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Category Archives: 1 Timothy

What is the secret of effective ministry?

On the evening of June 11, 2017, I had the privilege of preaching the message for Jack Gilbert’s ordination service at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. The synopsis of my message and the challenge I gave to Jack follows below.

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What is the secret of effective ministry? Several passages of Scripture have been read that all touch on this question. Isaiah 6:1-8 tells us that effective ministry begins with a great vision of God and a great vision for God. Colossians 1:24-29 informs us that ministry is a stewardship that sometimes requires suffering. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 instructs us to do the work of ministry–preaching, teaching, encouraging, rebuking, and sharing the gospel.

In addition, effective ministry requires balanced growth in all areas of life. If we want to impact the lives of people, we need to grow in our knowledge of God and his word, deepen and mature in our character, sharpen and hone our skills for ministry, and use our spiritual gifts to impact others. Effective ministry requires balanced growth in our content, character, competence, and call. That’s the message of 1 Timothy 4:6-16.

The Secret of Effective MinistryEffective ministry requires growth in our …

Content (6-10). We need to grow in our knowledge of God and his word. Each one of us should have a plan to deepen our knowledge of the Bible and theology. We might consider reading books on church history and Christian classics.

Character (12). Though in his 30’s, Timothy felt intimidated by the task of leadership. Rather than focus on his age, Paul encouraged him to be an example of godly character. We are to model Christlikeness to all those around us. We should demonstrate measurable growth in obedience, honesty, integrity, humility, courage, and the fruit of the Spirit. We should grow in our ability to withstand temptation.

Competence (13). Paul encouraged Timothy to become proficient in reading and teaching the Scriptures. As Christ followers, we should develop a plan to sharpen our skills in Bible study and prayer. We should hone our ability to share our faith and disciple others. We should seek to grow in our ability to lead and manage our time. We should become more proficient in teaching and evangelism so that we can share what we believe with others.

Call (14). In our day, we have placed an emphasis on discovering our spiritual gifts. In contrast, Paul instructed Timothy not to neglect using his spiritual gift. Each of us should seek to use our spiritual gifts for maximum impact. We should have a better understanding of who God designed us to be, including identifying lifelong goals, core values, and a sense of purpose.

Effective servants are lifelong learners (15-16). They practice, focus, immerse, and persist in pursuing growth. They keep in mind that the goal is progress, not perfection. People should be able to see growth and change in all areas of our lives.

The Secret of Effective MinistryThis passage places the responsibility for personal growth squarely on our individual shoulders. We are to become lifelong learners and grow in our content, character, competence, and call. Other passages of Scripture reveal that the Holy Spirit assists us in this process. He illumines the truth and guides us as we study. He deepens our character and helps us mature. He equips us and anoints us so we can become more effective in using our skills. He gives us spiritual gifts and confirms our sense of call. Growth is a partnership where we work together with God to become more effective.The Secret of Effective Ministry

 

 

 

The faith of a child

On Sunday, I preached on “How to be rich” from 1 Timothy 6:17-21. I emphasized that genuine wealth is measured by what we give, not what we keep. It’s not a matter of what we have, but what we do with what we have.

That evening, one mom said my message convicted her ten-year-old son. He received some money for his recent birthday and went to the LEGO Store to spend it. He was upset that he didn’t have enough money to buy what he really wanted. His parents gave him “THE TALK,” that he should be thankful for what he had and not complain about what he didn’t have.

After church, he told his mother, “I needed to hear that message.”

Would that all of us had the same level of spiritual sensitivity!

 

How To Be Rich

How To Be RichI never considered myself as rich. I grew up in a decidedly middle class home with blue collar parents. Dad finished his working career as an elementary school custodian. Mom ran the bookstore at a local high school. Outside of an older cousin, I was the first member of my family to finish college. After marriage, my wife and I lived in a succession of apartments. We eventually were able to buy a modest home because of the generosity of friends who helped with the down payment.

I was not rich by any stretch of the imagination … until I went on my first short-term ministry trip to Russia. I learned that public school teachers received a salary of $20/month. Most lived in a three room apartment—kitchen, living room, bedroom—three, count ‘em, rooms. Most of the pastors we met were bivocational. They worked a full time job to pay the bills and served the church for free.

On one ministry trip to Simferopol, Ukraine, we stayed in a hotel that offered 30 minutes of water every other day. Since we didn’t know when the 30 minutes would happen, we dropped what we were doing and took showers and filled buckets when we heard the announcement about water. On a ministry trip to Nigeria, the country was on strike and electricity was intermittent at best.

Once I discovered how the rest of the world lived, I felt very rich indeed. I also realized an obligation to use my resources to help others. That is the message Paul communicates in 1 Timothy 6:17-21. Each one of us is entrusted with two significant resources—material treasures and the truth. We are to use both for the cause of Christ and his kingdom. The issue of riches is not determined by what we have, but rather by what we do with what we have. Genuine wealth is found in what we give, not what we keep.

How To Be RichIn 1 Timothy 6:7-10, Paul addressed those who wanted to be rich. In 6:17-19, he addresses those who are already rich and instructs them to be good stewards of their treasures. Like me, you may not consider yourself rich. But if you live in North America, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, or New Zealand, you are a millionaire compared to the rest of the people on planet Earth.

As such, we are to be humble, not haughty. Rather than trust in our riches, we are to trust in him who richly provides. While we can and should enjoy what God gives us, we are also to use resources for ministry. God specifically tells us to “…do good … be rich in good works … be generous … ready to share.” We are to invest in eternity, getting the Word of God into people. By doing these things, we can truly enjoy the abundant life that God promises.

By combining verses 7-10 and 17-19, we can gain a proper perspective on money. God commands us to be generous, not because he wants our money, but because he doesn’t want our money to have us.

Verses 20-21 point out that we are to be good stewards of the truth. We are to guard the deposit that was entrusted to us. There are several different ways we can do this. We can set up a guard post and appoint a watchman to make sure false doctrine doesn’t creep in. We can put the truth behind a lock and key to make sure no one adds legalism to the gospel. We can use the truth as a compass to guide our lives. We can safely pass the baton of truth to the next generation. We can also guard the truth by avoiding irreverent babbling and contradictions of false knowledge, which The Message calls “talk show religion.” This will help us stay on the right path instead of veering off into a ditch.

How To Be RichHow can we invest in eternity? We can give generously of our time, talents, and treasures. We can use some of our vacation time to go on a short-term ministry trip or teach during a VBS program. We can volunteer to help out on a service project. We can help fund a ministry trip or service project as well.

If you want to be truly rich, invest in eternity. Genuine wealth is found in what we give, not what we keep.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on May 18, 2014. It is the final installment in a series in 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Fight For What Matters Most

What is the most important thing in life? Family? Travel? Making $$? Reputation? Status? Leisure? Vacation home? Playing video games? Retirement? Freedom from responsibility? If someone examined your checkbook and calendar, what would they conclude is most important to you?

As Christ followers, we are to fight for what matters most. According to 1 Timothy 6:11-16, Christ followers are known by what they flee from, follow after, fight for, fasten on to, and are faithful to.

There are times when we are to stand and fight. There are other times when we are to run for our lives. When we come face to face with the temptation of materialism (9-10), we are to flee (11a). Some stand so close to temptation that they have chalk on their toes. Others flee temptation but leave a forwarding address.

Rather than merely fleeing from temptation, we are to run to God. In a culture that ends conversations with “Take it easy,” and “Don’t work too hard,” Christ followers are to actively pursue six spiritual virtues (11b). Righteousness refers to our horizontal relationship with people while godliness focuses on our vertical relationship with God. Faith aims at deepening our beliefs while love helps us put it into practice with others. Steadfastness keeps us going forward when we’d like to quit while gentleness helps us respond properly when life doesn’t go our way.

In addition to fleeing temptation and following after virtue, we are to fight for what matters most (12a). “Fight” is used both of military and athletic contests and speaks of the concentration, discipline, conviction, and effort needed to win. We are to fight for the faith—the body of Christian truth, the contents of the Word of God.

We are also to fasten on to eternal life (12b). We need the same kind of passion that Charlie Brown has for baseball. Whether it is raining or snowing, whether he just gave up nine home runs, he still gathers his team and wants to play another game. Rather than believe that eternal life starts when we die, we need to understand that it starts when we trust Christ for salvation. Consequently, we need to get a grip of the reality of eternal life so that we might live and minister in light of eternity.

Paul says that a Christ follower is known by what they flee from, follow after, fight for, and fasten on to. They are also known by what they are faithful to (13-14). We are to guard, protect, and proclaim the truth of God’s Word.

Slide 1Paul closes this passage with a doxology of praise to God (13-16). We praise God because he gives life to all things, Christ will return soon, he is blessed, he reigns as Sovereign King and Lord, he is immortal, and he dwells in transcendent holiness.

Rather than be distracted by minor issues, rather than live a purposeless existence, let’s fight for what matters most. Let’s flee sin, follow after virtue, fight for the faith, fasten on to eternal life today, and stay faithful to the Word of God.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on May 11, 2014. It is part of a series on 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Don’t get chalk on your toes

Slide 1

“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2014 in 1 Timothy, Quotes, Scripture

 

A Tale of Two Teachers

Some passages of Scripture are more challenging than others. Some are difficult to understand because we are not familiar with the history, culture, or geography in which the passage was written. Some leave us scratching our heads because they contain difficult words, phrases, or instructions that are hard to understand and/or put into practice. The passages I find most challenging are the ones that are personal, where I see myself reflected in the passage, or perhaps where I can see the instructions or warnings lived out in someone’s life.

1 Timothy 6:3-10 is one of the latter passages for me. I cannot read this passage without thinking of my best friend in college. I met Mike at a camp during the summer before my junior year in college. We connected on a heart-to-heart level and became inseparable friends. We took classes together, double-dated, shared rides, served, prayed, and worshipped together. Wherever we went, it was Mike & Mark. I was the best man in his wedding and he was in mine.

A few years later, we both went to seminary—Mike to Denver and me to Dallas. Mike wanted to buy a house for his wife. They wanted to start a family. He wanted to buy a boat for the family to go water skiing. Mike starting working more and going to class less. He eventually took a job as a salesman. He boasted about his company car and travel schedule. He began to drink to connect with clients. As time went on, he had an affair, left his family, divorced his wife, and said he was never a believer. He stopped returning my phone calls and refused to meet to talk. Mike’s life proved to be a case study of the downward spiral of materialism explained by the apostle Paul some 2,000 years ago.

In 1 Timothy 6:3-10, Paul adds to his portrait of false teachers. He describes the content of their teaching, their character, goals, motives, and end result. By way of contrast, he helps us to better understand what a true teacher looks like. He explains that true teachers present sound doctrine which focuses on Christ, builds up the church, and promotes godly living.

To help me wrap my head around the concepts, I put together the following chart.

Topic False teachers True teachers
Content (3) Teach a different doctrine

False teachers base their ideas on experience rather than Scripture. They encourage their followers to discover the God within. They gloss over sin. They focus on human potential rather than relying on God’s power.

Teach sound doctrine

Throughout his first letter to his protégé, Timothy, Paul encourages Timothy to teach sound doctrine (1:10; 4:6; 6:2b). Sound doctrine comes directly from Scripture and views the Bible as the full and final authority.

Minimize Christ

They teach “Jesus plus … good works, right living, legalistic practices, asceticism, tradition, etc., etc.” According to these teachers, Christ is not enough.

Focus on Christ (1:12-16)

Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus Christ is sufficient.

Promote worldliness

Manmade tradition, legalistic practices, trendy ideas, and self-help practices result in a “man-centered religion” and worldly lifestyle.

Promote godliness

Only a life based on Christ and Scripture will seek to pursue holy living.

Character (4) Arrogant in their ignorance

They are “puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.” The NEB calls them “pompous ignoramuses.”

An example of godly character (4:12)

They demonstrate humility and godliness in their attitudes and actions.

Crave controversy & quarrels

Paul uses a medical term to describe an unhealthy desire for conflict. Rather than seeking common ground and resolution, they love to wind people up and get them at each other’s throats.

Seek unity
Goal / purpose (4b-5b) The complete breakdown of human relationships—envy, dissension, slander, suspicion, fraction.

Wherever they go, they leave wreckage in their wake.

Help establish and strengthen believers so they can stand firm (2:13-17).

Rather than leave people weaker, true teachers seek to build up and strengthen the church.

A depraved mind deprived of the truth.  
Motives (5c-10) Greed—use religion for profit (5c). However, they don’t find satisfaction.

Church history is filled with examples of greedy religious hucksters—from Simon the Magician (Acts 8:9-24) to the indulgences of the Middle Ages to the televangelists of our day and age. Rather than bringing contentment, their practices fuel their desire for more.

Personal peace is found in an intimate relationship with God (5).
Materialistic—life consists in the accumulation of stuff (7-8) Proper perspective—wealth doesn’t last and doesn’t bring contentment (7-8)
MORE! (9-10) Remain faithful (10)

Those who follow true teachers stand firm and don’t wander away from the truth.

End result (9-10) The downward spiral of materialism—temptation, trap, ruin, destruction, pain

We cannot fool ourselves in thinking that we will be the exception to the pattern.

Recognize the danger; resist the temptation; spared from grief

They pay attention to the warning signs and learn vicariously from the failure of others.

Money + possessions ≠ satisfaction Godliness + contentment = peace (6)

After reading through Paul’s description of false teachers, I developed five questions to use when considering new ideas and religious teachings:

  • Is it true to Scripture?
  • Is Christ at the center?
  • Does it unite the church?
  • Does it promote godly living?
  • What is the end result?

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on May 4, 2014. It is part of a series in 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
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Fight the good fight of faith

Slide 1

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2014 in 1 Timothy, Photos

 

Faith@Work

“I Owe, I Owe, It’s Off To Work I Go,” is the attitude of the average person in America when it comes to working. In the typical work week, we spend more time wishing than we do working. We figure it’s a good day if we did nothing but still got paid.

Faith@Work  Turn Work into Worship  Dilbert - I did nothing and still got paid

What a contrast to what the apostle Paul teaches in 1 Timothy 6:1-2. As Christ followers, we should be the very best employees. If we fail to give our best efforts on the job, we risk the credibility of our faith and we rob our employer of possible blessings.

This passage is not the easiest to understand. Paul lived in the first century and we reside in the 21st century. He wrote from the Roman Empire and we read it in Massachusetts in the USA (at least I do). Paul addressed slaves and we are employees. We need to discover the principles that can serve as a bridge between our two cultures.

The principle we discover in this passage is that we are to work hard and treat our employers with respect and honor. Rather than viewing work as a curse, we need to remember it is a sacred duty assigned to mankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). In addition, all of us are called to serve regardless of our social, educational, economic, racial, or gender status (Galatians 5:13).

While the principle is clear, it raises two questions as to implementation. “What if my employer is an unbeliever?” is the first question that comes to mind. The answer is that we need to remember that regardless of whose company logo and signature is on our paycheck, we are serving Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:22-24). Whether your supervisor is as devious as Mr. Burns, as dimwitted as the pointy haired boss in Dilbert, or somewhere in between, we are ultimately serving Christ. Because they are in a position of authority, we need to honor our employer, regardless of how he or she treats us (1 Peter 2:17-18).

When we don’t work hard, when we don’t give our best efforts on the job, when we choose to dishonor our boss or employer, we put our faith at risk. Paul says we are to honor our employers so that “the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.” If we are as lazy, disrespectful, and indifferent as everyone else we work with, they have the right to conclude that Christ has not made any difference in our lives. That’s a sobering and scary thought.

“What if my employer is a believer?” is the second question Paul addresses. Because we are both part of the family of God, we cannot afford to treat our boss with disrespect. Rolling of the eyes, talking back, rude gestures, pinning their face on a dart board, derogatory nicknames—none of these should be part of our vocabulary or practice. Instead, we should seek to be a blessing so that our supervisor and/or employer can receive all of God’s blessings.

Faith@WorkHere are a few ideas of how to practice faith@work. Be the most: “on time” employee; respectful; hardest working; caring/loving; dependable; cooperative; productive; and servant hearted. Pray for: your supervisors; the company owner; your coworkers; the company to be profitable; and God’s blessing on the company.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 27, 2014. It is part of a series in 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

The High Call of Church Leadership

There is no shortage of cartoons and humor when it comes to the subject of leadership.

There are various styles of leadership—autocratic, democratic, and laissez faire.

leadership arrow  leadership_picture  The High Call of Church Leadership

The High Call of Church LeadershipWhen it comes to leadership in the church, one truth remains the same. The church will rise and fall according to the caliber of its leaders. The body of Christ will only be as godly and fruitful as those they follow. Consequently, we should honor the leaders who work hard, discipline the leaders who fall, and choose leaders wisely. That is the message Paul communicates to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:17-25.

Paul starts by explaining that we should honor leaders who work hard (17-18). Rather than setting up two different classes of elders—ruling elders and teaching elders—Paul is saying that all elders have the task of leading, and some lead through their teaching and preaching. His main point is that those who lead well deserve to be honored and respected.

The New Testament explains that the task of leading the church is a challenging one indeed (Acts 20:28-35; 1 Peter 5:1-4). The elders are to follow the model of a shepherd as they feed, lead, guard, care, and model Christlikeness for the congregation. Rather than one elder taking charge, they serve as a team to shepherd and lead the church.

Those who take up the challenge and faithfully discharge their duties are worthy of double honor. Not only are they due their proper respect, they also can be paid for their efforts. In support of his argument, Paul quotes Moses (Deuteronomy 25:4) and Jesus (Luke 10:7). I have said on several occasions that I and our other elders have the same responsibility. The only difference is that I get paid so I can devote my full time to the task.

Paul goes on to say that leaders who fall should be disciplined (19-21). Paul explains that we are to exercise caution when it comes to confronting an elder. The nature of leadership is that someone will always disagree and be ready to complain. Rather than listen to every rumor and complaint that comes along, we need to make sure we have our facts straight before proceeding (19).

We also need to practice courage. Like a soccer referee handing a red card to a player who commits a serious foul, so there may be occasions when we have to publicly confront a sinning elder. Note, however, that Paul doesn’t say rebuke over a single sin. Instead, he is pointing out a pattern of sin, a habit of sin. We are to confront and publicly rebuke a persistent, repeated, unrepentant sinning elder in order to scare the rest of the congregation (in a healthy way) to remain true to God’s word (20).

As we practice this type of confrontation and rebuke, we need to ensure fairness. Rather than making a decision in isolation, we have an audience. All of heaven is watching what is taking place (21).

Since we are to honor hardworking elders and discipline erring ones, we need to make sure we make wise choices in appointing them in the first place (22-25). We would never dream of taking a kindergarten graduate and appointing them as CEO of a Fortune 500 company. In the same way, we should not rush a person into leadership in the church (22).

Verse 23 seems rather curious and out of place. Paul seemingly makes a random comment giving Timothy permission to drink wine for his stomach ailments rather than only drinking water. However, when we remember that the false teachers in Ephesus practiced a mixture of Jewish legalism and asceticism, we discover that Paul is telling Timothy not to practice asceticism to the detriment of his health.

Paul closes the section by saying that hidden sins and anonymous good deeds will be revealed in due time (24-25). In light of that, we should be patient and not rush into appointing leaders in the church.

The High Call of Church LeadershipLeadership can make or break a church’s reputation and ministry. We should honor those who work hard, discipline those who fall repeatedly, and choose leaders wisely to begin with.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 6, 2014. It is part of an ongoing series in 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Don’t divorce your public & private lives

People fall in private - 4-2-14 Ryle

A helpful warning, especially as I preach on 1 Timothy 5:17-25 this week.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2014 in 1 Timothy, Character, Personal growth