Forgotten God Study Group

If you are interested in a physical world book group on Francis Chan's Forgotten God and live in the proximity of Antwerp, Ohio, then you are invited to my Forgotten God group. We will be meeting on Thursdays at 6:30 starting January 12. We will be discussing one chapter a night. This will continue through Thursday, February 23.


January 12 - Chapter One: I Got Jesus, Why Do I Need The Spirit?
January 19 - Chapter Two: What Are You Afraid Of?
January 26 - Chapter Three: Theology Of The Holy Spirit 101
February 2 - Chapter Four: Why Do You Want Him?
February 9 - Chapter Five: A Real Relationship
February 16 - Chapter Six: Forgive About His Will For Your Life!
February 23  - Chapter Seven: Supernatural Church

Feel free to ask if you have any questions. Also, please let me know if you plan on coming. Depending on the amount of people we might meet in a house. If it is too large we will meet out at the Riverside Family Center.


You are responsible to get your own book. Provided is a convenient Amazon link.







Tony Campolo - Birthday Party for Agnes

Here is video from my favorite Tony Campolo illustration. When I met him, he told me that this story is real.

I am always broken and inspired when I hear this story. It's a great broken. It's like that moment where you glimpse that life is much more than we are currently experiencing.

When I ponder what is grace, this story reminds me of what it looks like today.

video

The story in written format can be found here.

A Christmas Story - Fra-gi-le. It must be Italian.


video

This is my final article spinning out of scenes from the Christmas cult classic, A Christmas Story. The Old Man, the name given to Ralphie’s father in the movie, entered a contest to win a prize. And he won! The prize came in a giant box labeled “fragile.” Upon seeing “fragile” on the box, the Old Man said, “Fra-gi-le. It must be Italian.” He was excited, barely able to contain his excitement. He clamored to open up the box.

When all the packing materials were removed out came a plastic leg. Not just your normal, everyday plastic leg. No, this leg was a leg lamp with fish net stockings. The Old Man wanted to put it right in the middle of the front room window, so that everybody going by the house could see it. After positioning the lamp exactly where he wanted it, the Old Man exclaimed, “Oh, look at that. Will you look at that? Isn’t that glorious? It’s indescribably beautiful. It reminds me of the 4th of July!”

A little over the top. It’s easy for us to acknowledge that the old man’s behavior when he opened the leg lamp was utterly ridiculous, but we do the same thing. Only not with leg lamps. Our idols are much better disguised.

John wrote one of my favorite letters and the Bible. He concluded his letter, which we know as 1st John, with the statement that we are to keep ourselves from idols. John’s letter emphasizes love. It is one of the harshest letters in the Bible. Not because loving is harsh, but because he tells us what is the punishment for not loving. In it we see John tell the readers that if they don’t love the people around them then they don’t love God. And if they don’t love God, God has no room for them in His family.

It seems a little weird for the letter to end in a command to keep ourselves from idols when the rest of the letter didn’t even talk about idols, but John knew what he was doing. We cannot properly love when we have idols in our life. But let me clarify what an idol is. An idol doesn’t have to be some gold statue or special relic from long ago. An idol is anything that prevents us from focusing on what we’re supposed to be focused on.

This leads me to ask, “What is your leg lamp?” What is your idol? What is it that you have in your life that you focus on, that you find beautiful, and that really controls your life? Because if you are focused on the wrong thing, then you have an idol. It doesn’t matter how good that wrong thing is; if it’s not the right thing, then it’s an idol.

Let’s test it with a completely good thing, the Bible. The Bible is a tool for us to get to know God. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many people turn the Bible into an idol. It transforms from being a great tool to show us God and relay His will for our life to being the end all of our faith. When the Bible becomes more important than Jesus—when the Bible becomes more important than loving our neighbor—when knowledge of the Bible becomes an end to itself, we have missed the point. We have turned the word of God, which we are so richly blessed with, into an idol.

Now if this can happen with the word of God, then it can also happen to anything else in our life. We have to be careful.

The idols in our life don’t come wrapped in a giant box and appear to be a useless leg lamp. The tricks Satan uses on us and our own self-deception are more covert than that.

Jesus came into this world, as we remember this time of year, to free us from sin. We might not have a leg lamp, but I guarantee that we do have idols. As John concluded in his letter, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21 ESV).

A Christmas Story - The Bell Rang


video

If you have seen the movie or the play A Christmas Story, you will remember the scene where Ralphie’s friend Schwartz unleashed the triple-dog dare on Flick on the playground. Flick couldn’t stand up to the pressure of such a lofty dare, despite the breach of etiquette, and licked the pole. He found himself stuck by his tongue to the pole on the cold playground. Then the bell rang. All the kids started running back to the school building. As Flick was pleading for them to come back, one of the friends asked, “What are you gonna do?” Ralphie just said, “I don’t know. The bell rang.” And he ran off to leave Flick stuck to the pole.

When Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John, they immediately left what they were doing and followed him. Immediately. They didn’t hesitate. They dropped their work tools and immediately followed Jesus.

Later in his ministry, Jesus encountered three other guys. They came up with excuses to not follow Him despite making comments suggesting that they wanted to follow Him. They just wished following Him was a little more convenient. Jesus replied with three overstatements. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head…Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God… No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:57-62 ESV). He spoke against security, waiting for the perfect situation, and looking back.

Those three had their “buts”, but what is your big “but”? It might be similar to the “buts” of those three men. Are you putting off doing what you know God wants until you are a little more secure in life, whether that is a job, home, or something else? You may be waiting for the finances to be just right in your life to start giving the way God wants you to. In this case, you think you are willing to follow God but His timing is just a little off. You assume, and wrongly so, that the perfect situation to follow Him and take spirituality seriously is something that you can do at some perfect point in the future. Maybe you would like to follow Him, but you just aren’t ready to give up the life that you are currently enjoying.

Your reasons may be completely different than those expressed by the three Jesus encountered. It could be your popularity. Following Jesus would probably cause that to dwindle as you would become a little freakish in almost all areas of your life. It could be the way you entertain yourself. Following Jesus usually does change that. Whatever your excuse is, big “buts” get in the way of us surrendering ourselves to Jesus and living His life in the here and now. Honestly, when we look in the spiritual mirror, we each have big “buts” that we wrestle with. Some bigger than others, but each one is something that needs to be done away with if we are going to have the spiritual body God wants us to have.

The problem is that we cannot be the people that God wants us to be because we don’t have the surrendered heart of the early church. Check out that church in Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37 to get a glimpse of how Christians living together the way God intended can really impact their lives and the lives of those around them. When it comes down to it, we aren’t really followers of Jesus; we’re just fans. We like Jesus, but we aren’t ready to surrender our whole life to Him.

We must ask ourselves, “Are we only a fan of Jesus?” He asks for total surrender; he asks for us to immediately follow him; he asks for us to carry our cross, but are we just fans?

Ralphie struggled with indecision. Ralphie said, “I don’t know. The bell rang.” He knew that he should help Flick, but he was stuck in the routine of going back in when the bell rang. His indecision was a decision; indecision is always a decision.

The decision that God wants us to make is to immediately follow Jesus, no matter what the cost. No matter how crazy it seems. Not tomorrow. Today.  Immediately.

What change do you need to make? What thought do you need to wrestle with and discard? Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to love?

God is in the “now” business. So often we live in the past or the future; however, God wants us to be living the life He designed us to live right now. Living the way He wants us to right now is the only way we can insure that we will be where He wants us to be in the future.

Living in God’s will daily is like having a baby. This time of year we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, God coming from heaven and becoming flesh to save the world. But there is the human side of it. For Jesus to come into the world, Mary had to deliver him. I don't know if you have ever had a baby or seen a woman in labor, but when the time is now, it's now.

The time for us to be who God wants us to be is now.

Living in a Church that disagrees with me on Women's Role in the Church



Like the previous post. This post was originally posted over at Chi Rho Live. That was a shared blog with two friends from college. I include the comments below the original post. This was written a while ago. Many of you who go to Riverside will notice that we are not like the church described in this post.

Through the discussion on women's role, I am reminded of my posts on the origins of the Restoration Movement and its attempt at unity.

In that post, I shared Campbell's view that unity could only come about if the people shared a common hermeneutical method (that is a way of studying Scripture). Troy mentioned in one of his replies that women's role is not a salvation issue, and I would agree with that. Both sides believe that it is a "being the church that God intended" issue - something that we believe would make us more effective at being the people of God.

With this post, I am going to share some of my personal thoughts and struggles with the issue since I think Sam laid out the scriptural explanation better than I could. No reason to try to repeat something that was well done and still resides here to be read by anyone.

Sadly, I do not see a way around the issue of women's role creating disunity within a church without one side just acquiescing to the other. It is that way in my current church situation. At my church women are never allowed to teach men, lead in prayer, serve in a deacon capacity, or even lead the singing portion of the gathering. They can do a special musical number, teach other women, be the treasurer, fill the communion cups, or teach the children. I have decided to not make it an issue of division despite the fact that it makes my wife under utilized and makes me uncomfortable as her spiritual partner, and I am hesitant to raise my children (especially daughters) in such an environment. In this situation, I am the one that acquiesces. I struggle with whether I should.

Women's role is not something that can be avoided. I can avoid the topic of spiritual gifts because I believe they will be used whether or not an individual believes in them. I can avoid the discussion of whether someone can be saved without being baptized because I teach that people should be baptized. But I cannot take a similar approach to women's role. By remaining silent, I allow for the women in the church and in my immediate family to be treated as an inferior. If I were to speak up, I would more than likely cause division - even if it was just teaching one Sunday School lesson on the subject. It is difficult to know what to do. Most issues where I disagree with the church, I can still believe and practice what I interpret the Bible as teaching whether or not the church as a whole believes or practices what I believe. With the women's role issue, it is directly related to a women's involvment in the corporate gatherings. There is no private practice or belief that can allow me to be comfortable with the situation. I can treat Lindsay (my wife) as an equal at home, but I cannot convince others to allow her to use her musical gifts and lead worship at our church despite the fact that the church would benefit from her doing so.

I do not feel that one should leave a church over any disagreement. However, I did leave the previous denomenational church that I was attending due to the fact that I would not be allowed to use my administrative gifts because I would not give up some convictions of Scripture that I believed (and still do believe). My experience was that denominations are much more dogmatic about leaders holding certain beliefs than the Churches of Christ/Christian Churches. I find that believing the Bible to be the primary authority on doctrine and practice is enough to satisfy most Church of Christ/Christian Church people. But I am left with the dilemma that Lindsay currently faces the same situation I faced, albeit her dilemma is caused by her gender and not by a conviction she holds about a teaching of Scripture. Ironically, Lindsay's gifts were much more utilized at the church we left.

One other observation on women's role and then I will call it a day. One problem with the situation that many churches find themselves in is that the women who want to be in leadership are the type of people that should not be in leadership. What I mean by that is that in an environment where women are oppressed, the dominineering, stubborn, and aggressive women are more likely to stand up and make their opinions and desires to lead be known. This type of personality does not make a good leader whether they are a man or a woman. The type of woman who would make a great leader is the one who does not make waves and accepts her oppression by reciprocating love. This woman would not make power grabs for the positions of church leadership that she is qualified for; she would not try to manipulate the church behind the scenes. She would respond in love and do what she is allowed to do, or she would quietly leave the church to find a place where she could use her God-given gifts and talents. It seems to me that it is up to the men (only because they are the ones in leadership in these situations) to discover these women and unleash their spiritual gifts upon the church for the glory of the Kingdom, rather than relegate them to "womens" ministries.

But how do we do that in an environment that does not believe the women have that right? I do not have an answer. And I will continue to pray and look for opportunities to bring about God's perfect kingdom here on earth. This is just one part of that.

Orignal comments below:

 shannoncaroland said...
Part of this makes me chuckle. They are not allowed to lead a prayer or worship? I have never heard of that. They are trying to systematically stop women from leading. The funny part about that is it cannot work. It's futile. Leadership is nothing more than influence. Any godly woman will find god's people following her example. It cannot be stopped.
FEBRUARY 26, 2008 8:59 AM

 Sam said...
As I have been considering your predicament, my thoughts were drawn to my own history and spiritual formation. After all, I have not always been supportive of women in leadership position. Thought the churches I grew up in were not overly conservative, I still had the mindset that women were not supposed to do certain things. So the following are factors that contributed to my current perspective. I don’t know if there is a an order or not and I don’t know how you replicate it but take it for what it is:

I reexamined the gospels to see how Jesus treated women and what role they played in his ministry.

This led to a change in my understanding of what God is doing to a Kingdom oriented perspective. The church, as part of the Kingdom should be an inclusive body that reshapes our views of people and molds it into a Godly one.

I saw women leadership modeled well.

I heard a woman from the Disciples of Christ (Cynthia Blake) give a lectureship that destroyed any preconceived notions I might have had about women preachers.

I got a “liberal” education.
FEBRUARY 26, 2008 1:08 PM

 Troy said...
Regan,
I grew up in that Church...I know the music/worship is somewhat lacking (hope I don't offend anyone). I agree that it could use some help. As for a woman leading the music, I think it's a gray area. I've seen it tactfully done and I've seen it so emotionally done that the service turned into a circus. I wouldn't leave a Church if a woman lead songs (tactfully). And you know me, I'm a fundie.
FEBRUARY 26, 2008 8:47 PM

 regan said...
I have seen worship emotionally done from men as well as women. I think the problem is always how things are done and not who is doing them.

I would say the music is getting better though, and I do not think anyone from the church reads this blog.
FEBRUARY 27, 2008 7:20 AM

This is part three in a three part series on women's role in the church.

Part One - The Fall and Women's Role
Part Two - Women's Role in the Church

A Failed Attempt at Unity - The Restoration Movement


I read parts of Christianity Restored by Alexander Campbell earlier this year.

My initial thought in reading the book was that Alexander Campbell threw away all of the established creeds and created a creed that was much more complex in what could be described as a “hermeneutical approach” creed.

Here are two defining quotes:
"Our opposition to creeds arose from a conviction, that whether the opinions in them were true or false, they were hostile to the uniion, peace, harmony, purity, and joy of christians; and adverse to the conversion of the world to Jesus Christ."
"All the differences in religious opinion and sentiment, amongst those who acknowledge the Bible, are occassioned by false principles of interpretation, or by a misapplication of the true principles. There is no law, nor standard--literary, moral, or religious--that can coerce human thought or action, by only promulging and acknowledging it. If a law can effect any thing, our actions must be conformed to it. Were all students of the Bible taught to apply the same rules of interpretation to its pages, there would be a greater uniformity in opinion and sentiment, than ever resulted from the simple adoption of any written creed."
Campbell then goes on to explain his hermeneutical principles for eighty-five pages. Instead of having a ten point creed, he produced an eighty-five page pseudo-creed. It was his firm belief that one must share hermeneutical methods in order to come to the same conclusions. I think he was somewhat correct in his belief that a unity could be achieved if we all shared the same hermeneutical methods; however, that unity would not be a genuine unity. It would be an “intellectual unity” that scholars could share but it would not unite the masses.

Alexander Campbell believed that intellectual unity would bring about a genuine unity; however, history shows that we can be intellectually divided and still have Christian unity or we can have intellectual unity and still be divided. I could beat my head against a wall trying to convince someone to intellectually agree with me. It would be more fruitful to get them to participate with me in action. Unity starts with sharing actions rather than sharing intellectual processes. Shared hermeneutics would result in a shared theology but that does not always translate into a shared spirituality. If we share actions, our differing theology might not matter all that much.

A friend of mine wrote: “Rather than ask how 18-19th century methods of reading ancient texts may guide the church's reading of Scripture, we might ask what contemporary methods are bearing fruit analyzing ancient texts and how such methods may be used to foster a shared hermeneutic for today.” The problem is that modern methods vary as the wind and location of the circumstances the scholar finds himself in. It seems that – at least in secular fields, particularly literature – the original intent of the author is irrelevant next to the interpretation of the reader. People seemed to be enthralled with movies like The Fountain where the writer/director refuses to tell what the point is and proclaims that everyone's interpretation is valid. This modern day approach cannot bring about a shared hermeneutic that would result in an intellectual unity.

Campbell's approach which was not even successful is no longer even practical. Unity will only come through humble communities of believers listening to the will of God.

Original comments below:

 shannoncaroland said...
No creeds but Christ... and this one, but that's it.

True: Writing Creeds has a way of being divisive as it leads hyper-analyzation.

Also True: Refusing to write or accept creeds is even more divisive, because you will be seen as placing yourself above the rest of Christendom.

Also Also True: Creed was a telantless Pearl Jam rip off.
JUNE 25, 2007 12:06 PM

 regan said...
I agree with all of your truths except even mentioning Pearl Jam in the same sentence as Creed is a disservice to the former.

Does your church have a creed?
JUNE 25, 2007 12:25 PM

 Sam said...
My church does not have a creed per se, but rather a "Statement of Faith." You can view it at http://centralholstoncc.org/Page.asp?PID=4

I had no pat in making it and it was around before I came to the church, but nonetheless.
JUNE 25, 2007 3:03 PM

Women's Role in the Church


Like the previous post. This post was originally posted over at Chi Rho Live. That was a shared blog with two friends from college. I include the comments below the original post.

Unlike the previous post, this one was not written by me. This is from Sam Long. Sam went to school with me at Great Lakes. He then went on to get his M.Div. from Emmanuel School of Religion followed by his PhD in Biblical Studies from Asbury. He is still working on his dissertation.

***The following entries are my thoughts and responses to both Regan and Troy as expressed in Regan’s earlier entry. I apologize for the length, but it is not the sort of argument that can be made in a few short paragraphs.***

As Regan pointed out, members of both sides of the issue like to explain away passages that disagree with their viewpoint. But there is something to be said in reading the Bible in context and in light of the overarching themes of the rest of the Bible. I also think there are special contextual issues to consider when reading Paul’s writings since he is writing to address specific issues in specific churches (which are addressed in the Excursus). This understating and appreciation of what Paul is doing makes the application for a future audience more refined than simply reading and then doing. With this in mind, let me address Troy’s issues with women and their authoritative role in the church.

From the beginning (Genesis 1-2) man and woman were equal in God’s sight and complimented one another. In fact, the woman is called a “helper” (ezer) – the same word used in the Psalms to describe divine help. One would have a difficult time casting God as a subordinate. Thus, this word helper is by no means a term of denigration but a complimentary role with the expectation that the man and woman are working side by side without subordination.

But only a chapter later we find that things have changed – there is enmity between man and woman. This animosity is a result of sin in the world but is not the desired relationship that God had in mind. The effects of the fall have impacted cultural perceptions and expectations between men and women negatively ever since. From the treatment of women as second class citizens, to a view of women as property, to a denial of certain rights to women, varying cultures have diminished value of women ever since.

We see this same mentality among the Israelites/Jews as well as in the Hellenistic/Roman culture – both of which impact Jesus’ words and Paul’s writings. It seems that part of what Jesus was attempting to accomplish by instituting the Kingdom of God was reversing the perception of women and returning it God’s original intention as described in Genesis 1-2. In Luke 4, the writer describes a scene in which Jesus quotes Isaiah to show his goals for his earthly time – to free the oppressed. For the rest of the gospel of Luke the writer intentionally shows Jesus restoring and utilizing women in an effort to fulfill these words. Throughout the gospels Jesus is interacting and encouraging women to live out their faiths – and not just behind the scenes. Jesus gave worth and purpose to all people, especially the oppressed and those who were relegated to second class status. Women would clearly fall into this category. Thus in Jesus’ mind, women and men have equal status, roles, and participation in the Kingdom.

On the other hand, though Paul agrees in principal with Jesus, when it comes to practice he seems to back off and defer to cultural norms. Both Regan and Troy mentioned 1 Corinthians 12 which states that we are one body with many members and each performs different functions. There is no delineation between men and women (i.e. assigning the teaching/leading duties to men while relegating women to other duties). In addition, Paul restates this same idea in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Throughout his writings, Paul describes a unity and equality that exists between the spiritually reborn.

In addition, Troy rightly recognized the profound impact that women had both in Paul’s spiritual formation and in his ministry. In fact, the end of Romans is rife with women. The most notable mention is Phoebe who is called a deaconess/servant/minister (diakonos). Granted, this word can mean all of those things in the Greek, but in Paul’s writings when he is speaking of the office of “deacon” he uses this word. When he speaks of servants he uses other words (doulos, oiketes, pais, etc.). So how do we reconcile this mention of a woman in a position of leadership with his “qualifications” as listed in Timothy and Titus? It seems to me that Paul was not providing a comprehensive list of qualifications but a general understanding of what would make a good leader. For example, for the qualifications for elder, what if an elder has a rebellious, unbelieving child? Should the position be withheld from that person? I say no.

This list is used so legalistically that it fails to see the point – leaders should have leadership qualities. Gender is not one. In addition, we see various examples of women in leadership in practice as well as theory. The same book that commands women to be silent (1 Cor. 14:33-35) gives instructions for women praying and prophesying in the public assembly (1 Cor. 11:2-16). This role as prophet or prayer indicates some level of authority and leadership, even over men.

The notion that men have the corner market on wisdom, knowledge and teaching ability is pure arrogance. And relegating women to teaching only children and other women is not only demeaning but fails to see the fulfillment of the Kingdom. Yes, women can be homemakers – but so can men. In the same way men can lead the church, but so can women. Only by working together, making up for one another’s deficiencies, and carrying one another’s burdens do we see the Kingdom come.

********************************************************

Excursus
In the preceding entry I wanted to form a positive argument as much as possible instead of taking a defensive posture. However, I think there are viable responses and better interpretation and application of the main passages in question. What follows is my exegesis of the two passages most often cited to keep women out of positions of leadership. Translations are NRSV.

1 Corinthians 14:32-35
“And the spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets, for God is a God not of disorder but of peace. (As in all the churches of the saints, women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

This passage comes in the context of instructions for orderly worship. Just as too many people speaking in tongues or prophesying can disrupt the service and cause confusion, apparently the women were doing something that was disrupting the service as well. The disruption revolves around the seating arrangement of the men and women. Apparently, the two genders sat on different sides of the meeting room and at some point when one of the women heard or experienced something she didn’t understand, she would yell over to her husband for an explanation. This sort of action did not lend itself to orderly worship either, so Paul’s words are appropriate – stay quiet; ask husbands questions at home; stop interrupting the service. This sort of advice may seem obvious to us, but seemingly the newfound freedom that the gospel brought to women was resulting in confusion and Paul must set them straight.

I do not think this passage has appropriation in the same way to our modern day services. I think things should still be done in an orderly fashion, but this does not include muzzles for the women. If a man or woman continually engages in outbursts of any sort, it would be appropriate (citing this Scripture and the surrounding context) to ask them to stop because their actions are not aiding in the praise and worship of God.

1 Timothy 2:9-15
“Women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”

This passage too had an original setting, audience, and culture. It seems that some women were drawing too much attention to themselves by the way they dressed. Bearing in mind the greater freedom that women had as a result of the gospel, there was no doubt need for advice on the way they were to present themselves. Paul urges modesty, decency and propriety, which are all against extravagance. In addition, people from their culture may have associated these styles with the local temple prostitutes. So the advice is straightforward – may your outward appearance represent your inward character. Or, “Don’t look like a prostitute since you aren’t suppose to act like one.”

Paul then moves on from outward appearance to other actions. If we suppose that women, newly emancipated through faith in Christ, had begun to dominate the public service and were in danger of bringing the church into disrepute, Paul’s advice becomes more intelligible. Women must first learn in silence with full submission. If the Corinthian passage is any indication, Paul’s experience with unruly interruptions in public worship by women was not confined to that church.

This section can be illuminated even further by looking at the nuances of the original language that may have been lost in the English translation. The word translated “silence” (hesychia) in 1 Timothy 2:11 and 12, does not mean complete silence or no talking. It is clearly used elsewhere (Acts 22:2; 2 Thes. 3:12) to mean “settled down, undisturbed, not unruly.” A different word (sigao) means “to be silent, to say nothing”. In addition, most translations say that Paul does not permit women to have “authority” over a man. But this misses the problem. The word for authority is authenteo and means “to control in a domineering manner”. The AV translates this word as “usurp authority over”. We might express this idea idiomatically, with a phrase like “to bark orders at.” Thus, Paul is not calling for a silencing of women or a removal of all authority. He is concerned with the proper way for men and women to interact in the context of the church. A level of gentleness and respect is required as well as education if someone desires a position of leadership.

The rest of the passage is difficult to interpret. Paul uses an argument subordinating women which seems to be the exact opposite of the argument he uses in Romans 5. In the Romans passage Adam is represented as the first transgressor; but there is no reference made to Eve, and Adam is regarded as the head of the sinning race. In addition, I have read numerous interpretations of the phrase “will be saved through childbearing” none of which makes sense. I consider this to be a stretched analogy at best, with a fair amount of uncertainty and misunderstanding.

All of this is to say, I don’t think an appropriate application of these verses includes relegating women to lesser positions in the church or hindering them from serving in leadership positions. Interestingly enough, most consider the advice about dress to be cultural and dismiss it or reapply it, but take the advice about women’s roles in the church literally. This selective interpretation seems contrived and based on poor exegesis.

Orignal comments from this point on:

sharon said...
Thank you for your thoughtful, well-stated, researched, and intelligent post. (Can you tell where my sympathies lie?) As an Italian woman, I find it hard to make this argument so succintly and rationally- I tend to get so heated and angry that I can't express myself well. So: Amen brother, keep preaching the Good News.
FEBRUARY 22, 2008 3:34 PM

 Troy said...
Sam,
Very thoughtful writing. I appreciate your insight. I may have too much fundamentalism ingrained in my mind. I'll certainly continue to study this out. I also had a couple of questions. If a disorderly child should not disqualify a man (or woman) from elder/bishop standing, why did Paul go on to explain why it did disqualify them (1 Timothy 3:5)? And if it's acceptable to look the other way in this small area, what about being filled with pride; being a brawler or striker; being given to wine...etc. Who gets to pick what stays and what goes? Also, if we are to be equal because we should be striving for the perfection of the pre-fall, why would Paul (and Peter) re-iterate the hierarchy of the household so many times in their epistles (Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Titus 2:4-5; 1 Peter 3:1-2)? Or are these addressing specific issues within these specific churches? And as for the Galatians passage, to me this states that we are all one in the Body of Christ. Not one is more important than another. This doesn't say that we all share the same duties or functions. Notice that he (Paul) worded this very similarly in the 1 Corinthians passage that I touched on in Regan's post. There he plainly states that we don't have the same functions (among members; not necessarily between sexes). Maybe I'm missing the trees and just seeing the forest.
Curious of your thoughts on these areas.
FEBRUARY 22, 2008 10:35 PM

 Sam said...
Sharon - I think this is your inagural post and we here at ChiRhoLive appreciate it. Don't apologize for being passionate about the topic especially from a woman's perspective (as for being Italian, grace covers much :) ). This is one of those topics that do seem to get our blood pressures a little high. As long as we can interact with one another for the purpose of best seeing the Kingdom come rather than proving ourselves right (something I regularly struggle with) then we have accomplished something. This positive interaction is something I especially appreciate about Troy, who can disagree in love. We need more of that.
FEBRUARY 23, 2008 7:53 PM

 Sam said...
Troy - You bring up excellent points.
As for qualifications of leaders, obviously we don’t want some hot head drunk leading the church. But as I mentioned, I think these are general principles based on observation/experience (wisdom) as opposed to clearly delineated “qualifications”. In other words, each candidate should be evaluated individually. Maybe the person is divorced because the spouse had an affair and left him/her. Maybe the person brought the child up in the church and did all s/he could but the child still is apostate. Perhaps the recovering alcoholic (as anyone who as gone through AA will call themselves, even if they are 30 years sober) has controlled the addiction. The point is I don’t think that a candidate should be dismissed out of hand because s/he doesn’t meet the qualifications without examining the reasons behind their circumstances. Again, this reasoning is based on my understanding that Paul offers a general list, not a canon of leadership qualifications.

In regard to the hierarchy of the household, I wonder if this is a cultural argument or a time-tested truth? It is hard for me to say. You cite pretty explicit passages that I have a difficult time reconciling with other notions of mutual submission and service that constantly make their way into the text (Ephesians 5:21 most notable as it prefaces what is to come). All of this is to say, I am not sure what to do with these texts. Even if I accept them for the family structure, does that assume the same structure must find its way into the church? I don’t know.

Finally as it relates to our oneness and unity in the body, I agree that not all are elders, teachers, etc. Each of us performs different functions and roles within the body. But that does not disqualify women from fulfilling these functions. Nowhere in Paul’s discussion on giftedness does he single out men for the “leadership” type gifts/roles. I agree that not every woman should be a leader in the church. Just like every man should not be one. I have heard dynamite women teachers and awful male ones (and vice versa). We are who God empowers us to be, regardless of gender.

I was talking to Regan about this the other day, and what it comes down to the Kingdom being a community that rises above the “-isms” that have plagued our society and churches. It is time to do away with chauvinism, feminism, racism and return to a healthy form of humanism by beginning seeing each other as created equally loved in God’s sight and empowered differently but unified to do the work of the Kingdom.

I appreciate your responses and am open to further dialogue if you desire.
FEBRUARY 23, 2008 7:54 PM

This is part two in a three part series.

Part One - The Fall and Women's Role
Part Three - Living in a Church that Disagrees with me on Women's Role

The Fall and Women's Role


This post was originally posted over at Chi Rho Live. That was a shared blog with two friends from college. I include the comments below the original post.

"To the women he said, "I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing, in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Genesis 3:16).

Women's role in the church has come up a lot lately, and I wonder what the best way to approach it for people is. I have one friend that explains the role of women in ministry throughout the Bible. I take the approach of talking about the kingdom and God's desire for us to reach perfection.

In the perfect world before the fall, women were not ruled over by men; that was a consequence of sin. As Christians, if we are forgiven of our sins and are striving to live in perfection, then we should treat women as they were treated before the punishment of sin. As much as is possible by us, we should live as the redeemed people we are and bring about the kingdom that will fully manifest itself someday as much as possible in the here and now. That would include women not being ruled over but being treated as equals as they were before the fall.

Now how to bring that about in an environment where the church believes a woman should never teach an adult male, I do not know how to deal with that effectively.

Orignal comments from this point on:

Sam said...
I find that hard liners for submission of women get their logic from one passage - 1 Timothy 2:11-15:
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

To them, Paul’s logic seems irrefutable. The woman was created secondly. The woman screwed up. The woman must be subservient. But never fear – women can still be of value by becoming Super Susie Homemaker.

I don’t know what to do with that passage. I think it contains some faulty logic and exposition on Paul’s part. It flies in the face of much of the rest of Paul’s (and of course Jesus’) understanding of equality that comes from the inauguration of God’s reign.

Perhaps instead of debating this passage, ask them (your church or setting) to reconcile it with the overwhelming proclamation that men and women are of equal value in God’s kingdom. That there are no longer roles and expectations to fill based on gender, but each person has something to offer.
FEBRUARY 18, 2008 9:58 AM

 Troy said...
Regan,
You seem to miss the several other passages where Paul talks about women being in subjection to their husbands and keeping silent in church: Ephesians 5; 1 Peter 3; Titus 2; 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 to name some. And how do you explain away the passage that Sam quoted from above? It sounds pretty straight-forward to me. If Paul and his congregations were striving for perfection, why did he reiterate this hierarchy? Just curious of your thoughts.
FEBRUARY 20, 2008 6:27 AM

 regan said...
The problem is that it seems either one side or the other has to go explaining away some passages. Each side thinks they are doing justice to the other sides key passages, while both sides agree that the other side is wrong. It is one of those difficult issues, and it all comes down to what passage is placed as the prism passage through which the other passages are interpreted through.

Unfortunately, I do not have the time to do the topic justice at this moment since I was just checking online prior to going to work. I think I will write more about this on Monday and deal with the all the relevant verses then. Or at least try to.
FEBRUARY 20, 2008 9:39 AM

 regan said...
Troy,

If you don't mind, would you share how you interpret the woman deacon in the last chapter of Romans, men and women being equal in Corinthians (in Christ there is neither male nor female, jew nor greek, slave nor free), and with the teaching that there was no inequality between male or female before the fall combined with the kingdom principle of us trying to be perfect as God is perfect?
FEBRUARY 20, 2008 9:43 AM

 Troy said...
Regan,
First of all, woman was created to be mans helper (help meet Gen. 2:18). I personally don't see that as equal. If I get a helper at work, it's my duty to direct and guide them (whether it's male or female).
If the Corinthian passage your referring to is 1 Cor. 12:13, we are all equally important in the body of Christ. By the same Spirit were we baptized into one body, this by no means says we have the same duties or functions. Quite the contrary. Read 1 Cor. 12:15. And my translation doesn't mention male or female. We may not be using the same translation. If this isn't the passage you were thinking of, let me know and I'll take another whack at it.
As for the woman deacon (KJV translates "servant" but could easily interchange deacon), deacon could also mean servant, teacher, pastor and minister. Paul doesn't directly specify which role she performs. I have no problem with deaconesses in the role of a servant or teacher. Paul exhorted the older women to teach the younger women (Titus 2), but he also told the women not to teach the men (1 Timothy 2:12). Obviously women can't fulfill perfectly all of the requirements set forth by Paul as deacons. They are not the husbands of one wife, nor can their wives be grave (1 Timothy 3:11-12). I know several women who serve at church. Obviously this woman made an impact on Paul for him the mention her like this.
As for Sam's "Susie Homemaker" comment, should we be opposed to women being homemakers? Part of the older women teaching younger women is to encourage them to be keepers at home. Unless this passage (Titus 2:5) doesn't apply anymore. No it's not a salvation issue, but I believe it's God's best for families.
FEBRUARY 20, 2008 10:14 PM

 regan said...
Tory,

I mentioned the wrong book. It was Galatians 3:28. The Corinthian verse omits "male nor female".

And I will write more later. I am trying to finish my school assignments tonight.
FEBRUARY 21, 2008 9:22 PM

This post is part one of three.

Part 2 - Women's Role in the Church
Part 3 - Living in a Church that Disagrees with me on Women's Role

A Christmas Story - Oh, I Hate the Smell of Tapioca


video

There is this scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphie and his brother were visiting Santa at a department store. The Santa is a terrible Santa. He seems to enjoy terrifying the children, is ready to get off the clock, and doesn’t care about spreading any joy. For him, being Santa is just another paycheck.

Ralphie is excited to tell Santa that he wants an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot range model air rifle. He gets nervous, stumbles, and agrees to a football being the gift he wants. But that just isn’t the case, so Ralphie climbs back up the slide to tell Santa what he really wants. Santa replies, “You’ll shoot your eye out kid. Merry Christmas. Hoooo. Hoooo. Hoooo.”

Have you ever been disappointed? Have you ever looked forward to a certain item or trip only for it to be less than you expected? Have you ever been so excited to meet someone and then they just turned out to be a jerk? I would love to hear your story.

Unfortunately, Christians have often been more of a disappointment to the world rather than the blessing they were called to be. Many people hate Christians, and rightfully so. Not because of the message we share but because of the non-Christlike life we live. We have often behaved in ways that aren’t the most loving. And I’m not innocent of being an embarrassment to Jesus at times. We might be too judgmental of others. We may talk about how people that don’t believe in our pet doctrine are going to hell. But the biggest, and a source of the two previous symptoms, problem is that we don’t really love people.

This is sad because John wrote, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:19-21 ESV).

So the scary news is this. If you aren’t a loving person, then you aren’t right with God. Oh, you could claim that you are. You could know all the right religious things to say. You could go to church every week. You could even read your Bible and pray every day, but for some reason you aren’t growing. It’s like the Santa Claus in A Christmas Story. He had the costume, but he wasn’t spreading any joy.

All too often, Christians – those who should help people see God’s great gift to the world – get in the way and prevent people from seeing Jesus. It’s true that not everyone will respond to the message of the kingdom, but we, as followers of Jesus, are to be people that reflect His glory to everyone around us whether they respond positively or not. When the world is in shambles, we keep a positive, godly perspective. When ends don’t seem like they will meet, we keep up hope. When someone is in need, we search for a way to help. When darkness creeps in, we help shine the light.

Jesus came into this world, as we remember every year at Christmas time, to help renew us from our fallen state into the image of God (Colossians 3:10). It is the greatest gift God could give us. And because of His great, immeasurable love for us, we should respond by passing that love along to others. Christmas is the season of giving, but it shouldn’t just stop there. As Christians, every season should be just that. We are to make a difference in our homes, workplaces, and communities.

Greed is Good - A Biblical Word Study on Pleonexia (Greed)


In the 1987 film Wall Street, Gordon Gekko proclaims the teaching that greed is good.
In the last seven deals that I've been involved with, there were 2.5 million stockholders who have made a pretax profit of 12 billion dollars. Thank you.
I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them!
The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good.
Greed is right.
Greed works.
Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.
Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind.
And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.
Thank you very much. 
Is greed good? Or is it something that destroys the very trust that society must have in order to thrive? Gordon Gekko seems to disagree with the Bible.

The Greek word used for greed in the Bible is "pleonexia." It means a "greedy desire to have more, covetousness." Also, the word "pleonektes" means "one eager to have more, especially what belongs to others."
"For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting (pleonexia), wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness" (Mark 7:21-22 ESV).
"And he said to them, 'Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness (pleonexia), for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions'” (Luke 12:15 ESV).
"And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness (pleonexia), malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them" (Romans 1:28-32 ESV).
"I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy (pleonektes) and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed (pleonektes), or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (ESV).
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy (pleonektes), nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV).
"So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction (pleonexia)" (2 Cor 9:5 ESV).
"But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness (pleonexia) must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (pleonektes) ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light" (Eph 5:3-8 ESV).
"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness (pleonexia), which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5 ESV).
"For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed (pleonexia)— God is witness" (1 Thessalonians 2:5 ESV).
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed (pleonexia) they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep."

"For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority" (2 Peter 2:1-10 ESV)
These are not the fun verses of Scripture. They are not what we go to when we want that uplifting, encouraging mornings with the Bible. Lots of wrath and judgment.

Greed is a dismantler of relationships and society. If we cannot trust that our neighbor will not exploit us in our ignorance of a product or industry...if we cannot trust our employer to pay us a fair wage for our labor...or if we cannot trust our merchandise that we consume to not have been manufactured by a company slavishly employing strangers (immigrants and foreigners), then the very fabric of trust has been dismantled. No longer can we work together for the good of all; we must watch out for ourselves vigilantly. We have moved from a world of cooperation to a dog eat dog world.

When cynicism wins, we say that a dog eat dog world is all we can expect. Everyone is just looking out for themselves, so should we. Then greed becomes a necessary evil. However, Scripture does not allow greed to be an inevitable core of our social systems. It states that the greedy will face judgment. Paul even goes so far as to write that brothers and sisters in Jesus should not allow the greedy to be among them.

Now if greed means a "desire to have more, covetousness" and eagerness "to have more, especially what belongs to others," I do not know what how we could describe the richest 1%--or an even larger percent--as anything but greedy.

A recent article, How Unequal We Are: The Top 5 Facts You Should Know About The Wealthiest One Percent Of Americans, listed five alarming facts.
1. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Owns 40 Percent Of The Nation’s Wealth.
2. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Take Home 24 Percent Of National Income.
3. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Own Half Of The Country’s Stocks, Bonds, And Mutual Funds.
4. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Have Only 5 Percent Of The Nation’s Personal Debt.
5. The Top 1 Percent Are Taking In More Of The Nation’s Income Than At Any Other Time Since The 1920s.
In our desire to be polite, we don't call sin, sin, except in the case of those few pet sins that we feel are appropriate to bash and attack. We are quick to stand up for the life of the unborn, the sanctity of marriage, yet we aren't willing to stand up against a sin nearly as devastating to society as the former and much more devastating than the latter.

Greed is not something to be celebrated. And a just society would not have allowed it to reach the extremes that it has here in America.

Brothers and sisters in Jesus, do not fall prey to the siren call of society trying to teach us that greed is good. Greed is a great evil. Always remember that. Greed needs to stop.

A Christmas Story - You'll Shoot Your Eye Out


A Christmas Story was released in 1983 to moderate success. From those humble beginnings, it has become a perennial Christmas movie, a movie so popular that even CC Banks Productions is presenting the play adaptation this Christmas season in Antwerp.

One of the most famous lines in the show is Ralphie being told by his teacher, by his mother, and even by Santa, that he will shoot his eye out if he gets the official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot range model air rifle.

And as we see, the warnings were right. Ralphie heads out to play with his newly received Red Ryder BB gun and on his first shot has the BB rebound off of a tin sign and break his glasses.

video

I don’t know if you were ever warned not to do something, but desired it so much or were just rebellious enough that you did it anyway. I remember when I was four my parents would let me play outside in the yard. We lived in the country on a farm with many barns. The rule was that I was not to go into the hayloft. One day, while climbing into the hayloft, my hands slipped off of the handle and I fell, whacking my head onto a horse feeder. A concussion and stitches later I realized the err of my young ways.

As adults, we often become too prideful to take the advice of others and avoid things that are harmful for us. We might hear grown-up versions of “You’ll shoot your eye out” or “You can’t go in the hayloft,” but we are talented at ignoring the warnings. For starters, we rephrase them. Things like sexual immorality become casual sex or porn. Pride, the word I used at the beginning of this paragraph, becomes self-esteem and a feeling that we are expected to feel about our homeland if we want to be patriotic. Usury becomes the normal means of the haves helping the have-nots. We imagine appropriate scenarios where murder, which was forbidden, is allowed. And with greed, we don’t even try to morph it. Society has adopted the Gordon Gekko’s moniker from the movie Wall Street that “Greed is good.” We have a difficult time staying away from the sins that God has told us to stay away from. In the many years since the time of Jesus, even before the time of Jesus, humanity has mastered justifying our sinful lifestyles as necessary means to our selfish - although we wouldn’t dare use that word - ends. We have become experts at disguising and justifying our sinful lifestyles, and we, our families, and our society pays the consequence for that mistake. There. I just did it. I used the word mistake rather than sin.

“Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15 ESV).

Repent. That just means to turn away from the life you are currently living. You can’t stay on the same course if you are going to repent. The word in the Greek here is metanoeo. It’s the combination of two words. The preposition “meta,” which means “after” or “with,” and the verb “noeo,” which means to “perceive” or “think.” The idea is that our actions will change once we shift our thinking.

On a simple level, it would be learning new information and changing your actions because of it. Many of us travel to Fort Wayne. We have our routes that we take. An unrepentant person would be one who learns of a different way that would save them ten minutes but continues to do it the way they have always done it. A repentant person would be one who changes their course based upon the new information. That might be a light-hearted explanation of repentance, but I hope you get the idea.

During the Christmas season, we are faced with new information. God came to the earth in the form of a little baby. He came for a few major reasons. One was to be the sacrifice for our sins. Another was to transform God’s kingdom. The other was to show us how to live our lives. It is in this latter that he wants to tell us, “You’ll shoot your eye out if you continue to live the life that you are currently living.” God knows what is best for us. He came down to earth to live with all of our vulnerabilities to show us what is best for us. When we believe that He knows and has shown what is best for us, that is the information that should cause us to change. That is the gospel that should bring about repentance. What needs to change in your life as a result of the truth that God knows what is best for us?

If you are looking for a church home this holiday season, I invite you to come join us at Riverside Christian Church. Throughout this month, we will be exploring the themes of A Christmas Story. Sunday, December 14, will be “Oh, I hate the smell of Tapioca.”

Randall Church Commits Crime to Get Back Into Prison





Stepping out to freedom, “I didn't know how to use computers or cell phones or the Internet,” Church said. “The weirdest thing was walking into a store, like Walmart, and have parents hide their children from me, like I was supposed to jump at them.”

Fed up on July 10, 96 days after his release, he poured gasoline through a window of the empty house on the Southeast Side, then threw in flaming rags and paper towels, setting the place on fire.
The story goes on:

He made his way to San Antonio and was living on a small ranch with a relative of a friend he met in prison. On her property was a dilapidated, three-story house, abandoned for almost a decade. Things weren't getting any better, and Church decided to burn it down...Three days later, he turned himself in by treating himself to a hamburger, French fries and two chocolate shakes at the Jim's restaurant on Loop 410 and Perrin Beitel. He savored every taste, knowing he only had 31 cents in his pocket. Then he asked the waitress to call police, saying he did not want to cause a scene.

Her manager told Church he could leave if he never came back, so he told them he had committed a crime, Church recalled. 

Wisdom from (ab)Normals

Phoenix Jones is a real-life superhero without any superpowers. I guess that just makes him a hero. He has been patrolling the streets of Seattle since mid-2010. The first major story about him came in January 2011, when Seattle's CBS affiliate covered the story of Jones stopping a car theft.

On October 9, 2011, he was arrested for breaking up a street brawl (the video below), charged with misdemeanor assault, and outed as Benjamin Fodor. Now he faces the situation that Spider-Man always dreaded, the public knowing his real name. It raises some new complications like being fired from his day job of teaching life skills to autistic children and facing whether to receive endorsements.



Phoenix Jones Stops Assault from Ryan McNamee on Vimeo.

On, November 23, 2011, charges were dropped. What I like about Jones, despite being a little crazy, is that he is out there in the streets of Seattle doing what needs to be done. It is crazy that this is the place we have come to. It seems that every city has an area that the police force has just given up on. Jones patrols that neglected area and makes a difference.

In his statements, District Attorney Peter S. Holmes said: 
 “Mr. Fodor is no hero, just a deeply misguided individual. He has been warned that his actions put himself in danger, and this latest episode demonstrates that innocent bystanders can also be harmed.”
In Jones' press release stating his release, he rebutted:
Holmes claims I am a 'deeply misguided individual.' My concern about that statement is if I am 'misguided' while out on the streets of Seattle protecting people from violent assaults...would a 'guided' person just keep walking and allow someone to be kicked repeatedly in the head?
Phoenix Jones is weird. A great weird. This world needs a little more weird. 

Here Am I, Send Me

While hanging out with friends and discussing changes in our church and in our community, I was reminded about how resistant people are toward change. Talking about change unfurls feathers and causes stress. This impulsive reaction ignores the fact that most of the things we were doing that night were a result of changes. We were having fun with a game that was made in 1989. We were watching a show made in 2007 to spur discussion on equipment that wasn’t around thirty years ago. And yet in the midst of enjoying all these new things, all these changes, the idea that change was bad was still being expressed.

Many of the things that we truly enjoy were started in the last ten to twenty years. I go down to the park with my children and enjoy the playground. That was a change that became reality in October 2005. A change that came about from the result of the hard work of many. Then I look at the library. That didn’t open up until 1991. Nearly everything we enjoy in our community was a change at one time that probably faced resistance and required a lot of hard work. I look around and I see others working hard on changes that will impact the future. From planting new trees in the park to replace the dying ash trees to the people hard at work on the youth center to a new program at the school, tomorrow will be a better place because of the hard work of people who are bringing about change today.

Maybe change would be more palatable if we would sugar-coat the word “change” by calling it “improvements.” Whatever we want to label the concept of making things different tomorrow than they are today, it is all still the same. It is always difficult to bring about. It will always face opposition, but it is always necessary.

What legacy are we going to leave for future generations? I look at the hard work of the people who have come before and made this community the great place it is to live in today. That didn’t just happen by accident. That also didn’t happen without change.

The natural state of things is decay. If left untouched, our towns and churches would slowly dwindle. I look around and miss some things from my childhood. I miss the Ice Cream Depot, Dana providing living wage jobs in our community, and Ray’s Restaurant down on the corner. The sad reality is that a town or a church building can exist long after the life and community has left.

We need to be willing to stand up, work, and bring about the changes needed whether or not we face resistance. We need to ask ourselves what we can do to really make tomorrow a better place in our churches and our community. The question of whether our community and churches are where they are destined to be in the future is predicated on whether we are living in His will today.

Change is going to happen. The question is not whether things will be different tomorrow; it is whether things will be better tomorrow because of the changes happening today. Those changes can be good if we bathe them in prayer, bring others along with us, and work diligently to make our invisible dreams break through into a better reality. Or they will be bad if we ignore the fact that change happens. We are either building up a better tomorrow or watching the hard work of the previous generation decay.

God is at work, prompting people to help shape our community and our churches into what God has destined for them to be. But God is not a dictator. He never forces His will. It is up to us to respond like Isaiah did. The story goes, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8 ESV).

Send me. Not my neighbor. Not the person sitting across the aisle. Send me! That needs to be our reply if we want our community and our churches to be what God wants them to be next year, five years from now, or even twenty years from now. Please join me in saying, “Here am I, send me.”

Statements of Belief, Division, and I Am Second

Recently, I ran across the organization I Am Second when looking for a video to share before a sermon I was working on. They made an awesome Tony Dungy video that I was debating on using. I went to see how much it would cost to use, when I found out that I needed to agree with their statement of belief to use it. What turned into a brief attempt at finding an appropriate video clip turned into a diatribe on church unity.

Below is their statement of belief followed by the letter I wrote after facing, "You must accept the statement of faith."


I Am Second's Statement of Belief

THE GOAL OF UNITY. The task of finally finishing the Great Commission is bigger than any one part of the Body of Christ. God wants to use the entire Body of Christ to finish this task. I am Second and its parent organization, e3 Partners Ministry, seek to be an answer to the prayer Christ Himself prayed in John 17:20-21:
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word: that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

UNITY BASED ON TRUTH. I am Second and e3 Partners Ministry seeks to serve as a catalyst for spiritual, Biblical unity in the Body of Christ as we serve various parts of the Body. While we pray and work toward unity, we also are mindful of Paul’s caution in Galatians 1:8, 9:
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

STATEMENT OF FAITH. Unity must be based on truth. Cooperation that results in a dilution or compromise of the essential truths of the Bible is ecumenism, not Holy Spirit-breathed Biblical unity. We seek to work with those who believe in the following Statement of Faith:

God. We believe that the Godhead eternally exists in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—and that these three are one God, having precisely the same nature, attributes, and perfections.

Jesus. We believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, sinless life, miracles, death on the cross to provide for our redemption, bodily resurrection and ascension into heaven, present ministry of intercession for us, and His return to earth in power and glory.

Holy Spirit. We believe in the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit, that He performs the miracle of new birth in an unbeliever and indwells believers, enabling them to live godly lives.

Bible. We believe in the divine verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. The whole Bible, in the original manuscripts, is without error. As the revelation of God, we believe the Bible to be the sole authority and sufficiency with regard to Christian faith and practice.

Man. We believe that man was originally created in the image of God. Adam fell through sin, and as a consequence of his sin, lost his spiritual life. This spiritual death, or total depravity of human nature, has been transmitted to the entire human race of man, the Man Christ Jesus alone being excepted. Thus every person is born into the world with a nature that is essentially and unchangeably sinful apart from divine grace.

Salvation. We believe that, due to universal death through sin, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless born again. Our redemption has been accomplished solely by the blood of our Lord Jesus. We believe that the new birth of the believer comes only through faith in Christ. No other acts, such as confession, baptism, prayer, faithful service, or manifestation of certain spiritual gifts, are to be added to believing as a condition of salvation.

This statement reflects a contemporary summary of the central doctrines in the Bible, which are also presented in the historic creeds of the Christian church.

I understand that membership in the I am Second network is intended solely for churches, ministries, leaders and other individuals who affirm an orthodox understanding of biblical Christianity, including the above affirmations.

I agree with the Statement of Faith written above.


My reply to being asked to agree to the above statement in order to use their materials

Hi,

Thanks for your time. Your organization has a lot of potential. Your purpose is powerful as I also long for unity in the body of Christ.

I wanted to download some of your resources and use them in the church that I serve as pastor at, but I cannot agree with your statement of faith on every issue.

I had three points where I couldn't press "agree" in good conscience.

Let me briefly summarize. I am sure that you have heard these before, but I summarize in the hope that you consider modifying your statement so that I an other followers of Jesus like me can "agree," work with you, and use your materials. Even more important than that, I think these statements will alienate other people who are completely in agreement with what you are doing except in the case of these three statements.

"We believe that the new birth of the believer comes only through faith in Christ"

James 2:24 disagrees sharply with this statement. It states, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24 ESV). If you mean by "faith in Christ" the surrender of rule in my life to Jesus, then I agree with that. But faith is a word that implies thoughts, and receiving a new birth is more than just thoughts. It is a realigning of one's life from personal lordship to a position under Jesus as Lord. We are saved through a surrendering of our heart to the Lord, not through faith alone.

"The whole Bible, in the original manuscripts, is without error."

This is a powerful statement, but we have no way to prove it. Unprovable, useless speculation regarding what the original manuscripts were like is not worth dividing over. Can we not agree on a position on the manuscripts as we currently have them rather than speculate on what they were in copies that we no longer have?

Total Depravity and Man

The whole section on "man" relies on the concept of "total depravity." I have been in conversations with brothers who share this thought before, and I doubt anything I say would change your thoughts on this. However, I thought I would lay out an approach that would be more unifying without compromising the Bible.

"We believe that man was originally created in the image of God. The Bible teaches that man, created by God, willfully sinned against God and is consequently lost and without hope apart from the divine grace revealed through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Romans 3:23)."

One other brief thought. This wasn't a deal breaker although it did make me uncomfortable. Your statement describing the godhead as "having precisely the same nature, attributes, and perfections" seems to minimize the concept that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three unique distinctions of the same God, hence the different manifestations and names. Nothing in your statement expressed their uniqueness. I could probably agree with your statement in theory, but " precisely the same" nature and attributes are some really loaded thoughts that would need to be unpacked.

The Tony Dungy video I watched was well made and powerful in its message. You guys did a great job with that. Unfortunately, I am currently unable to use it and share the thought that you have so superbly packaged because I cannot agree with your statement of belief in good conscience. It is your right to put whatever stipulations or costs on your materials. I hope that you would reconsider agreement to above statements as a stipulation.

I share my thoughts, not to stir up trouble, to be divisive, or to attack your organization. I bring them up because I desire to be part of what you are doing but cannot on the terms you have laid out. The "statement of belief" contains some positions that I do not hole, nor do I think they are essential to unity as you aim to be about. If you feel that the points above are worth excluding people who are followers of Jesus over, that is your right as it is your organization.

You say, and rightfully so, that "Unity must be based on truth. Cooperation that results in a dilution or compromise of the essential truths of the Bible is ecumenism, not Holy Spirit-breathed Biblical unity." Unfortunately, you put what I perceive as man-made obstacles in the way of that unity through the points I described above. I am not asking for compromise but for unity on essentials eliminating divisions that are man-made.

Grace and peace,
Regan Clem

I don't think it needs to be said, but please let me know what you think.