Qualities of an Elder

At the beginning of Paul’s letter to Titus he lists the qualities that he expects in a person who is going to be in the office of an Elder. Interesting the requirements are mainly character based ones.

Paul does not list any of the following:

  • Good preacher
  • Gifted with youth work
  • Experienced in church growth
  • People’s person
  • Keen evangelist with a passion for the lost.
  • Passionate worship leader
  • Committed leader

Now obviously there is nothing wrong with having any of the above qualities. I expect the majority of churches would want people with these gifts and abilities. However what Paul lists for an elder is:

  • An elder must be blameless (v6 and v7)
  • The husband of one wife (v6)
  • A man whose children believe. And the children are not wild and disobedient (v6).
  • Not overbearing (v7)
  • Not quick tempered (v7)
  • Not given to drunkenness (v7)
  • Not violent (v7)
  • Not pursuing dishonest gain (v7)
  • They must be hospitable (v8)
  • One who loves what is good (v8)
  • Self-controlled (v8)
  • Upright (v8)
  • Holy (v8)
  • Disciplined (v8)
  • Someone who holds firmly to the truth (v9)
  • An encourager (v9)
  • Someone who refutes those who oppose sound doctrine (v9)

That is quite a list! I wonder if we will ever see a church leadership role being advertised anywhere that lists these qualities rather than the first ones I mentioned?

I personally am not an elder and to be honest do not aspire to be one. However I would like to have these qualities in my life. I think that any Christian young or old, leader or not should aspire to aim to have these godly qualities in their life.

 

 

God uses Fallible People

In Genesis 26: 7-11 there is the episode in Isaac’s life when he told everyone that his wife Rebekah was his sister. Why did he do this? Verse 7 tells us he was sacred that the men of the city would kill him as his wife was beautiful. Yet why was Isaac scared? God had told him to stay put and He would bless him. You would have thought that once he had received that promise then he would have been full of faith. However Isaac showed that he was a fallible person, just like us!

In fact if we look through the Bible we can see plenty of examples that God uses fallible people to achieve his purposes.

Interesting Isaac’s father, Abraham, had done exactly the same thing as Isaac but on two different occasions. This is the man who was commended for his faith yet still was not immune from getting things wrong.

Moses is remembered as the man who God used to leave his people out of Egypt. However he was also the same person who murdered a man and fled, hiding away for 40 years. Then when God called him he did his best to try to avoid God’s call on his life and requested that God send someone else instead (Exodus 4:14).

David is described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). He was a man who bravely defeated Goliath in battle and someone who refused to take revenge on Saul when he was being hunted by him. Yet this same man also committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah too.

Elijah was used by God to defeat the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18) at Mount Carmel. Yet a short time later he was afraid and ran away and hid from Jezebel. You would have thought that after seeing the great victory at Mount Carmel he would have nothing to fear.

Jonah was the man who ran away from God to avoid his calling to preach in Nineveh. He then obeyed God’s call and preached to the people in that city. After the people repented and received God’s forgiveness, Jonah then complained and moaned at God for his generous love and graciousness. Not the best of attitudes!

Peter was the leader of the early church. He preached the gospel bodily to the crowds. Yet this was the same man who denied three times that he knew Jesus, despite saying he would never desert him.

All of the people mentioned above were fallible individuals yet God still used them. Doesn’t that sound like us? What hope that should give us. What an encouragement to us that God uses people like us despite the mess we make of things on occasions!

 

 

 

Face Cream and Yogurt will not change you

I remember a while ago watching an interesting TV programme on the World War II. This programme was being shown on a cable channel so eventually there was a commercial break.

One of the adverts was for a face cream and the person advertising the product said that this item would help create a new “you” i.e. it would change you and make you feel like a new person.

Another of the adverts said that to make you feel good on the outside you had to feel good on the inside and the way to do this would be to eat a particular type of yogurt. Once you had eaten this yoghurt your inside would be changed thus leading you to be changed on the outside.

Now I guess most of us realise that these are just marketing ploys to encourage people to buy these two products. However I wonder if sometimes we might act like we believe these adverts are actually true. Perhaps we think that some of the following might make us feel like a new person:

  • New hair cut
  • Changing jobs
  • Moving house
  • Having a new relationship
  • Purchasing the latest phone or tablet

Now there is nothing wrong with any of the above,  however none of them will actually change us and create the new “you” that the adverts would have us believe. They will not lead to a transformed life. Neither will they provide true satisfaction to the soul.

The second advert was more relevant as it hit upon the fact that change takes place on the inside and then that change is reflected on the outside. However there was one slight problem in so much that yogurt cannot change you!

There is only one person who can truly change us and satisfy the soul. This person died on a cross and took our sin upon Himself and He is the one we should seek.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

Learning from past mistakes

You would hope that if there is one lesson in life we learn it is learning from past mistakes.

Many years ago I had a car accident when I was driving in some bad weather. It had been snowing and some of the roads were icy. I was driving to a friend’s house and took a short cut down a side road. Next thing I knew I had crashed into a tree.

The big mistake I made was to go down the side road, which unfortunately was icy. I should have kept on the main roads which were fine.

I learnt two important lessons that day which I have never forgotten. Firstly, that I should drive carefully when the road conditions are treacherous. Also secondly, I should keep to the main roads in icy conditions even if it makes the journey longer.

I have never forgotten those two lessons and have certainly learnt from my past mistake in this area.

Sadly there are other areas of my life in which I have not learnt from my past mistakes. One of which is thinking before I open my mouth.

If I could write a letter back to my younger self I would stress the importance of watching what I say. There have been a number of difficult situations I have got myself into over the years due to my mouth.

You might hope that eventually I will grasp this lesson: “Think before you speak!”

In Ezekiel 23 God gave a word to the prophet about Oholah (Samaria) and Oholibah (Jerusalem).

After watching Oholah prostitute herself to the Egyptians and Assyrians and seeing her humiliated we are told in v11

“Her sister Oholibah saw this, yet in her lust and prostitution she was more depraved than her sister.”

We are told in the remainder of the chapter about the full extent of Oholibah’s sin and the subsequent judgement that both sisters would encounter.

You might have thought that Oholibah would have learnt from the sin of Oholah. Surely she would not copy the bad example of her sister? Sadly though she did not learn and exceeded her sister’s wickedness.

There is a lesson for us here. It’s quite simple. Learn from past mistakes, both your own and others, and adjust your life accordingly.

Knowing how to find the answer

I arrived at church and upon seeing me a member of our congregation hurried over and asked me if I knew how to copy a dvd over to another dvd. (He had a dvd containing some footage of someone who had recently died and he wanted to pass a copy of this onto the surviving spouse). I replied that I would email him some links to show him how to do this.

This is where I let you into a little secret. I didn’t actually know how to do this myself! However, I was confident that I could find out quite easily. So I did what I normally do in these situations and typed the question into Google “how do you copy a dvd to another dvd in Windows 10?”

Immediately a number of links came up including a You Tube tutorial on how this is done. I had a quick look at the various links and choose five that I thought were appropriate and emailed them across. I was not sure whether he would require further help so I awaited his reply to see how he got on.

Not long after I got a reply saying that he had downloaded the software required and had successfully copied the contents of the dvd to another dvd. He was very grateful for the links that I had sent him and expressed his thanks that I had assisted him.

I found this quite a strange scenario. I’m always happy to help people who ask for my assistance with computer problems they are experiencing. However in this situation all I did was type the question he asked me into Google. Whilst I didn’t actually know the answer to his question I knew how to find the answer.  I wondered why he had not done that himself and concluded that perhaps the thought had not crossed his mind.

Just as my fellow Christian was seeking an answer to his technical question there are others who seek answers to the important questions of life. Why are we here? What is the point of life? What happens after we die? Why do people suffer?

You could certainly Google those questions if you wish however my answer to them would be to point you to a bible verse in Isaiah which was instrumental in Charles Spurgeon coming to faith in Christ:

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:22)

I’m not suggesting that you will never have any further questions if you turn to Christ. However as believers we can trust these words of Jesus:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

 

 

 

 

No One Likes Change

Let’s be honest we don’t really like change do we? Most of us are normally quite happy with the status quo and like things to remain exactly as they have always been.  We like what we are comfortable with.

I’m reminded of the character Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory who always has the same food on a set night each week e.g. Monday night is Thai takeaway, Friday night is Chinese takeaway etc.  If anyone attempts to change this routine then they meet fierce resistance from him.

I find myself worryingly adopting similar tendencies when I visit local restaurants. In each restaurant I always have a favourite that I select each time I visit. If a restaurant removes my favourite item from the menu it throws me into total confusion! In fact I stop going to that particular restaurant. How dare they change the menu!

CHANGE AT WORK

There have been many changes in the working world over the last few years. The world of work has changed beyond recognition during the time I have been working.  When I first started work we did not have PC’s. We recorded the number of transactions we did by hand in a big ledger. I wonder what today’s young people would make of that.

I remember a number of years ago when I first encountered spreadsheets. Back in those days we used Lotus 1-2-3 and my initial reaction was resistance to them. One of my colleagues was very good at writing formulas in Lotus 1-2-3 and I was not. This was a change I did not like!

Now fast forward to the present day and I really enjoy working with Excel spreadsheets and trying to find quicker ways to complete tasks! I couldn’t imagine a world without spreadsheets now.

Technology has brought many changes to the workplace over the last 20 years. I suspect that there will be many more to come. How will I embrace these changes? Will I be willing to change and be adaptable or will I yearn for a return to the old ways?

CHANGE AT CHURCH

The following story of a conversation between a new vicar and a church warden illustrates the problem we have with change in churches:

Vicar: “How long have you been coming to this church Fred?

Church Warden: “I’ve been coming here for over 20 years.”

Vicar: “You must have seen a lot of changes over those 20 years.”

Church Warden: “Yes I have and I have resisted all of them!”

This year my church will be merging with one of our sister churches to form one new church. Both churches currently have very different styles of worship. The plan is to hold two services which will reflect the differing styles of worship that both congregations have at present.

Both churches at the moment meet for worship at 10am. However, going forward that is going to have to change, probably for both churches, as we will need to fit in two services during the morning. I personally like worshiping at 10am. It’s very convenient for me! I would rather we kept worship at 10am but that is unlikely to happen and I will have to accept this change.

We are in the process of advertising for a leader for our new merged church. Whoever gets this position will be responsible for ensuring that this merger goes ahead and planning how this is done.

There will no doubt be a number of changes over the forthcoming months and years. Some of these changes will be well received and some I expect will probably be resisted. What will my response be going forward? Will I resist every change and long for a return to the ways things are now? Or will I embrace change and prayerfully accept changes including those that I do not like?

As Christians we must always be open to embrace any changes that God wants to do in us. In John’s 15: 1-2 Jesus says

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

Jesus will prune the branches. Change is both good and necessary.

Change is for us. Don’t let yearnings for the past hold us back from change