Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review: The Treasure Principle

The Treasure Principle
Randy Alcorn
Multnomah Books (2001)

The overall message of this book is how to unlock the secret of joyful giving. Alcorn challenges individual believers to examine their freewill giving. He urges believers to examine their motives and measure of giving as a barometer of their spiritual life today and as to what is being established in heaven.

 Alcorn’s singular goal is that believers truly trust God and obediently evaluate how they are spending or using the monies that God has entrusted us with. He challenges individual believers to examine what their current attitude to God, giving, and money is now and to realign their thinking with five (5) treasure principles.

I found this book to be a very riveting read. I could not put it down. This book is a very easy read and can be read in one or two settings. Alcorn writes with clarity and holds your attention very well. However, to receive the maximum benefit of this book I suggest that one should read it slow and savor the various truths and principles that are presented. This book was challenging and inspirational. It caused me to rethink how I view the privilege of giving. This book forces the reader to think through each principle personally.

Alcorn backs his points with Scripture in an accurate and stimulating fashion. I would highly recommend this book to every Elder, church leader and every believer.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Multnomah’s book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

Thank you for your wonderful comments from yesterday's post! I love you all and thank God for you all. Thank you for your encouragement, love, and uplifting words. I covet your prayer, your friendship, and I cannot express my love enough for my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ and friends worldwide.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Personal Note

It is always hard for me to determine what to share and what not to share. I am by nature a very private person. I have had to learn to share various things in my life first, to obtain prayer support and encouragement and second to be an example to others as I encourage them to be open and transparent.

When I was laid off in August of 2009 I was at first very OK. I had been laid off once before and found good employment within about 2 or 3 months. It might have even been less than that. As time wore on I began to worry and be concerned. Of course during this time God has had ample opportunity to do some pruning and shaping in my life. I began to worry less, pray more, and be content with whatever God intended to do.

Some of you may not be aware that I have had severe and advanced arthritis in both knees for four years. It has been a major handicap and has been very painful. I have learned to live with it and have not let it stop me from preaching, teaching, discipling, and various ministries. The Apostle Paul had his medical issues which he did not let them stop him and I figured when I was weak God was strong and that His grace is sufficient for me. So I now teach and preach while sitting on a stool. Takes me longer to walk somewhere but by God's grace I get there.

In 2006 I developed pneumonia which led to 8 days in the hospital and an emergency thoracotomy. Since then I have had trouble breathing and have had a nagging and unrelentless cough.

In January I was diagnosed with COPD. By the way, they don't think my COPD is related to smoking. I quit smoking August 1, 1978.

Several family  members and some friends felt that I should apply for SS DI. Well I did, and I had to apply twice (we were denied once), jump through a number of hoops, see several doctors, etc. Well, we awarded full disability in an award letter which we received yesterday. Now I know why God refused to open a door for a job, which I would rather have. We did not hit the lottery nor will we receive allot. Until I can find a job that I can do with these infirmities and with a lot of belt tightening we can stay afloat.

Thank you for all who prayed for us and regularly asked about us. Thank you for all who have encouraged me. Sometimes I couldn't see up for looking down. Sometimes it was so dark I couldn't see any light. I started working at 11 years of age and have worked  every day since except for a few weeks here and there. This past 18 months have been a real trial. God has done a major work in my soul. We have trusted, maintained joy and looked to God for the majority of the time. Yes, I am only human.

I do not intend on letting either COPD or arthritis keep me from preaching, teaching, discipling, and leading bible studies. I still covet your prayers for the power of God to fall on me as I claim:

"But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities, For when I am weak, then I am strong." (II Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Monday's Quotes:

"The truth is that more spiritual progress is made through failure and tears than success and laughter." (Allistair Begg)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Morning Facts

Once again I have decided to join the "Monday Facts" with Seams Inspired and others. Look for our Monday quote tomorrow.

1.  Fact - My desk has never looked so bad as it does this morning. There are over 45 books sitting on my desk in disarray that need put away. I used them for reference material on an up and coming message.

2.  Fact - I found an "office-chair" that will do until I can get mine fixed. I have a 9 year old office chair that I love dearly but the air bladder or hydraulics broke and it now sits on the floor. I miss that chair! I "sat on the floor" until I could not take it and have bought two other second hand store chairs trying to repalce it and haven't. Saturday at the Habitat for Humanity store found one for 15.00, and it seems to be working.

3.  Fact - As of this Monday morning it is predicted that we will have a "dry" 4th of July around 76 degrees. If you are not from the Pacific Northwest you don't know that it rains 9 out of 10 4th of Julys. We celebrate, picnic, attend firework displays in drizzle, light showers, showers, rain, and storms. Having a dry 4th is a rare treat.

4.  Fact - God is as good and gracious and merciful on Monday as He is on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday!

5.  Fact - I am already hating fireworks. I love them at "sanctioned displays" but feel they should be outlawed to the general public. It isn't even the 4th and someone is shooting off firecrackers. It wouldn't be so bad if they shot them off between 9:00 AM and 9:00 PM and out of ear shot of Fi Fi. No, they shoot them off all day and all night waking us up and causing little Fi Fi to have a spaz attack. She is glued to me right now. Did I say I hate fireworks? It is a fact everyday and not just Mondays. Wave a sparkler and a flag and eat your hot dog and water mellon already.

6.  Fact - I am a nice guy. I am not really a bad guy, you would like me if you met me. Please don't meet me while shooting off a firecracker near my dog.

7.  Fact - It is a beautiful Pacific Northwest Morning! Sun just sliding up and over Mt Solo, moon is still shining with some night owl stars. Cool and almost windless right now. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Parable of the Fishnet

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.  So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50, ESV)

Most of Jesus disciples were fisherman. As a matter of fact they had left their nets and their boats to follow Jesus. They had been for quite some time fishers of men rather than fish. When Jesus told this parable to these men they knew exactly what He was talking about.

It has been reported that the northern edge of the Lake of Galilee is one of the best fishing areas in all of Israel. Plants that are carried along by rapidly descending water of the Jordan River become lodged in the northern inlet of the lake. These plants attract and feed a very large population of fish. As a matter of fact some 25 species of fish have been identified in the lake. Bethsaida is located on the north shore of the Lake of Galilee. Bethsaida first of all means "House of Fishing", and second, it was the home of Peter, Andrew, and Phillip. (Jn 1:44)

Among the many means and method of fishing during the time of Jesus, dragnet fishing was an extremely effective method.The net was about 2 meters high and about 100 meters long. Corks affixed to the top of the net would keep the net afloat while the bottom of the net was weighted down. Sometimes fisherman would mount or attach one end of the net to a fixture on shore, while the boat would then travel in a semi-circle back toward the shore and the other end of the net while other fisherman "beat" the water hoping to drive fish into the net. At other times two boats were used which traveled in a semi-circle toward each other closing the gap sweeping or netting fish in the path of the net.

The fisherman would attempt to locate a school of fish and then set the net in order to net the fish. The challenge with this type of fishing is that the fisherman could not fish for specific fish; they would catch up all kinds and types of fish. Some of those fish were good and edible while others were bad and unedible. Many kinds of fish were considered unclean by Jewish ceremonial laws and could not be eaten. Fish without fins and scales could not be eaten (Leviticus 11:10) These fish would be thrown back while the good fish would be separated out and made ready for the market.

What does Jesus intend his disciples to understand with this parable? Jesus seems to use this parable to depict  a day of judgement. Jesus uses this parable to teach some spiritual truths. Jesus gives us a brief interpretation of His parable. Jesus says this is how it will be at the end of the age. During the kingdom age or period, the good news will be proclaimed to all people without discrimination. Angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous. The angels will throw the wicked into a furnace of fire. The end of the wicked includes "weeping and gnashing of teeth."

This separation is preparation for the Great White Throne Judgement. At the end of the mediatorial kingdom and anticipation of moving into the eternal state, God directs His angels to gather up all the unsaved and unrighteous people who are living. These people are taken away and placed into hell.

This is meant then to encourage the disciples. The gospel will be preached to all men indiscriminately during the kingdom age. Since some inhabitants in the kingdom will be in a natural body reproduction will take place. Some of those children born during the kingdom will be redeemed and some will not be. Those who are living at the end of the kingdom period and not redeemed with be removed by the angels of God.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Life Goals: What's Yours?

"The heart of man plans his way, but the
 Lord establishes his steps." (Proverbs 16:9, ESV)

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 says, "...fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." (ESV)

It seems that God has given man the ability and freedom to choose what we want to do. God allows us to make plans as long as they don't violate His revealed and known moral will and we keep His commandments while we plan and work out our plans. We can't forget the warning that Solomon gave in conjunction with this freedom.

So, having said these things - what is your life's goal?

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Missing Servants of Christ

"Where are the innocent servants of Christ who bring Christ's sheep nothing but the Lord's voice and word, who are zealous to seek all the Lord's lost sheep, to bring back those which have gone astray, to heal the injured, to strengthen the weak, to guard the strong, and feed them aright? And also to shut out from the congregation of Christ all those who do not wish to listen to the Lord's word and mend their ways?"

 (Martin Bucer 1491-1551)

Here I am Lord! Gregg Metcalf, Servant/Shepherd

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Determining Life's Motives

Jonathan Edwards' Resolutions                 A list of the resolutions that Edwards read once every week to keep his mind on his duty before God.

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake. (Written between December 1722 and July 1723) (Resolutions 1-21 were written at one sitting in 1722)

Resolution # 1

Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad's of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

Now in plain English...

What ever I do, I will do it so that in doing it I reflect and reveal God's character and nature making His character more attractive, more desirable, and more honorable to those who observe my actions. I will do what ever I do for my own good and for my own pleasure as long as I live, no matter how long it takes to fulfill this resolution. I will also fulfill my God given responsibility  to do good or to benefit mankind as much as I am able, no matter how much trouble it is or what difficulty I face.

What about you? 

Have you and are you resolved that everything you do, whether it be eating or simply drinking, you are doing it in order to reveal character traits of our God in order to make them clearer and more attractive those who observe your actions?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Love the Lord

Why I Love the Lord:

"We [I] love Him, because He first loved us [me]."

(First Epistle of John 4:19, ESV)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Favorite Book Challenge Blogfest

  1.Undaunted Courage - Stephen Ambrose

 "Ambrose takes us into the interior of an adventure filled with high romance and personal tragedy involving the greatest expedition ever undertaken in the history of this country."

I loved this book due to its detailed description of the "grind" of some 40 men traveling almost two years from the east coast to the west coast and back in a manner that took me not only into the story but right into the boats between Lewis and Clark, all the while feeling the spray of the  water of the Columbia River.

2.  The Trilogy of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien

"The dark, fearsome Ring wraiths were searching for a Hobbit. Frodo Baggins knew they were seeking him and the Ring he bore -the Ring of Power that would enable evil Sauron to destroy all that was good in Middle earth. Now it was up to Frodo and his faithful servant Sam, with a small band of companions, to carry the Ring to the one place it could be destroyed - Mt. Doom, in the very center of Sauron's dark kingdom."

I loved this book for its imagination and story line as Tolkien made you love and root for the little band of conspirators on what undoubtedly is the most dangerous and mission impossible ever.

3.  The Island of the Blue Dolphin - Scott Odell

In Island of the Blue Dolphins, our heroine Karana stays behind on her island after the Aleuts killed many of the men of her tribe and the others had left on a large ship. She stayed because she could not find her brother on the ship. After her brother's traumatic death, Karana lives alone on the island. Odell uses imagery to help the reader visualize how Karana takes care of herself and the island.

I read this the first time in Junior High School and loved the story of how this young girl found ways of surviving day after day all alone on an Island for 18 years.

4.  The President's Plane is Missing - Robert J Serling

A crisis ensues when Air Force One crashes while on a flight out west, apparently killing all those aboard, including President Jeremy Haines . The United States is in the midst of a confrontation with China that could lead to a nuclear war between the two countries, and the government is now in the hands of Vice President Kermit Madigan , a not too intelligent or sophisticated man, who was deliberately kept out of the loop.

I loved this book because of its deep and well thought through plot that just took one turn and twist after another, all the while making you wonder what would happen if Air Force One were ever to crash for real?

5.  The Left Seat - Robert J Serling

In 'The Left Seat', Serling takes the reader through the career of one idealistic pilot, McDonald McKay, from his interview with fictional Midwest Airlines, through his training, his time as a co-pilot, his rise as an expert on aviation safety, and climaxes with his own air crash, which kills 24 people and leaves him questioning his own judgement, his convictions, and his abilities.

This book makes you want to fly as Serling tells this tale in such a way that made me want to keep reading it until I finished it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday Morning Musings or Monday's Fact

This post is inspired by Seams Inspired Monday's Facts. I don't know it I did this right, but I think I am to list some facts for today. Here goes:

Fact - This past week was very busy. I searched for work, sent resumes to over 25 churches, prepared for two sessions of discipleship with a couple of men, and prepared for a bible study last night.

Fact - I woke up this morning at 6:30 AM when I normally am up between 4:30 AM and 5:00 AM

Fact - I need to deal with Red Canoe Credit Union today since we received a phone call on Thursday that our account had been "compromised" by someone in France who drained our bank account.

Fact - I am enjoying and sipping a very hot, black, and strong cup of Yuban coffee. Can't wait to get back to work and afford the good stuff again.

Fact - It isn't raining this morning, as of yet at least, and it is 56 degrees outside with gray overcast and a little fog on Mt Solo. (We live about 200 feet from the base of the western end of Mt Solo)

Fact - I will read the blogs that I follow and then cook breakfast, 2 over easy eggs, 2 strips of slick sliced pepper bacon, one hash brown patty, and 8 oz of OJ. All under 600 calories. OK, not by much.

Fact - I actually like Monday's. They are my get ready for the week day. After breakfast I use Monday's to plan for the coming week and to write my blogs for one to two weeks in advance. Of course I look for work in between all the fun of planning and preparing and posting!

Don't forget to read the prior post - Monday's Quote was planned for today but interrupted by Seams Inspired's Monday Facts. Read and comment on both today!

Jonathan Edwards: Resolved to live for God!

Monday's Quote:

Resolution One: I will live for God. 

Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:45-46, ESV)

This parable, like the one that preceded it (The Hidden Treasure) consist of two sentences. The first sentence says the same, "the kingdom of heaven is like..." The second part of the sentence contains the main point or the teaching of the parable.  As previously stated these two parables are only found in Matthew's gospel. This is significant. The Holy Spirit determined that Matthew record these parables for the benefit of his audience, which is Jewish Christians. These two parables seem to form a pair.

However, if you look closely they are not balanced. In the previous parable the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure. In this parable the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant. This is why I chose not to expound them as a pair and why I have chosen to explain them separately.

In today's parable, we discover that a merchant is searching for pearls. As a matter fact he is looking for special pearls or as Matthew says, "fine" pearls. Our text says that this merchant found one pearl of great value and so he went and sold all that he had in order to purchase the pearl.

It seems that in the Old Testament period pearls were not well known. However by the time of Jesus pearls had become a status symbol of very wealthy people. For example, Paul told Timothy to teach the godly women that they should not imitate the way of the wealthy world, "women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire." (II Timothy 2:9) Revelation 18:11-12 says, "And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for them, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls..."

Even valuable teachings were considered important enough not to be shared with those who had no use nor desire to understand them, "Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you." (Matthew 7:6) Pearls have become popular and quite valuable. Pearls were in great demand. Merchants traveled to the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and even India in order to find good pearls. Apparently the pearls that came from the Red Sea were considered inferior. The best pearls came from the Persian Gulf or off the coasts of Ceylon and India. A merchant had to travel far and under difficult circumstances to find bigger, better, and more valuable pearls.

So what does this parable mean? What does Jesus want his disciples to know? What would they have understood?

First, the pearl is not the church nor is the pearl Jesus. Remember the first part of this sentence begins, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like..." Like what? A merchant who is searching for fine pearls. It does not say the church is like or Jesus is like. Remember any time you interpret scripture you must know who the author is, who the audience is, the age (history/timing) of the passage, and most importantly the argument of the passage. Who is our author? Matthew, a Jewish tax collector. Who is his audience? Primarily Jewish Christians. When was it written? In the mid 60's and certainly prior to AD 70. What is the main argument of his gospel? Matthew is demonstrating Jesus' Messianic identity and that he is the inheritor of the Davidic kingdom and that he is the King of the Jews who will establish the long awaited mediatorial kingdom of heaven. So, our job is to discover the meaning of this parable in line with Matthew's purpose of recording them.

Jesus is teaching a contrast with these two parables. Remember, Jesus is now beginning to experience severe persecution and opposition. John the Baptist is having some doubts about Jesus and sends a delegation to him to see if he really is the Messiah. Jesus is now denouncing cities with curses, (Chorazin and Bethsaida.) Many wanted to see a sign from Jesus to prove his claims and they wanted proof of his authority to teach and to do what he was doing among them.

Jesus uses the parable of the buried treasure to show that some will come upon the truths of the Kingdom of Heaven (God) by "dumb luck." They will seem to stumble over the kingdom and find forgiveness and entrance  without having looked for it. They will have to be willing to exchange all that they are for this kingdom. They must be willing to deny themselves, pick up their cross daily, and follow Jesus. They must "pay" the purchase price. The point is they really weren't looking for the kingdom of heaven. God sought them, He came looking for them in the form of Jesus. Jesus came to his own. He came to the Jews and sought Jews for the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus uses the parable of the pearl of great value to show that some people are searching for something that they think is a God who will forgive them or show them mercy. They may have searched all of their life for what is the greatest "value." For example, think of the Apostle Paul. All of Paul's life he had been seeking the peace and joy of God. Martin Luther  said that if ever a man could be saved by monkery that man was he. Think of Nicodemus, he was a Rabbi and sought for God and his truth. Justin Martyr describes his search as wandering from one philosophy to philosophy until he found the elusive secret peace of Christianity.

Granted, men are dead in trespasses and sin. They are born spiritually blind and Romans makes it clear that none search for the God of the bible. John makes is clear that no one comes to the Father unless the Father draws him to God. This parable shows men search for a pearl of value, peace, salvation, hope, etc. and one day due to God's grace they come upon the pearl of the greatest value, the kingdom of heaven, and like the man who found the buried treasure, he too must exchange all that he has and is for all that the kingdom is.

Kistemaker says in his book, The Parables, "It is Christ who offers the treasure and the pearl to people traveling along life's highway. Some of these travelers are searching. Some are wandering. Suddenly they meet Jesus and find in him a priceless treasure. Their response is one of total surrender."

This would have been good news for the Jews. This would have been very encouraging for the disciples as opposition grows and interest in Christ wanes. The kingdom has already been likened to that which starts very small but grows very huge in benefit and promise. Now they hear that some of their countrymen whether by stumbling across Christ or by searching for a true religious experience will find their way into the kingdom of heaven.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

June 18, 1973

On June 18th, 1973, a Private First Class of the United States Marine Corps in his  Class A Service Uniform stood at the altar of a little missionary baptist Church in Jacksonville, North Carolina. By his side stood a fellow Marine unknown to him but willing to stand as witness as required by law. In front of this extremely nervous, 18 year old Marine stood a seasoned pastor holding a worn and tattered bible.

It was 7:00 PM on a very warm and humid Monday evening in June. This young Marine had been at the church since about 5:00 PM getting dressed and receiving last minute instructions from a patient pastor on the ceremony that was about to take place. He had smoked nearly a pack of cigarettes and worn a path in the corridor from nervous pacing. He had a mission and he knew he must complete it.

A moment or two after 7:00 PM the deafening silence was shattered by a dear sweet volunteer of the Tar Landing Missionary Baptist Church who had agreed to play the wedding song as she gently caressed the keys of an ancient piano. The Marine turned his eyes to the back of the small auditorium and immediately fixed his eyes on a lovely 19 year old California girl he had met in high school in San Jose, CA.

She was standing there waiting for the cue to begin her walk down the aisle toward the unknown that was guided by vows, rings, and promises. The path was unknown to these two teen-agers. They only knew the path would be bridged by "for better or for worse," for richer or for poorer," and "in sickness and in health."

As her cue sounded, this beautiful bride, clothed in an $8.00 K-Mart clearance white dress, a hastily secured veil, and a small 7-11 bouquet of flowers glided down the aisle. She took the hand of this nervous, quivering, and gallant young Marine and joined herself to him unto death do them part. The pastor asked for rings, for the repetition of vows and promises and then pronounced them husband and wife.

A friend, now forgotten and unknown drove this giddy and newly married couple around Jacksonville honking  the car horn. Just married was written on the side of the car and it was adorned with a few decorations. Once the happy couple was whisked around Jacksonville they were delivered to their first home together, a one bedroom apartment over a convenience store just outside of Jacksonville on the way to Katherine Lake. There a couple of friends had baked a one layer vanilla cake, supplied a bottle of champagne, and a small gift as token of their friendship and congratulations.

Fun and privileges of this newly married couple were cut short as the Marine was scheduled for guard duty at HMM261 Helicopter Squadron on the New River Marine Corps Air Station by 1100 PM that evening. As this young Marine walked around those helicopters his feet barely touched the ground, it was if he was floating on air.

Happy 38th Anniversary to this no longer teen-age couple!

Gregory D. and Irene H. Metcalf
June 18, 1973

Friday, June 17, 2011

Titus - True Son of the Faith

"As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit." (II Corinthians 8-23, ESV)

If there ever was a title or description that I would like to have attached to me it would be the one the Apostle Paul used to summarize his dear friend and partner, Titus. Titus is my κοινωνος, (koy-no-nos’). Titus is my  "partner, associate, comrade, companion." He is my "sharer in anything."

Titus was not just his friend and companion, but Titus was a fellow co-worker with the Apostle Paul in the spread of the gospel. Paul used his friends without ever alienating their affections for him. Paul sent his friends and co-laborers on great errands of importance. Paul posted these various friends and co-laborers in various churches, locations, and places where they had appropriate assignments to complete.

The greatest and closest companion and fellow co-laborer to the Apostle was of course Timotheus or Timothy. We can trace a long record of intimate relationship between these two messengers of the gospel. There are few words that can adequately describe the love, respect, camaraderie, and relationship between the Apostle Paul and his son in the faith, Timothy.

Next to Timothy, we discover in the New Testament a companion and co-labor who stands at a  close second to Timothy in the heart of Paul. That companion is Titus. Paul loved and respected Titus as much as he did Timothy.

The New Testament records very little information and detail concerning Titus. Galatians 2:3 tells us that he was a Greek. Titus may have been born and raised in Antioch. He became one of Paul's first companions and co-laborers. He joined Paul and Barnabas on their journey to Jerusalem. While there a heated demand was made that Titus as a Gentile would have to submit to circumcision and to keep the Jewish law in order to be considered a Jewish Christian. Paul refused to allow Titus to be circumcised responding to both the debate and demand that believers do not have to be circumcised in order to received by Christ. Titus was allowed to continue in both ministry and his duties without being circumcised. (Galatians 2:1-5)

It is possible and even plausible that Titus was brought to faith by the efforts of the Apostle Paul. In Titus1:4 Paul calls Titus, " true son in our common faith..." Paul also refers to Titus as his "brother" in II Corinthians 2:13. It seems that Titus traveled with Paul on Paul's second missionary journey and on most of Paul's subsequent trips.

Paul placed tremendous confidence in Titus. Paul sent Titus to Corinth with the mission of correcting all the problems that existed in that church. If one were to take the time to truly study the references to Titus in this mission,one can see some tremendous qualities about this young man. First, Titus was very willing to go to this very difficult church (I Cor 8:7); second, Titus had a genuine love for this troubled congregation (I Cor 7:15); third, Titus had a deep concern and a real eagerness to help the Corinthian Church get back on track (I Cor 8:16); fourth, he took time and effort to minister without taking advantage of them (I Cor 12:18). These qualities in this young man made it easier to find success in this ministry. Would that shepherds in today's congregation, especially the troubled ones exhibit and operate with these same qualities.

It is interesting to note, at least by me, that the Corinthian Christians responded well to Titus. They did right many of the wrongs that he came to address. He was also able to finish taking up the benevolent offering they had promised for the Jerusalem Church. This caused Paul's fears for the well-being of this congregation to be dismissed and joy.

Titus is not mentioned in the book of Acts. We don't have any reason why we don't have any more information on Titus, why his ministry and personage are not highlighted in Acts. We do know that Paul sent him to Crete and Titus also served in Dalmatia (West Balkan coast.)

Paul and Titus traveled to Crete to visit the churches that had been founded there earlier. Apparently there were several problems that had cropped up so Paul left Titus on Crete to fix those problems. At some point Paul asked Titus to join him in Nicopolis as soon as Tychicus could arrive at Crete and relieve him. It seems when Paul was imprisoned at Rome for a second time Titus was with Paul for a short time. Paul had to send Titus to Dalmatia for some urgent business that we know nothing about.

We really don't have much information to put together a biography of Titus. Suffice it to say he had a shepherds heart. Titus had genuine Christian character along with tremendous leadership abilities. Titus was devoted to Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, and the Church. Titus apparently was willing to serve in the shadow and the background of men like Paul and Timothy. We have no information on what happened to Titus after Paul sent him to Dalmatia. It must have broke Titus's heart to be away when Paul was beheaded for his faith. We do not know if Timothy arrived in time. All we know is that Luke was there at the end with Paul.

Maybe, just maybe, since God is so gracious and spares us from more than we can handle, God chose to spare both Timothy and Titus by having Timothy traveling toward Rome and Titus away from Rome. Then possibly these two children of Paul in the faith, these two mighty and stalwart companions and co-laborers did not have to see him die. God left the end of Paul to his beloved Physician, Dr. Luke.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Theological Definition:Paulicians
A highly independent sect that arose in the heart of the Eastern Church about AD 750. They are considered either "early protestants" or "radical oriental dualist's." They were very influential during their time. They were anti-Romanists who repudiated mariolatry intercession of saints, and the use of relics/images. They despised the Roman hierarchy,as they themselves had one level or grade of ministry. They rejected infant baptism and taught that 30 was the proper age for baptism at which time the Holy Spirit was received. As far as Christology they were adoptionists (the erroneous teaching that Jesus was a mere man who was adopted by God). They valued Pauline writings very highly. However, they occasionally used of some of the other Old and New Testament writings. 1

(top left - painting depicting the persecution of some Paulicians)

1 Walter A Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: MI, Baker Academic Book House, 2001, p. 895-896)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Seven Functions of a Discipler - Part I

In a previous post I listed seven functions of a discipler in the life of a disciple. I thought the list was self-explanatory even though it was not exhaustive.

However, Larri @ Seams Inspired left this wonderful comment:

Wow...that quite a list to live up to as a discipler. Thanks for sharing.

Are you going to write a post for each particular point on the list with its
 scriptural reference?  Just curious to where you found all of them. :o)

I had not thought of developing this into a series but her question kept nagging at me? Had I left something undone or incomplete? Is there any value of a series here. Since I like to be thorough and complete, I have decided to develop each point over the next seven weeks and hope to offer something beneficial.

"...what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (II Timothy 2:2)

Proposition:  Discipling is the effective means to mature growing Christians in order to be obedient to the great commission. This is the only plan for church growth in the Scriptures.

1.  Disciplers are crucial in the development of a growing Christian

Let's look first at the commission or charge that Jesus gave to the church just prior to ascending back into heaven:

"All authority (εξουσια ex-oo-see’-ah) in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:18-20a, ESV)

This εξουσια is that ability that contains the power of choice, or the liberty of doing as one pleases. This is the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises. Within this power or authority is the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege.) In other words Jesus Christ as the head of His church is in charge. We must recognize His leadership. As Christians we exist for His glory and we exist for His purposes.

In this passage, Jesus has given to the church, which is made up of many, yet different parts or disciples, the commission, or the charge that as we are going to make disciples of all the nations. 

Let me say as a sidebar, that many people think this is a commission given to only a few selected people who are trained in bible college or seminary. This command, this job if you will is given to every disciple. It is the job of every believer to make disciples. The job of the leadership of every true New Testament church is to equip and train every person to make disciples.

Secondly, notice that this is not a command to make decisions or converts. This is a command for all believers to be busy making disciples. Now granted before one can develop and make a disciple, one must have a convert. The average church and Christian have the tendency to stop right there. They assist in the birth of a spiritual infant and then like a mid-wife they walk away. If the new infant is fortunate at all they are turned over to the morning worship service and left to grow or die.

The discipleship process that Jesus developed, modeled, and delivered to the church is His plan to reach the world with the gospel of redemption. If you look at John 17:3-4 carefully shows that Jesus is sharing with His father than He completed the development and discipling of His twelve disciples.

We can focus on the message of the cross all we want but if we forget about the process that a discipler plays in the life of a new disciple then these new disciples are not completed or trained. If Jesus didn't train and develop the 12 until they could train other disciples the gospel message would have died out. No one would have heard the message after the disciples were all dead.

Let's think this through shall we? How important is a discipler in the development of a disciple? What are the other tools that someone can point to? First, there was the Old Testament and even some New Testament Scriptures available. Second, the Holy Spirit had been given as promised. Is that enough? Think about it before you answer. The Word and the Holy Spirit - can they reach the world?

If that was all that was necessary why did Jesus give the command to make disciples of all the nations? Why did Paul give the instructions to reliable men who could in turn teach other men. It is simple. Included in God's plan to reach the world mature believers play a part in the development of new believers.

Discipleship is more than just telling someone about the good news. Discipleship is teaching people to obey all the commands that Jesus gave us. There is no plan B! Jesus did not give any other instructions or directions. 

Jim Putman in His book real-life discipleship (sic) made this tragic observation:

"Too often our idea of being on a mission with God is inviting our unbelieving friends and family to church so the pastor can convince them to accept Christ. If we believe that these new converts should be taught at all, we certainly don't think we are qualified to teach them. We have no idea that conversion is just the beginning of a spiritual growth process and that what comes next - discipleship - will determine if a person matures spiritually to a stage where that disciple experiences real change that others will notice. ."

The reason that disciplers are crucial in the development of a growing Christian is discipleship requires real teaching and real learning. It takes conversation, modeling, encouraging, debriefing, and practice for a new convert to develop into a mature believer.

Even after infants are birthed they do not develop mentally and sometimes physically without the help of parents. Whether those parents are surrogate or natural, they are needed. When there is no model there is no opportunity to follow. Disciplers are given by God to provide such a model that creates support, accountability, relationship, and what ever is missing or needed.

So, my first point comes from the example of both Jesus and Paul. Jesus preached to thousands, he healed hundreds, and he even raised a few from the dead. Jesus spent three years intimately teaching, training and developing 12 men. Even one of them failed the course.

Paul told Timothy to train men who had the ability to train other men. Disciplers are crucial to the development of growing Christians. My scripture is Matthew 28,:18-20, II Timothy 2:2, John 17:3-4, Romans 12:3-8, I Corinthians 12:12-26, Hebrews 5:12, Acts 11:26)

1 jim putman, real-life discipleship, (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010, p.22)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Poll: 2/3 of Americans believe bin Laden is in Hell!

(RNS1-MAY11) Ray Maldonado of Paterson, N.J., marks the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden at Ground Zero in New York. For use with RNS-BINLADEN-POLL, transmitted May 11, 2011. RNS photo by John Munson/The Star-Ledger. 

According to a PPRI/RNS Religion News Poll:

Regardless of whether the debate is still going on about what to do with the body of bin Laden, the majority  of those polled believe that his soul is in hell.

In a new poll that was released May 11, it seems that 82% of Americans believe bin Laden distorted the teachings of Islam to suit his own purpose. The poll also showed that 65% of Americans also believe that bin Laden will spend an eternity in hell being punished for his sins.

80% those who listed themselves as "evangelical Christians" believe he is in hell. While only 2/3 those who listed themselves as Catholic belief that bin Laden is in hell.

Interestingly enough, the poll revealed that Americans are more conflicted over whether celebrations were proper after the announcement of his death. About 60% believed that the Bible's message, "Do not rejoice when your enemies fall," applies to bin Laden.

Some other opinions:

53% of Americans say that the US should follow the Golden Rule and not use any methods on our enemies that we would not want used on our own soldiers. This is down from a 2008 poll when the number was 62%

Support for the Golden Rule principle was strongest among minority Christans, Catholics, and religiously unaffiliated Americans.

Younger Americans (18-34), 69%, are more likely to believe the Bible passage about not celebrating "when you enemy falls" than those 65 and older, 47%

Religiously unaffiliated Americans (57%) are more likely than Christians to say the use of torture against suspected terrorists can never be justified. Catholics, (53%) believe torture should never be used or justified.

The majority of white evangelicals (54%) and minority evangelicals (51%)  believe that God had a hand in locating bin Laden, while only 1/3 of mainline denominations and only 42% Catholics believe God helped find bin laden.

Only 51% of Americans believe God has granted America a special role in human history. 2/3 of evangelicals (63%) and (51%) of Catholics believe America has a special role.

Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion professor and the author of God is Not One, 

He was most surprised by the Golden Rule responses, which indicate that half the country is willing to disregard Christianity's most commonly expressed teaching, at least, when it comes to wartime.

"There is this sense that America is supposed to be a Christian nation...but that tends to be more of a slogan than a reality. Are you willing to think about the bible when it comes to torture and terrorism and bin Laden, or are you just throwing biblical principles out of the window and going with your gut and your anger and your revenge?"

So what do you think?

Is bin Laden in hell? (Don't tell Rob Bell - all we need is another book)

Is it wrong to celebrate his death?

Are we bound to the Golden Rule when it comes to terrorists and war?

Does America have a special, God-given role in human history?

The PPRI/RNS Religion News Poll was based on telephone interviews of 1.007 U. S. adults between May 5th and May 8th, 2011. The Poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Trust and Obey: One Choice and Circumstance At a Time

Monday's Quote:
 I realize anew that, just as we must learn to obey God one choice at a time, we must also learn to trust God one circumstance at a time. Trusting God is not a matter of my feelings but of my will. I never feel like trusting God when adversity strikes, but I can choose to do so even when I don't feel like it. That act of the will, though, must be based on belief, and belief must be based on truth.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

This next parable is found only in Matthew's gospel. Remember we cannot interpret this parable from an analytic Western mindset. We need to search for the meaning of this parable as it would have been understood by the disciples who heard Jesus teach them.

This parable begins with these words, "The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field..." (Matthew 13:44, ESV) It seems a man has found a treasure of some sort. He reburies the treasure, and very happily goes home and sells everything he has in order to acquire enough money to purchase the field that the treasure is buried in.

First, this is often a fantasy or daydream of many children and some adults. At some point or another, almost all us have "dreamed" about discovering some great treasure of some kind. Many a boy has dreamed of finding some of Blackbeard's buried gold or finding lost gold mines like the Lost Dutchman's Gold mine.

We have seen some tremendous discoveries even in modern times. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found by a shepherd boy who to pass the time was throwing rocks in a cave. A diver off of the Florida coast discovered a sunken17th century Spanish  treasure vessel full of silver and gold. One day a farmer plowing his field in Suffolk, England found found a container full of valuable silver dishes that were from the times of the Roman Empire.

Second, this parable of Jesus was not an unrealistic dream, it was an event that happened regularly. Palestine was a land of wars. At any time a man's field or property could be turned in to a battle-ground. His house was subjected to be looted by soldiers or thieves at any time. Hiding one's valuables and money in the house was a foolish thing to do. So, most during the time of Christ would hide their valuables buried deep in their fields. Even the Rabbis had a saying, "There is only one safe repository for money - the earth."

Of course a major problem with this practice was that at times a man would disappear, be killed, die, or otherwise be deprived of access to his field and the secret site would die or disappear with him. At the time of Christ there were many stories of treasures being found.

Now, we have someone who has found such a treasure. The text doesn't not say he was looking for it or simply in dumb luck stumbled across it. The meaning of the verb can mean either finding by searching or finding by merely discovering it. It doesn't matter. A man, possibly a man who has rented this property, possibly a hired man hired to plow and prepare the property for planting, or maybe someone just digging around, found a buried treasure.

We are not told what the treasure was, just a treasure which excited the man. He was dumbfounded. He had never seen a treasure like this in his life. How do we know this? Look at the phrase, "...then in his joy..."

Quickly he formed a plan in his mind. He reburied the treasure and determined he could have treasure if he owned the field. He decided to return to his home and sell everything that he owned to obtain enough money to be able to persuade the land owner to sell him the treasure. His wife must have thought he went berserk, his neighbors must have thought he had lost his mind. At least the neighbors and strangers did not know what he was doing.

His plan is accomplished because the text goes on to say, "...he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." He did it! He kept the secret, he sold his goods, he acquired enough money and he bought the field. The field was his, including everything in it. The treasure was his.

What did Jesus intend to teach with this parable and what did the disciples understand Jesus to say by this parable? First, this man did not take a risk by selling all he had. He knew what he would acquire by selling all that he owned. Second, this man did not make any kind of a sacrifice in order to buy this field. He simply sold all that he already had to raise the purchase price. This is important, there is a difference between a sacrifice price and  a purchase price. The purchase price was determined and the property was acquired by giving the set price. This man paid the full amount of the set price.

The treasure in the field is the gospel, or good news of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is the long promised mediatorial kingdom promised to Abraham and his descendants. This man has discovered the good news of the kingdom of God and he is filled with great joy. So he is brought to understand the "purchase price" of this good news is the exchange of all that he is for all that Christ is. He understands that he must, "...deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever would save his life will loose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself." (Luke 9:23-25, ESV) This man understands what the rich young ruler never understood. To have the kingdom of heaven and all its benefits one must be willing to exchange all that one is for all that the kingdom of heaven offers. Salvation or redemption is not an addition to one's life. We do not merely add Christ or the gospel to our lives, we must exchange our life, be willing to lose our life, or give our life in exchange for Christ and the gospel by faith.

In order for the Jews to enter the kingdom of heaven they must be willing to exchange their life for the life of the King. They must realize that the Kingdom of Heaven is  not in Jewish lineage, circumcision, ceremonies and etc. Redemption and the Kingdom of Heaven is found in the King, in Christ. Just as Paul counted all things as "dung" in order to "know" the King, so must the Jews.

Lest anyone becomes confused, salvation is a free gift to the sinner. Salvation cannot be earned nor purchased. No more can you purchase or earn salvation than the rich young ruler who failed to obtain it because he was unwilling to sell all his goods. What is meant is that Jesus demands the believer's whole heart. Just as the hymn writer wrote, one must be will to also:

All to Jesus I surrender
all to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all.
All to Thee my blessed Savior;
I surrender all.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Apollos: Eloquent and Mighty

"Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus, he was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures." (Acts 18:24, ESV)

Thus we have the first mention of Apollos in the New Testament. As many times as Apollos was mentioned in the New Testament very little is know about this great man of God. The information that we have of Apollos comes from the Acts, I Corinthians, and an epistle.

Our first glimpse of Apollos is seen when he travels to the City of Ephesus. The Scriptures tell us first, that he was from Alexandria, Egypt. Alexandria was in the Nile Delta region of Egypt and had been established by Alexander the Great. Alexandria was famous for its libraries and was a center for Greek learning. It was in Alexandria that the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament was made. Alexandria had a very large Jewish population. Alexandria was a world-wide commerce center. A great school of learning developed in Alexandria.

Secondly, we see that Apollos was very knowledgeable of the ministry of Jesus Christ. We do not know if Apollos was taught this information in Alexandria or elsewhere. Luke tells us however, that Apollos knowledge or information was not complete. The Scripture tells us that Apollos was only aware of the baptism which had been instituted by John the Baptist. The baptism in the name of Jesus which had been preached by Peter on the Day of Pentecost was unknown to Apollos. What is important for us to note is that Apollos combined great biblical learning and accurate knowledge of the story of Jesus with such spiritual enthusiasm that he proved to be specially gifted in showing from the Old Testament that Jesus was the long awaited and promised Messiah.

Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos one day preaching the Old Testament Scriptures in the Synagogue in Ephesus. They were greatly impressed with both his understanding and his passion. Apollos did not seem to know the full extent of the gospel that he was so enthusiastically preaching and so they invited him to their home in Ephesus. There they taught him what he did not know and filled in the gaps that existed in his learning.

Whether it was originally in his plans or it developed while in Ephesus, Apollos desired to travel to Corinth. It may have been the fact that Aquila and Priscilla talked much of their friend, the Apostle Paul whom labored in Corinth. Apollos left Ephesus and traveled to Corinth. While there he helped the believers tremendously in their understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures. The bible says he was "mighty" and "convinced" many Jews as he showed them that Jesus was the Christ. If you remember he was so loved by some and made such an impact that when Paul made note of the division in the church, he included Apollos' name as one whom the church had chosen to divide over. There is no evidence that Apollos was directly responsible for this division.

Apollos seems to have visited the Church at Corinth in between Paul's second visit to the church and the writing of what we know as I Corinthians. Apollos then returned to Ephesus where he joined the Apostle Paul.  They talked much we are sure of the situation at Corinth. Paul even urged Apollos to return to Corinth and help straighten things out but Apollos declined, having other plans.

Paul and Apollos maintained their love for one another. When Paul wrote Titus when Titus was stationed on the Island of Crete, Paul instructed Titus to assist Zenas (lawyer) and Apollos in every way possible so that neither of them lacked anything.

We don't know why Apollos and Zenas were traveling to Crete. Later in history, Jerome records for posterity that the reason Apollos left the Corinthian Church was that he was so frustrated with the divisions between the believers. Jerome also states that after Paul's extensive dealing with the church that Apollos eventually returned to the Corinthian Church and became its pastor. We do not know this for sure nor do we have proof of this.

Martin Luther along with some modern day theologians believe that the Epistle to the Hebrews was written, not by Paul, Timothy, Luke, or Barnabas, but by Apollos. We have absolutely no evidence to support this hypothesis. However, it is interesting to think about! :)