Monthly Archives: January 2014

On to the Super Bowl!

The field is set for Super Bowl XLVIII.

2014 Super Bowl

Denver Broncos versus Seattle Seahawks. #1 Offense against #1 Defense. My hometown team versus the team  in the city where I spent 1/3 of my life. A savvy veteran, Peyton Manning, against an up and coming star, Russell Wilson. Let the hype begin!

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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in NFL, Seattle Seahawks, Sports


So you want to be a leader

When it comes to choosing leaders, we vacillate between wanting people of strong character and someone who can get the job done. We are torn between wanting those with ethical standards and those with a charismatic personality.

In the pressure to fill leadership positions in the community, the world focuses on the outward signs of success—charismatic personality, business skills, wealth, and influence. However, we cannot use the same criteria to choose leaders in the church. As the apostle Paul explains, the church will rise and fall according to the character of her leaders.

In 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, Paul lays out the qualifications for leaders in the local church. He explains what to look for in a prospective candidate for elder.

Timothy is pastoring an older congregation in the city of Ephesus. Titus is trying to establish a new work among the people of Crete. One is in a big city while the other is on an island outpost. Yet Paul tells both to look for the same character qualities in a prospective elder.

These two passages describe 21 character qualities that an elder is to demonstrate. Some are straightforward and self-explanatory while others require some explanation. At the top of the list is the overarching quality of “blameless” or “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6, 7). He’s not perfect, but there is no obvious defect in his character. There is no sin that taints his character or puts his reputation into question.

The rest of the qualities fall into four broad categories—personal life, family life, spiritual life, and social life.

Personal life

  • He should desire to lead (1 Timothy 3:1). Rather than being forced into leadership, it is something he strives after and reaches for.
  • He must demonstrate self-control (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). He is to be temperate, well balanced, calm, careful, and steady; not self-indulgent. 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 sober minded (1 Timothy 3:2). He is to be prudent, serious about spiritual things, not frivolous.
  • He must be well-organized (1 Timothy 3:2). He is to be respectable and live a well-ordered life, free from behavior or habits that would embarrass and discredit Christ’s reputation.
  • He must be free from the love of money (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). He is not to have his attention fixed on monetary rewards; or to be preoccupied with amassing material possessions or involved in “shady” business practices.
  • He must not be self-pleasing (Titus 1:7). He is not to be self-willed, arrogant, or overbearing. He is not to be a headstrong, stubborn man who demands his way without regard to others.
  • He must love what is good (Titus 1:8). He is to be devoted to all that is good and beneficial. He avoids what is questionable and evil.

Family life

  • He must be a one-woman man (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). He is solely devoted to his wife. A single man is not excluded, but the qualification speaks of his moral purity.
  • He must maintain a godly family (1Timothy 3:4-5; Titus 1:6). 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 exemplary home life, with his children being respectful and under control.

Spiritual life

  • He must be deeply devoted to a growing walk with God (Titus 1:8). His words, actions, and spirit exhibit a character that is holy and devout.
  • He must not be a new convert (1 Timothy 3:6). Rather, he must be a mature believer.
  • He is committed to the Scriptures (Titus 1:9). He bases his life on the truth of the Bible.
  • He must be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9). He must be skilled in communicating God’s Word and have the integrity to make his teaching believable.

Social life

  • He must be hospitable (1Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). He is to show kindness to strangers; to be generous and caring toward others, using what he has to serve them.
  • He must not be given to wine (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). He is not to have the lifestyle of a drinker or be characterized by a belligerent, negative attitude that is associated with drunkenness.
  • He must not be a fighter (1Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). 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 (1 Timothy 3:3). He is to be patient, considerate, genial, forbearing and gracious. He must not seek to domineer others.
  • He must not be quarrelsome (1 Timothy 3:3). He is to be a peacemaker, not contentious or argumentative. He is not to be insistent on his rights. He is to keep his temper under control.
  • He must be well respected by non Christians (1Timothy 3:7). 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 be just (Titus 1:8). He is to be upright in his dealings with men. His conduct in relation to others must conform to the standard of right.

Based on the list of leadership qualities, I think there are two major implications for churches and Christians today. One is that we need to be intentional about training leaders. The second is that we need to live with a sense of intentionality if we aspire to leadership.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 19, 2014. It is part of a series on 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


How firm is your faith?

Confident faithBook Review: Confident Faith: Building a firm foundation for your beliefs, by Mark Mittelberg

How confident are you in your spiritual beliefs? Are you intimidated by doubt? Does a strong objection send you off course? Can you defend your faith?

Those questions lie at the heart of Mark Mittelberg’s book, Confident Faith, a softcover revision of his 2008 book, Choosing your faith. His goal is to help a person develop a wise, spiritual faith, “a commitment of trust based on solid, though incomplete, evidence that we’re believing in the right things and moving in the best direction.” He advocates developing a

confident faith—which is belief and action based on good logic and evidence, trustworthy revelation, and sometimes substantiated intuition, credentialed authority, and tested tradition. Confident faith moves in the same direction indicated by the facts, though it’s a commitment or step that takes you further than the evidence alone can carry you.

The book starts out with a “Faith Path Questionnaire” designed to help the reader discover his/her current approach to faith. He then devotes several chapters which explain the six basic approaches to faith, or “faith paths.” They are relativism—whatever works; tradition—what we’ve always been taught; authoritarian—what we’ve told to believe; intuition—what we feel; mysticism—what we think God said; and evidential—what logic and evidence point to. The next section explains “twenty arrows of truth” or twenty reasons why science, logic, the Bible, history, and experience all point towards spiritual truth. He concludes the book by analyzing ten barriers which stand in the way of confident faith.

The book would be a helpful resource for a seeker or a young believer. It would help them take an honest look at what they think and believe.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Apologetics, Books


Turn your resolutions into habits

How do you turn a New Years resolution into a life-changing habit? That is the question posed by the folks at the Disney Institute in a helpful article entitled, “Habits, Not Resolutions: How to Break the New Year Cycle.”

Every year, Americans resolve to do something new, different, better in the upcoming year. Yet, only 8% succeed. Why? Maybe we tend to treat our resolution as another item on an already full to-do list.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with to-do lists, lets try something different this year. Lets turn just one New Year’s resolution into a habit.

The focus of the article is on how to make creativity a daily habit. But it got me to thinking, “What if we adapted the approach to spiritual growth? How could we use the principles to promote Bible study and prayer, giving, service, sharing our faith, or any other spiritual discipline?”

It is a good question to ponder, and hopefully will prompt some life changing thoughts and habits.



A perspective on tithing

On Tithing – Tim Keller

There have been times when people have come to me as a pastor, and asked about “tithing,” giving away a tenth of their annual income. They notice that in the Old Testament there are many clear commands that believers should give away 10 percent. But in the New Testament, specific, quantitative requirements for giving are less prominent. They often asked me, “You don’t think that now, in the New Testament, believers are absolutely required to give away ten percent, do you?” I shake my head no, and they give a sigh of relief. But then I quickly add, “I’ll tell you why you don’t see the tithing requirement laid out clearly in the New Testament. Think. Have we received more of God’s revelation, truth, and grace than the Old Testament believers, or less?” Usually there is uncomfortable silence. “Are we more ‘debtors to grace’ than they were, or less? Did Jesus ‘tithe’ his life and blood to save us or did he give it all?”

Tithing is a minimum standard for Christian believers. We certainly wouldn’t want to be in a position of giving away less of our income than those who had so much less of an understanding of what God did to save them.

Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p. 62

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Posted by on January 16, 2014 in Finances, Quotes, Theology


Crazy Hair Night at Awana

First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, ushered in a new style of hair care with Crazy Hair Night at Awana. Another night of fun and Bible learning.

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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in First Central Bible Church, Fun, Photos


A touch of irony

“He hoped and prayed that there wasn’t an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn’t an afterlife.” – Douglas Adams


Shoe - atheists prayers answered

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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Fun, Theology


Integrity can make or break your preaching

“Unholiness in a preacher’s life will either stop his mouth from reproving, or the people’s ears from receiving.”

William Gurnell



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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Character, Integrity, Preaching, Quotes


Rooting interest

Having lived in various parts of the USA, I have a rooting interest in 3 out of the 4 teams in the NFC & AFC Championship games this weekend.

2014 NFL final four

Denver is my hometown. Despite the fact I haven’t lived there since I was 10 years old, I still have an affinity for the Broncos.

New England is where I live now. Since we’ve always tried to follow the local teams, I want to see the Patriots do well.

Seattle is where I spent one-third of my life. Haven’t suffered through many lean years without jumping off the bandwagon, we are certainly Seahawks fans now that they are good.

However, I just can’t get behind San Francisco. The 49ers were rivals of the Los Angeles Rams when I lived in L.A. They antagonized the Cowboys when we lived in Dallas. They are now the chief rivals of the Seahawks.

Go Seahawks! Go Broncos! Go Patriots! Should be a good weekend of football.


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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Seattle Seahawks, Sports


Who Leads The Church?

Who Leads The Church? The Elders serve as Shepherd Leaders.

What if the NFL playoffs were played according to “The unofficially official rules of Calvinball”? Calvinball is the game popularized by the great theologian Calvin . . . and Hobbes.

When I began my doctoral studies, I was in the first class of a brand new program. The graduation requirements seemed like they were changing every semester. The completion of the degree felt like I was aiming at a moving target. In hindsight, I was playing Calvinball without even knowing it.

There are times when we play a sanctified version of Calvinball in the church. We recruit people to serve as a teacher or a leader of some sort, but we don’t give them a job description, or at best, we leave it very fuzzy. We simply hand her a curriculum guide, point him to the boardroom, and tell the individual that all they need to do is “Love Jesus and Love people.”

When you come to the New Testament, you discover three different terms used interchangeably in Acts 20:17-28 and 1 Peter 5:1-2 that refer to the same church leaders. The Greek word for pastor or shepherd, “poimen,” refers to the attitude of the leader. The word for elder, “presbuteros,” refers to the character of the leader. The word for overseer, “episcopos,” refers to the task of the leader. The leaders of the church have the task of oversight. They are chosen on the basis of their character. They carry out their assignment with the loving concern of a shepherd.

Pastors and elders are not corporate executives, CEOs, or advisers. As keepers of the sheep, elders are to feed, lead, protect, care, and model godliness for the church.

The task of the elder includes:

  • Feeding the Flock. The elders are responsible for teaching biblical truth (Acts 6:1-7) and equipping people with the knowledge and skills so they can serve well (Ephesians 4:11-16).
  • Leading the Flock. To shepherd a nation or any group of people means to lead or govern. To shepherd a local church includes leadership, oversight, and management (1 Peter 5:1-2; Acts 11:29-30).
  • Protecting the Flock. A major part of the elders’ work is to protect the local church from false teachers (Acts 20:28-31). Just as fathers are responsible for disciplining children who are unruly and rebellious, so elders are responsible as “multiple fathers” in the “church family” to discipline believers who are determined to willfully violate the will of God (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
  • Caring for the Flock. Elders must be available to meet the needs of their flock. This means visiting the sick, comforting the bereaved; praying for the ill (James 5:14); strengthening the weak; praying for all the sheep, even those who are difficult; visiting new members; providing counsel for couples who are engaged, married, or divorcing; and managing the many day-to-day details of the inner life of the congregation. Rather than try to do it all themselves, the elders need to delegate many of the practical mercy needs of the congregation to the deacons (Acts 6:1-7).
  • Modeling for the flock. Elders serve as godly examples for the members of the church (1 Timothy 4:12-13; 1 Peter 5:3).
  • Shared leadership. Pastoral oversight of the churches was a team effort—not the sole responsibility of one person.

1 Timothy 5:17-18 explains that the congregation is to honor their elders. Those who are gifted in teaching and spend the time to do so should receive double honor or be paid for their service. Granting honor or paying a pastor or elder for their service is the easy part of the equation. The more difficult task is to obey and submit to their authority (Hebrews 13:17).

In the mid seventeenth century, the rule of Oliver Cromwell in Great Britain began with the execution of Charles I and continued with a ruthless agenda to rid England of any vestige of the monarchy. Targeted in the aftermath of the civil war were the Anglicans who were tied closely to the king who had served as head of the church. Cromwell emptied the monasteries, removed baptismal fonts from the churches, defamed the clergy, and did everything in his power to disengage their place and influence in the culture. If you were an Anglican pastor, these were tough times to be in the religion business.

In the face of such times there were some who were undaunted. An inspiring but little known inscription hidden away in Harold Church, Staunton, England reads like this: “In the year of 1653, when all things sacred were throughout the nation destroyed or profaned, this church was built to the glory of God by Sir Robert Shirley, whose singular praise it was to have done the best things in the worst times.”

While we may not live in a time of civil war, the church and especially its leaders are under attack today. Their authority has been dismissed and their honor disregarded.

We need to get back to a biblical understanding of the role and responsibility of the elders. A true biblical eldership is not a businesslike committee. It’s a biblically qualified council of men that jointly pastors the local church. The elders are charged with protecting, feeding, leading, and caring for our needs. We need to make their task easier by placing ourselves under their authority.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 12, 2014. It is part of a series in 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.