How tame is our God?

How tame is our God? Consider this quote from AW Tozer:

The God of the modern evangelical rarely astonishes anybody. He manages to stay pretty much within the constitution. Never breaks our bylaws. He’s a very well-behaved God and very denominational and very much one of us, and we ask Him to help us when we’re in trouble and look to Him to watch over us when we’re asleep. The God of the modern evangelical isn’t a God I could have much respect for. But when the Holy Ghost show us God as He is, we admire Him to the point of wonder and delight. (Gems from Tozer)

  • How domesticated is the God we worship?
  • Do we confine  him within our evangelical boxes?
  • Do we ask him to color within the lines we create for him?
  • Are our expectations of him limited by a narrow theology?

Or is he allowed to surprise and astonish us?

“Aslan is not a tame lion.”

Aslan lion

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God’s love language

I sometimes wake in the night, and if I can’t get back to sleep, I get up to pray. It’s become a habit I’ve learned to appreciate. We have a long hallway in our house, and I love to walk up and down that hallway seeking the Lord.

Yesterday morning, in the early hours, I began my time with God, as I usually do, in worship and praise. I found myself pondering the question, how do I show God how much I love him? What is his love language?

Which took me to in my thinking to the book,The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary D Chapman. The five love languages Gary describes are different ways that people best experience love, especially from their spouses. The five he focuses on are

  • words of affirmation
  • quality time
  • gifts
  • acts of service
  • physical touch.

As I began pondering and praying, I found myself thinking that, with the obvious exception of physical touch, all these are ways we can express our love to God.

Words of affirmation: God loves to receive our praise and worship. It even says that he inhabits the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3).

Quality time: our lives are so busy that it’s easy to neglect spending time in God’s presence. Or perhaps more relevant, how do we, (like Brother Lawrence) learn to experience his presence even in the mundane busyness of life.

Gifts: Although it includes finances, I don’t think this is the primary way we give to God. We give him our lives, becoming a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). He’s delighted when our lives bear fruit–and this includes the fruit of others becoming followers of Jesus.

Acts of service: It sometimes gets overlooked because we cannot earn our salvation, but God delights in our service for him–as we lay down our lives to help others. Just yesterday, thinking about acts of service being a way to express my love for him helped me to perform an act of service that I usually prefer to avoid.

I know that this doesn’t begin to touch on other ways we can love God like obedience and the quality of our character, but I found it a helpful concept.

What do you think?

heart

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Procter and Gamble gets it right

This awesome ad from Procter and Gamble is very thought provoking, especially for those of us who believe God doesn’t place limits on women. Check it out. It will only take three minutes.

What can we learn from this?

What are the implications of its message for men and women in the church?

Five basic tenets

Pro-slavery advocates of the 18th and 19th centuries used five basic tenets based on the Bible to express the heart of their argument:

slavery

  1. God established slavery and there are numerous examples through the Old Testament
  2. Righteous people practiced it
  3. The moral law allowed for it
  4. Jesus accepted it
  5. The apostles upheld it.

For those of us who believe that women should not be limited by their gender, these arguments sound eerily familiar. In fact, there is more to defend the practice of slavery in the Bible than there is to limit the role of women.

The abolitionists also used the Bible to express their convictions. They said that although the Bible described slavery, abolition best expressed the overall emphasis of the Scriptures, and especially the teachings of Jesus.

When we examine the tenor and trend of the Bible concerning women, there is equally compelling evidence that the traditional approach that subordinates women does not line up with the heart of God.

Because of your gender…

Would you want to become a Christian if you were told that your role in church would be limited, solely because of your gender?

That because of your gender, you would never be allowed to teach or to lead in any strategic way.

That because of your gender, you would be expected to wait for others to initiate?

I think that many people view the church as archaic/medieval because of its traditional views of a woman’s role. Paul said he became all things to all people that by all means he might save some. (See 1 Corinthians 9:19-23) I think he would be appalled that something he wrote might be a barrier to people becoming followers of Jesus.

Just sayin’…

 

Guest post by Gary Shogren: Brothers? Brothers and sisters?

Sometimes the thought crosses my mind, “Are you just making all this stuff up about men and women working together as co-equals in the church? Who do you think you are? You aren’t qualified to make judgments about the Scriptures–you don’t have any training in these areas.” And it’s true. I don’t. So  I love to have the help of theologians. When Gary Shogren contacted me a while back and said, “If I may offer, I do a great deal of work in the Greek New Testament (my field – my PhD is from Aberdeen University) and I would be very happy to serve as a resource if you have any issues dealing with exegesis or early church history,” I took him at his word. Gary and his wife are missionaries in Costa Rica and professors in a Bible College and Seminary. I’ve sent him various questions, including ones posed by people commenting on this blog, and he’s been incredibly helpful in response. Here’s  his latest “rant”!

Who did Paul write to? Brothers, or Brothers and Sisters?

May I draw your attention to 1 Thessalonians 1:4 ESV – “for we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you…”

Here’s a puzzle: why is it that in the English Standard Version, Paul addresses his readers as brothers (ESV, HCSB; brethren in the KJV and NASB). But in other versions of that same verse, he writes to his brothers and sisters (e. g., GW, NET, NRSV). What happened? Have modern translators caved in to feminist pressure and pasted the sisters into the Bible? Are other translators manning the barricade in order to defend God’s Word?

Here’s the facts: in 1:4 and elsewhere, we are dealing with a plural Greek noun, adelphoi/ἀδελφοί (memory hint = Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love). In the body of the text, the ESV renders adelphoi as “brothers” (never “brothers and sisters”). Then at the first use of the term in each Pauline epistle there is an explanatory footnote: 1 Thessalonians 1:4  footnote says:

2 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated ‘brothers’) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church.

Did I hear this right? Aren’t the ESV editors conceding that rendering adelphoi as “brothers and sisters” in this context would be the more accurate and literal rendering, but for some unstated reason they haven’t used it? Indeed that is just what they are saying.

I minister full-time in Spanish, and here it helps me to understand the Greek. The Spanish hermano means “brother”, while hermana, with the feminine ending, means “sister”. But hermanos, plural, is generic. As in the Greek, the Spanish plural can refer to “male siblings only” or it could refer to “siblings.” So in Spanish, if someone asks me, “Do you have any hermanos?” the proper response in my case would be “Yes, I have two brothers. I have one brother and one sister.” But in English, if someone asks me, “Do you have any brothers?” my response would be to tell you how many male siblings I have: “Yes, I have one brother.” And maybe I would add: “Oh, and I also have a sister.” Do you see the difference? If I ask you if you have brothers and you start in by saying, “Yes, I have three sisters,” then it should be evident to all that the English doesn’t work the same way as the Greek does.

So, the plural adelphoi in Greek can mean “male siblings” or “siblings,” depending on the context. Since Paul addresses male and female adelphoi in his letters, then a perfectly proper and literal translation in English is siblings or, less clunkily, brothers and sisters. In fact, even the “complementarian” Colorado Springs Guidelines would not take issue with “brothers and sisters,” since it states that “the plural adelphoi can be translated ‘brothers and sisters’ where the context makes clear that the author is referring to both men and women.” (see the text of the Guidelines)

Translating these verses with brothers and sisters is not a paraphrase; translating it only with the male brothers is. It is not political correctness to translate brothers and sisters, nor is it a rejection of pc to translate it brothers.

So my question is not “Why does the NRSV or NLT or NIV have brother and sister?” but rather,“Why doesn’t the ESV put brothers and sisters right where they say it belongs, in the text of 1 Thessalonians 1:4?” And why this odd footnote that contradicts the choice that the editors made when they put in the inferior translation brothers in verses where brothers and sisters is the more accurate rendering?

Thus, the translation of 1 Thessalonians 1:4 that I made for my commentary is “We acknowledge [before God], brothers and sisters whom God loves, that you were chosen…”

This material is adapted from 1-2 Thessalonians by Gary S. Shogren, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012). The reader may also visit my blog at openoureyeslord.com to download my full commentary on 1 Corinthians and for articles on 1-2 Thessalonians, including my full translation of both epistles.

brothers and sisters
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Some scary statistics

Julie Ross, one of the co-authors of The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church compiled these scary statistics:

Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, to release captives, to free the oppressed.

What should be the response of his body, the church, to these figures that represent not numbers, but people for whom Jesus died? What can we do? How can we get involved? What can those of us involved in the simple/organic/house church movement do?

Indian girl

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Starting a simple church can be simple

We may have just helped to start another church.

Sometimes starting a simple church can be just that–simple. We’ve had a wonderful couple from a Hindu background who have part of the church in our home for a while. We’ve prayed with them, baptized them, rejoiced with them at the miracles they’ve seen. When they had a baby, fairly recently, with their jobs and all their other commitments, plus the baby’s sleep schedule, getting to our home on a Friday evening became nearly impossible for them. Tony and I had breakfast and fellowship with them on occasion but they were missing the regular gathering.

A few weeks ago. I was contacted by a young couple who lives near us, asking if I knew of a simple church near them. I invited them to come visit the church that meets in our home. When their baby’s schedule made that impossible, I had a sudden revelation (duh!)

Let’s get these two couples together and see what happens. Both couples were excited at the idea.

So we did just that, 10 days ago, and the six of us had a great time of fellowship–learning about each other’s lives over brunch in one of their homes.

They were all part of a pool party we had on July 4th at our home. (Because July 4th was a Friday, we had a party instead of our normal church. It was BYOB–bring your own BBQ– and everyone was encouraged to bring others. About a third of those who came were friends and family of those in the church).

It’s too early to be sure yet, but I think we may have just laid the foundation of another simple church. Some of you may be thinking, “Just bringing two Christian couples together is starting a church?” Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It’s the presence of Jesus that makes it “church,” not the size. Now obviously more needs to happen. As they both reach out into their circles of influence, more people will get involved. But is it the basic building block of church? Yes!

July 4th sparklers

 

Guest post by Bonnie Sloat: Curse or consequence?

Bonnie Sloat often sends me comments on my posts–always insightful and encouraging. So when she sent me some ideas based on the results of the Fall–curse or consequence, which I found very helpful, I asked if she would consider writing a guest post for me on that topic. Here’s what she writes:

As a marriage and family counselor for many years, I was often confronted with the ramifications of the Fall and how it plays out in the lives of men and women.  I am so grateful for the writing of Donald and Robbie Joy, Lovers–Whatever Happened to Eden? which I discovered some years ago.  It gave me a more complete understanding of what I was seeing in my counseling office day after day.

We’re all aware of God’s original design in Genesis 1:26 & 27:  “Then God said, Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.  They will reign over…. So God created human beings in his own image.  In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

God’s original creation dream was:

  • God created both male and female equal, co-humanity, co-regents
  • Both bear the image of God (the image of God is not mentioned apart from both male and female) and sexuality is a reflection of different aspects of their behavior.
  • Both male and female share equally the God-assigned task of creation rulership without any intimation of role distinctions.

But then we have the Fall when the man and the woman sinned.  What exactly happened when God came to the Garden seeking the man and the woman?

The Serpent is cursed (man and woman were not cursed—only the serpent and the earth).  An adversarial relationship results between the serpent and woman because she actually told the truth:  “The serpent deceived me and that’s why I ate it.”  You only have to look at the plight of women around the world and throughout history to know that Satan hates women.

The Man and the Woman are warned (no curse, only the consequences):

  • The woman will experience increased pain in child bearing (suffering now mars life)
  • The woman will desire to control her husband (seeking the intimacy with a man she was intended to experience with God)
  • The man now has to tame a cursed earth that has a tendency toward chaos and is also tempted to dominate and rule over the woman who was once his co-regent.

In my counseling practice time and time again I would see the effects of the fall as a woman client would compromise her relationship with God to be in a relationship with an ungodly man.  Or a man would rule over or even abuse a woman in an ungodly fashion and often use the Bible to justify his abuse.

The GOOD NEWS is that God’s original Creation Dream has been recovered and put within reach again with the birth, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  My clients and the couples my husband and I work with in Marriage Coaching now have the opportunity to function as co-regents.  It is beautiful to see men and women experiencing the relationships God intended as they submit to God individually and then mutual submission to each other.

We must not base our theology on the corruption that resulted from the Fall but rather on God’s original design for human beings made in His image.

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My latest book, The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church is now available on Amazon

Bring on the exceptions!

I’m sometimes told that when God uses a woman to lead or to teach, it’s an exception–usually because he cannot find a suitable man. (This gives justification for women on the mission field.) I’ve even had Balaam’s ass cited as an example, as in, if God can use Balaam’s donkey, then he can even use a woman.

So I say, bring on the exceptions!

Bring on Heidi Baker and Anne Graham Lotz, Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer.

Bring on the women in India who start thousands of churches.

Bring on the women in the Middle East who are risking their lives to proclaim the gospel.

Bring on the authors–Rachel Held Evans, Carolyn Custis James, Sarah Bessey and a myriad more.

Bring on the Biblical exceptions–Deborah, Huldah, Esther, Ruth, Mary, Priscilla, Junia and Phoebe.

Lord, let me be an exception too!  Let there be an army of exceptions! (Psalms 68:11 NASB)

army of women

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My latest book, The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church is now available via Amazon