One of my driving passions concerns the importance of men and women co-laboring together as equals in the body of Christ. I’ve compiled a book on the topic and written extensively about it here on my blog.
Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) is an organization that has uncompromisingly espoused these same principles. I’ve long admired their work and from time to time have considered attending one of their conferences.
When notification of their next conference at the end of July came across my desk a few weeks ago, I felt the Lord prompting me. Now’s the time! So I signed up. If any of you are going to be there, I’d love to meet you! Please get in touch and let’s get together.
Here’s some information on the conference.
One of Tony’s and my greatest current challenges concerns an elderly parent. She’s been a wonderful woman of God, greatly used by the Lord around the world. But dementia has done more than robbed her of her memory. It has shrunk her world, stolen her dignity and changed her personality. It’s been hard to watch.
Amy Grant, (the singer) faced similar issues with both her parents. I recently was asked to review the new monthly devotional magazine, Simple Grace, and was blessed to find an article by her describing how she coped with her situation. With simplicity, grace, and humility, she described her walk with Jesus as she dealt with her parents’ Alzheimer’s disease.
Simple Grace is a little bit like Guideposts–short, inspirational articles on how God has worked in people’s daily lives. The main part of the magazine is a daily devotional, along the lines of GOD CALLING in that each devotional takes on the voice of Jesus speaking directly to you. It’s not profound theology, but it’s encouraging and inspirational. I believe Jesus will use this little magazine in the lives of many.
In the late 70s and 80s, Tony and I lived in community. We didn’t all live under the same roof, but many families lived in a very small area of the East End of London, which at that time was 92 percent government housing. They were amazing days. We shared meals, tools, at times, cars. You couldn’t walk more than a few hundred yards from our home without meeting another believer. For years, I cooked for about 10 extra people every evening, never knowing who would show up for dinner.
Of course, it had its problems. Personalities clashed. People disagreed. Because of the area we lived in, people had problems of every description. If you’ve seen the PBS series, “Call the Midwife” you will understand some of the issues we faced. We were there 20 years after the TV program takes place, but many of the conditions were still the same. The area has since become gentrified. Back then, God was at work. Over the years, many of Tony’s patients became believers, and we had so many home groups in the area that it was usually possible to find someone who lived within a street or two who could follow them up. Because of the demographics, we saw miracle after miracle as people became believers, were healed and set free. It was also extremely demanding and stressful.
It was with great interest, therefore, that I read Russell Smith’s new book Geneva Two: A Parable of Christian Community and Calling. It is superbly written, and takes a fascinating approach to the subject as a fictional reporter interviews different members of the community. As each person speaks, a composite picture of the community develops with all its warts and flaws as well as its blessings. The settings, conversations and character sketches show the different personalities well.
I’m not sure whether Russell has ever lived in community–he is Senior Pastor of a Presbyterian church. The picture he paints in Geneva Two is unlike the communities I’ve lived in–it feels somewhat unrealistic, but this is probably because of the different culture. However, this is a thought-provoking book that highlights the value of community.
Gary Shogren and his wife are missionaries in Costa Rica and professors in a Bible College and Seminary. Gary is an expert in the Greek New Testament with a PhD from Aberdeen University. He has written an exegetical commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Recently, Gary sent me a post on the NIV 2011 edition of the Bible and how it has been vilified as an inaccurate translation, especially when it comes to the English pronouns “he” and “she.” He wrote another excellent guest post on a similar topic here. Below is a nugget from his latest post:
Is it an error to translate masculine gender pronouns as generic English pronouns? Not necessarily, and all English translations do so at one time or another, even the King James Version. Here is what we encounter in the Greek New Testament; I will be taking my examples from 1 Corinthians:
All the controversy over gender neutrality in the NIV 2011 has to do with Group 3. Every single English Bible version in use today employs “gender neutral translation” to some extent. That includes the ESV, the NASB and yes, the original King James Version, see below. In other words, the difference between the KJV, ESV and the NIV 2011 is a relative difference of degree, not an absolute difference in translation philosophy.
1 Cor 1:10. See also 1:11; 1:26; 2:1; 3:1; 4:6; 5:11; 6:8; 7:15; 7:24; 7:29. Here and in many other verses in the New Testament, Paul address the Christians as “brothers and sisters” rather than just “brothers” or “brethren”. One website insists that this is silly, since everyone knows that the term “brothers” includes women. But is this so? When someone asks me, “Do you have any brothers?” a proper answer might be, “Brothers? Yes, I have one brother.” I would not say, “Brothers? Yes, I have a sister.” It’s as simple as that: “brothers” no longer includes “sisters”, as it did in English centuries ago.
I am hugely blessed (and definitely humbled) whenever I hear that something I’ve written has made a difference in the life of another person. John White is a good friend. We’ve known him and his wife, Tamela, for almost 15 years. I have been watching what the Lord is doing through Lk10, the organization that he runs, with keen interest, and love the impact that it’s having on house churches around the world. It’s a privilege to partner with them in working for the Kingdom. Here’s what John writes:
For some time, I have wondered why the Lord has placed an emphasis on small groups meeting in homes. (According to a survey by the Pew Forum in 2009, nine percent of Protestants in the USA “hold services” in homes.)
In other nations, the rise of house churches is often in response to persecution. But here? In Christian America?
Esther was married to King Ahasuerus (probably King Xerxes I) “for such a time as this.” She saved her people.
As I survey the Christian landscape, and look at what is going on politically, I wonder if the Lord has been behind the simple/organic/housechurch movement “for such a time as this.” It would only take one act of Congress, for example, removing the tax exempt status of churches, for some building-based churches to find themselves fighting for survival. Or what would be the impact of a couple of terrorist attacks in church buildings? Or some strategically planned law-suits aimed against Evangelical convictions?
Thankfully, God knows the end from the beginning.
Photo credit JovanStojan (Creative Commons)
In his book, The New Covenant, Bob Emery dramatizes the story of the New Testament through the eyes of the apostle, John. It contains many fascinating insights–ideas I had not seen before in my reading of the New Testament many of which I found myself researching and coming to an “Aha!” moment.
Here’s one of Bob’s insights into the Temple and the role of women (used with permission). Remember, this is John speaking:
“Now, as we are here in the outer court, look at this dirt upon which we stand. Strictly speaking, the outer court is not part of the temple, for anyone may enter here, except menstruating women. Its dirt is not sacred. But consider the soil on other side of the wall. That is thought to be holy dirt!
“And beyond that there are fourteen steps leading up to the court of the women, where there is another wall. There the ground is even more holy, because any ritually cleansed Jew, man or woman, can enter there.
“But beyond that are another twelve steps, and another wall, leading to the court of Israel—male Israel, that is. There the ground is even holier still.
“And further and higher yet are another five steps, and another wall, leading to the court of the priests where the sacrifices are performed, and the stones upon which the Levitical priests walk. These stones are considered even more holy!
“All of this—the hierarchy, the subtlety, and the image it all projects—reinforces the height of false religion. The Gentiles are the farthest away from God. They are the dogs. Where their feet walk is unholy ground. A step up from the Gentiles are women. Fourteen steps, to be precise! And on higher ground yet are men, because they are closer to God. But the average person is still not holy enough, because higher on the rung, and closer to God, are the priests. And above the priests is the high priest, who alone can enter the holy ground of the Holiest of All.
“Does not all that this temple projects corrupt the minds of all the people, so that in fact they believe that this is the manner in which God views all humankind? The sin of it all! The utter blasphemy and stench that rises from this beautiful, so-called monument to God!”
The inspiration of the words Paul had written to the Ephesians about God breaking down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile was becoming clearer to me by the second! Yes, God did want to destroy this temple of stone. He must be at the limits of his patience, I thought, not to have come in judgment already. How anxious he must be to erase this last remaining vestige of the barriers and walls that stand between Gentile and Jew, man and woman, priest and pauper!
Never had it been so clear to me: what Jesus did at the cross was to bring into existence a new creation in which there are no denigrating distinctions. In this new species—the invisible head in heaven joined with his visible body on earth—there is no one holier than another, no one of higher rank than another before God. What Jesus paid for by his precious blood was to make all of his people one by his Spirit and to replace the enmity, the barriers, and the divisions with the unity, peace, and love found only in him.
The Wailing Wall is considered to be the remains of the Western Wall of Herod’s Temple
I came across a shocking statistic earlier today.
According to the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (2012), the cost per baptism globally is $762,000!
What are we thinking?
I’m sure these figures include seminaries, buildings, training pastors etc., but sometimes I wonder, is this why Jesus died?
I know you cannot put a figure on the salvation of a soul, but surely there is a more cost-effective model (think simple churches meeting in homes with no specially trained leaders…)
Sometimes being a Christian in this country is synonymous with having a certain political opinion. Ross Rohde wrote an interesting post on this topic.
David Theroux is Founder and President of the CS Lewis Society in California. He recently sent me a quote from a lecture he gave on how C.S. Lewis’ viewed liberty:
The Oxford/Cambridge scholar and best-selling author C. S. Lewis was unquestionably and profoundly interested in the ideas and institutions that were the basis for free and virtuous individuals and communities, but he was not at all interested in partisanship or campaign politics. He instead focused on first principles, and public-policy matters were of interest only as they pertained to questions of enduring value. As a result of this focus, whereas the work of most modern scholars and other writers quickly becomes dated and obsolete, Lewis’s work has achieved increasing timelessness and relevance.
Lewis addressed not only the evils of totalitarianism as manifested in fascism and communism, but the more subtle forms that face us on a daily basis, including the welfare, therapeutic, nanny, and scientistic states.
With Christianity, each and every person is “a child of God” or a holy object (res sacra homo) who has free will and is individually responsible for the choices he or she makes.
Lewis argued that a natural moral law is known to all, and this natural moral code is inescapable; it is the basis for all moral judgments. Its foundational truths such as “caring for others is a good thing,” “good should be done and evil avoided,” “dying for a righteous cause is a noble thing”—are understood regardless of experience, just as we know that 2 + 2 = 4.
Does this mean as followers of Christ we shouldn’t have a political opinion?