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Thursday, June 25, 2015

You’re Not Fit For the Ministry!

I'm not fit for the ministry? YOU'RE NOT FIT FOR THE MINISTRY!

I remember some years ago - there I was, in Seminary sitting in a class that was dealing with the Holy Ministry and coming to the realization “HOLY CRAP, I AM NOT FIT FOR THE MINISTRY!  I’M HOSED!”

Why would I say that?  Because I read this…

            “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer (Pastor), he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer (Pastor) must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”  (1 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)

Well, I could maybe muster up one or two of these things at a time, but when I consider the state of my heart, I am out of luck. 

Above Reproach?  Really? Reproach – disapproval or rebuke.  Very few people have approved of me and my life.  Heck, I know my own thoughts and deeds, NOT EVEN I APPROVE! 

Husband of one wife, whew, not married to multiple wives, so I thought that I had that one down… except that lust!  What’s up with that?  I am an adulterer in my heart, which God knows and sees!  HOSED AGAIN!

Sober minded, well, I am not a big drinker, but I sure am a goofball!   Dang, even if I’m not drunk, my mind isn’t of the most sober and serious sort.  Man!  I can’t catch a break!

Self-Controlled – Fugetaboutit! I am an emotional, flailing maniac, given to emotions and impulsive thinking.  I often speak before I think, I am overweight and I love to eat what is not good for me.  I am not self-controlled. 

Respectable?  Next!  I am a disaster!

Hospitable, on some days one might call me hospitable. 

Able to teach?  Yeah, I do okay teaching, when I am not too lazy to prepare and study for a class.  Sadly, there are too many other things going on to actually do this on most days.

Not a Drunkard.  Finally, I am not a very big drinker in general.  Wow, I have one! 

Then we get to this one – “not violent, but gentle.”  I LOVED to play rugby to tackle my opponent - hard!  I love a good scrum where people are about to die from the sheer pressure being exerted on them, the clash of eight men on each side smashing into one another and pushing with all their might against the other side.  I love to watch boxing and UFC, I love to shoot guns and watch anything that goes BOOM!  Heck, I just sometimes love shouting “BOOM!” for no good reason! I’m not the most peaceful person. 

Not Quarrelsome – HA! I’m Italian!  Arguing is more than an art, it is a way of life!   

Not a lover of money.  I tend to be generous by nature, but my dream job has always been to be a “retired billionaire.”  I like money, I have a little, I would like more. 

Need I go on?   I’m not fit for the ministry by the definition given in 1Timothy 3, neither are you. 

One of the things that has made me truly sad is seeing those in the office of the ministry who believe that they are fit for the office of the Holy Ministry, gloat and prance around at the failings of others.   They smugly state that not only is this man or that man not fit for the ministry, and everything that he has ever written or may write in the future is null and void.  It seems that according to some, anyone who has fallen into disgrace no longer has anything of value to offer and is now incapable of declaring the love and mercies of Christ.    

So here it is, the book of Psalms… all the parts by David – null, he committed adultery and had a guy rubbed out.   Pauline epistles, well he was a guy who persecuted the church, but at least he didn’t commit adultery (at least as far as we know), so maybe murderers are okay, but not adulterers.  Judges… yeah, those guys were messed up.  Abraham, passed off his wife to another man not just once, but twice!  His nick name should have been “Huggy Bear” (see Starsky and Hutch if you didn’t get that).  Of course in a modern context, being a gossip who rejoices in seeing someone with more status than you fall is also perfectly acceptable.  So in all reality, not cheating on your wife or embezzling from the church seems to be the true qualification for the ministry. 

Now, before anyone starts carrying on about how I am saying that adultery or theft is not a big deal and that pastors who do it should not step down from the ministry, IT IS, AND THEY SHOULD… at least for a time.  This is not to say that there is no grace for them nor is it to say that there is no hope that one day, they may be restored, if it is the Lord’s will. 

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

“So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
(Luke 15:1-7 ESV)

Can we not rejoice when one repents?  Must there be gloating and pontificating?  Can’t we just sit with Job in silence and mourn the sin that has wrecked the whole world?  Can’t we lament our sin along with the sin of others?   Can’t we just speak of the grace and mercies of Christ with one another, especially when they are hurting so deeply?  Would you not ask for the same if you were in such a spot? 

We who confess our sins to be what they are, are they not to be met with the Grace of Christ in even greater measure?  I thought that is what “ministers of the Gospel” are called to do, forgive sins.  Then again, they aren’t fit for the ministry either for in and of ourselves, no one is. 

I think that Martin Luther seemed to approach the office with the proper attitude of fear and humility.  One of his “Sacristy Prayers” reads:
“Lord God, You have appointed me as a Bishop and Pastor in Your Church, but
you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had
lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I
call upon You: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall
teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon You Word.
Use me as Your instrument -- but do not forsake me, for if ever I should
be on my own, I would easily wreck it all.”

It is called “the Holy Ministry” because it is Christ’s for He alone is Holy and He alone is worthy.  Let us all confess our sins and even more confess our Savior. 

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

He has cast down the mighty and lifted the lowly.

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Casting Stones in the Name of Jesus

“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”(John 8:3-11 ESV)

This passage of Scripture is often misquoted and misunderstood by believers and unbelievers alike.  Many believe that this is a case of Jesus excusing sins, as if the adultery isn’t a problem, which it isn’t THE problem, it is a sinful expression of THE problem. 

I have a few friends who have been driven from the pastorate, some at their own hands and some at the hands of others.  Either way, they are wounded, judged and cast out.  Sometimes, if the church (especially the clergy) still stoned people, these guys would be dragged out to the edge of a seminary and we would throw rocks at them until they stop moving.  The outrage, especially over sexual sins leads people into a frenzy of judgment, especially those who don’t have many facts.  

From time to time, grace is extended to these men and their families, but

all too often, they are left disenfranchised, judged and condemned to wander the world of earthly purgatory, wondering if they will every be forgiven, truly forgiven by the church.  Many have received absolution from a pastor, they know that Christ has forgiven them, yet they stand condemned, constantly reminded of their sins, constantly judged by fellow sinners who themselves need to seek forgiveness for their lack of forgiveness.   Some in the church tell us that they need to continue to suffer so that they will be good and sorry for their sins.  I have actually witnessed a single mother be wounded by those who say that she is sinning against her child by raising the kid alone and that the child is an ongoing punishment for her sin.  

Now, how do we stand in judgment of other absolved sinners?  Yes, there are always “those people” out there, but with our dark hearts, we are “those people.”  Yes, our sins may be more socially acceptable, sins like gluttony, gossip, lust, covetousness, hate, not availing ourselves of worship and God’s Word as often as we could, stealing time, if not tangible things from work, it goes on and on.  
I have said it before and so I say it again, mind your own sanctification.  You cannot look into the heart of your neighbor and judge their repentance; you can only do that with yourself.  If you find that you are repentant enough, look again, because you have no idea how dark your own soul is.  

I wrote earlier that the adultery, theft, gossip, etc… is not the real problem.  The problem is sin, and in any sin, the real problem is that we have the wrong god, we are the god.  All sin is a first commandment issue, “You shall have no gods before me.”  The Hebrew is better than the English on this as it says, “No gods to my face.”  When we have any gods, especially the god of self, we are smashing it in the true God’s face.  

Next time you hear of some pastor, or layman doing something sinful, stop and ask, “am I really better?  Am I really in a place to cast stones?”  If you are a Christian, a real Christian, you will pray for that person, that they may confess and be absolved.  Then we are called to rejoice for the lost lamb has been found in the arms of the Good Shepherd and we welcome him or her back into our smelly old sheepfold.

Of course Jesus does forgive you, but if you have committed a crime, the Government may not be so gracious. 

We who are sinners, who know that there is nothing good about us apart from the grace and mercy of Christ, should look inward at our own sin, at our own need for mercy.  We need to come and confess OUR OWN sins and not those of others.   We need to, each and everyone take the blame from what we have done and left undone, for our hate and anger against others, for our putting ourselves first – always.  We confess that we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves, we don’t love God with our whole heart, we are NOT heartily sorry for our sins, but we are HARDLY sorry for them.  We all justly deserve hell and damnation. 
As for pastors who “fall from grace,” I understand that some public sins are scandalous and they should step down from ministry, at least for a while.  Some public sins do exclude people from holding certain offices, but I like to think that they, in time may actually be able to be restored.  The Scriptures are full of sinful people who serve God.  There was even an Apostle who actively persecuted the church.  GASP!
All sin is deadly serious and should be understood that way, but Christ took the death of our sins and exchanged it for His life and righteousness. 
Sheep that from the fold did stray
No true shepherd e’er forsaketh:
Weary souls that lost their way
Christ the Shepherd, gently taketh
In His arms that they may live 
Jesus sinners doth receive.

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Craig can also be heard at www.godwhisperers.com
Follow our mission work. www.craigandpaula.org