Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Father's Blessing

Last week I was teaching out of Matthew 3 where Jesus was baptized and when He came up out of the water He recieved His father's blessing. The "blessing" was a big, verbal phrase that basically said, "Son, I'm proud of you."

As I thought about that phrase I realized all the times my father had told me he was proud of me. I had recieved my father's blessing at many point in my life. His blessing has helped make me the man I am today. In effect, my father's blessing has also affected my children. They have recieved the second generation blessing through me.

I have talked with a lot of people who did not recieve their father's blessing, for a variety of reasons, and they always seems to have a missing element in their life. After coming to Christ, that Father Blessing can begin to come into their life, if they will let the Spirit communicate to their heart.

I also realized that I needed to continue to pass on to my children the Father Blessing to my children. I need to remind my son how proud I am of him and what a good worker he is. I need to tell him that I love to watch him lead worship and grow in his marriage.

I need to remind my daughters what a joy it is to see them grow in Christ and grow as wives and mothers. I need to remind them to pass on the blessing to their children as well.

Each January I write a personal letter that I attach to my will. It is a letter to my wife, my children, grandchildren and my daughter-in-law and my two son-in-laws and most of the letter is a blessing. I want the last words they read from me to be words of esteem, love and a heartfelt blessing.

Maybe you are reading this and you feel like you could use a blessing. I know I feel that way sometimes. The Bible teaches us that we reap what we sow, so if you are in need of a blessing in your life, I suggest you bless someone else. Blessing other people can be a real blessing.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hurt & Hope

When I anwsered the phone I knew it was going to be a long conversation. He said, "Don, I have to tell my wife the worst news I've ever had to say. I have been unfaithful. Do you think we have a chance?"

Then an e-mail from someone else, "How can I ever trust God again. My best years were stolen from me by a man who lied to me. Can I ever recover from this betrayal?"

Then a personal conversation, "My dad left my ,mom when I was growing up and my mom was so needy she had nothing to give. Now I'm married and I feel like a shell of a man. Can I ever recover from my childhood?

Over the last several weeks I have had a dozen or so tough conversations with people looking for answers. Many of these conversations were the result of deep hurt in their life from other people.

Adultery, abuse, dishonesty and rejection just to name a few. Husbands hurt their wives and wives hurt husbands, parents hurt their children and children hurt their parents. People hurt people.

The toughest question I 've been asked, and asked myself, is, "Why did this happen to me?" The truth is there usually isn't a good answer to that question and frequently there is no answer at all.

I believe in a loving, benevolent, all powerful God, who could prevent all pain, abuse and hurt, but he doesn't, atleast not here on earth. I don't know why, but He doesn't. Instead, He chooses to join us in our pain.

I have been thinking about Job's comment in the Bible, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him . . ." (Job 13:15). Job handled hurt, and false accusataions from friends, and a wife that deserted him, and the loss of his health, and the death of his children and the complete loss of his business. This man knew a little something about pain.

He knew God could have prevented all this loss, and instead God not only allowed it, He incited it. What's up with that?

Somehow Job knew that through the middle of the pain, God was his source of hope. Satan hoped that the pain he inflicted would cause Job to curse God and turn, but instead Job chose to draw closer to God as his source of hope.

There are so many questions that remain unaswered. Job must have had them too, but somehow, in the middle of the deepest pain of his life, He was able to turn to God and declare, even if He takes my life, I will still keep my hope in Him. WOW! Where does that kind of faith come from.

I wish I had a clever formula to share with you about how to overcome hurt, but I don't. I could tell you to tie a knot and hang on when you reach the end of your rope, but we all know platitudes have no sustaining power.

I guess the greatest power point in the story of Job is that it is possible to find hope in the middle of hurt. Just knowing hope is possible gives hope. The fact that Job was willing to declare that even if God took his life, there was no other place to go for hope, talks about how deep Job's relationship with God was.

I guess it all boils to down to a choice. Job could have chosen hurt and given in to bitterness and the poison it brings, but instead he chose hope. At the end of the story, Job is blessed and everything he lost is returned to him and he lives to be an old man. Remarkably, God never answers the "why" question about Job's loss and pain. He doesn't have too. He is God,

At this point, Job now knows and understands why he went through what he went through. Job has no more questions. It all makes sense to him now. Job now lives in a world without pain and loss. Someday you will too. Someday you will have all the answers that elude you now, and so will I.

Until then, we have the opportunity to respond or react to hurt and pain in our lives. What is it about properly responding to hurt, and looking to God for hope, that prepares us for God's blessings in the future?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Women in Ministry

This week I will address the role of women as a part of our Sunday teaching in a new series.

The role of women in ministry is a very controversial topic in many circles, regardless of which position you take. Many articles and books have been written to argue both sides, and you can actually support both positions from certain scriptures.

The fellowship that our church is affiliated with, the Assemblies of God, has always recognized the role of women in ministry, and so do we as elders. I have worked with women pastors, elders and Creekside has always had women deacons. This is a subject I have given a lot of time, study and thought too. Here is some of what I have learned.

The Bible teaches that both men and women were created by God and equally bear His image (Gen. 1:27). Each was to share oneness and community (Gen. 2:23-24) and was to share jointly the responsibilities of raising children and having dominion over the created order. The desire to “rule over” another is the result of human sin and Genesis 3:16 is a prediction of the effects of the fall, rather than a prescription for God’s ideal order.

When the New Testament church was formed, the Holy Spirit was poured out on women and men alike, as was predicted (Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:18). In the New Testament, women as well as men exercise prophetic and priestly functions (Acts 2:17-18). Furthermore, the Spirit gives gifts to all those born again without distinction of gender.

There are only two passages in the entire New Testament which might seem to contain a prohibition against the ministry of women (1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12). Since these must be placed along side Paul's other statements and practices, they cannot be considered absolute. Instead, they seem to be teachings dealing with specific, local problems that needed correction in those churches.

In the case of I Timothy 2:12 the meaning of Paul's statement, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man . . ." have puzzled many interpreters. Is the prohibition of women teaching and exercising authority a universal truth, or was Paul reporting his application of truth for the Christian community where he and Timothy ministered?

From a survey of passages on women in ministry, it is clear that Paul recognized the ministry of women. Yet there were some obvious problems concerning women in Ephesus. Some were evidently given to immodest apparel (1 Timothy 2:9), the younger widows were "idle,... and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not" (1 Timothy 5:13). In his second letter to Timothy, Paul warned against depraved persons (possibly including women) who manipulated "weak-willed", or "gullible", women (2 Timothy 3:6, NIV).
1 Timothy 2:9-15 strongly suggests that Paul was giving Timothy advice about dealing with some heretical teachings and practices involving women in the church at Ephesus. The heresy may have been so serious that he had to say about the Ephesian women, "I am not allowing women to teach or have authority over a man." But we know from other passages that such exclusion was not normal in Paul's ministry.

For example, Romans 16:3 says, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.” We know from culture that the leader was always mentioned first, so it is obvious that Priscilla was the ministry leader of this couple. Paul repeats this again in I Cor. 16:19 and II Tim. 4:19, where he openly declares them to be leaders of the church that meets at their home. They are basically pastoring a church together, with Priscilla leading.

It is also interesting to also note Titus 2:1-3. The word for “aged men” is the Greek word, “presbuterous” or elder. In verse three, the word for “aged women” is the exact same word; only the feminine version is used. It is also a common understanding that words for both elder and pastor are used interchangeably in the New Testament, so we cannot say it is OK for a women to be an elder, but not a pastor.

The primary scripture used to support men only as elders is Titus 1:6 which reads, “ An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.” (NIV) The focus of this verse is to make sure that church leadership has solid Christian families and to combat the cultural impact of polygamy, not to exclude women in ministry.

In attempts to understand and put into practice appropriate relationships between genders in the Body of Christ, our sole authority has been God’s will as expressed in the scriptures. A few isolated scriptural texts appear to restrict full ministry freedom to women. The application and interpretation of those passages must take into account their relation to the whole teaching of scripture and their specific contexts. When the Bible is interpreted comprehensively, it teaches the full equality of men and women in status, giftedness and opportunity for ministry.

Now, having said this, you should understand that I am not a crusader for women’s rights. That is not the purpose of the church and becoming a crusader for anything other than the gospel is not a part of our mission. All of us gave up our rights and became servants when we came to Christ, but I do believe that God does see both men and women as having equal opportunities in the Kingdom, as reflected in this scripture, “ . . . There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:26-28 (NIV)