited with their Creator – we are meant to be ambassadors.

There are a host of other illustrations we could examine (priests, fishers of men, light, salt), but I want to look an image that can be found in Ephesians 3:2, “if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you”. (NASB) When we think of a steward, we think of one of who is given charge of something that belongs to another. That is exactly how Paul saw himself, the grace that belonged to God was entrusted to him to give to others.

In the NKJV translation another English word used in lieu of stewardship and that is the word dispensation. That is one who is engaged in the action of dispensing God’s grace.  It might put you in mind of a dispenser – a container that feeds out that which it contains.  I think that is a wonderful image to consider as we think about evangelism or how to interact with the world. To truly be a dispenser two things must be true:

  1. You must be filled with that which you are to dispense.  In the context of Ephesians 3 we are to be full of the grace of God, and if we have Christ, we have the grace of God. John wrote in 1:16 “For His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:6-8 “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight”.
  2. It is that very grace we are to dispense.  Paul wrote concerning himself this very idea in Ephesians 3.8-9, “ To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and make all know what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things”.

How to interact with the world? Allowing God’s grace to fill us and then flow us to others! As Paul wrote, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

David Norfleet

Heaven

Friday, April 16, 2021

In the 21st chapter of Revelation, John tries to convey to us, in the best way that he can, how wonderful Heaven will be.   Even through inspiration, there are only so many ways of describing such a magnificent sight for human mind and thought:   a wall built with jasper-- a rare jewel, clear as crystal and radiant (verse 11); the city was pure gold, like clear glass (verse 18); foundations of the wall adorned with every kind of jewel, including sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, amethyst, pearls (verses 19-21).  How beautiful it will be! 

This past Friday evening, our group Bible study discussed how Heaven is described in the Scriptures.  In addition to the visual descriptions that John gives us regarding the city and its walls, we focused on verses such as these:

Revelation 21:23 – And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and its lamp is the Lamb.

Revelation 21:25 – And its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there. 

From these verses, we considered the following:  when it’s dark outside, we are used to turning on lights to see where we are going.  Also, a great deal of crime is committed at night because there is no light to expose the evil.  Gates are shut to keep out things that can cause harm.   In Heaven, the gates are open which suggests that there is nothing around that is evil.   It’s always day there because God is the light. 

We also focused some time on Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

We can get so zoomed in on *this life*.   We see times of political unrest.  We see times of civil unrest.  We see hatred.  We see death.  We see loved ones with cancer.  We see COVID.   We see family members who are not children of God.  It gets us down. 

Thinking of heaven lifts our spirits.  When I think of the verses above, I would be perfectly happy with a one room apartment in Heaven instead of a mansion.  I would be very content if the walls of Heaven were concrete instead of jasper.  I would be ok if the gate was shut.   All that matters to me is that God is there, I will be with Him for eternity, and anything in this life that has caused me grief or tears will be forgotten.

When I was 9-10 years old, the preacher of my home congregation shared a story from the pulpit and I’d like to finish by sharing that same story with you:

A sick man turned to his doctor, as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die.  Tell me what lies on the other side.”  Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don’t know.”  “You don’t know?  You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?”  The doctor was holding the handle of the door, on the other side of which came a scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.  Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog?  He’s never been in this room before.  He didn’t know what was inside.  He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear.  I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing:  I know my Master is there and that is enough.”

In the 21st chapter of Revelation, John tries to convey to us, in the best way that he can, how wonderful Heaven will be.   Even through inspiration, there are only so many ways of describing such a magnificent sight for human mind and thought:   a wall built with jasper-- a rare jewel, clear as crystal and radiant (verse 11); the city was pure gold, like clear glass (verse 18); foundations of the wall adorned with every kind of jewel, including sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, amethyst, pearls (verses 19-21).  How beautiful it will be! 

This past Friday evening, our group Bible study discussed how Heaven is described in the Scriptures.  In addition to the visual descriptions that John gives us regarding the city and its walls, we focused on verses such as these:

Revelation 21:23 – And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and its lamp is the Lamb.

Revelation 21:25 – And its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there. 

From these verses, we considered the following:  when it’s dark outside, we are used to turning on lights to see where we are going.  Also, a great deal of crime is committed at night because there is no light to expose the evil.  Gates are shut to keep out things that can cause harm.   In Heaven, the gates are open which suggests that there is nothing around that is evil.   It’s always day there because God is the light. 

We also focused some time on Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

We can get so zoomed in on *this life*.   We see times of political unrest.  We see times of civil unrest.  We see hatred.  We see death.  We see loved ones with cancer.  We see COVID.   We see family members who are not children of God.  It gets us down. 

Thinking of heaven lifts our spirits.  When I think of the verses above, I would be perfectly happy with a one room apartment in Heaven instead of a mansion.  I would be very content if the walls of Heaven were concrete instead of jasper.  I would be ok if the gate was shut.   All that matters to me is that God is there, I will be with Him for eternity, and anything in this life that has caused me grief or tears will be forgotten.

When I was 9-10 years old, the preacher of my home congregation shared a story from the pulpit and I’d like to finish by sharing that same story with you:

A sick man turned to his doctor, as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die.  Tell me what lies on the other side.”  Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don’t know.”  “You don’t know?  You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?”  The doctor was holding the handle of the door, on the other side of which came a scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.  Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog?  He’s never been in this room before.  He didn’t know what was inside.  He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear.  I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing:  I know my Master is there and that is enough.”

Elders and Leadership

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Elders and Leadership

by Gary Watson

 

The role, work, and characteristics of elders are clearly listed in Titus and 1st Timothy.  Examining the nature of elder leadership will help us understand God’s plan for the effective work of congregations.

“Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to "win" as a team or an organization; and it is dynamic, exciting, and inspiring.  Yet, while leaders set the direction, they must also use management skills to guide their people to the right destination, in a smooth and efficient way.”  (https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_41.htm)

The professional  and business world knows the importance of good leadership for accomplishing their goals.  Following is an analysis of leadership skills from the business and professional world coupled with appropriate scriptures.

 

1.Open-minded  and Humble

Is he self-willed (head strong, contentious)? (Titus 1:7)

*Greek word authades ‘selfwilled’ is used twice in the NT, here and in II Peter 2:10.  Denotes one who is “dominated by self-interest, and inconsiderate of others, arrogantly asserts his own will” (Expository Dictionary of NT Words, by W.E. Vine).

*“one so far overvauling any determination at which he has himself once arrived that he will not be removed from it (Trench’s NT Synonyms).

*Such words as “self-satisfied, arbitrary, unconsidered, morose, gruff, blatant, and shameless” (Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of NT)

*“human impulse violating obedience to the divine command

Meek, considerate, kind, peaceable. Able to bear, endure strain. Not harsh nor unkind in manner.

 

2.Empathetic- Just (Tit. 1:8).     One fair in his dealings, exact, upright, acting without partiality.

 

3.Visionary- Vigilant

*“Watchful and vigilant imply acute perception of what is dangerous or potentially so” (Duncan, p 23)

*Watchful, both for himself and all the flock (Acts 20:28).

Given to hospitality (1 Tim. 3:2Tit. 1:8). A lover of hospitality. Not forgetful to entertain strangers (Heb. 13:2). Entertains members and strangers in the home - having the spirit of the good Samaritan. Shows a warm welcome to visitors at services, sets an example for the flock to follow.

*Gentle -- patient (1 Tim. 3:3).

*Meek, considerate, kind, peaceable. Able to bear, endure strain. Not harsh nor unkind in manner.

*Greek word translated “patient” occurs 5 times in the Greek.  In Titus 3:2James 3:17I Peter

 

4.Confident- Desire the work (1 Timothy 3:1).

*Desire is translated from 2 Greek words.  First, “to stretch one’s self out in order to touch or grasp something, to reach after or desire something” (J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the NT, p 452).  The second, “to have a desire for, long for” (Thayer, p 238).  The later is equal to our expression, “to set one’s heart upon” (Thayer). 

 

5.Ethical and has Integrity       Is he a lover of money (covetous, greedy)? (1 Tim. 3:3)

*An unhealthy desire for material possessions – an inordinate desire for money. Unholy desire for gain.

*“not covetous” I Tim 3:3 literally means “not to be fond of silver”.  Same Greek word appears in Heb 13:5

Blameless -- above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2Titus 1:6).

*One against whom no evil charge can be sustained -- innocent -- not guilty of evil. This does not mean that elders must be sinless (Romans 3:23I John 1:8). Jesus is the only man who ever lived a sinlessly perfect life (Heb 4:15). This man must be a man about whom no uncomplimentary evil rumors are circulated; character is to be unimpeachable. Elders must be men who live pure, clean lives.

 

6.Positive and Decisive- Sober -- sober-minded (1 Timothy 3:4Tit. 1:8).

*Good common sense, mature in judgment, not frivolous, flighty, or flippant. But prudent, dignified, quiet, cool, collected, grave. Realizing the importance and earnestness of life.

*Humble- Not a novice  from the Greek is “newly planted”.  KJV margin note – “One newly come to the faith”. 

*Why?  “lest being lifted up with pride he fall into condemnation of the devil” – suggesting the sin for which Satan was expelled from heaven was the sin of pride (Luke 10:18).

 

7.Communicative, Accountable- 1 Peter 5:3  not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Temperate (Tit. 1:8).

*Greek word naphalios signifies “abstinate with respect to wine” By association it means sober, careful, circumspect, I Thess 5:6,8II Tim 4:5 (Deaver, 12)

*One self-controlled, using moderation so as to blend the faculties to the highest degree. Ability to deny self.

Not given to wine (no brawler)     Does he drink alcoholic beverages?

*The Greek word paroinos, literally means “by or beside wine”.  A marginal note in the KJV says, “ready to quarrel, and offer wrong, as one in wine.”  The ASV translates the word “no brawler”. 

*Wine is generic determined based upon context.  It can mean in the grape, freshly squeezed, or fermented. 

*If drinking any amount of alcoholic beverages is wrong, why didn’t Paul say that elders should not drink wine at all?

*Elders cannot be brawlers b/c their examples would be tarnished and it is behavior that is contrary to the kingdom of our Lord.

*Elderships would be unable to meet and make decisions without brawling, quarrelling, being contentious, as if they had been drinking strong fermented drink.

*Is he soon angry (quick tempered)? (Titus 1:7)

 

8. Disciplined and character-     Good testimony (report) from without (1 Tim. 3:7).

* One who has a good report from those which are without (not members of the church). Well respected by those outside the church. Well thought of by outsiders.

*“What kind of reputation does he have among the people with whom he lives and where he work?

*What do the people with whom he has done business think of him?

*What kind of reputation does he have among his own neighbors?

*What kind of estimate of the church will these people have when they learn he has been appointed to serve as one of the overseers of the flock

 

9.Influential and Loyal- Rule well own house (1 Timothy 3:4-5Titus 1:6).

Well governed, able to manage own household well.

A. His children not accused of riot or unruly.

B. His children must be in subjection with all gravity.

C. His children must be faithful, believing.

D. His wife cannot be the "boss" but must be in subjection

     (Ephesians 5:22).

E. The reason: "For if a man know not how to rule his own house,

     how shall he take care of the church of God?"

F.  To meet the qualifications, an elder MUST have children.  If he

      has none, there is no way of knowing whether he has the ability

      to so govern and rule the congregation.   

 

10.Courageous       It takes a lot of courage to correct others.      Convince ejlegcw — el-eng’-kho; of uncertain affinity; to confute, admonish: — convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove.

 

Elders and all members are important to the work of the church, evangelism, and achieving the goal of eternal life with our Father.

 

(This writing is based on:  Here are the top 19 leadership qualities you should look for in a candidate. 

 https://www.indeed.com/hire/c/info/leadership-qualities-list?aceid=&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI8diEoK-t7QIVUMDICh3NygA0EAAYASAAEgJbzPD_BwE)

Forever is Composed of Now

Friday, November 13, 2020

Forever Is Composed of Now*

By Tom Rose

 

Forever is an easy way to think of eternity.  It never stops; it just keeps going on.  It’s timeless.  After this life is over and judgment occurs, each of us will continue in an endless existence in either heaven or hell.  As shocking as this statement may seem to some, Christ Himself said as much in Mt. 25:31-33, 46.

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. And these (goats) will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous (sheep) into eternal life.”

So what determines whether one is a “sheep” or a “goat?”  Again, Christ answers that question in Mt. 7:21-23.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

In essence, whether we choose to obey God and His laws in this life will determine our place in the next.

Returning to the title, you are probably wondering how Now is composed of Forever.  When I reflect back on the moment when I decided to be baptized, I recall an unmistakable urgency.  It was not a casual action, and it was not something to be put off for a later time.  Although I was raised in a 5 generation Methodist family, at barely 18 years of age I obeyed the Gospel and was baptized during the first semester of my freshman year in college.  I had learned God’s plan through dating my future wife while attending Sunday evening church services and needed to act upon my understanding.

Although that was almost 60 years ago, it modeled exactly what had happened in first century Christianity.  In Acts 2:38, a crowd of three thousand were baptized on Pentecost.  In Acts 8:26-39, an influential Ethiopian eunuch was baptized by Philip in a desert. And in Acts 16:25-34, Paul baptized a Philippian jailor and his family at midnight.  In each case, and every other recorded baptism in the Bible, the believer was immersed in water as soon as possible after the individual recognized the need for it.  Thus, the operative word was Now.

In modern society, to leave a “legacy” ordinarily means to specify the distribution of property – money, in most cases – to heirs according to the terms described in a will.  However, it is a relatively rare event for most people to be mentioned in a will.  And yet, people talk all the time about the life of a person, now deceased, how it enriched them.  Aside from the obvious things, each of us will leave behind for all the world to see the value system that marks everything we did.  Somehow, people who never asked us directly what we valued in life never doubt for a moment what it was.  They know what we thought of people of other colors and creeds by the language we used and the lives we connected with.  They know how we treated strangers, how we loved the individuals closest to us, and how we cared for those who loved us - even how we spoke to them in hard times or gave ourselves away to satisfy their needs.  They know the depth of our spiritual life by the way we treated those around us, and what we thought of life, and what we gave our lives to doing.  Therefore, our legacy is far more than just our fiscal worth.  And though we add to it every moment of our lives, during our lifetime, we are given both the vision and the wisdom to understand that our legacy is what we choose it to be.

In closing, it is the power of the present that makes us aware of our future and how much of it may be left.  Although it is truly a gamble, you reason if you are young and healthy, sixty years, probably.  However, for most older adults, ten years, hopefully.  Five, surely.  But the truth for all of us is, tomorrow, God willing.  Thus, the question comes, “What could you do today that would influence your life for all eternity?”  The simple answer is: put on Christ in baptism (Gal 3:27), and if you’ve not yet done so, earnestly consider doing it because “Forever Is Composed of Now.”  Your life, your legacy, and your relationship with God will be immeasurably better – both in this life and the next - for having done so.  Indeed, “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

*This title came from a line in a self-published book by Kristen L. Crawford entitled, Within the Shadow of Myself: A Poetic Memoir, p. 28.  ISBN 9798644302284

Leadership from Preachers

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Leadership from Preachers

by Mark McCrary

 

I wasn’t a good leader when I first started preaching.  In fact, it is generous to even say I wasn’t good at leading.  I didn’t lead.  At all.

You see, I grew up hearing, “The preacher isn’t a pastor!” So naturally, when I started preaching the last thing I wanted to be seen as was a pastor.  After all, that was one of the big problems in denominationalism, right? Biblically, formal church leadership is found in the form of elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).  They shepherd and protect the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4), while the preacher’s primary task is preaching the word (1 Tim. 4:2).

Looking back, there were numerous times when I wish I had asserted more needed leadership in the first two churches for which I preached. But, because I didn’t want to be viewed as a pastor, I wasn’t even a leader.  To be honest, I probably was rarely even a suggester.

Then, something remarkable happened.  I actually read the Bible.  Specifically, Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. These books, written to preachers, are about leadership.  A preacher’s leadership. I learned that while a preacher still isn’t a formal leader like a pastor (elder, shepherd, overseer), he is still an informal leader and should embrace that leadership role.

Take for instance Timothy.  He was young and unsure of himself (2 Tim. 1:3-7). Yet, despite this, he was called to be brave (1 Tim. 1:18), see to the appointment of shepherds (1 Tim. 3:1-7), teach and command the things Christians need to hear (1 Tim. 4:6-8; 11), set a good example (1 Tim. 4:12; 6:11-16; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2 Tim. 2:22-25), use his “gift” (1 Tim. 4:14), manage people (1 Tim. 5:1-16) and church disputes (1 Tim. 5:17-6:2; 2 Tim. 2:14-19), and watch out for false teachers (1 Tim. 6:2-5).

Titus, too, was to lead by appointing shepherds (Tit. 1:5-8), silence false teachers and trouble-makers (1:10-14; 3:9-11), teach “sound doctrine” (2:1), set a good example (2:7-8), and remind people to be obedient to civil rulers (3:1-2).  Paul summed up Titus’ work—the preacher’s work—with these words, “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (2:15).

Living right.  Standing for truth.  Confronting people dangerous to the flock.  Teach.  Set the right example. Deal with problems.  These are all things leaders do. These are things preachers do.

Now, to be clear, when elders are present, preachers are to follow as well.  But, they still are to show godly influence in the church through informal, yet necessary acts of leadership.

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