Twenty Years Ago Today

January 9, 2009

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of my father’s death.  You might assume that this is a difficult topic to blog about or perhaps you assume that I’m spending my weekend dwelling on the unfortunate circumstances that happened twenty years ago.  Actually, that is not true at all.  Also, please don’t assume the opposite – that I am emotionless, don’t care, or simply choose not to think about it.  That is not true either.  In fact, I often think about my father’s death and the life-altering circumstances that came from it.

 

Although I remember few things from that time of my life, I do remember my father sitting me down outside of my grandparents’ house and explaining to me that he had cancer and that he would likely die in the months ahead.  I remember the shock I felt after finding out that he had died.  I remember the grief that I experienced during the months and years that followed.  I remember the confusion as I wondered why so many things around me were changing (my mother sold my father’s medical practice, sold the house, and struggled to decide whether to move back to California or stay in Dallas).  More than all of that, I remember the peace and comfort that came from knowing that there is a sovereign God who is in control of all things.  I remember understanding that I was not in control of my life but that someone else was.  I remember finding relief in knowing that EVERYTHING happened for a reason and that although we didn’t understand completely why these things happened, God did. 

 

God’s plan and His ways of working out His plan are frequently beyond our ability to understand.  We must learn to trust when we don’t understand.  Thankfully, we have the ability to trust God and know that He is infinitely sovereign.  Looking back now, I am amazed by all of the things the Lord did in my life as a result of my father’s death.  My mother remarried a few years later and my new dad (who I’m so thankful for) moved us to a solid, bible church where I eventually heard the gospel.  All of these things led me to California and The Master’s College – an institution that I have grown to love.  It’s amazing to see how the Lord orchestrates all the events in our lives for His glory and for our good.

 

Besides understanding the Lord’s sovereignty, the biggest impact of my father’s death came from watching my mother stand strong in her faith and her constant trust in the Lord.  I’m sure that she had many days of constant tears and perhaps many sleepless nights as she thought through what the Lord’s purposes were, but I know that every time my sister, brother or I talked to her, she would explain the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness to us.  As a child I quickly understood that, no matter what happened to me in this life, the Lord surely was in control.  I praise the Lord for my mother’s influence in my life.

 

I share the story of my father’s death with you so that it may serve as an exhibit of the Lord’s sovereignty and goodness in the midst of what we see as devastating circumstances.  I know that many people have experienced far more difficult circumstances than I have or ever will experience.  I do not pretend to be able to completely relate to them or understand the pain that they have experienced.  However, I serve a God who can.  I find great comfort in knowing that our Lord sympathizes with me and with you;  Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  We are loved by a God who not only makes all things happen for His purposes but who can also relate completely to our pain.  Furthermore, God Himself did not only lose his Son but purposely killed His Son in order that He could be the atonement for your sins and mine.  I imagine that it makes the gospel all the more sweet when you can, even in a small way, understand the pain of losing a loved one.

The Satisfaction of Sin

November 14, 2008

What is it that is so satisfying about sin?  I mean, there has to be something satisfying about sin or we wouldn’t be so quick to run to it.  Because of our sinful nature, we are prone to enjoy our fleshly desires – at least for a moment.  Thankfully, believers understand that this satisfaction is temporal and does not truly satisfy.  Although we think that we will find satisfaction in sin, we never do.  Read this quote from John Piper.

“Faith is being confident that God’s way is better than sin, His will is more wise; His help is more sure, His promises are more precious, His reward is more satisfying.”

True faith is marked by an understanding that God’s way is better than sin and his reward is more satisfying.  I continue to learn that our idols promise big but they never deliver.

 

I found this article on dating to be very insightful and helpful in thinking through how to pursue a godly dating relationship.  I’ve asked myself the question, “Is she the one?” many times in the last few years.  Perhaps that is the worng question all together.  I’m encouraged by this article to think more like a servant and less like a consumer.

Stop Test-Driving Your Girlfriend

by Michael Lawrence
 
 
“How do I know if she’s the one?”I can’t think of a question I encounter more often among single Christian men. The point of the question is clear enough. But a rich irony dwells beneath the question. In a culture that allows us to choose the person we’re going to marry, no one wants to make the wrong choice. Especially if, as Christians, we understand that the choice we make is a choice for life.

The question is not merely ironic. If what you’re after is a marriage that will glorify God and produce real joy for you and your bride, it’s also the wrong question. That’s because the unstated goal of the question is “How do I know if she’s the one … for me.”

The question frames the entire decision-making process in fundamentally self-oriented — if not downright selfish — terms. And it puts the woman on an extended trial to determine whether or not she meets your needs, fits with your personality, and satisfies your desires. It places you at the center of the process, in the role of a window-shopper, or consumer at a buffet. In this scenario you remain unexamined, unquestioned, and unassailable — sovereign in your tastes and preferences and judgments.

The problem of course is that as a single Christian man, not only are you going to marry a sinner, but you are a sinner as well.

From a consumeristic perspective, no woman on this planet is ever going to perfectly meet your specifications. What’s more, your unexamined requirements for a spouse are inevitably twisted by your own sinful nature. The Bible reminds us that though our marriages are to be pictures of the gospel relationship between Christ and the church, none of us get to marry Jesus. Instead, like Hosea, we all marry Gomer; that is to say, we all marry another sinner, whom God intends to use to refine and grow our faith in Jesus.

So what’s a guy to do?

Ask the right questions

To begin with, start with a different question. Instead of asking if she’s the one, you should ask yourself, “Am I the sort of man a godly woman would want to marry?” If you’re not, then you’d be better off spending less time evaluating the women around you, and more time developing the character of a disciple. Start by considering the characteristics of an elder that Paul lays out in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and work toward those.

Then you should ask another question: “What sort of qualities should I be looking for in a wife so that my marriage will be a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church?” If you’re not sure what those characteristics are, then spend some time reading Proverbs 31, Titus 2:3-5, 1 Peter 3:1-7 and Ephesians 5:22-33.

Once you’ve asked the right questions, and once you’ve found someone you suspect fits the biblical description of a godly wife, you now need to decide whether to get married. And men, though this is a big decision, it’s not a decision that should take too long. How long is too long for a dating relationship? The Bible doesn’t provide a timetable (after all, most marriages were arranged during Biblical times). But it does provide principles that point us in the direction of making a decision to marry or break up in the shortest appropriate time.

Think like a servant, not a consumer

In 1 Thessalonians 4:6, Paul warns the Thessalonian Christians against “taking advantage” of their brothers or sisters. The larger context in the first eight verses makes clear that what Paul primarily has in view is sexual immorality, in which you take from one another a physical intimacy not rightfully yours.

But the text also suggests that there are other ways you can take advantage of one another in a dating relationship. And one of the primary ways men do this is to elicit and enjoy all the benefits of unending companionship and emotional intimacy with their girlfriends without ever committing to the covenant relationship of marriage.

Too often in dating relationships we think and act like consumers rather than servants. And not very good consumers at that. After all, no one would ever go down to his local car dealership, take a car out for an extended test drive, park it in his garage, drive it back and forth to work for several weeks, maybe take it on vacation, having put lots of miles on it, and then take it back to the dealer and say, “I’m just not ready to buy a new car.”

But so often, that’s exactly the way men treat the women they’re dating. Endlessly “test driving” the relationship, without any real regard for the spiritual and emotional wear and tear they’re putting her through, all the while keeping their eyes out for a better model.

The Scriptures are clear. We are not to take advantage of one another in this way. Instead, as Paul says in Romans 13:10, “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Remember that love is never easy

One of the myths out there is that if you just spend enough time searching, if you can just gather enough information, you’ll find a woman with whom marriage will be “easy.” The fact is, such a woman doesn’t exist, and if she did, she likely wouldn’t marry you. And that means that you don’t need as much information as you think you do.

No matter how long you’ve dated, everyone marries a stranger. That’s because fundamentally dating is an artificial arrangement in which you’re trying to be on your best behavior. Marriage on the other hand is real life. And it’s only in the context of day-in, day-out reality, with the vulnerability and permanence that marriage provides, that we learn what another person is really like. Some of the things we learn about each other aren’t easy. But who ever said that love and marriage were supposed to be easy?

Men, the point of marriage is that we learn to love our wives as Christ loved the church. Yes, as Revelation 21 and Ephesians 5 tell us, one day, Christ’s bride will be perfectly beautiful, without spot or blemish, altogether lovely and loveable.

But the church is not there yet. First, Christ had to commit himself to us, even to death on a cross. This is the model we’re called to follow. It’s not an easy model, but it is worth it.

So your goal should not be to date her long enough until you’re confident marriage won’t be hard, but to date her just long enough to discern if you’re willing to love her sacrificially, and if she’s willing to respond to that kind of love.

Remember that to commit does not mean to settle

Does this mean you should just “settle” for the first Christian woman who comes along? No, not at all. You should be making this decision in light of the qualities held out in Scripture for a godly wife, and you should marry the godliest, most fruitful, most spiritually beautiful woman you can convince to have you.

But you also need to be aware that you live in a culture that says the ultimate good in life is to always keep your options open, and that any commitment is inevitably “settling” for less than you could have tomorrow. You must reject that kind of thinking for the worldly garbage that it is. Did Jesus Christ settle for the church? No, he loved the church, and gave his life as a ransom for her (Mark 10:45).

Marriage is fundamentally a means to glorify and serve God, not by finding someone who will meet our needs and desires, but by giving ourselves to another for their good. So if you find yourself hesitating about committing to a godly, biblically-qualified woman, then ask yourself, “Are my reasons biblical, or am I just afraid that if I commit, someone better will walk around the corner after it’s too late?” Consumers are always on the lookout for something better. Christ calls us to trust Him that in finding a wife, we have found “what is good and receive favor from the Lord” (Prov. 18:22).

Marry true beauty when you find it

Finally, the Scriptures call us to develop an attraction to true beauty. 1 Peter 3:3-6 describes the beautiful wife as a woman who has a gentle and quiet spirit, born out of her faith and hope in God, and displayed in her trusting submission to her husband. Men, is the presence of this kind of beauty the driving force for your sense of attraction to your girlfriend? Or have you made romantic attraction and “chemistry” the deciding issue?

Now don’t get me wrong. You should be physically attracted to the woman you marry. This is one of the ways marriage serves as a protection against sexual immorality (1 Cor. 7:3-5). But we get in trouble, both in dating and in marriage, when we make physical beauty and “chemistry” the threshold issue in the decision to commit (or remain committed) to marriage.

Physical beauty in a fallen world is fading and transient. What’s more, the world narrowly defines beauty as the body of a teenager, and scorns the beauty of motherhood and maturity. But in which “body” is your wife going to spend most of her years with you? Personalities also change and mature, and what seems like “chemistry” when you’re 22 might feel like superficial immaturity 10 years later. Even over the course of a long courtship and engagement in the prime of your youth, physical attraction and chemistry are sure to go through ups and downs. We must resist the temptation to value the wrong kind of beauty.

No one lives in a perpetual state of “being in love.” But in marriage, our love is called to “always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere” (1 Cor. 13:7). If mere worldly, physical beauty is the main thing attracting our love, then our love will prove as ephemeral as that beauty. But if we have developed an attraction to true beauty, then we have nothing to fear. Marry a vibrant growing Christian woman, and you have Christ’s promise that he is committed to making her more and more beautiful, spiritually beautiful, with every passing day (Rom. 8:28; Phil. 1:6).

More questions to ask

How then do you decide, in a reasonable amount of time, whether or not to marry the woman you’re dating? Let me conclude with some more questions you should be asking.

  • Generally speaking, will you be able to serve God better together than apart?
  • Do you desire to fulfill the biblical role of a husband outlined in Ephesians 5:22-33 with this specific woman? Do you want to love her sacrificially?
  • Does this relationship spur you on in your Christian discipleship, or does it dull and distract your interest in the Lord and his people? Are you more or less eager to study God’s word, and pray, and give yourself in service as a result of time spent together?
  • Do you think she will make a good discipler of your children?
  • What do other mature Christian friends and family members say about your relationship? Do they see a relationship that is spiritually solid and God-glorifying?

If you can’t answer the questions at all, then you may need to spend some more time getting to know each other. But if you can answer them (and others like them) either positively or negatively, then it’s time to stop test-driving the relationship and either commit to marriage or let someone else have the opportunity.

 

  

Today I have been amazed by the thought that although I continue to fail and am repeatedly found unfaithful, I have a Lord who will always remain faithful because it is simply who He is.

  

“It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
If we endure, we will 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.”

 

II Timothy 2:11-13

 

I’ve been thinking about this quote from John Piper for a few days now and wanted to share it with you.  I appreciate how focused Piper is on getting back to the God-centeredness of everything – ultimately taking us back to worship.  He writes,

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church.  Worship is.  Missions exists because worship doesn’t.  Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.”

This weekend I flew to Boston to spend a few days with my sister and brother-in-law and to meet my new nephew.  Caleb is a really fun kid.  I mean, he doesn’t do much at this point, besides eat, sleep, scream and fill his diaper 10-12 times daily.  His scream is so soft and innocent that you nearly can’t tell that he is even screaming.  And he purrs like a cat while he sleeps.

I had a lot of fun with the Koerbers.  It’s sad to think that Caleb will grow so much before I see him again.  While I was there I introduced him to lots of great music.  He especially likes James Taylor.  Together we experienced his first Sunday at church, his first snow storm, and his first trip out of the state of Massachusetts.  Also, we spent Saturday afternoon at the JFK Presidential Library.  Below are a few pictures of my time in Boston.

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JFK Library

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When A Boy Becomes A Man

January 25, 2008

It is undeniable that in recent years there has been a clear extension of adolescence into what should be adulthood.  It is evident that the number of kidults (those who refuse to act responsibly and act like adults) is greatly increasing.  Kidults often live with their parents, even after college, while hopping from one job to another and one relationship to another.  They generally lack direction, commitment, financial independence, and personal responsibility, while some how spending more time and money on frivolous things than the average American.  Marriage and commitment is completely out of the picture for the time being and falls into the category of “maybe someday, many years away.”  The typical kidult is not committed to any local church.  They’re busy doing many things yet going nowhere.

I find myself very aware of the increasing number of kindults because I am in the age range of most of them.  I’m two years out of college now and at the age where graduates must decide to grow up or continue living a directionless life.  Sadly, it seems as though there are just as many of my peers living their post-adolescent lives as children as there are peers who are willing to grow up.  So my question is, at what point does a boy become a man.  At what point are we responsible for our actions and called to live life differently than when we were children?  Here is a list by Dr. Albert Mohler on “thirteen marks of biblical manhood”.  This is something that all twenty-something year old males should read.

“When does a boy become a man? The answer to this must go far beyond biology and chronological age. As defined in the Bible, manhood is a functional reality, demonstrated in a man’s fulfillment of responsibility and leadership. With this in mind, let me suggest thirteen marks of biblical manhood. The achievement of these vital qualities marks the emergence of a man who will demonstrate true biblical masculinity.”

1. SPIRITUAL MATURITY SUFFICIENT TO LEAD A WIFE AND CHILDREN.
The Bible is clear about a man’s responsibility to exercise spiritual maturity and spiritual leadership. Of course, this spiritual maturity takes time to develop, and it is a gift of the Holy Spirit working within the life of the believer. The disciplines of the Christian life, including prayer and serious Bible study, are among the means God uses to mold a boy into a man and to bring spiritual maturity into the life of one who is charged to lead a wife and family. This spiritual leadership is central to the Christian vision of marriage and family life.
A man’s spiritual leadership is not a matter of dictatorial power, but of firm and credible spiritual leadership and influence. A man must be ready to lead his wife and his children in a way that will honor God, demonstrate godliness, inculcate Christian character and lead his family to desire Christ and to seek God’s glory. Spiritual maturity is a mark of true Christian manhood, and a spiritually immature man is, in at least this crucial sense, spiritually just a boy.

2. PERSONAL MATURITY SUFFICIENT TO BE A RESPONSIBLE HUSBAND AND FATHER.
True masculinity is not a matter of exhibiting supposedly masculine characteristics devoid of the context of responsibility. In the Bible, a man is called to fulfill his role as husband and father. Unless granted the gift of celibacy for gospel service, the Christian boy is to aim for marriage and fatherhood. This is assuredly a counter-cultural assertion, but the role of husband and father is central to manhood. Marriage is unparalleled in its effect on men, as it channels their energies and directs their responsibilities to the devoted covenant of marriage and the grace-filled civilization of the family. They must aspire to be the kind of man a Christian woman would gladly marry and children will trust, respect, and obey.

3. ECONOMIC MATURITY SUFFICIENT TO HOLD AN ADULT JOB AND HANDLE MONEY..
Advertisers and marketers know where to aim their messages — directly at adolescent boys and young men. This particular segment of the population is inordinately attracted to material goods, popular entertainment, sporting events and other consumer options. The portrait of young manhood made popular in the media and presented as normal through entertainment is characterized by economic carelessness, self-centeredness and laziness.
A real man knows how to hold a job, handle money with responsibility and take care of the needs of his wife and family. A failure to develop economic maturity means that young men often float from job to job, and take years to “find themselves” in terms of career and vocation. Once again, an extended adolescence marks a huge segment of today’s young male population. Slothfulness, laziness and economic carelessness are marks of immaturity. A real man knows how to earn, manage and respect money. A Christian man understands the danger that comes from the love of money, and fulfills his responsibility as a Christian steward.

4. PHYSICAL MATURITY SUFFICIENT TO WORK AND PROTECT A FAMILY.
Unless afflicted by injury or illness, a boy should develop the physical maturity that, by stature and strength, marks recognizable manhood. Of course, men come in many sizes and demonstrate different levels of physical strength, but common to all men is a maturity, through which a man demonstrates his masculinity by movement, confidence and strength. A man must be ready to put his physical strength on the line to protect his wife and children and to fulfill his God-assigned tasks. A boy must be taught to channel his developing strength and emerging size into a self-consciousness of responsibility, recognizing that adult strength is to be combined with adult responsibility and true maturity.

5. SEXUAL MATURITY SUFFICIENT TO MARRY AND FULFILL GOD’S PURPOSES.
Even as the society celebrates sex in every form and at every age, the true Christian man practices sexual integrity, avoiding pornography, fornication, all forms of sexual promiscuity and corruption. He understands the danger of lust, but rejoices in the sexual capacity and reproductive power God has put within him, committing himself to find a wife, and to earn her love, trust and admiration — and eventually to win her hand in marriage. It’s critical that men respect this incredible gift, and to protect this gift until, within the context of holy marriage, they are able to fulfill this gift, love their wives, and look to God’s gift of children. Male sexuality separated from the context and integrity of marriage is an explosive and dangerous reality. The boy must understand, even as he travels through the road of puberty and an awakened sexuality, that he is accountable to God for his stewardship of this great gift.

6. MORAL MATURITY SUFFICIENT TO LEAD AS EXAMPLE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Stereotypical behavior on the part of young males is, in the main, marked by recklessness, irresponsibility and worse. As a boy grows into manhood, he must develop moral maturity as he aspires to righteousness, learning to think like a Christian, act like a Christian and show others how to do the same.
The Christian man is to be an example to others, teaching by both precept and example. Of course, this requires the exercise of responsible moral reasoning. True moral education begins with a clear understanding of moral standards, but must move to the higher level of moral reasoning by which a young man learns how biblical principles are translated into godly living and how the moral challenges of his day must be met with the truths revealed in God’s inerrant and infallible word.

7. ETHICAL MATURITY SUFFICIENT TO MAKE RESPONSIBLE DECISIONS.
To be a man is to make decisions. One of the most fundamental tasks of leadership is decision-making. The indecisiveness of so many contemporary males is evidence of a stunted manhood. Of course, a man does not rush to a decision without thought, consideration or care, but a man does put himself on the line in making a decision — and making it stick. This requires an extension of moral responsibility into mature ethical decision-making that brings glory to God, is faithful to God’s word and is open to moral scrutiny.
A real man knows how to make a decision and live with its consequences — even if that means that he must later acknowledge that he has learned by making a bad decision, and then by making the appropriate correction.

8. WORLDVIEW MATURITY SUFFICIENT TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT.
An inversion of values marks our postmodern age, and the predicament of modern manhood is made all the more perplexing by the fact that many men lack the capacity of consistent worldview thinking. For the Christian, this is doubly tragic, for our Christian discipleship must be demonstrated in the development of a Christian mind.
The Christian man must understand how to interpret and evaluate issues across the spectrum of politics, economics, morality, entertainment, education and a seemingly endless list of other fields. The absence of consistent biblical worldview thinking is a key mark of spiritual immaturity. A boy must learn how to translate Christian truth into genuine Christian thinking. He must learn how to defend biblical truth before his peers and in the public square, and he must acquire the ability to extend Christian thinking, based on biblical principles, to every arena of life.

9. RELATIONAL MATURITY SUFFICIENT TO UNDERSTAND AND RESPECT OTHERS.
Psychologists now talk of “emotional intelligence,” or EQ, as a major factor in personal development. While the world has given much attention to IQ, EQ is just as important. Individuals who lack the ability to relate to others are destined to fail at some of life’s most significant challenges and will not fulfill some of their most important responsibilities and roles.
By nature, many boys are inwardly directed. While girls learn how to read emotional signals and connect, many boys lack the capacity to do so, and seemingly fail to understand the absence of these skills. While a man is to demonstrate emotional strength, constancy and steadfastness, he must be able to relate to his wife, his children, his peers, his colleagues and a host of others in a way that demonstrates respect, understanding and appropriate empathy. This will not be learned by playing video games and by entering into the privatized world experienced by many male adolescents.

10. SOCIAL MATURITY SUFFICIENT TO MAKE A CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIETY.
While the arena of the home is an essential and inescapable focus of a man’s responsibility, he is also called out of the home into the workplace and the larger world as a witness, and as one who will make a contribution to the common good. God has created human beings as social creatures, and even though our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, we must also fulfill our citizenship on earth.
A boy must learn to fulfill a political responsibility as a citizen, and a moral responsibility as a member of a human community. The Christian man bears a civilizational responsibility, and boys must be taught to see themselves as shapers of the society even as the church is identified by our Lord as both salt and light. Similarly, a Christian man must learn how to relate to unbelievers, both as witness and as fellow citizens of an earthly kingdom.

11. VERBAL MATURITY SUFFICIENT TO COMMUNICATE AND ARTICULATE AS A MAN.
A man must be able to speak, to be understood and to communicate in a way that will honor God and convey God’s truth to others. Beyond the context of conversation, a boy must learn how to speak before larger groups, overcoming the natural intimidation and fear that comes from looking at a crowd, opening one’s mouth, and projecting words.
Though not all men will become public speakers, every man should have the ability to take his ground, frame his words, and make his case when truth is under fire and when belief and conviction must be translated into argument.

12. CHARACTER MATURITY SUFFICIENT TO DEMONSTRATE COURAGE UNDER FIRE.
The literature of manhood is replete with stories of courage, bravery and audacity. At least, that’s the way it used to be. Now, with manhood both minimalized and marginalized by cultural elites, ideological subversion and media confusion, we must recapture a commitment to courage that is translated into the real-life challenges faced by the Christian man.
At times, this quality of courage is demonstrated when a man risks his own life in defense of others, especially his wife and children, but also anyone who is in need of rescue. More often, this courage is demonstrated in taking a stand under hostile fire, refusing to succumb to the temptation of silence and standing as a model and example to others, who will then be encouraged to stand their own ground. In these days, biblical manhood requires great courage. The prevailing ideologies and worldviews of this age are inherently hostile to Christian truth and are corrosive to Christian faithfulness. It takes great courage for a boy to commit himself to sexual purity and for a man to devote himself unreservedly to his wife. It takes great courage to say no to what this culture insists are the rightful pleasures and delights of the flesh. It takes courage to serve as a godly husband and father, to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It takes courage to maintain personal integrity in a world that devalues the truth, disparages God’s word, and promises self-fulfillment and happiness only through the assertion of undiluted personal autonomy. A man’s true confidence is rooted in the wells of courage, and courage is evidence of character. In the end, a man’s character is revealed in the crucible of everyday challenges. For most men, life will also bring moments when extraordinary courage will be required, if he is to remain faithful and true.

13. BIBLICAL MATURITY SUFFICIENT TO LEAD AT SOME LEVEL IN THE CHURCH.
A close look at many churches will reveal that a central problem is the lack of biblical maturity among the men of the congregation and a lack of biblical knowledge that leaves men ill equipped and completely unprepared to exercise spiritual leadership.
Boys must know their way around the biblical text, and feel at home in the study of God’s Word. They must stand ready to take their place as leaders in the local church. While God has appointed specific officers for his church–men who are specially gifted and publicly called — every man should fulfill some leadership responsibility within the life of the congregation. For some men, this may mean a less public role of leadership than is the case with others. In any event, a man should be able to teach someone, and to lead in some ministry, translating his personal discipleship into the fulfillment of a godly call. There is a role of leadership for every man in every church, whether that role is public or private, large or small, official or unofficial. A man should know how to pray before others, to present the Gospel, and to stand in the gap where a leadership need is apparent.

Copyright © 2005 Dr. Albert Mohler. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. 

Thanksgiving in ATL

December 4, 2007

I had the privilege of flying to Georgia for Thanksgiving this year.  I was reminded of how thankful I am for my family during my time there.  It is rare for me to get to see them so it is always a joy to have everyone back in the same city.  And it was the first time that I was able to see my BIG sister since she has been pregnant.  Here are a few pictures from Thanksgiving 2007.

Me & Hillary Being Ridiculous

My Baby Sister

The Whole Family Minus One

All But One

Me & My Baby Sister

Baby Sister Again

Me & John with Sharon & Baby Kürbis

Brian and John with Baby

 

Utter Dependence

October 26, 2007

The Lord is teaching me to be solely dependant on Him right now.

 

This is a really hard lesson to learn.  I want to be able to say like David said in Psalm 18 that the Lord is my Strength, my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer.  More than being able to say it I want it to be true of my heart.  I want the Lord to be the one in whom I take refuge.  I want to seek Him in the midst of trials and find Him to be my true satisfaction.  My sinful heart easily turns to other things.

 

This is what David wrote as he faced difficulty.  I want to write the same and have it be true of me.

 

Psalm 18:1-6 

 

1 I love You, O LORD, my strength.

 

2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,

My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

3 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.

 

4 The cords of death encompassed me,
And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me.

5 The cords of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.

 

6 In my distress I called upon the LORD,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.

 

As I reflect upon the last few years of my life it is clear to me that I am not the same person that I use to be.  I am significantly different than I was in high school, considerably different than I was when I started college, and to my surprise, even different than when I graduated from college merely a year and a half ago.  The Lord has been faithful, as He has promised, to continue to change me more into the image of His son.  I must recognize His faithfulness in moving me along in the process of sanctification, however, let me stop right there to say, I have a long way to go still.  In thinking through what it is that I am now and what I want to be in the future, I have found it very helpful to reflect on the list of qualifications that the Lord has written out in His Word for servant leaders.  Here is what I aspire to be. 

 

 

QUALIFICATIONS FOR AN ELDER

The New Testament teaches that the church is to be led by a plurality of qualified men who unanimously, equally, and autonomously shepherd the local church. Elders, as the spiritual overseers of the church, are to determine church policy (Acts 15:22); ordain others (1 Timothy 4:14); rule, teach, and preach (1 Timothy 5:17); exhort and refute (Titus 1:9); and act as shepherds, setting an example for all (1 Peter 5:1–3). Those responsibilities put elders at the core of the New Testament church’s work. First Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5–9 give these qualifications for one who holds the office of an elder:

He must be above reproach.

All other qualifications support this as the single, overarching qualification. To be above reproach speaks of having an unquestionable and irreproachable character. There must be no blight of any kind of sin that taints his reputation or puts his character in question. That’s not to say that he’s perfect, but there must not be any obvious defect in his character.

He must be a one-woman man.

He is to be devoted solely to his wife. He is to love, desire, and think only of the wife that God has given to him. This does not exclude single men, but is a qualification that speaks of moral purity.

He must be temperate.

He must deny any excess in life that diminishes clear thinking and sound judgment. He is to be well-balanced, calm, careful, and steady, not self-indulgent.

He must be sober-minded.

He is to be serious about spiritual things, not frivolous. He is to avoid excess so that he can see things clearly, and that clarity of thought leads to an orderly, disciplined life.

He must be well-organized.

He is to approach all aspects of life in a systematic, orderly manner and fulfill his duties and responsibilities diligently. He is to have a disciplined mind that produces disciplined actions.

He must be hospitable.

He is to show kindness to strangers. He is to be generous and caring toward others, using what he has to serve them.

He must be able to teach.

He must be skilled in communicating God’s Word and have the integrity to make his teaching believable.

He must not be given to wine.

He is not to have the lifestyle of a drinker or be characterized by a belligerent, negative temperament and quarrelsome attitude that is associated with drunkenness.

He must not be a fighter.

He is not to be quick-tempered or resort to verbal and physical abuse. He must be able to handle things with a cool mind and gentle spirit.

He must be gentle.

He is to be patient, considerate, genial, forbearing, and gracious. He must not seek to domineer others.

He must not be quarrelsome.

He is to be a peacemaker, not contentious or argumentative. He is not to be offensively aggressive nor to insist on his rights. He is to keep his temper under control.

He must be free from the love of money.

He is not to have his attention fixed on monetary rewards. He is not to be preoccupied with amassing material possessions or involved in shady business practices.

He must maintain a godly family.

He must be able to demonstrate spiritual leadership in the context of his family before he can lead in the church. He is to have an unblemished and exemplary home life, with his children being respectful and under control.

He must not be a new convert.

He is to be a mature believer. His character is to be certified by the testimony of those who are not in the church. He should have a reputation for integrity, love, kindness, generosity, and goodness among those in the community who know him.

He must not be self-pleasing.

He is not to be self-willed or arrogant. He is not to be a headstrong, stubborn man who demands his way without regard to others.

He must love what is good.

He is to be devoted to all that is good and beneficial. He is to be an advocate of everything worthwhile.

He must be just.

He is to be upright in his dealings with men. His conduct in relation to others must conform to the standard of right.

 

 

QUALIFICATIONS FOR A DEACON

While all believers are to be characterized by service, some have been specially gifted by the Spirit of God to serve (cf. Romans 12:7). Only in I Timothy 3 is there a specific discussion of the office of deacon (vv. 8–10, 12). Deacons are equally qualified with elders in terms of character and spiritual life. The one difference between their qualifications is that an elder must be able to teach, but a deacon doesn’t have to be. The elders oversee the work of those who serve the Lord, and they are assisted in their work by deacons. Note the specific qualifications given for deaconesses in I Timothy 3:11, in addition to those for the deacon outlined here.

He must be a man of dignity.

The Greek term translated “dignity” means “worthy of respect, stately, dignified.” It denotes a seriousness of mind and character. A deacon must be worthy of respect and serious-minded, not treating serious things lightly.

He must not be double-tongued.

He is always consistent and righteous in what he says. He is not to be one who says one thing to one person and something else to another. He knows how to bridle his tongue and is not a malicious gossip.

He must not be addicted to much wine.

He is to be characterized by clear thinking and self-control.

He must not be fond of gain.

His goals in life are not to be monetary. First Timothy 6:9 says that a pervasive desire for financial gain corrupts a man.

He must be doctrinally sound.

First Timothy 3:9 says that he must hold “to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” “The faith” refers to the whole of Christian truth. A “clear conscience” is the result of obeying the truth. He must hold to the faith and apply the truth in his life.

He must be active in spiritual service.

Verse 10 says, “Let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons.” The verb translated “be tested” speaks of an ongoing test, not a single test or probationary period. The test is an ongoing general assessment by the church of his service to Christ. Before being affirmed as a deacon, he must prove himself to be faithful in serving the Lord.

He must be morally pure.

His life is to be “beyond reproach” (v. 10). Like an elder, a deacon must be morally pure, having an irreproachable character. Verse 12 echoes the standard of moral purity, for it says “Let deacons be husbands of only one wife.” A deacon must be totally consecrated and devoted to his wife.

He must lead a godly family.

Verse 12 also says that he must be a good manager of his children and household. The proving ground for leadership is how a man manages his children and home, and the way that a man cares for his children and home is an excellent indicator of his ability to care for God’s church.

Although specific personal and spiritual qualifications must be met by those in the offices of elder and deacon, that does not mean the standard is lower for anyone else in the congregation. The qualifications should be a goal and guideline for every believer. Everyone should seek to have those character qualifications in his life—whether he is a recognized, office-holding believer or simply a servant to the Body of Christ.

 

(This material is taken from John MacArthur’s book, The Master’s Plan for the Church.)