Brian Cropp: We have this series we’ve been in called God Dreams, and in just a moment, our senior pastor, Harold Bullock, will be up here to continue that series. If you have missed any part of that, I encourage you to swing by hopechurch.com or wherever you get podcasts. We’re on YouTube; you can check all that out. I think it will be a help for you. As we’ve been looking at this assignment that God has given us, as we’ve defined what a God Dream is, it is a vision of the future that started first in the mind of God, and then He has given the doable assignment part of that, that He wants us as a church body to take care of, He’s given that to us in a frame like this. This picture represents that vision that He’s given us of the future, and we’re on a road. We’re heading towards that vision that He has for us, and this frame helps define what this picture is.
He’s given us a “what,” which is our mission. That “what” is that we are inviting people to discover and experience God’s ways. We think that is how you are going to grow and get a taste for walking with the Lord. We have our “why,” which is our values. Our three main values which you’ll feel all the way through all of church life here is that we want to please God fully, love people wisely, and then steward our opportunities faithfully. Then we have our strategy of how we’re going to accomplish that, and we provide lots of different ways and opportunities for you to take a next step with the Lord and be growing with Him and experiencing Him. We’ve looking at our measures of how will we know that we’ve been successful in accomplishing that mission. I’d like to invite our senior pastor, Harold, to the stage now as we continue to look at this part of our measures. There is a listening guide in your program. I encourage you to take that out and follow along this morning. There’s a pen in the seat pocket in front of you, and you can use that, as well. Again, thank you for being a part of us worshipping the Lord today.
Harold Bullock: Good morning. If you’re new here, I’d enjoy meeting you after the service. We’re taking a look at our measures, and we’re going to do that in a second. However, each...I’ve tried to most weeks...each week...give you some pastoral qualifications. I’d like to do that today, too. We’re in a year of change. My wife and I began the congregation in 1978, and this last spring, it seemed like the Lord said this was to be the year that we find a new senior pastor. Our plan is that by the end of June, anyway, a new senior pastor will be installed. I’ll go away for sabbatical and then come back, perhaps as a pastor emeritus or some lower pastor position on staff so that we can move ahead aggressively into the future. As our committee is considering different possible persons, these are some of the qualifications that are really important. These are in the Scriptures.
Today, we’re going to focus on home life. People tend to think of pastors in terms of speaking, but the New Testament really looks at the whole span of their lives, as it considers who’s qualified. Here are some verses out of 1 Timothy and Titus; they’re two letters written to church leaders about how to organize churches. “The overseer must be irreproachable, a one-wife kind of man.” Some translations will say, “He must be the husband of one wife.” This Wuest translation picks up more of the flavor of the Greek. 1 Timothy 3:4-5: “He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?” Then, again in Titus, “He must be faithful to his wife, and his children must be believers who don’t have a reputation for being wild or rebellious.”
Here’s a basic summary of the kind of person we’re looking for. First, he’s a one-woman man. Literally, the Greek language says “a one-woman man.” The word translated woman could mean wife, but it especially means woman. That means that he’s actually a person who has got his attention focused on his wife. He’s not checking out all the other women in the congregation; he doesn’t have a roving eye. He’s not flirting. He is a man, but he’s a one-woman man. This is an intentional thing on his part.
He manages his family well. His children respect and obey him; they are believers. They’re not known for being wild and rebellious. If kids are younger, it’s harder exactly to see that. As they’re older, it’s clearer and clearer. He’s...they’re to respect and obey him and not be known for being wild or rebellious. The reason--if a man doesn’t know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? There’s a tremendous overlap between family life and church life. The overlap is this: everybody’s a volunteer. Children are smaller, and you can dominate them. But, they have to decide to follow you. As they get older and older, they have to decide to follow you. The leader in a church does not pay the church’s salary. The people pay the leader’s salary. Everybody’s a volunteer, so the pastoral leader has to lead in such a way… Not simply like business where you do have the power of salary...but they have to lead in such a way that people want to follow. That’s tested in home life, and home life really is a test.
As we’re looking for a pastor, we’re looking for someone for whom these are generally true. Sometimes people say, “Well, these are ideals. They’re what you aim at.” They are in a sense; however, they’re also viewed as the bottom line. This is sort of the window sill. If you don’t get over the window sill, you don’t get in. They’re both. We’re looking for someone who knows how to lead in such a way spiritually that people do follow...someone whose heart is under control and is focused rightly. So, that’s what we’re looking for in a pastor.
How about our measures? How do we measure maturity? Maturity is sort of a vague thing for us, as Christians. If you are a Christian, you want to grow. What does that mean? You’d like to be mature. What does that mean? It tends to be pretty vague. We sort of take the American idea of “be nice” and put that into what spiritual maturity looks like. Not quite sure what “be nice” looks like, but it’s sort of “be nice.” Actually, the Bible talks about several things in maturity. As you get to know them, you can actually target them and begin to move in that direction.
We want to help people grow to maturity in Hope, and so we have some indicators that are in the Scripture. Today, we’re going to take a look at four more of them. You and I move through the day situation by situation; we hit all kinds of situations. Here’s one; if you’re working in Dallas, you know this one well. It takes time; we hit rush hour...traffic...a lot of different situations. You get on the job, work to do; maybe you’re working more with your hands, or maybe you’re in sales. Maybe you teach, but there’s all the work that’s got to be done. Sometimes, it’s just waiting, waiting, and waiting, especially in doctors’ offices. Other places you just wait and wait. Sometimes it’s shopping...different situations. That group looks awfully well-disciplined. Sometimes it’s doctors’ visits...we just keep hitting all kinds of situations. We get up in the morning, we have our plans, and then the situations begin to roll.
In the middle of all those situations, spiritual transformation crops up, actually the opportunities for transformation and the indicators. Spiritual transformation is indicated as we move through life day-by-day, by how we treat people. We’ve looked at some specifics on that. It’s more than just being nice. By how we team together--we’ve looked at some indicators on that, what Scripture says, and it’s more than just being nice. Nice is just not specific enough.
It’s also indicated though...spiritual maturity is also indicated by how we handle life as it comes at us. More than people, more than teaming, it’s just how we handle life. Christ actually leads us as we move through specific situations. In situation after situation, He’s at work, and we tend not to think about that. We keep crying out for God to work in our lives, and He’s actually really very busy as we move the situations of the day. It’s in the situations that He’s meeting us, calling us to change how we handle life.
Actually, He calls us to some things. One is to adopt His view of things. Here’s a situation. My wife and I, as we raised our kids, have been in things like this. If you have children now, that may have been your last Christmas picture. You know, you’re trying to get the picture made, and they’re not holding the letters up. Then, worse than that, they’re yelling, crying. This is not what you want. The question is: “What is Christ’s view on this situation right now?” I mean, just this little situation you’re in. What’s His view on it? He actually has a view of it. He’d like you to adopt His view. Think about that; adopt His view of situations, especially inconvenient ones.
Accept His priorities. He has priorities; we have priorities. Ours may not be particularly wrong, or they may jumbled and quite wrong. As we move into situations like this one, what are His priorities? “Always buy the cheapest car possible, right?” Not necessarily. Buy almost what you can afford or what you can almost afford. That depends. I’m not saying there’s a simple answer here, but what I’m saying is He has priorities and we tend not to think about those. He has not only views; He has priorities.
And then, He wants us to respond to Him, not only take His viewpoint and adopt His priorities, but He wants us to respond not just to the situation but to Him in the situation. We’ve got to deal with the circumstances. Whenever the little kids are yelling and joy is all over them...in their laps instead of holding it up or if you’re trying to buy the car or whatever. He wants you to respond--not only see it from His angle of priorities, but respond to Him in the situation. We tend to see a situation and respond to it. He wants us to respond to Him. We do have to deal with the realities; we’ve got to buy the car. We’ve got to get the picture somehow. We have to deal with the realities, but we deal with them in His way not just our way. He’s wanting us, through this little situation with the kids crying or the car purchase or whatever, He wants us to meet Him and respond to Him as we deal with this situation. Deal with it His way.
One of the things you want to ask is “What are you saying to me, Lord?” Let me show you a good picture to ask that question about.This is the kids’ room; it’s a mess. You walk into it. What do you do? Well, what are you saying to me, Lord? It’s a good question. Yes, even in this situation, Christ is meeting you, and He’s calling you to walk with Him. Look at it from His angle, take His priorities, and respond to Him and respond to the situation like He would like.
Christ, actually repeatedly, calls for four responses, specific responses--not just respond in general, but specific responses. We’re going to take a look at those quickly. They’re measures of maturity. Here’s the first one. In the middle of situations, Christ is calling you to faith, to trust Him. Trusting the Lord actually is the way forward in life. These others are different ways, but this is the way forward. Hebrews 11:6 says, “...Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him…” If you’re going to come to God, you have to believe a couple of things. Number one, He exists; He actually is there. Then, number two, He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
If you actually move toward Him, sign up to follow Jesus Christ, life will go better. There’ll be problems, but life actually will be better for you. Will you get rich? I don’t know. I know you’ll probably end up with as much money as you can handle rightly. One of my friends who had a lot of money said that’s the reason why most people are so poor. I said, “What’s that?” He says, “The Lord gives you just enough ‘til you can handle it rightly.” He, himself, had faced major challenges with money. Life will be better, though. He actually will reward you if you seek Him.
Trusting God is how we move forward. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says it this way: “...we walk by faith…” To walk is to live life actually, but the image is we’re walking forward. We’re walking into things that we can’t see all of it, exactly how it’s going to work out. We move forward by faith. This is how we move forward. The hard stuff shows up, and we trust God and we move forward. The opposite is not reason. Some people think that it’s reason. “It’s either faith or reason!” No, no, no, no. Reason fits very well into faith. However, the opposite of faith is sight. It’s what I can see. It’s in the middle of the situation I’m facing that I can see very clearly. It’s in the middle of the situation that I’m going to have to respond to God and trust Him and lean into it.
Here’s you a situation. Have you ever had one of these? I have. You’re heart just sinks...fender bender. One thing you know is money is in the air. In the fender bender you have to trust God. He wants you to trust Him. Trust Him means you take Him seriously; you actually believe He’s here. Then you trust Him to do you good even in this situation, and you trust Him enough to actually do what He says, rather than just say, “Well, yeah, but in this situation…” You actually go ahead and do what He says. You trust Him enough to obey. The car, the fender bender, or other situations...could be the kids screaming, could be whatever...faith means I lean into the situations. Determine to do God’s will, trusting Him to take care of me as I do His will. Because very often, doing His will is... it looks risky. I’m going to do this regardless of how things look. I will do what’s right and good before Him. This is something God just keeps on calling for. We walk by faith. You move through the day; before you get through the day, you’re going to have to trust God. That’s just how life is, but in situation by situation, the Lord is working to grow this.
Second one, number two...humility. Humility is not a word we use much in our society at this point. Humility...humility is the way upward. You want to go upward in life; this is the way. It’s actually a hallmark of Christ. It’s very interesting; the Son of God Himself...Himself...on earth...says at one point, “I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls(in Him).” I’m gentle; I’m humble in heart. This is God talking. Wow. We tend to think of God sitting on a throne somewhere commanding and demanding, but God actually has a very humble heart, not “waffle-y.” He doesn’t waffle on things, but He is very humble. In situation after situation, God’s going to call you to humble yourself. As you grow in Him, humility will more and more mark your life.
Humility is actually the way upward, so Matthew 23:12, Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself…” ...pushes himself up… “...(is going to) be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” It happens over time, but you humble yourself, and He will see that your influence rises. We all want to be important. If you make your major goal in life to be important, you are just going to be humbled again and again. If you’ll go ahead and humble yourself, He will start moving you upward.
The opposite to humility is pride, and pride comes so easily to us. Pride: thinking that in some way you’re superior to others and that you deserve things. You’re superior, because maybe of your heritage; maybe your family is somehow superior to other families, or maybe you have really fabulous gifting. That just makes you superior to these other people. Maybe it’s your achievements. Who else has done what you have done? Maybe it’s your suffering? No one else has suffered like me because I have suffered so much. I deserve to be… Humility is the way upward. As we move through it, we go upward; we also grow in Christ.
Self-exaltation is actually the way down. If humility is the way up, pushing yourself ahead of others is the way down. Humility honors others; pride wants attention. It’s seeking attention. Humility seeks to give attention to others. I’ve given you a pretty extensive handout. You can check the verses on these. A humble person sees himself in certain ways. I’m going to give you five real quick. He’s inferior to God; he’s subject to Him. That is, he even accepts difficult things from God’s hand. The Book of Job talks about this. He doesn’t order God around and give God advice on how to run the world. He’s undeserving of God’s help and kindness. We all want God’s help and kindness. Difficulty shows up, and we tend to start commanding about poor customer service. Well, if you’re humble, you keep your mouth shut, settle your heart down.
He doesn’t see himself as more important to God than any others. Everybody actually stands on level ground before God. It doesn’t matter your background or who you are. We all stand on level ground. If I stand in the presence of kings of the earth, they have a greater position than I. I should show respect to them, but before God, we all stand on level ground. If I’m helping in a very difficult situation among people that have nothing, with them I have some things. With them, I stand on level ground. We’re all of equal importance to God.
Obedient to human authorities… If I’m humble, I submit to human authorities because the Bible says God’s raised them up. As I submit to them, I submit to Him. If I’m humble, I’m considerate of correction. I’m not reactive to it. You can check the Scriptures on that. Humility--actually the two great Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter, are great festivals about these two basic things. The trusting of God--as Mary accepted this child from God, as Joseph raised this child amid the difficulties, as Christ, Himself, humbled Himself and died on a cross. Humility, trusting God, and humility, that’s our great celebrations.
Number three, teachability… Trust in God grows as you mature. You still have to work on it. Humility grows as you mature; you still have to work on it. Teachability is the only shortcut in life; there is no other. If you learn from other people or you learn from the Word of God or your learn from life, you don’t have to go that route again. If you don’t learn, you’re going to make many, many trips around the same mountain. Unteachable people hate correction. Boy, they despise it; they’re disgusted by it. Teachable people actually respect it. Unteachable people want to express their opinion. Discussion begins about deeper things of God, and of course, everybody has an opinion. This is what the Proverb says, “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding (learning) but delights in airing his own opinions.” Yeah, this is pretty attractive to us. Rather than learn, we want to tell what we think. You want to learn.
The unteachable tend to learn excuses not truth. This is especially a problem among Christians. 2 Timothy 4: “For there is going to come a time when people won’t listen to the truth but will go around looking for teachers…” ...on the internet and other places… “...looking for teachers who will tell them just what they want to hear. They won’t listen to what the Bible says but will blithely follow their own misguided ideas.” Yep, it’s a part of being a human. We like people who tell us the things we want to hear because that gives us excuses to do what we want to. If you’re really teachable, you’re looking for truth not just excuses. As you grow, your teachability grows. As your understanding develops and your knowledge gets greater and greater, it leads you to greater faith, greater humility, and greater teachability. If you know more than anyone else, you should be more teachable than anyone else. This is what the Lord does. People who hate correction pay a very hard price. Those who reject what they are taught will pay for it. Those who obey what they are told will be rewarded. Hmmm, teachability.
Teachability actually takes initiative. You don’t just, “Well, if anyone ever teaches me, I’ll learn from it.” A teachable person really takes some initiative to learn. God has certain channels that you want to learn from, channels of instruction. One of them is Scripture, so he takes initiative to begin reading in it, learning from it. Wise people--that’s people who know how to walk with God and more how to handle life. You learn from them. You don’t learn from just anyone. Having been a rock and roll star does not make you God’s expert on how to live. You might be really good at music, but you want to learn from wise people, especially their advice or corrections.
Circumstances--if you read the Book of Proverbs, you find a number of circumstances where the writer is looking at life and drawing lessons from it. The Lord wants you to learn like this; check them with Scripture. And then, difficulties...more about that in a moment. Difficulties come to actually help us learn and grow. Especially ask God to teach you when you are corrected by others. Correction is very hard on us, but when it occurs, ask God to teach you. When you’re blocked by circumstances, boy, that’s really hard. Yeah, your goals are blocked; we tend to get angry. Ask God to teach you. When you run into difficulty, “Father, please teach me. I don’t understand all that’s going on here. Please help me learn.” Teachability.
Number four...Christ in all...in situation after situation, Christ is calling you for trust, to trust Him, humble yourself, learn, and the fourth one is patience. Patience is the path to maturity; actually, it’s the fast track to maturity. If you want to grow, this one becomes crucial. Patience itself is endurance. It’s an endurance that is upbeat; these are the earmarks: upbeat, persistent. It just keeps on bearing up. Then, it’s obedient. It keeps on doing what Christ wants, and it does that with difficult people. Boy, difficult people are a pain, right? Difficult situations… I don’t like difficult situations, but you know, if I’m not in a difficult situation, I really don’t have to endure. I enjoy. Difficult people or situations.
The opposites of patience, there are actually three of them. The first one is to hurry, hasten. “We’ve got to hurry! We don’t have time to…” ...whatever. You try to race through things, and you need to slow down. Learn what God wants. Hurry up or give up. “I can’t take it anymore! Aaah!” Yes, you can; God will help you. Give up, that’s the opposite of patience. Patience keeps on. Blow up: “I’ve had enough!” That’s not patience. Patience keeps on; it’s upbeat, persistent, and obedient. There may be things that we should not put up with, but if we’re dealing with difficult people and difficult situations, God’s calling for patience. We’re actually to be patient with everyone. We tend to be patient with people who are nice and give the other people what they deserve. We’re to be patient with everyone.
God uses patience amid difficulty. This is the real tool to build deep, Godly character. I want to show you this passage out of The Living Bible. I love it, because I’ve had to live it so much, not live like I lived it gloriously but lived through it. “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy…” That doesn’t sound like reality, but it is. “...for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems.” When I read that, I thought “Oh, no!” “...don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.” Some of you know, we developed at our house the habit of a “James 1 Party.” Whenever things just got so bad, so many things happened in a row that were so bad, we’d actually go out and buy ice cream and party hats and noisemakers for the kids. We’d get some Blue Bell, and we would have a James 1 Party. Because that’s what it says, isn’t it? “Be happy... “
When your patience is finally in bloom, you’ll be strong in character. So when this situation shows up… Nope, there was another one. Do we have him? There he is, yes. Know whenever he shows up, God is not saying, “Aren’t you glad you took krav maga or karate?” God is saying, “I want you to handle him like I would.” God is calling for you to trust Him, He’s calling for humility, calling you maybe to be teachable. He’s definitely calling you to be patient, so with patience, you handle him, with slow temper and lots of forgiveness. This is a situation in which God is shaping you toward maturity. Proverbs 16:2: “He who controls his temper is better than a war hero, he who rules his spirit…” You’re controlling yourself. “...is better than he who captures a city.” Wow, when this situation shows up… This is the other one. We have the other picture? Yeah, here it is. You ever seen this one? Yep, especially after Thanksgiving. The kitchen is just full; maybe you’ve been sick. It’s piled up; green, hairy things are starting to grow under the refrigerator. This situation is also a situation where God is calling you to meet Him and take His view, accept His priorities, respond to Him in the middle of the situation, and deal with stuff like He wants. He’s calling you to handle the situation. The other was a person; this is a situation with patient, upbeat endurance. Yeah, they all can be washed; it just takes (sigh)...one after another.
Actually, all four of the responses that God’s calling you to--faith, humility, teachability, and patience--are promised great blessings in the Old Testament, so God’s actually calling you toward blessing. Difficulty is usually the way these things grow in us. So when it shows up… It’s not the only way. When it shows up, just remember Christ is calling you to walk with Him. The mature handle things like this, in general… They make mistakes, but they handle things this way. These take time to learn. It takes time for them to become a pattern of life, but the good news is if you’re brand new in the faith, you can start, and it will grow. Christ is anxious to help you grow in these. Even a brand new person can see differences in their life.
Next week, we’re going to take a look at the way we approach our tasks and our work. There are some marks of maturity that are characteristic of those who have walked with the Lord for a long time. They’re also available, though, to you wherever you’re at. There’s an angle that the mature take, and we’ll talk about that next week.