A Helpful Aussie Writing on Men and Women

Working toward the establishment of a team of elders is one of the major endeavors of my home church, Felton Bible Church, during 2018.  As we’ve begun to discuss this step of faith, we have been (and will be) talking about God’s roles for men and women in the body of Christ (and in life generally).  Some of you may recognize the terms “complementarian” and “egalitarian.”  For better or worse, these are shorthand ways of describing a person’s belief about gender roles in God’s design.  Speaking far too simply, complementarians generally affirm two beliefs: 1) God has created men and women equal; 2) For his glory and our joy, God has endowed men and women with distinct roles and responsibilities, both within the family and within the body of Christ.  In short, complementarianism is “equality with distinction.”  Conversely, egalitarians articulate a different manner of thinking: 1) God has created men and women equal; 2) Equality means that there is little-to-no distinction between men and women with respect to roles and responsibilities, both in the family and in the church.  Such, in a limited sense, are the distinctive points of each position.

Insomuch as labels are helpful, I am complementarian.  Why?  Because Scripture is very clear regarding the utter equality of men and women before God…and…regarding the important distinctions between men and women in the God-given economy of the family and the church.  When we set such distinctions aside, we run counter to God’s plan and purpose.

My point for saying all of the above is really to recommend the following article, written by Mark Thompson (the “Principle” of Australia’s Moore Theological College, and “a canon of St. Andrews Cathedral, Sydney”): “Is There a Place for Women on a Theological College Faculty.”  In this article, Thompson responds to a recent opinion voiced by John Piper regarding women serving as seminary faculty (you can find Piper’s opinion here: “Ask Pastor John: Is There a Place for Female Professors at Seminary”).  You may or may not be interested in the views of each individual with respect to the question at hand…but that’s really not my point.  Rather, I recommend Thompson’s article because, on the way to answering Piper, Thompson does a beautiful job voicing the complementarian position.  He does so in a markedly winsome manner, especially as he articulates gender roles with respect to the local church.  I hope you’ll take the time to read Thompson’s relatively short article.

(Note: For clarity’s sake, I tend to side with Thompson on this issue, even as I am quite sympathetic to Piper’s overall point.  It is possible for a seminary to completely miss the boat with respect to seeing and affirming God’s good purpose for men and women in terms of their faculty selection and assignments.  That said, I don’t think that what is binding on the local church translates, “whole hog,” into the context of the seminary.  There is a larger conversation here about the role of seminaries, the role of specific programs and classes within a seminary program, and the corresponding needs with respect to men and women professors serving in a seminary.)

Many Witnesses…

Here’s a brief post that draws on my article for the monthly Chatter (church newsletter) for Felton Bible Church.  It pertains to our study through the Gospel of Luke:

As we’ve worked through the first two chapters of Luke, I’m struck by the multiplicity of persons and stories with whom Luke engages.  So far, we’ve seen this gospel writer in conversation with Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, unnamed shepherds, Simeon, and Anna.  In actuality, we can’t know just how many witnesses Luke personally interviewed, or whose testimony he heard told, in order to compile his “orderly account.”  Undoubtedly, Luke was a skilled investigator and reporter.  This observation suggests to my mind a few things worth mentioning:

1) Notice how no one person had the full picture of Jesus’ arrival, including as it pertained to the birth of his forerunner, John the Baptist.  Knowing the whole story of God’s work and ways required his people to be together, to talk, to interact, to share, and to story-tell.  No wonder the author of Hebrews exhorts us to not neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25)!

2) The reality of many witnesses ought to encourage us as to the veracity of what we read in Luke’s Gospel.  If Luke was fabricating his account, there were, even in his day, plenty of others to cry “foul!”  What we read in this gospel is one truth told through the perspective of many witnesses.

3) The pattern of many witnesses ought to make us cautious, if not downright skeptical, of single-source eyewitness accounts, especially when those accounts do not otherwise comport with God’s revealed truth.  For instance, why should we strongly reject the claims made by Joseph Smith about his experience of visions with the Father, the Son, and an angel named Moroni?  Well, we reject them in part because the only witness to these events was Smith himself, and what he experienced and taught contradicts Scripture.  The same can be said about the experience of Muhammed regarding his alleged reception of the Quran through various revelations from God.  This does not mean that every single-source account is suspect, but it certainly means that God’s Word forms the first standard against which we judge any claim of a vision or word from the Lord.

4) The pattern we see in Luke of multiple witnesses – i.e. no one person had the full story – suggests to us that God continues to work in the same manner today.  Do you want to know what God is up to in this world?  Then talk with your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Read their stories, especially the stories of those from a different culture or geographic location.  Consider how the experience of the church around you reflects the truth of Scripture.  It is absolutely essential that the body of Christ be in conversation with one another.  May our conversations range far and wide as God gives us opportunity to know Jesus’ church in many locales.

 

 

In the Refining Fire of God

Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.”  Crucibles and furnaces serve to refine metal.  They must burn hot in order to do their job.  Heat refines the metal.

The author of this Proverb compares the Lord to a crucible or a furnace.  The Lord too burns with intense heat, and yet it is a heat no furnace could ever hope to match.  Our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:9, Deuteronomy 4:24).  Why is it that he burns so hot?  It’s because the material on which he works is infinitely more precious than silver or gold – God works on the heart.  It’s also because the dross and impurity he will burn away clings with a tenaciousness no physical impurity of metal ever matched – God burns away sin.  Should we be surprised then when we encounter burning trials, even extended burning trials, that refine and test our very souls?  The obvious answer is, “No,” in fact, we should expect and even welcome such times.  It’s no surprise then that Peter writes this: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you…For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” – 1 Peter 4:12, 17.

Peter raises a sobering but glorious truth.  One way or another we will all experience the fire of God.  It will either come as his refining work in us – work that leaves us purified and ready for the courts of heaven – or as his eternal judgment on our unrepentant sin.  May we experience the fire of God in a life spent following Jesus, and not in eternity under the wrath of God in Hell!

A last point of encouragement for the Christian walking through our Lord’s refining furnace is this: Our God walks with us in the fire.  I think there is no better image of this truth than Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego enduring Nebuchadnezzar’s persecuting anger.  As these three literally fell into the fire, Nebuchadnezzar noticed they were not alone: “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?…But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:24b, 25).  As they walked through the fire of a petty tyrant, these men of faith experienced the protecting presence of God’s angel.  Should we expect any less when we walk through the refining processes that our Creator ordains for us?  God does not let his children walk alone in the fires that he designs for them to endure.  He goes with them…

Here’s a link to a song that you might appreciate relevant to Proverbs 17:3: “Though You Slay Me” by Shane and Shane.

Bethlehem First…Then Jerusalem

Recently I had the chance to preach from Luke 2:1-7.  One noteworthy aspect of Jesus’ birth is the fact that it occurred in Bethlehem, and not Jerusalem.  Of course, Bethlehem was the necessary location based on God’s prophetic word in Micah 5:2ff, but it was also a remarkably symbolic spot.  Birth in Bethlehem associated the kingly, divine, and messianic Jesus with his royal forbearer, David, but it did so in a particular manner.  Birth in Bethlehem associated Jesus especially with David’s humble beginnings as a shepherd, and not first with David’s later royal rule as symbolized in the City of David (see 2 Samuel 5:9).  David’s son, who is also David’s Lord, would be, like his ancestral father, a shepherd king marked by humility (Note: I’m helped in this paragraph by David Garland’s great Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament – see pages 119-120).

Bethlehem Church of the Nativity
Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity
City of David
City of David (area to the lower right with green trees showing)

Now, what I find fascinating is the way this situation will reverse at Jesus’ second coming.  The Bible associates Jesus’ return not with obscure Bethlehem, but rather with royal Jerusalem (Isaiah 66:15-24, perhaps Ezekiel 40-48, Acts 1:9-12, Revelation 21-22).  If the baby Jesus came in association with David’s humble beginnings as a lowly shepherd, the man Jesus will return in association with David’s powerful reign.  We can debate whether the biblical view of Jesus’ return pertains at all to a physical Jerusalem (I for one think it probably does), but the symbolized message is clear no matter what: Jesus will return as the ruling sovereign of the universe.

North Toward Old City
Looking north up the Kidron Valley (Old City on the far left; Mount of Olives on the right)

Jesus will return as the king Shepherd and the ruling Savior.  When he does, may he find us to be delighted subjects!

Be Still…I’ve Got This Covered

I’ve been reading lately about the patterns of worship God prescribed for his people Israel – patterns of gatherings, feasts, and sacrifices as detailed in Leviticus, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Today I’m struck by these verses from Exodus:

Exodus 34:21 – Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest.  In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.

 I assume here that plowing time and harvest are the two “peak periods” for a farming society.  They are the “all-hands-on-deck” seasons of work.  In our day and age, we might wonder at the very idea of resting during such a time.  Shouldn’t we work hardest during this period?  Isn’t this the time when the most money is to be made, or when there is the most unavoidable work to do?  And yet, it is precisely at such a point that God calls his people to rest.  He calls them to recognize, remember, and confess with their bodily action that he is the one who keeps and provides.  He calls them to remember that they can trust their most basic needs (like food, air, water) to him and him alone.

Granted, we don’t live under Mosaic Law, but Mosaic Law tells us still who God is and how he works.  It even gives us some inkling of how our lives in worship ought to reflect his character and ways.  So, let me ask this (for myself and all of you): How does God call us to rest, especially at plowing time and in harvest?

Exodus 34:23-24 – Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.  For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year.

 God required of Israel that all the males among the Hebrews appear before him three times annually (I think the text refers to males who have been weaned from their mother’s care, and probably even those who have reached the point of “manhood,” or accountability under the Law).  This meant traveling to the location where God made his name to dwell, represented by the presence of the Ark of the Covenant.  Eventually, it meant traveling to Jerusalem and appearing at the Solomonic temple.

Now, there’s only one problem with such an arrangement.  With all the men gone, what happens when the “bad guys” come?  Even if the women and children traveled with (as they likely did on many occasions…see the story of Hannah), what about the farms and belongings left at home?  And yet, for this God has an answer: “Leave it to me…I’ve got it covered.”  Notice how Exodus promises the Lord’s protection on his land, apparently with special concern during the times of annual corporate worship.

If nothing else, this promise from Exodus is a wide-open invitation to trust God; to trust him even with that which is most precious to us.  We can do what he asks no matter how risky it seems.  Not only can we do what he asks, but we must.  Indeed, how could we do anything but obey him?

Waiting On a Sanctified Mind…

If you read my previous post pertinent to the title of this site, then hopefully you’ll know why this line from Charles Spurgeon is so apropos: [Speaking of God] “That glorious right hand which moulded the world can new-create my mind…” (Morning and Evening: Daily Readings by C.H. Spurgeon – Evening, January 6th).  In other words, the hope and prayer that the title of this blog expresses is not a vain hope.  God will redeem and restore the minds of his children, just as he does every other part of our personhood.  In his book, Reformed Theology, R. Michael Allen says this: “…the redemption and sanctification of human reasoning has not been completed yet” (pg. 19).  Imagine what it must be like to comprehend God (not to mention one another and creation itself) with human reasoning that is fully sanctified.  I look forward to that day…

A Beginning…

Greetings!  If you’re reading this, you’re reading my beginnings as a formal “blogger,” though certainly not my beginnings as a formal and informal writer.  My desire for this site is that everything about it will glorify Jesus Christ – God, the Son of God, the crucified and risen Savior, the ruling King who will return at precisely the right time to judge and to gather his people.  Specifically, my hope is that Jesus’ church will be edified by the content of this page.  In particular, I hope that Jesus’ people who gather as Felton Bible Church (in Felton, CA) will find themselves encouraged, exhorted, informed, challenged, and changed by truth they might encounter here.  It is my privilege to follow Jesus in partnership and fellowship with my brothers and sisters at FBC.  Thus, it is they who remain uppermost in my mind.  That said, perhaps the Lord would be pleased to put this site to work in ways that extend beyond FBC.  Perhaps he might even be pleased to work for the salvation of some through this site.  May it be so Lord Jesus!

From the outset, let me explain the title of this blog – “Fix Your Mind.”  This title draws on Colossians 3:1-4, even as it reflects much of my own angst, difficulty, and struggle in following Jesus.  My greatest battles of faith and life occur in my mind.  By “mind,” I mean the deep part of myself that is the essentially spiritual link between a physical brain, a physical heart, and my real but intangible soul.  It is here that I feel my sinful brokenness most; here that I am earnest to experience God’s deep cleansing and sanctifying work, for his glory and my joy.  Thus, my title is a prayer; a cry to God that he would complete the good work he has already begun in me (Philippians 1:6).

But, this title is also a word of praise, an exhortation, and a proclamation of steadfast hope.  As broken as my mind all too often is, as burdened as it can become, my hope lies not in me, but in Christ.  Here is what Paul says in Colossians 3:1-4: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  That’s amazing!  Because I am raised from the deadness of sin in Jesus, I can seek the things that are above; things pertaining to God, to life, to joy, to holiness.  Because I am hidden in Christ, I will, one day, enjoy a mind that is, like his, unhindered and unburdened by sin.  Because I am hidden in Christ and his perfect righteousness, I can, even now, pursue the holiness of mind without which no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14).  Thus, I seek to “set my mind” or “fix my mind” on Jesus.

As I conclude for now, I admit it…I am tweaking somewhat the English translation of Colossians 3 (in the English Standard Version) – from “set” to “fix” – but I trust you will allow me some literary license to do so.  Besides, “fix” might not be such a bad rendering of the Greek φρονεω after all.

Thank you for reading.  I’m committed to write as the Spirit intends and leads.  Come back in the future, and I pray you’ll be blessed in the coming!