Fathers, Direct Your Kids Toward that Which Matters – Part 1

A couple of years ago, I came across an article put out by Desiring God entitled: Dad’s Write in Your Bible. The article was written by Jonathan Parnell, who is a pastor in Minneapolis. In the article, he picks up on the idea that our time in God’s Word and prayer not only benefit us but those around us. That’s because God’s Word transforms us into a river of living water that flows from us to our friends, family, co-workers, and community.

With that in mind, he suggests one-way fathers could be a river of living water to their children is by setting aside a fresh copy of God’s Word, one with no marks and wide margins. As they read through that Bible, they should write notes, prayers, application, and advice to their children in the margins. Once finished, and their children are of age, they should give it to them as a way to encourage them in the faith. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty cool.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty cool. Imagine being able to give that to your kids? Imagine the impact that would have on them, as they read your prayers and application for their life.

Personally, this isn’t a project I’ve embarked on. I actually forgot about it until I sat down to write this post, but it’s something I’m considering, and something you might consider doing as well.

Solomon, a Vessel of Living Water

While it’s not exactly the same, something similar appears in the Bible. Solomon, one of the wisest kings ever to live, at the end of his life wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. He wrote not only to his children but to his kingdom and us as well. The book itself consists of Solomon’s learned wisdom. Wisdom he seeks to pass down so that we won’t waste our life chasing after that which doesn’t matter. In doing so, he continues to be a vessel of living water to all who read it.

Fathers when you think about deliberately writing to your children. Whether it be in the margins of your Bible or in a short book like Solomon has written. When you think about it, what advice, what wisdom, what direction would you give your children?

That’s a big question, a deep question, one that requires a lot of thought. In order to help get the juices flowing, we’re going to look at some of the wisdom Solomon passes down. Wisdom that’s lost in our current cultural moment. The topics we are going to explore are pleasure, career, and money.

That’s our roadmap, so let’s dive in.

(1) Pleasure can’t provide ultimate purpose, meaning, or fulfillment in life (vs. 2:1-11)

We learn that as a result of Solomon’s test in chapter 2. That’s really how the book works. Solomon either draws conclusions from his observations, his own experience, or both. In the beginning of chapter 2, Solomon tells us he going to test pleasure when he says,

“I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” (Ec 2:1a)

When Solomon says he is going to test pleasure, he does it on a scale that we could only imagine. You see, Solomon is the wisest and richest king ever to live. He can have whatever he wants. There are no limitations. So starting in verse 4 when he says that:

“I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.” (Ec 2:4–10)

So when Solomon tells us he sought pleasure in these things — and these things being possessions, art, sex, partying, and building projects —when he tells us that he did these things, we should imagine that he did them on the grandest of scales. That he had no regrets, no wants, nothing more was left for him to do.

Does pleasure bring meaning?

Solomon sought pleasure because he thought this was going to bring him satisfaction, some sort of meaning to life. Isn’t that why we seek pleasure today Don’t we believe more fun, excitement, and things will satisfy us; provide us with meaning? I know I’ve been guilty of this myself.

After attending a small local university for two years, I transferred to the University of Georgia. Prior to transferring, I was highly involved in the life of my church. But that wasn’t the case when I moved up to Athens to attend UGA. Instead of getting plugged into a solid church and Christian community, I got plugged into a group of people who partied all the time.

We hit the party scene hard. So hard that within my first couple of months there, I had spent close to $1,000 dollars going out with my friends. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of money to me, and a lot of money to spend in a college town because things are much cheaper there.

And the crazy thing about it is that when it was all said and done, I didn’t have anything to show for it, except an empty bank account. My activity back then was purely a pursuit of pleasure. But you know what, the fun and excitement of a night out on the town eventually faded, leaving me not only broke but empty. Through that experience I learned that when it comes to pleasure, the feeling, excitement, and fun it produces never lasts. And what you experience one time, usually can’t be reproduced. Which usually leaves people in a cycle of chasing after something that’s not possible to gain again.

Solomon agrees and tells us just that in verse 11 when he says,

“Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ec 2:11)

Vanity, what does it mean?

When Solomon tells us that something is vanity or a striving after the wind, what he means is that the feeling or thing he’s tested or observed is fleeting. It’s not something that can be grasped or held onto. To try and grasp it is like trying to hold onto smoke or the wind. You can feel it, you can see it’s effects, but it can’t be contained. It can’t be held onto. Which means it can’t provide ultimate meaning, purpose, or fulfillment in life.

So when it comes to pleasure, in whatever form we might seek it — possessions, art, sex, partying, building projects, and whatever else — we see that despite our cultures messaging and our all out pursuit of it, pleasure really doesn’t provide that for which we long. It doesn’t and can’t provide ultimate purpose, meaning, or fulfillment in life.

This is what Solomon tells his children, his kingdom, and us. Fathers, this is what we should tell our children as well so that they don’t find themselves walking a hedonistic road with no purpose.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you hoping pleasure will provide you with meaning and purpose?

Resources

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Post adapted from my sermon: Fathers, Direct Your Kids Toward that Which Matters

What Does it Take to be a Leader in the Church? – Part 3

What do all businesses, schools, non-profits, and churches have in common? They all have leaders. Leaders are important. They are the ones who determine the vision and set the direction for the future. As well they are the ones who make sure everyone is equipped to play their part in the organization. Without leaders, organizations flail. They meander around until they disappear. So leaders, especially good leaders are important.

This is especially true in the church. The last thing God wants is for a church just to meander around until it dies off. He wants His church to accomplish His mission. And He provides leaders to do that.

But God doesn’t just provide any old leader. He provides men who meet certain qualifications and desire certain things. What are those desires? What are those qualifications? What does it take to be a leader in the church?

A Leader in the Church Must Meet the God-Given Qualifications of an Overseer

The qualifications I specifically have in mind are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. There are other lists, but we will limit it to this list today.

I say that these are God-given because Paul wrote this list under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The fact that they were given by God to the church through Paul is significant. It tells us that they aren’t negotiable.

While every church is going to have different needs, these should be the primary qualifications a church looks for in their overseers. Good business skills, a charismatic personality may be desirable, but those skills don’t show up on this list. So we need to be careful not to hold things outside of the list God gives us as primary importance. If a person meets the qualities on this list, they will be a good overseer, who serves the church well. He may not have the exact personality you want or do everything like you think he should, but he’s going to be a good overseer.

What are the qualifications of an overseer?

I think the easiest way to look at this list is to break it down into three categories which I’m labeling as  — Inner Life, Outer Life, and Family Life. This breakdown isn’t original to me, I got it from another pastor, so I want to give credit where credit is due. With that being said, let’s start with:

Inner Life

(1) Sober-minded — That simple means that this person is able to think clearly. Their decisions aren’t influenced by passion, lust, emotion, or personal gain. They are thinking about and allowing God’s Word to guide them.

(2) Self-Controlled — He is to be in control of himself, not given to anger, personal ambition, or his passions.

(3) Respectable — A person who is respectable is someone whose behavior matches their profession. Their not a hypocrite. They do what they say. Their outer life matches their inner life.

(4) Not to be a recent convert

Paul says,

“He must not be a recent convert, [and then he gives us his reason why when he says] or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” (1 Ti 3:6)

This is not to suggest that time necessarily guarantees maturity. Many people who claim the name of Christ remain spiritually immature for a lifetime. Now, of course, that’s not something we should aspire to. The writer to the Hebrews reprimanded his readers for their continual immaturity (Heb. 5:11–14). Nevertheless, the point is time doesn’t necessarily guarantee maturity, but those new to the faith will not have had the necessary time to come to possess the spiritual maturity that is required of an overseer.

Outer Life

(5) Above reproach — This doesn’t mean an overseer is perfect, instead, it means that no one can bring a legitimate charge of wrongdoing against them. While they still sin, they deal with it quickly and in a healthy way — repenting and seeking reconciliation.

(6) Hospitable — This doesn’t mean that they have to have someone over to their house every Sunday after church. It’s certainly good to have people over, but that’s not a necessary thing. Instead, it means that they are open to strangers. They are a friend to sinners. They desire to care for those in need.

(7) Able to teach — This doesn’t mean that everyone who is an overseer is going to be an amazing preacher. What it means is that they know the Bible well enough to be able to tell and teach others about Jesus and the gospel. They understand the basic doctrines and flow of Scripture, and they are able to teach others those things.

(8) Not a drunkard — This doesn’t mean that a pastor can’t drink. Instead, it means that he is not given to much wine. He is not dependent on it. It is not something he needs.

In some sense, this can apply to things other than drink. It can apply to drugs, possessions, and sex. All of these things are things we can become dependent on. Things that we run to when there are problems in our life, rather than running to Christ.

You see, an overseer, a pastor, should be one who runs to Christ instead of these things. Christ should be the One who gets him through and the One who provides him with rest, joy, and peace. And, in reality, that shouldn’t just be so for a pastor, it should be so for all of us. You see, the reason a pastor should have these qualifications is so he can lead, guide, encourage, and motivate others to have them as well. Which means that this list shouldn’t just be something we file away for our next pastoral search. Instead, it should be a list that is front and center in all our lives because we all should aspire to possess these qualities.

(9) Not be violent but gentle — A pastor should lead with the same gentleness that Christ does. He shouldn’t lash out at others because of their sin. Instead, he should gently guide and lead them in the truth.

(10) Not be quarrelsome — He shouldn’t be someone who is always picking a fight.

(11) Not be a lover of money — Instead he should be someone who is content with the possessions he has. Being content should allow him to lead out in generosity and faithful dependence on God.

(12) Well thought of by outsiders — This doesn’t mean that those outside the church will always agree with what he believes or says, but that they respect him.

Family Life

(13) Husband of one wife — Literally this means he is to be a one-woman man. While this verse has certainly sparked controversy over the years, I don’t believe this mean that an elder has to be someone who is married. Nor does it mean that he can’t have been divorced.

Instead what I believe Paul is getting at is the heart of the matter.

  • Is he faithful to his wife? Or are his eyes and affections always wondering?
  • Is he going to stick by her through the thick and thin? Or does he bolt out of there the moment things get tough?
  • Is his focus on his wife and her needs? Or is it somewhere else?

This is what I believe Paul is getting at with this qualification. He is getting to the heart of the matter. He is drilling down to expose this man’s character. If that is what Paul is doing, then, that is what we should do as well.

(14) Lead his household well — Since the pastor deals with people, the test of his leadership and management capabilities is noted by observing his home. His home is his first church. If leadership and spiritual oversight isn’t exercised well at home, it’s not going to be exercised well in the church.

So that is quick run through of the qualifications a leader in the church must possess if they are going to be an overseer.

Sum Up the Series

So again, what does it take to be a leader in the church?

In order to be a leader in the church a man must:

  • See himself as an overseer
  • View the office of overseer as a high calling that involves sacrifice and a passion for the task
  • He must meet the God-given qualifications of an overseer.

That’s what it takes to be a leader in the church. And that’s the type of man for which a church should be looking. Once they have those men in place, they should pray that they would continue to grow in those areas, as well as they should seek to grow in them themselves.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you as a church seeking men who meet the God-given qualifications of overseer?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: What does it take to be a leader in the church?

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What Does it Take to be a Leader in the Church? – Part 2

What do all businesses, schools, non-profits, and churches have in common? They all have leaders. Leaders are important. They are the ones who determine the vision and set the direction for the future. As well they are the ones who make sure everyone is equipped to play their part in the organization. Without leaders, organizations flail. They meander around until they disappear. So leaders, especially good leaders are important.

This is especially true in the church. The last thing God wants is for a church just to meander around until it dies off. He wants His church to accomplish His mission. And He provides leaders to do that.

But God doesn’t just provide any old leader. He provides men who meet certain qualifications and desire certain things. What are those desires? What are those qualifications? What does it take to be a leader in the church?

A Leader in the Church Must View the Office of Overseer as a high calling that involves sacrifice and a passion for the task

It’s a High Calling

While being a pastor does come with some form of compensation, the pastorate shouldn’t just be viewed as another way to pay the bills or earn some extra cash. It’s a ministry. It’s an opportunity to provide soul care, to Shepherd God’s people. It’s a high calling.

It Involves Sacrifice

If you are someone who is going to take on the task of pastoring, you have to view it as a high calling and have a passion for the task because serving the church requires sacrifice. Whether that be sacrificing time for your hobbies, the money you could make elsewhere, or emotional energy, the office of overseer requires sacrifice. If you don’t view the office as a high calling, and if you don’t have a passion for the task, then you aren’t going to provide the sacrifice necessary to care for God’s people in a way that glorifies Him.

Do Anything Else

When I was in seminary and praying about the ministry, I spoke to several people who told me, “If you can do anything else, do it.” Their reason was simple; being a pastor requires a lot of sacrifices, effort, and emotional energy. If you are pursuing the office for the novelty of it, you aren’t going to be in it for long. Being a pastor must be a calling. A position you are drawn to by the Lord. As well as it must be something He has gifted you to do.

Don’t Make it a Practice to Sacrifice Family Time

Now, if you notice, I didn’t say a pastor has to be willing to sacrifice time with his family. I want to specifically point that out because many ministers fail in this area. Family time is important and it must be guarded. Managing your household well is one of the qualifications that must be met in order to become a pastor. You can’t manage a household if you’re never there. So a pastor shouldn’t be about the business of always sacrificing time with his family. Certainly, there will be times when that is needed, but that has to be the exception and not the rule.

Don’t Require Your Pastor to Sacrifice Family Time

On the flip side of that, churches shouldn’t require their pastors to sacrifice family time, instead they should encourage it. Just like the pastor must view his family has his first church, the church has to view the pastor’s family as his first church too, and allow him to minister to them first.

Sum It Up

So if a man wants to be a leader in the church, he must not only see himself as an overseer, but he must also view the office of overseer as a high calling that involves sacrifice and a passion for the task.

Question for Reflection

  1. If you are an overseer, do you have a passion for the task?
  2. If you are an overseer, do you have time built in for your family?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: What does it take to be a leader in the church?

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