Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tim Tebow: Make a Vow and Grow It Long

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about my wife's and my 2009 encounter with Tim Tebow and my growing esteem for Tim as a faithful Christian witness. The post was probably something that many mainstream pastors could have written at the time. Southern Baptist evangelical leaders were driving the Tebow bandwagon in 2009. Not any more. Last week Tebow cancelled a speaking engagement at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas for this coming April. Tim is keeping other speaking engagements in the Dallas area that same week, but he is not going to be speaking at First Baptist. The Internet, Twitter and the blogs have been abuzz about Tim Tebow's withdrawal from his commitment to speak. Though not specifically stating the reason for his decision, Tebow issued the following statement:
"While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ's unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance."  
Tim Tebow did not share what "new information" he received, but the secular media had been hounding Tebow for agreeing to speak at FBC Dallas, a church that some in the media wrongly accused of being "hateful" and "intolerant" for their views on homosexuality and Islam. Before Tebow cancelled, CBS sports journalist Gregg Doyel wrote an ugly piece entitled Agreeing to Speak at Intolerant Church Is Tim Tebow's Greatest Sin. Doyel slandered FBC Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress when he compared Jeffress to the radical and uncouth Fred Phelps, the pastor of Westboro Baptist, Topeka, Kansas. Sportswriter Gregg Doyel is not writing for a Christian audience, so his words of attack against Robert Jeffress and FBC Dallas should not come as a surprise to Christians.

However, what some SBC evangelicals have said about Tim Tebow since word filtered out that he cancelled his speaking engagment at FBC Dallas is very suprising. According to Tom Rich, one pastor named Jerry Vines tweeted, "The devil laughs when Christians compromise truth." Southern Baptist pastor Jack Graham wrote, "It is very, very sad when Tim Tebow bows to political correctness and cultural decay." Another pastor, Kevin Parnella, tweeted "Being a coward, breaking his word, and turning his back on biblical truth does not make Tim Tebow credible."  For his part, pastor Robert Jeffress implied Tim Tebow "...wimped out." I find it flabbergasting that evangelical leaders who once drove the Tebow bandwagon are now verbally crucifying him.  I'm not sure I could write anything to change the viewpoints of these pastors towards Tim Tebow, but maybe there is something I could write that might encourage Tebow as he moves forward in his desire to share the love of Christ. I am calling it the Cenchrea Solution.

Cenchrea is a sea port on the eastern side of the Isthmus of Corinth, just south of Athens, Greece. Cenchrea's natural harbor (pictured here) flows into the Aegean Sea. It is the harbor where Paul and Priscillia and Aquila, after spending eighteen months in Corinth, boarded a ship to head to Ephesus and then Syria as Paul finished his second missionary journey (Acts 18:18). Cenchrea is mentioned only twice in the Bible. The second occasion is in Romans when the Apostle Paul commends Phoebe, a woman deacon from the church at Cenchrea, to the assembly in Rome (Romans 16:1-2). Phoebe boarded a ship in the port of Cenchrea in A.D. 57 and set sail for Rome in order to deliver Paul's letter to the Romans. Renan wrote, "Phoebe carried under the folds of her robe the whole future of Christian theology." 
But Cenchrea is also a signficant seaport because of a statement made in Acts 18:18 regarding Paul: "Paul had his hair cut at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken." Notice that the verb is in the past tense. Paul "had taken" a vow.  It was customary for Jews to allow their hair to grow long during the fulfillment of their vows. By the time Paul reached the port of Cenchrea his vow had been fulfilled. Now he needed a haircut. What was the vow Paul made? In Acts 18 we discover that Paul arrived in Corinth and began to teach in the Jewish synagogue. He also walked the streets of Corinth, sharing Christ with the Greeks of that city. Acts 18:4-5 tells us that Paul was trying to persuade both Jews and Greeks of the truth of Jesus Christ. "And Paul was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade the Jews and the Greeks." (Acts 14:4). However, after Silas and Timothy arrived in Corinth Paul began to concentrate solely on reaching the very religious and devout Jews of the city. "But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah." (Acts 18:5)

The Jews did not like Paul or his message."The Jews resisted ... so Paul shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will only go to the Gentiles." (Acts 18:6) This last sentence reveals the vow that Paul made. He vowed to stop going to the Jewish synagogue in Corinth. For the rest of his time in Corinth Paul vowed he would only share the message of Christ with the pagan Greeks. By the way, the culture of the Corinthian Greeks was corrupt to the nth degree. The society in which they lived really bothered the religious Jews of Corinth. But Paul's mission was to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ and nothing else. He vowed he would no longer waste his time in the religious synagogue of the Jews. As was customary for Jews when making a vow, Paul began to let his hair grow long. He stopped living with the Jews in Corinth and went to live with a Gentile man named Titius Justus, as told us in Acts 18:7:

"Then Paul left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue."

Paul stayed with Titius Justus next to the synagogue, but he never again went into the Jewish synagogue in Corinth. He walked the streets of Corinth for at least another year sharing Christ with the pagan Greeks, and he spent Sundays teaching a small but growing Christian assembly. Toward the end of his stay in Corinth, the religious and pious Jews slandered Paul. They tried to press charges against Paul, angry that he was not interested in Jewish customs and traditions and their Jewish laws. How dare this trained Jewish scholar from Tarsus spend his time with the pagan Corinthians! The Jews let Paul know they no longer appreciated him.

It's interesting to note that Paul would later write a letter to the people he had led to Christ in Corinth, and in this letter (I Corinthians), he described what he did during those months he spent among the pagan Greeks in Corinth:

"For I resolved to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (I Cor. 2:2).

His fellow Jews wanted Paul to be interested in much more than Christ and Him crucified. They wanted him to press home the Law. They wanted him to keep the customs and traditions of the Jews. They wanted him to identify with them -- but he was only interested in taking the message of Christ to the world. He was uninterested in promoting anything else. When Paul left Corinth, he went to Cenchrea to catch a ship to go to Ephesus and then on to Syria, but before he boarded:

"Paul had his hair cut at Cenchrea because of the vow he had taken" (Acts 18:18).

The cutting off of his hair (see Numbers 6:5) signified the end of the Paul's vow not to speak in the Jewish synagogue. Now notice the next verse:

"They (Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla) came to Ephesus.... Now Paul himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews" (Acts 18:19).

Paul's vow was over. He cut his hair. He could now go into the Jewish synagogue.

My Advice for Tim Tebow 

Tim Tebow, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ who identifies with us Southern Baptists. Your membership is at a Southern Baptist church in Jacksonville, Florida. It seems some of your own people (a few Southern Baptist leaders) want you to focus (with them) on secondary and tertiary issues. They want you to affirm their beliefs in matters that have nothing to do with Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The fact that this is not your calling or your mission makes them no difference. They are upset with you.

I suggest you follow the example of the Apostle Paul.

Take a vow, Tim.

Avoid SBC churches.

Grow your hair long.

The pagans in America need your message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified more than we Southern Baptists need you in our temples.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Artemis and the End of Us: Evangelical Errors Regarding Women

Cultish behavior gives me the heebie-jeebies. A cult is defined as a group of people who follow a particular system of religious behavior established by an authoritative or revered person. Lest someone argue that Christianity is a cult, remember that Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." Jesus frees people, cult leaders bind people. Jesus speaks truth to people, cult leaders lie to people. Jesus empowers people, cult leaders oppress people. Christianity is not a cult nor is Jesus a cult leader. He saves His people from systems that bind.

Some Christian men, however, have set themselves up as authorities in the institutional church and implemented systems of control that turn pockets of evangelicalism into cultism. This is what gives me the heebie-jeebies. The most prominent example of cultism within evangelical Christianity is the system of behavior imposed on women within the ekklessia (assembly) of Christ. Christian women are told by some authoritative church leaders that "women must never teach men; women must be silent in the assembly; women  must not have any authority over men, and women should seek to be passive servants to, and receivers of, male leadership, but should never exhibit characteristics of vibrant leadership when males are present." This system of behavior for women is cultic; for it is definitely not Christian nor is it consistent with the teachings of Scripture.

The Scriptures and the Freedom of Women

The New Testament gives many examples of women teaching men (cf. Luke 2:25-38; Acts 21:9John 4:28-29). Women served as deaconia in the early church (cf. Romans 16:1-2). Women were co-laborers with men in Christ's kingdom (cf. Romans 16:3) and at least one of Christ's apostles was a woman (cf. Romans 16:7). Males and females accompanied Jesus throughout His earthly ministry (cf. Luke 8:1-3).  Gifted men and women spread the good news of the kingdomGod first used women to preach (proclaim) the resurrection of His Son (cf. John 20:1-2). Male disciples later proclaimed the resurrected Christ in the same manner female disciples first preached Him (cf.  Luke 24:1-11). Women in the upper room at Pentecost received the same Spirit and the same gifts as men (cf. Acts 1:14-15). God is emphatic that in the days of the New Covenant both males and females will prophesy of Him (cf. Acts 2:17-18). The Apostle Paul encouraged men and women to teach, to pray and to fully participate in the assembly (cf. I Corinthians 11:4-5 and I Corinthians 14:23-24).

God clearly reveals to us that Christian men and women should serve as they are gifted by the Spirit. Any imposed restrictions on women speaking, teaching, or leading in the assembly of Christ is contrary to inspired revelation of God's word. So if the New Testament teaches that men and women are gifted by the Spirit to do the work of the kingdom, why do some put a system of restrictions on women, a system totally contrary to the overall tenor and explicit teachings of holy Scripture?

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid

Several years ago I was called by the Tulsa Police Department to a home where a young man committed suicide by cutting of his right hand with a pocket knife and bleeding out. We found him dead with his head slumped to his chest and a pool of blood at his feet. Before the young man died he laid his pocket knife on the middle of an open Bible with these words underlined: "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown in hell" (Matthew 5:30).

I will never forget the gruesomeness of discovering the young man's right hand in a trash can, nor the words of the lieutenant as he walked around the room muttering under his breath, "Stupid, stupid, stupid." We were later told that the man had struggled for years with pornography and masturbation. The man took the words of the Bible and obeyed them. However, there is something mighty stupid about a man who reads Scripture and acts on words without taking time to look at their meaning, particularly when the overall tenor and teaching of Scripture is opposite of the action he is compelled to take!

If anybody ever tells you that women should never teach men, or that women should never be in leadership over men, or that women should be silent around men, then you should mutter under your breath, "Stupid, stupid, stupid." These people, well intentioned as they may be, are committing spiritual suicide by acting on words of Scripture without looking at their meaning. The system they seek to impose is opposite to the overall tenor and teachings of Scripture on the subject of women (see above). Here are the words some commit spiritual suicide over:
"In like manner also, see that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."( I Timothy 2:9-15: emphasis mine)
I recently had a Christian man paraphrase for me  I Timothy 2:9-15 and then tell me, "I will never have a woman lead me, teach me, or allow myself to be in a position where women usurp my authority over them because I believe the Bible!My friend has the problem of reading words of Scripture and acting on them without taking time to understand their meaning.

Until you understand the problem Timothy faced (the man to whom the words in I Timothy 2:9-15 are written), and until you are familiar with Ephesus (the place where Timothy lived), and until you have a working knowledge of the Amazons (the warrior women that the ancient Greeks believed founded Ephesus), and until you comprehend the influence of the cult of Artemis and the Temple of Artemis which was in Ephesus, the meaning of the Apostle Paul's words will never be rightly understood.  F. F. Bruce once wrote, "Subjugation of a woman is a system of man's fallen nature. If the work of Christ involves... breaking the fall, then the implication of His work for the liberation of women is plain." Jesus Christ came to liberate subjugated women. The cultism in evangelicalism regarding women's behaviors will only be broken when people lay aside stupid, false obedience to I Timothy 2:9-14 and realize the meaning of Paul's words to Timothy.

Ephesus and The Temple of Artemis

Rachelle and I will be with a group of friends in ancient Ephesus (located in southwest Turkey) next month. One of the reasons I am excited to be there is because Ephesus is the location of the most magnificent of the Seven Wonders of the World--The Temple of Artemis.

This is the first temple in the world made completely of marble. The richest man in the world in his day, King Croesus (595-547 B.C.) of Lydia (modern Turkey), ordered the Temple of Artemis be constructed in honor of the Greek goddess Artemis. Work on the Temple of Artemis began in 550 B.C. and took over a century to complete. King Croesus lived long enough to stuff the foundation of the Temple of Artemis with tens of thousands of gold coins to serve as talismans, ensuring the Temple's protection from destruction. Generations of people, even in America, have used the phrase "Rich as Croesus" to describe wealthy people in their day. King Croesus is given credit by many historians as the inventor of cold and silver coinage. His wealth is legendary, and he gave his riches to fund the building of the Temple in Artemis.  Croesus was a contemporary of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire. Cyrus was the king who defeated the Babylonians, freeing the Jews from their Babylonian captivity, enabling them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild Solomon's Temple.  Therefore, the Temple of Artemis and the Second Temple in Jerusalem were built during the same time period (the 6th century B.C.).

However, it was only the Temple of Artemis that became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World because of its stunning beauty. The Temple of Artemis was a temple dedicated to the power, beauty and strength of women. Marble artesians from all over the world carved Amazon women into the base of the 120 columns. Amazons were "warrior women" from an area north of Ephesus and the Black Sea (modern Ukraine). These Amazon women were known for their fierce fighting ability and had been made famous by the Greek poet Homer in his portrayal of them in The Iliad.

Homer (c. 750 B.C.) also gave tribute in The Iliad to Artemis, the Greek goddess of women and of war. Artemis is called by Homer "Artemis the Hunter, Queen of the Wild Beasts" (Iliad 21.470). Artemis is also presented as the goddess Phosphorous or Light (Strabo, Geo. 1.9.). If worshipped properly and prayed to during childbirth, Artemis promised to deliver women from death while giving birth. For this reason, women in the ancient world revered and worshipped Artemis. Likewise, men worshipped Artemis during times of battle and war. Since the ancient world was always at war, Artemis was often on the lips of men during times of battle. The Greek men (and later the Romans) prayed to Artemis (the Romans called her Diana), not Apollo in time of battle. In Greek mythology, Zeus fathered the twins Artemis and Apollo through the Titaness Leto. The Artemus cult taught that Artemis was superior to Apollo because she came (was born) born first.

When men and women entered the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, the women would wear fancy hair braids, bedeck themselves with jewelry and ornate clothes as they prayed to Artemis. Heliodorus said, "Their locks of hairs carry their prayers." There were no sacrifices in this Temple. The women worshipped Artemis with their clothing, jewelry, and their words. Artemis, in turn, gave them their sexual prowess over men and their deliverance during childbirth. Likewise, men came to Artemis, acknowledging their need of her strength during time of war. The men would hold up hands, palms up, just above their waist as they prayed for victory in battle. Not surprisingly Ephesus, above all other places in the ancient world, celebrated the power, strength and beauty of women and their ability to use their sexual prowess to manipulate and dominate men. The Temple operations, which included prostitution and craftsmen who sold gold and silver idols of Artemis, drove the economy of Ephesus. Hundreds of thousands of people visited the city annually.

Paul and Timothy's Presence in Ephesus in the Midst of the Artemis Cult

Acts 18:24 through Acts 20:1 records for us that Paul and Timothy spent three years in Ephesus (c. A.D. 55-58), by far the longest time Paul spent in any one city during his three missionary journeys. Paul almost lost his life during a riot in the city because silversmiths who made little statues of the goddess Artemis were upset that Paul and Timothy were cutting into their business by winning converts to Christianity. Paul would later write in I Corinthians 15:32 that he "fought wild beasts at Ephesus."  Did he fight lions, tigers and bears? No, the wild beasts were the people of Ephesus who were devoted to Artemis, "The Queen of the Wild Beasts."  When Paul left Ephesus in A.D. 58, he traveled south for about 30 miles to the island of Miletus and then called for wise leaders of the church in Ephesus to join him at Miletus where he said to them, "After I leave, savage wolves will come among you and will not spare the flock. Even some among you will arise and distort the truth to draw away disciples after them" (cf. Acts 20:29-30).

Sure enough, less than five years later (A.D. 63)  the Christians in Ephesus were in trouble. There were some women or maybe even a single woman, most likely a new convert out of the Artemis cult, who had begun to teach false truth in the assembly at Ephesus. Timothy is sent to Ephesus to help the church and give some correction. Timothy sends to Paul a letter from Ephesus, giving Paul an update on what is happening and asking some specific questions about how he should proceed (a letter that is not extant). The Apostle Paul sends a response to Timothy, a letter we now call I Timothy. It's important to remember (as we have seen) that nowhere in Scripture does Jesus, Paul or any other apostle restrict women in the assembly. In fact, when a false teacher nicknamed Jezebel begins to have influence among believers in the city of Thyatira, Jesus does not reprimand the church for having a female teacher, but rather He upraids the church for not doing anything about her false teaching (cf. Revelation 2:24).

The Meaning of I Timothy 2:9-15

Now, let's put up I Timothy 2:9-15 again in order to discover the meaning of the words in light of what we know about the Artemis cult in Ephesus:
"In like manner also, see that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."( I Timothy 2:9-15)
(1). "Let the woman adorn themselves in modest apparel" (v. 9).

Obviously, there were women coming to the assembly of Christ in Ephesus similar to the way they used to go to the Temple of Artemis, dressed to kill, with braided hair, gold, pearls and fine clothing. Paul is letting Timothy know that this mode of dress, particularly in the city of Ephesus, was not conducive to the worship of Christ. What Christ desires is the beauty of goodness toward others, not the drawing attention to oneself in public.

(2). "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection" (v. 11).

The reason I believe the problem in Ephesus is a particular woman who is in a teaching position within the assembly of Christ is because the noun "woman" is in the singular, not the plural. In verses 9 and 10, women is in the plural, but in verse 11, Paul switches to "the woman" or possibly that woman about whom Timothy has written Paul. It can't be a universal prohibition for all time against all women ever teaching men in the assembly because (a). That would violate the tenor and teaching of the rest of Scripture where women frequently taught men, and (b). Paul has elsewhere encouraged men and women to teach, to pray and to fully participate in the assembly as they are gifted (cf. I Corinthians 11:4-5 and I Corinthians 14:23-24).

Further, the word translated silence is hesuchia (quietness). It is used in I Timothy 2:2 to describe what the character of every believer should be, both males and females. It never means "don't speak," but addresses the character of humility. This woman in Ephesus, coming out of a society saturated with the power, strength, abilities and even domination of women through the Artemis cult, needed to realize that she had a great deal to learn about Christ and His kingdom.

(3). "I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence" (v. 12).

This is the key phrase. First, the phrase translated "I suffer not a woman to teach" is literally in the tense of "I am not now permitting a woman to teach." Again, the woman not now permitted to teach is in the singular. It is the same woman of verse 11. This woman needs to learn in quiet humility before she ever presumes to teach, because she is still too influenced by Artemis cultic beliefs. This verse can NEVER be used as a proof text for women never teaching men or having "authority" over men.

(a). Deborah gave counsel and taught men and women about the Law of God (cf. Judges 2:16-19; 4:1-5:31). Huldah prophesied to Israel the word of the Lord and led the men of Israel (2 Kings 22:14-20). Priscilla and Aquila explained more perfectly to Apollos the way of God in Ephesus (cf. Acts 18:19-26). Most importantly, when Jezebel was teaching error to the church in Thyatira, Jesus never once told the church they were wrong for having a woman teach or lead them; He simply said they were wrong for not rejecting her false teaching (Revelation 2:18-29).

(b). "I suffer not a woman .... to usurp authority over the man" (v. 13).

This phrase "usurp authority" translates one Greek word authentein. This word is used only one time in all of Scripture--let me repeat that again--this word authentein is used only once in the entire Bible, right here in I Timothy 2:12. This word was used, however, in classical Greek literature and it meant "to murder someone." Paul could have chosen nearly fifty Greek words to speak of the ordinary exercise of authority, but he chose a word that more represents someone "dominating, controlling, or subjecting one to harm." Of course, this is precisely what the Artemis cult taught women to do. Artemis was the female goddess of fertility and war. Women in Ephesus were taught to use their voices, their charm, their sexuality and their beauty to dominate, control and subjugate men. It seems that this woman in Ephesus was causing trouble in the church by behavior in the assembly of Christ that was way too similar to the ways of the Artemis cult from whence she came.

(4). "For Adam was formed first, then Eve."

Timothy, tell the woman causing problems that her notion she should always have the floor and direct the assembly because she believes women are superior to men--since Artemis came first and Apollo came second--is a misguided belief. The truth is God created man first then He formed Eve from Adam, so it is very appropriate for her, a woman who considers herself a descendent of the Amazons, to sit quietly and learn from those who are older and wiser, even if they are males! Artemis taught the power of women to dominate men through sexual prowess, but Christ teaches that men are equal to women and there's nothing wrong with a woman learning from others (even men) before she begins to teach men.

(5). "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (v. 14).

And Timothy, remind her that the Scriptures teach that Eve was decieved. Contrary to what she learned in the Temple of Artemis, males are not always her problem. To be deceived and in need of correction is just as much a possibility for her as it was for Eve. She must move away from her belief in female superiority, a belief reinforced by the Artemis cult.

(6). "Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety" (v. 15).

Timothy, tell this woman that she will be okay during childbirth, even if she totally and fully renounces her trust in Artemis. Yes, she lives in a culture that teaches Artemis alone saves a woman from death during childbirth, but the truth is Christ holds the keys of life and death. When women continue in faith, hope and love--avoiding the sexual immodesty and looseness on display in the Temple of Artemis and the worship of the goddess of fertility and war--it will be the one true God who delivers them from death during childbirth, not Artemis.

(7). And finally, Timothy, I wrote this letter to help you with the problems in the assembly in honor of "Him who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see" (I Timothy 6:16).

The people of Ephesus called Artemis the goddess of Light. The men approached Artemis in the Temple with hands raised above their waist praying for victory in battle and in war. Paul reminded Timothy in this same chapter that Christian men should approach Christ in worship with their hands raised and pray for peace with all men, not war. (Timothy 2:5). Christian women, come before Christ with a sense of modesty and humility, realizing that the ways of Christ are opposite of the ways of Artemis. Paul's entire personal letter to Timothy was an encouragement to him to "fight the wild beasts of Ephesus" and be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ and correct the errors brought into the church by "savage wolves" who were remaining under the influence of Artemis theology.

In Conclusion

I recently read a comment from a reader on Wartburg Watch named HoppyTheToad, a female believer in Christ who commented about a previous church experience she and her husband had:

"We spent five years at a church filled with gender role nonsense. It has a way of making women paranoid about their actions, lest they be perceived as being a domineering woman. One of the chuch elders took Mr. Hoppy aside one day while at work. He wanted to know about that status of our marriage because I seemed too interested in discussing theology on our church email loop. Women were completely forbidden from speaking in the (very participatory) service, including the one day that all the men except one were at a retreat. (We couldn’t even make announcements about the church garage sale.)
While women were allowed to discuss theology elsewhere, I guess I must’ve broken some unspoken rules. I would often be the only women in a group of men standing around discussing theology. Occasionally joining a discussion on the church email loop somehow led this elder into assuming Mr. Hoppy must be very displeased to have such a “domineering wife.” He defended me as best he could. By the time we baled out of that church, yes, the elders were sitting around at lunch with their wives discussing what a “domineering” wife I am."
Mrs. HoppyTheToad, I have a solution for your dilemma should you find yourself in a similar situation again:

(1). Walk around the church seven times and shout "Stupid, Stupid, Stupid."
(2). Print this blog post and ask your pastor if you can read it before the assembly.
(3). Realize that by understanding the meaning of I Timothy 2 spiritual suicide is prevented in those assemblies who desire to place cultic restrictions on women.

A lack of understanding of Artemis may well be the end of western evangelicalism's effectiveness, but the rivers won't run and the sun won't shine before I let that happen within my small sphere of influence.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

See Jesus in the Feasts of the Jews this Easter

Years ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma I ministered to a group of people who taught me a great deal about love for Christ. On the podium where I taught every Sunday was a plaque with these words enscribed on it: "Sir, we would see Jesus."

Few western evangelicals realize that time is measured differently in the Bible than the way we measure time today. When the One who transcends time established a calendar for man's sake, He did so according to the moon, not the sun. The biblical calendar is a lunar calendar, whereas our calendar today is a solar calendar. The Jews measured months by the moon's revolution around the earth. Today, we measure time by the earth's revolution around the sun. Until you have a basic understanding of the biblical lunar calendar, it will be easy to miss some wonderful truths regarding the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. This post fulfills the injuction: "Sir, we would see Jesus."

The Biblical Calendar and the Moon

A calendar is a system of organizing units of time for the purpose of measuring time over extended periods. The word "calendar" is from the Latin and means, “to call attention to the new moon.” The Biblical calendar was based on the people of God eyeballing the moon as it revolved around the earth and keeping track of the four seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter). We know that the seasons are the result of the effects of the sun upon the earth--hot, cold and mild--but the Jews only measured "days" by the sun (from sunset to sunset). Their months and seasons, prescribed by God, were counted off by eyeballing the moon.

The biblical month began with the new moon. The new moon is when the moon is dark, having no reflection from the sun from our viewpoint. The Jews would celebrate "new moon festivals" as a way to commemorate the beginning of a new month. "Whenever burnt offerings are presented to the Lord at the new moon.... the people are to serve the Lord in the proper way prescribed for them" (I Chronicles 23:31). This new moon worship of God was prescribed for the Jews by God because everything they did on their calendar pointed to Jesus Christ, as we shall see.

Since it takes 29 ½ days for the moon to complete her cycle around the earth the Biblical calendar consisted of 12 or 13 lunar months in a year, with the odd number months consisting of 30 days and the even number months consisting of 29 days. The years that had an additional month, the thirteenth month, are the years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 in a nineteen-year cycle. The reason a thirteenth month had to be added to the biblical calendar seven times during a nineteen year span is because the lunar year is shorter than the solar year by 11 days. If the Hebrews had not added a thirteenth month every few years, the winter season would eventually move on the calendar and occur in the summer months, and vice versa! Though this all may sound complicated, to the Jewish priests, it was as simple as waching the sky for a "new moon," knowing the agricultural seasons, and blowing their trumpets to mark the beginning of a new month.

God told Moses to Alter the Lunar Calendar

When God delivered His people Israel from Egyptian bondage, He told Moses to make the month in which the Passover occurred (the Abib) "the beginning of months" (Exodus 12:2). This one verse alone should indicate to you that God has a purpose for "the lunar calendar." Every act of worship in the Old Covenant was a type or shadow of the reality to be fulfilled in the coming Anointed One. "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin" (Hebrews 10:4), but the One to whom the bulls and goats point does precisely this--He takes away our sin. The feasts of Israel, the animal sacrifices of the Jews, and the ritualistic worship of God's people all point to what Jesus did on our behalf.

There were seven major feasts prescribed by God in the Old Testament. Each of these Seven Feasts of Israel (sometimes called Festivals) were celebrated at God-prescribed times according to the lunar calendar. When God incarnated Himself and walked among us in the God-Man Jesus Christ, His birth, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His gift of the Holy Spirit all occurred precisely the same time as the Feasts that foreshadowed Jesus Christ. The type (a particular Feast) was fulfilled in the anti-type (Jesus Christ).

The God who transcends time created time for us, so that when we think of time, we'll see Jesus Christ coming for us "in the fulness of time." In other words, history is His Story. Let me show you Jesus in the feasts of the Jews, God's Old Covenant chosen people.

The feasts of Israel can be broken down into three major groupings.

The Three Spring Feasts
The Feast of Passover, The Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of the Waving of the Sheaf of Firstfruits.

These three Feasts took place all within a few days of each other and occurred in the first month of the Biblical lunar (Nissan, also called "The Abib"), a month which corresponds to our March/April. These three feasts were often viewed together and collectively called either  “Passover” or “The Feast of Unleavened Bread," though there were three separate and meaningful feasts.

First, is the Feast of Passover. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13). The Hebrew phrase “Passover” is in the Greek “pascha” thus the Passover lamb is the Paschal lamb, and all that pertains to the appointed lamb (a lamb without blemish, in the prime of its life, its blood shed for the family, etc...) pertains to the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Paschal Lamb of God. We know this to be true because of several events prophesied by the prophets regarding the Messiah’s death:

(1). Genesis 49:10 describes the precise age in which the Messiah would come.
(2). Daniel 9:26 describes the precise year in which the Messiah would die.
(3). Amos 8:9-10 describes the exact day on which the Messiah would die.

These three prophecies point us directly to the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners as our Paschal Lamb. Jesus died precisely at the time the Jews were slaying their lambs for the celebration of The Feast of Passover. Jesus died on the 14th day of the Abib  (also called by its Babylonian name Nissan).  The Abib (notice the definitive article 'the') means "the act of parching by burning." Is it any wonder that when Jesus Christ died on the cross on the 14th day of the Abib, the fires of God's holiness and righteous judgment parched the life of His Son, the very One who became sin for us? The Passover was established and prescribed by God for Israel 1400 years before the death of Christ. In the fulness of time, Jesus fulfilled what the Passover represented. The Lamb was slain that the righteous judgment of God might pass over those who trust Him. Jesus could not have died at any other time, during any other day, for His death was prescribed by God and pictured in the Feast of Passover. When people sought to kill Jesus earlier in His ministry, He simply walked through them saying, "My time has not yet come" (John 7:30). A person may think he escapes God's judgment apart from the cross, but that kind of thinking is foolish and contrary to the explicit teaching of Scripture.

In love for sinners, God swept away the sin of His people through the death of His Son. This sweeping away of sin is pictured in the second feast of the Jews called The Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was seven days in length and included the Passover Day and the Feast of First Fruits (this is why sometimes all three feasts are lumped under the name Passover or the Feast of Unleavened Bread). During this feast, the Jews were to sweep out all leaven in their homes. Leaven is a picture of sin in the Bible. The sweeping away of leaven pictures all our sins being carried away from us by the Lamb of God. In the fulfillment of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, God does the sweeping. He removes our sins from us "as far as the east is from the west." It is an act of grace, a work of God, and it is accomplished by removing our sins from us, placing them on Christ, and pouring out His righteous judgment on His beloved Son for us.

The wages of sin is death. Every person, even believers in Christ, will one day die! Every person, even believers in Christ, will struggle with personal sins until we die. What is our assurance that God has removed judgment and condemnation from us?  What assurance do we have that we are truly the recipients of His unconditional love, favor and acceptance? The answer is found in The Feast of the Waving of the Sheaf of Firstfruits. Jesus Christ rose from the grave on the very day the Jews were celebrating this feast. This feast was prescribed by God to be celebrated "on the morrow after the Sabbath" during the week of Passover (Lev. 23:9-14). The Jews were told by God to go to the Temple on the "morning after the Sabbath" (Sunday morning) and wave a "sheaf" of the first fruits of their grain harvest before the Lord. As they waved their first fruits of grain before God and then gave it to the priests, they were told that God would prosper and bless "their entire harvest" because of the firstfruit offering accepted by Him!

When Paul writes of the resurrection in I Corinthians 15:20 he calls Jesus Christ "the firstfruits" of the resurrection--pointing out that God accepts and blesses all those whom Christ represents in His death and resurrection. In other words, your life--your eternal life--of God's blessing, favor, and prosperity is based on the offering of the firstfruits--Jesus Christ. You are guaranteed God's favor because by faith you wave Christ's life, Christ's death, and Christ's resurrection before God as the basis of your acceptance! You acknowledge that any blessings to be received from God are due to Jesus Christ! God raised “His cursed son” (Galatians 3:13) from the dead as proof of His pleasure in His Son’s sacrifice (Eph. 1:15-23). Those sinful and cursed people (like me and you) who trust in the firstfruits offering of Jesus Christ are accepted and blessed by God because of the first fruits (the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Anointed One)! The significance of Easter is that the resurrected Christ is THE GUARANTEE of God's blessings on those who trust Him, just as the later harvest of the Jews was blessed because the first fruit offering was acceptable to God.

The One Summer Jewish Feast
Pentecost -- the Greek name for "The Feast of Weeks"

It is known by various other names including “The Feast of Harvest” and most commonly as The Feast of Weeks "(or Pentecost) A week in Scripture represents the number seven (either days or years). In the case of this feast it represents days. Seven weeks (49 days) from the “Festival of the Sheaf of the Firstfruits” (on a Sunday) with Sunday being day one. When you get to the 49th day you arrive at a Saturday (The Jewish Sabbath). On the “morrow after the sabbath” (Lev. 23:15-21) you arrive at “The Fiftieth Day” (thus the Greek “Pente” meaning 5). Just like the day of Resurrection (The Festival of the Sheaf of Firstfuits) the fourth major Jewish festival occurs on a Sunday (the morrow after the Sabbath)

The number 50 is used throughout Scripture to represent liberty, freedom or deliverance. Every 50th year was the year of Jubilee for the nation of Israel. When Christ died in 30 A.D. the people of Israel were celebrating a year of Jubilee; 50 days after Christ died the disciples were in the upper room when the Spirit of God fell and empowered them. This day of Pentecost is the anti-type of the Old Testament Pentecost -- 50 days after Passover.

*Compare the differences between the Old Covenant Pentecost vs. New Covenant Pentecost. On the 50th day after the original Passover and the Hebrews leaving Egypt, God gave Israel the Old Covenant law written on stone. On the 50th after the Passover of Christ’s death (the New Covenant) God gave His people a law written on their hearts. On the day of the Old Covenant Pentecost (50 days after leaving Egypt), 3,000 people died at the giving of the Law, for the Law condemns. However, on the day of Pentecost in the New Testament--fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ--3,000 people were saved, for the Spirit gives life. The glory of God shone on the face of Moses in the Old Covenant, but the glory of God lives in the hearts of His people through the Spirit in the New Covenant. The Old is the letter of the law, but the New is life in the Spirit. It is a tragedy when God's people seek to live by the letter of the Law when Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law  and abolished it. The church that acts like it is a Temple, the pastor who acts like he is a priest, the people who act like they owe God a tithe and sacrifices, and the kind of Christianity that emphasis the Law more than the Spirit is more suited to the Old Covenant order. When the Spirit fills Christ followers with the power of God, then God's people begin to focus their lives on fulfilling the Royal Law of God - loving others as Christ has loved us--and pay scant attention to little else.

The Three Fall Feasts
The Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, and The Feast of Tabernacles.

These three feasts took place within the seventh month of the lunar calendar (Ethanim or also called Tisri). This month corresponds to our September/October. It was this month in which the fruit harvest (mostly grapes) occurred.

These Fall feasts correspond to the two "comings" of Christ to earth--His first coming (to Bethlehem) and His Second Coming (to establish His eternal kingdom). His birth in Bethlehem is pictured in The Feast of Tabernacles, when God came to earth and tabernacled among men (see John 1:1). The intercession of Jesus as the High Priest for His people is pictured in The Feast Day of Atonement. His Second Coming is pictured in The Feast of Trumpets. Time does not permit to show the signficance of these three Jewish feasts, but needless to say, all three of them, like the other four feasts, all point to Jesus Christ and are fulfilled by Him precisely.

So, in summary, Jesus Christ came to earth during the Feast of Taberacles. He died on the Feast of Passover and was buried in the tomb during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus rose on the day of the Waving of the Sheaf of First Fruits, and He sent His Spirit as a gift on the Feast of Pentecost. He now intercedes on our behalf as our Great High Priest in fulfillment of the Feast of Atonement, and He will one day come to establish His eternal kingdom and judge the world in fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets.

Next time you read the Bible, remember it is not written as a self-help manual. It is the metanarrative of God's plan of redemption and tells the story of the only Savior this world will ever see. This Easter 2013 take a little time to thank God for measuring time in terms of His Son. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Christopher Dorner, Good and Evil, and Our Mistake about God

The cop killer and serial murderer Christopher Dorner is dead. His victims included a young couple engaged to be married. Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence met while playing basketball for Concordia University, a distinctively Christian liberal arts school in Irvine, Californa. Monica's father was the first Asian American captain in the Los Angeles Police Department. It is difficult to imagine the pain Monica's and Keith's parents are feeling at the loss of their children, and even more difficult to grasp the agony of the children who have lost fathers, as is the case with the families of two other men Christopher Dorner murdered. The last victim, a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy, was shot and killed during Tuesday's shootout in the snowy San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear Lake. It is not hard to imagine a number of people, including the families of officers, praying for the safety of all those in pursuit of Dorner. Yet, the deputy died.  Some ask, "Where is God in the midst of this evil?"

About a decade ago a small group of Korean Christians in Enid, Oklahoma lost a bag of cash with over $7,000 inside. They were building a new church building and through a series of unfortunate circumstances, the money bag fell off the roof of a church vehicle as it was being taken to the bank. The driver thought he had placed the bag in the car. The cash bag fell and came to rest on an Enid city road, ready to be picked up by a passerby. When the money bag was discovered missing, panic set in. $7,000 was a great deal of cash. The Koreans prayed and asked God to help them recover the cash. A few hours later, a gentleman returned the money to the police department. He wanted no thanks and no reward. He said, “I didn’t work for it, so it’s not mine. The money was for the church... it was their money."  When the money was returned, nobody in the Korean Church was asking, "Where is God?"

That man who returned the money was Christopher Dorner.

We seem to have an easy time believing God is in control when good things happen, but we flip the switch when evil occurs and want to believe that God is not in control. I have recently had some discussions with several Christians who struggle with reconciling God's sovereignty with the evil around us. Some are asking, "If God is all-good and all-powerful, then why is there evil in this world?" Others inquire, "If God is truly in charge of all things, is He not the author of evil?"

Some choose to resolve the issue of evil in this world by contradicting Scripture and limiting God's power. They say that because God created human beings with free will, God designed the universe to unfold according to the actions of man, and because the future is not foreordained, everyone (including God) is surprised by evil and works hard to overcome it with good. This lack of belief in God's foreknowledge is called Open Theism or Open Futurism, and it is a belief held by many solid evangelicals, including Greg Boyd. Open theists try to protect God against the charge that He is responsible for evil by limiting His ability to know the future. With this view, God was surprised by Christopher Dorner's actions in California (and in Enid).

Scripture, however, is quite clear that God knows the end from the beginning. God is outside of time. This is why the Bible could say "Christ was crucified before the foundation of the world."  What is ordained in the mind of God before time is what occurs in time. Since evil is not part of God's nature, His allowance of evil to occur simply means He has a greater good in store, a greater good that would not exist were the evil to be prohibited. This is why God can hold the wicked accountable and responsible for their evil, but overcome their evil for good. He did this when "wicked hands" put His Son to death, a death that God "foreordained" (see Acts 2:23).  He did this when Joseph's brothers stripped Joseph naked, beat him, threw him into a pit, and then sold him into slavery. God did not cause Joseph's brothers to do evil, but God permitted evil to occur because He had a greater good in store, a greater good that would not have occurred had not Joseph been sold into slavery. Joseph understood that all evil has the good presence of God in it. Evil is not from God, but all evil does not exist in a vacuum. God is present, orchestrating good from it. Joseph said to his brothers years after they committed their evil against him, "What you did was evil and you intended harm to me, but God allowed it to occur in order to bring about a greater good" (Genesis 50:20).

This is what it means for God "to work (orchestrate) all things for good" (Romans 8:28). All things are not good. Some things (like murder) are instrinsically evil. But God works ultimate good out of all things, including evil. For God to do this, he MUST know the end from the beginning. He is One who is both in time and out of time. Einsteen postulated that time is relative, a dimension that can be shaped, bent and manipulated. Though the biblical writers would have been ignorant of Einstein's theories, the inspired Scriptures affirm that God can move in time, both past and future, as easily as we move in and out of a closet. He is above time and created time for His creation. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, and all things are from Him, subsist by Him and will return to Him (Colossians 1:17; Romans 11:36).  The Scripture tells us  three things about God's nature ... (1). God is spirit, John 4:24;  (2). God is light, I John 1:5; and (3). God is love, I John 4:8. He so transcends your ability to understand Him that He must condescend to us and reveal Himself or we would never know Him. This is precisely what He did in coming to earth - Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus said, "He that sees me has seen the Father."

For millenia people have made the mistake of thinking God is just like them. He isn't. He is unique in His attributes. He is unique in His nature. He is unique in His essence. Israel made the mistake of considering God to be like another human being. The ancient Greeks capture this common fault in man when they opined that if people were lizards, their gods would be a lizards, or if people were horses, their gods would be horses. Since people are people, we try to make our god like a person. This is a big mistake. There is one spirit God who reigns over all things in power and love, and He has established His throne over heaven and earth, and His kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19).

Where is God in the midst of destruction? Where is God in the midst of evil? Where is God in the midst of the death and chaos caused by Christopher Dorner? He is in the same place He was when Christopher Dorner turned in that bag of cash a decade ago. God is right in the middle of all things.

He is not causing evil, nor is He the author of evil, but He is never absent from evil. It is difficult for you and I as a created human beings to understand how a good, omnipotent and omnipresent God could be in the middle of evil, orchestrating a greater good through it. You and I are finite. We can't see the end from the beginning. We can't comprehend how evil can be present for a greater good to occur. We can't fathom how One is outside of time and independent of time and has no need of time, but uses time for His glory and our ultimate good. We can't get our heads around how justice and the righteous punishment of evil is a good and loving action. In short, we are not God.

But just because we are not God, let's not make the grave mistake of pulling Him down to our level.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Who's the Boss at Your Church?

When one is asked "Who governs your church?" the typical response is "Jesus Christ." Granted, Jesus is the Lord of all believers, but next time you're at a church business meeting, try pointing your finger at Jesus and then tell your fellow church members that He needs to take over. They'd look at you like you were Charlie Sheen. Ideally, Jesus Christ controls the hearts, minds and tongues of all those conducting church business, but the question remains: "Who is it that governs your church?"

The subject of church polity is complex. Some churches have bishops who take their orders from higher authorities in the synod. Other churches have what they call 'ruling' elders. A few churches have one person that rules the church like King Xerxes ruled Persia. However, the biblical model for church governance is congregational. Many neo-reformed evangelicals have moved to 'ruling elders,' setting a group of men aside as the "spiritual and moral authority" for the church. In my opinion, this is a huge mistake. The scripture teaches every member of the church has equal moral and spiritual authority. The church is a democracy of equals, not an oligarchy of superiors. Congregationalism alone represents this sense of equality.

The word congregation means "the act of assembling." One can easily interchange the words assembly and congregation. For example, an assembly of God is a congregation of God, and both phrases refer to what we now call a church. Here is where it gets interesting. In the Bible, the English word church translates the Greek word ekklesia. What does the word ekklesia mean? Surprise! It means an assembly or congregation of people with equal authority. Let me state this important principle again: By the very definition of the word church (ekklessia), a church is a congregation or assembly of people with equal authority. Let me prove it.

In 510 B.C. the city-state of Athens was ruled by a tyrant named Hippias. The people of Athens revolted, and with the help of soldiers from Sparta, Athenians expelled the dictator Hippias from the city. Cleisthenes, who followed Hippias as chief ruler of Athens, instituted amazing reforms in the city and he became known as "The Father of Democracy." Cleisthenes established the Assembly (Ekklesia) of Athens. This ekklesia became the meeting place where ordinary citizens could speak their minds and try to influence one another in the affairs of Athens. The Ekklesia assembled at the pnyx, an open-air theatre with a retaining wall and orator's stand west of the Acropolis of Athens. Each and every member of the Assembly could speak, but those who were over fifty years in age were allowed to go first in honor of their wisdom and maturity. Elders in the Assembly did not mean those with more authority, it meant those with greater wisdom.The Assembly believed no one person should have more authority or power. If an individual gained too much power in the Ekklesia, he would be voted out and exiled from Athens for ten years. In a world filled with despots and tyrants, Athenian congregationalism was the marvel of the world!

It is no accident that when the biblical writers chose a word to represent believers of Jesus Christ who congregate or assemble together, they chose the word ekklesia. This word did not just drop from heaven. It was not used by Paul or Peter or James in a vacuum. They knew the word represented an assembly of people who shared in equal authority and equal privileges within the Kingdom. Paul even went further than the Athenian Assembly in his teaching that the assembly of Christ (the church) should be a place where there is no difference between Jews and Greeks, males or females, slave or free (Galatians 3:28).

It is completely contrary to Scripture to believe that some men have been given more moral and spiritual authority than other believers within the church. In the ekklesia of Jesus Christ, any person, male or female, recognized as being in Christ carries as much moral and spiritual authority as any other person--no more, no less--the same. The state may recognize trustees with greater legal authority, or pastors with greater state authority (the officiant in marriages, etc...) or signatures bearing corporate authority (deeds, title, etc...), but God established in his ekklesia a group of people with equal spiritual authority. Pay attention to those who are older and wiser in the ekklesia of Christ. Minister to those around you with a servant's heart and attitude. But if you ever begin to feel that somebody is beginning to exert spiritual authority and power over you and other individuals in an attempt to govern Christ's church, then it is time to confront the abuser of the ekklesia and call him out, and maybe even put him out.  My friend wrote a bestselling book called The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, but maybe another one needs to be written entitled The Subtle Problem of Not Confronting Spiritual Abuse. A healthy ekklesia won't allow an abuse of power. It's not easy confronting abusers, but for the good of the ekklesia it must be done.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Why Preaching Gets a Bad Rap

Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, are entirely confused about the meaning of the word "preach." Three examples of this misunderstanding will illustrate the problem. (1). First, young people will say to their parents, "Don't preach to me!" By this they mean, "Don't be telling me what I should or shouldn't be doing." (2). Second, a punk rock group called The Skallywags has a song called Don't Preach to Me where they express anger toward cultural pop stars like Madonna and actress Susan Sarenden by singing, "Take your soapbox rants and your politics and stick them where the sun don't shine." (3). And finally, after Lebron James watched a very inspirational video of Sports Illustrated Sportskid of the Year, a video about a boy who runs triathlons while pushing or pulling his six-year old cerebal palsy brother, he said to the media, "I don't have to preach anymore because I will just show that video and my older son will know what he's supposed to do for his brother."

All three above examples illustrate that most people believe the word preach means to moralize, to tell people what they should or shouldn't be doing. That is not the definition of the biblical word "preach." Sadly, most obtain this definition of preaching by observing the stereotypical behavior of those wrongly called preachers, men who shame their listeners over their poor behavior on Sunday morning and moralize them with "shoulds" and "oughts." Whatever it is these men in the pulpits are doing, it can't be rightly called preaching, at least as the Bible defines it.

The biblical English word preach translates the Greek word kerusso. This Greek word means "to herald, to announce, or to proclaim something new." The etymology of the word comes from the ancient Greeks who heard a rooster crowing as he announced the rising sun. The sound the rooster made is like how the word kerusso sounds when you say it in Greek. Thus, the word kerusso came to mean "to herald, to announce, or to proclaim something new."  When a rooster preaches (kerusso), he doesn't shame or moralize the person who oversleeps. That's not the job of preaching. The rooster simply announces the sun has risen. The closest modern comparison to the Scriptural word kerusso is news broadcaster.  When you listen to the news, you want to find out something new! The news broadcaster doesn't shame the listener, he reveals something new in the world!

So, too, the biblical preacher is one who tells his listeners something new about Jesus Christ, the risen Son. Paul said "Unto me has been given the grace to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). Notice, the riches of Christ are inexhaustible. You can search, and search and search, and never even come close to discovering all there is to know about Christ. See Him in Creation. See Him in the patriarchs. See Him in the sacrifices. See Him in Israel's festivals. See Him in Bethlehem. See Him in the Gospels. See Him at Calvary. See Him in eternity. Announce and proclaim Him. See Him as the one to be revered. See Him as the solution for every problem. O that preachers today would be like Anacreon's harp, an instrument that refused to play any other song but a song of love. Though Anacreon wished to sing of the mighty deeds of Hercules and the feats of the sons of Atreus, the harp refused. Only if the song was about love would the strings of the harp vibrate. So, too, may the vocal chords of preachers only vibrate while announcing and proclaiming of the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. Anything else is not real preaching.

In summary, preaching is not moralizing people or even motivating people. Preaching is when a preacher meditates on Christ and is mesmorized by His riches, and then goes out and proclaims by memory all the good news that he himself has learned about Christ.