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Part two: Come as you are, but don’t leave as you came.

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I know, internet, I know.

I promised a follow-up post yesterday to my Tuesday post, but work and second work got the best of me yesterday. No excuses, I fail, but I figured I would offer a bit of explanation. In lieu of this unfortunate failure on my part, today, you are in for a rare treat!

DOUBLE POST DAY!

Yes, that’s right. Two posts…one day. This might be normal for some bloggers, but it is definitely a rarity for me. So enjoy, because I don’t know when (if ever) this will happen again.

If you missed part one of this installment, do me a favor. Go back and read it, so I don’t sound like a blithering idiot as I continue my discourse on what God is showing me through the statement which is the title of this post. Originally the comment appeared on a church sign that I happened to pass several days ago.

A quick recap…

*Insert wavy flashback lines*

I. Hate. Church. Sign. Messages.

Hate them. I think they are a blemish on the image of the church, but that really isn’t the point today, so…

*Dismounting soapbox*

God has once again decided to reveal himself to me in something for which I have a great disdain. This is not an uncommon occurence in my life. In fact, God uses these abhorrent instances quite often to show me how much I generally fail. This specific event was really no different.

Several days ago, I saw a message on a church sign that really caught my attention and has taken hold of my thought process since I read it. Usually, information comes into my brain, I process it, and discard the waste after removing and applying the meaningful pieces from the information presented. This one, however, has captured me a bit more than I expected. The statement was:

“Come as you are, but don’t leave as you came.”

*Insert wavy “coming out of the flashback” lines*

I discussed what the first part of that statement meant to me a couple days ago. I am not going to insult your intelligence. Feel free to read what I posted for the specifics. The first part of this statement affected me, but I really feel as that message is for those who have yet to find Christ or have turned their backs from his love. The second part of the statement, “but don’t leave as you came”, has interesting connotations for everyone, but, specifically, for the believer.

I started to think to myself, “Self, how many times have you graced the doors of the church and walked away wholly unaffected? How many events have you attended where the Holy Spirit has been at work where you have failed to connect with the Creator?” These instances in time began to play through my mind like an old black and white movie where I saw myself walking away from encounter after encounter with God completely the same as I entered. Intellectually, I know that it is not possible to walk away from a face-to-face with God and stay the same. You are either pulled closer or pushed further away. So how does one walk away unchanged?

God is the same today, yesterday, and will not change for eternity; therefore, he can’t be the problem. That leaves one culprit. The problem is me. The problem is you. The reason that these encounters with God don’t change us is because we get in the way. Our sin and flesh stop God from moving like he desires to in our lives. This is why Jesus calls us to deny our desires that get in the way of our relationship with Him.

The simple truth about humanity is that we are not good. The only good that exists in me is God in me. In my flesh, I am a broken lost soul-searching for meaning in a world where meaning is absent. This is why God changes us completely when we find him, so we can see the reason behind our creation.

It is so easy for us to exalt ourselves above God. Many times, we as “good Christians” appear to be walking in the light of God, but we are actually so far outside of the realm of what God wants for us that it makes Him want to upchuck. That’s right, our disobedience literally nauseates God. If that isn’t deflating, then I don’t know what catastrophe it might take to remove the wind from your sails.

It all boils down to selfishness and the casual attitude with which we approach sin. We see sin as a temporary problem for which we can just ask forgiveness. We forget that God is our Holy refiner desiring to make us more like him everyday. The hindrance to this process is the fact that we would have to give up things that we think make us happy in order to reconcile ourselves to his image. It is like two-year-old holding on to a leaf of poison ivy because he or she thinks that it is pretty, throwing a fit when the loving parent attempts to remove the leaf that is going to cause more suffering in the end.

It doesn’t make sense for us to throw a fit, but we do it anyway. It just shows how bratty we are in our relationship with God. On Earth, any parent worth their salt would do whatever it took to remove the leaf from the child’s hand, but that is what makes God entirely unique from us. He allows us to make choices. He tells us that the leaf is bad, but gives us the freedom to keep the leaf regardless of consequences. Then, when we are suffering from the rash that the leaf gave us, we curse God for allowing us to suffer. THAT IS REALLY STUPID, but we do it anyway.

The simple truth is that God desires us to look more and more like him every day and the only detractor from that is us. The time has arrived for the church to take a stand on the truth of the gospel and live out our faith every day in every instance. We will not recognize the vision that God has for us as a Church body until we are able to shove off the chains that bind us. The latch was unlocked when Christ died on the cross. All you have to do is shrug your shoulders and let the binding fall, step forward and let God take over.

When this happens, we will see revival break out because the world is looking for something real. They are looking for you to live out what you say you believe. I will leave you with one final thought that initiated the process of change that I feel taking over.

“Come as you are, but don’t leave as you came.”

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Come as you are, but don’t leave as you came.

January 19, 2010 1 comment

I was driving…well, actually being towed down the road yesterday when I happened across this statement on one of those church signs with the removable letters. You know, the ones that normally say something “inspirational” like:

  • A family altar can alter a family.
  • A clean conscience makes a soft pillow.
  • Don’t Wait For 6 Strong Men to Carry you to Church.
  • Five minutes after you die you’ll know how you should have lived.
  • And so on… 

    Internet, I have a confession.

    There are times, as I drive down the road and see these signs that  I enter into a state of nearly uncontrollable rage. The steering wheel begins to shake as my grip tightens and my arms tense. Yes internet that’s right…

    I have a terrible case of church sign induced hulk-rage.

    While the statements on these signs are totally accurate most of the time, I abhor them. I think that they are completely unnecessary and most of the time idiotic, casting a very unfavorable and overly judgmental light on the church. There was even a message that I saw on one of my local church’s sign that was utterly condemning to people who had not yet found Christ. I wanted to rip the letters from their glass housing and stomp them into plastic oblivion. Obviously, this is something that is outside of the realm of possibility and practicality, nevermind human decency, but I can’t deny that the thought crossed my mind.

    As I have stated before, God is in the business of revealing himself whenever we open our eyes enough to see the subtle and not so subtle ways that he works. This was the case for me as I putted passed the sign that stated “Come as you are, but don’t leave as you came.”

    My concentration was on maintaining a taut tow-rope, so that I didn’t get a case of whiplash from the truck towing my little Saturn, but my mind wandered elsewhere as the towing process continued and I came to two conclusions about this particular statement. Surprisingly, neither stemmed from my normal sign induced hulk-rage.

    First, I think that this message is two-pronged. The first part, “Come as you are”, is directed toward people who have yet to find Christ.

    This is the call of Christ to us in the world today. He calls us to come into his love regardless of what we think might be holding us back. God’s love is sufficient and his grace is abundant. So many times, we think that we have to get our lives straightened out before we pursue a relationship with God. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

    If you are among the mistaken who believe this, I have access to some inside info in which you might be interested.

    He already knows.

    He already knows that you are a dirty, soiled creature and he is ok with that. He knows that you aren’t perfect. In fact, that is the point. He wants you to know that you need him and his forgiveness.

    Unfortunately, there is a huge stigma against Christianity in the world today due to the outrageous actions of some and the subtle failings of every day Christians. These failings are not unexpected as *gasp* even Christians aren’t perfect. The disconnect occurs when you try to judge our Creator by the created. The two just don’t line up because we are wretched sin-covered creatures. Even if one is fortunate enough to experience God’s grace, he or she is still prone to sin because the desires of the flesh never stop calling and tempting.

    The reason for this revolves around the fact that God’s people have been historically disobedient. Starting with the Israelites and persisting into today. The narcissistic truth is that we would rather pursue our personal prideful agenda than seek out what God’s intention is for the lives that he has blessed us with.

    The overarching theme for Christ’s love is grace-filled redemption at Christ’s expense. This is why we are to come to him as we are, regardless of our past transgressions.

    More tomorrow on what we are to do after we make the initial step of coming to Christ. Tomorrow’s message is for the believer, but all can benefit. Thanks for reading!

    Part Two: Women elders in a Baptist Church?

    November 4, 2009 1 comment

    QuestionsIf you missed my post from yesterday, you probably should go back and review what was stated there as this will make absolutely zero sense unless you have the background of where I am coming from and the restructure that my church is currently instituting.

    When we left off yesterday, I was just beginning to probe the difference between practical and spiritual leadership within the body of the church. Both of these functions are fundamental to the responsibilities of the elder body, however, many times, deacons are responsible for the day-to-day service opportunities within the church while elders are mainly focused on the spiritual leadership and teaching the Word within the body.

    Through the course of my study, I have also stumbled upon several elder led churches utilizing female deacons, but this seems suspect based upon the same qualification to be the husband of one wife that is set forth in 1 Tim 3:12 for the deacon body. However, in 1 Tim 3:11 the word “wives” can be, instead, interpreted as “women.” Therefore, this may lead the reader to believe that there are two separate sets of requirements for male and female deacons. Some scholarly debate centers around the question of whether or not women can operate as deacons in a different capacity apart from male deacons. I can speculate that perhaps the qualifications in verse 11 were related to the serious issues plaguing women at that time within the culture, but I honestly do not know with any certainty that this is the case.

    It would seem, if there is no clear divide in verse 11 to apply those qualifications to specifically to women serving in a deacon role, then the passage is meant for the wives of deacons and not for female deacons. This leads my thinking process in two starkly different directions.

    The first direction is that women cannot serve in traditional deacon or elder offices. This is strangely refuted when Phoebe is called a deacon, but it may be that she was a servant to the body as a deacon would be, not necessarily serving in the actual office role of a deacon. Basically this means that she would fulfill the same role as a male deacon but not holding the actual title of deacon.

    In my discussion this week with a good friend, she stated that seemed to be pretty unfair to be able to do all the work, but not hold the title. I tend to agree with her, but I also know that God is not fair. Rather, He is just. I also know that our eternal reward is not based upon what titles that we attain in life, so I think that this argument is fairly meaningless when applying an eternal focus on our lives and service. When we begin to base our ministry on titles, we become more and more like the Pharisee sporting our wide phylacteries and reveling in our conceited positions of power at the head of the banquet table. We cannot forget the simple purpose for which we are placed on Earth. To glorify God, and to encourage and support others. Period. When we lose sight of that, we turn our backs from the true heart of God.

    The second direction that my brain takes me is one that lends itself to the establishment of women elders. If women can serve as deacons in the traditional role with the qualification of “being the husband of one wife,” then it would seem that they could serve in an elder role as well. There is a biblical precedence for a woman to be a deacon, and if that is in the traditional capacity, disregarding a possible split at 1 Tim 3:11 between the male and female qualifications to be a deacon, then it would seem that there would be nothing to hold them back from being elders. I just don’t know how the requirement to be  “the husband of one wife” is ignored in that case.

    Another argument that was brought forward was that the reader must consider the audience. It was stated that the letters of Timothy were possibly directed at a group of men; therefore, there needed to be no consideration for women. If what I garner from the first verse of the book, Timothy was written specifically to Timothy with instructions on how to run the church. It was not directed at a group of men. It was directed at one man with the qualifications that Paul himself used to choose elders within different congregations. I believe that Paul was attempting to teach Timothy on the proper way to choose elders from the body. I believe that he was attempting to accomplish the same goal in Titus, as Titus had taken over the leadership for a Cretian congregation.

    I believe Jesus was a champion for women. I know that He respected their time, talent, and treasure. Some of the most amazing examples of biblical worship come from women. Some of Jesus’ closest companions were women. Jesus came to champion the plight of the socially downtrodden, and women were seen as second-class citizens during that time. He came and obliterated many social and cultural stigmas within the Jewish culture. However, when Christ chose the twelve who were set apart, He only chose men. I do not know what significance that this has, but I do believe that there is some significance attached to the reason behind who he chose. He picked several other socially outcast persons to become members of the twelve. Why didn’t he choose a woman? Was it a cultural stigma or was he setting forth a specific model to be followed?

    I wholly believe that women can teach, but I am having a hard time with their placement in a position of spiritual authority over a man. I want to fully endorse women eldership with all my heart because some of the most amazing and valuable people who have guided my spiritual development have been women, but I have to be able to support myself with the Word, not personal experience. The Word seems to lend itself to male leadership.

    The final argument that I was presented with centers around the cultural consideration of the Jews at the time. That if women cannot be in authority, then they may not wear jewelry or braid their hair as Paul forbids these. The heart of this passage of scripture, however, calls women to live modestly as all Christians are called to be of good moral fiber and to be good stewards of the resources that God has given to each of us. There is another passage stating that women should be silent. As far as this is concerned, a more accurate translation of the word silence would be settled, which seems to reassert Paul’s call for women to be submissive (not as a slave).

    I have also thought through the cultural considerations, but I think that changing our doctrine just for the sake of being different or culturally relevant can start us down a dangerous path. The Church needs to be relevant, but I think that we must be truly careful about change that is based on culture and that cannot be fully endorsed by the word of God.

    This is all a big mess in my head at the moment, but clarity is slowly coming as I hash this out with my friend the doctor and my spiritual wise counsel. As I stated previously, I actually lean more in the direction of allowing women to take part in the eldership of the church, but I must have the Word to stand on.

    I appreciate you reading. If you have any discussion that you would like to add, feel free to light up the comments. Plan to see some follow-up on this in the very near future as I work this out in my head and come to a definite conclusion of where I stand regarding this issue.

    All for His glory.

    Jeremy

    Women Elders in a Baptist Church?

    November 3, 2009 1 comment

    Questions...Let me begin this post by stating a few of my beliefs outright. I am not sexist. I believe that women are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do amazing things just as men are. I love women and believe that they have much to offer the church. The church has been missing out on women’s amazing gifting by misrepresenting the idea of submission within the body of Christ and reducing their ministry to that of solely children’s ministry regardless of the woman’s particular gifting.

    My wife is one of the most amazing spirit-filled people who I have had the pleasure of knowing. It has been an amazing joy to minister with her and several other amazing women that I have been privileged to serve with in the past. So, I do have a strong background of taking part in ministry with women; however, this post is directed at exploring women in a position of spiritual leadership over a church.

    I do not know exactly how I feel about all of this. I am just presenting the facts that I possess and what I believe scripture says. I am currently corresponding with a man who has his doctorate in the early church and working through this issue in my own head as well. Now for a bit of background.

    My church is currently undergoing a restructure of the way that we conduct the general business. This encompasses our spiritual leadership and our practical leadership. What we have gleaned thus far from scripture is that there is no necessarily wrong or right way to do church government.

    I do attend a Southern Baptist church (although we are the most non-Baptist, Baptists that you will ever meet) and the traditional governing body within a Southern Baptist church is the congregation. Business is conducted through business meetings (YUCK!) and congregational vote. This style of government is not scriptural. It is not necessarily wrong, but it is definitely abiblical.

    Through our study, we have determined that an elder body is the scriptural model for government that Paul initiates during his travels and later gives specific instructions to Timothy and Titus regarding the selection and function of elders. As the restructuring process has continued, we have called several key Baptist beliefs into question that we are looking into the scripture behind these long-lived traditions. We are not necessarily looking to destroy tradition for the sake of destroying tradition, but we do want to our governmental structure and our core beliefs to line up solely with scripture and not worn out, unnecessary tradition.

    That being said, we are looking into installing women as elders. This concept is not accepted within the Baptist denomination, but I have never been a huge fan of denomination anyway. As my study of the scripture in the original language continues, I have one main issue that I cannot seem to get over. Where is the scriptural justification for women filling the elder role within the body of Christ?

    The thing that I can’t seem to get passed is the passage of scripture where the requirement is set forth to be the husband of one wife. Even in the Greek, this means a “man of one woman” or a “one woman man.” Perhaps there some  language syntax that I am missing, or there an alternate translation, or a cultural consideration that I am unaware of that would allow a woman to step into an elder role. However, if this scripture is taken literally, this would totally disqualify women from eldership as they cannot be  “one woman men.”

    I know that Phoebe and her patronage in Corinth is often discussed as a key marker for this issue, but I don’t know if what is stated within Romans 16 conclusively proves that she was a governing elder within the church as her scope of ministry is not discussed in detail. The research that I have seen regarding Greek patronage in the time period where Phoebe would have been active leads me to believe that, while we can rest assured that she did act as the patron for a church in Corinth using her social and political power to further the body, it is possible that she held no official office within the church. This specifically came from a parallel of Junia Theodora.

    This is not the Junia found in Romans 16. She was a patron for the Lycian immigrants coming into Corinth at the same time that Phoebe was acting as patron for one of the house churches in Corinth. Phoebe and Junia probably knew each other, or at the very least, knew of each other. Evidence of her patronage was unearthed in the 1950s during an archeological dig. While she undoubtedly wielded her political and social power for the betterment of the Lycian immigrants, there is no evidence that supports her holding a specific office, civic or otherwise.

    It is almost assured that Phoebe applied practical leadership within the church, as they were most likely meeting in her home, but the question is, did she give spiritual leadership? I know that elders, traditionally, are in place to apply practical and spiritual leadership, but the most important function of the elder body is to set the spiritual vision for the church and then make sure that the congregation is in line with and pursuing the vision that God has given to the body. Did Phoebe assist in this? Did she help to direct the practical day-to-day business of the church? If so, does this make her an elder in spiritual leadership or does it specifically make her a deacon, as stated in Romans 16, serving the body?

    This is just one of the concerns of scripture that I have been dealing with regarding this issue. There are several more, but I will tackle those tomorrow as this post has really taken on a life of its own. If you can’t tell, I have a really hard time telling any story or academic musing with a truly concise presentation. I like to hear all sides of every issue, so I present as many sides as I possibly can to you.

    I hope that you enjoyed the read and will tune in tomorrow for more follow-up on this issue that has been dividing brothers and sisters for many years. Tomorrow, I will present several of the other arguments that have surfaced during the course of my study and what I believe scripture says regarding these issues. Feel free to comment if you have anything to add to this discussion. I am seeking clarity for this issue within my own brain as well. Thanks for your time!

    All for His glory.

    Jeremy

    Free weekend?

    October 23, 2009 Leave a comment

    Ahhh....Free weekend. Wow, I just like the sound of that. It rolls off the tongue so smoothly. Sounds so good that I just want to curl up in a blanket with “free weekend” and spend some time spooning.

    Stop looking at me like that.

    I don’t know what your weekends normally look like, but usually mine are jam-packed with so much stuff that they don’t feel like a break at all. I can’t remember when my weekends became more about fitting something into every minute instead of a nice couple of days to rest and relax, but that has become the sad truth of my life in regards to the most enjoyable days of the week.

    Friday night is usually filled with friends and family. This happens to be one of my favorite nights because I happen to be blessed with  the best friends that have ever walked this planet, but it is still busy. Then Saturday I get to spend pretty much the entire day doing homework, much of which you are privy to via this blog. I am privileged to be able to lead worship for a different group of soldiers each Saturday night at an awesome ministry called Fellowship Ranch. I enjoy this very much, but it still is clutter in my life.

    Sunday mornings start off with me up at sixish getting ready for church. Since I am the worship leader for our church body, I feel responsible to be at the church prior to anyone else’s arrival. Most of the time this happens, but not always. Sometimes my pastor beats me to the punch, but not often. We typically get out of church sometime between 12 pm and 12:30 pm and finish meet and greet stuff around 1:00 pm. Then off to lunch, which concludes no later than 2:30 pm and then we head home. We don’t have church on Sunday nights, so it is a free night unless I have the homework monster looming and casting his terrible shadow over my consciousness, but, again, it is typically filled with friends and family.

    Normally, the fam has a million things planned around the normal goings on (i.e. homework, the ranch, general hubbub) that occur. We have to be here or there to do this or that. It honestly gets extremely tiring, but it all comes down to managing the balancing act that is my current state of existence. Between the hospital, church, school, and family life it feels like I don’t really get a break, but it’s ok because God has been and will continue to be faithful to somehow make time for me to stop and breath.

    Before you start to drown in all this QQ, let me clarify the heart of this post. I am in no way complaining about all the wonderful elements that make up my life, but it sometimes becomes overwhelming with all the junk of which I have to do am privileged to be a part. The point of this post is to simply highlight the fact that I HAVE A FREE WEEKEND. As soon as work lets out, I am free. No homework, no ranch, no responsibility (other than the normal fatherly/husbandly duties). Just a weekend to do as I please. I am actually more overwhelmed by the prospect of having nothing planned as compared to the usual “omgthereisnotime” that I usually experience. I am sure that this weekend will be filled with nothing but relaxing and friends which is the way that I would choose every day to be if it were up to me.

    So I am going to be getting the blankets out and cuddling up with my free weekend. Whispering sweet nothings into its seldom near ears and generally just sitting on my butt and enjoying my family.

    I. Am. Stoked.

    All for His glory.

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