Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pastors and Teachers (Ephesians 4:11-13)

"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-13)

This is the only verse in the New Testament describes the office of "pastor." This verse is incredibly significant and insightful. Here are a few thoughts. Pastors are:

1. Given by Christ.

2. Primarily "teachers"

3. Who are "equippers"

4. Of the church (i.e. the ministers) to do the ministry

5. Resulting in edification

6. And unification (in faith and knowledge of Christ)

7. And maturity of the fullness of Christ

Monday, August 23, 2010

Haggai and the New York Times

The New York Times yesterday reported on the decline in the housing market. This of course is not really news, but the article also suggested that the very idea of owning homes as a means to secure wealth is not just going away during the recession but will likely go away period.

Housing will eventually recover from its great swoon. But many real estate experts now believe that home ownership will never again yield rewards like those enjoyed in the second half of the 20th century, when houses not only provided shelter but also a plump nest egg.

Of interest to me is the next paragraph in the article which describes what the housing market was able to do for establishing the wealth of these homeowners.

The wealth generated by housing in those decades, particularly on the coasts, did more than assure the owners a comfortable retirement. It powered the economy, paying for the education of children and grandchildren, keeping the cruise ships and golf courses full and the restaurants humming.

I cannot help but think of the book of Haggai. The prophet mentions the great wealth of Israel, how the people lived in their "paneled houses," how their material wealth has grown, but also how their endless pursuit of wealth had really led them astray. While they pursue the easy life, they become distracted. They have forgotten to take care of “God’s house” (1:9). The result is that God going to punish them. Haggai reports to the people that the best way to ensure an economic recovery is by attending to God’s house. The way of destruction is to ignore God and his house.

The lesser known prophet Haggai lived in time after Israel’s destruction when the exiles had returned home to build their fortunes, establishing their fancy dwellings, but had largely ignored the rebuilding of the temple. 

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.’ ” Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Haggai 1:2-4, NIV)

The contrast between the Israelite’s “paneled houses” (homes that were constructed with fine materials of considerable cost) and the ruin of the temple is powerful, the people's excuses ("the time has not yet come") and the message from God ("Is it a time for you..."). But he goes further describing their endless pursuit of material wealth. To me it sounds like the typical iPad craving American (like myself):

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” (Haggai 1:5-6, NIV)

But Haggai’s message is not just to make the people feel guilty. No he offers an ominous warning of impending recession if they people do not respond.

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.” (Haggai 1:9-11)
What should Israel do?

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. (Haggai 1:7-8, NIV)

Grand Re-Opening

Have you ever seen a store close down and then have a grand reopening? Well my blog is having a grand reopening. I shutdown my academic blog (New Testament Studies) and I'm going to just manage this one. Hopefully I will do a better job.