Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Off to Israel...

These are my dear friends, the Kashtans. We met Eitan and Orit nearly two decades ago and when you see Orit (the wife) and I together, you'd think we were sisters! Read about their testimony here:

They have four children, Alon and Amir, who are both in the military, Liel, their dancer and Ehud, their genius. Eitan runs a publishing company that translates Christian books into Hebrew for the church in Israel. Last summer Eitan told me that there are 9 million people in Israel - 6 million Hebrews and 3 million Russians. He said that there are only about 10,000 believers in Israel which equates to only 1-2,000 families. Because the number is so small, the Christian publishing houses won't translate books in Hebrew, for a lack of audience (they have to make money...).

Eitan's publishing house secures the rights to specific books and then translates and publishes them. This is done with donation money, i.e. a church in Canada donated $15,000 to translate Pilgrim's Progress in Hebrew. What a great project to have a church raise money to give the church in Israel Christian material!

We take for granted our Christian bookstores - they have nothing like this in Israel. When Eitan and Orit come to visit, they always spend a day wandering around Baker Books in Grand Rapids. It's their favorite spot to visit!

They also put out three magazines quarterly - an adult one, a teen one and a children's one. These magazines are a true lifeline for believers in Israel.

Orit works along side Eitan at the publishing house, but she also is a busy mother and worker in the church. She manages her children's sports teams, runs women's ministries at her church, and worked on producing the only two children's Christian music CDs in Hebrew. She has directed children's musicals and taught classes to the immigrants on Jewish history. She is very busy which leads me to what is happening there this weekend.

Two years ago, Orit formed a committee and put on the first women's Christian conference in Israel. One hundred Hebrew and Arab Christian women gathered for a day of teaching and sharing. It was a huge hit! After the conference, the committee sat down and discussed how things went and what they would do the next year. Orit suggested bringing in a friend from America to teach (me!) but they said, "We do not need a Gentile to teach us. We will teach ourselves." After the second year, they sat again. This time they had 150 women and the conference was even more of a blessing. They looked at Orit and said, "Okay, now we will take a Gentile."

Enter Kristen.

I am the Gentile of choice, I guess!

I leave with my twins, my mother, my daughter-in-law and another little girlfriend (Hannah Weflen) tomorrow morning. We land in Tel Aviv on Thursday and the conference is Friday. There are over 220 women signed up to attend. I will be speaking with an interpreter three times, on the topic of "Idols of the Heart." It is teaching that I am very familiar with, so I am not worried about that - but I am concerned about teaching with an interpreter. Please pray for clarity and coherency in flow as I teach. Please pray that God would be central to the conference, that the women, despite the translator, would clearly hear from Him and draw closer to Him because of the time we will spend in the Word.

Once the conference is done, we will worship at their church on Saturday (the Sabbath) and then on Sunday and Monday they will take us around Israel to show the girls the Holy Land. I am sure we will spend a day in Jerusalem...we'll see where else we'll go. Due to the volatile nature of the region, I doubt we'll head south...maybe we'll spend a day in the Galilee area.

On Tuesday our little entourage will fly to Rome, Italy, for a few days of touring. My mom is a wonderful guide - she loves Italy and has arranged our activities there. Then we come home on Saturday, the 10th.

So, there you have it. I am sure I'll have plenty to chat about when I return. Hopefully by then we'll have pictures from the wedding, pictures from the conference and Italy, news on the church plant plans...I should have plenty of material to keep you coming back and checking in.

Blessings to you all and thank you for your prayers!


Monday, June 28, 2010

Sovereignty Series - James MacDonald

I was reading in a book by James called "I Really Want to Change...So, Help Me, God" and came across this paragraph. It fits in well with our sovereignty series, that I wanted you to hear it:

"Let's deep-six some wrong ideas about what God is doing in this world:

...3. God's trying to reach everybody with the Gospel. Is that what God is doing? Is that the bull's-eye on God's heart - evangelism? The Bible does say "The Lord is...not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Yes, God does love the world, and we are commanded to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. And yet Jesus taught that "no one can come to Mu unless the Father...draws him" (John 6:44). God's highest purpose is not to reach the whole world, or the whole world would already be reached. He is partnering with us to get the Gospel out, so that everyone can hear. But Christ told us that only a "few" would actually find the narrow road that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14). To say that God's highest or ultimate purpose is to get the Gospel to everyone contradicts Scripture and experience; it pronounces failure upon God in something He is not even attempting to do."

I agree with his perspective - we have to start with God.

We agree that God is sovereign, that He rules over the earth, that His plans are never thwarted. If you take a quick look at the book of Judges, you see God dealing with the sin of the Israelites by "selling" or "giving them over" into the hands of their enemies (over and over again). These enemies are helpless without God - He gave them the power to be successful in their aggression over Israel - they did not do this on their own. (Doesn't that make you look at world events a bit differently?)

So, what God wills, He accomplishes. Now, I know that in scripture we are given glimpses of God's desires, as in that 2 Peter verse, but we cannot develop our theology based on one verse. James' point is that we have to consider the whole of scripture. As we have looked at the call of God in many Bible character's lives, we have seen 100% success in Him accomplishing what He sets out to do. So how do we reconcile that verse in 2 Peter? Well, as Kathy mentioned in her comment on a previous post, I think we have to accept that God does not act on this specific desire, but continues to accomplish His plan which He laid before He set the foundations of the world. Because if God chose to act on this desire, then all men would be saved. Because He is God. Right?

So where does free will come into play? We see it in scripture - we see the call to respond to the gospel:

If we confess, then He is faithful to forgive...(I John 1:9)

If we humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, turn from our ways, He will forgive and heal...II Chronicles 7:14

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved...Acts 2:21

Unless we repent, we will also perish...Luke 13:3

There are many more verses like this, but I think you get the point. We have to respond to His call and I believe this is one place where our free will comes into play. We can fight His "drawing" and resist His pull, and prolong the battle until He does whatever it takes to get our attention (and there are many with this testimony), or we can give in and receive His gift early in life. But this I know for sure: He wrote the names, He does the drawing, He gives His Spirit and no one can come into an eternal relationship with Him without those three things.

Another area where free will comes into play is after salvation. Here is where we jump to the "reap what you sow" verses (Galatians 6:7-10) - God gives you the choice to obey and receive blessing, or as Dave says, "choose to sin, choose to suffer." Scripture is full of practical Christian living counsel and if I believed that every thought, every action and every choice in life was predetermined by God, I doubt He'd bother instructing us at all.

No, there is true free will that doesn't negate the sovereignty of God. Tough, huh? Sounds contradictory, but remember, He's God and we're not, so we just have to trust that when He says He's in control, but still gives us choices, this is a mystery that is crystal clear to Him. This is why we have to stay in the Word, compare scripture with scripture, seek to understand God better and walk by faith. Remember, the bigger God gets, the quicker we will see ourselves for who we truly are and will quit trying to make life all about us.

Okay, I've already written more than I intended, but I am going to make a note to do one more post on a comment that I've heard a million times - "If God does the choosing, then He's just not fair." It will have to wait until I return. Tomorrow I am going to write you a quick note on what my plans for the next week and a half are and then I'll be gone...

Hope you all are having a good day!

Wedding Joys!

So...if I learned anything about weddings, it's that people love to kiss in Photo Booths!

(Oh, yes, they do!)

It was a great day - I don't have any pictures except for the photo booth pictures and this one from the photographer's blog, so you'll have to be patient! But I will tell you this, Katherine was a true blushing bride - she nearly bounced off the stage with joy! We had some sound issues, but ultimately Austin and Katherine heard everything that Josh said to them and that's what counts. The wedding party was stunning, Chris and Carolyn Moeller sang a beautiful song that sent our spirits soaring, and Tami and Bryant Swart were the force behind the scene that pulled off a wonderful day!

Once I get pictures, I will share, but for now, I just wanted to thank you all for praying for us and ask that when you think of this newly formed union, that you send a prayer up to the Lord for His protection and guidance in their lives.

Okay, so today I am running errands, but I will check in with you tomorrow and leave you with some deep thoughts before I head to Israel...

(yes, I said Israel...)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sunday Morning

I know I said I was going to be off for a while, but...we just got a call from Fox News and they want to interview David on Sunday morning on the Fox and Friends show! Here's the article that caught their eye:

This spurred a very interesting phone call from the female host for Fox and Friends Sunday Morning show. They want Dave to be at the Grand Rapids Fox studio at 7:45 a.m. Sunday morning to be interviewed live. The pastor from C3 will be there as well to point/counter point with him (debate), and Dave is thrilled at the opportunity to speak for the cause of Christ on national television (despite the fact that his daughter's wedding is Saturday night...).

Please pray for him - you never know what curve ball will be thrown at you, but bottom line...the cross is central to the message of Jesus Christ and it is a privilege to be able to explain that in any setting.


Here's a link to Dave's interview, in case you missed it...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wedding Week

Dear Blogger-world friends,

This week is a big one for my husband and myself. In just a few, short days, we will be placing the life of our precious daughter, Katherine (pictured with her new cousin from Nepal), into the hands of her chosen, Austin. Both know the Lord and love Him because He first loved them. Over the past few years, I have watched this young couple grow in the Lord, and thus grow closer together. I have watched them laugh and tease, argue and forgive, worship and study, and dream and plan. Both finished college in three years, Katherine with a double major in Bible and Journalism, and Austin in Accounting - all for this day that is fast approaching.

So, the only question left would be...are mom and dad ready for this? I don't know if you ever look forward to giving your daughter away, but in our case, we honestly believe we haven't lost a daughter but have gained a son. I can't even call it bittersweet, because there is nothing bitter about the love between these two people. Yes, they are young, but their love for the Lord has matured them and with Austin's family as well as ours as support, I believe that they are ready for this commitment.

Please pray for this new family. It is my desire that in all they do they keep their eyes on Christ, they make Him the center of their home and they love each other with complete abandon. Now I know that sounds romantic, but we all know that true love is sacrificial and so at the heart of my wish for them is a selfless, forgiving, patient, long-suffering, joyful, peaceful, gentle, faithful, kind, God-centered marriage.

Am I asking too much?

Not with Christ...

As for blogging, you're not going to see me this week...I've given you enough to chew on last week, so let me enjoy my last days of running with Katherine and I'll let you know how it went next week.

Blessings to you all - I so appreciate all your prayers and your friendship!

Kristen (official momma-of-the-bride)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sovereignty Series - Hide and Seek...Really?

It's been a while since I played a rousing game of Hide and Seek, but I think I remember the basics.  One person counts to a hundred, while the others hide. Then the seeker looks for the hiders and while she is hunting, the goal is to sneak back to the home base, therefore securing a win and the privilege of hiding again in the next round.

Hide and Seek is unfortunately the game of preference when it comes to salvation in the minds of many believers as well. God does the hiding and man does the seeking.  Main support for this theory comes in verses like Isaiah 55:6 - "Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon him while He is near..." and Matthew 7:7 - "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you..."  And then these verses are supported with testimonials about how people "found" God.

Now, I am not discounting the seeking of the Lord and the finding and accepting His gift of salvation.  These are very real things but in order to understand exactly what happens at salvation, we have to start with God instead of man.

We know that in our fleshly state we are dead in our trespasses and sin.  I have tried to make a point that dead people can't really help themselves. Here's another verse to chew on:  "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.  All have turned aside, together thy have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one." Romans 3:10-12

So, answer these questions from these verses:  

How many righteous people are there (without the blood of Christ, of course)?  

Right, none.

How many people left to their own accord can understand the things of God?

Right, none.

How many people seek after God?

Again, none.

How many people do good apart from God?

And again, none.

This is a pretty condemning passage, a quote from the Psalms, that Paul uses in his discourse at the beginning of Romans to drive home the point that sin separates us from God and that in and of himself, man has no ability to reconcile that relationship.  That includes even desiring to have a relationship.  

So, why did I feel this emptiness and go searching for God?  Are you denying my salvation experience?

God's Word speaks to that as well. Here are a few verses from the book of John to help explain:

John 1:12,13 - "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name...(if you stop here, you might think that man chose God and God honored that choice, but read on)...who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

Your bloodline didn't give you salvation.  Your own will didn't give you salvation. Your momma's prayers didn't give you salvation.  Salvation is solely of the will of God.

John 6:44 - "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."

That word "draw" means drag - we are literally dragged to the Father. Why are we dragged? Because our sin nature pulls in the other direction.  Because we are a dead body.  Because He does all the work...

John 6:65 - "And He was saying, For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father."

Now, in order to believe in a free will salvation, you have to believe that God draws all men, but some men are stronger than God's will.  And you have to believe that God grants for all men to come, and again, some men reject His invitation. But doesn't this last verse imply that God's granting is selective? If it was offered to all, would it be considered "granted"?  Our first verses tell us that salvation comes only through the will of God...so how does that work? He wills it, we get to choose and then He gets credit for granting it but only after we decide whether or not we want it?  Does that make sense?  Remember Romans, no one seeks after God, no one does good and no one is righteous. So how does that man make the choice to accept or reject God's offer of salvation?

Perhaps a more accurate description is this:  Man is dead, God (before the foundations of the world) chose for Himself a specific people, He drags them to Himself, which gives them that longing and awareness, they make a choice to accept His gift of salvation - not because of any good in them, but solely because of the will of God which works within them, and man is saved. So the salvation experience is real and true - the seeking is the desire that God has placed in their hearts - and the end result is the will of God is accomplished through the salvation of His elect children.

What about this verse?  John 8:47 - "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God."  

What does this mean?  

Or what about this? John 17:9 - "I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours..."

When you understand that there are two groups in this world, those who are "of God" and those who are not, and you understand that the ones who are "of God" are given to Jesus by the Father, for His glory, by His will, then you get a more accurate picture of who you are and who God is.  In the case studies that I have shared, God is in complete control.  Man is not - even when he thinks he is, God still accomplishes his will.  

So why is God suddenly helpless in salvation in the eyes of most believers?  Why is it so important that God be "hands-off" when it comes to salvation?  Is there anywhere else in scripture that He is "hands-off"?  Why in salvation?

As John the Baptist said, He must increase, I must decrease.  We must have a greater view of God and a more accurate picture of ourselves to understand that God is the source of all good and that the only thing that's good in me is Jesus.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sovereignty Series - More Case Studies

Question:  What does Jonah, Abraham and Mary all have in common?

Answer: A relationship with the Sovereign God.

In the opening verse of the book of Jonah, God gives a call for Jonah to go to the people of Ninevah.  ("Go to Ninevah...")   In the first verse of Genesis 12, God sends Abraham out of his home country, to a land that the Lord would direct him to, and promises to make him a great nation. ("Go forth from your country...")  And in Luke 1:31, Mary is told God's plan for her life. ("You will conceive in your womb and bear a son...")

Notice God doesn't ask many questions in scripture.  When it comes to callings, He doesn't ask permission first, He just calls.  He doesn't tap on Mary's door and say, "Can we talk?  I have a quick question for you.  I was wondering if you would be willing to be the mother of the Messiah?"

He didn't wake Abraham from a deep sleep and say, "Sorry to wake you but I really need your help.  I was wondering if you would be willing to leave this metropolis of Ur and go to a strange land, where people won't really like you or welcome you, but I will give you the land and make you a great nation?  What do you think? Are you interested?"  

And He didn't go to Jonah and ask him, "Feel like going on a trip? I've got this message and I am looking for someone willing to be my voice..."

No, when it comes to God's calling, He is definitely sovereign. He calls and man responds.  Oh, they respond in different ways, but they respond nonetheless. Technically, Jonah gave a negative response.  If free will was really in play, then God would have found a willing soul.  But Jonah teaches us that God's will is greater than ours, wouldn't you say?

I can hear the objections already - But Kristen, all these people had already chosen to follow God. These callings were just God working in the lives of those who had already chosen Him. None of these stories are about salvation.

Okay, so I don't know that I agree with that statement, but just to take any fuzziness off the table, let's look at Paul...or should I say Saul.  You all know the story - Paul was a genius, really. He was sought by the highest positions in the religious community in Jerusalem and after spending time with the Sadduccees and the Pharisees and the Scribes, he chose the Pharisee route.  

At the time he is introduced to us in Acts, he is actively hunting down the heretics that were claiming that a man named Jesus was actually the prophesied Messiah and that the religious leaders had killed Him.  He was hunting them down and facilitating their stoning.  We first find him at Stephen's stoning, holding the coats of the mob who were ending Stephen's life.  

As Paul was heading to Damascus, Jesus knocked him off his ride, blinded him and asked him a question - "Why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4)  Then Jesus makes his statement:  "...get up and enter the city and it will be told you what you must do." (v.6)  He doesn't ask Paul, He just tells him where to go.  Then Jesus meets with a disciple or follower of His named Ananias, and tells him that he is bringing Saul of Tarsus to his home. He wanted Ananias to lay hands on him to enable Saul to regain his sight. Ananias responds a bit negatively, knowing that Saul is the persecutor of believers but Jesus says this, "He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name to the Gentiles and kings and sons of Israel..."

Thus Paul is saved.  

Was Paul seeking a relationship with Jesus?  Or did he hate Jesus and His followers?  Can we deny that Paul was chosen of God without Paul having any real involvement?  Was the salvation of Paul God's choice or Paul's choice?

In case you're not sure, Paul makes it pretty clear as the opening statement in most of his letters is "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God..." or "Paul, chosen of God..." 

What Jonah, Abraham and Mary teach us is that God has a plan for lives and He doesn't ask, He tells.  He is God, remember, and we are not.  So when God moves in a certain direction, He is unstoppable.

If you think through the various characters of the Bible and study their callings, you will find that God doesn't ask. He calls. And the outcome is always obedience.  Sometimes it takes the character a while to get there, but eventually God's will is accomplished.  Let me name a few and you do the research:  Moses, Noah, Daniel, Jeremiah, the disciples, Zacharias and Elizabeth...

And Paul.  You cannot deny God's choice in salvation is Paul's life.  Just a few more case studies to underscore God's sovereign choice in man's life...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sovereignty Series - How Dead is Dead?

"...for in the day that you eat from it, you shall surely die." Genesis 2:17

These were God's words to Adam, instructing him not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We all know the end of the story. Adam did eat from that tree, and he didn't drop dead. So, was God bluffing? No, two deaths were placed on Adam's account that day - immediate spiritual death and impending physical death. Both were not in Adam's pre-sin reality, and from that point on, both are every man's present reality.

But just how dead are we really? Spiritually, I mean. Perhaps we're not really dead, but instead we're dying. A dying man still has choices - do I reach out for help? Do I do another treatment? Do I get a second opinion? Or do I let nature takes it course? But a dead man has no choice. He can't decide what to wear at his funeral. He can't ask for a glass of water. And he certainly can't give any last words of advice to his children. Why not? Because dead men are just that. Dead.

So again, if we truly are "dead in our trespasses and sin" (Ephesians 2:1), just how dead is that? Well, what does the Bible say? To answer this question, we're going to look at some of Paul's writings. Now, I will let you know that most people who don't like this "dead" concept, say that this was just one of Paul's favorite illustrations, but it doesn't mean that we were truly dead, but...if...it's...in...the...Bible...

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins..." Eph. 2:1

"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all have sinned..." Romans 5:12

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ..." Eph. 2:4,5

"When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." Col. 2:13,14

"For the gospel has for this reason been preached even to those who are dead, that through they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God." I Peter 4:6

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes HIm who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." John 5:24

So, there's a taste of what the Word says. Here's how I see it: God said that if Adam sinned, then death would come to all men. Adam sinned. Death came. That's why man is considered "dead" in his trespasses and sin. So if we were truly dead, then we were hopeless and helpless. It was over. Our punishment was final. And just like a corpse in a morgue, our ability to help ourselves was gone.

Now, I have to put a note from the editor here. I am heading in a direction with a purpose, so I need to ask you to continue to be patient. I understand that the scripture teaches that a response to the gospel is necessary for salvation and we'll get to that. If I were witnessing to an unbeliever, this is not where I would begin (speaking of election in salvation). But as believers who are seeking to know God in a deeper way, to understand His part vs. man's part in salvation is a valuable study. Let me put it this way, when I was born, I didn't have to understand the specifics of how I got where I got and how I got out and who was there to help. All I knew was that it was time to stop swimming and start breathing! But as I grew older, the details meant a lot more to me. Make sense? So, again, hang in there as we walk through this study.

So, in conclusion, I think we can agree that when God said we would die if we sinned, He was being honest with us. Man without Jesus is spiritually dead. It's how we all enter this world and without intervention, its how we'll all leave. That being said, let me leave you with this picture:

A body is floating face down in Lake Michigan. As you pull closer, you confirm that the body is dead, but just in case there is a bit of life left, you toss a life preserver near it. If the body is dead, does it reach up and grab the preserver to be pulled to the boat? What can that body do to save itself?

That's right. Nothing.

Now, let's say you paddle closer, pull the body into the boat and Jesus just happens to be there and brings the body back to life. Who made the choice to save that body?

That's right again. Jesus.

So, is man dead? Or is he dying?

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sovereignty Series - The Vine Passage

John 15 is Jesus' discourse about the Vine and the branches. It is a lovely painting of words, describing the relationship between the Father (the vine dresser), the Son (the vine), the believer (the branches) and their good works (the fruit). Jesus explains in verse 8 that His Father is glorified in our fruit bearing, thus calling us to prove our discipleship through our fruit. He describes the Father's loving pruning for the purpose of greater harvests and explains that we are commanded to love in the same manner by which we have been loved.

And then comes verse 16: "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give it to you."

So what exactly does this mean when Jesus speaks of choosing? At face value, it's pretty obvious. Jesus is speaking to His disciples and explaining to them that their calling is from God. They were chosen to bear fruit. It was not their choice, but His. Period. So the next question is this: Does this choosing (this verse) only apply to the original disciples, or was Jesus speaking to His believers in general?

Many will argue that Jesus' choosing was not talking about salvation, but of the role of "disciple." However, if you continue to read, two verses later Jesus says this: "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." (John 15:19)

Now we can confidently say that this passage is not just for the 12 disciples but for all believers. The comparison between the world and the disciples is clear - Jesus was not saying that He chose the 12 out of a body of believers, but that He chose His followers out of the world.

It is hard to get around the truth of these verses. Jesus plainly states that not only did He choose us out of the world, but that we did not choose Him. So is this an isolated concept, or is this consistent with more scripture?

Well, I'm definitely going to give you plenty of scripture to chew on, but I think that I will look at man in my next post. I have started with a pretty concrete statement about God's role in salvation so let's quickly look at man's condition next.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sovereignty Series - Noah

Have you ever wondered why God didn't just start over after Adam and Eve sinned? Just hit the creational delete button? Who would have ever known, right? Unfortunately this is man's response to problems, but thankfully it's not God's.

The answer to why He didn't start over is found in Ephesians 1:4 - "...just as He chose us in Him before the foundations of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him..." Before the words "Let there be..." ever came out of the mouth of God, He wrote a book. It's called the book of life and in it He recorded the names of those who would be holy and blameless - just like Him. (See Revelation 20:11-15)

When man chose to believe a lie over Truth, God's chosen were instantaneously cut off from fellowship with Him. Wiping out Adam and Eve would wipe out the genetic pool that would bring His chosen to life. I personally believe that Adam and Eve were in that book as well, for a perfect people had to come from perfect parents, right? So erasing man from earth wasn't an option for a holy God, who cannot go against His Word. His book of life demanded that He continue through with His plan.

But this was not a problem for God. It wasn't a surprise and it wasn't even unexpected. Remember - He is God.

So, God begins to deal with man in general and by two chapters later two of the saddest verses in all of scripture were written: "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart..." (Genesis 6:5,6)

So, let me ask you a few questions about those verses. Who exactly was wicked? (man) All men or just some men? (every intent was only evil continually - it was all of them) How bad was it? (God was sorry He made man and it grieved Him)

Okay, so things are pretty bad and in verse 7 God decides to "blot man out" because He was "sorry He made them."

Then comes a wonderful verse: "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord."

Wait a minute. I thought all men were wicked. I thought all men had evil thoughts in their hearts all the time. How did Noah find favor with God? Is it because of the next verse? "Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time. Noah walked with God."

Oh, now I get it. Noah was a good guy, so on the earth there was only one option worth keeping and it was this good, righteous guy, Noah. That's why he found favor with God and was saved. Right?


Let's keep it in the order that God wrote it: All men were wicked. But Noah found favor with God. Then, Noah was a righteous, blameless man who walked with God.

That word "favor" means grace. Noah found grace with God. And we all know that grace is unmerited (unearned favor). So what Noah found with God was favor that he didn't earn. He didn't receive favor because he was righteous, but rather he was righteous because he was given favor. Noah was just as wicked as the next guy, but he received the label of righteous.

So how does a sinner become righteous? Through the blood of Christ. Now in Noah's case, it was a future application of Christ's blood, but only Jesus can make a man righteous.

So here's what we've learned. God created man. Man sinned. The cancer of sin spread wildly so that by the time that the population of the world was about what it is today, God was disheartened with the state of man and decided to wipe them all out. Well, not completely because of Ephesians 1. He still had a book full of chosen people that were to be holy and blameless and because He said it was so, He continued to work with sinful man. As a matter of fact, in Genesis 3 He promised a solution, so now He was doubly obligated to complete His plan. So He showed favor to one man. He made a wicked man named Noah righteous and continued His plan through him.

By the way, Noah was in that original book.

And surprise, surprise, Noah followed. God told Noah exactly what to do, and Noah repeatedly "did according to all that God had commanded him..." (Genesis 6:22; 7:5,16) Noah was righteous and blameless - does that mean Noah was sinless? Of course it doesn't, but for a brief moment, in a simple verse, we are given God's perspective on His chosen people. We are given a glimpse of how God sees us when He looks at us. Righteous and blameless. And who exactly is righteous and blameless? Jesus Christ, for when we give our sin-encrusted lives to Him, He gives us His identity - righteous and blameless. This is how Noah looked back then and this is how we look today.

And it's all because of God's grace.

Now, does this story prove that God chose Noah and that Noah was not seeking after God? Well, I'll readily admit that we aren't really given many details, so let's stick with what we do know:

1. every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Doesn't sound like anyone was seeking after God.)

2. But Noah found favor with God (God extended grace to one man to continue the human race).

It's a starting place. It's a case study. Stay tuned for more...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sovereignty Series - Reality Check


I hope you enjoyed that. For some reason I can't size it properly, but I think you got the picture...

As I begin this new series, I have to start here. There is a truth about God that if we don't get it, then we will not have the solid foundation that is necessary to study a theology as deep as sovereignty and election. So here it is:

God is not human.

Let me put it another way:

He's different from us.

How about I quote some scripture?

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8,9

There has to be an understanding between God and man that God has a greater mind than the mind of man. I posted this video as a visual of how high the heavens are...indescribable, really. And the fact that God uses the height of the heavens as a comparison of the difference between His mind and ours is pretty humbling, to say the least. When these words were penned, there was no Hubble telescope either, but I think His readers got the point.

To quote Steven Curtis Chapman, "God is God and I am not."

This has to be our foundation, because there are things in God's Word that we simply cannot fully wrap our minds around. For example, God is One but He exists in three Persons. How exactly does that work? I know, I know, the egg illustration - but for some reason, that illustration is still lacking a bit.

We have to accept the fact that there are going to be things in God's Word that reveal to us the character of a Holy God - things that He wants us to know about Him - that are contrary to what we see around us. For example, the world says Big Bang and evolution, and the Bible says the very Word of God. The world says divorce is the solution and God says divorce is the last option. The world says some men are just born that way and the Bible says men will leave their intended creation as an act of rebellion, not nature. The world says everything exists as it always has and the Bible says that with 40 days of deluge, God destroyed the world.

And then there are things that will disturb our sense of justice - like when God instructed Joshua to enter the land and kill all the inhabitants - women and children included. Or when God declares that the sins of the unfaithful father will be visited on the children to the third and fourth generation. Or when God looks at people who claim to have cast demons out in His name, and says, Depart from Me - I never knew you. Or when God commanded a humble prophet to marry a prostitute who had no concept of the word "faithfulness" and expected him to be a father to her customer's children, let alone repeatedly buy her back for himself. Or when God warns that whoever follows Him will be hated and persecuted. Or when God calls Lot "righteous." Or when David commits murder but God calls him a "man after God's own heart." Or when...

Well, you get the picture.

There are things that are very, very difficult for us to understand. But He is God. He is Holy and we are not. So, by faith, we are called to accept what is difficult, knowing that "...for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known..." (I Corinthians 13:12)

As we prepare to enter the deeply emotional discussion of sovereignty, let's start with the agreement that God is so much greater than our minds can possibly grasp, that it is our duty to walk by faith. Some things we may not like, but it is not our choice because we do not bear the title of "God." Because He alone is God, He is given the rule and authority to do as He pleases.

With that said, we must remember one more thing:

God is good.

Goodness, righteousness, and holiness come naturally to Him - so naturally, that He can do none other. So when we see things that God has done, we can have the confidence that His actions flow from His holy character. He is not a devious, spiteful god, who gets His kicks out of torturing innocent humans. No, He is loving, patient and merciful.

And just.

All these things must be held in account as we move forward, searching the scriptures for truth. Let's take what we read at face value, letting the context of the scripture validate our findings. And let us commit to accepting the answer to our question, what does the Bible say about that?

In closing, those of you who have created with the very words of your mouth any of the objects seen in the video are excused from this series. If not, however, then you need to stick around and see what comes next...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Hand of God?

This picture comes from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It is but a fraction of a masterpiece. But for those of you who have had any fine arts education, you know that one of the hands is God's and the other's is Adam's.

So which one is the hand of God?

Take a look at them. Study them close.

Doesn't it seem that one hand is extended with desire, a pointed reach, while the other is rather complacent, not necessarily over extending itself?

So which one is it? Which one is God's and which one is Adam's?

Though you probably know already who owns which hand, I want to take this to a deeper direction. Let's say these hands are a picture of God and not simply Adam, but mankind in general: if you were going to depict your theology of God and man, whose hand would you assign the one on the right to? And then does the one on the left then line up with your beliefs as well?

Let's just focus on the hand on the right. There are several trains of thought within Christianity when it comes to the relationship between God and man. The first is that all men long to know God and all men have the opportunity to find Him. God loves all men and let's man decide his own destiny. He provided the Way, but ultimately man makes the choice. It's not up to Him - in His sovereignty, He allows mankind to accept or reject Him. It is a free gift offered to all men. So in this scenario, perhaps the hand of God is on the right, reaching for all men and the left shows a hand of choice - the hand of man. Or perhaps the hand on the right is actually man, reaching to a complacent God who allows man to be the aggressor and just waits to see who ultimately chooses Him.

Another belief is that God is does not give man the choice. That sin completely separated man from God and that a relationship between God and man only happens because God goes after one. And although man desires to know God, God only extends Himself to His chosen children. In this scenario, then, perhaps the hand on the right depicts God reaching out to weakened man. Or maybe the hand on the right is man longing for God, but the complacent left side hand is God choosing whether or not He will help this man. It is His choice, right?

Okay, so my second view is not really a belief. It is how the people who hold to the first view, think that those who hold to the second view actually see God. I'll stop describing and just use terms now, so that you understand where I am going.

The first view is the one of free will. God allows all men the same opportunity to know Him. It's man's choice. The true second view is that salvation is God's choice (election) but the way I described it is how those who believe in free will view election. The difference between true free will and true election is the phrase "...and although man desires to know God..." If you believe that deep down men are seeking after God and long to know their Creator, then free will makes all the sense in the world and election is about as unfair as the day is long. But for those who truly believe in election, the starting place is very different.

So here's the true picture of election: God created man and sin killed man. God warned Adam that in the day that he would eat from that tree, he would surely die, and though physical death lingered, spiritual death was immediate. Death. Not illness, but death. This term or some form of it is used nearly 1500 times in scripture and it would never have been there if it weren't for sin. So, man is dead. And since a dead man has no desires (I've never seen any of the dead characters ask for anything on CSI New York), salvation is solely an act of God towards those whom He has chosen to graciously extend His hand. Death is what we have earned - salvation is merciful, forgiving, unmerited. And since man was dead when He gave it to him, it is solely His choice.

Back to our picture. With this description of election, which hand in our picture would be God's? Definitely the right one, however the left one is too aggressive to be the hand of a dead man. So I am going to propose a different picture (I can do this because it's my blog). This picture is a far more accurate picture of God's relationship with man:

Notice the dead body.

Notice the nail-pierced hands.

It really says it all.

So, here are a few final notes - in the God and Adam depiction, the hand on the right is God's and the left is newly, created Adam, still kind of fuzzy on his surroundings. I would post the whole picture here but it does not have a PG rating. Why did I write this post? Because I want to do another series (I really like series!). This one will be looking at scripture concerning God's sovereign act of election. It's one of those truths that once you start to see it in the Word, you see it everywhere...

So stay with me...argue with me (that's fine), but let's dig a bit deeper here and see where it takes us! And remember, our deciding factor will be the answer to this question: what does the Bible say?

Have a great day!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

He Wrote about Me

I have often said that in heaven I am looking forward to finding the Cinema 24 and sitting through the collection of historical movies that I am sure will be offered. You know, watching first hand the stories of Noah and Esther, Joshua and the battle of Jericho and the battle of the gods on Mount Carmel. The list goes on and on, doesn't it?

This morning, I read a verse that put another movie in my mind. This one won't be as thrilling as seeing the walls crumble from the sound of horns, but it will be thrilling nonetheless. Here's the verse:

"For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" John 5:46,47

My first thought was this - what exactly did it look like when Moses received the written word of God? Not just Moses, but all the authors of the various books. I really want to see that process. Did they know their penned words were inspired? Did they sit at at a table, face to face with Jesus and just copy His words? Did they write of dreams and visions that were actually true? The NT writers were probably familiar with the Holy Spirit's guidance, but were the OT writers filled with the very presence of God to do his bidding?

I think that probably there were several methods that God used to deliver His Word, but when it comes to Moses and the book of Genesis, God had to have simply given an eye witness account, right? Because who else could have testified to creation?

The second place my mind went was to the substance of these verses. These are Jesus' words, obviously, and they come after a long discourse on Jesus' relationship with the Father, a comparison between John the Baptist's ministry and Jesus', and then ends with a pointed charge that the Jewish leadership has rejected Him, despite the fact that the one whom they claimed to follow (Moses and the Law) wrote specifically about Him.

But the phrase, "...he wrote about Me..." got me thinking. What did Moses write about Jesus? And I started a list:

He is the Creator (and how He created)

He is the ultimate sacrifice (seen in the concept of the innocent given for the guilty)

He is intimately involved with His creation (as seen in His several appearances and conversations with the patriarchs and others, as well)

He is holy (the WHOLE book of Leviticus)

He is righteous (the Law flows from His character)

He is faithful (many, many miraculous interventions for His people including the parting of the Red Puddle, oops, I mean Sea...)

He is sovereign (made a plan, communicated a plan, set the plan in motion, despite man's sinfulness)

I could go on but I think you get the idea. Moses wrote about Jesus. He testified to His character, His plan, His actions and His will. But the leaders in Israel rejected, not only Jesus, but Moses as well, for when they failed to see Jesus in the Pentateuch, they discredited the author as well.

Believers do that today and this scares me. If Moses wrote about Jesus but we reject Moses' writings as mere fairy tales told to freed Hebrew slaves, then are we rejecting Jesus as well? I am not trying to make a belief in literal creation a salvation issue, but I have to wonder if Jesus was not just giving a warning to the Pharisees with His words here, but to us as well. Do we reject portions of scripture because it offends our sense of fairness or it contradicts scientific theory or it just sounds too unbelievable?

By the way, I have been accused of "Torah Worship." I have been told that I hold the Bible in too high esteem and should focus on faith and love rather than truth all the time. I have been told that the Bible was never intended to be studied and scrutinized to the extent that it consumes me and that I should "lighten up."

So what do you think? I know I need a balance of worshipping in spirit and truth, and that maybe I am heavy on the truth side and need more love, but if truth is not my foundation, then my love is going to be rudderless. (There I go making excuses again...)

One last note - did you know that Jesus quoted from twenty-two Old Testament books? And that the author of Hebrews alone quotes the OT eighty-five times? And to top that, in the book of Revelation the OT is quoted two hundred and forty-five times?

If knowing scripture and using it to support your life was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for me...

Have a great day!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Confidence without Effort

Today on Glenn Beck, Glenn (yes, we're on a first name basis) played a recording of Edward R. Murrow that is going to be used in the near future in some sort of an advertisement campaign. (Not for Glenn, but for windows, I think.) But this quote has stuck with me all day, because its truth is covers a pretty wide range of application. Murrow was a journalist who witnessed a myriad of world events, since he lived from 1908 until 1965.

The quote comes from a radio program recorded in 1961, in regards to Soviet/U.S. tensions:

"Well, I would like to say this: confidence by itself, without effort, does not win contests. Victory in this conflict depends on much, much more than confidence..."

Here's where my mind has gone. Confidence without effort does not win contests. How many believers today live their lives with confidence in God without any effort and then wonder why they struggle in the contests of life?

As many of you know, God has allowed me to come alongside sisters in Christ in their time of need. Some call it counseling. I call it discipleship in crisis. What I find most of the time is a woman who started with confidence in God but when the rough waters began to tip her boat, her confidence quickly turned into fear and panic.

Why would God allow this to happen to me? I am a good Christian - I love my husband, I raise my children in the church, I go to ladies Bible studies - why is God abandoning me now? Is He really there at all? I feel so alone...

When I dig a little deeper, I have found that her confidence in God was relatively effortless and based on Sunday School altar calls from her childhood. Oh, yes, she does go to church and pray and she might even read the Bible occasionally. But when there is no real effort put into her relationship with Christ (knowing Him, understanding Him, drawing near to Him with the purpose to imitate Him, glorify Him and serve Him), when the contests of life arise, defeat is almost certain. At least temporary defeat.

Here's my point: Salvation is completely effortless. The Christian life is completely effort-full.

Jesus takes all the credit for salvation, so don't even think that I am advocating works salvation. But I am advocating lordship salvation. A true follower of Christ has a deep relationship and dependency on Him, beyond the confession and repentance of sins. When you make Him Lord of your life, there is effort involved. And unfortunately, in the midst of a crisis in a terrible time to start honing your spiritual disciplines. As my husband says, you cannot have success in the crisis unless you have success in the process. Get the process going before the crisis hits. It's a much better way to handle things.

Think of it this way. If you got married but completely ignored your spouse - didn't eat with him, didn't do his laundry, never made his side of the bed, didn't really talk to him much, but smiled at him occasionally and every day thanked him for the beautiful home you live in, then what kind of marriage would you have? Marriage is hard work. It takes blood, sweat and tears. It takes communication and understanding and...well, it takes time.

Same with Christianity. You need to have time with God. Many of my counselees tell me they pray all the time. Great! They're doing all the talking, though. They need to let God communicate to them, as well, through His Word. This takes time and effort. And I am not talking about reading a book on marriage or how not to be such a worry-wart. I am talking about good, one-on-one time in the Word, seeking His face, learning about Him, listening to His voice and just basking in His glory.

Good old-fashioned Bible study.

So, Mr. Murrow was right - Confidence without effort doesn't win contests. We must support our confidence in God by building our relationship with Him. Trust me, He'll never run out of things to say...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


So, my three youngest just graduated.

Never again will I have to wake up to an alarm clock to get the kids out the door for school.

Then why am I waking up at 6 a.m. every morning?

For the love (of sleep)...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Truth Series - Red Sea Miracle

Here's a quick one for you and you may have not ever heard of it before. We all know the story of the Israelites enslaved in Egypt and Moses - "Let My people go!" and the plagues, right? Well, when Moses is finally given permission to take the Israelites out of Egypt by Pharaoh after the tenth plague, Pharaoh once again changes his mind and sends his army after the evacuating slaves. Shortly after their departure, Moses and the children of Israel find themselves trapped with the Red Sea before them and the Egyptian army quickly approaching behind them.

Now, we've also all seen the movie "The Ten Commandments", where Moses raises his staff and the water parts for the people to pass through. Once safely on the other side, the waters close around the approaching Egyptian army, drowning Pharaoh's forces and ending the chase.

This is where Christianity gets fuzzy on the details. It is now being taught in Bible schools and seminaries (yes, my daughters' college class and Dave's seminary class at Baptist Theological Seminary) that this was not truly the spectacular event that Hollywood made it out to be. In actuality, they teach, the Israelites were most likely crossing more of a tributary than a sea, a pond or lake at best. At my daughters' college, the claim was made that they were crossing in four inches of water, with reeds and mud. But because the Israelites were on foot, they were able to manage the muddy trail, while the Egyptian chariots were not as fortunate, having their wheels entrenched in the wet reeds, which ultimately concluded in their...drowning.

Does that make any sense at all? The Egyptian soldiers drown in four inches of water? And the professor claimed that God did not dry the ground, but the Israelites had to fight to save their own lives.

Hmmm...what a miracle!

So, what does the Bible say?

"Then the Lord said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land. As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen"...the waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh's entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained." Exodus 14:15-17,28

Now you tell me - were they crossing a puddle of four inches of water or did God truly divide the water and they passed through on dry land? God's Word is clear.

So, why do we have to make excuses for the glory and majesty of God? My father often said, if you were struggling with the meaning of scripture, give it to a third grader to read and explain to you...they're probably right because they'll take the most straightforward and obvious meaning.

As I said earlier, you may not be familiar with this absurd teaching, but folks, it's out there. Be aware of what is being taught, be aware that God's Word is being excused away by the very teachers that claim the blood of Christ, be aware that the claims of the Word have become an embarrassment to the church He died to save.

It's got to stop somewhere.

Make sure it stops with you.

One final word of advice here - when someone makes a strange claim about scripture and you are not sure what to say, there is one question that should clear things up:

What does the Bible say about it?

Start there and move forward. Most times the scripture will clear up the issue...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Truth Series - Women's Roles

Last night was the graduation of my three youngest children. During the ceremony, an alumni of the christian High School was given a Distinguished Alumnus Award for her work in foraging a path for women in the field of full-time ministry - "full participation" was what it was called. Basically, she was a senior pastor of a Reformed church and was re-shaping the way women are viewed in the Reformed denomination. Her story was simple - she saw a woman preacher in her presbyterian church and thought to herself, "I could do that." So she went to seminary while her children were in middle school and high school and earned her degree. She now sits on the synod and preaches weekly at a church in Grand Rapids.

Women's roles are vastly changing in the church today, with the final frontier being the pulpit itself. Debates on whether or not women are equal to men stir emotions and anger, and in the past have split denominations. But today, most denominations are moving towards opening all roles to women, ending the strife and discussions. But is this God's way or are Christians compromising to meet culture's expectations?

So, when it comes to women, my question is this: What does the Bible say about equality and roles in the church?

First of all, scripture is clear that all are created equal in the sight of God - Galatians 3:28 states, that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Romans 3:22, I Corinthians 12:13 and Colossians 3:11 also support this truth. So the question is not whether men are more valuable in God's eyes or not, we know that we are all equally precious in our Father's sight. Both male and female cost the same - the blood of Jesus shows no discrimination.

So there is no question about equality. The debate comes with roles. The argument before us is, if men and women are equal in God's sight, then they can interchange their roles equally as well. Nothing should be off limits to women, solely because of their gender...if they are truly equal. The limitations put on women in scripture were cultural, and not intended to be applied in a modern society. Therefore, women can serve as elders (overseeing the spiritual direction), be deacons (overseeing the hands on service) and even pastors. Right?

Well, let's look briefly at the Word. We all know the controversial verses for elders are the ones that say an elder should be the husband of one wife (I Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:5,6). In both of these passages, lists are given to describe the office of overseer or elder - he must be above reproach, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine, peaceable, free from the love of money, in control of his own house, not a new convert, have a good reputation and be the husband of one wife.

This last phrase is commonly dismissed as cultural and is interpreted today as both men and women candidates for elder should have only one spouse. However, the Timothy passage goes on to talk about deacons, giving basically the same list. In the middle of the deacon qualifications, women are then addressed - I Timothy 3:11 - "Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things." Then the next phrase goes back to describing deacons - "Deacons must be the husbands of only one wife and good managers of their children..." (v. 12) So apparently, women are allowed to be deacons and this qualification of being a husband to one wife is actually meant for men. But no women qualifications are given in the elder passage.

So, taking out culture, elders are to be men, and deacons are to be respectable men or women.

But let's deal with the cultural aspect. Paul actually ends this debate in I Timothy 2:9-15, where he instructs women in the church to dress modestly in church and adorn themselves with good works rather than with costly garments. He says in verse 11, "A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." This is a very volatile comment, one which has caused Paul to be given the label of a woman hater. But this comment exceeds culture because Paul give his reasoning for his instruction. He goes back to the garden, before modern culture or even sin had deteriorated man's treatment of woman. He says in verse 13, "For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression."

So Paul's reason for not allowing women to teach men is their vulnerability. This was part of their created order. Man was not created for woman but woman for man (I Cor. 11:7,8). She is considered the weaker vessel (I Peter 3:7). Husbands are called the head of their wives, just as Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:22-33) and they are called to love them sacrificially, just as Christ loved the church and gave His life for her. Did you know that there are seven times the instructions for husbands in regards to how to treat their wives in scripture than there are for wives towards their husbands? So men are held in higher account, as the head of the home. But they are still the head and this leadership is extended into the church.

I have had people argue that if I am going to take this passage literally, then women should not sing, greet or even smile in the church - that they should have their mouths duct taped when they enter the building. Obviously, this is not what Paul is teaching. Why do we have to do the pendulum swing? Is there really no place for women in the church? The spiritual authority and instruction is placed in the laps of men. In Titus 2, however, Paul encourages the older women of the church to teach the younger women, not only through living godly lives, but by teaching what is good - to love their husbands and children, to care for their homes, to be sensible, pure, kind and submissive. That is our platform - with the women of the church. But the pastoring and the spiritual leadership of the congregation in general (over men specifically) is only given to men through scripture.

God uses women in mighty ways. In their proper, God-given roles, there is great power. But when we choose to oppose a basic biblical teaching by excusing it away for culture's sake, we step away from God's perfect will. Remember, for men, leadership and provision for their families are to be difficult because of Adam's sin(Genesis 3:17-19). For women, they will want to take the reins from their husbands naturally, though this is not their role (Genesis 3:16). This is also seen in the church. As the men struggle either outside or inside of the church with life's problems, if women will rise up and start relieving some of the leadership pressure, why not let them? If there is a capable woman to lead, why would a man stop her? Women are bright, intelligent and efficient - perfect to lead.

However, this is not God's plan. God knows that life is tough and He wants men to step up and handle it. He knows that being an overseer of a church is a messy and often thankless job, but He created men with broad shoulders to carry the burden. So, ladies, rather than long for something that God has not intended for you, why not embrace the role He has given you?

Even in the Triune Godhead there are submissive roles. If I asked you, who was more important, the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit, I hope that you would struggle to answer. They are all equal, even though they have submissive roles. The Son submits to the will of the Father (Matthew 26:39) and the Spirit submits to the will of the Father and the Son(John 15:26). So, gals, submission is not a bad word. It's a calling. And it has nothing to do with equality. Just because men are called to lead, that doesn't make women less valuable in God's sight. It's all about created roles, and women, as helpmeets (Genesis 2:20-25) we have been created for a submissive role but by no means a lesser role.

Because, come on, ladies, we all know that behind every good man...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Truth Series - Eschatology

A child playing chess? Are you kidding me? Chess is too difficult for a child. Make him stop.

Of course, I am being facetious. A child can play chess. Teach him the basics and let him walk through it step by step.

But the same voice that hinders a child playing an advanced game is the one that says we shouldn't study eschatology. Today, end times sermons are few and far between. Want to know how I know this for a fact? Because I went to YouTube and put in "Joel Osteen end times," and do you know what came up? "Joel Osteen says you are an Extraordinary Person - by recognizing this and knowing that God has a bright future for you..." Uh-huh. That's right. So if Joel has nothing to say about the coming last days, then I doubt many others do either...

Seriously, no one wants to talk about the end times. The Left Behind Series has said enough for everyone and so apparently the matter is settled. When broaching the subject of the last days, here are the most common responses that I have received:

1. It's too hard to understand - no one really knows what's going to happen
2. We're not going to be here for it, so we don't need to study it
3. I'm just not interested in studying the future - I have enough problems today to worry about
4. Since no one can agree on what the Word teaches, why would I try?
5. The church has believed in pre-trib since Jesus was here and now you think you've figured out something new?

Notice there isn't a whole lot of scripture being given in support for any of these responses. So my issue today is, why do believers ignore the return of Christ? Isn't His return the "great hope of the church"?

Well, what does the Bible say?

First, it says that Jesus is coming again. I Thessalonians 4 and 5 are dedicated to this second coming. "...For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord..." (I Thess. 4:15-18)

Secondly we are instructed to look for His return, because it is our hope. Titus 2:11-14 instructs on how we are to live today - denying ungodliness, living sensibly, righteously and godly, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So how do we look for Jesus' return if we don't know what to look for?

Psalm 119:160 tells us that "...the sum of Your word is truth..." This implies that there is an equation. This plus this plus this will give us truth. So in looking at the last days, we need to add all the scripture together to find truth.

"But it's too hard to understand! Theologians through the ages have disagreed. It was never meant for us to understand. There's too much symbolism to be sure! Just stop trying to figure it out!"

This is such a sad view of scripture. II Timothy 2:16 exhorts us to "...study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman who needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth..." Most want to add to this verse "...except when it comes to eschatology. Then don't even try..." But folks, that's not in there. We are to study the whole of scripture. It was given to us as God's instruction for man - not God's instruction for theologians with seminary degrees to teach the ignorant congregants. No, God's word was given to all men. We all have the responsibility to rightly divide it - to find the sum of His Word and stand on truth.

I am not impressed with the lame excuses for not studying the return of Christ. The salvation story did not stop with eleven men staring at the sky. These men took their story and changed the world. Why? Because they wanted to prepare the world for their Master and their Savior's return. Check out Peter's writings - in II Peter 3:11, after discussing the Day of the Lord, Peter writes, 'Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming..." The return of Christ was something to be longed for, to look for, that motivated every day living and Peter even challenged his readers to hasten its coming.

What has happened to the church since Peter penned these words? We quit looking. We quit studying. We quit using His return as motivation for our daily existence. And most sad of all, we quit longing.

Here's my take - if it's discussed in God's Word, then He wants us to know about it.

There. I said it.

Now, quit making excuses and go do it.

Memorial Day Weekend

Here's the one that didn't get away!

This past weekend, we ended up at Conover for a few days of fishing and fun. Sunday night Katherine, Austin, Dave, Mary and I were on the boat and were catching lots of bass. We were mainly casting to the shore, but occasionally would throw a line deeper. One of my tricks of the trade is to let the line sink a long time. Usually, when I start to reel it back in, I jerk it a little to see if anything is on the line. If I don't have a fish at that point, I usually won't catch one with that cast. I think the fish like to bite at the sinking lure more than the running lure, but that's just a theory.

So I was up at the front of the boat and the sun had just dipped below the tree line and it was getting a bit more chilly. I cast my line towards the center of the lake, knowing it was a lot deeper, and then put my pole in one of the boat's holders. Then I went and put on my sweater and picked up my pole again.

Immediately I could feel a weight on the end and I knew this was not a bass. I called to Dave, telling him that if I can get it to the boat, I think I had a big one. The problem was, I was using a tiny little hook and a six pound test line, which typically equates to a broken line with any kind of struggle, especially if it was going to be a Northern Pike with all their razor sharp teeth.

Well, I got the fish up to about three feet below the surface of the water and it was then I knew exactly what I was dealing with! No one had come to my side yet, but at that point I must have hollered because everyone came a runnin' and the fish took one look at who was on the other end of the pole and started to dive. Of course, no one saw the Pike, so now it was a matter of integrity for me to get the fish back up to the surface so that all could see. I didn't think my line would hold but if I could just bring him back to the surface for proof of what was down there...

Long story short...it took about twenty minutes and a lot of hooting and hollering, but we got it in! Dave was the rock star, risking life and limb to hang over the boat's edge and scoop it up with the net! If he was holding the pole, I don't know if I could have gotten it in the boat as easily as Dave did with the net.

We are having the Pike mounted, because the emotional trauma of swimming in a lake with a fish that size was too much for any of us! We don't think there are any more that size, so we're all safe for the time being. And if you really want a good story, ask me about how we made the decision to keep the fish...

We weighed it and it was just a bit over 19 pounds. We didn't have a tape measure, but Dave thinks it's over forty inches. In six months, we'll know (that's how long it takes to mount a Pike...).

The next day, the Andersons came out for a cook out, and we got a picture of Dave and Brian's adventure at the grill...

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend!