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Families Again
Thursday, 24 March 2011
Do you have a heart of Compassion?
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Compassion International

We got a surprise in the mail a couple of days ago. Our first letter from Yvone (Rwanda), our newest correspondence child arrived! What a precious girl she is. Then, the next day, we got a letter from Marcelo (Bolivia), our first Compassion child. He is a wonderful young man as well.

We have grown to love all of our Compassion kids very much. The letters made me realize that I hadn't posted anything about Compassion in quite a while. I love their videos. They are constantly coming out with a video that tells about a new aspect of their great organization. Their newest video just came out a few days ago. Enjoy!


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Posted by tink38570 at 10:52 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 23 March 2011
New...well...really old...Prayer Letter has been Posted!
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Ministry
I just realized that I hadn't posted our most recent Prayer Letter written by Sarah. She wrote it in February soon after my mother passed away and during the time that her mom was in the hospital. It has been posted now, just click on the Prayer Letter link in the left hand column.

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Posted by tink38570 at 5:35 PM CDT
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Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Lucky - A First Wild Card Blog Tour Book
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Book Reviews

You all know that Sarah and I direct a ministry to low income folks in the town that we live in. In fact, our house and our building are located right across the street from the low income housing area. We know and love the folks that live there. We know what many of them are going through. Some are there because of their own mistakes. Some are there because of the hard knocks of life. From the outside, many place blame; a few have pity; but none would call them "lucky".

But are they lucky? Is luck Biblical? Before reading this book I never believed in luck much less thought that the folks that I worked with were lucky. Glenn Packiam, however, has begun to change my perspective.

I would highly recommend this book to you all. It will really challenge your way of thinking. Read more about it below.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:


David C. Cook; New edition (March 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Glenn Packiam is an executive pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he oversees spiritual formation and serves as the teaching pastor for New Life Sunday Night. As one of the founding leaders and songwriters for the Desperation Band, Glenn has also been featured on several Desperation Band and New Life Worship albums and recently released his debut solo album, Rumors and Revelations, also with Integrity Music. Glenn has written a few well-loved worship songs like “Your Name,” “Everyone (Praises),” and “My Savior Lives.” Glenn is also the author of Butterfly in Brazil: How Your Life Can Make a World of Difference and Secondhand Jesus: Trading Rumors of God for a Firsthand Faith. Glenn, his wife, Holly, their two daughters, Sophia and Norah, and their son, Jonas, are enjoying life in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.

Visit the author's website.


Lucky: How the Kingdom Comes to Unlikely People, Glenn Packiam uncovers how the poor, hungry, mourning, and persecuted are lucky because the kingdom of heaven, its fullness, comfort, and reward, is theirs despite their condition. Packiam redefines the word lucky by studying the word’s context as used in Christ’s beatitudes in Luke’s gospel.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434766381
ISBN-13: 978-1434766380



Bud had had a run of bad luck. When he was eight years old, his mother died. His father, unable or unwilling to raise him, later sent Bud to an orphanage. When he got out, he struggled to adapt to society and earn a decent living. He spent most of his adult life puttering on different jobs, from spray painting pipelines to being a cook and truck driver for circuses and carnivals. He had never owned a home or a car. Money had been hard to come by. Things had gotten so bad that he had even served a twenty-eight-day jail sentence for writing too many bad checks.

Then one day, Bud decided to buy a lottery ticket. At the time, he was on disability and had a grand total of $2.46 in his bank account. He had nothing to lose and over sixteen million dollars to win.

It happened. William “Bud” Post III won $16.2 million dollars in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988. Luck, it seemed, was smiling on him.

Who do you think is lucky? Who, in your estimation, has it made?

Is it the person with lots of money and Hollywood good looks? Is it the one who spends afternoons on the golf course or at the five-star health spa? Maybe it’s the one with the perfect job and ideal marriage and dutiful children who make the von Trapps look like vagabonds. Whoever it is, you may say, it’s not me.

When we think of a lucky person, we think of someone like Bud Post, an average guy who grew up like we did, with challenges and adversity, who somehow happened to buy the winning lottery ticket. There’s just enough about them that makes you believe they are just like you. They may have had modest talent, sure, and a solid work ethic, yes. But they had a few big breaks you didn’t have. They got lucky. They were born into the right family, at the right time, in the right city. They grew up with the right connections and were given the right opportunities. And that’s how they got where they are.

We’re not far off. We were this close, you say. But then … The divorce. The kid who got your son to try that drug that left him addicted. The cancer that came like a thief in the night and stole your wife’s health and vandalized your finances. The downturn in the economy that turned into a recession. The investment you leveraged everything to make that was just a few months too late. The bubble that burst and left you mired in debt instead of swimming in wealth. You’re Bud Post pre-1988, with a losing lottery ticket and no stunning reversal of fortunes.

Successful people, people who have made something of their lives, usually try to deflect any association with luck. Gary Player, the South African golfer who won nine Majors, famously shrugged off an accusation of being lucky on the golf course by saying, “Well, the more I practice, the luckier I get.” People on the outside looking in believe in luck—because they are sure that’s all that separates them from the successful and because they hope that their fortunes will one day be reversed. People on the inside prefer to credit talent and hard work.

Malcolm Gladwell is known for offering a paradigm-shattering, contrarian view of social trends and behavioral norms we take for granted. In his book Outliers, Gladwell tackles the subject of the extraordinarily successful. The conventional view is that, if you add talent to hard work, you’ll get a fairly predictable outcome: success. And because this is true for the moderately successful, we assume it’s also true for the outrageously successful—the outliers like professional athletes or world-renowned violinists or Bill Gates.

Gladwell, however, demonstrates that, while all outliers have a base of talent and a history of hard work, that’s only enough to get them to a certain point. What pushes them over the edge are things we may not have thought to consider, like date of birth, country of birth, access to education or technology, a family with disposable income to afford road trips and other creative-learning environments. His book is stocked with stories that make the point. Talent and hard work may get you some success, but to be an outlier, to be extraordinarily successful, you also need a little luck.

Gladwell’s theory only reinforces what we’ve always suspected deep down: Others have it made, but not me. A deep divide runs between the glamorous, wealthy, successful people out there and the ordinary, average, unspectacular you and me. We’re always on the outside looking in. And those others, well, they may not admit it, but they’re just plain lucky.

They bought the winning lottery ticket.

If only we could be so lucky.

But that sort of luck isn’t what it seems.

Bud Post chose to get his winnings in twenty-six annual payments of roughly half a million dollars. Within two weeks of collecting his first installment, he had spent over three hundred thousand of it. Three months later, he was half a million dollars in debt—thanks to, among other things, a restaurant in Florida he had leased for his sister and brother, a used-car lot complete with a fleet of cars he had bought for another brother, and a twin-engine plane he had bought for himself even though he didn’t have a pilot’s license.

A year later, debt wasn’t his only problem. He became estranged from his siblings, and a county court ordered him to stay away from his sixth wife after he allegedly fired a rifle at her vehicle. Bud Post was Dale Carnegie in reverse: a millionaire losing friends and alienating people while accruing a mountain of debt. When his former landlady sued him for a portion of the winnings to pay off old debts, Bud was finished. The judge ruled that she was entitled to a third of his lottery winnings, and when Bud couldn’t pay it, the judge ordered that all further payments of his winnings be frozen until the dispute was resolved.

Desperate for cash, Bud sold his Pennsylvania mansion in 1996 for a miserable sixty-five thousand dollars and auctioned off the remaining payments of his winnings. With a little over two and a half million dollars remaining, Bud hoped that people would finally leave him alone. But the person who created the most trouble was the one he could never escape: himself. He squandered it on two homes, a truck, three cars, two Harleys, a couple of big-screen TVs, a boat, a camper, and a few computers. By 1998, ten years after winning $16.2 million dollars, Bud Post was once again living on disability payments.

“I was much happier when I was broke,” he lamented.

William “Bud” Post III died at age sixty-six of a respiratory failure, broke and alone.

An Unexpected Word

We think of luck as simply a positive reversal of fortune or chance occurrence that worked out in our favor. Like winning the lottery. Jesus sees it as far more. He knows it takes more than changing your conditions and surroundings to make you lucky. It takes more than money or comfort or success. It takes the arrival of the kingdom of God. And that is no chance occurrence.

When Jesus raised His eyes to address the crowd that had gathered that day, He must have seen some interesting people. These were not the important big-city types. Those would come later when Paul joined the team and traveled to various cities. No, these first followers were country folks. Simple, well-meaning, kindhearted peasants. Luke, the gospel writer, doesn’t mention a name we might know or even a grouping—like Pharisee or Sadducee or scribe or lawyer—we might recognize other than “the disciples.” This is simply a crowd. A crowd of ordinary, unspectacular people. Sure, the twelve He had chosen were there, but they may not have looked like the most promising bunch either.

So when Jesus began to speak, it’s important to remember who He was looking at. He wasn’t sermonizing, delivering a prepared oratory masterpiece to a mass generic audience. It wasn’t a canned speech He had taken on the circuit. Jesus, full of compassion, sat on the plain and spoke. To them. To the unlucky, to the outcast and insignificant, to the overlooked and undervalued.

To them.

And He began with this word: “Blessed.”

Except it wasn’t quite that word.

Both Luke and Matthew chose the Greek word makarios to capture our Lord’s opening word in the Beatitudes.2 Makarios simply means “fortunate, happy.” In secular Greek literature, it is used to describe the blissful state of the gods. It is not an inherently religious word.3 The Greek word more like our words “blessed” or “blessing” is eulogia. Eulogia is often used to invite or invoke God’s blessing and also to bless God. That word was, of course, available to Jesus—and Luke and Matthew. But He—they—chose makarios instead.

In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament—the version of the Scriptures many in Jesus’ day would have used—makarios is the word used most often to translate the Hebrew word asar. But asar is not the word for a “God-blessed” person or thing or action. In fact it is rarely used of God blessing anything or anyone.4 Asar is simply “happy, favored, prosperous” and has the connotation of one whose paths are straight, which is a way of saying someone for whom things always unfold neatly and nicely.

The psalmist in Psalm 1 uses asar to say, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” It’s also the word the queen of Sheba used when she exclaimed, “How happy your men must be!” as a way of praising Solomon (1 Kings 10:8). Even though asar has the implication, by the context of its use, that God is the true source or reason for the person’s blessedness, it is not inherently a religious word. It’s a marketplace word, used to simply say that a person is fortunate, that he “has it good.”

If we were to use a word today for makarios, we would choose the word lucky. Not lucky as in the result of randomness. Not lucky as in the reward for properly acknowledging a superstition or a charm. It is neither the product of erratic chance nor the result of currying favor with some capricious god. It is simply lucky as we use it conversationally: You lucky dog, you get to take a vacation next week! Or, Lucky you! You just got a promotion in the middle of a recession! Makarios, as one New Testament commentator suggested, is akin to the Aussie slang, “Good on ya, mate,” which is rather like the American, “Good for you!” Which are both like saying, “Lucky you!”

The irony of this word choice is heightened when we imagine Jesus looking at these ordinary, unspectacular people and exclaiming, “Lucky you!” He might as well have said, “Lucky are the unlucky!”5

Lucky are you who are poor,

for yours is the kingdom of God.

Lucky are you who hunger now,

for you will be satisfied.

Lucky are you who weep now,

for you will laugh.

Lucky are you when men hate you,

when they exclude you and insult you

and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.6

Why would Jesus say that? Why would He call these unlikely and unlucky people, lucky?

An Unlikely People

The Jews of Jesus’ day knew that they were the lucky ones. They were Abraham’s descendants. They were the insiders. They were God’s special covenant people.

Abraham’s family had been chosen to be God’s people—by grace! And because it was Abraham’s descendants who were enslaved in Egypt, God heard the cries of His people and sent Moses to rescue them—again, by grace! Then, after they had been chosen as God’s people, after they had been saved from Egypt, Moses gave them the law.

The law was not how they became the covenant people of God; the law was how they were to live as the covenant people of God. For the Jews of the first century, the Mosaic law itself was not seen as a means of becoming God’s people; rather it was a sort of badge of honor displaying that they were indeed God’s people. You might say that the law was a sign of their luckiness. And yet the law was also a clear reminder of how far they had fallen short. They were well aware of their transgressions against the law. Even worse, their history was stained by their covenant unfaithfulness. Still God’s steady faithfulness to Israel remained. And because of that, hope that Israel would be “lucky” again—that they would be delivered from their enemies, be freed from exile, and have their calling fulfilled—was alive in their hearts.

All that history and drama of privilege and failure and faithfulness and hope and expectation are the backdrop for Jesus’ most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5—7 and the condensed but parallel Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6. The Sermon consists of quite possibly the most written-about passages of Scripture in church history.

One of the most common views is to see the Sermon as a new law. There are indeed striking parallels between the story of Moses and the story of Jesus. Moses came out of Egypt, went through the waters of the Red Sea and the wilderness on Sinai, and ascended the mountain and came down with the law; Jesus came out of Egypt (as a child), went through the waters of baptism and the wilderness of temptation, and ascended the hill7 to deliver this sermon. Matthew’s phrase “He opened His mouth and began to teach them” (5:2 NASB) is not filler. It’s a Hebrew idiom to denote one who speaks with divine authority, one who utters the very oracles of God. The view of the Sermon as a new kind of law can help us see something that was likely part of Jesus’ point: He means to say, to those who thought they were so good at keeping Moses’ law, that unless they kept it even in their hearts they would not enter the kingdom. This is certainly clear in Matthew 5:20 when He says, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” In the later sections of the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “You have heard … but I say unto you …,” it becomes clear that Jesus meant for them to internalize the law of Moses. The truth is, the law was always meant to be internalized, written on their hearts, and obeyed out of love for God and neighbor. Moses had said as much in his day, and later the prophets revisited the theme. Jesus, revealing the Father’s intent, was giving the final word. It’s not enough not to murder; you cannot hate. It’s not enough not to commit adultery; you cannot lust. And so on. For the first listeners, the Sermon would have led them to realize the futility of their efforts and to respond with some version of the question “Who can live like this?” And that would have been exactly the thing Jesus was after—to show that no one could truly fulfill the law alone.

This is where some of our modern teachers have made the mistake of throwing the whole thing out. “It’s all there just to frustrate us, to lead us to a Savior who will forgive and redeem us,” they say. But that is only half true. Jesus does mean for us to live in the way He describes in His Sermon: He wants us to be righteous from the inside out. In fact, if we draw a parallel between when and why the Mosaic law was given and this so-called “new law” of Christ, the point becomes clearer. Just as the Mosaic law was given to a people who had already been chosen by grace and saved by grace, so for those who are in Christ, this new, inside-out way of living is for those who have already become God’s people by grace. It would be impossible to treat it as simply good moral advice and discouraging to attempt to obey it as a means of “getting in.” Jesus meant for His Sermon to be viewed as the way to live as the people of God, not the way to become the people of God. The great teachers throughout church history, from Chrysostom and Augustine in the fourth and fifth centuries to Luther and the Reformers in the sixteenth century, understood that the entire Sermon must be read from the perspective of one who has already been saved by grace through faith. Martin Luther said, “Christ is saying nothing in this sermon about how we become Christians, but only about the works and fruit that no one can do unless he already is a Christian and in a state of grace.”8

Because we are in Christ, we are now the covenant people of God regardless of our ethnicity and national identity. We are “in”—by grace! We are rescued—by grace! Feeling lucky? But wait. There’s more. We have received the Holy Spirit, which means that living this way—this way of inward righteousness—is not merely up to our own strength. We don’t simply say, “Thanks, God. I’ll take it from here.” It is God’s design that, once we are saved through Him, we receive the power, through His Spirit, to actually become the kind of person He is describing.

The Sermon, far from being a list of conditions for entry in the kingdom, is an elaborate description of how this new people of God, empowered by grace through the Holy Spirit, are to now live. Not only have we—outsiders and onlookers—been brought into the kingdom because of Jesus; now, because we are in the kingdom, because we are living under God’s rule, this is the kind of life that God the Spirit produces in us.

Feeling lucky, yet?

Unexpected Outcomes

This is all well and good for the bulk of the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain, but what about the first few verses of each, the Beatitudes? Some have suggested that the Beatitudes are a “ladder of virtue,” an ascending list of qualities to be attained, a sort of growth chart for the Christian. But that would make persecution the final stage in our maturation, an idea that would have made perfect sense in one era and none in another. And it would create a sort of hierarchy, distinguishing between the “serious” followers of Christ who obey the full list and the “casual Christians” who choose not to.

Others have said it is a pronouncement of the way things are, an unveiling of the mystery of life. But this would be odd, for we know that not all who mourn are comforted. And the daily news is proof that the meek never inherit much of anything.

Many teachers have taken a more moderate path, shying away from calling them a ladder of virtue or a pronouncement of the way things are and seeing them, instead, as prescriptions on how to live. Should we pursue poverty and sorrow and persecution? To read the Beatitudes as blessings that are being given because of something these people have done requires a sort of spiritualizing of the text. We would have to take being “poor in spirit” as a way of saying “morally bankrupt” and make “mourning” synonymous with “repentance.” We would emphasize that to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” is to desire and long for the kind of inward “rightness of being” that only God can give us in Christ. This sort of reading of the Beatitudes has been emphasized through the centuries, from Augustine in the fourth century to the esteemed Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones in the twentieth century, and with good reason. It is hard to miss the progression from admitting our state of spiritual poverty to mourning in repentance to beginning to crave for an inward righteousness, and so on. Reading the Beatitudes as blessings on certain spiritual virtues would certainly be consistent with what the Scriptures teach us about growing in Christ.

But the bulk of writing and teaching on the Beatitudes has zeroed in on Matthew’s list rather than Luke’s. Luke’s list is half the size of Matthew’s (four instead of eight) and leaves no room for reading it as a list of spiritual virtues. Luke simply has Jesus announcing blessing on those who are “poor,” not those who are “poor in spirit”; those who “hunger now,” not those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness”; those who “weep now,” and who are hated, excluded, and insulted. Luke’s rendering is terse and dry. They resist spiritualization and require another way of hearing them—not a way that is in conflict with the much-written-about way, and not a way that was altogether absent in the historical expositions, just one that is not as heavily stressed. Often overshadowed by Matthew’s spiritual “Blesseds,” Luke’s shorter, sparser Beatitudes suggest another lens for Jesus’ words:

What if Jesus was announcing blessing on these people not because of their state but in spite of it?

Could it be that Jesus is not saying, “Blessed are you because you are poor,” but rather, “Blessed are you in spite of being poor, for the kingdom has come to even such as you”? Reading it this way begins to make more sense. In this light, those who are mourning are now blessed because they will—in God’s kingdom that Jesus is bringing—be comforted. They are not considered lucky because of their mourning; they are lucky because they are receiving—and will receive in fullness—the unexpected good fortune of God’s comfort in spite of their mourning now. The focus of the blessing—especially in Luke’s gospel—is on the latter portion of each Beatitude, not on the opening phrase. Luck is not in their initial conditions—of poverty and hunger and mourning and persecution—but rather in their unexpected outcomes: The kingdom of heaven in its fullness, comfort, and reward is theirs.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who paid a great price for living out his convictions and opposing an immoral military regime in World War II, wrote a landmark book called The Cost of Discipleship. Experiencing the high cost of following Jesus and His teachings in his own life, Bonhoeffer has us read these words of blessing in the shadow of the cross. Referring to Luke 6, he wrote:

Therefore Jesus calls His disciples blessed. He spoke to men who had already responded to the power of his call, and it is that call that made them poor, afflicted and hungry. He calls them blessed, not because of their privation, or the renunciation they have made, for these are not blessed themselves. Only the call and the promise … can justify the beatitudes.9

Only the call and the promise can justify the beatitudes. Not their condition but Christ’s call; not their poverty but God’s promise. Perhaps Bonhoeffer was echoing his German theological forefather Martin Luther, who also would not narrow his reading of the Beatitudes as merely a list of virtues. In Luther’s lectures on the

Sermon on the Mount, he pointed out that the people—even the crowd in Matthew’s gospel and not only the disciples in Luke’s—are not being praised for being poor or for mourning. Those are not virtues in and of themselves. They are being called blessed because the kingdom of God has come even to such as these.

The Beatitudes are chiefly an announcement, a proclamation that now, because of Jesus, everything will be different. Indeed it is already becoming different. If we can use our modern conversational expressions, we might sum up Jesus’ message like this: “Lucky you, for the kingdom of God has come to the unlikely and the unlucky.”

And yet.

There is something about being the unlikely and unlucky, the marginalized and the overlooked, that sets us up perfectly to receive what God is offering. By paying attention to what that is, we can gain the right posture of heart even if our earthly circumstances are grand and prosperous. It does, to an extent, like the rest of the Sermon (whether in Matthew or Luke), paint a picture of the type of person we become when the kingdom comes to us, the type of life God’s reign will produce in us. That is how we make sense of the blessing in Matthew’s Beatitudes on the pure in heart or the peacemakers.

To keep this book within my scope, I will not attempt to add to the already rich and historic writing on Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Instead I will constrain our conversations to the four Beatitudes found in Luke’s gospel. This will help our focus to be on how the unlikely have become lucky because of what Jesus has done and is doing in us. As we talk, in the chapters that follow, about each of the four Beatitudes in Luke 6, we will unpack two dimensions: how these particular people are lucky in spite of their conditions, and how their precise conditions prepare them to surrender to God’s reign. Woven through our conversation will also be a recovery of the call that comes with the blessing: Since we’ve become the lucky ones, we must become carriers of this blessing to others who are unlikely and unlucky in our day.

For now it is enough to see that these people, the unlikely and the unlucky, are suddenly lifted to the level of admiration—how happy for you!—because the kingdom of God has come to them. This is Christ’s announcement: The kingdom has come to unlikely, unexpected people. And for that, they are lucky indeed. Lucky with a capital L.

The Message

When Eugene Peterson, known now as the translator of the well-known and well-loved The Message Bible, pastored in the Baltimore area, there was a woman who came in a bit late, sat at the back, and sneaked out before the service was over. She had never been to church before. She was in her forties, and she dressed like a hippie whose time had past, but the joy on her face was new. Her husband was an alcoholic, her son a drug addict, and her friends relentless in persuading her to come to church. Week after week, she repeated this pattern of being fashionably late in arriving and serendipitously early in leaving.

Then Peterson taught a series on the life of David. One week in the midst of it, she decided to stay. The benediction was spoken, and there she was, still in her seat. When Peterson stood at the doors to greet people on their way out, she came to him with a look of astonishment. “Pastor, thank you. I’ve never heard that story before. I just feel so lucky,” she said. Week after week, this became her new tradition: to greet the pastor on her way out and say, surprised by the hope, the forgiveness, the redemption she had learned were hers, “I feel so lucky.”

It was that experience that made Peterson want to use the word lucky as the opening word of each Beatitude in his new translation. But he was not particularly well-known then, and the publishers were already taking an enormous risk allowing for such a modern colloquial translation. The editors got nervous and suggested he stick to the conventional word blessed even though the Greek makarios, as I’ve already noted and as Peterson insists, is not a “religious” word. It is a street-language word, not one reserved for hymns and prayers and blessings from God.

Either new editors came along or Peterson earned a little more latitude. When The Message translation of the Old Testament Wisdom Books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs) rolled out five years later, the word lucky showed up eight times. Then the rest of the Old Testament was finished, and it showed up eleven more times.

No passage to me is more beautiful than this:

I dare to believe that the luckless will get lucky someday in you. (Ps. 10:14 MSG)

Lucky You

If Jesus were sitting across the table from you and said to you that you are blessed, that He counts you as lucky, what would you think?

That’s crazy. No, I’m not, you would insist. I’m ordinary, unspectacular. And besides, I’m too messed up; I’ve made too many mistakes. I’m the person on the fringes, the margins, the outskirts. I’m not admired or applauded, respected or rewarded. I’m just … me. And whatever that is, it’s not lucky.

Or you would be tempted to think—as so many TV preachers do—that what this means is that everything you touch will turn to gold. You are blessed, and from here on out, everything is going to work out right. You’ll never get sick, never be broke, never be troubled again. You’ll live a charmed life. Things are going to get better and better until you fly away to glory. That’s what it means to be lucky.

Both responses would be wrong.

Jesus took an inherently nonreligious word, a word from normal everyday conversations, and filled it with divine implications. It turns out the ones we ought to call lucky are the ones God is blessing with the arrival of His kingdom. In doing this, Jesus redefined who the lucky ones are. They are not the ones culture lauds as successful, not the ones we secretly aspire to be. He turned our appraisal of the good life on its head. There is a great reversal coming; indeed it has already begun. And the ones who are receiving and participating in the kingdom of God are the ones who are truly lucky, deeply blessed.

Just like the people Jesus addressed, you are called lucky not because of your poverty or your hunger or your mourning or the persecution you’re enduring. You are lucky because in spite of it, you have been invited into the kingdom. It may not mean that your circumstances will immediately change. Many who heard Jesus’ words didn’t go off and all of a sudden “discover their purpose” and become influential world changers. Many, if not most, of them kept farming. And fishing. And raising their kids and going about their lives.

And yet everything had changed. They had seen a glimpse of God at work. Their hope was now rooted in the belief that Messiah had come. All that was wrong was beginning to be undone.

So it is for you. God has come to you in the midst of your mess and mistakes. He is announcing His arrival into your ordinary unspectacular life and inviting you to follow, to surrender, to live in a different way. God is rescuing and redeeming the world, and you—unlikely you!—have somehow gotten in on it. The trajectory of your life has been altered. You now have a part in the future that God is bringing. Like Abraham, you have been blessed to carry blessing, to live as a luck-bearer to the unlikely and the unlucky. You are receiving and participating in the kingdom of God.

And for that you are lucky. So lucky!


1. Who do you consider to be lucky? Who is living a charmed life? Why do you think that?

2. How does this chapter reshape your picture of the person who is to be admired?

3. How is this exposition of Luke’s Beatitudes different from the way you’ve read it in the past?

4. In what ways are you Lucky with a capital L?


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Thursday, 17 March 2011
The Titus Mandate - A First Wild Card Blog Tour Book
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Book Reviews

Have you ever been hurt by the Church. I know I have. I'm not talking about a building, I'm talking about the body of believers called the Church. Ted Bigelow in The Titus Mandate, tells us how we can use principles from Paul and Titus to "toe to toe" with the wolves in our bodies of believers and "Rescue, Protect and Restore" our churches. Read more about it below.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Titus Mandate

CreateSpace (January 14, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Bigelow attended Boston College as an undergraduate. He went on to graduate school at Harvard and The Masters Seminary, earning both the Master of Divinity and the Master of Theology, both summa cum laude. He also served as student body president in his senior year. Bigelow received his doctoral degree of ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Ordained to the ministry under John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Los Angeles in 1997, Bigelow entered full time ministry. He has served in both established and new churches, teaching and preaching in Africa, Central America, the Ukraine, and Germany. He is currently the senior pastor at Grace Church in Hartford, CT, a New England church plant now in its 6th year, and a speaker at many seminars and conferences.

Prior to entering pastoral ministry, Bigelow worked in marketing and sales, project management, statistical forecasting, and in small business consulting with the U.S. government. He also taught business classes at the college level.

Visit the author's website.


The church is supposed to be the safest place on earth for Christians, so why is it often a place of deep dissatisfaction? Many Christians suffer from difficult church situations and are unsure how to live and worship with such stress, let alone grow in the midst of it. Much of this pain comes from being under poor church leadership. According to Ted Bigelow, if your church doesn’t follow God’s mandate for leadership as set out in the book of Titus, it is almost certainly headed for disaster.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (January 14, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1453831274
ISBN-13: 978-1453831274


Sheryl didn’t grow up in church, but became a Christian in her thirties, while married and busily raising two active children. Soon after being miraculously redeemed by Jesus Christ, she found a church that promised to be a wonderful place for spiritual growth and for making friends with other Christians. But what happened at that church brought Sheryl great sorrow. It wounded not only her and her family, but many Christians throughout that region. Her story of heartache illustrates why so many Christians find themselves in need of The Titus Mandate.

At first the church looked terrific. Sheryl enjoyed the Bible preaching and the programs for her children. The people were friendly and relationships grew quickly. But then cracks appeared. She witnessed disagreements and spats when she began attending church meetings, and watched as people grew alienated and isolated. There was tension between the people that spilled over into Sunday worship. More and more people retreated to the back, singing quietly to themselves. After worship they quickly bee-lined their way to the parking

Sheryl didn’t grow up in church, but became a Christian in her thirties, while married and busily raising two active children. Soon after being miraculously redeemed by Jesus Christ, she found a church that promised to be a wonderful place for spiritual growth and for making friends with other Christians. But what happened at that church brought Sheryl great sorrow. It wounded not only her and her family, but many Christians throughout that region. Her story of heartache illustrates why so many Christians find themselves in need of The Titus Mandate.

At first the church looked terrific. Sheryl enjoyed the Bible preaching and the programs for her children. The people were friendly and relationships grew quickly. But then cracks appeared. She witnessed disagreements and spats when she began attending church meetings, and watched as people grew alienated and isolated. There was tension between the people that spilled over into Sunday worship. More and more people retreated to the back, singing quietly to themselves. After worship they quickly bee-lined their way to the parking lot. She didn’t pay attention to it at the time, but her church was dying. Why? It was living out a culture of worldliness that reared its head every time decisions had to be made.

Having lived apart from Christ all her years Sheryl first assumed this was a normal part of church. To some extent it felt familiar, but at the same time she felt scared, and even powerless. Some in the church tried to calm her fears by explaining that occasional spats and disagreements are marks of a spiritually healthy church. But she knows better now because the church ended up breaking her heart. Without anybody really meaning to, the people grew loveless. They passed each other in the hallways with only a nod and sat apart from each other on Sunday mornings. The frequent church meetings exposed frustrations as people vented disappointments and differences. Then all too quickly, it seemed, people just began to “disappear.”

That’s when the inevitable came. The church held meetings to “clear the air,” but nothing really got cleared. Instead, people got locked into sides on issues. It all became too much and the flock scattered in every direction, disillusioned and deeply wounded. The church just fell apart, and Sheryl left it too… discouraged, feeling empty, unimportant, and especially, unloved. The sudden loss of so many important relationships stung too deep for words. For months she wandered from church to church, looking for a fellowship that would provide genuine Christian love, stability and unity. Over time her heart grew distant from the Lord and other Christians. She even started to get cynical.

Eventually, she and her family attended another church in her home state with a different sense about it. Although she didn’t know it right away, this church was a safe place for believers in Jesus Christ. Sheryl and her family found true shepherds, congregational peace, and the calm authority of Scripture ruling all things. In words that could only be expressed by one of Christ’s precious sheep, Sheryl wrote to me and said,

“The rewards of living out the Word of God are glorious!

I must remember, though, to pray often for my elders — 

they have an enormous responsibility to God

and to their flock. Praise God for them!”

Her testimony illustrates The Titus Mandate’s blessings. The Good Shepherd showers His restorative love upon us when we live in a godly and healthy church led by godly men. He led Sheryl’s troubled soul to lie down in green pastures, and to be restored beside quiet waters. Her words above reflect what many believers wish they felt about their church. If you are in Sheryl’s former predicament today, without a spiritually healthy church to call home, keep your hope in God and learn the marks of a safe church. Take some time to acquaint yourself with The Titus Mandate. It will help you in so many ways.

Perhaps you already know this from personal experience, but a story like Sheryl’s is sadly commonplace. You might even have your own story that isn’t resolved yet. I’ve met people everywhere, from a Los Angeles factory where I worked during seminary, to a Louisville restaurant on a Sunday morning, who have told me their own stories of pain and sorrow in churches. I’ve met and ministered to believers in Germany, Asia, and Ukraine who describe a journey similar to Sheryl’s. You’ll meet about thirty of them as you read their testimonies in the sidebars of this book. The Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, has led them into safe churches and they want to tell you about what they’ve learned. Like Sheryl, today they love their church and the power of The Titus Mandate that made it a safe and healthy place for them and those they love.

What Are

The Warning Signs?

Maybe the simple truth has been there all along but we have ignored it because we only wanted a comfortable church, not a holy one. Or, it could be that we have a hard time seeing spiritual danger when we get used to it week after week. Some of us aren’t the brightest sheep in the fold. Too often, it seems, it is only after we are deeply hurt that we stop long enough to ask the right questions, and really pay attention to what God says in Scripture.

Like Sheryl in her earlier days, we may be ignoring the warning signs in our church: unresolved conflict, practicing politics, and appointing unqualified leaders. Even with our eyes wide open we find ourselves unable to resolve church tensions. Or worse, we feel powerless to do anything constructive about it. Sometime we are told that conflicts are an important and even necessary part of church life. But in fact they are disturbing warning signs that expose the enemy’s foothold. Worse, they directly violate God’s Word. To counteract these problems, Christians all over the world are going back to Scripture and implementing The Titus Mandate in their churches.

Titus 1:5

The Titus Mandate is a comprehensive plan for Christians and their churches that is holy and very simple to understand. It is taught in Titus 1:5:

“This is why I left you in Crete,

so that you might put what remained into order,

and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.”

This verse of Scripture and its implications are what this book is all about. By it Titus was granted complete sovereignty over every church on the Mediterranean island of Crete, and given full authority to rescue the Christians there from dangerous churches while simultaneously setting up a safe church just for them. Titus 1:5 is church done right. It’s not a suggestion for or even a recommendation. It was an apostolic mandate from Paul that may at first strike you as overkill, but I assure you it is not. The Titus Mandate is a matter of spiritual life and death for Christians and churches today, even as it was on Crete.

It may not be apparent to you why this verse is so important, or how it rescues and protects Christians from danger today. But isn’t that the way God’s Word often is? Initially it seems a bit plain, but after thinking about it for a while, you realize it is so much more profound and far reaching than you first thought?

Where Is

This Book Going?

To help you understand The Titus Mandate, we’ll examine our key verse, Titus 1:5, in chapters 1 through 4. Then chapters 5 through 9 will explain how The Titus Mandate applies to any and every church that loves the Lord. In those chapters we’ll cover the controversial issues and, hopefully, if I’ve done my job well, you’ll see how it corrects harmful church practices. In chapters 10 through 13, I’ll defend and apply The Titus Mandate with some in-depth Bible study, and expose the reasons why churches that don’t employ it end up losing the gospel. These are the spiritually dangerous places you need to be aware of. I hope you’ll visit that section often so you can spend time meditating on the sufficiency of God’s inerrant, infallible and inspired book — the Bible. Finally, chapter 14 explains how churches can go about implementing The Titus Mandate today.

The Titus Mandate

Was Written for You

Even though Paul wrote the letter to Titus, it wasn’t for him. Paul had already told him all about The Titus Mandate in a prior face-to-face conversation, reflected in the last words of Titus 1:5, “as I directed you.” Titus already knew what Paul wanted him to do. Paul actually wrote Titus 1:5 so the people on Crete would know what Titus was doing with their churches. But God also wrote Titus 1:5 for us who live far beyond the beautiful shores of Crete in our towns and cities around the globe. God inspired Paul to write to us who live all these years later, which is why we recognize this letter as an important part of our Bible.

The last verse of the book happily bears this out. Paul addresses even you with his final words, “Grace be with you all” (Titus 3:15). By this we are assured that the whole letter was written with the purest of motives to all who have been saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s exactly the way the Lord Jesus wants you to think of this whole letter, including The Titus Mandate in Titus 1:5. It was written from Him to you with illuminating truth for your spiritual safety. That’s what every Christian needs in a world of dark dangers.

Here’s a surprise to some: church can be much more dangerous than the world. The wolves who put on sheep’s clothing in order to eat them do so in the church (Matthew 7:15). That’s why Crete was an incredibly dangerous place to go to church. Rebel leaders and false teachers led many flocks. They were greedy, too, according to Titus 1:10–11. How would you like to go to church, knowing your offering filled the pockets of false teachers, who in turn filled you and your family with hell’s teaching? In Crete the wolves ruled the pulpits and feasted on the flock. Paul’s first word to describe these men is one you need to hear: many (Titus 1:10). They outnumbered the true teachers.

The situation sounds bizarre indeed but it exactly resembles our own day. Many churches with many wolves exist in virtually every town, and as a result, the Christians in them might have no one fighting for their safety. Even those few who do see the evil are usually cowed into silence. A lot of genuine Christians need rescuing. Maybe you, or someone you love, is one of them.

Surgery for

Defective Churches

So who had the wisdom and courage to expose them as money-hungry wolves? Who could see past the church marketing, the slogans, the shallow façades, and rescue the Christians from the many false teachers? Our beloved apostle Paul could. And because he saw past the artificiality and hypocrisy, he authorized Titus to reform Crete’s churches into wonderfully healthy and holy places for all who love the Lord. It was a massive undertaking, but you know what? Christ’s sheep are always worth it.

Now, this spiritual danger in Crete’s churches might not come through immediately in some English translations. When Paul writes “put what remains into order” (Titus 1:5) it could sound to us like Paul was only asking Titus to put some finishing touches on Crete’s churches. But Paul’s original words in the Greek reveal a more sinister story. It is the Revised Standard Version that gives a closer translation: “amend what was defective.”

In other words, Crete’s churches were defective. The original word is even stronger — referring to something that is sick, broken, or in danger. It can describe cataclysmic disasters like locust plagues (Exodus 10:5) and forest fires (Isaiah 10:19). Jesus used it too, telling the rich young ruler that his soul was in eternal danger (Luke 18:22). Here it was, only thirty years after Jesus’ resurrection, and Crete’s Christians were living in spiritually dangerous and defective churches. Paul couldn’t just say, “well, I’m not responsible.” His compassion, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, required him to enact a rescue plan. That plan, called The Titus Mandate, not only rescued hurt and malnourished Christians then. It does today as well.

Paul’s compassion for Christians explains why Titus was told to “amend” every church (Titus 1:5, RSV). “Amend” translates a medical word we are all familiar with — ortho. From this word we get orthotics, orthopedists, and orthodontists. These are medical arts that surgically repair broken or misaligned body parts so that they are straight and healthy. We even use this word for other purposes. We call correct doctrines “orthodox” because they are true, upright, and give spiritual health when embraced. So when Paul wrote “amend what was defective,” he empowered Titus to perform surgery because most churches on Crete were broken, unable to stand straight, and spiritually diseased. By apostolic order every church was going under the knife for emergency surgery.

Looking at the surrounding verses we see that the source of the disease: their leaders. Whole families were being overturned in their faith by the teachers of these churches (Titus 1:11). The problem was so widespread that it was impossible for most Christians to know who was true and who was false since many leaders were not even saved (Titus 1:16). In many churches, leadership was framed by hypocrisy.

The Christians didn’t know it, but they were in churches whose teachings and culture were sinful (Titus 1:12). That’s still a familiar problem in our churches, isn’t it? It’s hypocrisy to say we’re salt and light when our church tastes and looks like the world. So The Titus Mandate meant surgery, and guaranteed a healthy recovery for all the believers.

This explains why Titus was to teach “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Here Paul uses yet another word from the world of medicine — the word from which we get “hygiene,” a word connoting cleansing. Our broken souls and sick hearts are cleansed when we are nourished by solid, biblical teaching week-by-week. God Himself uses such teaching to bring us health.

Few Christians on Crete were experiencing the kind of spiritual health that good teaching brings. As a result they lived frustrated, broken and guilty lives. Imagine being told to walk with Christ on broken legs, or to sing praises with ruptured vocal chords. Shallow teaching inflicts pain and often does more damage than good. Without the healing that sound teaching brings, Crete’s Christians would remain in sorrow and defeat for the rest of their natural lives. And their churches? Well, without The Titus Mandate, the gospel was being lost.

This is why the rest of the letter reads like a life and death diagnosis for spiritually sick believers. Every type of Christian, male or female, young or old, receives a personal rehabilitation plan. It’s do or die on Crete. Without spiritual health, a hypocritical witness for Christ will continue on the island, and without a true witness for Christ, the churches are doomed to cultural insignificance. My former pastor, John MacArthur, hit the nail on the head when he wrote that Titus “is an evangelistic letter whose ultimate purpose was to prepare the church for more effective witness to unbelievers on Crete.”1 The only way the Christians could bear effective witness for the gospel was for their lives to be healed in the context of a safe church.

Without The Titus Mandate surgically repairing and healing churches, health is only skin deep at best. We Christians need truth that penetrates our very souls, and we need each other helping us live it out. In other words, we need church. That’s why, if your church is ever to be healthy, it needs godly leaders.

It’s Clear

And Unmistakable

Let’s take another look at our key verse:

“This is why I left you in Crete,

so that you might put what remained into order,

and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.”

(Titus 1:5)

Crete’s believers will be rescued from danger by a simple but important change at the top called eldership, which Paul mentions there in the last phrase. It’s so easy to understand it only takes a single word to name it. But how can something so seemingly small as eldership rescue believers like yourself from grave danger? It’s as simple as this: a group of godly men, and none but godly men, are properly appointed and entrusted to lead you and your church. Sounds good, right? So why is it so rare?

Eldership, as designed in Titus 1:5, has been covered up by the accumulated dust of centuries of church tinkering. The only reason it is now making a comeback is because godly men are going back to the Scriptures and teaching us verse-by-verse. And as we understand God’s Word verse-by-verse, wonderful things happen. Understanding leads to embracing, and embracing God’s Word leads to spiritual life.

Over time we learn that our Christian lives are greatly influenced by the church we worship in, and in particular, the kind of leaders that govern us. Verse-by-verse teaching shows us that God wants a holy church, and in order to bring that to pass He has a plan that places holy men in leadership called The Titus Mandate. It’s so different than the way men have designed church over the years. It actually protects Christians.

Eldership is easy to find in the New Testament. There is more instruction in the New Testament on it than there is on communion, baptism, marriage, child-raising, and work, combined. The larger passages on eldership, if you want to check this out for yourself, are Acts 15:1–29; Acts 20:17–38; 1 Timothy 3:1–7; 1 Timothy 5:17–22; Titus 1:5–9; and 1 Peter 5:1–4. The smaller passages are sprinkled throughout Acts and the letters to the churches. If you look for it you will discover jewels on it everywhere in the New Testament. So if this is your first time looking at eldership, the vast amount of verses could be overwhelming. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Eldership is easy to understand. God has just seen fit to give us a lot of teaching on it so we get it exactly right, because so much is at stake.

Yet for many the issue of church leadership is a dark hole of uncertainty. It’s often claimed that how a church is led is a “gray area” in the Bible. One encyclopedia devoted to explaining the Bible claims, “to discover in definite detail what kind of church government is mirrored in the New Testament is, no doubt, quite impossible.”2

Such statements are as plenteous as they are mistaken, for Titus 1:5 shows it’s more than possible. Church government is clear and unmistakable in the New Testament. Paul is commanding Titus to implement the exact same governance for all churches: eldership. If it was a “gray area” Titus couldn’t have obeyed Paul. But since Titus knew precisely what Paul was telling him to do he boldly took strong steps of faith in order to protect God’s people. Ignorance, especially in leaders, breeds carelessness and danger.

We like flexibility, and truthfully, flexibility is needed in most situations. But in this one great matter — the love and protection of God’s dear children according to God’s design — Titus was denied flexibility. The stakes were too high. Paul’s mandate couldn’t be fulfilled until every church on Crete had the exact same form of governance. It’s so clear, one would almost have to be opposed to Paul’s words in Titus 1:5 not to see it.

Here’s another way you can see just how clear it is. The first book written in the New Testament is the epistle of James, a letter sent to every church in the Roman Empire around 45 A.D. That means it was written within fifteen years of the Lord’s resurrection. James instructs Christians to “call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him” (James 5:14). That means every church he wrote to had a group of elders, and it’s easy to see why this is so. If even one of those churches didn’t have elders, his command would have been meaningless: “What does James mean, ‘call for the elders?’ We don’t have elders!” James’ words could only puzzle his readers unless he knew every Christian had elders in their church they could call on.

We see this again in one of the last books to be written in the New Testament, 1 Peter. Peter wrote to hundreds of churches over a vast region of the Roman Empire these words: “I exhort the elders among you…” (1 Peter 5:1). Peter would have been exhorting thin air if even one church didn’t have eldership. Confused, the Christians there would have read his words about “the elders among you” and said, “Huh?”

So from start to finish eldership was virtually universal when the apostles lived. If we had the apostles living today they would make all their churches eldership churches just like they did in the First Century, because having godly men leading churches was the apostles’ way of ensuring spiritual safety for all the Christians. But today Christians are broken and abused because they don’t have any true elders to “call on” (James 5:14), and who provide a godly example (1 Peter 5:2). You see, godly elders are not incidental to your life of godliness. God’s design for you is to have loving, sacrificial, mature male Christians in your life providing you biblical guidance and care. Without such men you have a hole in your life and in your church. The Titus Mandate remedies that critical need.

The only First Century churches that didn’t have elders were those that didn’t start with the oversight of Apostles. This is what happened on Crete. On Pentecost (the church’s birthday!) Cretan men were gloriously saved (Acts 2:11). They took the gospel back home and preached and planted, and God blessed! I detail it out further in chapter 10, but basically these newly saved preached Christ and started churches. God blessed their energetic evangelism and aggressive efforts so much there was at least one church in every town, as Titus 1:5 shows. But when the apostle Paul arrived on Crete about thirty years later, he rightly took apostolic control over every church because they were now dangerous places for Christians. He took this step to rescue Christians from the influence of dangerous teachers who had taken control of their churches. Just like today, right? You too need godly men protecting you from Satan’s dark strategies that bring compromise, sin, and shame.


In spite of the unambiguous testimony in the Bible that eldership is for every church, people still want work-arounds. I’ve heard it claimed that eldership is good for large churches but impractical in smaller ones. Evidently, Paul didn’t see it that way. The Titus Mandate wasn’t finished on Crete until the church “in every town” (Titus 1:5) had its own elders, and based on archaeology, some of Crete’s towns were pretty small.

I’ve also heard people say that today’s churches are at liberty to be governed in the way each sees fit, according to its “unique identity and mission from God.” It’s a matter of freedom, in other words. But Titus 1:5 took that freedom away from every church on First Century Crete. What makes us think we’ve earned it 2,000 years later?

Others assume the culture of Crete was open to elders, and that Paul knew eldership would fly on Crete because he knew it reflected their social values. This thinking allows us today to choose for ourselves whatever form of church governance fits our values, but it’s a dangerous and worldly assumption. It’s also wrong. First Century Crete was Greek in culture and Roman in governance. Eldership is neither, but more Middle-eastern in social value. It would have had little to no value in reaching Cretans with the gospel.

Some claim God’s blessings on their church exempts them from The Titus Mandate. They have seen in the past, or are experiencing today, His blessings on their ministry without elders. But the same could be said of Crete’s churches. They were started by men saved by Peter’s preaching at Pentecost, and it’s hard to get more blessed than that! Crete’s churches were so fruitful that by the time Paul arrived on Crete there were one hundred or more on that small island. Yet in spite of their blessed history and present fruitfulness, every church there came under The Titus Mandate. So in spite of God’s present blessings on a church, there is never a good reason to ignore what Paul says on any matter, and certain danger when we do.

Rescuing Christians

“In Every Town”

The Titus Mandate may do more than bring spiritual health and safety to your own life and church. It even has the potential to rescue others where you live. In what may be the most surprising element of The Titus Mandate, Paul told Titus to appoint elders over the believers “in every town,” not “in every church.” At first this may seem like a possible “slip up” to us, or perhaps we think to ourselves that “in every town” really means the same as “in every church.” This is when we need to be reminded that Paul’s words here are Scripture. They are chosen by God right down to their very “jot and tittle” (Matthew 5:18, KJV). The words “in every town” are indeed correct, and comprise a key component of the apostle’s brilliant strategy.

Let’s consider the word “town” in Titus 1:5 a bit. The word “town,” or as some versions translate it, “city,” simply referred to a place where people worked and lived. It could indicate a small village in Israel called Nazareth (Matthew 2:23), or even the greatest city of that day, Rome (Acts 18:2, Acts 23:11). Apparently, Crete had a lot of them. Judging by historical records and archaeology, First Century Crete had at least thirty-five cities and towns.3 And apparently some towns had more than one church in them, like the towns and cities you and I live in. It might even be that many towns on Crete had multiple churches. Bible scholars affirm this. I. H. Marshall observes that “the geographical reference ‘in each city’ suggests that there were at least several different towns with house churches.”4 Another writes, “ what was known of the composition of the church in any one area? It may be that the church of a town was understood to be composed of several smaller house congregations.”5

Therefore, since Paul told Titus to appoint “elders in every town,” Titus’ ministry merged each town’s churches into one new church. When The Titus Mandate was finished, every town had one new church with its own set of godly elders overseeing that one new church. For some, the idea of merging is exciting and filled with potential. For others, it is threatening. You can see why. Picture all the churches where you live being merged together, and you begin to get a feel for the radical nature behind Paul’s mandate. If merging is something you want to know more about, then skip over to chapter 9. But don’t be freaked out. Paul wouldn’t command Titus to do anything that exposed the Christians to greater danger.

Aggressive Planting

And Aggressive Splitting

All of this raises some important questions. How did Crete’s towns come to have multiple churches, and why did Paul see the need to merge them? The answers to these questions are straightforward, but they are also a little disconcerting. Crete apparently had a church history like that of our present day — that of aggressive planting and yes, aggressive splitting. It’s that last one that often brings so much hurt to believers’ lives. If you have lived through one, you can relate to Crete.

By the time Paul and Titus arrived on the island of Crete, thirty years of explosive ministry had resulted in at least one church in every town, as Titus 1:5 tells us. Tracing back through those thirty years, we can extrapolate the rest. Crete probably started with one church, which quickly expanded and began planting others. In turn, they too planted churches. Soon, they were even planting churches in each other’s “backyards,” that is, in towns with existing churches. That’s one way a town gets multiple churches.

However, the letter of Titus bears witness to a sinful influence that brought a multiplicity of churches to the same town, and it’s one that’s crucial to understanding our present day. It’s likely that many churches in the same town were the result of ugly splits, those awful realities that give sad testimony to the world of the presence of pride and rebellion in the church.

Immediately after discussing the godly qualities of elders, Paul explains the evil men Christ’s sheep must be rescued from:

“For there are many who are insubordinate,

empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.

They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families

by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.”

(Titus 1:10-11)

There were so many dangerous men in Crete’s churches that only an island-wide reformation could stem the evil tide. God revealed these leaders in Titus 1:10 as insubordinate deceivers — just the type who easily split churches. Christians are waylaid in their walk with Christ by these emissaries from the evil one. These are men (and women) who infiltrate churches, obtain leadership roles, and influence the whole church to embrace compromise and hypocrisy. Even today, these wolves lead churches in virtually every town. They are Satan’s most prolific form of spiritual danger, and in order to protect yourself and those you love from them, you need to understand The Titus Mandate. They are everywhere, and their presence explains why today there are so many hurting Christians in every town, and why churches are often renowned for being places of hypocrisy.

So based on Paul’s mandate to appoint elders “in every town,” and not simply “in every church,” Titus merged each town’s churches into one new church with a single set of godly leaders who all met God’s qualifications for godly leadership in Titus 1:6–9. As I’ll discuss in the next chapter, the Christians had no choice and no say in the matter. They were under Paul’s apostolic authority which he had from Christ. We should be grateful for his authority. It was a great plan then, and it’s a great plan now.

Of course, Paul could have told Titus to appoint one elder for each church in each town. But that wasn’t the apostolic way. Mark Dever, pastor of Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. explains the goal of Titus 1:5: “Paul intended for each church in Crete to have a plurality of elders.”7 Such men join together as equals to take spiritual responsibility for all the believers under their care. As always, they have to be men of proven spiritual worth. Only by that grace can they mature the body of Christ to be more like Him.

Driving Away

Dangerous Men

We can now understand Paul’s rationale for The Titus Mandate. Prior to giving Titus the mandate, many of the churches had leaders who were masquerading as shepherds of their churches. The masquerade had fooled the truly saved believers, but not Paul. To rescue the Christians from the evil before their eyes but which they could not see, Titus went about appointing elders in every town to make one healthy church for all that town’s believers. Far from some vague ecumenical get-together, The Titus Mandate was a call from Christ to make every church healthy and evangelistic. Doctrine wasn’t “dumbed-down.” Instead, The Titus Mandate raised the bar of obedience to Scripture so high it drove the false teachers and their followers away. It created an intensified framework of godly accountability.

You see, Crete’s “many” false teachers would have despised Titus from the start. Paul’s description of them in Titus 1:10 as “insubordinate” captures the inner restlessness of every false leader. These are people incapable or unwilling of submitting themselves to true and godly spiritual leadership. Since such people can’t humbly serve within a team of godly leaders, they use deception to gain authority and employ politics to keep it. False shepherds love power, have an agenda, and will stop at nothing to call the shots in the church. They slander those who threaten them and skillfully pit people against each other. Paul pulls no punches when he tells us why: they aren’t saved. They are “detestable, disobedient, and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16, NASB).

If anything, the Church of Jesus Christ throughout the world is in Crete’s exact condition today. It may even be worse. Many church leaders profess to know God but deny Him by their ministry works. They despise the Lord, kick His sheep, and steal the liberating truth of the gospel from everybody. They ingratiate themselves to the unsuspecting and intimidate any who might call attention to their error. In virtually every town and city, people like this are leading churches of all stripes and flavors. You may be in one yourself and not even know it. Or, you may have been chased out of church by one. Such people slander the godly, deceive the naïve, despise true doctrine, resist accountability, and cause deep heartache for Christ’s true sheep. God’s plan for His church replaces such men with godly shepherds who will lay down their lives for you.

This explains why the believers in the churches of Crete lived week-in and week-out in grave spiritual danger, and why so many do today as well. Many true believers sit Sunday after Sunday under just such false teachers. They need to be rescued, and then protected. Others have been kicked out of church by such evil men, and need to be found and helped to come back to a church with godly shepherds.

So Paul could not leave Christ’s beloved sheep on Crete under the influence of evil men, and neither will godly shepherds today. Such evil men have to be confronted and exposed, and the Christians rescued from spiritually dangerous people. Paul’s command in Titus 1:5 “to appoint elders in every town” removed a thousand ills from the lives of First Century Christians. It will do the same today, as well, if our churches will raise the bar of their accountability to Scripture.

It always goes back to Scripture. With simple faith in health-giving doctrine, you can be rescued, protected, and restored. The Titus Mandate is God’s New Testament rescue plan for every church in every part of the world. It comes from your Lord, so you know it is good and holy. If you or your church are just beginning to study eldership, then you are embarking on a journey into the Word of God that will bear great fruit if faithfully followed. You might also consider picking up The Titus Mandate Study Guide to help you and your church prepare for the greater accountability of Paul’s mandate. It’s available at Amazon.com and other retailers. Or, perhaps, if your church is already one of the tens of thousands of eldership churches, then this book can help you understand precisely how you can help fulfill her glorious call. Either way, your individual role in The Titus Mandate is vital to your church’s ability to serve Christ. Without eldership, you are vulnerable and probably exposed to guilt and shame before God. To unmask this spiritual danger that may well be lurking on your doorstep, let’s quickly turn to chapter 2.

Chapter 1 Endnotes


1 John MacArthur, Titus, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series (Chicago: Moody, 1996) xi.

2 E. J. Forrester and G. W. Bromiley, “Church Government,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989) 1:696. One recent seminary textbook states, “The New Testament provides no specific command or teaching providing details of how the Christian church should be governed” Robert Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology (Geanies House: Mentor, reprint 2006) 939; so also Rodney J. Decker, “Church Polity and the Elder Issue,” in Grace Theological Journal, 9:2 (1988): 259. The broader idea that the Pastoral Epistles are unreliable source documents on church order, polity, and governance is refuted by Andreas J. Köstenberger in “Hermeneutical and Exegetical Challenges in Interpreting the Pastoral Epistles,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 7:3, (2003): 5–18.

3 I. Howard Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1999) 152. See also David W. J. Gill, “A Saviour for the Cities of Crete: The Roman Background to the Epistle to Titus,” in The New Testament In Its First Century Setting: Essays On Context And Background In Honour Of B. W. Winter On His 65th Birthday, edited by P. J. Williams, Andrew D. Clark, Peter M. Head, and David Instone-Brewer, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 2004) 223.

4 Marshall, Pastoral Epistles, 152.

5 Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006) 680.

6 George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, NIGTC, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992) 288.

7 Mark Dever, “The Doctrine of the Church,” in Daniel Akin, A Theology for the Church (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2007) 804.

Testimonial on page 9:

Being in a church that is governed by a plurality of wise and godly elders has been a tremendous blessing and has brought me much needed comfort throughout my life. There is peace of mind, knowing that the pattern of leadership follows God's design and therefore engenders confidence that the church is in the best position for God to bless. The elders of our church are a great source of comfort, wisdom, teaching, and prayer. I have seen firsthand how their loving care and guidance has been used to bring back straying sheep. God's wise design works.

Brian S., Community Bible Church, Vallejo, CA, page 13

Testimonial on page 13:

Perhaps one of God’s greatest provisions for the New Testament church is that of eldership. As overseers of our souls, elders shepherd us in Christ’s likeness. I am so grateful for their selfless care even to the point of church discipline and restoration. It brings me great comfort knowing such trustworthy, faithful, godly men fill this biblical role in my church. We do well as a body by humbly submitting to and respecting them.

Theresa H., Grace Community Church, Jacksonville, FL, page11

Testimonial on page 16:

I have enjoyed the oversight and care of elders in the churches we've had the honor of being part of. The biblical qualities of maturity, character and gifts have been a means of manifold grace for my family. I have watched the process unfold: the discerning of the call, the testing of the servant, the equipping, and ultimately, the ordination and installment of the pastor. I've also witnessed the careful laying aside of this high calling due to failure on the part of the shepherd. The skill displayed each time this process unfolded and concluded only deepened my trust in elder-led churches. God's sovereign care through the pastors and overseers of our dear church families has served us so well through the years.

Peggy B., King of Grace Church, Haverhill, MA, page 13

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Posted by tink38570 at 9:53 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 16 March 2011
What is it With Sick Kids This Year?!?
Mood:  don't ask
Topic: Family

I promise I didn't mean to lie, but my tie in post that ties the last couple of posts together is going to have to wait until tomorrow. All three boys are sick again.

You read about Joshua's panic attack a couple of nights ago. Well, today Sarah took him to our Dr. and he has a double ear infection. Then Joshua began complaining of his ear hurting. He's been coughing the past few days and when I took his temperature it was low grade, so he has an appointment tomorrow morning. Then, this evening, John Allen came in from spending time with one of his friends, and promptly got very sick. It was not a very pretty site if you know what I mean.

On top of all of that, one of Sarah's lady's has a son-in-law with cancer that is in the hospital. She has no car, so Sarah's been picking her up and staying with her. Please pray for the whole family. The son-in-law is young with two young boys. The cancer is pretty serious and the family is taking it hard.

So, that's what my day has been like. I'll try to write the tie in post tomorrow. Some of you may have figured it out by now though, but if not...Smile.

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