Ruth 2 Reflection and Questions

After you’ve read and heard the study on Ruth 2, I hope the following questions aid in your own meditation of God’s Word.  If you personally reflect on these questions before your discussion groups, it will tremendously enrichen your time together to be more edifying to yourself and everybody else.

Remember that as a group you do not have to cover all of these questions.  Set a time limit and stick with it!  And please don’t sacrifice time for sharing prayer requests and praying for one another.

Discussion Questions:

  • Introduce yourselves if you do not all know each other 
  • Which part of Ruth 2 sticks out to you or speaks out to you the most?
  • What is meant by the bitter and sweet providence of God?  Have you ever tasted the bitter providence of God?  Have you ever tasted the sweet providence of God?  Please share. 
  • How can you live in greater awareness that God’s heavenly, hidden hand is at work in your life?  What can awaken you to this truth?  What causes you to forget it? 
  • Which aspect of love in this passage most sticks out to you (unconditional, providing, protecting, serving)?  Talk about it.  What draws you to that specific aspect of love?  Have you received it?  Have you given it?  Have you seen it in action? 
  • For women: Is there an aspect of Ruth’s life and character that resonates with you, challenges you, inspires you, etc?  Elaborate.
  • For men: Is there an aspect of Boaz’s life and character that resonates with you, challenges you, inspires you, etc?  Elaborate.
  • Have you ever felt “rocked” to the core by God’s undeserved generosity and grace the way Ruth was?  Can you describe the type of experience that was for you?  If you haven’t experienced this before, pray that the Spirit would do it in you!
  • Under what wings are you finding your refuge and shelter?  What are you trusting in to be your security and protection in life?  How do those things provide refuge and rest? 
  • How have you been doing at being the face of God’s kindness to others?  Who may the Lord be calling you to be the face of his kindness toward? 

CG Discussion Guide (For March 29, 2020)

“How We Hope in Uncertain Times”  Acts: To the End of the Earth

Scripture: Acts 1:15-20

Sermon Summary

Acts 1:15-26 is the only place in the entire Bible that records the events between the ascension and the day of Pentecost.  It’s worth slowing down and taking our time reflecting on these verses.  From our story today we learn that Christians should draw hope in uncertain times from God’s right purposes and his righteous anger.

#1: God’s Right Purposes

Peter addresses the gathering of believers and brings their attention to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and the subsequent arrest.  Judas not only betrayed a man he lived with and followed for three years but he betrayed the Son of God.  His actions led to the death of the Author of Life!  What could be more evil and treacherous than to sell the Savior of the world for a bag full of coins?  And yet Peter says about this “the Scripture had to be fulfilled.”  He then goes on says it fulfilled the psalms which are ascribed to King David.  This means Judas’ betrayal was predicted and planned almost a thousand years before Jesus.  But Peter goes further and says the ultimate author and originator of this was the Holy Spirit.  This is because it was God who sovereignly and mysteriously purposed this to happen.  Even Judas’ incredibly wicked act was all God-ordained. 

It is tough for people to accept that God not only allowed this tragic and terrible event to happen, but he purposed it.  Yet out of something so evil, God was able to work out something very good.  Out of his own suffering and loss he worked out our salvation and life.  It is not easy to believe that even the most confusing and chaotic things in our lives are part of God’s good and right purposes.  But we must remember that God worked something out of the worst and most evil act in history so he can and will work something out of whatever we’re experiencing in our most uncertain times.  Things do not happen in God’s world because he has let go of the reigns of history or because he has fallen asleep on his throne.  He has purposed all things and although not always clear and understandable to us, they are always right and for good. 

#2: God’s Righteous Anger

When Peter’s speech ends, Luke inserts his own authorial remarks.  He chooses to describe a part of Judas’ death that differs than Matthew’s gospel.  Luke does this in order to make a connection with the story of Ahab who murdered innocent Naboth and acquired a field.  Ahab received God’s judgment and died.  The point of this connection is to show us that just as God judged Ahab in righteous anger, so too God judged Judas in righteous anger.  This is a theme Luke develops in Acts.  It appears in the stories of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 and King Herod in Acts 12.  God does not let sin and evil go unpunished but he acts against it.  We need a God who is not only kind and tender but who also gets righteously angry at sin. 

To say that God has righteous anger against sin and evil is only good news to those who have their hope in Jesus Christ.  Through Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, we know that God’s anger against our sin is satisfied and turned away.  Now when we behold the face of God we know he is smiling down upon us.  But God’s face is not always smiling!  When he sees the sin and its effects running rampant in his world, he is righteously angry.  God responds.  In John 11 Jesus is at the funeral of his good friend Lazarus.  Coming to the tomb, he is deeply enraged at death because death is an intruder and unwanted guest in his world.  Jesus is angry enough at sin that he goes to the cross in order to defeat it.  By doing so, he conquers sin and death through his resurrection and promises us that on the final day death, mourning, crying and pain will be no more.  This gives us incredible hope that God is at work to eradicate and exterminate all sickness, suffering and sin from his world.  There is incredible hope in knowing his righteous anger against sin. 

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon. 
  2. How are you processing and handling all the news and updates concerning the coronavirus pandemic?  What has been helpful and what has been unhelpful? 
  3. What are you thinking about God in the midst of all of this?  Is your hope in him increasing or decreasing?  What idols (false hopes) are being exposed at this time?
  4. Which do you think you need to meditate on more at this moment: God’s right purposes or God’s righteous anger?  How can you continue to hope and trust in God more at this time?

CG Discussion Guide (for March 22, 2020)

“The Fast that God Chooses”  Mission and Mercy March

Scripture: Isaiah 58:1-7

Sermon Summary

We often evaluate our spiritual health and the vitality of our spiritual lives through individualized acts of devotion to God like Bible reading and prayer.  But is this really the best way to assess your walk in faith with the living Lord?  Isaiah 58 offers a critique against such a way of evaluating your spirituality.  It shows us that God doesn’t desire religious performance or piety but righteous practices of mercy and justice. 

#1: What we think God wants

God calls Israel out for fasting and humbling themselves, pretending these are deeds of righteousness when they are nothing more than external, outward religious performances.  Ultimately the people did these things for themselves, not the Lord.  But God saw right through it.  He knew that their deeds were self-serving because the people hoped to receive a reward from God because of what they did.  That was exactly their problem.  They thought they knew what God wanted but they really had no idea.  The same may be true of us.  When we focus so much on our performances and our piety, our motions and our emotions, we lose sight of what God has made clear. 

#2: What God really wants

God says that the fast chooses is for Israel to pursue lives of mercy and justice.  Justice is not only about giving punishment to the guilty but also giving protection to the vulnerable.  The reason God is so concerned that everybody is shown mercy and justice is because he has made us all in his image.  Every single creature, whether covenanted to him in faith or not, are image bearers of God.  And this image is what assures each person value, worthy and dignity.  This is why we should work for and care for the justice of all people.  This is why it is our cause and our concern to speak against practices and attitudes that promote injustice, inequality and inhumanity. 

But who specifically are those in need?  From Isaiah 58:6-7, Isaiah 1:16-17 and Zechariah 7:9-10 we see that at the very least God identifies seven groups of people: the hungry, the homeless, the naked, the orphans, the widows, the immigrants and the poor.  The point is that God has a heart for those who are disadvantaged and disenfranchised, deprived and destitute.  To look after the interests of such people is at the heart of God.  This is the way we obey the fast that God has chosen.  Christians need to ask who the needy are and what their needs are.  Until we start asking these kinds of questions, we won’t begin looking to answer them. 

#3: How we do what he wants

We do what God wants when we begin identifying with those in need.  But how can we do that?  We must first understand the lengths God went to identify with us.  In Isaiah 58:7 God tells his people to do three things: to feed the hungry, to provide hospitality to the homeless, and to clothe the naked.  Later in Matthew 25 Jesus picks this up and says that those who feed the hungry, welcome the stranger and clothe the naked have done it to him.  He says, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”  Jesus identifies himself so closely with those in need that to serve them is to serve him.  The God of the Bible is a God who identifies with us! 

Now remember that in ancient religions such a thing was unspeakable.  The gods always identified with the rich and powerful, not the poor and lowly.  And yet the Son of God does the very opposite.  In fact he goes even further and does something even more outrageous and offensive.  The gospel is that the Son of God identified himself with mankind so intimately and so personally that our sins and our guilt actually became his.  Our trespasses and failures were cast on him as if they were his all along.  And in exchange for what we gave him, he gave us his righteousness so that we could be forgiven.  When we believe and understand that Jesus identified himself this closely with us, it begins to change us.  We start to identify with others and minister to them in mercy and justice.  In fact, we desire to identify with them because Jesus identified with us.  This is when it becomes clear to us that what pleases God is not religious performance and piety but righteous practices of mercy and justice.  Then it becomes the fast that we choose. 

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon. 
  2. Why do we tend to evaluate our spirituality based on things like religious performances and piety rather than practices of mercy and justice? 
  3. Spend time reflecting aloud on these questions: What does mercy and justice look like in the relational spheres you’re connected to? What does mercy and justice look in your community?  In your country?  In the world? What does mercy and justice look in light of the coronavirus and those suffering in so many ways around the world? 
  4. How can you begin to identify with those in need and be changed to live a life of mercy and justice?  What’s the difference between doing acts of mercy and justice and becoming an agent of mercy and justice? 

 

CG Discussion Guide (for March 15, 2020)

“Go and Do Likewise”  Mission and Mercy March

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37

Sermon Summary

Mercy and justice are not optional components of the Christian life.  They are not varsity level Christian concerns that you mature your way up to.  They are foundational, core elements of being a Christian.  To follow Jesus and call him Lord and Savior means you must walk in the path of mercy and justice that he did.  From the parable of the Samaritan we learn that glorious mercy received in Christ spurs generous mercy toward others

#1: Mercy is a tangible way of loving your neighbor by meeting felt need through deeds

The religious lawyer asks Jesus a question about loving your neighbor and Jesus responds with a parable about a man who showed mercy.  Jesus then makes a connection between neighborly love and mercy.  This encounter makes it clear that mercy is a tangible expression of neighborly love.  The parable itself helps us understand more concretely what it means to show mercy.  Whereas the two religious servants (the priest and the Levite) see and pass by the Jewish man in need of help, it’s the Samaritan who sees and draws near.  This is because he didn’t see an enemy as others might have expected him to.  He didn’t see skin color, a language difference or any of the other barriers we often focus on.  He simply saw a person in need and a person made in the image of God.  The other two men saw a body but not a person.  They saw an inconvenience and a threat to their own safety so they were able to ignore the man and his needs. 

When the Samaritan sees the physical, felt needs of the man, he responds immediately with many merciful deeds.  According to the parable he responds in at least seven ways.  First is physical presence as he drew near.  Mercy begins just by showing up and being present with a person.  Second, he got involved.  The man’s problem became his problem and he began serving the man by washing him.  Third and fourth, he provided transportation and shelter.  He brought the man to an inn and made sure he had a roof over his head and food in his mouth.  Fifth, he gave financially.  He had no idea how much his mercy would cost him but he was willing to make the sacrifice, regardless of how the man would respond or repay him.  Sixth, he promised a visitation.  Rather than being one and done, the man decided to return to follow up and check in on the man.  Seventh and last, he gave of his time.  Time is often the most difficult currency to be generous with because time cannot be replenished.  Once spent, time is gone forever. 

#2: Mercy is the mark of a true Christian who has been shown mercy in Christ

Jesus responds that people should go and do likewise as the Samaritan did.  The Bible is clear that true saving faith leads to mercy and justice.  Consider passages like James 2:15-17 and 1 John 3:17-18.  A Christian who loves God and neighbor cannot have mercy very far from their heart.  Those born again by the Spirit and given a new heart have a powerful dynamic at work in them.  The gospel is power that makes you somebody who lives in generous mercy.  This is the dynamic that Jesus intends for the lawyer to see and experience.  But the lawyer is too proud to sense his own need of God’s mercy.  He doesn’t realize he cannot obey God’s law to love the Lord your God and love your neighbor.  Therefore Jesus tells him the parable to expose his need.  This is why Jesus identifies the man in need as the Jew, not the man who extends help.  Jesus was helping the lawyer see how much of God’s mercy he needed.  If the lawyer really understood that he was a recipient of mercy then and only then could he “go and do likewise” as Jesus commanded.

The gospel is the only dynamic at work in our hearts that’ll change us to do more than a few acts of mercy and justice.  It’ll shape all of our life to be lived in such a way.  We have access to this power only when we realize the parable is not meant to be a manual teaching us how to be a good Samaritan.  The parable points us to a true and better Samaritan.  In the same way, Jesus came for the very people who rejected and despised him and yet still showed us mercy through his death on a cross.  But Jesus is better.  The Samaritan put himself in harm’s way but Jesus subjected himself to certain death for us.  The Samaritan bound up the wounds of this man but Jesus healed us by being wounded in our place.  The Samaritan was generously willing to pay the cost no matter how much denarii it cost but Jesus generously paid all of our debt with the very cost of his life.  Jesus showed us ultimate mercy and when that grips our hearts, then and only then will we be transformed to show generous mercy to others.

Group Discussion Questions

  1. Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon. 
  2. Do you think mercy and justice are a natural, organic part of your life?  Do you normally consider these things to be “spiritual” or “unspiritual”?  Why?
  3. What are the biggest obstacles or things that prevent you from showing neighborly love in tangible ways to others?  How does the gospel transform you to not just do some acts but live a life of mercy and justice?
  4. Seven things we see the Samaritan offer are: physical presence, involvement, transportation, shelter, finances, visitation, and time.  Have you ever received any of these from somebody else?  What else would you add to this list?

Embracing Awkwardness: Pursuing Multi-Ethnic Cultural Engagement

IMG_0195.jpgBy Dan Hong

Do you ever recall that moment, when you say bye to somebody, only to find yourself walking the same direction as that person, then you start looking at your phone, or even walking faster to avoid them?  That’s what you call an awkward moment.  That’s exactly what you’ll feel when pursing multiethnic engagement.  Even if you were to view them as a brother or sister in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14), or ‘become’ like Paul did for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), there will be many awkward moments that will arise.

As Ken Currie once said, “Awkwardness is perhaps the biggest threat to evangelism for far too many of us.” How true it is, also, for pursuing multiethnic engagement.  I promise you that awkwardness won’t kill you.  It is a small price to pay for enjoying the power of God’s Spirit using us to pursue multiethnic engagement.

Even though we’re all created in God’s image, we can’t deny the fact that we’re different.  Culturally, people eat different types of food, dress differently, smell differently, mannerisms are different, and the list goes on.  When you have different cultural norms that clash together, there will be tension– a weird tension of awkwardness.  We view awkward moments to be a bad thing, but it’s not.  In those moments is where we learn about there culture.  Those are the moments where we’ll find ourselves drawing closer to them.  Therefore, don’t runaway from it or look at your phone to avoid it, but embrace those awkward moments.

So if you’re asking yourself right now, “So if I live out the gospel, there will be awkward moments?”  The answer is ‘YES’.  You can and will have awkward moments when living out the gospel.  The gospel is counter-cultural to the world.  You think Asian culture is radically different compared to Middle Eastern culture?  Or the black culture to white culture?  It’s not.  The biggest difference of culture is the gospel and the world.  So expect many uncomfortable and awkward moments.

The good news is, the gospel gives us a purpose to embrace awkward moments, so that many may come to the faith (1 Corinthians 9:22).  Even though the gospel is totally contrary to the world, it’s also the only thing that can bring the most different of cultures together.  We all need the gospel.  We all need a Savior.  That Savior is what brings us to the Father.  That’s where we will find our biggest commonality in all the differences that we have.  That commonality is what triumphs all the differences that we have with one another.  That’s where we will find ourselves embracing those awkward moments in pursuing multiethnic engagement.

The Office of Elder and Deacon

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By Rev. Andrew Kim

1 Timothy 3:1-13  (Preached on April 14, 2019 by Rev. Andrew Kim)

Introduction

As we get ready to receive nominations for the office of elder and deacon, we’re going to spend time today considering what the Bible has to say about these offices. We need to be informed. I’m not sure how many revivals broke out in the history of God’s church by talking about elders and deacons but nonetheless this God’s Word given to us for our instruction and guidance. God didn’t leave the church in the dark and tell us to figure it out with what is practical and with what works when it comes to leadership. He speaks to it in passages like 1 Timothy. But here’s the thing. God does not reveal names in the clouds or in the sand for who should be an officer in the church. I recently heard from a pastor friend whose church is in the middle of a pastoral search process that one applicant had the audacity to write and tell the search committee to stop their search. Their prayer had been answered. God had revealed to him he was to be their new senior pastor. How do you respond to such a claim? God gives officers to his Church as gifts but he uses the ordinary means to give them. And for us that means prayerfully and wisely discerning who we believe to be men fit for office and then nominating and voting them in. If God chooses to use members of the church to make this decision, it means we must be informed by the Bible to know what the office of elder and deacon are and what they are called to do and be.

This can be especially difficult because we may have grown up with certain expectations and stereotypes of these offices. Many people wrongly assume that an elder must be somebody old. I’ve heard people say about perfectly godly candidates that they are simply too young to be an elder. But the Bible never mentions an age requirement. In fact, remember Paul’s encouraging words to Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth…” Timothy was as an elder in his church and his age did not disqualify him. Others think an elder must be rich and needs to have money to give to the church in order to be considered. Sadly, I’ve heard people joke that they don’t feel ready to be elders because they aren’t wealthy enough or don’t want to be elders because they will have to buy the church something expensive. I’ve also heard people say that the elders’ jobs are to execute the will of the pastor. That they are “yes” men to the pastor. I wish that was so but that’s simply not what the Bible teaches.

The same goes for deacons. There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about this office as well. Some assume that because the work of deacons is so hands on that spiritual qualifications don’t matter but only practical skills. But Paul says they must be dignified and hold the mystery of the faith and be proven blameless which are very spiritual qualifications. Others view the office of deacon as a stepping stone to be an elder. It’s almost a rite of passage, a door every elder must walk through. But being a deacon is its own calling, a separate office altogether that’s not a means to an end, but an end itself.

In the end we need to submit our thoughts to the Bible and then ask God to help us understand what he’s revealed and how our church can reflect that. I want to consider our text today considering four things with you about elders and deacons:

  1. The Offices
  2. The Duties
  3. The Qualifications
  4. The Hope

#1: The Offices

There are two recognized offices in the New Testament. They are the office of elder and deacon. But often in the Bible you’ll see another word that’s translated “overseer” but that is not a third office. It’s the same office as elder. The word for elder is the word presbyteros from which we get the word Presbyterian. The word for overseer is the word episkopos from which we get the word Episcopalian. Both of these words are used interchangeably in the New Testament. Even here in 1 Timothy, Paul calls them episkopos in chapter 3 but then presbyteros in chapter 5 but they refer to the same office and the same duties. And so verse 1 lays out that first office, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” We see the second office in verse 8 where Paul writes, “Deacons likewise must be…” and then he goes on to describe the office of deacon.

Now there is the office of elder and deacon and some of you are wondering, then what is a pastor? Shouldn’t that be a third office? Presbyterians understand that the pastor is also an elder of the church. He is not a greater or lesser elder. He is neither higher nor lower. He is simply an elder with the special calling to teach and preach. In our denomination, the PCA, we make this distinction clear by using the terms teaching elder and ruling elder. Both are elders to whom 1 Timothy 3 and its qualifications apply but as 1 Timothy 5:17 says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” Here, Paul makes a distinction that there are some elders called to this specific labor of not only ruling and shepherding as all elders do, but preaching and teaching, which only a few, select elders do. Therefore I, as the pastor, am considered an elder, just like our other elders. Only I am a teaching elder and they are a ruling elders. The opening of nominations today is for the office of ruling elder.

As for the office of deacon, we see the office created in Acts 6. When the church began and was flourishing as many people were coming to faith, a certain issue arose that needed special attention. Acts 6 records this incident starting in verse 1: “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’” (vv.1-4). The phrase, “to serve tables” comes from the Greek word diakonein which is where we get diaconate or deacon from. This incident shows us that the office of deacon was created as a separate and distinct office from the work of the apostles which was to pray and proclaim the word. Although the office of the apostles has ceased, their spiritual work of praying and preaching are continued by the elders. So we see the deacons are called to a different task and to address different concerns. So there are two offices of the church: elder and deacon.

The reason I highlight this point is because of the implications it has. First, there are many ways of serving the church but only two ordained offices. I am so thankful for all of you who serve the various ministries of the church, volunteering your time and energy. We know that many of our operations as a church would come to a halt if you weren’t so generous and sacrificial in your service. But the Bible shows that only the office of elder and deacon are the ordained offices in the church that require the laying on of hands. This is why we only vote for the officers of the church.

Second, elder and deacon are distinct offices. One is not lesser or greater than the other. Each requires its own calling from God and a faithfulness to fulfill different duties and responsibilities. When people view the office of deacon as lesser than the office of elder, there are always negative consequences. One such consequence is that somebody may be called to be an elder but needs to jump through the hoops of being a deacon first. Often this means means they are awful deacons because their calling isn’t actually to be a deacon, it’s to be an elder. It’s a different set of duties altogether. Another consequence is that when people are ordained deacons and stay deacons their whole lives, some people unfortunately see that as a shameful thing. Sometimes even the deacon thinks that way. But both fail to recognize that being a deacon is its own, unique calling from God. Many are called to a life of being a deacon and that’s great. And third, this negatively affects the way people nominate and vote on officers. They see the leadership pipeline in the church as deacon to elder and so often pass up or pass over qualified, godly men to be elders simply because they are not yet a deacon. And also others may nominate and vote a deacon to be an elder because they’ve been a deacon for so long when that is not God’s calling for them. So without understanding the distinct offices of elder and either, you will either miss out on a great elder, you will lose a great deacon because you think he should be an elder, and/or you might elect an unqualified elder and thus hurt the health of the church. Because the offices are different, that also means the duties of elder and deacon are different. Let’s look at that next.

#2: The Duties

Paul focuses more on qualifications here in 1 Timothy and he he spends less time on duties but we see an allusion to the duties of elders in verses 4 and 5. Paul writes, “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?” And as we already ready 5:17 says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor…” So in these two passages we begin to see a picture of elders caring for God’s church by managing and ruling the church and her members.

Reading 1 Peter 5:1-3 might be more helpful to understand what this duty looks like. There Peter writes, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” Shepherding, in my opinion, is the best way of summarizing the work of the elders which is to care for the flock of Christ by spiritually leading and guiding its members to greater faithfulness and Christlikeness. This is why the author of Hebrews writes in 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” So it’s with the goal to care for and promote the spiritual interests of the church and her members that the elders are called to rule and shepherd. All decisions made in the church and for the church are all done to see this goal achieved. This is why Paul likens the duty of an elder using parental language, household language. A good father always makes decisions for the interests of the whole family, to promote the growth and health of his children, never pushing ahead with selfish ambition or with a selfish agenda.

So too the elder must put the interests of the church and her members above his own. This is why the elders receive members of the church through membership and baptism, lead the church in worship, pray for the church, visit people in their homes, counsel as needed, and ultimately set forth a spiritual example to the flock. If these are the duties, when you consider a potential elder, you must reflect on this question: Do I see this person shepherding the souls of others and my own?Do I sense in this person a call to know, lead, protect and feed the congregation in wisdom, love and toward greater Christlikeness? Am I able to entrust myself and submit to their leadership?

As for deacons their duties are in the name itself. Deacons are servers of tables as we saw in Acts 6. Whereas elders are called to shepherd, deacons are called to serve. Their duty is to take care of the practical, physical and material needs rather than the spiritual needs which are entrusted to the elders. Although the Bible doesn’t specifically lay out what they do, typically in churches their service is needed in areas of ministry like handling finances, taking care of facilities, responding to the physical and material needs of church members, and serving in areas that free the elders to give themselves to the ministry of spiritual care. Our denomination’s Book of Church Order beautifully puts it when it says “The office is one of sympathy and service” and it goes on to say, “It is the duty of the deacons to minister to those who are in need, to the sick, to the friendless, and to any who may be in distress.” The real heart of the work of deacons is to assist the elders by serving the needs of the congregation in every other way the elders can’t and don’t. Basically the deacons serve in order to free the elders to shepherd. That’s their relationship. If this is what deacons do, then as you begin to pray about who to nominate, remember that they are called servers of tables. Ask yourself: Do I see in this person a humble and servant oriented heart? Have I already seen them serving in the church and do they do it well, with joy and in humility? Would they helpfully assist the elders to shepherd by responsibly assuming tasks of service? But the most important qualifications are character and spiritual.

#3: The Qualifications

Paul’s focus when it comes to these officers is almost entirely on character qualifications and mentions only one skill or gifting. This is because whether shepherding or serving, both are spiritual matters. 1 Timothy makes it clear that the spiritual health of the church is tied to the spiritual health and maturity of its leaders. How many churches have fallen and been ripped apart in the last ten years because of unhealthy church leadership? Unfortunately too many. The church in Ephesus, where Timothy pastored, suffered because of bad leaders. They may have been men of great charisma, wealth, influential, eloquent, skilled but they did not have good spiritual character. So the majority of Paul’s focus in these verses is on qualifications.

Now one thing he doesn’t say directly in this passage because he said it in the chapter before is that the office of ordained elder and deacon are for men only. First, he assumes it when he gives the qualification that these men are to lead their households and be faithful to their wives. Secondly, in chapter 2:12, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man…” None of Paul’s words are meant to put women down. In fact Paul and Jesus speak of women in the highest ways possible. You can’t read the whole corpus of Paul’s letters or stories about Jesus and conclude they were misogynistic. You would have to be blind to the evidence. So Paul is not talking about a difference in worth or significance or even ability. He is talking about a difference in calling and the roles God has given to men and women in the church. Simply different. Not better or worser. Now you can say this is culturally informed and at Paul’s times women’s roles in society were a certain kind of way but our times are more progressive and open minded. But you would misunderstand Paul’s argument. When he cites the reason why women are not to have this spiritual authority over a man in the church, his reason is Adam and Eve in the garden. He’s anticipating your argument and essentially saying, “Before you think this is a cultural designation, I’m telling you it’s not. I’m following a created design.” So at Cornerstone, because we believe the Bible only speaks to ordination being for men, the nominations for elder and deacon is also only for qualified men.

Now let’s consider these qualifications. First for elders. Verse 2 begins: “An overseer must be above reproach.” This doesn’t mean sinless – only that he is to have a blameless reputation. His conduct cannot be lived contrary to a life of following Christ.

“The husband of one wife.” This cannot mean that the elder be married. Singleness does not disqualify somebody from being an elder. How could Paul, an unmarried man who served an unmarried Savior, demand that marriage be a qualification? He would disqualify himself and his words then would have no authority. This qualification means that if they are married, the man must be faithful to his wife with unquestionable steadfastness. Because a man unfaithful in his marriage is a man who does not understand the gospel because marriage point us to the gospel.

The next three, “sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable” are marks of a disciplined man. The idea here is that you cannot rule over others if you cannot rule over even yourself. An elder must be a disciplined man, disciplined in life and in spirituality not simply giving into his desires and passions at a whim.

“Hospitable.” This comes from the Greek word meaning “love for strangers.” Although this includes opening up one’s home, it is not limited to that. You can host but not be hospitable. I’ve seen and experienced that. Hospitable is a practice but it is also a heart attitude. It means drawing near to others, moving toward them, opening heart as well as your house to people and making them feel at home.

“Able to teach” – in the middle of a list on character qualifications, this is the only skill or gift required. That means it is very important since this is the only ability Paul highlights. Now the fact that Paul later identifies those elder who preach and teach well, means that every elder is not expected to be an excellent teacher and preacher. Some are called specifically for that task. Remember that the word is able, meaning capable. “Able to teach” means the man is competent in both content and communication. He must both know enough and be able to speak clearly enough to teach and build up the church and her members in the sound doctrine and protect and guard her against false teaching.

“Not a drunkard” means not giving in to drunkenness. Now here some people declare they will never be an elder. Well, remember that Ephesians 5 tells every Christian to not get drunk. So you’re never excused. But why does Paul repeat this command? It’s because this command is heightened to those called to be elders. Elders are called to shepherd the flock, but if you are intoxicated and receive a phone call for emergency counseling, you have an opportunity to evangelize somebody who wants to hear the gospel, or you have to urgently visit somebody in their home or in the hospital, if you’re drunk you wouldn’t be able to fulfill your duties. You would fail to shepherd. I want us to know that nowhere does Jesus or any biblical author require total abstinence from alcohol. It’s unbiblical to make that a law. But this call to not be a drunkard or given to drunkenness must be taken seriously by every Christian and especially those who are called to the office of elder and deacon as Paul later applies it to them as well.

“Not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome.” These men are to love and pursue unity and always strive to honor and protect the weaker brother or sister, the least mature believer. They are not to sow seeds of division through quarreling but in gentleness pursue and cultivate peace, harmony and love among others.

“Not a lover of money.” This is the second deal breaker for people who are now absolutely sure they would never be an elder. But later in 1 Timothy 6 Paul writes, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Again it’s a statement made for all Christians but heightened in its application to elders. The temporary, earthly pleasures that worldly riches promise a person should not have a grip or hold on this kind of man. Rather generosity and sacrifice are his marks. This is not saying that an elder cannot be wealthy but that his wealth is not his identity. He is using his wealth to serve others and the kingdom for the promotion of the gospel, not to serve himself and establish his own kingdom.

“He must mange his own household well, with all dignity…” Since the church is called a “household of God” in verse 15, if the man has not proven he can rule his own household well, how can he rule God’s household? An elder cannot be living in hypocrisy between his home life and his church life. They must be in similar accord. In fact, in his home life where nobody else but God and his family can see, he must serve there most with integrity, godliness and faithfulness. Then those things spill over into the household of faith. By the way, this qualification does not mean all his children must be believers. Only God can change hearts so how could we expect an elder to that work too. He is not God. But he cannot be the reason his children refuse to believe. His hypocrisy cannot be the reason his children think the faith is hogwash. But he is to parent well because the character he exhibits to congregants should be consistent with the character shown to his children.

“He must not be a recent convert or he may be puffed up with conceit.” We’re not meant to make this quantifiable but we are to understand that Paul is seeking spiritually mature men. The number of years attending church or being in the faith does not always equal maturity. So being a Christian or being in the church for a long time does not qualify you. I think what Paul has in mind are men who have lived the Christian life long enough so that their lives have proven their character and doctrine are in sync. That one is not way ahead of another. Not a recent concert means they have experienced the different seasons of the Christian life so they can wisely and pastorally speak, counsel and pray alongside others. The danger Paul says is to be puffed with conceit and therefore proud and arrogant in your attitude and approach. You cannot shepherd God’s people if you are suffocating them.

And lastly “He must be well thought of by outsiders.” This concerns a man’s reputation and the witness he gives to the watching world. This qualification is last because if all of the previous, inward qualifications are truly at work in a person, the evidence will be seen by outsiders. It’ll be undeniable. So as you pray getting ready to nominate, and pray again to vote when the time comes, consider these qualifications.

Next for deacons, there are many qualifications that overlap. We won’t revisit the qualifications in verse 8 that says “Deacons likewise must be dignified…not addicted to much wine…prove themselves blameless…the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.” Each of these qualifications that applied to elders also apply to the deacons.

I want to focus on just three that are unique to the deacons. First, not being “double-tongued.” This means he is not prone to gossip and having a loose tongue. Deacons handle people’s private affairs and often sensitive information and so he should not foolishly share those things with others but keep them to himself.

“Not greedy for dishonest gain.” Since much of the diaconal role has to do with financial matters, he must not be tempted to steal or take advantage of his entrusted responsibility. Remember Judas rebuked the woman pouring perfume to honor Christ. If he had his way, his selfish motive would have prevented a beautiful act of service being done for Christ. A deacon cannot be so consumed with love of money that his decisions prevent Christ being honored and his people being helped.

“They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. Let them also be tested first…” Deacons are called to have sound doctrine. Although they are not called to teach and their ministries are more deeds than words, Paul still insists they know their Bible and their theology. Even though they do not have teaching authority, because they are ordained officers in the church and therefore have influence in the church, they must be committed wholeheartedly to the truths of the gospel. In fact their doctrine should influence the wisdom they exercise in their duties as deacons to serve. They serve with Bible in hand.

Now let me say this as a word of caution. The qualifications for elders and deacons are impossible. All people are sinful and saved only by grace. We are not yet perfect and so no man can fully measure up to this. So if you take these qualifications and place it over any person in the church, they will all fail. If you wait for perfection, then we’ll be a church without elders and deacons. In fact, even the ones we have now would all be disqualified. But instead, we are looking for men who by the Spirit at work in them, are pointed in the right direction and truly live with an aspiration to be obedient to these things. Men who are making it their prayer that God would form and fashion them to reflect these qualifications. Not men who will make it a prayer once they get nominated or once they have to start living this way. But men who are evidencing these things in their lives now because they’re seeking godliness and righteousness, not seeking an office. And by the Spirit’s wisdom, I believe we can begin to identify all of the men or none of the men who the Lord is readying for our church to serve as ordained officers.

#4: The Hope

Any and every earthly elder or deacon will fail. For they and we are simply imperfect, flawed people. Although elders and deacons are God’s gift to the church, they can never be the hope of the church. The church is not built on these men. And when these men are long gone, the church will still persevere. Why? Because our only hope is Jesus. He is the true elder and he is the true deacon because he is the great shepherd and he is the great servant. Jesus did what no man could do perfectly.

You see, Jesus was a greater shepherd than an earthly elder could ever be. He gave his life for his sheep and he protected us until his dying breath. This is why in 1 Peter 5:4 Jesus is called “the chief Shepherd” and in John 10:11 he says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherds lays down his life for the sheep.” We’re not supposed to look to our elders as our saviors. But we look for elders who look to the Savior. As they have their eyes and their hearts fixed on him, they will become the shepherds that we need. And as they are conformed into Christ’s image, God will use them to shepherd and lead our church for his glory. So Jesus is our hope.

Second, Jesus was also a greater servant than any deacon could ever be. Jesus said in Mark 10:43-45, “But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant (diakonos), and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This is why we don’t look to our deacons as our saviors. But we look for deacons who look to the Savior. And as their lives are centered on him and shaped by him, they will be conformed into his image to be the types of servants who give of themselves as Christ gave of himself to us. And through their conformity to Christ, God will use them to serve our church and its members.

As you begin to pray and nominate qualified men, remember that your hope can and should only be in Jesus. And remember how the gospel works. When you stop looking to earthly elders and deacons to shepherd and serve perfectly, when you believe this can only be fulfilled and met in Jesus, this will actually free the elders and deacons to serve better. When you believe the gospel, and they believe the gospel, it’ll take the weight of expectation off of them so that with greater joy and freedom they can give themselves to shepherd and serve Christ and his church.

Friends this is an exciting time for us. I hope you feel it too. So let us pray during this nomination process until the end of the month that God’s name be hallowed, his kingdom come and his will be done in Cornerstone as it is in heaven.

Stepping into Discomfort: Pursuing Multi-Ethnic Cultural Engagement

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By Dan Hong

When’s the last time you heard someone say, “I like discomfort”?  No one likes to be uncomfortable.  We want our kids to study hard so that they get into a good school, get a decent job, and make a decent-living.  We pursue high-paying jobs so that we can make a lot of money for the comforts of this world.  We plan our lives accordingly so that we can start our retirement plan early and be comfortable until our time on Earth is up.  Ultimately, we live our lives so that we can be comfortable.

In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul says the phrase ‘I became’ four times.

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

One scholar said that the idea of the phrase “I have become or I became,” came from the willingness to step inside someone else’s skin to feel what they feel.  Paul said he must embody discomfort in order to save them to Christ.  He became discomfort for the sake of the gospel.

There are a lot of joys in following Jesus, but there is a cost.  Paul knew that.  Think of Jonah’s call to Nineveh, Hosea buying back Gomer, or Onesimus reconciling with Philemon.  The cost of following Jesus is dying to yourself.  To die to yourself is to die to your idolatries.  To die to your idolatries is to die to discomfort.  There is nothing comfortable about dying to yourself.  I’m sure Jesus would agree.  Just ask Him when He was praying at the Garden of Gethsamane, where He was so greatly distressed that He was sweating blood (Luke 22:44).  He incarnated by taking on flesh, walking, and dwelling among us in the discomfort of that.  If Jesus would’ve hung on to comfort, we would be in hell for eternity.  Jesus knew everything about discomfort.

Living the Christian life will be uncomfortable.  Pursuing multiethnic engagement will be uncomfortable.  We cannot hold onto comfort and pursue multiethnic engagement at the same time.  To take a huge step towards multiethnic engagement is to step into discomfort.  That means for us to step into their context, instead of us waiting or manipulating them to step into ours.  The more we reflect upon the comforts of the gospel, the more we see how it outweighs the discomforts of our flesh, then we will find ourselves responding like Paul, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

First-Class Citizens: Pursuing Multi-Ethnic Cultural Engagement

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By Dan Hong

There have been many times where my friends and I would ask hypothetical questions about life.  How many kids would you like to have when you get married?  Would you want to live in the city or the suburbs?  What kind of business would you like to own?  These theoretical questions are important for self-reflection, since they help you understand more about yourself.  By doing so, it allows for purpose and meaning with respect to your responses.  It makes you think.  The choices that you make reflect who you are.  

One of the hypothetical questions that make you really think is, would you ever adopt?  Honestly, I always find it hard to answer this question, since I know what the “right answer” would be: yes. But, my heart says otherwise.  The questions that go through my mind are, “Would I love the child that I adopt equally as my own children,” or “If I was adopted, doesn’t it make sense for me to be treated as a stranger instead of their own?”  This shows how selfish and insecure my heart is.

In Ephesians 1:13-14, Scripture tells us how God views adoption.  God adopted us into His family by sacrificing His own Son on the cross, where the blood that He shed has not only covered our sins but our blood. This is how we have been adopted into God’s family.  When we are adopted into His family, we are not treated as second-class citizens, but as first-class citizens.  He loves us exactly as He loves Jesus Christ.  There is nothing that we did to deserve to this, but all because of the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

When you imagine the people that will be with you in heaven, who do you visualize around you?  Who are you worshipping and fellowshipping with in heaven?  Growing up, I would visualize heaven to be a bunch of Korean people, since I grew up in a Korean church.  Whenever I saw Koreans, I assumed they were Christians.  This is not because I proactively chose to think this way, but because of the environment that I grew up in.  The type of people that we encounter in our churches and in our social groups shapes the way we treat the different types of people in our daily lives.  We create our own version of heaven and the people that will be there.  Jesus did not say in His great commission, “Go therefore, and make disciples of only Asian people.”  He said to make disciples of all nations.  Jesus shed the same blood on the cross for white people as He did for black people.  It is the same blood that brings us into His family through adoption. It is the same blood that makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.

As God calls us to live out our heavenly-citizenship on Earth (1 Peter 2:9, Philippians 3:20, Colossians 3:15-17), let us live it out through the means of pursuing multiethnic cultural engagements with our fellow brothers and sisters.  Even when we evangelize, let us not just go to the people that look like us but also to the people that look different from us.  Besides our skin color and ethnic background, the biggest difference from Christ and us is that He is holy and we are not.  That is a legitimate reason for Him to not dwell and be with us.  He doesn’t just dwell with us, but He also died for us.  It is through His work, death, and resurrection from the cross, that we are adopted into His family.  This is the type of love that triumphs the difference of our skin color and ethnic backgrounds. This love enables us to pursue multiethnic cultural engagement.

Covenantal Worship: Exhortations for the Church

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By Reverend Andrew Kim

This past Sunday we looked at what the Bible has to say about covenantal worship.   You can listen to the sermon here (https://cornerstone-pc.com/resources/sermons) or here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8_bqFB9vKw&t=20s).  

Previously I wrote to encourage the parents of children.  Today I want to exhort the church and how we can respond to the vision of covenantal worship.  

Exhortations for the Church

First, encourage the parents especially when they are struggling to have their children sit still and listen.  Parents may often feel overwhelmed with embarrassment, discouragement, and/or frustration all which can lead to anger and impatience toward their kids.  Kind words can go a long way.  Encouragement can give them what they need to endure a little more.  Church, remember the vows you took as members when a child was baptized and you agreed to undertake the responsibility of assisting the parents in the Christian nurture of this child.  Encourage them.  Help them.  Offer a hand. 

Second, show patience and grace.  In fact, abound in it.  Yes, kids can be quite disruptive in the service.  They can be tremendous distractions when you desperately need to hear the Word.  But before you jump to critique and annoyance, ask the Spirit to give you patience and grace.  Sometimes you may hear a noise behind you and wonder, “Why isn’t this parent doing anything about this?”  You may be tempted to judge the parents or judge the children.  It is so much easier to criticize and scoff than to show grace and patience but your judgment and impatience will not promote the vision of covenantal worship.  It will only discourage parents from wanting to try again.  But extend the same kind of patience, compassion and grace Jesus abundantly showed you.  And be an ambassador of it back to God’s people.  

Third, learn from the children.  Multiple times in the gospels Jesus grabbed a child to teach us what we need to be like to enter the kingdom of God.  He instructed his disciples, “Let the children come to me.  And do not hinder them…”.  Would we be so arrogant as to tell Jesus that he doesn’t understand how disruptive these kids in our service are?  Maybe there’s a thing or two we can learn about having child-like faith from them.  Maybe they are a gift to us that God is using to teach us something.  Of course do not imitate any childish behavior.  But the Spirit can and does use the most surprising things to teach us if we would just have the humility to learn.  

Fourth, pray for the children.  Pray Deuteronomy 31:13 back to the Lord.  Pray that the children who are in the service “may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God.”  When you see that child struggling to pay attention and focus, don’t offer them a glance.  Offer them a prayer.  Pray that the cries and shouts of little children would turn into cries and shouts of hallelujah and praise.  And then watch expectingly as the Spirit makes and matures them into a worshipper that the Father seeks.  And soon you can call them a brother or sister in Christ. 

Covenantal Worship: Encouragements for Parents

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By Reverend Andrew Kim

This past Sunday we looked at what the Bible has to say about covenantal worship.   You can listen to the sermon here (https://cornerstone-pc.com/resources/sermons) or here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8_bqFB9vKw&t=20s).  

I wanted to follow up and offer four encouragements for parents and four encouragements for the church.  This will be a two part series.  The first will be address the parents and the second will address the church.  

Encouragements for Parents

First, know that covenantal worship is worth it.  Yes it’s difficult and it’ll take you out of your comfort zone but it’s worth it because God has given us the vision for it.  Take great comfort.  This also means he will give you the strength to do it and the fruit that will come out of it.  He who calls you to this task will supply everything you need as well.  

Second, there is something nobody can teach your children but you.  That’s communicating your own love for the Lord and the joy you have in gathering with God’s people as they see you worshiping week after week.  No children’s sermon can replace the invaluable lesson in seeing you do this every Sunday from their earliest memory until they leave the home.  Your actions teach just as powerfully as your words.  

Third, it is never too late to take on the role of spiritual discipler for your children.  It is embedded into your calling as their parents.  You may feel so behind, ill-equipped, and simply clueless where to start.  But remember that there are so many resources that are available for you.  We will have many of these listed on our website and on our resource table in the new building.  I also often include links to articles about parenting and spiritual leading in the home in the weekly pastoral letter so make sure you look through them.  

Fourth, there will still be bible studies for your children!  Just because we’re pursuing covenantal worship doesn’t mean we won’t offer anything for the children of the church.  There will still be Sunday school in the mornings before service at 9:30am.  If you really are concerned and convinced that your child needs some kind of age-appropriate lesson, we will continue in the Gospel Project curriculum which surveys the whole Bible, Genesis to Revelation in 3 years.  

At the end of the day, you are not alone in this task.  Although it is your primary responsibility to disciple and teach your children, God has placed you in a community called the Church where there is always help available.  But the greatest encouragement is this: God expects you to teach your children his Word and his gospel but God doesn’t expect you to change their hearts.  Only he can do that and he will be faithful to his promise.