November 30, 2008

Position Statement on Women in Ministry

The mission of Women of Faith in Culture (WFC) is to contribute to the spiritual growth of women through biblical, theological, and worldview education, bringing God’s Word to bear on all areas of life. We believe that equipping women in this respect best prepares them for living in today’s world of ideas, in whatever sphere God has placed them. To this end, we endeavor to come alongside women’s ministries in the local church, assisting in their call to evangelize and disciple women of all ages and backgrounds according to the Titus 2 mandate.

As WFC works passionately with current women’s leaders and participates in the development of women as future leaders in church and culture, we desire not to compromise a core belief, that the leadership roles of Senior Pastor and Elder are an office of the church to which only men may serve... (...continue reading)

November 24, 2008

The Language of Life & Death

Last night I watched a program called Tribal Life, seemingly a reality show about the daily life of a tribal community on an island off the coast of Australia. This was not a hide-behind-the-trees documentary, but the cameras were a part of the tribe's routine. In fact, at times this tribe spoke very good English. It was obvious that this remote society was influenced by western culture.

I was taken aback when the program featured a young family with 3 kids--a 4th on the way. But this 4th child was too great of a burden, so with the aid of some tree bark and some other plants known to induce an abortion, the husband and wife ended the life of their unborn child. They, like humans around the globe, spoke of the abortion as something less ominous, as if he didn't intentionally prepare the toxic drink to end the life of that child, as if she didn't intentionally drink the poison. For them, it was a miscarriage. Even the show narrator avoided calling it what it was. The term abortion was never used.

This smoke-and-mirrors approach is hardly new, nor is it limited to uncivilized parts of the world. In fact, the language of death in our society has had to be reframed such that the sting of guilt doesn't exist. That's why we see the pro-aborts refer to Plan B as contraception instead of the abortifacient that it is. "Let no one deceive you with empty words" (Eph 5:6).

Confusing people with language in biotechnology and the abortion arena is a problem that is not going away. So as the economy continues to nose dive, we need to be prepared to educate young women that when they sell their eggs, the eggs are being fertilized. A fertilized egg is an embryo. Recently a feminist organization put out a press release claiming that evangelicals believed eggs to be more valuable than human persons. Either a deliberate obfuscation, or they are severely uninformed. We are cautioning young women by telling them the truth and eliminating the confusion in terminology. Another word for a fertilized egg is "offspring." So as young women are offered thousands of dollars for what they perceive to be nothing more than an altruistic tissue donation, the truth is that they are being exploited.

So what does this have to do with the church and with women's ministry?? Everything! We are in a unique position to educate our congregations and communities on these and similar issues. The biotech and fertility industries have a conflict of interest--they make money off of egg donations. Oooops! Yet we find another misuse of language. This is hardly a donation--it's a sale.

“Plan B acts primarily by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary (ovulation). It may prevent the union of sperm and egg (fertilization). If fertilization does occur, Plan B may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb (implantation). If a fertilized egg is implanted prior to taking Plan B, Plan B will not work."

November 21, 2008

Create in Me a Clean Heart

Recently, the topic of indulging in God has been central to my studies and devotions. We are so bombarded by the things of this world--physical pleasures, materialistic attraction, and intellectual autonomy--that we easily neglect our commitment to the Lord. Our hearts, wicked as they are, tend toward sin. We are called to live in a way that imitates God, walking with a consistent attitude of sacrificial love for others--an attitude of self-denial. But the battle persists.

This battle began in Eden, which translated means delight or pleasure. Eden was a place where God provided all that the Creation would need. Food, shelter, companionship, fellowship with God--they lacked for nothing. Yet Eve, confronted by the Serpent (Gen 3:1-6), was deceived into believing that eating of the tree "in the midst of the Garden" would be a good idea.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)

This wouldn't be the last time we see this form of temptation in scripture. As Eve was tempted by physical pleasure ("good for food"), materialistic attraction ("delight to the eyes") and intellectual autonomy ("make one wise"), Jesus also was confronted with these temptations, in a location neither pleasurable or delightful, but in the wilderness. (Luke 4:1-13)

The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." (4:3) (physical pleasure)

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. (4:5.6) (materialistic attraction)

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, "for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,'" and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" (4:9-11) (intellectual autonomy)

Jesus conquered sin and death with the work of the Cross, but we still live in a world where we face choices and challenges due to the condition of our own heart. As Jeremiah teaches that the heart is deceitful, the Psalmist prays "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10) We can join in that prayer.

As the Holy Spirit continues His work within each of us, we continue to pursue God by indulging in holy, obedient living, glorifying Him in self-sacrifice instead of self-indulgence. No doubt the battle is real, but the power to walk by the Spirit is greater.

November 19, 2008

Beth Moore: Deuteronomy 7:6-9

We are in week 8 of the Beth Moore Bible study, "Living Beyond Yourself," at my church. It hasn't been an easy study for me to be involved in because it so frequently jumps around different books of the Bible, sometimes to the neglect of context. On page 139 of the study, question 1 asks the student to read Deuteronomy 7:6-9 and respond. "Which of the following represent reasons God chose Israel?" The possible answers are "Because they were a mighty nation; Because they were the fewest of all peoples; Because they were a holy people; Because they were His treasured possession." Unless this is a teaser question, it seems to me that a 5th choice is missing: None of the above.

Deuteronomy 7:6-9 affirms that Israel is a mighty nation, fewest of all peoples, a holy people, and God's treasured possession. But none of these things were true about Israel in a way that caused God to choose them, so to say God chose them because of any of these things is erroneous. At one point in time, Israel was a promise to Abraham, they didn't exist except as his offspring multiplied.

So what is Deut 7:6-9 saying? In fact, it is saying exactly the opposite of Beth's question. The answer is in verse 8, "but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping His oath that He swore to your fathers."

I don't claim to know Hebrew, but the English is plain enough here. Statements that are true about Israel in this passage do not necessitate that they are causes.

1. "You are a people holy to the Lord..."
2. "The Lord your God has chosen you to be...His treasured possession" emphasis on "to be," indicative that holiness was not a cause.
3. "It was not because you were more in number...for you were the fewest." Be careful here, this is not a causitive statement, it is emphasizing even further that there is nothing mighty about Israel apart from God's love.

If this was intended by the editors to be a thought-provoking question, then it might work, but the wordsmiths aren't satisfied with this use of language as it clouds serious truths about God and His covenant relationship with Israel.

Please don't be too quick to beat up on me for being critical of this study. There are other areas of concern that I have with it that I have not publically addressed as of yet. To excuse the flaws of this study because it is 10 years old misunderstands the role of editors in publishing, but more importantly, it prevents women from getting the best training in Bible study methods and application.

I disagree with Beth Moore on many things, but they have more to do with method as she often draws conclusions with little rigor. I certainly am not judging her intentions or motives, I believe her to be a woman who sincerely loves the Lord.

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November 18, 2008

Foundations for Holy, Obedient Living

"...that we should be holy and blameless before him" (Eph 1:4) not only expresses God's purposes in electing us to salvation, but I believe it sums up the message of Ephesians and the goal of the Christian life. Ephesians 1:3-23 contains the words of a prayer from Paul indicating several theological truths foundational to the purpose of the rest of the letter.

In the past tense, Paul writes (Eph 1:5) that all believers were predestined for adoption (huiothesia = huio/son, thesia/placed)...planned in eternity to occur at some point in time. Similar to our earthly conception of adoption where a child is placed in the care of another family, to become a permanent member of that family, God has placed us in His family. Paul prays that this is "according to the purpose of His will." Here the word purpose comes from eudokian meaning good pleasure or desire. And certainly, it is God's desire--His requirement--that "we should be holy and blameless before him" (Eph 1:4).

Paul continues in his prayer, which flows logically and flawlessly, declaring in the present tense that "In Him we have redemption" (Eph 1:7). The word redemption is related to apolutrosin which refers to deliverance or a ransom paid. Pointing to the Cross, Paul prays this doctrine of redemption, showing how we are (through the blood, the ransom paid) and how we are becoming "holy and blameless before Him" (Eph 1:4). We assume with Paul that the recipients of this letter are believers, which is why he speaks so affirmatively of having redemption.

Finally, Paul prays about our present tense inheritance, or kleroo ((klay-ro'-o) in the original language (Eph 1:11) that is guaranteed for us "to acquire possession of" at a future point in time (Eph 1:14) as a consequence of the sealing or securing of our salvation by and through Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13).

Each of these theological truths are intended to be understood by the recepients of this letter, including you and I. But why exactly is Paul praying these truths? The answer to that is found in verses 15-23 where he begins "For this reason" (Eph 1:15) and is fleshed out in Eph 1:18-20,
that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he rasied him from the dead...
We can only take joy and comfort in the Lord if he is all powerful and has had our lives in His hands for all eternity. If at any point the opposite were true, then Paul could not speak of our past tense adoption and then there would be no trust in a present tense redemption or present/future tense inheritance. But because of God's sovereign power which has held history history together, His "immeasuarable greatness and power" that saved us and raised Jesus, there is a basis for His purpose "that we should be holy and blameless before Him" (Eph 1:4).

So as Paul brings this prayer to a conclusion, it begins an exciting letter to a group of believers in a decadent society full of sexual immorality, false religion, and self-indulgence. That doesn't sound much different from the landscape of 21st century America. Chapters 2-6 explain further how God has actualized our hagios, our pure and blamess position before the Throne, but also how the members of the Church have been called to responsibility in living out the Christian life. While we have been made holy, we are being made holy. God has accomplished our redemption, and we participate in our sanctification through obedience by the power of the Holy Spirit.

November 14, 2008

Indulging in God: Correcting Eve's Error

Tonight I'm speaking at a local church on the topic Indulging in God. Have you ever noticed that Mary of Bethany is the antithesis to Eve in Eden? Eve had her wants and needs taken care of. She had food, beautiful surroundings, and she had all the wisdom anyone could want for with her dwelled God. But that wasn't enough and she bought into the lies of the Serpent, not in order to have more of what she had, but to replace it with something better. She'd be able to indulge all of her desires for physical pleasure, materialism, and great knowledge and wisdom.

Contrast that to Mary of Bethany who knew that everything she needed--and everything she wanted--was at the feet of Jesus. A woman who knew exactly what she wanted was everything that she needed. Without Christ, there was no real satisfaction in life, but she needed to know who he was, and that was accomplished by spending time with and learning from the Lord who was with her. Mary corrected Eve's mistake by knowing more about her Lord by studying him and with him. Another incident between Mary and Jesus shows her anointing his feet with oil--with her hair. This is a woman who not only learned who Jesus is, but aspired to live like him. She learned how she was different from Jesus (in her fallenness) but still sought to live the humble, sacrificial life.

November 13, 2008

Prochoice Feminism Reaching Out to Young Women

In the Christian community, we do a great deal of ministry to women in the church, including young women. I wish women's ministry proper did more with the high school and college aged women, and I'd like to be a part of that shift in culture. But what about the young women who are listening and looking for truth, who might not be in church or even in a churched home? I can tell you -- no, I'll show you what NARAL is doing.

We wonder what's going on in today's a young America can vote for change that lacks definition, can vote for candidates who are rabid pro-aborts, can embrace religious pluralism while being hypocrites toward evangelicalism. It happens when young America is left to figure things out on their own....or when organizations like NARAL and the Feminist Majority provide the only answers to their most difficult questions. I wish I had the financial means to be a voice to today's young women, validating them as human, as professionals, as thinkers, as achievers, as the future of our society in all of its quadrants. In the meantime, the biggest muscle is coming through campaigns such as Free.Will.Power.

November 11, 2008

God, Government, and Goodness

In a persistent effort to rid the public square of any religious voices, the few that might be left after this 2008 election that is, the American Humanist Association has launched an advertising campaign to "raise awareness" of humanist doctrine. On ethics, they state

"Morality doesn't come from religion. It's a set of values embraced by individuals and society based on empathy, fairness, and experience."

Competing against God would no doubt make an individual or organization insecure, necessitating the launch of a campaign aimed at desensitizing the voting public against the existence of God. Apart from their inability to account for objective good, they clearly are inconsistent in application of tolerance. A pluralistic public square is indeed what we have, and in a democratic society the predominant beliefs of the people are going to have the greatest impact. So organizations like the American Humanist Association go all, poisoning the well against theistic perspectives on public issues.

But to the heart of this advertising, it's no surprise that they would try to argue for goodness without God. As part of how man was created, he can have a sense of right and wrong, good and evil. But he'll certainly struggle giving an account for the right and the good in absolute terms. Humanism leaves us in the mire of relativism, with numerous interpretations of the right and the good.

As we move into the new administration in 2009, we will undoubtedly encounter more efforts to promote humanistic ideals at the expense of policies that protect human life and promote human dignity. Resulting from this will be more confidence for the anti-theistic verbiage. Clearly we're in for a rough ride, but certainly not a without an aggressive response.

FOCA on the Family

Pardon the pun, but churches and families need to be aware of how the Freedom of Choice Act will impact their community, something we should expect to see enacted within Obama's first 100 days in office. For more information on the legal impact, visit Americans United for Life. Women, especially young and underage, will be put at risk because of this repeal of all state-enacted regulation. Now is the time for our churches to get serious about bioethics in the pew. Isn't it amazing? We need to regulate big business, but unfettered access to the unborn is what is being handed to the abortion industry. Here is some of what you can expect to see nullified by FOCA:
  • Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003

  • Hyde Amendment (restricting taxpayer funding of abortions)

  • Restrictions on abortions performed at military hospitals

  • Restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion for federal employees

  • Informed consent laws

  • Waiting periods

  • Parental consent and notification laws

  • Health and safety regulations for abortion clinics

  • Requirements that licensed physicians perform abortions

  • “Delayed enforcement” laws (banning abortion when Roe v. Wade is overturned and/or the authority to restrict abortion is returned to the states)

  • Bans on partial-birth abortion

  • Bans on abortion after viability. FOCA’s apparent attempt to limit post-viability abortions is illusory. Under FOCA, post-viability abortions are expressly permitted to protect the woman’s “health.” Within the context of abortion, “health” has been interpreted so broadly that FOCA would not actually proscribe any abortion before or after viability.

  • Limits on public funding for elective abortions (thus, making American taxpayers fund a procedure that many find morally objectionable)

  • Limits on the use of public facilities (such has public hospitals and medical schools at state universities) for abortions

  • State and federal legal protections for individual healthcare providers who decline to participate in abortions

  • Legal protections for Catholic and other religiously-affiliated hospitals who, while providing care to millions of poor and uninsured Americans, refuse to allow abortions within their facilities

November 7, 2008

Truth Depends on God

Common ground exists only insofar as individuals deem the basis or foundation of truth inconsequential. Without proper tribute given to the source of truth, common ground is limited and unstable. Eventually, though preferably at the onset, Christians need to proclaim the complete Truth because it is there that the gospel is located.

John Murray wrote "...all truth is derived from him and only in relation to him is anything true." (Principles of Conduct, P. 132).

Facts aren't floating about such that anyone can grab them and call them their own. Whatever is true is so because God exists. We can even say that universal laws of logic exist because they emanate from God. There are no abstract ideas that exist independently of God, or else we could say something does exist without dependence on God. And isn't this the way sinful humanity desires to exist?
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November 6, 2008

Follow Your Heart...If You Dare

If the title of this post causes you concern, it should--if you believe the heart is merely the source of emotions and feelings, entirely separate from the functions of the mind. But on the other hand, if you have a biblical perspective of the heart as the center of personality as John Frame suggests, then you need not be alarmed by the statement.

Frame writes in The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God that "knowledge of God is a heart-knowledge" citing Ex 35:5, Ps 4:4, Isa 6:10, Matt 5:8, Eph 1:18 and more. Accordingly, scripture "represents it as the source of thought, of volition, of attitude, of speech. It is the seat of moral knowledge." (P. 322)

If we conceive of the heart as inseparable from the mind or the conscious, regarding them rather as a single entity with a variety of out workings, then we need to rethink the manner in which we speak of them. The mind is not the place for only intellectual activity and the heart is not only where we feel and find inspiration. The heart is not alone the seat of spirituality, relegating the so-called nonspiritual activity of logic and reason to the mind. Scripture calls us to understand the heart and mind singularly, paying respect to its ability to reason, hope, love, grieve, and more.

Practical Theology for Women: Book Review

A new book is now available, published by Crossway Books, and is an absolute must read for all women, Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Horger Alsup. It's a small book with a lot of big theology, but nothing a woman (or man) doesn't need to know. One particular matter she addresses I also believe is extremely important for women to grasp. She writes,
...instead of seeing ourselves as connected to Christ at all times, we tend to view our relationship with God in terms of intersecting moments during the day. We think that the more times our lives intersect with God, the more 'spiritual' we are. In this paradigm, God goes on his way and I go my way until we intersect at another corner...Instead, we need to think of ourselves walking with Jesus continually...Christ is in you...holding you together at all times. (p. 96)
I continually meet women who say they agree with the author in this regard, but then they will often speak of their work or family life as something separate from their spiritual life, or they will speak of their devotional life as the spiritual quadrant where they go to find God, neglecting to recognize His presence in every other area of their life.

This is an excellent book for the young or mature woman in Christ. There is nothing about it that says "this book is for girls," so for those who typically avoid pink, frilly devotionals, this book is for you. I recommend moving from this book into more studies in systematic theology, but I affirm the impact this book will have on the thought life of everyone who reads it. It's very suitable for group studies and individual reading.

Practical Theology for Women

Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois
ISBN: 1433502097
153 pages

November 5, 2008

Fox News Story: Why Words Matter

The title of this story just cracked me up, but I didn't think you'd believe me without a screen shot, so here you go! Word ordering does matter when we write! I wonder if he'll get a 3rd shot at the jump....

November 4, 2008

Proclaiming the Faith: Relational Apologetics

Last night at Bible study, a woman shared about her relationship with a friend who espouses a more "open-minded" approach to God. In other words, she rules out very little as being true, even when religious views might conflict. In her view, this is a better way of believing than the biblical theology as professed by my friend. So how does one address this clash of worldviews? This isn't about winning a debate per se, this is primarily about winning a person over to Christ by proclaiming truth and refuting error--in all manner of love.

Ephesians 4:25 tells us to put away all falsehood and speak truth while being imitators of God and walking in love. Our motivation, again, is not the winning of the argument, but the soul of the unbeliever. But don't be deceived, having the discussion, debate, argument--whatever term you apply to it--it must happen. It is through the dialogue that God will plant seeds of truth or accomplish His redemptive ends altogether. We don't know, but we must not avoid the worldview discussion.

When Paul addressed the people at the Areopagus (Acts 19:22-32) he made known to them what they had identified for themselves as unknown by proclaiming Christ. Similarly, with meekness and gentleness we are called to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ, making a defense to anyone who asks. This may involve destroying arguments (in love, of course) and any opinions raised against the knowledge of God (1 Cor 10:5).

if there is a willingness to discuss religious beliefs with unbelieving friends, the worldview approach which questions their source of knowledge and basis for belief and their justification of morality (right and wrong) is a great place to begin. What it will reveal is that people cannot live without absolute truth and that they cannot account for any knowledge within the framework of their own worldview. Borrowing from Christianity philosophically is the only way people actually live, and we can show this to be the case if we are willing to enter into a ministry of apologetics in our individual relationships. Apologetics isn't an academic exercise, it is a necessary ministry in our anything-goes pluralistic culture.

November 2, 2008

You Are What You Eat...and Think

Our parents and teachers taught us very early in life that what we put into our bodies could have a significant effect on our health and appearance. Our bodies would become lean and strong if we ate healthy foods and we would probably live a long, healthy life as a result. Conversely, if we aggressively snack on foods loaded with sugar and fat, we would likely suffer some negative consequences. Over the course of time, if we abuse our bodies with unhealthy foods or are exposed to environmental toxins, our bodies will struggle to properly process even the healthiest food. When this is the case, some choose to take vitamins and supplements alongside a healthy diet in order to flush the body of impurities, enabling all of the body systems to function better. It is true that you are what you eat, but sometimes more needs to be done to reverse the effects of poor nutrition. Our mind is not that different from our body.

As the body is the outward manifestation of our nutrition, how we live is the outward expression of the habits of the mind. The ideas that enter and remain become a part of our belief system—or worldview. This worldview manifests in every area of life including religious practice, political views, parenting, sexuality, and more. No part of our life is immune to the influence of these beliefs, and like the body, if the mind has been exposed to bad ideas, there is a sense in which the mind needs to be cleansed of these beliefs. This is part of what it means to live in a way that glorifies God.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. …But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:17-24)

Putting off the old self in practice requires putting off the old self of ideas and beliefs. We put on the new self through the renewing in the spirit of our minds, but this is not achieved by placing scripture over top our old ways of thinking and living, but by holding up our existing beliefs, views and opinions against the light of God’s written Word and purging them from our mind as necessary. This is, in essence, a reshaping of our worldview, moving from a worldly perspective to a biblical worldview.

Recognizing that you are what you think should be cause for ongoing self-examination. Take the time to answer the following questions:

1. Does the way I run my business cohere with godly principles of leadership and truthfulness?

2. Is my view of the sanctity of life consistent with what scripture teaches about the pre-born?

3. Do I honor God in my marriage and family with physical and emotional faithfulness?

4. Do I believe the Bible is God's written revelation to man, that it is inspired, inerrant, infallible, sufficient, and authoritative?

5. Is truth absolute or does it depend on my culture or circumstances?

6. Is Jesus the savior for all sinners, or does he only represent Christians?

7. What do I believe about the Trinity?