Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What Does the Bible Have to Say About: Women

There can be no doubt about the tense political climate in the United States in recent years.  This is particularly so this year given this is a presidential election year.  The divide on social issues continues to widen and many people are increasingly bold in the expression of their views.  What I find troubling are the statements from some about things that are contained in the Bible without any reference to Scripture supporting their assertions about women, slavery, homosexuality, etc.  I recently saw a statement on Facebook that the teachings of the Bible cannot be moral unless one also accepts God’s endorsement of slavery.  That suggestion is simply preposterous!

Theologians have been debating the meaning of Scripture for centuries.  This debate will continue but it is a debate that centers on specific Scriptures and the various differing interpretations used to arrive at the understanding of those Scriptures.  This is in contrast to the generalizations used by some people trying to score political points with a given constituency.  But what does the Bible actually say about these and other issues?

In the coming weeks, I will be writing on some of these issues and attempt to present the biblical view as I understand it.  I will provide specific references to Scripture and admit that, at times, a given passage may have more than one possible understanding.  That, however, is a place from which a reasoned discussion can begin.  Rather than making blanket statements with little or no basis on biblical truth, the Bible itself will be our guide.

As a starting point, I would like to take a look at what the Bible has to say about men and women.  I often hear and read statements from people about how the Bible advocates poor treatment of women.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Scripture in no way implies the subordination or inferiority or women.  In fact, the Bible teaches that husbands and wives are heirs together of the grace of life and are mutually responsible to each other (Gen. 21:12; 1 Cor. 7:3-5; Eph. 5:21; 1 Peter 3:1-7). 

What about kids?  The Bible teaches that both parents are to exercise leadership in raising their children (Ex. 20:12; Lev. 19:3; Deut. 6:6-9, 21:18-21, 27:16; Prov. 1:8, 6:20; Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20; 2 Tim. 1:5; Luke 2:51). Children do best when they are raised by a loving father and mother according to research that is actually based on a probability sample (kind of a big deal for scientific research!).  Mom and dad need to be engaged in raising their children!

Joint heirs together.  Mutually responsible to each other.  Raising children together.  I could easily go on!  That sure doesn’t sound like a low view of women to me unless of course on is assuming a low view of men as well.  The notion that the Bible teaches anything other than mutual love and respect of women is simply untrue.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

One Giant Leap

266 days before I was born, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins made history.  Armstrong was the first man on the moon uttering perhaps the most famous phrase of the 20th century. People the world over admired him, a generation of children wanted to be just like him, and though he certainly understood the magnitude of his accomplishment, he remained a humble man until his passing August 25, 2012.  

His family made the following request concerning a tribute to Armstrong, "For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request.  Honor his example of service, accomplishment, and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

Thank you for your service to our nation and the world, your example of service and modesty, and the courage to live a life of humility and faith in Christ rather than being wrapped up in the trappings of fame that you could have easily embraced.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

My MRE is Finished!

Yesterday afternoon I sat down and took the last final exam in my Master of Religious Education program at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary (LBTS) of Liberty University.  My last term paper already submitted the previous evening; it was time to conclude my studies of the last 3 ½ years and turn my sights towards the future.  I am pleased to say I finished strong with a grade of 100% on that exam.

What can I say of my time studying for this latest milestone?  Twenty classes later, dozens and dozens of books, journal articles, and (at times) interesting websites later, what have I learned?  Well, quite a lot actually!  I cannot imagine anyone spending this much time in study and not only learning a great deal but also not being changed profoundly by the experience.  I certainly have in both respects.

First and foremost, no man is an island!  To say that I could not have completed this program without the support of my wife and children would likely be the greatest understatement ever.  With many long nights in study or writing or taking a test, etc. now behind me, it is easy to see just how much they supported this effort.  Their love and constant support deserve more than mere words can convey.  For now, I will simply say “thank you!”

As one might expect, I have learned that there is a great deal more to knowing the Bible than one might expect sitting in Sunday School/small group meetings.  Biblical theology, systematic theology, hermeneutics, exegesis, the impact of Scripture on worldview, and on and on all play a part.  My point?  The level of education the ministers in many churches possess has likely never been any greater than it is at this point in history.  That is not to say education is the end all be all for Christian service but it sure doesn’t hurt!  Many churches are blessed to have ministers on staff with as much (if not more) formal education as the medical doctors and attorneys in their pews (yes folks...doctors and lawyers go to church too!).  Take advantage of this blessing!

It is amazing what some people think they know about what the Bible says about particular topics as compared to what it actually says.  This goes for both church members and people who do not attend church.  It is actually staggering that some people, well meaning, educated people want to argue about what Scripture actually says without referring to Scripture.  I find it equally staggering that many of those same people simply will not listen when the truth is spoken.  During a class discussion I mentioned this and was reminded of 1 Corinthians 2:14.  The Bible is spiritually discerned and apart from the Holy Spirit is foolishness to those who read them.  Given this truth there is little wonder so many people have such little interest in what the Bible has to say.

There are so many people in need right here in our own communities that every member of every church should have no problem finding a place of service.  Indeed the harvest is great but the laborers are few (Luke 10:2).  Something to think about: when was the last time you took advantage of an opportunity to intentionally serve another in a context outside of your normal day-to-day activities?  Think about it!

Finally, life is challenging alone.  Even with the support of my family, seminary was more challenging when we were not plugged in to a small group and it was easier when we were.  I cherish the group of people in our small group!  People are made to be in community with each other, not isolated from the rest of the world.  If you are not part of a Sunday School class or small group (depending on how your church does this) then I urge you to consider it.  I can assure you of this: you will be blessed by the experience.  Also, you may be a blessing to others!

As always, I am grateful for the support of my readers from across the United States and around the world (ain’t the internet amazing!).  I covet your prayers more than you can possibly know!  Please continue to pray for me and my family as I consider doctoral studies (my bride has already begun a doctoral program).  I just might have one more degree in me...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Review: Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation by Ed Stetzer

Stetzer, Ed. Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation.
Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2012. 236 pp. $14.99. 
ISBN 978-1-4336-7382-5.
Reviewed by Christopher Sanchez.

A quick look around Christendom in America today is pretty telling.  There are millions of people who claim to be Christians yet there is no apparent change in their lives.  Those who regularly attend worship services in our churches are virtually indistinguishable from those who do not.  God’s word at work in people’s lives should lead to changed lives and Ed Stetzer’s new book Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation calls the Christian community to task.  Stetzer breaks his book into three sections: Part One – A Subversive Way of Thinking; Part Two – A Subversive Way of Life; and Part Three – A Subversive Plan of Action.

Stetzer introduces the book by explaining his purpose and framing the discussion in the familiar Already, but Not Yet motif that describes the Kingdom of God as having been inaugurated with the first coming of Christ but not yet consummated until the second coming of Christ.  The illustration of D-Day in World War II as the inauguration of the end of the war and VE Day as the consummation of the end of the war is well made (p. 50).  Essentially we are caught between those two events.  While we are in between, we are to be about the business of sharing Jesus with a broken world (p. 57) and alleviate the needs around us (p. 58), both in our local community and the larger world (p. 59).  Nothing new in any of that but then again, we must need the reminder or there wouldn’t be so many members of our churches still on the sidelines!

The longest section of the book is part two where Stetzer discusses at length what Christian living should look like.  We are to ready for the return of Christ and different in the process.  Stetzer points out that we are all different by God’s design (p. 83-85) that we have a wrong sense of equality.  Yes, everyone is equal in the site of God but we are all gifted in different ways.  Stetzer moves on to call on Christians to be uncommonly good.  The behavior of Christians should be different, uncommon behavior in the communities in which they live.  Stetzer challenges people to respond differently to the people and circumstances around us.  This includes loving our enemies (p. 132)!  Stetzer concludes this section with twenty pages on eliminating idols in our lives where more than a few toes are sure to be stepped on.

Where Part Two focused inward, Part Three focuses outward.  God has a mission and His mission outranks whatever other mission we as Christians may have placed as a priority in our lives (p. 166).  We are to bring glory to our King as we seek to serve Him yet too often the motivations of our churches is something other than this simple goal.  Living for Christ and trying to impact the world for His kingdom with a right motive is not all we are.  We are more!  We are signs of the kingdom, windows to the world (p. 188).  Yet one of the reasons we fail to be a bright light in that window is that we simply forget just how dark the world really is. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the complimentary copy I received for review purposes.  Stetzer is not breaking new ground with Subversive Kingdom but he does address the issue of right Christian living from a fresh perspective.  Filled with humility, personal examples, and an impressive amount of theology for a book of this length, Stetzer’s easy to read style will be familiar to those who have read his previous work.  Perhaps best known in Southern Baptist circles, Stetzer’s new book seemingly pulls the best in Christian living from all corners of the faith.  This strength will draw in even the most casual of readers giving them food for thought for some time to come.  It is with pleasure that I recommend this book to both new and mature Christians alike.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

World Evangelism: Compelling Biblical Passages

Let me begin with the passage that nearly everyone in will reference when considering world evangelism: Matthew 28:18-20:

            And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)

In my opinion any discussion that includes World Evangelism as a topic simply must include the Great Commission.  In addition to the passage from Matthew, it is appropriate to cross reference Mark 16:15, Luke 16:15, and Acts 1:8.  The beauty of these passages is that Christ personally encouraged his followers to go tell the world about Him.

Yet there is so much more in Scripture about sharing the glory of God with the world.  2 Kings 17:27-28 records the king of Assyria commanding that a priest be sent to teach others about the Lord.  1 Chronicles 16:23-24; Psalm 18:49 and 96:3 all tell of the command to declare the glory of the Lord among the heathen.  Thousands of years ago God wanted people to know Him.

A more personal command was given to Jonah to go and preach to the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-2).  It is the personal nature of the gospel that is most compelling to me.  A reluctant Jonah was told to go and after arguing and running away, he was finally obedient to the command of God.  Jonah never really had a choice.  The same is probably true of each member of this class.  For me, preparing myself for the ministry that the Lord has already prepared for me was not a choice of mine. 

In 1 Timothy 1:12-13 Paul expresses his amazement that he had been judged faithful.  The Greek word Paul used here (πιστός pistos) has more meaning than simply “faithful”.  Additional meaning found here includes trustworthy, reliable, sure, lasting, and worthy of credit.[1]  To me, that is personal and a tremendous responsibility that weighs heavily. 

We are to tell the world about Christ so that they may come to saving faith in Him who sent us.  I conclude simply by pondering Romans 10:14.  Collectively, these passages are the most compelling in Scripture when I consider World Evangelism. 

[1] Newman, Barclay Moon. A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; United Bible Societies, 1993), 143.