Saturday, July 21, 2018

Structure and Message of 2nd Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians Color Chart

Message of Second Thessalonians

Stand firm, keep growing and fulfill God’s calling with prayer, hard work and discipline because you can be confident that God will accomplish his plan to defeat evil and glorify Christ within you.

Brief Outline

  1. God‘s character and His purpose for your life encourage growth and give comfort in trials.
  2. The final Day of the LORD will not come until after the deception and revelation of the “lawless man.”
  3. Commands: Pray for one another and hold each other accountable now.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Reading Through First Timothy #2, (Chapters 4-6)

cornerstone tim to hebWe are continuing my devotional study of Paul’s “pastoral” letters. I am reading  Paul’s first letter to Timothy accompanied by The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. The 1 Timothy commentary is written by Linda Belleville. Paul’s continues to urge Timothy to live out an example of Christlike servanthood, while at the same time urging him to be bold in his leadership. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue

Paul returns to denouncing the false teachers in 4.1-6. Timothy should not be surprised that they are there because they were predicted by Jesus and subsequent prophets in the church. Timothy must boldly oppose them (but without harshness) by exposing their errors (legalism, elitism and asceticism) and accurately and completely teaching the truth. Even though he is young Timothy is urged to boldly fulfill his responsibility to read and teach the scriptures and the apostolic doctrines and use the spiritual gifts God has given him. The best way to do it is with an example that lives out the teaching and gives more authority to his preaching and teaching.

Paul gives no restrictions or qualifications on what can be eaten except one: The food must be eaten “with thanks” by people who believe and recognize the truth through God’s word and prayer (4:5)...This makes gratitude more than a perfunctory blessing; it is an attitude toward life and all its blessings. 1 Timothy 4.1-6, 85

The statement that God is the “Savior of all people” on the face of it sounds like universalism, but it is not. Throughout the Pastorals, Paul is at pains to address the heretical teaching that claimed salvation is for only the chosen few who possess certain spiritual knowledge. Over against this few, Paul asserted that “all people” have access to “the living God” and hence to salvation (4:10). The emphasis is not on the whole of humanity being saved but on salvation’s availability to each and every person. 1 Timothy 4.7-16, 89–90

Paul now moves on to Timothy's administrative duties in the church which included appointing and removing church ministers and leaders. The driving idea is that Timothy is to treat the people in the church as family; brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. Paul starts with widows. It seems that this was both a ministry position and a charitable ministry. There were some widows with no means of support and the church had an obligation to help them. There were also widows that had responsibilities in the church (the list) and they were to be paid as well. The principle for putting women on this list was commitment to the LORD and to the task and that they were already doing it before they were widows and without payment. This idea is a good rule for any church office: no one should be paid to do something in the church that they weren't already doing before they were paid. The second half of the chapter moves on to elders, church leadership. Timothy is cautioned to be careful in appointing and removing elders. Elders should only be ordained after some time is spent discerning their character and should only be removed with due process. Those that lead well should be paid out of the church's resources so that they can devote more time to ministry and should be respected.

The early church was not unique in recognizing the ministry potential of elderly women...Their duties were wide ranging, including praying for the church, teaching the basics of the faith, hospitality, caring for the sick, fasting, prophecy, and caring for the needs of destitute widows and orphans. 1 Timothy 5.1-16, 101

It is important to notice where Paul put his emphasis. Today the position of leadership is often elevated—especially preaching and teaching. Paul’s emphasis is on the function of leadership. The key terms are “well” and “hard,” which Paul places first in the word order for emphasis. 1 Timothy 5.17-25, 106

In closing, Paul urges Timothy to live and lead as "God's man." He gives instructions to slaves that continue the family focus. Slaves are to serve as serving God. This is not because Paul is in favor of slavery, but the best way to deal with it is a loving response. The "brother-sister" focus ultimately undermines slavery at its core, but Paul is concerned that Christians' behavior should never impede the progress of the gospel. Paul then turns toward the rich (probably the slave owners) and rebukes those (probably the false teachers) who are focused on wealth. Instead the focus should be on godliness. "Self-sufficiency is the ability to supply the necessities of life without help from others. Godly sufficiency is to be content with the bare minimum." (115) The purpose of wealth is to provide resources to share with those in need and to accomplish the mission of the church. Ultimately, everything comes to us by God's grace. Thus, leaders must be focused on godliness and on teaching the church with their lives and words to have that same focus.

Spiritual realities supersede worldly ones. Although the social reality is that of master—slave, the spiritual reality is that of brothers and sisters. In Christ the master and the slave are family and as such to be valued. Family feeling must carry the day. And within the family structure the operative phrase is “work all the harder.” A slave’s service is not merely to be adequate but the best it can be (6:2a). 1 Timothy 6.1-2, 111

Self-sufficiency is the ability to supply the necessities of life without help from others. Godly sufficiency is to be content with the bare minimum...It is the love of money and not money per se that is the issue...It is not the rich person per se that Paul targets but the discontented—people who set their heart on material wealth. It is true that Jesus taught that the rich have greater difficulty entering God’s kingdom . But the fool is the person who puts his or her trust in riches. 1 Timothy 6.2-10, 115

There is an alternative track to aggressively pursue. “Pursue” is a word used of a predator stalking its prey. The picture is one of a single-minded focus. The prey in sight is “righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” Each of the nouns lacks an article, indicating that character qualities are in view. All the qualities are what leaders of God’s flock should exemplify (see 4:12). 1 Timothy 6.11-21, 118

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Memorial Service For Pastor Hiob

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IMG_20180714_115140010Last Saturday Joyce and I had the privilege of participating in the memorial service for Pastor Hiob Ngirachemoi of the Palauan Evangelical Church in Sacramento. As was said many times there, it was a sad occasion because we will miss Hiob and all he did, but it is also a happy one because we know he is with the Lord now and we can celebrate what the Lord did through him while he was with us here. We had a chance to minister to Leah, Hiob’s wife (pictured above), and ask for your prayers for her and her children as they adjust to him being gone. I was able to do a eulogy for Pastor Hiob. There is a video of it here. Hiob was a good friend and valuable colleague and he will be greatly missed.

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We also got to see many of our friends from Palau that we have missed so much. As I continue to recover from the cancer and chemo we are planning to begin working with the Micronesian communities in the USA and with Liebenzell Mission to provide support and training for these churches. Joyce and I are looking forward to renewing these relationships as the Lord allows us to do that. We’d appreciate your prayers that we would be sensitive to God’s direction on these next steps in our life.

Structure and Message of Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes Chart

Message of Ecclesiastes

Human efforts to independently understand and master life, despite our limits and the mysteries of life, are foolish. We need to give up our false hope of independent existence and our illusion of fully understanding and/or controlling God, and enjoy life as a gift from the Creator and submit to His authority.

Live joyously and responsibly under the authority of God.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Reading Through First Timothy #1, (Chapters 1-3)

cornerstone tim to hebI am reading a new commentary series as I begin my devotional study of the next few New Testament letters. I am reading  Paul’s first letter to Timothy accompanied by The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. The 1 Timothy commentary is written by Linda Belleville. 1 Timothy, the first of Paul’s pastoral epistles is written to Timothy, who Paul left in Ephesus to pastor the difficult church there.  I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

1 Timothy is written by Paul to Timothy (and the church in Ephesus) to deal with a crisis brought on by false teachers who denied the inclusiveness of the gospel of grace and tried to add other mystical, ritualistic or legalistic requirements to participation and leadership in the church. This had set the church at odds and made the worship services a place of conflict. Paul commands and authorizes Timothy to deal with the situation, remove the unrepentant false teachers and reestablish servant leadership and public worship that focused on and glorified God. Timothy will do this effectively, by being an example of godliness, and by teaching and gently, but firmly, leading others to the truth.

Timothy’s task at Ephesus was to command certain persons not to teach false doctrines any longer. Things apparently had not been going well, for Paul begins by urging Timothy to stay put in Ephesus and deal decisively with the false teachers (1 Tim 1:3–6). That this was Paul’s primary reason for writing is clear from the fact that he bypassed the normal letter-writing convention of a thanksgiving section and instead got right down to business. It is also evident from how often the topic of false teaching surfaces in the letter. It consumes roughly 35 percent of Paul’s direct attention and colors much of the rest. 1 Timothy Intro, 9

Paul launches into the false teachers after a brief greeting. He tells Timothy to take a strong public stand against the false teaching that would add to the gospel to the point of removing them from the church if they will not repent. A false gospel inevitably leads to a bad lifestyle, disunity in the church and a poor witness to the community. 

There is no pitting of law against gospel here. The notion of moral standards for the Christian life is wholly consonant with the gospel...Paul defines the law’s legitimate use as that of a social restraint “for the lawless.” Its function is not that of a source for idle speculation or mythmaking, as the Ephesian teachers were making it out to be. Its ethical norms are wholly appropriate as boundary markers for the society of any day or age. 1 Timothy 1.1-11, 35

Christ picked the worst so that he might display his best (“great patience”), thereby encouraging belief in him and the receipt of eternal life. Paul, as a result, became the prototype or “prime example” for all future believers. He was not merely an example but a determinative forerunner. The pattern is an important one; for the outcome is no less than “eternal life” (v. 16). 1 Timothy 1.12-17, 38

The implication is that moral collapse invariably leads to a crisis of faith. Sound ethics and sound theology go hand in hand. When one falters, the other is not far behind. 1 Timothy 1.18-20, 40

In chapter 2 Paul provides some instruction for the administration of the public worship service. It seems that there was open conflict between men and women, and between combatting doctrines, during the worship time. Paul urges the public prayer to be a seeking of God for the church and for the outside community rather than an assertion of rights. Men's prayers should be holy and peaceful, while he urges the women to dress and behave with modesty and to avoid offense. Women are given freedom to learn but not to be domineering teachers (as the priestesses in the Ephesian Artemis cult were), but, as with all teachers, to teach as properly instructed in apostolic doctrine and with humility. 

The target audience for mediation is all-embracing: “He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” But the route to freedom is wholly exclusive. Salvation comes solely through this mediator and none other. 1 Timothy 2.1-7, 47

Proper demeanor of a worship leader is a theological concern. It is always wrong for a worship leader to flaunt wealth (even pretend wealth). It is also theologically improper to behave in a way that distracts from worshiping God. The better “look” in Paul’s opinion is doing good—especially deeds of charity. 1 Timothy 2.8-10, 54

In the Greek, we see a “neither—nor” construction: “neither teach nor domineer” ...This means that women here are not prohibited from roles that involve teaching men. The issue is rather the manner in which they teach—that is, they should not teach in a dictatorial or domineering way. 1 Timothy 2.11-15, 55

Then in chapter 3, Paul gives instruction for training and appointing new leaders. Overseers (pastors, elders) must have integrity and a good reputation in their family life, character and self-controlled lifestyles. Their lives and possessions must be given over to serving Christ. They also should able and trained to teach. Male and female deacons, likewise, should be servants of good character with good reputations in the community. They must lead the church family by examples loving service. This is important because this is how the church will fulfill its mission to be God’s family where Jesus is lived out and the truth is defended and upheld in lifestyle and word. 

The specific duties of an overseer are not spelled out. Instead, Paul targets qualifications. They are not qualifications, however, of which today’s society would immediately think. There is no mention of education or degrees, no talk of job experience, and no request for formal references. Instead, the key issues are character, family, and lifestyle. 1 Timothy 3.1-7, 66–67

By “do well” Paul was not talking about skill competency but what we today call customer-service excellence. For those who excel in serving, there are two job perks. The first job perk is increased respect in the eyes of the community of believers and greater esteem from those they serve. The second job perk is increased confidence...Christ Jesus is the object of all faith and the raison d’etre of all Christian service. 1 Timothy 3.8-13, 76

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets” (Eph 2:20)—that “base” of firm support on which the “pillar” is thrust upward to steady the truth against the storms of heterodoxy and pagan idolatry. The job of every local congregation is to be that unshakable monument for the “truth”—to “Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, till all the world adore His sacred Name." 1 Timothy 3.14-16, 79

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Structure and Message of First Thessalonians

1 thess. color chart

Message of 1 Thessalonians

God will produce holiness in you as stand faithfully on his promises, allow him to love through you and focus on the sure hope of his return, that assures us that we will be with Him and each other forever.

Brief Outline of 1 Thessalonians

  • Past: God’s work in the lives of His faithful people is evidenced by holy changed lives. 1:1-3:13

    • The changed lives of the Thessalonians are evidence of the holiness that God produces through faith 1:1-10

    • The ministry of Paul‘s missionary team is a good example of holy living and holy ministry. 2:1-12

    • Faithful Response to God‘s Word Produces Holy Living and effects the world. 2:13-20

    • Holiness matures as believers minister together, endure hardship together and pray together 3:1-13

  • Present: salvation produces a growing holiness (likeness to the character of Jesus) 4:1-12

    • Our lifestyles should reflect a growing desire to please God by being what He made us to be. 1-2

    • Salvation should produce growing holiness, growing love and growing contentment 3-12

  • Future: The future hope of salvation produces holiness and endurance now. 4:13-5:28

    • The hope of the return of Jesus should comfort us and encourage us to love and serve Christ. 4:13-18

    • The Day of the Lord should warn believers to be vigilant, self-controlled and prepared for eternity. 5:1-11

    • The hope of Christ’s coming should encourage alertness and present living focused on eternity. 5:12-28

Structure and Message of Lamentations

Lamentations Structure

Message of Lamentations

The ultimate end of sin and unfaithfulness to covenant is total and complete destruction, but there is hope for the repentant remnant because of the character of God who keeps His promises with His people.

Theology of Lamentations

  • The Ultimate Consequence of Sin is Total Destruction.
  • The Experience of Covenant Blessing, and favor and the responsibility that goes with that, make one more liable for judgment, not less
  • Judgment brings affliction to the faithful minority, but there is always hope because of God's character and covenant.
  • Sin can remove one from being under God’s protection and thus bring destruction and chaos.
  • The discipline of God is painful and has effects even beyond the unfaithful generation.