A Pinnacle of Old Testament (and New Testament) Faith

In the last chapter of Genesis, Joseph was the Prime Minister of Egypt, second in command only to Pharaoh in all the land. Many years ago, Joseph's brothers had sold him into slavery. But Joseph became Prime Minister. The tables had turned. Joseph could have "legally" taken matters into his own hands to repay his brothers for the evil that they did to him. But he did not. He said, "Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good... I will provide for you and your children" (Genesis 50:19-21).

In the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series on Genesis, Derek Kidner, Old Testament scholar, wrote that Joseph's 3-fold reply to his brothers is a pinnacle of Old Testament (and New Testament) faith. He writes on page 224:

  1. To leave all the righting of one's wrongs to God
  2. To see His providence in man's malice, and
  3. To repay evil not only with forgiveness but also with practical affection
are attributes which anticipate the adjective "Christian" and even "Christlike."

How easy it might have been for Joseph to make right himself the wrongs done to him by his brothers. But he left all the righting of wrongs to God.

How easy it might have been for Joseph to be bitter toward his brothers for what they did to him. But he saw God's goodness in man's malice.

How easy it might have been to repay evil with revenge. But he was genuinely forgiving and kind toward his brothers.

We live in a world where we wrong others, and others wrong us. We could subconsciously justify the motto, "An eye for an eye" (which would soon make the whole world blind). But Joseph who experienced an unjust unbearable wrong saw the transcendent and immanent God who was with him. Thus, he revealed the goodness of God in the very midst of the badness of men. Ultimately, Joseph's faith anticipates and mirrors precisely and exactly the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.

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Prophet of Purpose: The life of Rick Warren

Acclaimed author Jeff Sheler's Prophet of Purpose is an insightful biography of Rick Warren based on three years of research. Sheler observed Warren in contexts from training pastors in Africa to conducting Saddleback Church staff meetings. Warren Bird recently interviewed Sheler about his unique access to Rick Warren, Warren's staff, and Warren's family:

What does the Rick Warren story teach others, especially other church leaders, about the idea of innovation?

Rick's story certainly tells pastors and church leaders that they can be committed and faithful to the gospel, to spreading a timeless message, while remaining open to new approaches and methods of ministry. Warren talks about the five purposes that drive his ministry and his church: worship, service, evangelism, discipleship and fellowship. While those purposes never change for Warren, his programs and his methods do change. In fact, he would say that they must change as needs and circumstances require. So he's always looking for a better way, a more effective and innovative way of reaching people for Christ and ministering to their needs.

How would you describe the way he handles his staff as you observed it?

I have found him to be a delegator. He's definitely not a micromanager -- he is not detail oriented at all. People who work with him say, "Rick soars at the 30,000 foot level. He likes to look at the big picture and he leaves it for the people on the ground to work out the details." His staff know that he trusts them, he respects their abilities, and he respects their ideas. At the same time, sometimes in unexpected situations he will step in and shake things up. He'll say, "Let's stop this plan, let's change and go in this direction." And that can be very disturbing to people when their routine gets broken. His staff sometimes refers to him as "the chief disturbing agent."

Was he always a delegator with his staff?

I think he's certainly grown in empowering others. He has always been one to learn from others. He's always been one to recognize his own strengths and weaknesses and to have people around him who are strong where he is weak. And he takes pride in the fact that he doesn't do it all himself and that he has needed the help of mentors over the years and continues to seek out mentors. I think he has demonstrated this aptitude from the very beginning and continues to demonstrate it.

How does he allocate his time between church responsibilities and other initiatives?

Rick has felt called from the very beginning of his ministry to be the pastor of one church for his entire life and he has never lost that vision. He's stuck to it very carefully. He still sees himself primarily as the pastor of Saddleback Church. That remains his number one priority. But over the years, he and his staff have learned to have less of Rick Warren. When The Purpose Driven Life took off, and certainly after starting the P.E.A.C.E. plan, Rick found himself being pulled in directions that he had never been pulled before, in terms of demands on his time and his energies. Initially that did cause some problems for him and his staff. After a while, they got together and sat down and really hashed it out. His staff told him, "Rick, you've got to let go of some of this."

What would the pastor of a church of 100, of 1,000, and of 10,000 learn most from Rick Warren?

Warren has been in all of those positions. Right out of seminary he captured a vision of building a church for the unchurched: people who hate going to church. So he did research in order to learn about his target audience: their needs, their motives, the reasons why they stayed away from church. His first service had about 120 people, but each step of the way he continued to learn, he continued to do research, continued to try new methods. He was willing to let go of ideas that didn't work, and willing to try something new. He was eager to learn from others. He didn't have a lot of pride in 'this is my idea and we're sticking with it." He was willing to use other people's creativity and to recognize his own strengths and weaknesses. That's a useful attitude for a pastor of a small church or a large church.

Article: http://www.pursuantgroup.com/leadnet/advance/may10s1a.htm


Piper's Pastoral Accountability-LTG group

I saw this post on Piper's site. I'm reminded of the verse we studied on Tuesday. 2 Corinthians 7:1 "Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." It is very important we become accountability partners in the Gospel. We are all weak and sinful. We need prayer partners and friends we can talk to. Practically, it shows how important it is to establish and create LTG groups (Life Transformation Groups) within the Church. The blog also includes a PDF questionnaire. Please let me know your thoughts.

Piper's Pastoral Accountability
May 23, 2007 | By: Abraham Piper | Category: Commentary

Hearts can harden fast. The writer of Hebrews drives this point home: "But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (3:13).

So for pastors—and for all of us—yearly or quarterly or perhaps even monthly accountability is dangerously rare. The hardness that creates "an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God" (Heb. 3:12) can happen in a day.

John Piper and the other pastors of Bethlehem Baptist Church know this, and so, among their other strategies for sanctification, they hold each other accountable with a simple questionnaire (PDF) that they each fill out weekly. It addresses issues from days off to diet, personal devotions to pornography.

They would all agree that filling out the form is not what matters; what's important is the heart behind it—the desire to be pure and holy.

I think they would also all agree, however, that committing to answer these simple and straightforward questions each week is an invaluable tool in the fight of faith.

Update: A reader offers a challenging reminder about sexual accountability.



Is salvation only for past sins & future heaven? What about the present?

Blog post: Our tendency is to articulate justification by faith alone morally, for the past (conversion) & future (entrance into heaven), without applying it (justification/salvation) emotionally & psychologically, for the present. We embrace Christ for forgiveness of sins but move on to other ideas & strategies when it comes to our emotional life & the daily pressures that do not lie directly in the “moral” realm. This is a great mistake & a recipe for worried, half-hearted Christians, dabbling their toes in an ocean of grace, thinking they’ve hit bottom.

When sinners are justified (saved), however, 2 liberations wash into their life. The 1st & more obvious liberation is moral. The 2nd liberation is emotional & psychological, which is more subjective & more slippery. Rescued sinners bring to their new life in Christ a host of latent emotional lifelines onto which their affections have latched—relationships, skills, bank accounts, sexual stimulation, a reputation, a salary, a sense of humor, an education, affection from children, affection from parents. These have provided psychological stability. Often one lifeline in particular is the lifeline of all lifelines (the ultimate). As long as we have this, we know we’re okay. “If all of life unravels around you, at least you’ll still have _________.”

We must continue to clarify in our churches and books and preaching and conferences and blogs how alarmingly easy it is, operationally, to swallow the first liberation without the second. We embrace God’s free forgiveness of sins yet go on funneling our affections and emotions into our old felt securities—what the Bible calls idols. We rest assured of our ultimate destiny; but the internal restlessness & insecurity continues in the meantime.

This miserable half-liberation manifests itself in any number of ways—students finding their emotional security in academic performance; businessmen finding psychological stability through profits; pastors assuring themselves of the legitimacy of their ministry through congregational favor; mothers undergirding their sense of worth with obedient children; church planters silently validating themselves through growing attendance.

The knife that severs these functional lifelines onto which the heart is latched is the gospel, returned to daily, tenaciously. For Jesus is the one person who ever lived who was, from the womb, “okay.” “Justified.” And on Calvary he allowed himself to be made un-okay, to be condemned, so that you and I can walk into every class, every business deal, every pulpit, every parenting endeavor, every church plant, every anxiety-generating real-life situation, already justified. Not only morally, but emotionally. Not only for the past and the future, but for the present.

Slightly adapted & abridged from Dane Ortland, PhD candidate, Wheaton College: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/05/05/justification%e2%80%99s-double-liberation/

For Jesus' fame,
Ben (312) 363-8578

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