06 May 2014

Women of God: MARY, MOTHER OF JESUS Luke 1

virgin_maryGod was about to break into the world in human flesh. His plan included working through the life of a teenage girl. It is interesting that in a patriarchal society, the angel visited Mary first. He did not visit Joseph first to get his permission. He did not discuss God's plan with Joseph and ask if he was willing to go along with it. Nor did Mary put the angel's message on hold and go to ask Joseph what she should do before responding.

Mary did not need to get Joseph's permission or submit to his authority. She had God's word, God's authority. That was enough for her. Mary was willing to submit to God's will with or without Joseph. She had no idea what Joseph's response would be. She had no idea what he would do. The decision was hers and hers alone to make. She was called on by God to do his work and she willingly submitted. She was willing to face the humiliation, ridicule, and rejection of pregnancy before marriage — alone if need be.

That does not mean that Mary did not need Joseph. She needed Joseph's love, his support, his understanding, his willingness to serve God alongside her, his partnership, his protection in a patriarchal society. She needed him to walk the journey with her. But, when she responded with a resounding yes to the angel, she did not have the assurance that Joseph would stand with her when she accepted God's call on her life. But, she did not need his permission to do what God called her to do. Joseph was told after the fact, and he willingly submitted to God's call on Mary's life. He stood with her, supported her, and encouraged her. Joseph was Mary's "ezer kenegdo" — her "suitable helper." --dona

01 April 2014

Equal, But…??

spy v spyI keep encountering articles from various perspectives on the role of women in the church. What is sad is that the perspective for one of the adherents is not, "we agree to disagree," but, "you're wrong and therefore you are (at least) a heretic. So sad.

My personal perspective is that the complementarian view does a great disservice to a large part of the body of Christ –Women in Christ. I believe that complementarians often represent a misunderstanding of what a text says.

So many of their articles are a Procrustean bed of interpretation, allowing a theological premise to pre-interpret a text without really struggling with the context and to see what it actually says. But I’m not going to go into the morass of interpretation to try to refute and correct this thinking. But let me share a few thoughts:

1. Both perspectives argue that they know exactly what God is trying to tell us through the various scriptures. But it still comes down to human understanding. When you take your stand on a position, are you certain that you are not guilty of two things?

  • Am I quenching the Spirit? If the Spirit is bringing this topic to the surface, and we shout it down with our interpretation, what are the implications for this? I, for one, would not want to be guilty of quenching the work of the Spirit.
  • Am I in danger of Blaspheming the Spirit? If I accuse my opponents of disobeying God (and what that implies), and it IS the work of the Spirit to show God’s will, am I saying that the work of the Spirit is not the work of the Spirit? Jesus was pretty specific on what that all means.

2. Do we really understand the historical context of a passage? To say that “it is in the bible, and therefore it true for all for all times” can raise havoc with our understanding of what a text says. Paul’s letters are that, letters written to a specific audience for a specific purpose. There are plenty of passages in the Pentateuch that give lie to the point of view that its true for all for all of time. If it is true for all time, why don’t we kill the ox that gores a neighbor after the owner was warned that it was dangerous? Or, why don’t women go outside of town for seven days when they experience their menstrual cycle? But you say, “well, that was the law, we are under grace.” Then what do we do with the Ten commandments? That was Law as well. We can’t pick and choose what we want to obey. I would never think of jumping into a discussion with someone without trying to understand the context and background of the conversation –and believe me, I’ve done it and made a fool of myself.

3. What is the REAL principle being taught in a passage? I once took a class on building codes when I was a property manager in the US. I remember that the instructor said that building codes, whether electrical, plumbing, etc., are the MINIMUM standard for safety, not a standard for excellence. I see much of what is said by Jesus and the NT authors falling into this category. If Paul is laying out a principle for a specific situation in a specific time and place, why should we think that this is the standard for all people in all places and all times? Why do we think that this is the highest standard of faith and expression of God’s will? We have no trouble saying that women wearing head coverings in church was for the church in Corinth at the time, but to spiritualize this concept and make it a standard for all to follow and for women to be properly submitted to their husbands/men/et. al. does violence to the text.

4. Remember, Just because Scripture is inspired and inerrant does not mean that your interpretation is as well. Look at the battles over justification and interpretation of Scripture during the reformation. Not only was there a divide between the Reformers and the Roman Catholics, there were also divisions between the Reformers themselves. At one time Calvin and Luther both called for the suppression of the Anabaptists, imprisoning and executing many of its adherents. Have we convicted and passed judgment on any Anabaptists lately?

5. God is not using sinners (women who desire a greater role in the Body of Christ) to shame the men because they have abdicated their roles somehow. Remember, the Sadducees, the priests and the scribes? They believed that the Temple in Jerusalem was God’s ultimate expression of his will. When he chose to have his temple on earth through Jesus Christ and then in the body of Christ, they missed the point and the boat, so to speak. Their theology was severely trumped by God’s action in Christ and as a result they were by-passed and suffered the destruction of the Temple complex in Jerusalem.

And if you are going to “cherry pick” subjects to defend and interpret, why pick just this one? The scriptures have a lot to say about gossip and slander, but if we see someone doing it, we don’t condemn them as a heretic and outside the will of God. Be careful what you wish for.

A final thought. Since so many of the passages lend themselves to different interpretations, perhaps we should take that as an admonition to go slowly and grant a lot of grace?

And if someone is seeking to find the will of God and serve him, should we stand in their way and condemn them for it? (see #1 above)

16 March 2014

Naaman: Faith and Expectations


2 Kings 5:1-15

Halley's Comet passed by the earth in 1985. One person, who had seen the comet 75 years earlier, was disappointed. He said it wasn't like before, he distinctly remembered hearing it go "WHOOOSH!" as it passed by. In 1996 the comet Hyakutake passed close to the earth. Appearing as a blur in the sky, it disappointed those who expected a fiery display. Our expectations of faith often resemble our expectations of comets. We hunger to see God do spectacular things, but instead, God will act is a way much different from our expectations and prayers.

1. How have you been blessed by someone in a way that you were not expecting?

2. 2 Kings 5:1-7. Who is Naaman and what is his situation? What contrasts or differences can you see between Naaman’s social and political positions and his physical condition?

3. How did the answer to Naaman's problem present itself (2 Kings 5:2-3)? What are some of the contrasts or differences that can you see in this encounter?

4. Why do you think the King of Syria (Aram) sent Naaman to the King of Israel (2 Kings 5:4-6)? What did he expect to accomplish with all this wealth?

5. Why did the king of Israel's respond this way? Could it cause problems for Naaman (2 Kings 5:7)?

6. 2 Kings 5:8-12. Why did Elisha the prophet get involved in Naaman's problem? What was his reason for getting involved in this issue?

7. Elisha never appears, he never meets Naaman. You do not see him.  Why does Elisha do this?

8. Why did Naaman react to Elisha in such a strong way (2 Kings 5:11-12)? What are his expectations?

9. 2 Kings 5:13-15. How did Naaman's servants show wisdom (2 Kings 5:13)?

10. Naaman begins to immerse himself seven times in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:14). What principles do these two actions show us? a) He turned around and went back; b) he did what Elisha commanded him to do.

11. What are your expectations of God? What do you want him to do? Are your expectations preventing you from hearing and obeying him?

Ask God for wise friends like the servants of Naaman who can give you wisdom and wise advice in your life.

26 July 2013

Building A Discipling Culture by Mike Breen


A. Very few people have been trained to make disciples.

Go-Make-Disciples-Framed1. With all the people who show up on Sunday to church, can we answer the question, “do their lives look like the lives of the people we see in scripture?

2. Jesus is not interested in numbers, budgets, buildings and attendance.

3. Is a disciple just someone who shows up at our stuff, gives money, and maybe feeds the poor or _____?

4. Church is the result or the effect of discipleship, not the other way around. (The church is not the cause of growth of the church.)

5. If you make disciples, you always get the church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples.

6. If you set out to build a church, you probably won’t grow disciples; you create consumers who depend on the spiritual services that the religious professionals provide.

26 April 2013

Joseph Mangina on Revelation 21

brazos-revelationThis excerpt comes from Revelation (BTCB) by Joseph L. Mangina, commenting on Rev. 21:1-6:

The vision in Rev. 21 opens with a great divine act of re-creation. As only God can create, calling suns and stars, water and land into existence at the beginning, so only God can restore, bringing into being a new world in which his will for his creatures is fully realized.

Apocalypse recapitulates Genesis. A fresh start is made. The first heaven and the first earth are not said to be destroyed, like death and hades in the previous chapter. John simply says that they “passed away” (apēltham). “The sea was no more,” not because the ocean as such is cursed, but because the sea in Israel’s imagination represents chaos, darkness, the deep. Now chaos yields to cosmos, disorder to peace, death to life.

God does this. It is not the outcome of any human scientific or technological achievement. The new city comes “down out of heaven from God,” a sheer miracle, a gift apocalyptically bestowed at the end of history and not the outcome of history itself. The unmistakable apocalyptic signature here is the word idou (“behold”), uttered first by a “loud voice from the throne” (21:3) and repeated by “he who was seated on the throne” (21:5).

his unambiguous act of divine speech is the first such we have heard since 1:8. Idou invites us not to act but to see, not to perform but to watch in awe, not to take action but to rejoice, welcoming the city’s gracious manifestation among us. . . .

The goal of all this is the establishing of communion: “Behold, the dwelling place [skēnē] of God is with man. He will dwell with them [skēnōsei met’ autōn], and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (21:3). The language is drawn from the law (Lev. 26:12) and the prophets (Ezek. 27:27), reminding us that the people of this God can only be Israel and not some generic “humanity.”

If grace does not destroy nature, still less does the new creation annul God’s covenant with Abraham! The language bespeaks a covenantal sense of mutuality, God with his people, the people with their God. The long history that reaches from Moses to David to Jeremiah and beyond is not undone.

Yet just as in the new creation imagery, John seems to envisage a certain return to the beginning: thus the image of the desert tabernacle, the skēnē, the tent of the divine presence. The tape is being rewound, past the historical Jerusalem with its compromised history, past even the settlement of the land, to the time of Israel’s wilderness wanderings. It is as though God’s new dwelling with Israel will combine the splendor of life in the city with the simplicity of life in the wilderness, when, for Jeremiah anyway, the bride of YHWH was still faithful to her spouse (Jer. 2:1-2).

But skēnē is also the language of incarnation. It is the term John the Evangelist uses to speak of the Son of God’s “tenting” or “tabernacling” in human flesh (John 1:14). Not, of course, that the heavenly city is identical with Christ’s historical sojourn in the flesh. But the city inhabits the space of divine-human communion he has established.

The “dwelling of God is with man,” first and decisively in Christ himself, then in the church so far as it is joined to his divine-human, life-giving person.

24 April 2013

Follow me–Suivez moi

A friend posted this article from Forbes, Leadership 310: The Four Principles of 'Followership'. I am reposting the main points with a few comments of my own.

The four key attributes to strong followership


1) Trust: In everyday behavior, followership requires that the leader provides evidence that they can be trusted.   Do you do what you say?  Do you answer questions honestly?  Are you transparent and share with the team your challenges, obstacles, and needs to achieve your larger goals?

2) Stability: Leaders with strong followership remain calm in the face of panic and give a sense of confidence to those around them.

3) Compassion: Strong followership leaders have unrelenting passion for people and show empathy when those folks are enduring hard times.

4) Hope: Followership requires that the leader has unwavering belief that their product/service will not only succeed, but will change lives.

Many times people are placed in leadership roles and inherently believe that their teams will follow them due to the title on their business card and not the substance of their character. Leadership is as much about being the person that people want to follow as it‘s about knowing where the team is headed.

I think the biblical corollaries are obvious. But which ones spring to mind for you? And more importantly:

Why would anyone want to follow you?

31 October 2012

Pastor as Prophet

transformedAn article by Chad Hall on the Transformed Blog:

What does the prophetic office look like in today’s church context?  I believe pastors are called to provide prophetic leadership via four specific practices:

  1. Preaching.  There is no substitute for sound, doctrinally solid, Spirit-invoked preaching that has as its aim the connection of God’s intent with God’s people.  In other words, prophets make God’s intent known so that God followers can live rightly.  Much preaching these days is more therapeutic than prophetic.  While prophetic preaching does heal (it’s God’s intent that we find wholeness and healing in Him), it is not merely therapeutic in the most popular sense (aimed at helping people feel good about themselves and/or have felt needs met).
  2. Decision-making: Prophetic leadership happens from the pulpit, but it also happens in board meetings, in one-on-one ministry settings, and in the budgeting processes.  Churches need prophetic pastors who challenge their institutional processes, question the status quo, and push for godly change within the church.  Prophetic pastors resist mere pragmatism and opt for decision-making processes that implement God’s intent.
  3. Vision casting: A key pastoral role is to inspire a shared vision of who a congregation is to be in the midst of their community and world and what the church is to do in order to live out this vision.  The vision comes from God and is oftentimes first witnessed by mature church members (they catch glimpses of what God is calling the church to be and do).  It is the pastor’s responsibility to listen deeply, discern prayerfully, and then speak compassionately so that the entire church community can see clearly the vision God has for their body and then carry out that vision.
  4. Community engagement:  The prophetic pastoral role extends beyond leading the local body of believers to being a God-ordained witness to the world.  As the OT prophets challenged Israel and their neighbors, a prophetic pastor will bring a message of God’s intent to the church, to those who are marginal to the church, and to the community in which the church lives.  This does not mean the pastor calls the unchurched to behave as if they were all Christ-followers.  Instead, this is a specific type of evangelism: sharing the good news of God’s intent with those who are currently far from God in expectation that they will repent and align themselves with God through Christ.

Food for thought.