Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sexism and Culture Deform the Masterpiece of God Called "An Adolescent Girl"

Yesterday I read a fascinating book entitled Reviving Ophelia, written by Mary Pipher, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. Mary is not an evangelical believer, but her insights into the conflict within the souls of adolescent girls are some of the most powerful I've seen. I've long believed that psychologists know all the right questions to ask but seldom have the right answers. Dr. Pipher seems to have found a measure of both. I personally think her book, though written in the mid-1990's, ought to be required reading for anyone who ministers the good news of Jesus Christ to girls from the ages of 11 to 18. All truth is from God, regardless of the secondary source from which you read it. Mary Pipher helps those who know Christ to understand the battle going on in the minds of young ladies who may not know Him. The following lengthy quotes from Reviving Ophelia convey some profound insight regarding adolescent girls, peer pressure and the sexualization of Western culture.

I realize that some evangelical conservatives who read Mary Pipher would prefer John Piper on the subject of adolescent girls and women. However, I think Mary Pipher comes closer to the biblical truth that God uniquely and majestically creates each young woman into a masterpiece of abilities, talents and gifts. Sin plays its part in destroying the image of God in the life of a woman, but Pipher makes a very good argument that sexism and Western cultural rituals have played an even greater role in deforming the uniqueness, character and self-perception of adolescent girls. Read on:

"Psychology has a long history of ignoring girls this age. Until recently adolescent girls haven't been studied by the academics, and they have long baffled therapists ...Simone de Beauvoir believed adolescence is when girls realize that men have the power and that their power comes from consenting to become submissive adored objects. Dr. Beauoir says, "Young girls slowly bury their childhood, put away their independent and imperious selves and submissivley enter adult existence." Adolescent girls experience a conflict between their autonomous selves and their need to be feminine, between their status as human beings and their vocation as females. Dr. Beauvior says, "Girls stop being and start seeming."

Girls become "female impersonators" who fit their whole selves into small, crowded spaces. Vibrant, confident girls become shy, doubting young women. Girls stop thinking, "Who am I? What do I want?" and start thinking, "What must I do to please others?"

Olive Schreiner wrote of her experiences as a young girl in The Story of the African Farm. "The world tells us what we are to be and shape us by the ends it sets before us. To men it says, work. To us it says, seem. The less a woman has in her head the lighter she is for carrying." She described the finishing school that she attended in this way: "It was a machine for condensing the soul into the smallest possible area. I have seen some souls so compressed that they would have filled a small thimble."

Adolescence is when girls experience social pressure to put aside their authentic selves and to display only a small portion of their gifts. This pressure disorients and depresses most girls. They sense the pressure to be someone they are not ... Parents know only too well that something is happening to their daughters. Calm, considerate daughters grow moody, demanding and distant. Girls who loved to talk are sullen and secretive. Girls who like to hug now bristle when touched. Mothers complain that they can do nothing right in the eyes of their daughters. Involved fathers bemoan their sudden banishment from their daughters' lives. But few parents realize how universal their experiences are. Their daughters are entering a new land, a dangerous place that parents can scarcely comprehend.

With puberty, girls face enormous cultural pressure to split into false selves. The pressure comes from schools, magazines, music, television, advertisements and movies. It comes from peers. Girls can be true to themselves and risk abandonment by their peers, or they can reject their true selves and be socially acceptable. Most girls choose to be socially accepted and split into two selves, one that is authentic and one that is culturally scripted (emphasis mine). In public they become who they are supposed to be ... While the rules for proper female behavior aren't clearly stated, the punishment for breaking them is harsh. Girls who speak frankly are labeled as bitches. Girls who are not attractive and skinny are scorned. The rules are reinforced by the visual images in soft- and hard-core pornography, by song lyrics, by casuual remarks, by criticism, by teasing and by jokes.

To totally accept the cultural definitions of feminity and conform to the pressures is to kill self. Girls who do this are the "Muffy's and "Barbie dolls" with hair and smiles in place and a terrible deadness underneath. They are the one who make me want to shout "Don't give up, fight back." Often girls who try to conform overshoot the mark. For example, girls with anexoria have tried too hard to be slender, feminine and perfect. They have become thin, shiny packages, outwardly carefully wrapped and inwardly a total muddle.

Girls have long been trained to be feminine and beautiful at considerable cost to their humanity. They have long been evaluated on the basis of appearance and caught in myriad double binds: achieve, but not too much; be polite, but be yourself; be feminine and adult; be aware of our cultural heritage, but don't comment on sexism. Another way to describe this femininity training is to call it false self-training. Girls are trained to be less than who they really are. They are trained to be what the culture wants of its young women, not what they themselves want to become.

America today is a girl-destroying place. Everywhere girls are encouraged to sacrifice their true selves. Their parents may fight to protect them, but their parents have limited power. Many girls lose contact with their true selves, and when they do, they become extraordinarily vulnerable to a culture that is all too happy to use them for its purposes.

Intelligent resistance keeps the true self alive." (From pages 22-23; 37-38; 44).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Spurgeon on the Difference Between a Political Liberal and a Political Conservative

With the national elections just a month away, I wondered if Charles Spurgeon ever commented on politics while serving as pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England during the 19th Century. I found this quote from Spurgeon regarding the differences between liberals and conservatives.

"I have long ago found out that pretty things on paper had better be kept there. I knew a man with a plan for growing plum trees in hedges as they do in Kent, but he never looked to see whether the soil would suit, and so he lost the trees which he put in, and there was an end of his dreams. The wise voter will examine the politician, and consider the veracity of his hopes by passing new bills and spending more of your money.
Someone recently told me that at a table of people trying to solve a problem, the Liberal will make a proposal that sounds good, but the Conservative will ask, 'Will it work?'"

From John Ploughman's Pictures by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The New Covenant Is Not Just a Theology, It's a Way of Life

Recently I had a very sincere Christian man tell me that  God had not been happy with him because he had not been totally sold out and committed to follow the Lord and His ways. The young man told me that  "pride" and "selfishness" had been a problem with him in his ministry, and he believed he had received an illness from God as a way for the Lord to get his attention. He had been reading the Old Testament, particularly the prophets and the Psalms, where God's people cried out to Him because His wrath was upon them due to their unfaithfulness. The young man, following the example of Old Testament Israel,  began to pray and confess his sins during his illness. He even told God to make him sicker if there was more pride and selfishness that needed to be alleviated from his life. Sure enough, he grew worse and the illness became so bad he finally asked God to relent. He wondered what I thought about people in the church who were not totally sold out to to the Lord. He inquired whether or not I believed God brings His people to pure living and holy conduct through affliction and fear of God's wrath. He felt he had personally experienced the anger of God and had come through it holier and more committed than before the illness. He wanted some pastoral counsel on how to keep his life "pure" and avoid future manifestations of God's wrath.

His question was very sincere, and I wished to answer him in a respectful, helpful manner. I began by acknowledging I could be wrong in what I was about to tell him, but I believed so strongly in what he was about to hear that I would resign from my ministry if it could be satisfactorily proven to me from Scripture that I was wrong.

I told him that I could not recall anything I had ever done in my life for the Lord that was not somehow, in someway, tainted with sin. Whether it be visiting the hospitals, preaching a message, conducting a funeral, or any other activity normally associated with "ministry," I told him I didn't think I had ever experienced a moment when I had been fully committed or fully devoted to God. In addition, I could not envision a time in my life where I could ever be one hundred percent sold out to Christ. He seemed surprised by what I told him, but then he was shocked by what I said next. I told him that I did not believe God was bothered by my lack of commitment to Him or the presence of selfishness or pride in my life, nor was I, because Christ had removed all the just anger and wrath of  God  due me for my sins. God would never withhold His blessings, His goodness, or His love from me because of my poor performance or unfaithfulness to Him because Christ guaranteed I would only and always receive blessings and goodness from God. I then explained to him the basis for my belief and how it differed from the way he believed and lived his life.

I told the young man I felt he had been living his Christian life based upon the principles God built into the old agreement between the nation of Israel and Himself. This agreement is called "the old covenant" in Scripture. It revolved around the law of God and Israel's corresponding faithfulness and obedience to that law. If Israel obeyed, God would bless. If Israel disobeyed, the judgment and wrath of God would be poured out on God's people through affliction and other enemies God brought into Israel's path to chasten them for their sins. For example, Israel was conquered by the Babylonians because Israel had violated God's Sabbath commandment. Their captivity in Babylon corresponded to the number of years the Sabbath commandment was not kept by Israel (70). The Old Covenent was an agreement based upon God's law and Israel's agreement to keep it and be blessed or break it and experience God's wrath.

However, in the new agreement between God and man called "The New Covenant," Jesus Christ, sent by God Himself, came to fulfill the law in the sinner's place. Whether it be the law of conscience, natural law, or the covenantal law of Israel, Jesus Christ perfectly obeyed God's law in my stead. Likewise, in His death Jesus fulfilled the law by bearing the just punishment and righteous wrath of a holy God due my unfaithfulness and sin. My trust in the person and work of Christ has brought to me "the great exchange." God has given to His Son all my sins and the consequences of them (God's wrath) and He has given to me all the righteousness of Christ earned by Christ's perfect and complete obedience to God's law and the consequences of that perfect obedience (God's blessing). 

For this reason the mercies, grace and blessings of God are mine forever because of Christ and His performance on my behalf. God treats me as if I was perfectly righteous because He sees the righteousness of His Son in me. I don't have to worry about being "completely sold out" to God in order to earn His favor, but rather, I daily rest in the person and performance of Jesus Christ on my behalf and continually receive His favor. I have "peace" with God because I rest in Christ. This leads me to live according to the following principles:

(1). I don't have to shout at God to get His attention, or have multiple people pray to get God to "do something" on my behalf; the Lord is near, and He is good to me at all times (Phil. 4:5-7; Romans 8:28).

(2). I don't ever think of God's goodness to me in terms of my obedience to God through obeying His law; rather, I see God's continual delight in being everlastingly good to me because of Christ's obedience on my behalf.

(3). I never barter or bargain with God by asking Him to do something for me and then promising Him something in return; rather, I trust God's faithfulness to me even in periods of my own unfaithfulness because of Jesus Christ's personal obedience in my stead.

(4). I never avoid sin out of "fear" of God's wrath; I avoid sin because my understanding of God's love and goodness to me in Jesus Christ deepens.

(5). I am able to acknowledge my own sins to others--including my pride and my selfishness--because I know I am accepted by God the way I am, and He is in the business of making me into the person I will become.

When I finished visiting with this young man I could tell he had been given some things to think about. I don't know whether or not he will ultimately agree with me, but I hope the summary of our conversation gives you a glimpse into my belief that the New Covenant is not just a theology, it is a way of life.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One Has to Admire the Bold Consistency and Application by John Calvin in His Views on Women

In these dying days of evangelical patriarchalism, many believers in male superiority and male authority over females try to soft pedal their views. When patriarchalists--who  prefer the name "complementarians"--are challenged that their interpretations of Scripture are actually a belief that males are superior to females, and that they are teaching females were only created to enrich the lives of males, they cry "foul" and object to such a characterization of their views on men and women.

However, John Calvin, one of the fathers of evangelical patriarchalism in protestant circles, was quite consistent in applying his patriarchal theological views to daily life. What he theologically believed regarding women was practically applied in every day living. The consistency of the way he lived with the things he believed is evident. Calvin wrote in his commentary on I Corinthians the following:

"As far as the external connections and social propriety are concerned, the man takes his lead from Christ, and the woman from the man, so that they do not stand on the same level, but this inequality exists ... Because he is made subject to Christ and that includes the condition that he take first place in the control of the household and its affairs. For in his home the father of the family is like a king... The man is in authority, and the woman is in subjection to him ... In I Tim. 2:12 he debars women from speaking in church altogether ... because of the pre-eminence which God has given to the man, so that he might be superior to the woman ... The woman took her origin from the man, and that therefore she has a lower standing ... The woman was created for the express purpose of greatly enriching the man's life ... Paul looks higher, viz. to the eternal law of God, which had made the female sex subject to the authority of men. Therefore all women are born to submit to the pre-eminence of the male sex ... Let the man therefore carry out his function as the head, having supremacy over her; let the woman perform her function as the body, giving help to him ... Let the woman be content in her position for subjection, and not feel indignant because she has to play second fiddle to the superior sex"(translated by John W. Frazer, Eerdmans, 1996, pp. 229ff.).

I do wish modern patriarchalists would be as bold in their declarations as Calvin. Faulty interpretations of Scripture are not nearly as evident when the application of the theology is covered up. In other words, we have a great many professing "complementarians" (patriarchalists) who are functioning egalitarians. Such hypocrisy is not healthy for anyone. I personally told Paige Patterson I admired his consistency in removing Sheri Klouda from her position as Hebrew at Southwestern--he was living the way he believed. I then told him I would do everything in my power to help people see his beliefs were totally, one hundred percent diametrically opposite of the Scriptures and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

One of these days the Scriptural teaching of the equality of men and women in Jesus Christ will be the standard view of conservative, evangelical churches because it is precisely what the Bible teaches. Until then, it would be helpful if those who theologically believe in male superiority and male authority over the female gender would be as bold and direct as Calvin in terms of the application of that theology into daily living.

It would help people see the utter ridiculousness of their beliefs and the tragedy of falsely interpreting the Bible to support such absurdities.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Searching Together, Edited by Jon Zens, Is By Far the Best Theological Journal for the Money

One of my favorite theologians is Jon Zens. Jon edits the quarterly periodical called Searching Together, formerly known as the Baptist Reformation Review. Jon is thoroughly biblical, imminently concerned with the Scriptures being interpreted through the lens of the person and work of Jesus Christ, and unafraid to challenge systems of thought that run counter to the clear and plain teaching of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant Scriptures.

The best $10.00 you will ever spend is the yearly subscription to Searching Together. The next issue to be released will challenge the traditional Christian view of death and the afterlife by proposing the Scripture clearly teaches that death is the Christian's enemy, specifically his last enemy,  and is only conquered by Christ at the believer's personal resurrection. Political columnist Cal Thomas, who has publicly acknowledged the contributions of Searching Together to his own Christian thinking, personally purchased 100 copies of the 1997 issue on God and Country, calling it the best biblical approach to the subject he has ever read.

In this day of shallow thinking and hollow Christian teaching, Searching Together is like a deluxe steak dinner compared to the typical ice cream fare of evangelical churches. The entire collection of the previously published quarterlies of Searching Together is available for a mere $50.00. For those of you with small book allowances, take it from me, it's the best investment you will ever make for your personal library.

A Southern Seminary Professor's Quote About Music Ministers Should Be Cause for His Removal?

I received two emails yesterday regarding a Southern Seminary professor's statement to Southern Baptist young people studying for ministry. During class the professor said to the students:

"If you find a music pastor that isn't fat or feminine... You better hire him!"


The professor's statement was publicly posted on a student's twitter account and facebook page--a student who was in the classroom and heard the remark himself. The Southern Seminary student did not identify the professor, but the accuracy of his story has been confirmed by others.

 The kind of attitude displayed by the professor is unconscionable. When I send my son to seminary to study to become a pastor, or when I recommend a seminary education to church members looking to enter full-time ministry, I want to be able to recommend a place where I know they will receive a first-class education within a first-rate environment. The above stereotypical remark, which borders on crudeness, is sadly the mark of ivory tower elitism and is devoid of any manifestation of the Spirit of God.

The administration of Southern would do well to make a strong statement against such remarks in the classroom, even if it was made in jest, and either discipline or terminate the professor who is being paid with Cooperative Program funds. Southwestern Seminary is below 1,000 seminarians for the first time since the early 20th Century, and if this kind of spirit is not nipped in the bud at Southern, the mother SBC seminary will not be far behind SWBTS in declining enrollment.  If the professor is terminated, I would suggest Southern hire Dr. Sheri Klouda. 
At least Hebrew will be taught our seminarians instead of crude English.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pastors Are Among the People, Not Over the People

Jon Zens is our guest for Emmanuel's Fall Bible Conference which can be viewed via live streaming at 6:30 p.m. central time Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week (September 20th-22nd). One of Jon's good friends is Frank Viola, Christian author of Pagan Christianity, and a thought provoking biblical scholar.

Recently I came across an excellent article by Frank Viola encouraging men called to pastor and shepherd people not to dominate, control, or exert "authority" over their flocks. The entire article can be read online, but I thought a pertinent section spoke biblically and directly against some of the practices of pastors within the Southern Baptist Convention. If we pastors could all catch the spirit of what Frank writes below, 95% of church problems would be resolved. Frank Viola writes:

"In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the elders, “Be on your guard for yourself and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” Notice what he says: “You, elders, are among the flock, and the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” Not over the flock; among the flock. Among the flock! Among the flock to do what? “To shepherd the church of God.” Not to control the flock, but to care for it. To serve it. The elders are overseers, not overlords! The word “overseer” means one who looks out for the good of the saints, not for his own personal interests. Yet because overseers care for the saints, they are called shepherds also. And a shepherd (pastor) is simply a metaphor, it is not a title nor an office. In the first-century churches, all the brothers and sisters take care of one another. All of them take care of one another! But the shepherds are the older, wiser ones that do it best. They are the examples for everyone else. Let me put it this way. Every brother and sister is to do what a true shepherd/elder does. The elders are but examples to all. Now hold on to your chair. Get ready. It’s going to be heavy, brothers. Look at Acts 20:33. I want you to read very slowly verses 33 to 35. Follow this: “I, Paul, have lusted after no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you elders know that my hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you, elders, must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Now, brothers, let’s get the scene. Paul, an apostle sent by God, spends three years raising up a church in Ephesus. Before he leaves, he acknowledges the older brothers, the elders. He says to them, “Take care of God’s people if there is a problem.” He did not say, “Lord over them. Control them. Do all the teaching and preaching.” Nor did he say, “You are their leaders. They must obey you.” He didn’t say that. Four years after the church in Ephesus is planted, Paul meets with the Ephesian elders at Miletus. He says them, “Brothers, the Holy Spirit has given you a gift to care for the Lord’s people. They are the flock of God; not your flock. It’s the flock of God, purchased with His own blood. You are among them, not over them. Brothers, when I was with you I worked with my hands. I paid for my own needs, and I also paid for the needs of the men I trained. By doing this, I gave you an example. Elders, shepherds of Ephesus, remember my example. That I did not take anything from God’s people! I gave to them! I did not take from them! Follow my example.” And that is what an elder is, brothers. He is a person that gives! He doesn’t receive! Brothers, think about this. Just think about it."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bloggers Who Live With Their Mothers and Wear Housecoats During the Day

Bruce Prescott called my attention to an article by the Associated Baptist Press regarding Kevin Ezell's nomination to be the President of the North American Mission Board. It seems Dr. Ezell spoke to his church last Sunday, September 12, 2010 about the impending vote of NAMB trustees to make him the agency's President. I have written of my admiration for Dr. Ezell as a pastor/leader, but have also made known my puzzlement over the NAMB Presidential Search Committee nominating someone who has not traditionally been a strong advocate for the Cooperative Program.

I am not the only one who has expressed wonderment over the selection of Dr. Ezell due to his church's historic low giving to the Cooperative Program. I'm not opposed to Dr. Ezell being NAMB President, and frankly, he could wind up being a wonderful, effective leader that takes the North American Mission Board into a new era of church planting and missions.

But I must say I am amazed at one of the statements Dr. Ezell made to his church last Sunday. ABP reports Dr. Ezell said:

"Because of the visibility of the position, there are people across the United States who want to look for things that perhaps I do not do as well or they think we should do different, and perhaps be critical of myself or of Highview, just to try to get their name in the paper ... Typically those are bloggers who live with their mother and wear a housecoat during the day. Just ignore them, but I apologize if you are hurt by anything that they might say about me or indirectly about you."
Statesmanship is a quality of leadership that organically brings people together through eldership, a spirit of caring for others, and a benevolent concern for the whole while resisting a partisan attitude. Not all leaders are statesmen, but all statesmen are leaders. The SBC needs statesmen.  Dr. Ezell's quote above does not negate my belief that Dr. Ezell is a strong leader. It does, however, mitigate against any belief that he is a stateman.

One of the things that turns leaders into statesmen is the ability to be gracious to all, even those who criticize. Regardless of whether or not the proposed NAMB President has the temperament to handle the criticism that will come his way, it would be helpful for him to be gently reminded that it is both inconsistent and illogical to call his critics "bloggers who live with their mothers and wear housecoats" and then "apologize for the hurt" those bloggers cause. Criticism from respected leaders hurts. To publicly disrespect the character of one's critics and then turn around and acknowledge their criticism hurts is a fallacy. It's best to either remain silent in the face of criticism or answer the criticism while displaying respect for the critics.

Leaders who turn into statesmen learn this lesson quickly. I am hopeful Dr. Ezell learns this lesson quicker than most.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On August 17, 1848, a tea box had arrived at the nation's capital sent there by the territorial governor of California, Colonel Richard B. Mason, an officer who had a number of friends in Fort Smith from his posting here
before the war with Mexico. The box had traveled via sailing ship to Panama and had been heavily
guarded in its journey across the isthmus and on to
the nation's capital since it contained nuggets from
Marcy Time Line
April 9,1812—Randolph Barnes Marcy born in
Greenwich, Connecticut.
1828—Admitted to West Point Military Academy.
June 1832—Graduated and commissioned Second
It, United States Army.
1832—Assigned to duty in the Black Hawk War, but
became ill and missed the action.
May 5,1833—Married Mary Mann (age 18) at
Syracuse, New York
1833-1837—Stationed at Fort Howard, Wisconsin,
a post commanded by Col. George M. Brooke,
who gained fame later in the Mexican War. Earlier
(1817-21), Zachary Taylor had commanded
Howard. Served with Capt. Martin Scott (later killed
in the Mexican War at the Battle of Molino del Ray).
See Hollon, p. 20 for Marcy-Scott anecdote.
May 17,1835—Daughter Mary Ellen born. In 1860,
Mary Ellen became the wife of Gen. George B.
January 1-10,1837—Mary and Randolph visited
Chicago on an eight-day furlough.
1838-1840—Recruiting duties caused Marcy to move
the family to Fort Winnebago, then to Milwaukee,
and again to Winnebago.
the gold fields of northern California.
The United States had acquired California from
Mexico with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo
signed February 2, 1848. A week earlier on January
24, 1848, James Marshall, an engineer working for
land baron John Sutter, had discovered gold in the
American River. Sutter, a Swiss emigrant who ran his
vast holdings like a satrap, knew that the discovery of
gold would destroy his privacy and his control. Sutter
therefore tried to keep the news squelched, but a
secret like that is hard to keep. Rumors about a huge
gold strike spread to Fort Smith, where excitement
suddenly gripped many of the 900 residents of the
city, although many, too, remained skeptical. The
box, which contained 220 ounces of gold, however,
provided hard evidence. President James K. Polk,
who had doubled the area of the United States during
his administration and apparently had exhausted
himself in doing so, had declined to seek a second
term. But now the president had some good news and
to Congress on December 5, 1848, Polk confirmed
officially to the nation that gold had been discovered
in California. Thus began the Gold Rush of 1849,
the event that brought Marcy to Fort Smith where
he began what was to be a half-decade of exploring
the west, his expeditions usually originating in Fort

Finding a Way to Be Authentic With Ourselves and With Others

The post yesterday which linked to a FOX news special investigation on a Southern Baptist pastor, a personal friend of mine, had over 100 comments in a very short period of time. The sentiment of many was that my post should not have linked to the report and that nothing good or beneficial could come from discussing this pastor's visit to strip bars, how we could help him or his church, or the hurt and pain caused by this pastor's sin toward the people in the church he pastors, his family, and fellow Christians. Some felt I was too soft on the pastor, and others felt I was too hard on him. All I know is that I love this man, have personally offered to help him in anyway possible, and have challenged him to be forthright and open about his sin, taking complete and full ownership. I will neither dismiss this man as a Christian brother, nor will I act as if his sin did not occur. For far too long the Christian church has lacked total and complete transparency when it comes to our failures.

The Bible is inspired, God-breathed truth. God did not cover David's sin of adultery, though God did pay for David's sin of adultery through atonement. It's my opinion that the power of the gospel is only truly seen when the Holy Spirit brings people to transparency. Truth is, going to a strip club is not a sin. Police officers go there all the time to arrest people in fights. Dads may go there to rescue a daughter from stripping. A pastor may go there to bring accountabiliy to a dancer who is involved in his church's Celebrate Recovery program. All those things would not be sin.

But if a man were an officer, or a dad, or a minister entering a strip club to rescue or redeem a loved one--the man's loved ones would know in advance. He would tell them for his own protection and his need for their assistance. The man's wife would know, the man's small group would know, the man's friends would know, etc... The evidence that something is wrong in our lives is the inability to be transparent about it. That would include anything and everything in Christian ministry. If we can't be transparent about what we are being paid as pastors, something's wrong. If we can't be transparent about what we believe, something's wrong. If we can't be transparent about what we are doing, something's wrong.

Proverbs says the path of the righteous grows brighter and brighter like the rising sun (Prov. 4:18) but the wicked walk in darkness and do not even see that over which they stumble. At the heart of all stumbling for believers is our desire to hide, cover and conceal our lives--while at the same time presenting a cover mask that makes us seem different than the way we really are. The issue of my friend going to the strip club was that he lied about his purpose for being there (i.e. "I went there to help a person in our Celebrate Recovery ministry"), and tried to cover up the fact that he frequented strip clubs on a regular basis and paid his favorite strippers thousands of dollars. For too long we have enabled Christian leaders to lie by letting them off the hook when they lie.

For those who believe there is no redemptive value in "airing our dirty laundry," I offer the following letter, received yesterday and used with permission, as evidence that desiring authenticity and transparency in Christianity is something healthy.

"I've commented at least once on your blog as "Johnny D." I've been reading it for several months. I just wanted to say thank you ...

I prayed the salvation prayer in May of 1988, and I do believe that I really was saved. I spent a great deal of money & time evangelizing through the promotion and production of Christian rock concerts, and any other way I could think of to reach the crowd out on the edge. I was very serious about it all, and I even took several classes at Bible college. I prayed and witnessed regularly, belonged to a local Bible church, and considered myself called into pastoral ministry. I was wrong about that. Of course God was not.

About ten years ago I chucked Jesus and church and the whole thing. Some of that chucking was just immaturity on my part, but there were also legitimate reasons for my leaving. I will only say that a lack of authenticity by those around me really bothered me. I saw no real power of the Holy Spirit as we were promised, and that eventually led to me deciding against the Spirit's existence. Anyhow, I was just as guilty for all the things I looked down at other people for, but I was too immature to fully grasp that fact.

I know you're busy, so I'll just cut to the chase. God has called me back, and I've been listening. A part of that calling back has been your example, Tom's example (Watchdog), and the example set by others that post at the dog's blog. Many of those people at dog's blog have embraced me and have been praying for me. I'm still struggling with things such as how far do I go with my walk and talk. I'm kind of anonymous right now, but I do have some good people praying for me. I guess there is a part of me that is afraid of getting "burned" again, and I'm struggling to let that part of me go. I know that most of this falling away, if not all of it, is my fault, but I still am having a hard time with trusting God. I keep thinking things like, "If I proclaim my faith again to all my friends and family, what will I say if I find I still can't believe at some later date?" That sounds kind of silly to me now that I see it in print, but there it is. I have told my wife that I have been praying and reading Scripture again, but I think that she wants to see how serious I am before she makes any further moves or comments. She's a wonderful, beautiful woman, and we've been married 27 years. She told me that she hadn't fallen away as far as I had, but we both know that we haven't been living as Christians for a long time.

I think this note to you is part of the cleansing process for me - or I at least hope it to be. Anyhow, thanks again for your integrity and your leadership. You've made a difference in my life, and I hope that one day I can report to you that I have successfully come all the way back. That I have found a way to be authentic to myself as well as others. That I no longer worry about what others are doing. That I really have experienced the true power of God's Holy Spirit. I want that peace I used to have. My faith is a lot smaller than a mustard seed, but I do have some faith. I do want you to know that I love Jesus. That I have missed Jesus and praying, and that these past couple of months that I have been praying have been quite amazing. I have about a 30 minute ride to work, in the dark, so I get to just let it all go, out loud, and that has been very nice. Well, thanks for reading, and I'll be reading your blog.

Johnny D.

Johnny, I am praying for you. I think you are getting it. Your letter is authentic. Christianity is not composed of perfect people. It is composed of people who struggle with sin, just like those who don't know Christ. The difference is believers in Christ aren't afraid to tell people about our struggles. We acknowledge them. We don't hide them. Why? We have come to Christ, in whatever small amount of faith we possess, and we are learning to rest in His forgiveness and mercy. More importantly, we are beginning to realize that the same power that raised Christ from the grave is within us, changing us from the inside out.

Sometimes we chafe. Sometimes we rebel. Sometimes we grow cold. Sometimes we run.

But He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion, and for that, we are eternally grateful. For His glory and our good the work God has begun and is continuing in us sometimes even involves Him using ....

Television cameras and news reporters to break us.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Monday, September 13, 2010

KOKH FOX 25 :: Special Reports - Pastor strip club investigation

KOKH FOX 25 :: Special Reports - Pastor strip club investigation

The above link is to a video that reports the results of a "Special Investigation" of a Southern Baptist pastor by the local Fox television news station in Oklahoma City. I watched the report and was bothered by two things: (1). The actions of the pastor, and (2). The actions of the reporter.

I have been in contact with the pastor, offering help to him and his family, and encouraging him to be completely truthful with his church and his family. As the pastor said, there is no justification for his actions, but I told him that his resignation letter to his church fell far short of the honesty needed to begin restoration.

That being said, there is nothing redemptive in the questions posed by the reporter. Sensational journalism may cause people to watch, but one wonders how this could be called "news" and what is accomplished by asking questions like "can you tear yourself away from the stripper and talk to us a bit?" or "are you stuffing church money into the g-strings of those strippers?"

The pastor is disqualified from being a pastor, and nobody can argue with that fact. What can be argued, however, is whether or not he is, maybe for the first time, ready to understand the true power of the gospel.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Free Speech Ekklesia for All Brothers and Sisters

34 "The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church." é What! (Nonsense) 36 Did the word of God only come to you (Judaizers)? é What! (Nonsense) Or are you (Judaizers) the only people it (God's Word) has reached? (I Corinthians 14:34-36).
          37 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy..." (I Corinthians 14:39). 

In the first two verses above (v. 34 and v. 35), Paul is giving the false belief of Judiaziers who have infiltrated the church at Corinth and other early Christian churches.

These two verses (v. 34 and v. 35) articulate the Judaizers' attempt to bring 1st Century synagogue traditions into the Christian assembly.

These Judaizers were "zealous for the Law," or the teachings of the Talmud (Acts 21:21). They caused all kinds of problems in the early church.

Paul is blunt about them in II Corinthians 11, calling them "false apostles" and "deceitful workers" (II Cor. 11:13).

Paul tells the Christians at Corinth to resist the false practices of the Judaizers and stand firm to the New Covenant "traditions" that Paul had taught them (see  I Corinthians 11:2).

Paul is consistent throughout all his writings that all the members of the assembly, both male and female, could participate in congregational worship (see I Corinthians. 14:31 and I Corinthians 11:5-15).

In fact, Paul expects that women in the church will publicly pray and teach just as men publicly pray and teach (see I Corinthians 11:5).

The entire discourse of the New Covenant Scriptures is that God's priesthood is composed of males and females, slave and free, Jews and Gentiles. There is no separation of race, nationality, gender or color in the God's New Covenant priesthood. Each of us has been made a priest (Revelation 1:5) and we all form a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9).

So, the startling prohibition of I Corinthians 14:34-36 "Let the women keep silent in the churches" seems discordant and unconnected to the rest of the New Covenant Scriptures.

There's a reason for this -- it is.

Paul is quoting the views of the Judaizers regarding women in I Corinthians 14:34-35, false views about women that the Judaizers are attempting to bring into the Christian assemblies.

Paul quotes what they were teaching in order to refute it.

The Judaizers had been taught four things about the role of women in the synagogues when they were Jews, and they wished to make "the church" conform to these restrictions.
1). The Jews believed women were not qualified to be learners in the synagogue because the talmudic literature forbad them from learning. Their presence in the synagogue was tolerated, but they were to be unobtrusive and silent, never interferring with the work of the men. The Judaizers wished this tradition to be carried over into all the churches. But Paul argues throughout I Corinthians for full participation of women within the assembly (see I Corinthians 14:31 and 39).
2). The Jews recognized that a woman in the synagogue might at some point wish to move from passive attendance to actually learning something in the synagogue, but this was viewed as an exceptional occurance and not the norm. Therefore, on the rare occasion a woman desired to ask a question in order to learn, she was instructed to maintain her silence in the assembly and wait to ask her husband after leaving the synagogue and returning home. The Judaizers wished to keep the same passivity of women in the earkt Christian churches. But Paul expects women to pray and prophesy, the two acts of worship in the assembly, in the same manner that men pray and prophesy. Women compose half the priesthood (see I Corinthians 11:5).
3). There is the assumption in the synagogue that all Jewish women would be married; it was even expected by leaders in the synagogue that Jewish women would marry. The Judaizers believed the same thing should be true about all women in the early church. But Paul argues his preference that Christian women remain single for the purpose of ministry (see I Corinthians 7:34).
4). The Jews believed, and it was reinforced by the Talmud, that only the males should receive religious instruction. Jewish husbands were the source of their wives learning. Women should remain silent within the context of the synagogue. The Judaizers carried this tradition into the early churches and taught just as firmly that all Christian women should be silent in the churches. But Paul has taught that the priesthood of God is composed of both males and females, and there is an equality within the priesthood in both role and function (see I Corinthians 11:11 and Galations 3:28-29)
Paul states the Judaizers beliefs about women in I Corinthians 14:34-35, and then he begins to refute it. 

Gilbert Bilezikian writes:
"It is worth noting that in 1 Corinthians more than in any of his other Epistles, Paul uses the é particle to introduce rebuttals to statements preceding it. As a conjunction, é appears in Paul's Epistles in a variety of uses. But the list below points to a predilection for a particular use of é which is characteristic mainly of 1 Corinthians."
Bilezikian then shows the appearance of the é particle in Paul's letter to the Corinthians, and in each case translates it as "What! or (Nonsense) to give the contextual meaning.
1 Corinthians 6:1-2--"If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? (é What! Nonsense) Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?"
I Corinthians 14:34-36 - Here Paul states the Judaizers' belief that that he intends to refute, and he uses the Greek uses the eta é like he does in I Corinthians 6. 
Corinthians 14:34-35  - "34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church" é What! (Nonsense)"
I Corinthians 14:36: "Or did the word of God come only to you (Judaizers)?  é What! (Nonsense! Or are you (Judaizers) the only people it has reached?"
After refuting the false belief, Paul writes:

"Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy..." (I Corinthians 14:39). 

So the "What" (the Greek eta), is used by Paul throughout Corinthians to refute false teaching. 

There are actually two of these eta particles in I Corinthians 14:34-36. Paul is expressing his disbelief (a compounded disbelief) that anyone would think that men only are the mouth pieces of God and that women should be silent in their presence. 

Paul states his objection to that kind of thinking very clearly.
"What! Did the word of God come only to you? What! (Note: this "What!" is the second eta in the text) Are you the only people it has reached?"
Paul is refuting the Jewish Old Covenant belief that men only can hear from God and speak in the assembly (synagogue), which Christian Judaizers wished to carry over into the ekklesia (churches).

In other words, the "women keep silent" passage is not God's commandment, but it is the Judaizers corrupt teaching.

The internal evidence that identifies this "women silent in the assembly" as false Judaizer teaching is clear:
1.  The Greek conjunction prior to verse 36.
2. The absence of quotations in the original Greek
3. The context bot shows Paul is correcting the Judaizers' false beliefs.

I once spoke on this topic during a Wednesday night Bible study. I spent time reviewing the overwhelming number of verses, including those from Paul's own letters, which are diametrically opposed to the principles taught by the Judaizers. If you think I Corinthians 14:34-36 is from God and not the Judaizers, then you will have a hard time explaining why the rest of Bible directly contradicts the prohibitions in  I Corinthians 14:34-36.

We always have a question and answer time at the end of Bible study and a new member of our church, a woman about seventy years of age who was life long member of a traditional SBC church in Nevada, desired to comment about what I had taught. She was seated next to her husband, and she raised her hand to be recognized and was called upon, she spoke and disagreed quite strongly with my interpretation. She believed I Corinthians 14:33-35 was a commandment from God and after explaining her reasoning, she concluded emphatically that God wanted women to be silent "in church."

When she was finished I gently suggested that if she believed my interpretation of I Corinthians 11:34-35 was wrong and her's was right, then she should have never raised her hand to be recognized, she should have never voiced her beliefs in the assembly, and she should have waited until she and her husband arrived  home before she asked a question of HIM or made a comment to HIM about what I had taught.

That is what the text says!

So either she must believe that what I'm teaching is right and then she is FREE to ask questions of her pastor, at any time, any place, for any reason the assembly is gathered, or she must be true to and consistent with her beliefs and remain absolutely silent in church.

Her response?

She said she was not "in church," so she could speak. Mind you, we were in our Fellowship Hall on Wednesday night with a couple of hundred believers present. There were numerous other small groups from our church meeting throughout our facility and around the city that night. But, in our new member's mind, we were not "in the church" that night because we weren't in the "auditorium" and having a typical Sunday morning "church" service.

Her comment led me to think many Southern Baptists don't have a working, biblical understanding of what the church is. Traditional Southern Baptists often seem more Jewish or Roman Catholic in their views of the assembly (church) and authority (clerics) than the writers of the New Testament. I believe that the Bible teaches that where two or three are gathered in the name of the Jesus Christ, the assembly is gathered and Christ is at the center of His people.

So Wednesday night is as much church as Sunday morning. Tuesday night small group is as much church as Wednesday night Bible study. Tuesday morning's gathering for fellowship, service, and worship is as much church as Sunday night's discipleship classes.

We, the people, are His church, and when or where we assemble, as few as two or three, His church is convened.

So move over Judaizers; all the people of God are free to function.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Sincere Question for Those Who Condemn the Burning of Korans in America

The U.S. military has confirmed that Bibles of United States soldiers serving in Afghanistan were confiscated and destroyed by order of the U.S. State Department because Muslims were offended that the soldiers were filmed reading the Bibles on Arabic Al Jazeera television.  CNN reported that that the Bibles were "burned" in order to satisfy the demands of Muslim authorities who were deeply offended that copies of the official sacred book of Christianity, printed in the local language of the Afghans and read by U.S. soldiers fluent in Pashto, were allowed into the country. The burning of the Bibles in Afghansitan was approved by the U.S. government, lauded by the Afghan Muslims and seemed to satiate the anger of those Muslims deeply offended at Bible reading on Arab network television.

Now General David H. Petraeus, U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, has denounced plans by a Florida church to burn copies of the Koran this weekend. The White House has also condemned the Florida church's plan, with press secretary Robert Gibbs reiterating Petraeus's contention that the act would be "offensive" to Muslims.  State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called the proposed demonstration "un-American" and said it was "inconsistent with the values of religious tolerance and religious freedom." Muslim, Christian, and other religious leaders are putting pressure on Pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Florida not to follow through with his declaration that he will burn the Korans this Saturday, September 11.

I  happen to agree that the church's plan to burn the Korans is unwise, and it is obvious that there is outrage in the Muslim world and in our government over the pastor's plan, but my question is a simple and sincere one:  Why was there not a similar outrage among Muslims, the American military and the American government over the burning of Bibles in Afghanistan?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Triumph of John and Betty Stam and the Lessons for 21st Century Christians

John Stam is our missions pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, Oklahoma. He and his family have been a part of our church for years. After serving as our education pastor and then our school headmaster over the past decade, John became our full-time missions pastor this past April 1, 2010. He bears the name of his great uncle, John Stam (pictured left), a 1932 graduate of Moody Bible Institute and a Christian martyr. The elder John, along with his wife, Betty Stam, were martyred in December 1934 while serving the Chinese people in the river valley west of Shanghai. The story of John and Betty Stam is best told by Geraldine Taylor--daughter-in-law to Hudson Taylor, the man who founded the China Inland Mission--in her classic work The Triumph of John and Betty Stam.

John and Betty met each other at Moody Bible Institute and since Betty was a year older than John, she sailed for China as a missionary in 1931, he a year later in 1931. After a year long courtship in China,  evangelist and missionary Reuben A. Torrey performed the marriage ceremony for the Stam's on October 25, 1933, in Tsinan, China. John was twenty-six; Betty was twenty-seven. The region where the Stam's served was particularly dangerous because of the civil war between the Chinese Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist Party. Eleven months after their wedding, on September 11, 1934, Betty Stam gave birth to a baby girl the Stam's named Helen Priscilla.

Three months later the Stams were beheaded by the Communists on a hill outside Miaosheo while their baby Helen lay hidden in a blanket. To honor the account of how the Stam's died, I will quote verbatim from Geraldine Taylor's The Triumph of John and Betty Stam.

Painfully bound with ropes, their hands behind them, stripped of their outer garments, and John barefooted (he had given Betty his socks to wear), they passed down the street where he was known to many, while the Reds shouted their ridicule and called the people to come and see the execution.

Like their Master, they were led up a little hill outside the town. There, in a clump of pine trees, the Communists harangued the unwilling onlookers, too terror-stricken to utter protest—But no, one broke the ranks! The doctor of the place and a Christian, he expressed the feelings of many when he fell on his knees and pleaded for the life of his friends. Angrily repulsed by the Reds, he still persisted, until he was dragged away as a prisoner, to suffer death when it appeared that he too was a follower of Christ.

John had turned to the leader of the band, asking mercy for this man. When he was sharply ordered to kneel—and the look of joy on his face, afterwards, told of the unseen Presence with them as his spirit was released—Betty was seen to quiver, but only for a moment. Bound as she was, she fell on her knees beside him. A quick command, the flash of a sword which mercifully she did not see—and they were reunited.
Many Christians are unfamiliar with the story John and Betty Stam, but their lives have much to teach us about serving Christ in a dangerous world, focusing on the eternal rather than the temporal, and never settling for worldly riches or fame. I can't help but think about how soft we American Christians have become after reading the account of the Stam's death. We expect security and personal comforts, but we have never been given any guarantees of material or temporal blessings for tomorrow. The killing fields of this world may make us one of their victims. There is, however, nothing to fear. Whether death comes from the sword, or a gun, or a bomb, or nuclear war, the moment of our death ushers us into an eternity of rich blessing and unspeakable love. The Apostle Paul called death "far better" (literally: very much better) than life in Philippians 1:23.

At lunch yesterday John told me that his aunt, Helen, the daughter of John and Betty Stam, is still living. She resides in Philadelphia and turns 76 this Saturday. Helen never married, though she changed her last name because she disliked the notoriety of being "the miracle baby" who escaped certain death at the hands of the Reds. John and I are trying to arrange a visit with her on her birthday.Let me encourage you to purchase a copy of The Triumph of John and Betty Stam. In my experience God uses the extraordinary testimonies of people like the Stams to bring encouragement to his church. I'll close with an anecdote that is heartwarming.

When our pastor of missions was in college he was caught in a snow storm heading back to Wheaton. He called his father and was told to get a hotel and to wait until the storm cleared before continuing his journey to teh college. When John informed his dad he had no money, it was suggested that John call the local Baptist pastor.

John looked in the phone book and found the church phone number and called. The pastor answered the phone and John told him that he was a college student heading back to Wheaton, and he was stuck in the snow storm and wondered if the pastor would open the church and let John sleep on the back row of the church. There was silence on the end of the phone. John thought the pastor was trying to think of a polite way to say no, but then the pastor said: "What did you say your name was?"

"John Stam."

There was again silence. Then, after a few moments the pastor said, "I want you to come over and stay at our house."  John received directions to the parsonage and arrived a few minutes later. The pastor opened the door and escorted him into the dining room where the pastor's family was seated around the dinner table. The pastor's kids eyes were wide as saucers. John was invited to take a seat and the pastor's wife began serving him dinner. Then the pastor told John the following.

"John, it is my custom after dinner each evening to read to my children. For the past few dinners I have been reading to them from The Triumph of John and Betty Stam. Tonight, we came to the account of John and Betty's martyrdom and we all were mesmerized by the gripping account of how this couple gave their lives for the cause of Christ. One of my sons asked me the question, 'Dad, how can anyone call the beheadings of the Stams a triumph?" No sooner had he asked me that question when the phone rang and John Stam asked if he could sleep at our church. Are you related to the John Stam we've been reading about?"

John explained to the family that he bore the name of his great uncle and that the legacy of John and Betty Stam had greatly affected his own life and that of Valerie Elliott, his friend and fellow classmate at Wheaton. Valerie was the daughter of martyred missionary Jim Elliot, and Betty Stam (maiden name Betty Scott) had flown to visit with Valerie's mom's family (the Howards) when Elizabeth Howard (later Elliot) was just 12 years old. Elizabeth Elliot wrote in her personal memiors the impact that the 21 year old Betty Scott had on her and the decision she later made to marry a man called to missions and join him in the work in South America. John spent the rest of the evening explaining how God takes what the world calls tragedy and turns it into triumph. It was a marvelous visit for all involved.

John told me that his encounter with that family on that cold winter night led to the children attending Wheaton College themselves to prepare for the mission field.

I guess you could say the triumph of John and Betty Stam continues.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Global Communications and the One World Information Network Is a Good Thing

Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida plans to hold a bonfire on September 11, 2010 where he and his church members will burn Korans. Yesterday several hundred Afghans marched in the streets of Kabul and burned an effigy of the pastor (left) while General Petraeus, U.S. Commander of Armed Forces in Afghanistan, spoke out against the pastor's plans. I expected the latter, but the Afghans marching in the streets of the capital city caused me to pause.

Just a few decades ago it would have taken weeks, maybe months, for information about a small church pastor's intention to burn Korans in America to reach Afghanistan.  Now, with the rise of the world-wide information network called the Internet, news from Florida reaches Afghanistan instantly.

It is for this reason that I am not as pessimistic as some of my Christian brothers and sisters about the state of the world. Very few people knew about the killing fields of Cambodia during the the time that hundreds of thousands of people were being systematically executed from 1975-1979. Had the Internet been around even thirty years ago it is quite possible that the collective outrage of the world's civilizations would have put a stop to Khmer Rouge regime.

Regardless of what one thinks of Pastor Jones' plans to burn Korans, it is impressive to me that Afghanis are marching in the streets of Kabul in protest of an anticipated event. The shrinking of the world into a collective community of informed people is not a bad thing.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

A Different Take on Dr. Kevin Ezell's Leadership in His Church's Small CP Giving

When Al Mohler's office issued a press release in early January 2008 that the President of Southern Seminary would allow his name to be entered into nomination for President of the Southern Baptist Convention, I wrote a blog detailing the reasons why I believed Dr. Mohler would not be elected President.

The third reason for my rationale involved Al's home church, Highview Baptist in Louisville, Kentucky, Highview's low percentage giving to the Cooperative Program and their nearly non-existent giving to the traditional SBC missions offerings, including the Lottie Moon Offering for international missions and the Annie Armstrong offering for continental missions. I wrote in January 2008 the following:

"Mohler is a member of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, where he serves as a "teaching pastor" and a Sunday school teacher. The church contributes 3.3 percent of its $5 million in undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program and nothing to the SBC's two mission offerings according to Baptist Press. The mission's giving of one's home church is more important than it might seem at first glance, and in the coming months and years I am quite positive that this issue will only grow in importance in the minds of those whom will chose who leads the SBC."

Although Al Mohler later pulled his name from nomination for President of the SBC, Highview Baptist Church and her pastor, Dr. Kevin Ezell, spent a few weeks "clarifying" their missions giving. In one press release Highview's pastoral leadership explained that the church gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to missions, just  not through the traditional CP mechanism. Explaining their low CP giving, Dr. Ezell stated:

"As for our Cooperative Program giving, Highview has chosen to give the majority of our cooperative funds directly to the SBC instead of funneling the funds through the Kentucky Baptist Convention. The reason is simple: The KBC retains 64% of those funds, and we want to ensure that more of our dollars went directly to evangelism, missions and other programs that Highview supports."

Last week, September 1, 2010, the Search Committee for the President of the North American Mission Board announced they would be presenting Dr. Kevin Ezell for approval as the new President of NAMB. One of the advantages of the Internet is to look back over the past several years and make observations based upon the written record and not simply one's faulty memory. I'd like to give a couple of observations on Dr. Ezell's nomination that might be a different take than most.
(1). The Southern Baptist Convention has just come through a mega-shift in terms of leadership. Dr. Ezell has publicly stated that he led his church to bypass his state convention in the church's missions giving, and then the Presidential Search Committee of NAMB, the mission organization tasked with working directly with the respective SBC state conventions, is nominating Dr. Ezell as NAMB's President. I believe Dr. Ezell is a phenominal leader and a wonderful man. I have no argument against him as a person. My observation is a philosophical one. When Dr. Ezell is elected, the Southern Baptist Convention's Cooperative Program as we have known it for decades will be over. We are increasingly moving toward the 1800's model of SBC giving called "societal." Churches will give to those "societies' or "agencies" that best reflect their own ideology or philosophy and/or benefits them the most. Cooperation between state and national agencies in the Southern Baptist Convention, cooperation between churches and their respective state conventions and national missions' agencies, and between mission minded SBC churches will be over. SBC churches, SBC state conventions, and SBC national agencies will be emphasizing their own work and requesting respective cooperation from others, depending less and less on the "Cooperative Program."
(2). When Dr. Ezell is elected, a new crop of leadership, including the new President of the Southern Baptist Convention (Wright), the new President of the North American Mission Board (Ezell), and the impending new President of the International Board (the top prospect is a stunner), will now be asking for people and churches in the Southern Baptist Convention to give more to the Cooperative Program and the national missions offerings, but at the same time, attempting to cut cooperative links traditionally tied to the offerings. As I mentioned in the previous post, I find it very interesting that those who formerly refused to give to the CP change their tune when elected to leadership. What's changed? The answer of course is, "The leaders have changed." So, I must ask the question: Do we give to the CP because we like the leaders or do we give to the CP because we like way we are doing missions? I think if Southern Baptists stepped back and took a hard look at the missions work of the SBC over the past few years, we would come to the conclusion that there is something fundamentally wrong with our agencies when we spend millions of dollars to "change" the way we do missions every time new leaders are elected. The gospel is not a political philosophy that changes like the platforms of Democrats and Republicans. However,  the SBC is looking more and more like a wasteful government agency than a gospel organization.
(3). I like Bryant Wright, Frank Page and Kevin Ezell. They are really fine men. The concern I have with the SBC as it relates to my church is the fact that our church gets way more excited about the mission work we do directly in India, Africa, Guatamela, New York and our own state than we do trying to figure out why our national agencies spend tens of millions of dollars constantly changing methodologies, organizational structures, and the way they do missions at the whims of new leadership. Frankly, I wish we listened more to the missionaries on the field (state, national and international) than we do to the ever changing leaders in Nashville, Richmond and Atlanta. Until we have a mechanism that allows our appointed missionaries to have more of a say in what our Convention accomplishes in the field, there is a hesitancy to give more to national offerings just because "new leaders" have emerged.
A Principle: Any move toward "societal" giving in the Southern Baptist Convention creates an atmosphere where larger churches become more and more convinced that the best "society" for accountable, effective missions giving is the local church, not a national board.
I'm not saying the above principle is right or wrong, it is simply a fact. That's the danger of political and ideological infighting in a Convention built on cooperation. The cooperation fractures to the point the local church believes the best investment in mission dollars is the work being done by its own members.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

When a Brilliant Scientist Sounds Brilliantly Stupid It's Both Bizarre and Sad

In Dr. Stephen Hawking's newest book The Grand Design, Dr. Hawking argues that "the universe can and will create itself from nothing."


He goes on to write: "Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going."

Okaaay ....

I guess the reader of Hawking's book is to accept, by faith, the declaration of this brilliant scientist that nothing created the universe out of nothing, and even though nothing cannot be identified or quantified, nothing is the reason why we exist.

I do believe that Hawking's atheism requires enormous, google-like faith.

By comparison, it requires the faith the size of a mustard seed to believe that God created all things, that He condescended to His Creation and appeared as Man, that He paid the price of man's disobedience at Calvary, and that each man will one day return to His Creator to give an account of his life and/or his relationship with the Creator through personal trust in the person and work of the God/Man Jesus Christ.

I'll take the old fashioned good news that requires such little faith every time over Hawking's religion.

In His Grace,


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Who Has the "Authority" in a Marriage--the Husband or the Wife?

I was recently reading John McArthur's blog Grace to You, and came across a comment with several questions that I found interesting. I did not see any attempt to answer the lady's questions, so I thought I would respond here at Grace and Truth to You.  The woman wrote:

"I am concerned about a marriage situation in which the husband is a ob/gyn doctor. He believes they should not use birth control and delivers all their children at home. She is exhausted with the load of the continual pregnancies and the little ones. He is not willing to allow her to have outside help in the home. She would like to be able to limit the pregnancies. He rules! She submits. How does this fit in with God's balance of the man loving the woman? What are her options in this type of marriage? How can she disagree and be biblically correct? Any insights on this? I would love to hear them."

McArthur, Piper and other conservative Bible scholars I admire are fond of referring to the husband's "authority" over his wife. There is only one place in the entire New Testament, however, where the word "authority" (exousia) is used in reference to the husband and wife--I Corinthians 7:4:

"The wife has not authority (exousia) over her own body, but the husband. In the same manner, the husband has not authority (exousia) over his body, but the wife."

Authority in the marriage seems to be mutual between husband and wife. Paul goes on to affirm mutual authority by saying in the next verse that the sexual union in marriage is an act requring "mutual consent" or agreement. The Greek word is "symphonou" from which we get our the English word "symphony." In an orchestra there is harmony in the symphony when all instruments are played at the right time and the right place with mutual understanding and agreement. There is a discordant and disharmonious symphony if even one instrument strikes out on its own against the wishes of the rest.

So it is in marriage. The Bible is quite clear in its answer to the lady's questions above.

(1). There is no sexual union unless both the husband and wife agree.
(2). Multiple childbirths requires mutual consent, not the demands of one.
(3). Disagreement in marriage is not only biblical, it is expected, thus the instructions of I Corinthians 7.
(4). The loving spouse will honor the wishes of the one being loved and wait for mutual consent.
(5). Authority and submission, according to the sacred text, is mutual in the husband and wife relationship.

It's ironic to me that many inerrantists seem to want the sacred text to say that which it doesn't. It's time we actually believed the Bible and obeyed it.

In His Grace,