29 August 2016

Meme Christianity

Who doesn't love a good meme? They are visual. They are pithy. They are effective at making a point with minimal space and effort. And let's face it, they are ideal in today's attention deficit disorder world of social media and character limits.

Unfortunately, they also seem to be taking over. Ministry Facebook pages are now littered with memes, and one has to wonder how much edifying and useful conversation these short thoughts actually generate.

For those of you who are a bit less well-traveled in the social media world, a meme is, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture." Wikipedia offers a much longer description of the word and its origin, but for the purposes of this article, let us simply offer the reader a few examples of some of the popular memes floating around "Christian" social media circles these days.

Memes and cartoons may be a clever way to deliver short bursts of spiritual truth, but they must stop being our primary "Shares" on social media. A meme cannot deliver the gospel. Pictures of characters from cult-classic movies are not as compelling as a personal proclamation of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. Please, Christian, stop relying on these gimmicks for your primary means of gospel communication. By doing so, you are little better than the seeker-sensitive pastor with his trendy sermon series.

26 August 2016

This 'n' That

Recent weeks have been filled with trial and loss, and I'm certain that is true for many of us. It is these times when we find comfort and encouragement in the knowledge that our God ordains such times to strengthen our faith and our trust in Him. It is also in these times when meditation upon the person and work of Christ is exponentially vital. It is one thing to hear, "trust God," but it is quite another to pause and reflect on the Christ who saved you. Growing knowledge of Him increases our trust in Him, for we cannot trust a God we do not know.

If you find yourself in trying times, do not be discouraged by checklists of do's and don'ts that are allegedly designed to boost your trust in God. Simply open His Word and read. Pray for understanding, wisdom, and guidance. Pray that He would reveal Himself to you through His Word. Read again the truth of Jesus Christ. Then rest in that revealed truth. Believer, be comforted by the knowledge that you belong to Him and no one and no thing can snatch you out of His hand. Transitory circumstances change with the breeze, but our God and our King are unchanging and reign forever.

So if you're ready for a break from the busyness of the week, why not relax a little while you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

19 August 2016

This 'n' That

I caught myself screaming at my computer in a whisper yesterday. Yes, it can be done and it's not an uncommon occurrence considering the speed (or lack thereof) of my PC. I'm convinced the insides of my computer are actually from 1999 and it is only masquerading as a new piece of equipment. And yes, I do tend to mutter to myself at times. I'm convinced it's the sign of genius...or madness...but let's go with the former.

When I noticed myself uselessly arguing with a piece of electronics, it reminded me of an interesting observation I made one day while driving home. I saw a man sitting on a park bench talking...to himself. He was having quite a conversation, and no, he was not on the phone and was not wearing a bluetooth headset. He was simply talking...to himself.

It occurred to me that this is what many people think it is like when you talk to God. For many, the idea of prayer is the like talking to an empty park bench. Many people simply do not believe that God is there, let alone that He actually hears us.

These people are gravely mistaken. The God of the universe, the God of the Bible, the Creator, King, and Lord of all is real. He is real and He hears His children when they pray to Him.
This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. (1 John 5:14-15)
When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6)
Christian, do you take comfort in the reality of the immanence of your God? Do you rejoice in the person of your Savior and the work that He has done in reconciling us to the Father?

Now that you've pondered that, it's time for your week in review (kind of):

14 August 2016

Equipping Eve: A Victim of Spontaneous Baptism

The professing Christian community has a variety of views on baptism. In recent years, there was some controversy surrounding so-called “spontaneous baptisms,” but what does the Bible really say about this practice?

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Additional Resources
A Closer Look at Baptism (sermon by Pastor Don Green)
Equipping Eve: The Cross of Christ
Equipping Eve: Making Abortion Convenient
What Exactly Are "Women's Issues"?

Sunday Morning Praise

God Will Take Care of You

12 August 2016

This 'n' That

There are a host of words wandering around the English language that simply are underused and unappreciated. I was recently browsing through some material for a project and suddenly saw the word "fortuitous" proudly decorating the page. Fortuitous; that is most definitely a word that is not used nearly enough in casual conversation.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, fortuitous means, "happening by chance." In other words, if something is fortuitous, its occurrence is accidental and was not brought about by design. I love this word. I love this word because, if we pause and ponder, we realize that nothing is actually fortuitous.

It's true, from man's finite perspective, many things appear to happen by chance; however, from a divine perspective, all things are ordained and designed by the sovereign God of the universe.
In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:8b-12)
The sovereignty of God surely must be one of the most fascinating, wonderful, and comforting of all His attributes. Nothing is beyond the grasp of the One we serve. He is surprised by nothing and He is supreme over all things. Wow. Pondering such realities puts into perspective even small things like enjoying your week in review (kind of):

05 August 2016

This 'n' That

I am a morning person. I love the early morning; the colors of the sunrise and the sound of the birds singing is a favorite way to start my day. Follow that with freshly brewed coffee and some Bible time (should I insert my selfie righteousness, perfectly-staged, coffee-and-Bible-devotional photo here?), and you'll have a happy me...at least until I have to leave for work, that is.

The morning reminds me of the Lord's lovingkindness toward His people:
The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
And while most of us are not in a similar position as David might have been when composing Psalm 143, his trust and expectation that God would be gracious to him anew each day and throughout the day teaches us to view our God in the same way:
Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning;
For I trust in You;
Teach me the way in which I should walk;
For to You I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:8)
Let us, like Jeremiah, trust in God and praise Him for His faithfulness. Let us, like David, ask God each day to teach us the way in which we should walk. Let us turn to His Word early so as not to walk one step without feeding on His truth.

That being said, if you've not spent time in God's Word yet today, please go do that now. Otherwise there is just no way that you'll truly enjoy your week in review (kind of):

01 August 2016

What Should Women Study?

Let me forgo a flowery introduction and make one thing clear at the outset of this article: I am not a feminist. I am not an egalitarian. I believe that, for those who are called to the roles, being a wife and/or mother is a marvelous, high calling. My position on these matters has been made abundantly clear here and other places, and if there is any question, please don't hesitate to contact me and I will provide those resources to you.

I am, however, someone who does not take kindly when women and their role within the Body of Christ is diminished or denigrated.

Over the years and months I've occasionally seen reference made to so-called "women's issues," with some writers/teachers/commenters taking the position that women must limit themselves to these alleged "women's issues" when it comes to biblical study, discussion, or teaching.

So, the question must be asked: What exactly are "women's issues"?

One article's comment thread says that this category includes issues of femininity or the woman's role as a wife and mother, her call to mentor younger women as per Titus 2, biblical modesty, etc.

These are all good and biblical topics, and I daresay that even men ought to know what God's Word says about these matters for both the Christian woman and the Christian man.

While these may indeed appear to be better placed into the category of "women's issues" than some other subjects, is it appropriate to deem that this is all a woman can speak to, even when teaching other women? Is this all women are capable of processing? Is this really all Christian women need to know?

If so, then we ladies best trade in our Bibles for a smaller version, for we only need the following texts:
  • Proverbs 31:10-31
  • Ephesians 5:22-24
  • 1 Timothy 2:9-15
  • Titus 2:3-5
  • 1 Peter 3:1-6
That's it. No Pentateuch for you, ladies. No Sermon on the Mount. Those glorious prophecies of Isaiah and others? Well, you don't need them. After all, they do not fall into the bucket of "women's issues."

Hopefully the reader can see the absurdity of such reasoning. Yet it is precisely this type of logic that may lead to a dangerously distorted view of women within the visible church. It can result in women who are spiritually weak because they've been told that only their husbands and other men are worthy of deep theological study. It leaves women content to remain biblically ignorant, which is directly opposed to what we see in Scripture.

Practical Matters

One danger that arises from this type of thinking is that these so-called "women's issues" are all matters of practice and day-to-day living, yet they greatly limit the realms in which women may function. When we examine women in the real world, we see that many deal with a multiplicity of other issues, even in the practical realm. Issues of the workplace: integrity, relationships, and diligence therein; matters of stewardship: how do those women who do not have families to care for steward their time and talents to the glory of God?; and issues of service: how might a woman serve the Body of Christ in more ways than simply baking cookies or babysitting children?

Ultimately, whether the matters at hand are ones of motherhood or office life, the threat exists that women, in being limited to only learning about and discussing these "women's issues" that are mere matters of practice, become trapped in a dismal hole of law without grace, practice without faith, morality of actions without transformation of affections.

Beyond the practical, and far more important, is the reality that theology is not just a man's issue, it is a woman's issue as well. In that regard, then, we must acknowledge that the following are also "women's issues":
  • The nature of God
  • The character of God
  • The nature of man
  • The nature of Scripture
  • Sin
  • Heaven
  • Hell
  • Redemption
  • Justification
  • Reconciliation
  • Sanctification
  • Glorification
The list goes on, and on, and on, and on. True "women's issues" are things like Christology, pneumatology, bibliology, soteriology, apologetics, and Church history. We cannot begin to plumb the depths of the Word of God or exhaust its truths and treasures. Why, then, would we seek to withhold some of those treasures from God's own daughters? Did Lois and Eunice only teach Timothy about marriage and motherhood? It certainly doesn't appear that way:
For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. (2 Timothy 1:5)
Think for a moment of the humble, but theologically equipped Mary, whose song praising her unborn son, her Lord, was rich with doctrinal truths.
And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
“He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
“He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”
(Luke 1:46-56) 
In fact, of Mary's song, John MacArthur writes,
It is clear that Mary's young heart and mind were already thoroughly saturated with the Word of God.1
Indeed, and she surely was familiar with more than just Proverbs 31! Whether a woman is a wife, mother, factory worker, or corporate executive, the deep truths of Scripture are hers to discover, study, and apply in all realms of life. 

Women Matter

First Timothy 2:11 says, "A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness." While women today may bristle at the idea that a woman is to "learn quietly with all submissiveness," the cultural realities of this passage must be acknowledged. At the time of Paul's writing, in both Jewish and Greek society, women often were not encouraged to attend public worship. Their presence there was unimportant.2 The fact that Paul commands women to be present and affirms their right to learn must have been a great joy to the women of that day.

The New Testament affirms time and again the presence of women within the early church, as well as their apparent importance to the work of ministry. One need only examine the Scriptures to see that women were not only esteemed, but were fellow students of the Word. After all, how can one rightly and strongly serve the Lord if one is not immersed in and being nourished by His Word? Priscilla certainly seemed to be familiar with the teachings and doctrines of God's truth.
Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:24-26)
In fact, the church at Rome seemed to be blessed with many faithful women grounded in their faith.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house.

Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.

(Romans 16:1-5; 15)
Did Paul only speak of babies and baking when he taught Lydia and the women who were with her? It seems doubtful.
And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. 
A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:13-14)
Women and men most certainly have different God-ordained roles within the Church. But positionally, we are all sinners saved by the same precious blood of Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Ladies, do not despise deep study of the Word. Men, do not deprive or discourage women from this either.

1. John MacArthur, Twelve Extraordinary Women, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 116.
2. John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Timothy, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1995), 83.

Further Reading
Women Elders: the World vs. the Word
Feminist Rebellion in a Rebellious System
Replacing the 'Violent' Cross
Equipping Eve: On Women, Roles, and Hillsong
Equipping Eve to Understand Evangelical Feminism