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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mums for sale
Mums for sale in Paradise, PA
This farm grows mums to sell right from the wagon!

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Note: The message begins with an illustration a bit longer than normal. Scroll down for just the exposition of Scripture.

"A Good Minister"

"If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed" (1 Timothy 4:6).

Years ago, in my early years of ministry, a friend excitedly told me that he had gotten his license to preach. I was taken back by his announcement as I had no idea that he had been preparing for ministry but he was more than happy to show me his wallet size card indicating that he was now a minister.

I took a look at the organization that issued the card named "The Church of the Gospel".  This took place years before the internet so I mailed in a request for information and decided to test their legitimacy by requesting that my dog, Enoch, be ordained.  After all, he was a good dog, had a good biblical name, and was always quick to obey his master's orders. But, of course, Enoch needed help with the written application.

EnochSo I obliged him by filling out the application indicating that his name was Enoch Weber, a 49-year-old male (in dog years 7 X 7), and gave him some pretty good references. There was no charge.

Several weeks later I received a beautiful certificate which I still have (far more distinguished looking than my own official ordination certificate).

Over the next several months I often received mail for Rev. Enoch Weber. Interestingly, some of the form letters requested that Enoch support an "orphanage in Mexico". He was also offered a doctorate for only $25.00 but I declined. I didn't bother applying since I didn't want him to have more schooling than I had. It was probably my own insecurity, but I thought that having a dog with more degrees than I had might cause problems in our home.  Now, many years later, Enoch is deceased and if there is such a place as doggy heaven I'm sure he's there, perhaps still known as "Rev. Enoch Weber".

Did this certificate make Enoch a legitimate doctor?  If I paid the $25.00 for his doctorate would he then be a legitimate minister?  Years ago I shared this story on an electronic discussion group giving some food for thought.  One fellow minister made the following comment using a play on words, "I can just see Rev. Enoch putting his paw on your shoulder or forehead every time you say heel [heal]".

Well I must say that the certificate really didn't make much difference to Enoch's "ministry".  He had the gift of hospitality as he was very friendly to all our guests except the paper boy. But frankly he really never was much of a preacher.

OK, let's move onto more serious discussion and our lesson for today:

Our daily text has us examine what it is to be "a good minister of Christ Jesus".  So I ask you, "What is a good minister of Christ Jesus?"  Is it based on the size of the church or take-home paycheck; how many degrees one has earned; the number of speaking engagements one acquires; appearances on television, etc. These are all means by which we may judge the success of a minister; including fellow ministers who evaluate each other's "success".

But in the passage quoted above there is one major criterion for this "good minister""If you point these things out to the brothers…" The KJV translates, "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things."  I like the way the Amplified Bible states it, "If you lay all these instructions before the brethren".

"These things" are Paul's instructions to the church in the immediate context and by extension the full counsel of God's Word.

John Gill comments that Timothy was admonished by Paul to "refresh the memories of the saints, who are apt, through negligence and inattention, and the weakness of the natural faculty, to be forgetful hearers of the word; that whenever such persons should arise, they might be on their guard against them. It is one part of the business of Gospel ministers to put the churches in mind of what they have received and known, and are established in."

Believers, especially my fellow "ministers", we have a great assignment here. Stay in the Word, give those whom you serve a steady diet of the sound, immutable truths of Scripture.
We are to be, "brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed." Now that's what Scripture describes as a good minister!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer: Father, we pray for our ministers of the Gospel; that they will preach the unadulterated truth from Your Holy Scriptures, just as You reminded Timothy through the inspired writings of Paul: *"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron."  May we be on guard as we are attentive and responsive to the warnings in Scripture, just as we are also consoled and encouraged by the verses of promise and assurance.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.
* I Timothy 4:1,2

Here's another great challenge for those aspiring to be a "good minister".

Today's story prompts some memories of our earliest years as a married couple.

Enoch and Coon, our first pets as a married couple
Enoch and Coon were two of our first pets as newlyweds.  

First pets as married couple 1976When we first got married we lived in a tiny parsonage about 20 miles from Springfield, Missouri and pastored a very small country church that had been closed for awhile. We heated the house with a "Warm Morning" wood stove, ate lots of hot dogs and pork & beans as Brooksyne learned to cook and I worked for local farmers. Fond memories! We met some wonderful country folk with an earnest faith in Christ who had a formative part in our lives, especially an old farmer and his wife named Tracy and Beulah Sutherland.

Tracy and Beulah Sutherland
Tracy and Beulah Sutherland with a very young Brooksyne
(during the "big hair" days.)  

We had a very dear elderly couple in the church who were in their nineties at the time, Tracy and Beulah Sutherland. They had lived their entire lives in that region and had been sustenance farmers (that is essentially living off what they grew on their small farm).  They loved and accepted us, though we were very young and inexperienced. We esteem them and thank God that they were in our first congregation. Tracy went to be with the Lord shortly after we moved to the northeast but Beulah lived to be over 100.  We expect a glorious reunion with them one day!

Enoch with ChrissyEnoch lived for about nine more years after we moved to pennsylvania to start a church. He looks quite uncomfortable while being reassured by Chrissy, one of our foster children, after getting into a losing tussle with a porcupine. I had to use pliers to remove the quills and that really hurt!

Coon on propane tankCoon (like most kittens) had a way of getting into things. Here he is popping out of the hole in a propane tank cover.

For those who may be interested here's a photo of Enoch's ordination certificate:
Enoch's ordination certificate

Apparently the "Church of Gospel Ministry" (although I don't think it's the same one) is still around offering credentials and degrees. The ordination is "free" but now you pay $29.50 for processing, shipping & handling cost! You can also get all kinds of doctorates for a fee!

Note: Some readers may be offended that I seem to be mocking such credential or degree mills. Well I am!  They are a sham and cheapen the meaning of genuine credentials or degrees
by those who have worked diligently to earn them. Now I certainly don't think there's one right way to get ministerial credentials; some are based out of a local church, others by a denomination. In my case (and I assume it's similar for any legitimate source) credentialling requires a certain degree of education, a written ordination test that takes hours, a personal interview in front of a board of elders (presbyters in our term), written references, a criminal and credit background check, and I am not sure what else. Genuine credentials also include ongoing accountability and  are renewed annually.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

Today I simply couldn't recall a specific song to supplement our message but will share a song I enjoyed singing at a Men's Conference this last weekend.  "Jesus, Messiah"  Video  Chris Tomlin

Then the Spirit dropped Keith Green into my mind and sure enough he has strong songs of commitment:

"To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice"  Video  Keith Green

"No Compromise"  Video  Keith Green

The full "testimony" of our dog Enoch is here.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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