28 April 2007

A Portrait of a Shepherd

I guess it's more of a landscape.The war-torn church had many casualties. Despair and confusion pervaded. Surely not our elders—they would not fall; they would hold the faith. “Even from your own number,” Paul’s words from that sermon on the beach years before echoed in their ears, “Men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). It happened, just as Paul had said. But the Spirit was not thwarted; he sovereignly raised a new army of shepherds to care for sheep and to fight pride and lies and greed. Timothy was there not only to silence the false teaching but to restore order to the church, and presiding over the choice of officers is part of that. Here Paul paints a portrait of the shepherd for the recovering Ephesian church.

Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.
He is to protect the sheep through apt teaching and a godly example. He is not to stoop to the bickering and peddling of the false teachers, nor is he to abandon his home responsibilities as they may have. The task before them is noble, so they must show themselves worthy of it.

27 April 2007

On Happiness and House-elves

I've talked before about how humans were meant to be royalty, to rule and to subdue the earth. But I think that truth has a complementary one: humans were made to serve God. The service we are intended to render, though obligatory, is not supposed to be burdensome or servile. Instead, it is a robust, lively activity, the only activity in which we will find thorough and profound happiness. One of the greatest duties—no, the greatest duty—we have in service to God is taking delight in him.
It was with that theological framework that I approached the text of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Perhaps it is only a silly parallel, but I really thought it was pertinent.
As our parallel begins, Winky, a female house-elf, is quite depressed because her role as servant to the Crouch household has been terminated. The house-elves, like humans, were made to serve. But unlike fallen humanity, house-elves delight in serving their masters. It is, even in Dobby’s case, part of their nature. Dumbledore takes Winky on to serve at Hogwarts, but the devastating blow of being sacked is too much for her to handle. She is an emotional wreck. All of the other house-elves at Hogwarts think of her as a disgrace. Hermione tries to defend Winky, telling the other house-elves that Winky is simply unhappy. But they respond:


‘Begging your pardon, miss,’ said the house-elf, bowing deeply again, ‘but house-elves has no right to be unhappy when there is work to be done and masters to be served.’ ‘Oh for heaven’s sake!’ Hermione cried. ‘Listen to me, all of you! You’ve got just as much right as wizards to be unhappy! You’ve got the right to wages and holidays and proper clothes, you don’t have to do everything you’re told (p. 538).

Of course, Rowling’s point is that Hermione’s quest for elf-liberation is immature, but still--Leave it to human autonomy to completely ruin the picture. We humans would rather rule ourselves than be happy with God’s rule over us. Instead of actively doing everything we’re told, in the expressed divine will, humans insist, “No, I have every right to be unhappy!”

17 April 2007

Saved Through Childbearing

Eve First?In the following paragraphs, Paul continues to give Timothy instructions about how the church is supposed to function. By observing distinctions in gender roles in family and church, Paul tells Timothy, the members of the Ephesian church will escape spiritual disaster.

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

Apparently the false teachers encouraged (or their teaching resulted in) the usurpation of male roles in the church by women. Some have suggested that these, who forbid to marry (4:3), and who perhaps downplay normal family obligations (5:8), may also have a view of the role of women which is contrary to the created order. In any case, these, who want to be teachers of the Law (1:7), are refuted by the Pentateuch itself. In the church, God intended official teachers to be chosen from among the men, and for the women to teach younger women (Titus 2:2) and children.

Observance of these roles in church and home is very important to Paul. In fact, he attaches “salvation” to it in verse 15. If one takes 4:16 as a parallel, the verse may be a little easier to understand. There Paul instructs Timothy to “watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” So Timothy must persevere in a gospel-saturated walk and talk. In so doing he will act as a conduit of grace as God, through the means of perseverance, brings Timothy and the Ephesian congregation to final salvation. With the same hope, the Ephesian women must persevere in their roles as women in the church and home, continuing “in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

14 April 2007

Twisted

Maybe I'm just twisted--Do these guys ever remind you of these guys?

11 April 2007

Reasons for Universal Intercession

Christ Prays for CultureIn the following verses, Paul grounds prayer for the conversion of all humans in God’s pleasure in saving, in God’s unique supremacy over all, and in God’s unique work in Christ.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men-- the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle-- I am telling the truth, I am not lying--and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.


Essentially, the prayers recommended here are prayers for the progress of the gospel. One means to that end is prayer for the wisdom and well-being of the imperial and regional political leaders in maintaining peace and order in the empire. Christian apologists of the early centuries were able to point to these practices to show that they were not anti-Roman, even if they did not worship the emperor as most residents of the empire did. These prayers may have been in direct contradiction to the false teaching at Ephesus.

Here Paul gives Timothy and the Ephesians three reasons to pray for the universal progress of godliness. First, in the sense that God desires obedience for all of his commands, God desires that everyone come to acknowledge the apostolic testimony, that is, “the truth” (v. 4). So praying for the conversion of everyone is consistent with God’s moral demand on everyone to heed the gospel. Second, for all humankind, there is only one God. Because conversion entails repentance from false idols (1 Thess 1:9) and dead works (Heb 6:1), it pleases God to pray for the conversion of those who worship that which is not God. Third, for all humankind, there is only one Savior. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Because conversion entails despising all false hopes and turning to Jesus, it pleases God to pray for the conversion of those who hope in that which is not Christ.

09 April 2007

Making Changes

This sign has been destroyed by a lawn mower.
New domain addy,
New theme and blogger template,
New destination--
church-planting, leader-training
Mission: Nairobi, Kenya

06 April 2007

The Pervasive Influence of the English Bible on the American Mind

*$I asked for a refill of coffee at Starbucks.

I get the obligatory question, "Would you like room for cream?"

Before I give the obligatory answer, "No," the barista amends his question, "Or perhaps I should say, 'Would you like room for the cream?'" Then he explained, "Sometimes the King James Version confuses people."

I agreed and thanked him for my refill.