An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled,upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

It is a high honor to lead in God’s church.  Imagine what that actually means: to be the one chosen to guide His people, to listen to His voice, to work with His called pastors, and to speak words as close to God’s words as is humanly possible.  It’s a high honor, to be chosen for that, yet it is also a great responsibility.  This is why so few seek it.

to Titus, Paul writes a list, not complete but representative, of the responsibilities of being a leader, and “elder”, in His church.  We read this list and gulp, and then shy away from leadership.  Yet looking over the list, shouldn’t this be the list of qualities for which every church member strives?  Is any of us free from the expectation that we will be blameless?  Can any of us freely be overbearing, quick-tempered, drunk, violent, or seeking dishonest gain?

Though this list is a bit overwhelming, it should really reflect the qualities of every church member, or at least be the bar for which we all reach.  How are you doing?  Which part of this list scares you the most?  That might be a good one to start working on.

An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled,upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

It is a high honor to lead in God’s church.  Imagine what that actually means: to be the one chosen to guide His people, to listen to His voice, to work with His called pastors, and to speak words as close to God’s words as is humanly possible.  It’s a high honor, to be chosen for that, yet it is also a great responsibility.  This is why so few seek it.

to Titus, Paul writes a list, not complete but representative, of the responsibilities of being a leader, and “elder”, in His church.  We read this list and gulp, and then shy away from leadership.  Yet looking over the list, shouldn’t this be the list of qualities for which every church member strives?  Is any of us free from the expectation that we will be blameless?  Can any of us freely be overbearing, quick-tempered, drunk, violent, or seeking dishonest gain?

Though this list is a bit overwhelming, it should really reflect the qualities of every church member, or at least be the bar for which we all reach.  How are you doing?  Which part of this list scares you the most?  That might be a good one to start working on.

What happens when the Lord calls us to be bearers of bad news?  People refuse to accept bad news and often blame the messenger for the message.  Yet God’s message is God’s message, whether it is “good news” or “bad news”.  Like Jeremiah, we are sometimes called to share bad news with the people around us; what happens when we do?

First of all, we need to be absolutely sure that God has given us the message to pass along.  To pass along a false message, no matter how true we think it is, and claim it is from God carries a deep price.  False prophets were stoned in the Old Testament.  To proclaim that God will punish someone for one act or another is serious business.

Once we are sure the message is our to give, and to whom God has called us to give it, we are bound to share it.  And every example we have of this practice reveals that there will be painful consequences for the messenger.

Still want to bear God’s word to the World?

On December 1st, everyone is invited to welcome our Advent season together at LCC.  At 5pm, the families of our children will be working at our local PADS chapter to prepare the evening for their residents.  At 6pm, we will all meet at church for dinner, carols and a devotion, followed by three activities: decorating and eating Christmas cookies, creating your own Advent wreath complete with a devotion for each candle, and making 2 luminaries, one to take home and one to decorate the church.  The evening is free though we will be collecting donations to provide “Lucy lights” for the mission field in Colombia.  This is a great time to invite friends and neighbors, so come one and all and join us for this amazing night.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Pneuma, the Greek word for breath, wind, and spirit.  From the very beginning where the Pneuma hovered over the pre-creation waters to the Pneuma that God gave to Adam to bring the lifeless shape of clay to life.  It is God’s Spirit, His Pneuma, that is at work again and again throughout the scriptures.

And according to this verse, it is that very Pneuma that God used to give us the scriptures themselves.  “All scripture is God Breathed…”, is Of God’s Spirit.  It is an attractive image, God breathing His scriptures into existence, God giving His Spirit to the authors.  This rich imagery is thick with meaning.

One of the greatest verses on the use of scripture, this passage tells us that scripture is useful for four things…

“Teaching” – this one almost goes without saying.  We use the bible to teach in our sermons, bible studies, and personal devotions.  We are “People of the Book”.

“Rebuking” – this one is rarely used today, at least in the way its supposed to be used.  The meaning here is that out of love for another person who is living in opposition to the scriptures, they are used to convict the person of their disobedience.  Today, our rebuke usually means public shaming and is done not out of love but out of self-aggrandizement.

“Correcting” – similar to rebuking, this is the next step after a loving rebuke.  After the Rebuke shows them their folly, the scriptures shows them what is the correct behavior.

“training in righteousness” – for those no disobeying but simply immature in their faith, the scriptures can be used to train someone in the way of righteousness.  This is more continual than teaching and implies a regiment of practice and learning.

These are some of the most common uses of scripture.  Which do you feel you would benefit from most today?  How might you make that happen?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Pneuma, the Greek word for breath, wind, and spirit.  From the very beginning where the Pneuma hovered over the pre-creation waters to the Pneuma that God gave to Adam to bring the lifeless shape of clay to life.  It is God’s Spirit, His Pneuma, that is at work again and again throughout the scriptures.

And according to this verse, it is that very Pneuma that God used to give us the scriptures themselves.  “All scripture is God Breathed…”, is Of God’s Spirit.  It is an attractive image, God breathing His scriptures into existence, God giving His Spirit to the authors.  This rich imagery is thick with meaning.

One of the greatest verses on the use of scripture, this passage tells us that scripture is useful for four things…

“Teaching” – this one almost goes without saying.  We use the bible to teach in our sermons, bible studies, and personal devotions.  We are “People of the Book”.

“Rebuking” – this one is rarely used today, at least in the way its supposed to be used.  The meaning here is that out of love for another person who is living in opposition to the scriptures, they are used to convict the person of their disobedience.  Today, our rebuke usually means public shaming and is done not out of love but out of self-aggrandizement.

“Correcting” – similar to rebuking, this is the next step after a loving rebuke.  After the Rebuke shows them their folly, the scriptures shows them what is the correct behavior.

“training in righteousness” – for those no disobeying but simply immature in their faith, the scriptures can be used to train someone in the way of righteousness.  This is more continual than teaching and implies a regiment of practice and learning.

These are some of the most common uses of scripture.  Which do you feel you would benefit from most today?  How might you make that happen?

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

In this simple sentence are a lot of assumptions that go against the expectations of many in the church today.

First comes the assumption that we are listening to God through His teachers.  For us to hear what was taught, we have to listen.  This means we need to be an active part of a worship service, attend a bible study, or at least listen to a Christian podcast.  While we are also called to test our teachers and be sure they are preaching Truth, that is a thought for another day.

Second comes the assumption that we are listening to Godly teaching in community, specifically, “in the presence of many witnesses”.  So the podcast thing is out.  Klyne Snodgrass, professor emeritus at North Park Theological Seminary, has said that the only way to do theology is in community, where we can try out a new idea, get input, and accept or reject it together.

Third comes the assumption that what we hear in community we will pass on to others.  We are so used to reading/listening/taking in information just for ourselves that we don’t even think about passing it along in any useful way (i.e. NOT through social media).  Yet that is not only a command of God (“Go and make disciples”) but an expectation that is so obvious much of our mission is based on it.

And fourth comes the assumption that we are not just passing along information out of duty but out of a desire that it be spread as far and wide as it can.  To hear good bible teaching is good.  To teach it to someone else is better.  To teach someone else how to teach it is the best.  But to teach another person how to teach their pupils to teach it means it will never stop spreading.  And that is our goal with the gospel – to never stop spreading it.

You are always righteous, when I bring a case before you.  Yet I would speak with you about your justice:
Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?
You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit.
You are always on their lips but far from their hearts.
Yet you know me, you see me and test my thoughts about you.
Drag them off like sheep to be butchered!  Set them apart for the day of slaughter!

I just love how polite Jeremiah is when he is questioning the Lord’s justice.  He uses what I have heard is called a “compliment sandwich”; begin with a compliment, then give your complaint, and finish with another compliment.  This is used in leadership and business circles.  But Jeremiah uses it in his prayers.

Still, as polite as he is, he is also deeply honest.  And in that honesty we see our own unasked questions.  You see, there has been an assumption that we cannot be THIS honest with God.  I have been asked countless times whether it’s ok to share our anger, doubt, and fear with God.  My answer is always the same, “not only is it ok, it is a requirement of our relationship with God.”  God won’t deal with fictional characters, only with real people.  So when we approach Him with lies, masks, and hidden truth, He simply won’t deal with us.  God wants the real us, however ugly that life may be.  Because God doesn’t see the ugliness of our lives.  He sees the righteousness of His Son who exchanged our sinfulness for his own perfection.

And besides, do we really think God doesn’t know when we’re angry, or when we doubt, or when we are afraid?

From “Big Girls Don’t Cry” to “There’s no crying in baseball!”, crying has been a sign of weakness for generations.  Bullies have sought to make younger kids cry forever, and “taking it like a man” has meant with an utter lack of tears.  Funerals often got a pass and became one of the only places men could cry openly, but even then it was a slight trickle rather than an outright sob.  Crying has been socially forbidden in many world cultures.

This has always seemed to me to be yet another cultural abnormality, a means of showing our power by withholding from something truly wonderful.  For tears are the means of healing in so many ways.  I have heard them called “the only true cleanse of the soul” and “liquid anger released”.  No one who has felt the pains this world can bring and has wept for real can deny that they feel significantly better having done it.  And the harder the cry, the better we feel.  Jesus wept in sorrow and fear, as did the prophets before Him, so it seems very odd to refrain from it.

Jeremiah is known as “the weeping prophet”, and we begin to see shades of it in today’s reading.  Chapter 9 is filled with calls to weep, wail, and cry for God’s lost – meaning here “sinful” – people.  That people who have been promised so much and wooed into as powerful a relationship as God’s would walk away from it and follow worthless idols is cause for much weeping.  While this may not heal the world’s ills or bring the lost back to the Lord, it does cleanse us, release some of our anger toward them, and move us to a place of being healers ourselves.

So look at our world, from our political leadership to the divisiveness and xenophobia that has this entire globe in its grip, and weep, wail, and cry.  God is.

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.  Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity…  Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Our family is pretty tight.  When I do pre-marital counseling with couples, one exercise examines the “closeness” and “flexibility” of their family structures.  Our family would probably score pretty high on the “closeness” vector.  We have dinner together at the table every night but Wed. when we are at church and have for our 22 years of marriage.  As the kids have aged, they often have to miss a meal, but never when they are available.  At that meal, we share our days and thoughts together.  Vacations have been family-only, rather than bringing friends along, and while we fight like every family, we have never stayed mad for long.

When a family member is in need, be it financially, emotionally, or physically, we are there for each other.  And according to this passage, that’s the way it should be.  In fact, this isn’t a new teaching but is a modernization of the Fifth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother…”  While we continually teach that this means being respectful and kind to our parents, it is far more about caring for them in old age, since there were no other alternatives in OT Jewish culture.  But this passage goes beyond that.

Paul widens the family pool by first telling us to treat older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters.  Within the family of God, everyone is family, and so we have a duty to care for everyone within the family of God.  Is there a “family member” in your church who needs your help?  How might you show your love for God by honoring them with the help they need?