Category Archives: Teaching

I Am a Single Pastor

I just finished a book by author Preston Sprinkle titled People to Be Loved. The concluding chapter was very affirming to me as a never-married single. There is an often unspoken assumption that if you are single, well, you’re incomplete. In fact, it is an assumption held by many single people themselves. To this Sprinkle replies:

“But if you think marriage is the only way to say yes to life, yes to love, and yes to happiness, then you’ll not only be disappointed if you get married, but you will also forgo the cruciform joy that his possible in your singleness.”

Cruciform joy. Huh? Sprinkle is a Christian pastor and scholar. He is referring to the follower of Jesus identifying with Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. Joy? The joy comes when I endure suffering together with the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit. Sprinkle continues:

“The Gospel never promises happiness to married folk. It does promise joy for those who pick up their crosses and die with Jesus.”

Overwhelming joy follows when I identify with Jesus on the cross and thereby overcome sin and death as I continue to see myself in Christ’s resurrection. “For you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). I am enabled to begin to experiencing eternal life (the Kingdom of God) now, even before I pass beyond this vale of tears to live forever with God.

I a single man, which is not uncommon. In fact, there are currently more single men and women in the United States than ever before, Further, the percentage of the population who are unmarried is on the increase. Where I am very different is in my occupation as a single. I am a pastor. I’ve never met another single senior pastor, although I’m sure there are others. I’ve considered that this could be keeping my church from growing numerically. Why, you might ask? Well, the expectation is that the pastor should be a family man. In fact, I wouldn’t be hired by the overwhelming majority of churches with pastoral positions open due to this expectation, and due to a misreading and misunderstanding of the requirements for a pastor listed in 1st Timothy and Titus (I’ll not cover the interpretive issue here).

So, are you asking yourself, “Hmm, what’s wrong with that guy?” Well, that’s how I feel sometimes, even though nobody who attends my church talks or acts like that. I do suspect most people I know would be relieved if I got married. And I suspect my church would grow numerically. Trouble is, I’ve never found anyone with whom I want to spend the rest of my life, and to whom I would surrender and sacrifice. Is that selfish? I won’t deny that I’m selfish. Aren’t you? However, that’s not the issue. I really believe that God has a specific will and purpose for every individual, and every married couple. I’ve believed and taught my entire adult life that if God wants you to be married, then there is an Eve for every Adam: God created the two for each other. I’ve simply never found someone like that, and never felt compelled by God to marry anyone. And I’m not compromising.

So, you may ask, “Well are you looking? Do you date?” I pray and keep my eyes open. I’ve been on a Christian oriented dating site on and off for quite sometime. I’ve been matched with literally thousands of women and met a few of them. No one has been God’s match for me.

Will I remain single the rest of my life? I don’t know, but I’m okay with that if it is God’s will. You see, that’s what I want. That’s what Jesus taught his students to pray for: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I’d like to have an intimate partner. I’d like to have kids. I think I’d make a great father and husband. However, I want to do whatever my Father in heaven wants, and he hasn’t shown me that is what he wants for my life.

The reason I share this is because I believe many single people feel like they are missing out, or like they are incomplete without a mate. Fellow single person, we are only incomplete if we have no relationship with God. A man or woman is a poor substitute and cannot fill your need for intimacy. It has been said that there is God shaped hole in everyone, which only God can fill.

God has a purpose for each of us. God has a purpose for me as a single pastor. I believe our church is perfect. I don’t mean we are without flaws. I am the chief of sinners (see 1 Timothy 1:15), so that’s not possible. What I mean is our church is perfect for those whom God has called to be part of us. We have an amazing Teaching Pastor, who is married and has four wonderful kids. Our church has families with children and I’m certain they feel comforted and strengthened by his leadership and example. We also have a number of older single adults in our church, and I hope they feel they are not second class members. Perhaps they are comforted and strengthened because their pastor is single too.

You see, a church is a family, or it should be. We are the family of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus warned his followers that they needed to be willing to lose natural friends and family and even their own lives for his sake and that of the Kingdom of God (see Luke 14:26). However, the Lord also promised better and greater relationships will replace that loss.

“’Yes, Jesus replied, ‘and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.’” (Mark 10:29–30, NLT)

I’ve thought our church might grow numerically if I were to get married. However, I believe I am who, and what, and where God has willed me to be, and I seek to become more like his Son. Our church is my family. I’m like a grandpa to all of these wonderful kids. I’m open to meeting someone, but it is unnecessary. That won’t fulfill me, or even give me more happiness, if it is not God’s leading and will.

Advertisements

Prisoners of Hope

What are you waiting for? Do you expect anything to happen?

The people of Israel were waiting for deliverance from foreign domination, but except for a brief period that did not occur.

In the New Testament time it was Rome that ruled the Western world. Israel was known as Palestine and was an insignificant but troublesome land.

For many years the Jews waited for Messiah. They expected this to be a military deliverer and king who would free them from their enemies and restore the glory days of King David. That has not happened as they hoped, not yet. Even today, many expect Messiah to come.

Herein lies the fundamental conflict: the world vs the Kingdom, the flesh vs. spirit, temporal vs. eternal, sight v. faith

However, the believer in Jesus Christ receives salvation and deliverance from the greatest enemies of the human race: sin and death and Satan. We must come to realize that the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven is not located in a single place on earth. Dallas Willard refers to it as “the Kingdom of the Heavens.”

“Right beside and among the kingdoms that are not God’s stands his Kingdom always ‘at hand.’ It is that of Jesus and his Heavenly Father. It can be ours as well. The door is open, and life in that kingdom is real. Even now, ‘the whole earth is full of His glory’ (Isa. 6:3). True, few see it.”

We may enter into the reality of God’s kingdom now by accepting the reign of Jesus the Messiah over our lives. All that is necessary for a Kingdom is a King and citizens. We become more than mere citizens, though. We are adopted into the royal family and become sons and daughters of the King.

What kingdom are you part of? Each of us has his own little domain because we all have self-will.

Extend that into the world–your home, your family, those over whom you exercise authority–and you have your kingdom. Giving your life to Jesus is giving your kingdom to Him and letting him rule through you. I would say it is a bloodless revolution, but that is only true if you consider that we did not have to fight and bleed. Jesus shed his blood on the cross to convince us of his love and to provide believers with the privilege of becoming part of His Kingdom of the heavens.

With all of this in mind, let us look at some famous messianic promises from the Old Testament, two of which are quoted by believers at Christmas.

Isaiah 9:2 (NIV84):

“The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.”

This refers to anyone in any time in history, but initially it pointed to those in Israel who were living without direction and little or no hope that better times would come. Does it speak to you today? Do you feel like your walking in darkness?

Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life” (John 8:12). You must believe in Jesus and trust him to lead you, not merely accept him or seek to feel him somehow. Then you must actually follow what you say you believe!

Isaiah 9:6–7 (NIV84):

“For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace

there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

with justice and righteousness

from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

will accomplish this.”

The baby born in a feeding trough has become the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Every nation on earth and every individual is still given the freedom to surrender to his loving rule or rebel, for now. But Jesus promised to return visibly and he will judge the world in righteousness and bring an end to evil and all self-will that opposes God’s will. “For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10)

Philippians 2:5–11 Have this mind in you, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Have you surrendered your will to Jesus Christ. Do you confess him to be Lord over your life? Do you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and that he is at the right hand of the Father now? That is your salvation from this dark, hopeless world. I will conclude with a messianic prophecy from Zechariah, often quoted at Easter, a portion of which has been upon my mind lately. I believe it applies to us, Lifewell, and to many others who have ears to hear.

Zechariah 9:9–13 (NIV84):

“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!

Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,

righteous and having salvation,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim

and the war-horses from Jerusalem,

and the battle bow will be broken.

He will proclaim peace to the nations.

His rule will extend from sea to sea

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

12 Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;

even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

13 I will bend Judah as I bend my bow

and fill it with Ephraim.

I will rouse your sons, O Zion,

against your sons, O Greece,

and make you like a warrior’s sword.

We used to be known as Zion. It is a reminder that those who have faith in Jesus have been grafted into the Olive Tree of God’s people. Jews and Gentiles who believe are the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16, 4:28, Rom. 4:16-18) and are given the right to partake of the promises made to His people (2 Peter 1:3-4). Jesus is the basis for my application of this passage to you and I today Lifewell.

You will recognize the prophecy about Jesus ridiing into Jerusalem in the donkey’s back. He was a peaceful king. The military leader rides a horse or a chariot. Jesus will return on a white horse…

Taking away the implements of war from Ephraim and Jerusalem means that God’s people will be peaceful and the Kingdom will advance by winning hearts not forcing surrender through fear of arms. The real church has always increased this way. In fact, the Kingdom of God grows under persecution.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” -Tertullian

Now we conclude with what I believe to be the message for you today….

“As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;

even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”

This promise is not offered to you and me because we deserve it, have earned it, or even because God feels sorry for us in our suffering. No, it is because of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood.

The promise is Jesus has freed you from your addiction today. He has freed you from depression today, from hopelessness and despair, from sadness, from anger and contempt, from the torment of abuse in your past, from failure.

Like Joseph of old, perhaps your brothers have thrown you into a waterless pit waiting to get the courage to kill you, then selling you into slavery. People you trusted, who appeared to be your friends, led you into darkness, evil, addiction. Your Christian brothers turned against you, slandered you, harmed your reputation, stole your joy. You have been persecuted for speaking about Jesus, and they threw you down into the bottom of a slimy pit, full of filth and mud but no clean water of life. That was what happened to Jeremiah, but God sent people to pull him out of the pit and he was kept safe in a fortress.

You are a prisoner of hope now!

You cannot help but believe things will get better, not because you deserve it, not because ‘everything will be ok’ naturally. NO, but because God is love. God is good. God has promised and fulfilled that promise in Jesus Christ, who came to set the captives free!

Luke 4:18–19 (NIV84): “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Finally, friends, all that the devil has stolen from you will be restored. In fact, two times as much or more. You have come to the year of God’s favor, a perpetual Jubilee.

Do you believe it? What are you waiting for? Receive it now.

Everything Created by God is Good

(notes from my Bible study in 1st Timothy)

“…everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5)

Jesus declared all food clean (Mark 7:19, see also Acts 10:10-16), as a prelude to the opening of the Kingdom of God to all people.

Even food sacrificed to idols was clean if the conscience of those partaking and those witnessing was not violated (see Romans 14).

We have people today who advocate abstinence from various types of food.

Vegans, Legalists, Excessive dieters.

Understand, all food is not equally healthy. Your diet should be balanced. However, it is not wrong to eat or drink certain things, unless your conscience or that of observers is violated.

There is extensive discussion by Paul regarding the practice of eating meat sacrificed to idols, which is an example of food that was branded unacceptable due to its negative association. The Apostle’s assessment was, so long as the individual’s conscience was okay with it, then they could eat. However, if partaking of this meat offended the conscience of another, then it should be avoided. This applies to alcohol today, assuming one is not drinking to excess and/or getting drunk.

You don’t have to avoid pork, or shellfish, or meat or alcohol or coffee/tea to be holy.

If your conscience allows it and you remain healthy, you may eat or drink what you please.

Be filled with the Holy Spirit, who will speak to your conscience.

So, what about marijuana?

So long as it is illegal and obtained from drug dealers and criminal cartels, it is absolutely wrong.

What about in states where it is legal? 

If it carries a stigma of offense, then it should be avoided.

I’ve never partaken of marijuana. However, I don’t believe it to be any worse than cigarettes, or any better. To inhale anything other than clean air into your lungs is not healthy. 

“it is made holy by the word of God”

I believe another biblical teaching applies to intoxicating substances of all types.

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.

And again.

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.”

(1 Corinthians 6:12 & 10:23)

Is it profitable for you personally? Does it help you be more like Jesus? 

Does it really improve your life? Do you perform better at work, school, home? 

Does it make you lethargic, lazy? Does it cloud your thinking?

Does it gain mastery over you as an addiction?

Does it gain mastery over you by influencing your thinking and actions, ie. Does it get you high? Are you a different person when you are under the influence of this drug (Hint: ask others; you are not a good judge of this)?

Does your use of this build up other people?

Does it improve and strengthen your relationships? 

Does it promote healthy, positive fellowship, or does it encourage you and others to do wrong, loosen your morals, violate your conscience, and to neglect your duty to help others do good.

Does it promote a better reputation for you among good people? 

Does it give you creditability to share the Gospel with people who haven’t heard?

Can you pray in the Spirit while under the influence of this substance?

Do you rely on it rather than praying?

Do you give thanks to God for it, or does it cause you to forget God?

The Differing and Complementary Purposes of Men and Women

Notes from a lesson on 1st Timothy 2:11-15…

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (1 Timothy 2:11–12, ESV)

Complementarian Position

“The term complementarian is the self-designation of the evangelical constituency that would see God’s created design for men and women as comprising male headship in the created order, reflecting itself in the requirement of a qualified male eldership in the church and the husband’s overarching responsibility in the leadership of the home.” (Wayne Grudem, Biblical Foundations of Manhood and Womanhood footnote 18, chapter 8)

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3)

“Just as the Father and Son are equal in deity and are equal in all their attributes, but different in role, so husband and wife are equal in personhood and value, but are different in the roles that God has given them. Just as God the Son is eternally subject to the authority of God the Father, so God has planned that wives would be subject to the authority of their own husbands.”

“No, the idea of headship and submission existed before creation. It began in the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity. The Father has eternally had a leadership role, an authority to initiate and direct, that the Son does not have. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is subject to both the Father and Son and plays yet a different role in creation and in the work of salvation.”

“When did the idea of headship and submission begin then? The idea of headship and submission never began! It has always existed in the eternal nature of God Himself. And in this most basic of all authority relationships, authority is not based on gifts or ability (for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in attributes and perfections). It is just there. Authority belongs to the Father not because he is wiser or because He is a more skillful leader, but just because he is the Father.” (Grudem, ibid.)

Egalitarian Position

“Christ did not take upon himself the task of world redemption because he was number two in the Trinity and his boss told him to do so or because he was demoted to a subordinate rank so that he could accomplish a job that no one else wanted to touch.” Furthermore, when the mission of redemption was completed, the Son resumed His former stature and full equality within the Trinity, leaving forever behind the role in which He had to submit Himself in obedience to the Father. As Bilezikian again comments, “Because there was no subordination within the Trinity prior to the Second Person’s incarnation, there will remain no such thing after its completion. If we must talk of subordination it is only a functional or economic subordination that pertains exclusively to Christ’s role in relation to human history.” (Grudem, ibid.)

In this view, there is no inherent masculine authority, and no need for a wife to submit to her husband, except as the husband also submits to his wife and all Christians submit to one another. However, I think validating this position requires the renunciation of an inerrant and throughly inspired Bible, or some novel hermeneutics when interpreting passages like the one we are considering now.

So, are women allowed to lead or teach in a church context? Are women supposed to remain quiet always?

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” (1 Corinthians 14:33–35, ESV)

Is the above teaching culturally bound? That is, was it only for the 1st Century Greco-Roman patriarchal world? Should application be limited to a time and/or place where men might be offended or intimated by feminine leadership (ie. Middle East). Is there something about the created order that should keep women from taking dominant leadership roles in church or in society? Is there theological teaching, perhaps even in a core area such as the Godhead that should guide our opinion? A thorough discussion of this issue is beyond the scope of our study, but I will try to answer the questions I’ve posed briefly.

Context is central to accurate Bible interpretation. One of the contexts we must evaluate is the historical situation of the original text. An important rule of hermeneutics (Bible interpretation) is: in order to understand what a particular Bible text means for us today, we must first understand what it meant to the original recipients. What is the historical situation that precipitated Paul’s command for women to remain silent in church? In Corinth it would seem that women were interrupting church gatherings with questions. It is also probable that some were dominating the teaching and worship time, which would certainly be an annoyance regardless of the gender of the disruptive personality.

When it concerns the 1st Timothy 2 passage, men were disrupting the order of the Ephesian church with their anger and debating. Women were causing a distraction by the way they dressed, and inviting cultural disrespect because of the way they conducted themselves in gatherings. Typically in Jewish synagogues, women were separated from the men. This was not the case in Christian house churches It is likely that some women were seen at times to be dominating discussion, or interrupting the flow of worship. They may have been seen as disgraceful because of the perception in a patriarchal culture that women should always be silent and submissive to men. Paul sought to maintain social order to permit the Gospel an unhindered hearing.

So, should women always remain silent in church today? Can and should women teach or preach? Is it acceptable for a woman to be an elder or a senior pastor in a church?

Our culture is not the same as 1st Century Greco-Roman or Jewish culture. Therefore, any practice that is culturally bound is not a practice we are bound to follow. Is it disgraceful in our culture for a woman to speak, teach, lead? The answer is, of course, no. Therefore, we must evaluate whether women remaining quiet in the 1st century house church was intended to be a universal rule.  I don’t believe it to be binding today. Women are free to involve themselves in discussion, or to teach in an appropriate context. However, the passage we are considering goes further. It prohibits women from teaching or exercising authority over men. This would keep a woman from being and elder or a senior pastor in a church.

Men and women are ontologically equal. This reality is found in the original creation of both in God’s image, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV) Jesus supported this: “He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,’” (Matthew 19:4, ESV)

When people come to Christ they are reborn and made new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). In Galatians the Apostle Paul writes the following about men and women who are new creations in Christ: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27–28, ESV)

We are all equal. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. However, equality does not mean uniformity. Men and woman are created differently each with a unique gift, calling and purpose. It is inordinate to believe and live as though this were not reality. We are seeing the bitter fruit of such dysfunctional thinking in our culture today. People are taught to reject the obvious differences between men and women, to consider masculinity and femininity as fluid, to regard gender as a cultural construct rather than a reality grounded in anatomy and DNA. This is what happens when we reject the truth that God is our Creator.

It is ironic when those who state such a belief will choose to act in a way that corresponds to the purported artificiality of gender. A biological woman begins wearing men’s clothes, taking testosterone, has a mastectomy, all because she feels like a man trapped in a woman’s body. Yet the actions she is taking demonstrate the reality that men and women are indeed different. She simply identifies with being a man. This is a break from reality. Whatever one’s belief or feeling, being a man or a woman is far deeper than clothing, or even anatomy. It is part of the created order: “he who created them from the beginning made them male and female.” Putting on makeup, wearing women’s clothes, taking estrogen, even having body altering surgery, will not turn a man into a woman. You are what you are in the deepest part of you. Choose to be who God created you to be, not what you feel, or what culture teaches. Find your identity in Christ.

In the passage under consideration Paul theologically validates the prohibition of women teaching or exercising authority over men, grounding it God’s created order, and by appealing to the consequences evident in the fall of Adam and Eve.

For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Timothy 2:13–15, ESV)

Two reasons are presented for the prohibition of women taking authority over or teaching men.

  1. Adam was created first.
  2. Eve was deceived, not Adam.

We have to go back to the creation account referenced by Paul in order to understand his theological reasoning. In creating man first, God is not making him more important. In fact, one could easily make the case that God saved the best for last! Woman is the crown of creation. In creating Adam first, God indicated his purpose for men: to lead.  In creating Eve from the side (the rib) of Adam God demonstrates his purpose for woman: to help and to sustain relationships. Men focus on tasks; women focus on relationships. While there are individual differences, this describes the most fundamental difference in God’s purpose for creating two unique genders.

In Genesis one, we are taught that human beings are created male and female, both in God’s image.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV)

Next, it is revealed what human beings were originally created to do on earth.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”” (Genesis 1:28, ESV)

The difference in the way Adam and Eve were created is deeply significant, It signals that men and women will focus on different parts of the divine mandate found in Genesis 1:28. The woman will be more focused on children and sustaining the family, which fulfills God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” The man will be more focused on “subdue it (the earth) and have dominion over…every living thing.”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”” (Genesis 2:18, ESV)

Eve is created to fulfill God’s stated purpose to give Adam a “helper.” This should not lead us to think woman is inferior to man. In fact the context teaches the opposite. All of the animals were brought to Adam and he named them, but none was found which fit or “corresponded to” him. The animals were inferior and unlike Adam because only he was made in the image of God.

Grammatically the Hebrew word ezer (helper) means someone who helps from a position of strength. In the Old Testament the word is used 17 times to refer to God as our helper, and three times to refer to a military ally. So, the helper is strong not weak. If this were not the case how would they offer any real assistance? 

The helper is equal not inferior. A person who needs help has probably initiated an action (even if inspired to do so by another), which he is unable or unwilling to complete alone. For example, when God is my helper, I may have started to do something and prayed for his assistance. That certainly does not make God inferior to to me in any way. Still, God’s function in a helping act is different than the person whom He is assists. It is supportive. The one needing help is focused on the task, but the helper’s interest and focus is on the person they’re helping. So, this defines the basic difference between men and women and God’s purpose for each gender.

Next, the Apostle Paul indicates that a woman should not teach or command a man due to the fact that Eve was deceived, not Adam. 

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6, ESV)

In chapter three of Genesis tragedy unfolds as the Serpent tempts Eve who succumbs then gives some of the fruit to Adam, who has been watching silently all along. After Adam sins, both their eyes are opened, and they seek to hide from God. The first pair failed in their collective responsibility (to be obedient to God), and perverted their purposes. 

Eve was supposed to help nurture their relationship so that they would be whole and strong to do God’s will. Instead she disobeyed God’s will, then helped Adam to sin. It is Adam who should have focused on doing God’s will, ensuring that they kept His command and pursued His purpose. Instead, he failed to disagree with or correct his wife’s sinful decision — which he clearly knew to be wrong (Genesis 2:17), and was likely responsible for sharing with his wife (Genesis 3:2-3).  

Both the man and the woman were tempted in their area of weakness and succumbed. Further, the consequences pronounced upon their sin are in line with their differing functions in the creation order. According to Robert. D. Culver in his article for Women in Ministry, the traditional curses of Genesis chapter 3:14-19 are not so much curses, as natural results of the fall that must be endured by humankind (Clouse and Clouse, p. 40).  

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”” (Genesis 3:16–19, ESV)

When God pronounced His judgment and the consequences of their sin, it followed a familiar pattern. The result of Eve’s sin is the fall of woman in the area of relationships. The result of  Adam’s sin is the fall of man in the area of achieving the divine mandate itself. 

 The woman is told that two major consequences will abide as a result of her sin: 1) the pain of childbirth will be increased, and 2) although her desire will be for her husband he will rule over her. I do not believe the multiplication of pain in bearing children refers to physical birth alone, but to the whole responsibility of the mother in raising children from bearing them in her body to worrying about them the rest of her life. From this we should not to infer that the husband’s responsibility to raise their children is lessened. Rather, the mother will be naturally primary, and her responsibility will be painful at times. The second part of the curse (or result of the fall) is that the woman’s relationship to her husband will become one of subordination. Whereas the intent of God was for the man and woman to rule together, with the woman providing the emotional and relational strength and the man providing the specific direction to achieve God’s purpose, now the man will extend his natural dominance over his wife.

Adam’s consequence for following his wife into sin is complication in achieving the divine mandate to subdue the earth. Now the ground will be cursed and his work will be frustrating and unfulfilling at times. Work itself is not the curse, since in 2:15 God gave Adam responsibility to tend the garden. Instead, the curse makes man’s work in following God’s will and achieving any intended purpose more difficult. This is true because man has chosen independence from God by virtue of putting self will above God’s will. This was Satan’s sin, so man is now deformed into the likeness of God’s supreme enemy. Now there is an ongoing civil war between what the man knows to be right and what he desires to achieve for himself. 

Therefore, in both creation and fall we find support for the complementation view, which agrees with the Apostle Paul’s teaching in our passage that a woman should not be in authority over or teach a man. Eve became dominant in the garden (v, 15b), so a woman taking the position of priority or authority over men in the church could have negative effects. We may avoid repeating original sin by following God’s design for men and women. As Eve was deceived, so women may be inclined to trust their feelings and be led astray as Satan manipulates emotions, or perverts compassion, or offers to give godlike power to overcome insecurity. The man who knows what he should do, yet fails to do it, sins as Adam did. The man who idolizes his wife by putting her feelings, desires and will above God’s becomes an idolator of the first order.

What is a woman in Christ? The New Covenant assures that she is equal to a man in standing and worth. All Christians are viewed as one in Christ. However, although we are one in Christ the Spirit gives a diversity of gifts (I Corinthians 12; Romans 12:3-5). At the creation, before the fall, both the man and the woman are given the same mandate to accomplish (Genesis 1:28). However, they have different ways of achieving it. In both the natural creation and in Christ’s spiritual re-creation of humankind, there is unity and there is diversity. In answering our question of the role of women in ministry both of these concepts must be taken into account. 

I believe it is obvious that individuals not only possess different natural and spiritual gifts, but there are gifts established through God’s design and creation of man and woman which are typical for each gender. The man is typically gifted to fulfill the role of authoritative leader. The woman is typically gifted to fill the role of supportive or relational leader. Therefore, to be a man or a woman is more than biological: it is spiritual. Only in Christ can fallen men and women fully realize the potential of their gifts, and then only when each seeks to live as God’s new creation in Christ.

There are exceptions. God may sovereignly choose to use any person He wants to accomplish his will and purpose, whether male or female. It is obvious in both Bible and church history that the Lord has raised up strong women leaders such as: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla, Lydia, and Phoebe, usually in keeping with a woman’s gifting and purpose, but sometimes they as more dominant.

In the Old Testament Deborah was one of the Judges. It is obvious God raised her up as an authoritative leader. However, she sought to encourage the military commander Barak to lead, demonstrating again the gift of being a helper. In the New Testament Priscilla and Aquila were a husband and wife team who assisted Paul in leadership. Priscilla is sometimes named first, which signals she was the more visible (perhaps more dominant and outspoken).

So, should a woman be allowed to lead in any position a man does? The question we should rather ask is, has God called and gifted that particular woman to accomplish the ministry in which she seeks to be involved? If so then let us find the right context and the most supportive environment and position for her to be what God has called her to be: His minister.

Laziness and Socialism

Notes on a study in 2 Thessalonians.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6–12, ESV)

Laziness is sin. There is a reason sloth was listed among the 7 deadly sins. Idleness promotes temptation. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Consider the bad example of King David in the Bathsheba incident. The good king committed adultery with a woman and had her husband killed. This all began after he failed to go out to battle with his army.

“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel…. It happened late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.” (2 Sam. 11:1a, 2, ESV)

‘keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness”

Not only are you and I to avoid laziness, we are to avoid those who live this way. 

Paul offered himself and his companions as the example. The apostle had a practice of refusing gifts from a church during the time he was working to establish it. He often supported himself by working from working as a tentmaker. He exemplified hard work. Only when a church was self-sufficient and Paul had moved to the next mission field, would he accept it’s financial support. We discover this in the Corinthian letters (1 Corinthians 9, 2 Corinthians 11:8).

A possible reason for the problem of laziness in Thessalonica was the belief that Jesus’ return was imminent, and therefore there would be no reason to keep on working a job. Each one of us ought to live every day as though it were our last on earth, whether because we “always keep death in mind,” or because we have our “eyes to the sky” looking for the return of Christ. However, that doesn’t mean I retire and do nothing until the Lord returns.

God expects us to be busy with his work and with investing and remaining involved with our communities. Our situation is like the Israelites in Babylonian captivity. Heaven is our home and primary citizenship. We are exiles and dissidents here on earth. Our duty is to work for the prosperity and benefit of our city and community, to say nothing of the fact that we must make a living for ourselves and our families. 

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7, ESV)

Sadly, it is far more likely in our time that people are overly focused on this life and take little or no thought for the next. Even so, there is plenty of laziness among some, who want to live idle lives. These seek to “eat, drink and be merry” all the time, but have no desire to work for the means to purchase the food and drink. Some want to live the lifestyle of the idle rich. Here’s a question to test you: What would you do with your life if you won the lotto? With more money available, I would seek to grow this church and put together projects and investments to preach the Gospel. If I had more money available I would be busier than I am now, not building my petty kingdom, but extending God’s!

“If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

Paul’s perspective was, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” Does that sound harsh to you? The precept to learn is: each of us is responsible for providing for ourselves. The government doesn’t owe you a living. Jesus commands us to give to those who ask, but not to support laziness. If you won’t work, you need to feel the consequences of that. Missing a meal or two would serve only to help many. It seems a contradiction when we observe a person who refuses to work—usually with some excuse—who is obese. 

Everyone should be given an opportunity to be supported equitably for their work. Jesus said, “The worker is worthy of his wages” (Matt. 10:10). However, there should be no government or church welfare for those who will not contribute their labor to support themselves and contribute to their community. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had it right when he started the WPA program during the Great Depression. Many people were out of work, so the President gave them government jobs cleaning up roads and improving the nation’s infrastructure. My experience has been that many people who are on welfare and disability could be doing something, but don’t because they won’t. Their primary handicap is not physical but spiritual. They are lazy. They have convinced themselves that they are incapable of doing anything as justification for this sin. I believe the word “can’t” is the most destructive in a person’s vocabulary. Can’t often just times means won’t.

Socialism (and communism) sounds like it promotes justice. The reality is, socialism doesn’t work because there is no incentive for people to work hard, to produce, innovate, or create. A guaranteed job and income results in mediocrity at best. The following is a quote from Peter Hitchens, brother to the famed late atheist celebrity Christopher Hitchens. Peter is a journalist who spent a significant amount of time in the former United Soviet Socialist Republic.

“For the average citizen it was a life lived at a dismally low level materially, ethically and culturally. The Soviet Union may have been a great power, but it was a great power that had diverted its resources into the hands of the state.” (from Peter Hitchens, Rage Against God).

Let’s be clear, taking someone else’s hard earned income and giving it it to those who will not work is theft. Social welfare programs may be necessary to help those who verifiably cannot help themselves. However, any program that rewards laziness is not social justice: it is both unjust and destructive to a healthy thriving economy, as the current situation in Venezuela illustrates. 

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:13–15, ESV)

For doing good we must look to our reward in the next life, for often we may be without in this one. Let the Holy Spirit encourage you to continue doing good and glorifying God. Be satisfied with little, even during times when you have much. 

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Tim. 6:6-7)

“and have nothing to do with him that he may be ashamed”

Shun lazy, or immoral, or rebellious supposed Christians (see also Matt. 18:17, 2 Tim. 3:5, 1 Cor. 5:9, 2 Jn. 10). Paul even states we should not eat with such people (1 Cor. 5:11). 

“Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother”

We are not placing ourselves above and beyond those who are walking in sin. The purpose is to highlight their need to change. Be open and forgiving if the person repents or genuinely seeks help to change.

You Can Be Less Fat & More Fit

Fitness is more than how thin you are, but I believe a good start (probably the best place to begin) is with a change in your diet, which results in a leaner body. A lean body is better for many reasons: less prone to heart disease, increased longevity, avoidance of type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, joint problems and a host of other complications which result from hauling around too much body fat every day.

It’s not popular to say this, but neither is it a secret: many people are simply carrying too much body fat. Perhaps you are one of them. Notice, I didn’t say “too heavy.” It’s not about weight; it’s about body fat percentage. The average American carries between 28-40% body fat (and it may be worse today, since that stat is from a study done 15-20 years ago!). That is not healthy. Not at all.

One year ago my body fat was around 23% at a weight of just over 170 lbs. I’m around 71 inches tall. I wasn’t terribly unhealthy, but I was getting there gradually. You see, everything accumulates over time, whether fitness or fatness. In 2012 I had gotten down to 7% body fat, was lifting weights and running regularly. I felt great! Then I broke my clavicle doing incline presses and that slowed the weights down considerably. I was discouraged. I stopped running. My diet gradually got less healthy. I still went to the gym a couple of times per week, but my workouts weren’t enough to burn off the additional calories.

The difference over a five year span was a gain of 16% body fat, which translates to around 20 lbs on my frame. That’s an annual gain of a little over three percent fat, or a mere four pounds each year. Consider, if I had gone another decade I could have been carrying around the high average of 40% body fat. NO THANKS!

I took a look at myself in the mirror at 23% and didn’t like what I saw. I looked like a round, slightly lumpy snowman. I knew what I could look like when healthy and fit. I knew it was going to take some work to get back. It did! I’ve journaled about that process here, so you can look back at those blogs if you’d like. The picture I’ve included in this entry is a screenshot I took this morning from a body fat calculator on my mobile device. To use the app you still need body fat calipers, and, yes, you need to weigh yourself. Currently I weight around 145 and am carrying about 5.5% body fat. Did I mention I’m 56 years old…

If your sex is male, and you’re not an elite athlete, then you should aim for 10-15% body fat. If your sex is female and not competing in some sport, aim for 20-25%. If you need to be leaner for a sport (I am a martial arts instructor), then you may seek to go lower. However, men shouldn’t get below 4% or women below about 9%. You do need some body fat. I am keeping mine between 5-7% because I want to stay at that level of fitness to teach my karate’ class. That, and I like how I look and feel when I’m this lean.

So, what’s the secret? Did I do Keto? Count calories? Fasting? Run an hour a day? Overall friends, although it’s hard at first to apply the self-control, the concept is really very simple: you get fatter when you eat more, and you get thinner when you eat less. You also get fatter when you’re less active, while still eating the same, and you get leaner when you’re more active without increasing the amount you eat. Everything accumulates over time, fitness or fatness.

Duh? Well, why do we read so much disinformation when it comes to this? People want to believe, “You can eat whatever you want and lose the weight!” No, you can’t. Don’t buy it (metaphorically or literally). There are many paths to the goal of losing fat, and there are variables, but the truth is your body carries more fat when it doesn’t burn the excess (yes, I’m going to use a bad word here) CALORIES you’re consuming.

So, do you want to get fit? Start with your diet. You need to establish a healthy diet. If you want less fat, then you need to eat fewer calories. You need to cut out the sugar and starch. You need to schedule your eating.

Next, you need to move more. Find a form of exercise you will do regularly: walk, swim, bike, lift weights, get into an aerobics class, learn and practice a sport like basketball or an art like karate’ or yoga. Aim for 30-40 minutes of vigorous activity five or six days per week.

Do you want help? Coaching? I’m considering doing that for people in the near future, so stay tuned…

Apostasy and the Man of Sin

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4, ESV)

The Rebellion

Literally, Apostasy or falling away. The Apostasy or Rebellion is a large scale turning away from God’s Law, and from faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son.

“Since the reference here is to a world-wide rebellion against divine authority at the end of the age, the ideas of political revolt and religious apostasy are combined.”  -FF Bruce (Word Biblical Commentary on 2 Thessalonians)

“This rebellion, which will take place within the professing church, will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word. True, apostasy has characterized the church almost from its inception, but Paul referred to a specific distinguishable apostasy that will come in the future”   -Walvoord/Zuck (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

This is what we are seeing in the USA now, and what has been happening in the Christian lands of the West beginning in the 1700s. There is a great falling away from faith in Jesus Christ, which founded Western Civilization. We re primed for a strongman to take over and change times, laws, morals and values. Academia, the Entertainment Industry, the most powerful corporations, all have turned against Christianity in our time. The most alarming apostasy, however is in the church. Mainline denominations turned away from confidence in the Bible 50-100 years ago. Now those same nominally Christian organizations have turned toward the validation and celebration of sexual immorality and the culture of death (abortion industry). Increasingly they reject the miraculous, acts of Jesus, his resurrection, and even his deity. This last certainly marks them as apostate, not part of God’s chosen people. The essential confession of faith is: Jesus is Lord. Apart from that no one is saved.

Man of Lawlessness

This figure has a several names in the New Testament, two here: Man of Lawlessness (also translated Man of Sin) and Son of Destruction (also Son of Perdition). John calls this figure the Anti-Christ, and in Revelation The Beast. In Daniel, the Little Horn (7:8). Jesus quoted Daniel in calling this leader’s image the Abomination of Desolation (Matt. 24:15, cf Dan. 11:31, 36)

There are numerous examples of powerful political leaders who opposed the faithful up to this point and beyond.

Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.” (Daniel 11:31, ESV) This was Antiochus Epiphanes who abolished sacrifices, set up an altar to Zeus, offered pigs blood on it and punished those who circumcised their children.

Antiochus Ephiphanes may be the archetype, and we may read of him in the so called Apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees, which Roman Catholics and others accept, but which were rejected as canon by the Jews and by most Bible believing Christians.

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, 45 to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals,  to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added, “And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.” (1 Maccabees 1:41-50)

Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah, and offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by decree of the king. They kept using violence against Israel, against those who were found month after month in the towns. On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks.” (1 Maccabees 54-60)

 

Near the time of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica the Emperor Gaius, also known as Caligula was in power. He insisted that he be known as a god. Other emperors, beginning with Augustus were deified after death, but Caligula insisted on being worshiped. He decreed that a statue of him be erected in the Temple at Jerusalem, but was assassinated in AD 41 before these orders could be carried out. This would certainly be fresh on the minds of Paul and his readers.

In both of these notorious leaders (Antiochus and Caligula) we find an initial fulfillment of the prophecy about the Abomination of Desolation in the temple (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11). Evidently there will be a greater example, and a final fulfillment of this prophecy immediately prior to the return of Christ.

Next there was Nero, who persecuted and martyred Christians in Rome. Coating Christians with pitch and burning them to light his garden.

Then there was Domitian, who insisted on being referred to as “Dominus et Deus,” Lord and God.

The first empire-wide persecution occurred under Decius circa AD 250.

The worst persecution was the last under Diocletian circa AD 300.

Throughout history other anti-Christs like Hitler have murdered millions of Christians and/or Jews.

But none of these has been the ultimate and final fulfillment of Anti-Christ. That one is still to come.

Characteristics of the Anti-Christ to watch out for:

  1. Powerful world leader with absolute global authority (Revelation 13:1-10).
  2. Rejects Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah and God’s Son come in the flesh (1 Jn. 2:22, 3:2-3) 
  3. Exalts him/herself as God or a god, and will demand and receive worship from everyone (above Daniel 11:36, Revelation 13:8).
  4. Opposes the Bible’s revelation of right and wrong.
  5. Changes the calendar and the law to reflect rejection of Christian and Jewish faith (Daniel 7:25)
  6. His image will be set up in the Temple (Daniel 11:31). I believe that this will be his demand for ultimate allegiance from everyone, which amounts to setting up his image in the hearts of people. We see examples of this in Communist N. Korea today, ie Dear Leader Kim Young Un.
  7. He will even be given authority to make war and successfully conquer God’s people for a short time (Rev. 13:7)