Saturday, November 5, 2016

Decisive or Divisive… or Both?

While preparing to preach a sermon from 1 Corinthians 4:20, I read the following commentary on vv.14-21. It is copied with the citation at the bottom. I think it is safe to say that the second paragraph — "Before we trace…" — would make an "interesting" discussion starter in a group representing various denominations.

7. Fathers and children (4:14–21)

In verse 14 Paul seems to recognize that he has been verging on sarcasm in the previous paragraph, and he pulls himself up by assuring the Corinthians that he is not trying to make you ashamed, not in any wrong way. He is not averse to arousing in them a proper sense of shame,21 but here he emphasizes that he is speaking as a father to his beloved children (14).
  Before we trace the way in which Paul sees himself as a father to the Christians at Corinth, it is necessary to stress that he does not see it as an authority-position, let alone as one invested with status. He would have known the words of Jesus himself: ‘Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven … He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.’22 The way the title ‘Father’ is given to, and accepted by, the ordained ministers of certain denominations flies in the face of this teaching. Indeed, many other sections of the church often manifest a paternalistic, over-dominant style of leadership, even if they do not use the title ‘Father’. The folk-religion which lies behind this is not nearly so serious as the unbiblical theology which gave rise to and still endorses such an understanding of status and authority in the church. This false teaching is arguably the strongest barrier to the growth and health of the church in our day. It affects church unity, evangelism, worship, lay ministry, the ministry of women, theological training. Indeed, virtually every aspect of the mission of God’s church is hampered, so long as this anti-Christian view of leadership in the church is perpetuated.
Positively, Paul sees himself as father to the Christians at Corinth (and particularly to Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, verse 17) in the sense that he proclaimed the gospel to them and was, therefore, responsible on a human level for their faith in Christ. Like any father, and because children always copy their father, he has striven to set them an example in daily life of the behaviour expected of Christians; I urge you, then, be imitators of me (16). Timothy’s task was to remind them of Paul’s ways in Christ (17). This consistent example was number one priority for Paul wherever he went (as I teach them everywhere in every church, 17). It underlines the vital importance of exemplary behaviour in the daily lives of all called to leadership in the church. The Corinthians had not seen Jesus in the flesh: they had no Bible; but they had seen Paul (cf. 11:1). Many others had pointed the way to Christ,23 but he was the first to come all the way to them with the gospel: I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel (15).
It is, then, as their father that Paul now promises to come to them. When the father has been absent from his family for some time, he wants to come home with love in a spirit of gentleness (21), not with a rod. Many of those in Corinth whom he had brought to faith in Christ were now behaving in an arrogant and boastful way, writing off him and his ministry and causing great trouble and division in the church. Paul’s fatherly heart was deeply hurt by this behaviour and something of that pain can be gauged by his comments elsewhere: ‘My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!’24

Children often make loud claims in a boastful way: it is a reflection of their immaturity. There is a lot of talk, and not very much power to put the big words into action. So Paul ends these two chapters in the same mood as he began—with a strong (and strongly-felt) plea to the Corinthians to stop boasting and to grow up: the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power (20). He does not often use this phrase the kingdom of God, so common in the Synoptic Gospels; but, when he does, it always refers to fundamentals. He does not ever explain its meaning; he accepted it as the heart of the gospel—and proclaimed it day by day.25

David Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians, The Bible Speaks Today; ed. John R. W. Stott; Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove.: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 67-69.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Almost a Nickel

If memory serves correctly (it still does once in a while), I have already posted my two cents worth regarding the current political melee. Since this is an additional comment on that subject, I figure I am up to "almost a nickel."

I have read or listened to many who are saying, in essence, that the only valid choice a biblical Christian has in this election is to vote for Trump. It is, at its bare bones, the insistence that no candidate is perfect but Trump will not do as much harm as Clinton so we are spiritually obligated to vote for him. The arguers of this stance even toss in scriptures, albeit none that specifically address the requirement to vote for the "lesser of two evils." However, they do postulate that their opinion is the authoritative word on the matter.

So, in an attempt to offer some balance, here are some scriptures to chew on ("meditate on" if that sounds more spiritual), beginning with three from Romans 14 (I am using different translations in an attempt to gain at least a measure of the criticism Rick Warren regularly receives.):

Romans 14:1 "Welcome those who are weak in faith, but do not argue with them about their personal opinions." (GNT)
Romans 14:4 "What right do you have to criticize someone else's servants? Only their Lord can decide if they are doing right, and the Lord will make sure that they do right." (CEV)
Romans 14:23 "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." (ESV)
1 Corinthians 3:18-20 "Don't fool yourself. Don't think that you can be wise merely by being up-to-date with the times. Be God's fool—that's the path to true wisdom. What the world calls smart, God calls stupid. It's written in Scripture, 'He exposes the chicanery of the chic. the Master sees through the smoke screens of the know-it-alls." (MSG)
1 Corinthians 10:31 "Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (NIV)
2 Timothy 2:4 "As Christ's soldier, do not let yourself become tied up in worldly affairs, for then you cannot satisfy the one who has enlisted you in his army." (TLB)

What it boils down to, for me anyway, is this: I am seeking to be led by the Holy Spirit who convicts and convinces us of what is pleasing to God and I believe there are a lot of people trespassing on His territory.

P.S. Please, do not assume you know for whom I am or am not voting. This was not about the candidates at all but rather those who assume they are God's 2016 Presidential Election prophets.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Growing Pains

I do not like pain. Really. I do not like it. But they say pain serves a purpose: Pain tells us when something is wrong. Pain also occurs when drastic steps have been taken to fix something that was wrong. Everyone who has ever gone through major surgery understands this.

You face double the pain when the two come together and that is bound to happen for anyone seeking to live a Christlike life. First, there is the pain of identifying something specifically wrong with your life in spirit, thought, and/or deed. Sometimes the error is so deeply engrained that it is a tangible part of what defines you. Next is the pain that comes with making a clear, meaningful, and permanent correction. Then, and only then, healing and recovery can occur.

Here is an example in down-to-earth terms: 
1. We love God and we love our country.
2. No matter how many good people immigrate into our country, some bad ones slip in, too, and it only takes a few of the bad guys to do a lot of damage (witness 9-11-01).
3. A conflict arises (or should) when we seek to be Christlike but desire to "protect" our country by turning away immigrants because some might do us harm (rather than recognizing where our real safety lies as revealed in 2 Chronicles 7:14).
4. You have to make a decision to be totally Christlike or seek a worldly solution to national security. 

It isn't pretty but it is true. Denial only cancels the hope of change and healing.

Final note: I am not a fan of the modern Episcopal Church. But I do have respect for a recent stand they have taken and thank Tom Wiles* for sharing it. You can read it here.

*Tom Wiles is Executive Minister for the American Baptist Churches of Rhode Island. We were also roommates our Senior year at Oklahoma Baptist University. I had the great privilege of having his mother-in-law, Marilyn Bryant, as pianist when I served in my first staff position out of college at First Baptist Church, Lindsay, OK.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

When Hermeneutics Don't Matter

The problem with attempting to share insight gleamed from tried and true principles of biblical interpretation, i.e. hermeneutics, is they are often nonessential to those who believe in the sufficiency of their own strong personal opinion. It is nothing new but recently it was resolutely stated to me that Jesus was not crucified on Friday but on Thursday based entirely on Jesus' own words recorded in *Matthew 12:40 – "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

As we discussed it, the friend would not accept the explanation that in the reckoning of the original audience, "three days and three nights" was a reference to three distinct days or any part of those days. This person refused to view it in any context other than the way it sounded in English and would be understood in our culture, namely, Jesus spent three full twenty-four hour periods in the grave. I should add that observations of scholars who write commentaries have little bearing on this person. Among my own references were the Word Biblical Commentary, the Encyclopedia of Bible DifficultiesMatthew Henry, Commentary On the Whole Bible (Unabridged), and John Wesley, Wesley's Notes On the Bible.

If it comes up again, and it very well may, I will probably just refer to six passages from the gospels themselves, including Matthew, which are even clearer in plain old English. They are as follows:
  • From Matthew 27:62 – The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate
  • From Mark 15:42 – And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath,
  • From Luke 23:54 – It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning.
  • John 19:14 – Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”
  • John 19:31 – Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.
  • John 19:42 – So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Those would seem to be rather overwhelming. But, in this case, I suspect my friend will gladly use an uninformed, albeit steadfast, interpretation of one verse to essentially ignore six with clearer meanings.

A Pastor's life has these moments.

*For the sake of consistency, all scriptures are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 Annual Christmas Letter

My name is Jim. It has been two years since my last annual letter.

Have we had any low points in the past two years?
Of course, we have. Everyone does. But God is good and He continues to bring us through those times.

Then what were the high points?
First, the kids. Hidden in this update, there are two humongous high points.
Since you printed the last annual letter and have been reading it at least once a week for the past two years, you will remember that Alison married Shane Calhoun on August 11, 2013, leaving us with just one unmarried offspring, David. On August 1, 2015, that all changed when David wed our wonderful and newest daughter-in-law, Jordan!

David and Jordan live in Phoenix AZ where David has been the Student Pastor at Foothills Baptist Church since 2007 and where Jordan works as a team leader of a bunch of nerdy software engineers in the healthcare industry.

Shane and Alison bought a house and are living in the high desert just outside of Phelan CA with our two granddogs, Cody and Tucker.
Shane is a counselor on faculty at CSUSB and Alison is a medical transcriptionist.

Now, for the second high point. Aaron and Denise have moved out of our place and have their own place here in Port Orchard WA. But that is not the big news. Aaron started a new job working for the government at the shipyard. But, that’s not it, either. On October 27, Selah Grace Marie Gantenbein was born!

Yes, I am now joyfully married to a grandmother!

Now, for the two of us.
Cathy is still working for The City of Tacoma. We are praying for the day of her retirement and looking for a way to make it happen. They have had her for over 29 years and that is just about enough. In addition to our family and her family, she continues to pour herself into the church.
I am still pastoring Kitsap Lake Baptist Church and will mark ten years with these wonderful children of God in March of 2016. I hope I am able to continue for a long time. I was also reunited with high school classmates when I made my first return visit for our 45th reunion in Klamath Falls OR. (Those people have really gotten old!)
Together we celebrated our 40th anniversary in 2014. The actual date, May 26, was spent on the Disney Wonder during a nine night Alaska cruise. Yes, I highly recommend it. Our family celebration occurred later in the Fall as we were with our dear friends, Danny and Cathy Herron, and all of the offspring from both families on the Disney Fantasy for a seven night Caribbean cruise. I recommend that, too.
First Date!
Cathy’s mother is now in a loving nursing home where she is receiving around-the-clock care. This has become necessary as her memory and physical condition have become weaker.
My parents continue to live on their own and even drove up here for a visit this past Summer. We went down to their place in Eugene to join other family members for Thanksgiving. The day also marked Dad’s and Mom’s 69th wedding anniversary!

Finally, what an incredible joy it is to have all of our family here this Christmas! They are joy to our lives.

I hope you will have, are having, or have had a wonderful Christmas and pray that your new year is filled with the blessing of serving our Lord God.

In His love,

Jim and Cathy

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Victory Through Humility, Prayer, and Repentance

The only way to stop this evil and protect Christians is to defeat it – militarily.”

The statement was about ISIS. The writer is a person representing a non-profit religious organization presenting itself as an advocate for Christian evangelism.

Contrast his claim with God’s statement in 2 Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 

It appears God disagrees with this “advocate”. God’s "only way" focuses on humility, prayer, and repentance of His people. To do otherwise is to take/wear His name in vain.

I have unsubscribed from this advocate’s mailing list. It has the appearance of godliness but has denied its power.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

P.S. If you want to know the name of the person and the group, email me and I will give it to you. I may even save the email and forward it to you (but maybe not).

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


One of the benefits of living in this area is the ability to pay dues at one YMCA but being able to use any of them in Kitsap and Pierce Counties. There are currently a total of twelve facilities including camps, family Ys, etc. By and large, most folks have their favorite and that is the one they use. We have enjoyed using the "Y" but are now rethinking our membership.

Recently, "to demonstrate our commitment to our transgender community", the YMCAs of Kitsap and Pierce Counties created a policy allowing people to use whatever locker room (shower, changing, etc.) they identified with in their minds. They want us to be assured that they are taking steps to keep any sex offenders from abusing this.

Really? Consider the following: 1. The policy was created in April and only made public very recently; 2. There is no way to keep all sex offenders from abusing it, only known convicted sex offenders; 3. When a church member inquired about it just yesterday, the person at the front desk said she did not know anything about it.

A person observing this might come to the conclusion that the acronym, YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association), has secretly added the letter "P" to the middle of it and changed the formal name to the Young Men's Politically Correct Association. The "M" has apparently become just a nod to the old days when the physical body and chromosomes identified a person's gender rather than the person's current feelings.

Folks were encouraged by the "Y" to send their responses, etc. so I sent the following to the person I believe is the President and CEO of the YMCAs for the two counties:

Dear Bob Ecklund,

Please, know that you are being prayed for during these sensitive times of establishing, refining, enforcing, etc. new policies that are affected by sexual identification/orientation at the YMCA. Navigating the various laws and varying moral standards from different groups at times seems to be a "no win" situation since you can not possibly please everyone.

As a local Pastor, I understand the desire to have those who come be a reflection of the community. In the past year or two, we have seen something I did not anticipate: Lesbian, gays, and unmarried couples with children have been coming to our church. Some come into the worship service and some tend to hover outside the auditorium. In some cases, life circumstances have brought them to the church rather than a thirst for God's truth. Whatever brings them, we recognize our responsibility to love them and teach them God's truth without compromise.

It is my prayer that you will lead the YMCA to continue to be a place open to all people but without being governed or manipulated by any standards other than those God has given us in His word, the Bible.

In His love,
Jim Gantenbein

Jim Gantenbein, Pastor
Kitsap Lake Baptist Church
5802 Wilmont St
Bremerton WA 98312
(360) 373-7728