This last week at Lifehouse Tara Lopez spoke from 1 Timothy 4 on the premise of youth being a disqualifying factor to ministry. She specifically talked about the myth of AGE being something that has the ability to prohibit someone from engaging, fulfilling and finishing the work God has set before them. Quoting 1 Timothy 4:11-12 “Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” From her examination of this passage Tara set out to bust the myth of “Youth being a barrier to respect, authority or effectiveness.” Throughout the rest of her sermon she explained the importance of a life that is internally postured in worship and in pursuit of Jesus, from that we take part in the eternal things of God. Our outward physical aging and advancing towards a “wizened” age does not validate our callings in ministry or secure our ability to be authentically seeking after everything Jesus has for us. Paul addresses it clearly when he says that what proves, and strengthens what God has called us all to do, to be an example of the work of His kingdom, by the things we say, the way we live, the way we love, our faith and our purity. These things display the posture of our hearts. That is what it means to be the example. The quality of our character is displayed by an outward response caused by an eternal God who met us in the very depths of who we are.

I’m twenty-one years old now, and where that is not my claim to wisdom and maturity, it is merely a reference point. My age is nothing but a marker, to remind me of God’s faithfulness of the past, His faithfulness of my present and his promised faithfulness for my future. God does not ascribe more capacity for us to do great things for His name, as we get older. In fact, it seems counterintuitive to think that our age can make us more capable of doing more for Jesus, when in reality, the higher those numbers get, the closer to being with Jesus we move, and the less time we have. Regardless of being a youth, or an adult, one cannot be consumed by the number of reference called “youth” or “not youth.” The time is now, Christ to be known by the things we say, how we live, love, have faith and live in purity.

I am challenged to live not to the low, or constraining limitations of my age’s expectations for me. Timothy is commanded by Paul to teach as an example to everyone so they may learn from a youth. The point being, that low expectations from anyone is irrelevant to what God has called and asked us to do. I am challenged to not be “good enough” in what I say, how I live, love, have faith and live in purity. I am challenged to live in a manner that would set an example. Something that would cause people not to look at my age, my external being, but that they would see evidence of an eternal God, who lives in me.

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This Sunday Pastor Scott started off a new series on1st Timothy. As someone who has grown up in the church, I was able to relate with it. To this day I know people in all kinds of ministries have used the idea of “holiness” as a competition.

Representing Jesus is a big deal to me. In my walk (and I feel everyone can probably relate to this sometime in their life), I have wanted to look the part. “Dress to impress”, right?!?! I’ve wanted to help out at church, talk “Christianese”, start a ministry, etc. In doing so, my faith has been hindered so many times because I feel the person across from me is getting a “higher score” in whatever Jesus wants to call his video-game.

1st Timothy is a letter from Paul to Timothy in Ephesus, what I remember from Pastors Scott’s words on Sunday was how much he highlighted the fact that Paul was telling Timothy straight up that people were going to “twist God’s words to meet their agenda”.  Today, people twist God’s words to meet their agenda all the time!

Can I confess something? In the past, even I myself have twist God’s words to meet my agenda. It doesn’t mean God is going to love me any less for it. I feel this letter and the message Pastor Scott spoke on Sunday was an opportunity to remember who the Holy One is in our walk with Christ. If we live in a state of law, constantly trying to one-up each other, we aren’t going to do anything but get exhausted and hurt one another. But, if we live in a state of grace, having the law there for us to look at and remember how much we “can’t”, we seat God on the throne.  We take His righteousness for our own. This means we don’t have to worry about anyone else because everyone is equal. Jesus did what he did for a reason, and it starts with us remembering God’s words as His own and reminding ourselves each day where we stand with Him.

If you ask me? We stand in a pretty good place.

When I was growing up my parents taught me a lot of things. However, the most important thing I remember learning from them was that everyone was created equal. This meant that I grew up believing specifically that both men and women were equal. I was raised to believe that being a woman didn’t disqualify me from anything; as long as I set my mind on something I could achieve it. My brother was also raised to believe that he could achieve anything he set his mind on.

My church had a very heavy hand in this belief as well ~

The church I was raised in was a Foursquare Church, so obviously I grew up believing that women in ministry wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. When I began attending Life Pacific College I was surprised to learn that our denomination is one of the few denominations that actually believe in women in ministry. Who knew? Let’s just say that it was a huge change to attend LIFE where “women in ministry” was mentioned in every class since I came from a church where it was just “ministry”. It was hard to grasp that people actually believed that women shouldn’t be leading in the church, let alone talking—with the exception of women’s ministry of course because only women can lead women!

This Sunday, Pastor Scott busted the myth that women shouldn’t speak up in church. He did this by taking one of the most commonly misinterpreted passages where people find the fuel for their arguments against women in ministry, and tearing it apart. Pastor Scott read 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and he shared the background and context of the letter as a whole.  In doing so, we see that Paul wasn’t telling Timothy that women couldn’t be involved in ministry or speak up in the church. Actually, Paul was encouraging the women to learn in quietness and submission (to their teachers). In order to avoid the spreading of false teachings, Paul wanted the women to learn the truth first before speaking up in the church.

Ironically, I never argued with people on this issue~

In the past I believed that women should not simply be allowed in ministry, but encouraged in it. However, I never knew the facts. I never took the time to actually read and discover the truth about what the Bible said concerning this controversial subject. Not fully understanding the truth behind the text, I never put myself in a position to debate it.

I think this is what Paul was trying to avoid~

Paul didn’t want to silence the women in the church; he wanted to make sure that what the women were speaking was the truth.

 

I think today I finally understood it.  God is our father, our dad, our pops.  Sometimes people’s human dads aren’t that great.  I am blessed to have an outstanding father, but not everyone is so lucky.  But you know what good dads do?  They raise you, they protect you, and they point you in the right direction.

Not every human dad sticks around to raise their children.  Mine did.  My dad used to pick me up every Friday from school and take me to lunch.  When I was in high school, my dad drove 2.5 hours to one of my track meets and let me drive back with him.  He’s always been willing to help me and overruled the things that were meant to punish me or hurt me.
God does that too.  He raises us.  He is always ready to spend time with us.  He makes things and puts things in place that will bring us enjoyment or happiness.

Growing up, it is really hard to understand rules.  A lot of rules appear to be really stupid.  At my high school we couldn’t wear slippers because gangs in Mojave wore slippers.  I did not grow up in Mojave.  I don’t even understand why slippers would be gang affiliated anyway.  It was dumb, but not worth fighting.  Most of the rules my father set for me were pretty good rules.  I think any of the stupid ones, if I broke them, I didn’t get in trouble because obviously I came to no harm.  Rules like telling me not to touch something because it was hot are obviously there for my protection.

All of God’s rules are good rules.  He tells us to be honest with one another because lies, even if we don’t notice it at first, cause destruction, lack of trust, and destroy relationships.  He tells us to wait until marriage for sex, because sex is meant to be shared with just one partner in order to bring a family into the world.  Things don’t always go wrong if these rules are broken, but premarital sex can cause emotional damage, stds, and bring unplanned children into the world without two parents who are prepared to raise said children.  God’s rules are for protection, not to make life a little bit less enjoyable.  He doesn’t want us to burn our hands on a hot pan.  He loves us.

My dad raised me a Christian.  He sent me to Christian school.  He’s glad I go to a Bible college.  Some people may not see it this way, but growing up in a Christian home has kept me safe and headed in the right direction.  My dad helps me to see what way to go, and points me in the right direction when I veer off course.

God does that too.  He sent me to Bible college, even though I’m not going to be a pastor or work in a church.  When I’ve tried to leave, He’s kept me here, because it’s where I am meant to be.  I discovered myself here, and found where my passions are.  I know what direction I need to go because God faced me in the right direction five years ago.  I’m glad He helps me with my decisions.  It makes life a little bit safer.  I like knowing I’m safe.

I have a pretty great dad.  But my God is the best Dad.  Not everyone is blessed like I am with my father, but everyone can receive the blessing of my Father.  I’m just really glad God is my God and is protecting me like my Father.  I think I get it now.

Pastor Scott talked about how our society is so impatient they can’t slow down. “People yelling at other people because they are going too slow…” I can see it. I even find myself doing it. I complain when people are walking too slow in front of me when I’m going from class to class. Maybe they’re not going too slow, maybe I’m going to fast. We need to take the time to stop and think of others more often. With Christmas around the corner it brings out the worst in us. “We are running around fighting, pushing… for the so called ‘perfect gift’ that will be forgotten in a couple of years.” Its better to spend time with family and friends.  They won’t forget the person you are. Those times together will remain as memories of how Christmas should be, not this materialistic mess that we’ve made it to be.

John Parker

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Today, Scott wrapped up the “Radical” sermon series with a message about “togetherness.” He

read from this passage:

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say,

“Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop

being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not

belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole

body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear,

where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body,

every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would

the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. / 1 Corinthians 12: 15-20.

He encouraged us to find that thing we are passionate about (having people over for dinner,

playing guitar, working with kids, etc) and bring that gift to church life, in order to find our place,

our purpose, and our fit. Now, and look at the next few verses:

21-27 / The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to

the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be

weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable

we treat  with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with

special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put

the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no

division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one

part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every

part rejoices  with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of

it.

Sometimes, people try desperately to fit in, to be authentic or even just present, but their efforts

are blocked by a lack of acceptance. Look, it’s easy to honor the “shiny” people in our midst

(and no, that’s NOT a crack about baldness) but it can be a lot harder to honor those who seem

weak, or even broken. It’s not that they are more weak or broken than anybody else, it’s just that

they are more honest about it.

When we we pastors of a little church plant in Fresno, a brain-injured man named Ted found

us, and made our church his home. Ted was loud. Ted was comfortable with interrupting the

sermon to add commentary. Ted hung out by the food table and chewed with his mouth open.

Ted would burp often and showered rarely. One time he ate too much and threw up all over the

floor.

There were a few people who left our church because of Ted.

Our response was, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” Why? Because the

shiny people can go to church anywhere, but Ted, well Ted could only come here. He rode the

bus to church, and would have to walk the last six blocks in 100+ heat. No wonder he showed

up with B.O. Ted lived on $800 a month. No wonder he loved the treats on the food table. He

told me once he was working hard to pay off his debt so he could start tithing, “Eighty dollars,

right?” Ted was excited at the idea of living off $720 a month, if it meant giving to the Lord.

Then, one Monday, Ted was found dead in his apartment.

He had a heart attack. There was no family in Fresno to mourn him. Except us. With shattered

hearts, we devoted a Sunday morning to his memorial service. A few of his friends showed up,

including an older gay couple I’d been inviting to our church for years. Unbeknownst to us, they

had been watching us, watching to see if we really were a loving place.

With Ted gone, our church was never the same. The very best of us had gone ahead. And we

felt the lack of his presence desperately. My husband told me once, “If the only reason God had

ever had us plant this church was so that Ted could have a family, then it is enough.”

Love and honor, cherish and protect the weaker members, because at some point you will

realize they are the best of us all.

Plans

 As much as I’d like to think of myself as a spontaneous person, I know I’m more of the planning type.  I don’t need to have things planned down to the minute – I welcome spontaneity – but I’m also not the type of person who is 100% keen on “playing things by ear.”  Ugh.  That phrase makes me cringe.

When it comes to making plans for the day or even something like an event, I can come up with a great system to make sure things get accomplished and organized.  I make a plan, I execute it, and usually things fall into place as anticipated.  Usually.

Fortunately, I’ve had this ability for the better part of my life so when it came time to plan for college I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  I decided I would go to Bible College, get married immediately after graduation, have kids, a steady job, work in ministry alongside my husband and save the world one church service at a time.  This plan was not only solid it was doable and had been easily accomplished by several others before me.

I did end up going to Bible College straight out of high school, I graduated in four years, and I landed a steady job at that same college two months after graduation.  Even though I wasn’t married at this point, I was at least happy to be on course with my life road map and I was sure my husband would be in the picture relatively soon.

Somewhere along the line, God and I stopped functioning on the same page.  Plan A was going just fine and now I’m living smack dab in the middle of plan triple Z.  The husband has yet to be found, the kids are still non-existent, the steady job is gone, and it was only up until last year that I became actively involved in ministry again.

Living outside of my original plan has been anything but easy.  I’ve had to deal with the hurt that comes from broken dreams and unmet expectations – and the stress and fatigue that comes with revising life plans is exhausting and, at times, overwhelming.

However, as much as I would have liked to stick to plan A (or at least something resembling it), I could have never planned for all of the amazing things that have resulted from living outside of my original blueprint.  The experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve met, the lives I’ve impacted and those that have impacted me – plan A would not have allowed for any of it.

I’m learning that it’s my job to continue to seek God and make plans – I can’t just float and hope for the best – ultimately trusting that his plan is always the best plan.  He knows what’s on the other side of the closed doors and he’ll lead me to the open ones I might not have ever considered walking through (James 4:13-15).

He has a plan for every one of us.  It may not always look like what we have dreamed or anticipated it to be, but if we continue to trust him with our lives he will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Trust in him.